'Until the day when God shall deign to reveal the future to man, all human wisdom is summed up in these two words,— "Wait and hope".'
'WORKS done before the grace of Christ, and the Inspiration of his Spirit, are not pleasant to God, forasmuch as they spring not of faith in Jesus Christ, neither do they make men meet to receive grace, or (as the School-authors say) deserve grace of congruity: yea rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.'
I grew up under the influence of the Church of England and with its liturgy as an almost daily adjunct to my schooling. It's hard, therefore, for me to tune out altogether the sense that sometimes jumps out in my mind that there is somehow someone watching and judging me, a kind of all-seeing eye that knows not just what I do but why I did it as well. That second quotation, from the Articles of Religion that the Church of England still uses to this day (and which were, for the most part, written by our man Thomas Cranmer), is part of possibly the most terrifying doctrine of all. It says, for want of a more delicate way of putting it, it's not what you did but what you thought of doing that counts. It suggests that, for example, someone who refrained from sin out of fear of the consequences (Hell) or on the basis of some sort of transaction (I do good, I get into Heaven), would not meet this condition. The person's faith in Jesus is what needs to drive the good works. I suppose the thought is that if people are faithful, believe in the words and the power of Jesus as he appears in the Bible, then they will do good without the need for further persuasion.
What it says to me is that, rather sadly, the moral-behaviour-guidance part of Christianity, with which for the most part I can agree, is tied in to a metaphysical commitment with which I am not so comfortable. There are parts of what Christianity does and has done in the past that are at odds with my broadly humanist outlook. But there are parts - the central, 'be excellent to each other', part in particular - where my worldview does not conflict with what my Christian education of twenty-odd years ago taught. Why should the metaphysical matter, if you are good, kind, loving? I don't know, but I think it demonstrates the rather distressing point that the religion has to find a way to make itself relevant, so you have to have all the ceremony, the collective act of worship, the fear of everlasting torture, all of these to make the religion itself, rather than the moral teaching, matter.
I once had a brief and unresolved argument with someone who, I think, was trying to be clever, who got up from the dinner table, asked a question about how faith in Science differs from faith in God, and disappeared. He didn't stick around to find out the answer to that question (which would centre around the simple fact that everything about what Science is distinguishes it from faith in revelation, with many details to be filled in!), and that kind-of sums it up. A scientist might take up that question by framing it around mechanism of belief-formation, or the ability to explain diverse phenomena, or mathematical predictive power, and try to build an answer. A good scientist would not prejudge the question, and would do their best to allow similarities and differences in the two approaches to become apparent. To be satisfied that the question is enough is an article of faith.
Interestingly, the idea that some (many? most?) people have that Science deals in proof is just plain wrong. Unless you are willing to adopt a very old notion of 'proof', which is akin to something more like 'tested in all the ways we can think of, but still conjecture, provisional, subject to change.' I'm not a good scientist, in the sense that I haven't done anything significant to test a theory or conjecture made by someone else, nor have I made a theory of my own. But I do understand how to frame those questions. I'd also say that I strive to be good. Whilst I miss, sometimes, I fail, I make a selfish decision or I ask someone to bear a burden that should be mine alone, I speak (ill) when I could remain silent, my repentance is not to anything or anyone, save perhaps those that I hurt. What made those actions wrong was that they hurt someone. Faith in Jesus might change my expectation of the effects of my doing good, but it is my faith in humanity, collectively and most especially individually, that drives me to seek to be good. There is no hope in it, no promise of reward, no expectation of everlasting life. That is what makes it good, I think. That I would at least try to be kind, even in the face of others failing to be so, that I ought to share with Christians.
As we (that'll be Void, the band) wrote in this recent one, 'I don't believe in Heaven / I don't believe in angels'; take the promised reward away and what is left?
“Does it not frustrate you, to come halfway to the Holy Land and go no further? To get to the Eternal City, then sit and drink wine at a corner taverna? Have you seen the Coliseum? The Forum?”
“I must go to deliver Mary's message to St Peter's. I may worship there if we are still here tomorrow.”
