Flambards by K.M Peyton

Everyone has that book, or series of books, that defines their childhood and influences their future lives in some way. This is mine. What’s yours, and why?

When I first discovered ‘Flambards’ by K.M Peyton, I devoured the whole series, and returned to them again and again. They had everything; a strong heroine who was so real to me she was like a best friend, a hero who had his weaknesses but it still gives me pangs when I think of his sad fate, and a First World War setting – not on the front line, but on the home front – which pits the rise of automobiles and airplanes against the decline of horses and cavalry, and delves into women’s rights and the crumbling of social divisions. Cleverly, the house – ‘Flambards’ – is a mirror that reflects this era of change in Britain. Its fate is directly affected by all that is going on around it, and yet it is also a symbol for everything the heroine is experiencing. She is tied to it. It becomes her heart.

Flambards taught me, like no other books I read in my childhood, that Continue reading “Flambards by K.M Peyton”

A Tatty Book is a Lovely Thing

I admit it, I’m a page-corner turner-overer*. I know this crime is almost equivalent to murder in the eyes of dedicated bookmark users, but I have my reasons.

Books are such tactile things; they feel good in your hands and all those wonderful words you are holding up have a pleasing weight. I like my books to feel like they are being read. The books I read over and over again know they are loved because the edges of their pages don’t lie flat, and the spines are flexible and crooked with affection. There might be the ring of a tea-mug stain on the cover. Or a red circle from a wine glass. The crevices might be crackly with sand where I’ve read on the beach, or the pages warped with water where I’ve read in the bath.

My favourite books have a physical personality all of their own and bear the scars of my love. (The one shown above is my copy of ‘Northern Lights’ by Phillip Pullman.)

Which was why I felt truly happy to find Continue reading “A Tatty Book is a Lovely Thing”

Building up a History for ‘Foxfires’

When I’m writing a larger piece of work, one of the fun parts is the conjuring of odd snippets to add to the history or background of the story. Sometimes these snippets end up in the book (like the chapter headings in The Curtain Twitcher’s Handbook and the petitions in Blackwood), and sometimes they initiate a complete change of direction.

This snippet will be part of the book ‘Foxfires’. The protagonist, trapped in a snowbound farmhouse with strangers, will come across the thin volume of curious tales with this particular page corner turned down. He is already in fear of his life, so this’ll really make him freak out. Hee hee! (Sorry Jack!)

‘Curious Tales from Travels in Yorkshire’ by M.Nesbitt

Chapter 8: A Disturbance at an Inn on the Edge of the Moors

“In the autumn of 1905, the author was passing through a village on the edge of Saddleworth Moor when he decided to rest and take refreshment at a small inn. At first glance, the inn seemed peaceful and emanated a warm glow from a lit fireplace but, upon entering, I was alarmed to find several weeping women and angry men. A number of the gentlemen were arming themselves as if for battle, though the distressed ladies pleaded with them to reconsider. They made no allowance for a stranger in their midst and continued with their heated discussion.

I asked the innkeeper if I could partake of a brandy as the weather was inclement, and it appeared winter was arriving before its time. He poured me my drink with one ear on the growing dispute behind me. I wondered out loud what was happening and he shook his head with a grimace and told me that Mr Hawkins, a young farmer, had not returned from tending his sheep in the hills. His sheepdog, Bess, came home without him and in a dreadful state, covered nose to tail in mud and bleeding from numerous lacerations. Clearly agitated, she set off again after just a few hours rest, presumably to find her master, and she had not come back. Continue reading “Building up a History for ‘Foxfires’”

The Oddest Book in the World

Written by a philosopher, a mystic, a coven of witches, or a muddle of martians? We may never know…

Carbon-dated to 1420, this enigmatic 240 page creation seems to document a forgotten culture in an unrecognisable language with dream-like illustrations. Some of the world’s most prominent cryptologists have tried—and failed—to decode the text.

If you’d like to have a go yourself, the whole thing is available online.

Take a look at this short film about why the Voynich Manuscript is truly a really Odd Bit of Writing!
Continue reading “The Oddest Book in the World”