I live (technically) in the fen, more specifically The Fens. The fens have been an inspiration to many writers over many years. To some, the fen may be a swampy marshland not really useful for much, but to others (including me) it’s a brilliant, flat expanse of countryside. When travelling long distance by train (or car, for that matter) it’s nice to know you’re nearly home when you can see the tower or octagon of Ely Cathedral getting closer and closer. The cathedral is known as “The Ship of the Fens” as from a distance it supposedly looks like a ship rising up from the water, which given the history of the marshland around and underneath it is probably appropriate.
A lot of my own writing is set in villages or small towns, usually away from anything because it’s a setting I’m used to and am familiar with. I have lived in a city for three years while I was at uni but I always feel that cities (big cities, at least) that life is always about moving too fast, walking past everything without looking because you’re just surrounded by endless buildings.
Somebody asked me today why a small city like Ely has such a big cathedral. I explained that it was because the town grew up around the cathedral, in essence the cathedral was the starting point for everything. It started out as a small monastery and over the years expanded as did the population of the city.
This brings me to my next F – (Ken) Follett. Now, recently mum and I watched the mini-series The Pillars of the Earth, based on the book by Ken Follett. I thought it was going to be absolutely dire – medieval people building cathedrals didn’t sound all that appealing – but I actually really enjoyed it. (and Eddie Redmayne was a hell of a lot better in this than he was in Birdsong!)
So, one day last week I was sitting at work, horribly bored when I overheard someone saying “Ken Follett’s coming today.” The first thing I did was get my phone out (naughty…) and text mum. The day goes on and he walks backwards and forwards past my desk a few time until I finally decided enough was enough and I had to say something. He came by again and I stood up, excusing myself for interrupting and asked if he could write mum a little note as she is a huge fan of his. Of course I pick up the worst piece of paper I had to hand on the desk, but he was nice enough about it and signed it. I was very grateful considering I didn’t have anything proper for him to sign. He even asked who to write it to.
Meeting authors is a nice, interesting experience, but I do tend to embarrass myself. About two years ago I went see Jonathan Coe give a talk at a local bookshop and afterwards he did a book signing. Now, I was the last person in the queue and therefore didn’t have as much time to have a quick chat so when it got to my turn, I started waffling, hoping I could say everything I wanted to as quickly as possible! embarrassing, but great to have met one of my favourite authors.
More next time,