“George, this place is the centre of the world.”
“No, Edward,” de Winter replies with a hint of condescension, “it was the centre of the world. Now it is just a ruin where the Pope happens to make his home. Those buildings you've drawn might be impressive, but they belong to the past.”
“The future is dark. The present is burdensome. Only the past, dead and buried, bears contemplation.”
“You've been working on that.”
“I think I might write history. That would be my first line. Then, I think, 'bound as our lives are to the tyranny of time, it is through what we know of history that we are delivered from our bonds and escape - into time.' If I were rich, that is what I would do. That is what I have begun doing, here, whilst I have a little money to spend.”
“You need to find yourself a girl,” de Winter jokes, before realising the insensitivity of his comment. “I'm sorry, Edward. Perhaps a little distraction would suit you well.”
“Rome is all the distraction I need.” Strelley looks at de Winter, holding his gaze for a long time, but failing to convince him. “I have thought about her every day. That has not stopped me wanting to see Rome. Or Constantinople. Or Casablanca.”
“Guy has fallen for her.”
“Yes. I saw that in his face when you arrived. Of all the women...”
“He is like you.”
“A little too much, perhaps.”
“A little too much.” De Winter strokes his moustache, considering. “Did you ever...?”
“No. I don't even think I touched her hand. She is still little more than a child. I would not... Every thing that has happened to her... Her mother killed by her father. Her father who he was. Her brother the king. Her uncle trying to have his way with her. I could not...”
“Thomas Seymour will be lucky to be alive when we return. He did not give up on Elizabeth after you were gone.”
“It will be hard, if it is made public, for Somerset to avoid having to make an example of hin. He did not behave honourably.”
“Is she safe?”
“Longshawe did his best. As did Guy. She was removed to Denny's.”
“Away from him.”
“He is not a rival, Edward. She does not care for him.”
“And yet she might marry him. If he has managed to do away with Catherine.”
“Do you know? Catherine is dead.”
“I had heard.” Strelley pauses, thinking. “I should not be jealous of Elizabeth, because I do not even want her to want me. It would be easier if she did not. But I would be. Jealous, I mean. Were she to marry, or take a lover.”
“I think I understand. But more than anything, she needs your counsel, your protection, your presence. We have come to return you to her, whatever the end she desires.”
“Let us all hope that my presence is enough.”
This way, the news feed is updated, but I can concentrate on writing book IV!
And if you haven't read book III, or indeed the first two, you know what to do.
History rattles across the points... Another driver fails to see you, commits to turning in front of you. It's far too late to brake and you feel the disgusting crunch of plastic and metal. I wasn't going nearly fast enough to be worried about anything other than the vast mountain of admin that half-a-second's worth of misjudgement (by someone else!) has created for me. No airbag, no injury, just that sick feeling that even though you've done nothing wrong it's still going to cost you money and time just to get back to where you started. One person I was talking to added that the scrutiny of officialdom is in itself stressful: walk past a police officer on the street, and be condemned to a full three minutes of wondering what precisely they could do you for, even if the answer is, realistically, absolutely nothing.
I wrote yesterday about mattering. A car accident is interesting enough to get a response from people if you talk about it. You get sympathy, you usually get an offer of a lift - today, both my dad and one of my wise, kind work colleagues stepped in - and you get the shared lament of accidents others have been involved in or the desperate ballache that is dealing with insurance claims. You get a sense that there are people to whom you matter, these little hummocks in the road (an ill-chosen metaphor, given the circumstances) that throw everything up in the air a bit seeming to just nudge people into considering the much worse consequences that weren't the result, but could have been. You get an occasional glimpse of another person's thoughts, usually well-hidden, as they react. My own parents' first reaction was a combination of world-weary resignation (to the paperwork, the possible cost, the time) and judgement (the other driver's likely invention of plausible circumstances that shift the blame away from him), but there was also that little bit of 'are you all right?' that comes from kindness and caring.
