Monday, 26 June 2017

Au revoir...

For the time being, I'm going to take a break from this blog. I've enjoyed doing it, and I'd like to thank those who've read, followed and commented - but at the moment I think I need to concentrate more on writing books.

I shall continue to blog with The History Girls, a group of historical fiction writers, on the 16th of each month, and I've just started to blog again with An Awfully Big Blog Adventure, which is a group of children's writers. I'll be posting there on the 25th of each month, and it would be lovely to see you in either of those places. And of course you're very welcome to visit my website for news - it has a contact form too, in case you want to get in touch.

Like Arnie, I may be back. But for now, I'll leave you with some pictures of the lovely hill - and do feel free to roam about among the reviews!

Looking from Roundhouse across Cheddar Reservoir.

Spring cowslips

A fiddled-with view!

And off into the sunset...

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Desperately Seeking Hamlet!

This time last week, during a holiday in Copenhagen, we decided to head north to Helsingør. It was only a short train-ride, and there was someone we were eager to meet - someone who has intrigued me (and a few zillion others) for many, many years. Yes: Helsingør's English name is Elsinore, and the enigmatic hero we were searching for was - Hamlet!

The station's palatial entrance hall set the scene. Clearly, we were on the right track. Outside, sea birds circled overhead, calling plaintively. We crossed the road into the town, alert for any glimpse of a slender, black-clad figure. Was that a swirl of his cloak, just disappearing at the end of this narrow cobbled street?

Was he one of the characters in this painting? Was this perhaps the ship in which his stepfather sent him off to England with his perfidious friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?

We reached the water's edge again - you are never far from it in Elsinore. Now here was a curious structure, made entirely of brightly coloured plastic cast-offs. Perhaps he was behind that...?

No. He wasn't. It probably struck the wrong mood - too cheerful, too silly. Then I spotted something promising - this dark figure, striding purposefully away. But no - too, too solid.

And then, across the water, almost looking as if it was floating, we saw it - the castle. Now it's known as Kronborg: Shakespeare just called it Elsinore. It stands guard over a narrow sound which divides Denmark from Sweden, and through which ships had to pass in order to access the Baltic: for centuries, the kings of Denmark built up their wealth by exacting tolls - the sound dues - from every passing ship. Elsinore then was prosperous and powerful, a famous royal court. At last - we were on the right track! We hastened towards the castle. Storm clouds gathered overhead: the wind pushed back at us and sudden heavy raindrops pelted us - but on we went.

Soon we were in the royal apartments. We passed through a sitting room, the chancellery, the king's rooms - no sign. Then - we arrived at the queen's apartments. We couldn't help but notice the arras to the right of the fireplace, and hoped Polonius wasn't so foolish as to be hiding there.

Suddenly, we heard shouts and the sound of clashing swords along a passageway. Hearts in mouths, we hurried along - and in a huge banqueting hall, there at last he was: Hamlet, Prince of Denmark! But had his sea of troubles finally overwhelmed him? Had he taken up arms to end them? Happily, no - it was just a practice bout with Horatio. Phew.

Our final glimpse of him was as he shared a tender moment with Ophelia - it would, we thought, be unkind to disturb them. I do hope that this time, it all works out for this charming young couple...

NB It's an interesting experience to encounter characters and scenes from the play as you walk through the castle. We saw a group of small children, wide-eyed with excitement as they exchanged a few words with 'Claudius', clad in blue and silver and smiling genially. But as well as these performances, Kronborg hosts a Shakespeare Festival each August, and many famous actors have appeared here over the years, including Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Michael Caine (as Horatio), Kenneth Branagh, Jude Law and many more.