It was half term in Leicestershire this week, so I’ve had the joy of trying to write with the kids at home. My study does have a lock on the door, but that just means my daughters stand there and shout for my attention when they want me (usually for something trivial like “the rabbit just yawned, you should have seen him!”) Nevertheless, it’s been a productive week and after a slow start on the current chapter, I’m now really enjoying writing it.
I’ve always tried to be true to the original stories when novelising the Greek myths, but it’s great fun to rethink familiar characters and portray them in fresh ways. I enjoy trying to view things from their perspective and work out how they became the people they are in the tales we know, and how that would shape their approach to the situations they face. They often come alive to me as I write them, and can sometimes send the story in a direction I hadn’t anticipated. Some of this has been happening this week, much to my pleasure.
On the subject of my daughters, I’m constantly battling to curb their usage of electronic devices. I’ve never owned a mobile phone, which gives me a fairly unique perspective on such things. I can see how addictive – even controlling – they are for adults (which is why I’ve always resisted buying one), but since I caved in to pressure and allowed my twelve year-old to have a mobile and my ten year-old to have an iPad, I’ve seen how much they can change a child’s behaviour and personality. I’m constantly battling to get them off screens and doing something more productive, such as reading or drawing. Then I read this: https://deeprootsathome.com/kids-bored-entitled/ which gives a disturbing insight to how mobiles can increase kids’ boredom with everyday life. It also stifles their creativity, which is often born out of boredom.
I did gain a significant victory on Saturday night, though. We invited our neighbours over the road to come for a games evening. There are four of them and four of us, which makes traditional games like Cluedo and Monopoly difficult, so instead we played Balderdash. If you’ve never come across this game, give it a try. The simple premise is that one player takes a turn to host a round and reads an obscure word from a card, such as Twangdillo. The other players make up short definitions and write them on a scrap of paper, while the host writes down the correct one. He then reads them all out, in no particular order, and everyone votes on the definition they think is correct. There’s a board and pieces for the proper game, but for ease we just give two points to everyone who guesses correctly, and one point for every player whose definition receives a vote. Simple fun, with no screens.
I took a day off on Thursday to visit Leicester with the family. It was marred by too much clothes shopping, but I enjoyed a trip to the cathedral to see Richard III’s tomb. He’s one of history’s truly great characters. He was in every way the product of the civil war that was tearing through England from before his birth to the moment of his death: a brave and excellent warrior, he was marred by dark accusations of child murder and ruthless ambition; awarded the throne, he faced two rebellions and was defeated and killed during the second, the last English king to die in battle; and afterwards his character was thoroughly assassinated by the greatest bard since Homer, the pall of Shakespeare’s play hanging over him until recent times, when his body was discovered under a car park and re-buried with all the pomp and ceremony of a royal funeral. Locally, some even credit the rediscovery and internment of his body with Leicester City winning the Premiership in 2015-2016 (against odds of 5000-1 at the start of the season!)
I’ve made a few purchases this week, starting unhappily with £344 pounds to change all four tyres on our car. I also bought a Lego Millenium Falcon set, in anticipation of my birthday next month (it’s hidden away on top of a cupboard until then). Can’t wait! Finally, this morning I bought a book of sketches from the Great War. They’re a bit childlike in quality, but are, in effect, eye witness drawings of the scenes many soldiers would have witnessed, so invaluable from that perspective. At the same time, I bought a brief overview of seven ancient Greek philosophers. I studied Socrates and Plato at university, but have forgotten a lot about them and hope this might provide a bit of a refresher.
I only wish mine were this good!
Films watched this week include Mary Poppins, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Groundhog Day and Mulan. Mary Poppins is, of course, excellent – especially if, like me, you love musical – but I was fascinated last year to watch Saving Mr Banks, with Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks and Colin Farrell, giving the story of how Walt Disney persuaded P L Travers to let him film her classic book. I haven’t watch 2001: A Space Odyssey since the 1980s, and though still a classic, the opening scenes of the birth of mankind still look like a lot of people in monkey suits (watch it for yourself and try not to smile). Mulan we’re only halfway through – and enjoying – but the movie highpoint of the week was definitely Groundhog Day. I must have seen this ten times, but I still love the way Bill Murray’s character is forced to change, and change, and keep on changing until he gets it right. Did you know that Tom Hanks was originally asked to play Bill Murray’s role, but turned it down because everybody saw him as a nice guy, so if he started out as nasty they would anticipate his transformation – but with Murray in the role they would have no idea how he would turn out.
PS Twangdillo is the sound a ukulele makes when it’s played.