It's thoroughly British to hide how much someone matters to you. I sometimes wish I could, without fear of transgressing social norms, prod people into being more honest with each other, or saying the things they want to say but keep back in their own fear of transgressing. And then, I remember that bit of me that thinks 'therapy culture' is faintly ridiculous, and that the notion that you should share your feelings is just not the done thing. That part of me is still there, but quieter than it has been in the past, I think. I write at some length about a character who repeatedly does the highly un-British thing of revealing his feelings to a load of people, including his friends but also in some instances relative (or complete) strangers. He, of course, does not worry about the consequences of those revelations, although perhaps he should, if not for himself, then for the woman with whom he is so in love. History limits my options on Elizabeth's future. Where Strelley ends up next is still to be decided, that loose end of thread refusing to be tied up by any planning effort on my part. But that's a matter for book V. I've got de Winter, Longshawe and Pike to wrap up in book IV, first. Watch this space.
Usually, the Digital Human programme on a Monday afternoon doesn't do it for me at all. They're often wandering or lacking in a definite thread. But on this occasion, the rather touching story of a young man with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy who lived out a much fuller, more complete life online through the medium of gaming was thoroughly engaging. His father spoke with great insight into his son's life, but that insight came heartbreakingly late. It came only after his son died, when the father updated the son's blog with the message that the son had died as a result of his illness, and was contacted by a raft of people with whom the son had a relationship online. Mats - the son - had been housebound for several years, and had spent a great deal of time gaming online. What the father had failed to understand during the son's life was that the relationships he had formed were real and fulfilling. The father perhaps underestimated the possibility of having real relationships through the computer, but even more so, the restrictions placed on Mats' ability to engage in what we might term the normal range of human relationships meant that he couldn't do those things in the real world. What he could do was form those relationships through his character online, and because that character wasn't disabled in the way he was, he could live out a life in that online space that was his real life, the life in which he was fully engaged.
The way the father talked about how he as a parent had come to assume that because of his son's disability, the fact of him being housebound, he wouldn't be able to become important to anyone, to matter, and that there had been a sort of process of grieving for that loss when the muscular dystrophy was revealed. And then, through the gaming, Mats was able to do exactly that, to come to matter to people, to form the kind of intimate relationships - not physical, perhaps, but intimate nonetheless - that his father had assumed he wouldn't access.
I have written before about being broadly fed up with my own inability to hear anything moving without descending into tears. Yes, again... Of course. Even though I had nothing invested in it, even though I never heard Mats' own voice because he died before the programme was even conceived. It can be desperately hard to get across to people who matter to you that they matter to you, and sometimes life has a way of conspiring to make it next to impossible. But it was only after the son died that the father had any sense of his son's value in other people's lives, and their value in his. Those people who were involved in Mats' online life were not part of his 'real' life - note the shift to 'real' as opposed to real - but knew him and spent much more time with him than anyone did in person. Some of them managed to show him that he mattered to them, even through the perhaps distorting medium of the games that they were playing. Mats was aware, even if his father wasn't, of his place in the world. For him, that world was the online, gaming world. It's where the fantasy, the role play, overcomes the threshold of whatever it takes to be reality and becomes the reality. It's tempting to dismiss this, to say that the online world somehow is inherently less valuable than the physical world. And there's a bit of me that agrees, but I am able to take part in, to engage in, the physical world (in some ways!). So who am I to judge?
A lot of 'views' recently, but not a lot of actual book. So, here's a snippet of a conversation between Guy Fletcher and Elizabeth...
“Guy Fletcher… I hope God finds a way for you to be happy. I cannot see it for me. There were endless hours, Guy, where I sat with him, reading, writing, arguing, and I did not know that I was at peace. I did not know that I had never known peace until him, and I did not know that what I felt was peace. When they - Cranmer and his ilk - talk about God, and they talk about the still, small voice… That’s it. Like a soothing hand on yours.”
Fletcher nods at her, but says nothing. He blinks repeatedly.
She carries on, “When he went away, then I understood. Then I realised that I had come to need him. To love him. I was in the Tower, Guy. They thought to charge me with treason. And I thought only of him. But I could not speak to him. And then…”
“Then he returned. I know.”
