The mystery surrounding a real glass bowl at Glastonbury was probably the original spur. The titles here provided the original impetus. And working on a number of early religious documents gave me some ideas. So, if you're interested, here are a few notes about the titles (or perhaps chapter-headings) and the documents.

I Saw the Old Moon Yestere'en, wi' the new moon in her arms is from Sir Patrick Spens, a Scots ballad that I studied extensively in school. It's the first one that I wrote, just for a fun, before the bowl started to take on any real shape. I suspect that I was heavily influenced by Rosemary Edghill's "Book of Moons", but backdated the idea to the court of Margaret of Norway, intended bride of the Scots king. In the ballad: Sir Patrick is duped into making a voyage to pick her up, and the boat sinks. What, I wondered, if the young queen had some deeper secret and Sir Patrick was a willing victim in its preservation.

Conspiracy theory set well in place, Of the ruddy wine, planted on sunny days, was inspired by trips to Brittany and south-west England. Although the story is set in about the tenth century, the document I have in mind is from about 1400. The quotation is a couplet from Taliesin, a poem that Lady Charlotte Guest included with her translation of the Mabinogion material, presumably because she liked it. Apart from the 400 year anachronism (if you want historical accuracy, write your own story and I'll post it here) the other liberty I've taken is that the translation was first into English, then Latin - clue enough to find the document if you want.

The Rubai'iat has been one of my favourites since I discovered it at school. Combining it with the intoxicated sect gives A thread of stars divides the false and true; a single cup, they say, provides the clue. The quote takes liberties with the Fitzgerald translation, but then he takes liberties with the original. It is, of course, set in a battered caravanserai. It's becoming clear that, as I wrote back in 1999, what is missing is as important as what is present.

Next came Power of some sort or other. The quote is from Philip Larkin's "Church Going", which documents a visit to somewhere "not worth stopping for, yet stop I did". There's a whole verse on charms and simples, which for me evokes the chapel quite well. I wanted to generate the feel of Katherine Kurtz' "Lammas Night", in which Dion Fortune plays a cameo role, so Bailworthy sounded like homage. I've realised since writing it that the ending breaks one of the rules I set for myself, so I'll change it soon.

I was asked to make it clear that Duncan Ross didn't get onto the boat, so I re-wrote the central part of I saw the Old Moon, and used two minor characters for a sequel, "maner wyne to presse and clarify" ( it's a quote from 'A Kalendar of Shepherds', a fifteenth century commonplace book and guide to liturgy for lay people). Dating the Sir Patrick Spens episode is problematic, because the ballad conflates two incidents twenty years apart - the Margarets involved being grandmother and granddaughter. I eventually settled for 1250, setting the sequel in 1265, which make for "interesting times" with the inquisition. For readers who are friends and think they recognise the context of one of the scenes from my private life, yes, you're right.

Stuck on a sequence of short-haul European flights, but armed with my trusty Palm and a folding keyboard that fits on a seat-back tray, I fell to thinking about the interaction between ideas and technology. The result was two bracketing shorts, Introit and Vespers. If this were a novel, they'd be the front and back 'teases'. They're not perfect yet, but I love a challenge and using a single frame of MemoPad, limiting you to about 700 words and forcing you to think about what's important and what isn't. Coach on short-haul, surrounded by people whose imperative appears to be duty-free perfume, is a great place to do that.

Nearing completion, but wanting titles, are three more sketches - the court of Anjou in the Troubadour period, a present-day "New Age" shop and the period of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The present-day one links some characters and background with 1946, which provided part of the impetus for "All Maner".

I fancy a Hell-Fire club and a rollicking "Boy's Own" featuring smugglers versus the witch-finder general. Any other ideas or sketches?

copyright ©2001 Pithukuf
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