“You are the kindest person, Guy Fletcher.” She puts her hand on his. “I pray for you.” At this, the tears that Fletcher has been fighting begin to flow, but he does not speak. “But I did not say that which now fills my heart, my mind, to the exclusion of almost all else. He must hear it from my lips.”
“I shall bring him back to you once again.” Fletcher has mastered himself for the moment.
“I thank you. You are truly noble, whatever your birth.”
“Madam.” Fletcher bows. Then, as though the words are bursting forth from him, rather than chosen, he speaks again. “Were I of noble birth I should speak my mind more frequently, not feeling that I should be ignored or that by opening my mouth I am transgressing. Have you ever sat in a room with someone and not been able to address them simply because of an accident of birth? I doubt it, in your case. You are protected by your birth, and even at your most vulnerable you still have Strelley and Longshawe and a household full of servants and tutors working for your safety. I am silenced by who I am.”
Do us a favor... I know it's difficult for you... but please, stay here, and try not to do anything... stupid.
Watching these films again, it becomes apparent precisely how many of the things I say are lifted or adapted from the various Pirates of the Caribbean films. No, they're hardly cinematic excellence, but they sit at a time of my life where for whatever reason I committed a lot of things to memory. It would be fair to say that the first film in particular has shaped who I have become in my mid - no, we'd better be honest, so 'late' - thirties. Which may or may not be a good thing.
What I've noticed this week (and the reason for all the stupid quotations) is that as my brain is gradually and cumulatively deprived of sleep by the ludicrously early waking of the small human(ish) that also occupies my house, my decision-making is deteriorating rapidly. I recently heard an expert on the subject of sleep talk about exactly why just about every one of my 'lifestyle choices' (for which, read 'vices') leads to either deprivation of sleep or reduction in sleep quality, and how I am basically torturing myself by failing to get the sleep my body (and my brain in particular) needs. I remember quite vividly the rawness of sleep deprivation, the feeling of a complete lack of anything shielding the inner me from the world outside, in short, of anxiety, and I would go to considerable lengths to avoid that same feeling in the future. I might even consider making sensible choices. But probably not. Let's just hope I make it to the end of the week without doing anything sufficiently daft that I will later regret it!
So a couple of posts recently have mentioned music. I devote a reasonable amount of my leisure time to making music, and the fruits of those labours can now, in addition to being found under the album's title 'Seven Day Existence' by Void on Spotify, be watched on YouTube. Some of the video stuff on the channel is a little on the 'experimental' side... But any views and in particular any subscriptions make the band's online promotor (that would be Alan, the drummer) very happy indeed. So, do us a favour, and instead of staying here, go and listen to Void on YouTube.
The full renaissance: sword-fighting, painting in oils, riding a horse, biblical knowledge, natural philosophy, music...
I can do the science bit, but the others are all a bit distant. I know a few key verses of the bible but I can hardly claim to be able to quote chapter and verse on command. My sword-fighting experience is limited to a couple of goes with a light sabre (not a real one, just in case anyone was wondering) on the roof of my university halls, and a B&M Bargains foam effort that was the best pound I've ever spent. Horses take one look at me and laugh, and I've never even approached a drawing that looked like the thing I was trying to draw. To be fair, I can do a bit of music, but only a bit, and then it's all of the very rustic persuasion. Actually, I'll claim something a bit more highbrow, which is that the music I can do is more on the Dionysian, punk end of the scale than the beautifully constructed Apollo end of it. Highbrow in the one sense, not in the other.
So it should come as no surprise that, at times, I give my characters abilities that I want but do not possess, or show a skill that is just interesting. Strelley is a capable draughtsman and has a gift for languages, Longshawe is a consummate swordsman, Pike can hit just about anything with his long gun. They are the renaissance as embodied by the mid-sixteenth century gentle(ish)man. Because they are invented characters, they can have these skills without really having to work at them (or, more pertinently, the work can go on behind the scenes, and there's no effort on my part!). I do spend quite a bit of time trying to work out what the real historical characters were like and what they could do, though. That's part of the context, I suppose, part of the 'world', even though the story itself doesn't always rely on it and I could probably get away with knowing a lot less and still appear just as ignorant. I know my characters. But I am, it is fair to say, over-stocked with 'stuff', to the extent that I could write a book from memory about the events of 1545 - 1554, and only miss out the odd dull bit.
One thing that is quite challenging is the physical descriptions, though. What do you say about someone such as Henry VIII or Elizabeth? Everyone knows what they look like (even if everyone's mental image of them is rather different!), so you can't directly contradict that. It would be authorial judgement of the most unnecessary kind to write that one of the characters is repulsive, or beautiful, unless that comes straight from the mouth of another of those characters. But the portraiture is limited, at best, as a clue to the actual appearance of the people. Elizabeth's image is so heavily manipulated (mainly by herself) in the later years of her life that you barely get a sense of who she is at all, until the Corsham Court portrait that adorns the cover of Lisa Hilton's biography. And then, she's a very different woman to the teenager that I'm trying to write about now. These are doubtless important historical documents, in that they tell us all sorts about the world and the way these people portray themselves, but they aren't about what they looked like. Readers of the book will no doubt be aware of the fact that this early portrait of Elizabeth around the age of 13 or 14 is the cover image of Heaven's Avenging Angels, but it's worth a look anyway.
Half of the challenge of writing about these real historical characters is to resist the temptation to simply co-opt them to whatever story you want to write, and bend them to the narrative will. Elizabeth is about as good an example as I can think of for a real person who has refused at just about every turn to cooperate with the original plan, who has thrown up challenge after challenge to make her seem real and believable on the page. I suppose when you pick a historical character where there is so much well-trodden ground, where it has been picked over by the professionals, the amateurs, the novelists (sometimes one person is all three!), you will always find someone to back you and someone to contradict. I never found Elizabeth's supposed affair with Thomas Seymour (resulting in a miscarried pregnancy in at least one historical novel) that convincing, but there is enough evidence for it to make it a fair choice for the historical novelist. I have muddied the waters with the addition of Edward Strelley to her teenage years, but other than that, there is little that I couldn't back with some conviction. Anyway, all of this was something of a roundabout way of getting to the point that 'Renaissance Prince' isn't a bad title for Elizabeth, and although she probably couldn't claim to be able to paint or fight with a sword, she wouldn't have fared too badly as an all-round renaissance (wo)man.
"She thinks I'm the renaissance. She thinks I'm a reclusive genius. She'll be upset when she finds out I'm a reclusive wanker."
Not their finest work of the mid-to-late nineties, but a reflection at the moment on how to bring stories to a close and open up possibilities for the next one(s). Book IV is different, in some ways, to the earlier books. If nothing else, I had a much clearer idea of the characters' roles in the historical events up to the beginning of 1549. I had a notion of who would end up where, although I ended up being taken by surprise a couple of times at events that meant the overall plan had to shift to adjust. When I wrote the original 'master' of the events of 1547 through to about September 1549, I didn't have a sense that the relationship between Edward Strelley and Elizabeth Tudor would be such a strong theme, but that is where their story has taken me in writing them. So, re-reading the scenes that take place in the Devon countryside and the besieged city of Exeter, it is not the Prayer Book Rebellion speaking out through the proto-pages of the fourth book, but Edward and Elizabeth. Even when the focus of the story is what is happening in the rebellion, Strelley's volatility, his propensity* to turn outwards those inward reflections that so trouble him seems to invade the scenes and draw the focus. I have written before about that being, at times, frustrating to the point of being tiresome, but that is as a writer. I hope that as a reader your experience will be one of a beautifully crafted document detailing the. breakdown of a young man's mind as he grieves over a love forbidden. But there you go. I set out, probably nearly ten years ago, to write in English the equivalent of Dumas' history of the French nation through the various sets of books of which the Musketeers is by far the most famous. It turns out that much like him, the stories of personal relationships are the ones that drive the writing, not the goal of fictionalising history. In those ten years, I have managed to do about five years of history, so at this rate the thousand-year history of England in the form of novels will take me the small order of two thousand years. I blame having to actually work for a living.
So, when it comes to an ending for book IV (don't get excited: one thread is closing, but others are still far from wound up in the writing and we are nowhere close to release), I am looking for something that can give me an opening into book V, but also something that brings the stories in book IV to some manner of conclusion. The historical events of 1549 do lead to a clear and easy-to-define end point, which is (sort-of-spoiler alert) the downfall of Protector Somerset. But that's not my point. Part of the problem of writing about two people's love for each other (in any context) is that if they just end up together, with a healthy, happy life and the problems of stable long-term relationships, that is a much less easy subject to make compelling in fiction. Part of the problem is the absolute forbidding by history of Edward and Elizabeth's relationship developing this way. So I am constrained, regardless of how the scenes develop from when the pages are blank. The option is not open to me to take John Fowles' line in The Magus, where he winds his story for six-hundred pages, then ends it half-a-page before it finishes. What a bastard, I thought at the time, and still do, but that choice is part of the work. If he ends it definitely, it is a different book altogether from the one that is, as it stands, one of the finest ever written. I can't do that, because those characters have a life beyond book IV, and indefiniteness isn't compatible. It is, if I were to offer one criticism of another giant of literature, Jane Eyre, an option that Charlotte Brontë might have taken, rather than to wrap her story up so completely. The impediment to Jane and Rochester's love is removed, Rochester has the chance to show that he has some moral fibre regarding his first wife. Jane gets what she wants, but one can't help but feel at the end that it won't keep her happy for long.
So what of the other stories in book IV? My intention throughout (that is, since starting to write book I) had been to have Will Pike at the French court with Mary of Scots, and now that he is there, I find that the situation isn't stable enough to keep it that way for the duration of the several years that she spends there. History prevents her leaving, but fiction allows him to go elsewhere. We shall see. Longshawe and de Winter are making their way to the rebellion in Norwich (known to history as Ket(t)'s Rebellion), where there is a surprise waiting for de Winter in particular, one that history and my choices of how to embed the invented characters makes inevitable. An ending? Of sorts, but de Winter has a role to play for several years yet in the service of Mary Tudor. And the relationship between his sister and Longshawe? As I wrote above, a comfortable, happy marriage is not in itself a compelling subject for fiction, but one can't help but wish that at least one of them gets what he wants, avoids dying in battle or of plague, and lives a long life filled with joy and children and peace. We shall see!
*The first time I typed that, it said 'popensity', and didn't auto-correct to include the 'r'. I shall henceforth be using this new coinage to measure the amount/intensity of Roman Catholicism: Mary Tudor is of high popensity; James Longshawe is not...
A mate of mine asked me if the four main characters of These Matters are destined for a reunion in book IV. I remember being struck at the time by it, because there was an element of him telling me (although he was of course subtle enough not to do so outright) that those were his favourite parts of the books, and that in his opinion the 'solo' sections were somehow less engaging or worthy. Perhaps. I've spent a decent amount of thought and effort tuning the parts of book IV where Strelley is apart from all the other characters, trying to elucidate what it is like to be him as he tries, desperately, to separate himself from Elizabeth (or, as he might put it, to separate Elizabeth from him). I have written on this blog about how at times even I have been worn down by his rampagingly swinging mood and his utter preoccupation with her, but his story pushes its way out nevertheless. There is more tactile pleasure in the writing of the scenes that concern several of my characters at once, even if some of the Strelley scenes might be considered the most affecting, which they certainly have been to me writing them. The best way I can think to explain it is that these scenes tend to be the ones where there is a soundtrack in my head, influencing the shape of the scene itself, channeling what I hope is the best of the spirit of Dumas. These are the scenes where the swashbuckling swordplay and derring-do that are actually conspicuously absent from the vast majority of Dumas' writing creep into mine. Some of them copy, occasionally even consciously, Dumas' dialogue-driven style, which again is at odds with most people's perception of his work as mostly about sword fights. So, anyway, here are a couple of extracts from the adventures of Longshawe and de Winter in book IV. For context, just as Strelley and later Guy Fletcher find themselves in Exeter as one rebellion unfolds, Longshawe and de Winter by the time of these extracts are heading off eastwards towards a very different parallel rebellion in Norwich.
“James,” he says. “This sounds like it will be dangerous.”
“We survived Ancrum Moor.”
“Only just, if I remember correctly.”
“Your father is here.” Longshawe speaks the words in a flat tone. “I have spoken with him.”
De Winter’s face visibly falls. “Ah. I shall do my best to keep him happy.”
“Fathers,” Longshawe commiserates. “One cannot choose.”
“Imagine,” de Winter is saying, “that every time you’re in church, you feel God judging you. He sees right into you. All the lies, the mask you hide behind, He sees through it.”
“God forgives you. That’s the point, isn’t it?” Longshawe says.
“He does. But he forgives sins for which we repent. Confess.” De Winter thumbs a cross that he wears around his neck. “You do not confess.”
Longshawe narrows his eyes. “I do not. That is true. But this new way, the king’s way, Cranmer’s way… It does not require confession. It asks only that you commune with God, and listen for him.”
“Yes,” de Winter says, “I understand it. You will reach salvation by faith alone. A comforting doctrine for those who do not want the trouble of attending Mass. Of praying. Of confessing.”
Andrew Shepherd cuts in. “I do not see that God would put real power in the hands of the priests. They’re just men.”
De Winter smiles. “That is true. But they act in the person of Christ himself.”
“George,” Longshawe says, “do you not think that God, if He is so loving as we are told, would accept both your way of worship and the new way?”
“You had best hope so!” De Winter laughs. “I fear God. I fear that He knows the truth, the things I hide at every moment from the world. Sins I have imagined but not committed. Sins I fear even to speak aloud in Confession. Sins that I am not sure even He could forgive.”
Longshawe and Shepherd both look at him, questioning. De Winter moves his focus from one to the other and back again.
“Sins,” de Winter picks up , “that I shall not be revealing to you two.”
Sometimes, you end up so tired that you can't actually string a sentence together. And the small people responsible for this lack of sleep are often especially grumpy on the days of this tiredness. In fact, their expectations of the standards of parenting probably go up rather than down in these circumstances. Challenging. And while you can negotiate with the large one, the small one is proving to be immune to the power of persuasion in almost any form. Turns out that the magic is all contained in dried raspberries of the kind found only in one specific breakfast cereal. Except, as with all magic, it eventually runs out (there are only so many pieces of dried raspberry per box of cereal, it turns out). A certain beautiful symmetry is achieved by the fact that the big child is rather taken with the pieces of white-chocolate yogurt that are in this same cereal. So I can happily have my plain granola chunks while the children get their cherry-picked goodies. I have taught the big one to sing the line from One Way Ticket that titles this piece, though, so getting your own small human playthings isn't all bad.
Anyway, that's all a bit of a rant about why I end up so bleary in the first place. The real reason I started this post was to write about expression, and how it happens in writing these books. Sometimes, I struggle desperately with a handful of sentences and really have to batter my mind into navigating its way through. Sometimes, it flows out almost unbidden (and these are the times when my carefully planned plot points get clattered by the actual characters, requiring in some cases quite a serious rethink). But when I'm tired, oddly enough, and my verbal skills (and my thinking, feeling and making good decisions skills) all go out of the window, for some reason I seem to have these periods of writing fluency. I don't always like what I've written afterwards, and sometimes it has to be edited with the cold, rational eye of the 'pro' rather than leaving the 'artist' version of me in charge. But progress is often exactly when you wouldn't expect it, in that it comes when I'm at my least lucid in just about every other capacity. I do wonder if some of that is to do with my relentlessly butterfly mind, that at its peak it rattles from one focus to another with such alarming frequency (but, notably, no manner of regularity or predictability) that I am not able to bring any kind of consistent attention to the story. Plot matters are often resolved, for me, when I'm nodding off to sleep and my brain can tune out a bunch of other things that often occupy it. The challenge is remembering how the nifty solution worked the following day (or, in a lot of cases, a week later when next I sit down to write).
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought