|Extracts from current publications
Nathan Struther: ‘Katherine Vaughan has refused to be questioned further… about her loss of memory or her experiences since she left home ten years ago… And she will say no more about Rowland Markham’s death. She states that if she stands accused of causing that death she should be taken before a court of law and the evidence against her produced. Needless to say, all this has become public knowledge. Gossip suggests Rowland Markham knew Katherine Vaughan for a fraud and a liar. Gossip suggests that when he presented his supposed apology to her at Lane End he in fact threatened to reveal this truth to the Vaughan family, unless she paid for his silence. Gossip suggests that she received his letter and did indeed meet him at the place arranged – the pond – and that she took advantage of some distraction to attack and injure him so that he fell and drowned..’
I look in her direction again and she is staring straight at me. Dear God! No, this is nonsense – nonsense… But if not what must I do?
I’ve had another of my terrible dreams. The horror of it woke me well before dawn and drove me from my bed and it’s still cold upon me now as I sit huddled in a cloak by the chamber window.
As always in these dreams I’m with Arabella in the crowded market square in Norwich. The people about us fall silent and we know the grim procession must be near. I grip Arabella’s arm, fearing the sight will be too much for her, but she murmurs, ‘Don’t worry about me, Frances.’
Then Margery appears beside her and moves closer to us both, her face pale and her eyes full of tears and I want to weep too but I can’t.
The horses come up level with us, guards pacing at either side, and the crowd presses forward to see the hurdle the horses are drawing and the man lying bound upon it. Arabella, Margery and I are pushed together and bundled to the front by the weight of those behind us. Then, as ever, I find myself looking at Robert Kett, found guilty of rebellion and treachery against King and realm and yet, to my certain knowledge, a good and honest man.
His eyes seem dead, as though he has defied the might of our young King Edward and Protector Somerset and cheated the Norfolk gentry of their revenge by fleeing with his soul beyond reach of them all, leaving only his battered body to be dragged through Norwich and hung in chains from the Castle walls. But as I look I realise that he has no eyes; the crows have already pecked them out. I turn, horrified, to those around me. They all stand as though made of stone: even Arabella and Margery do not stir.
I look again at the man on the hurdle and he smiles towards me, stretching out a hand. The skin hangs in tatters from the bones.
‘Frances, is that you?’ he whispers. Dumb with fear I see that it is no longer Robert Kett reaching out to me. Sometimes the man on the hurdle is Matthew, sometimes Frans Pietersen, sometimes Tom. Always I try to cry out for help but no sound comes.
The Nightmare Weight
First you have to know that nothing was written down back then – not words, not numbers – nothing. We didn’t have any written representation. The images our voices could create as we spoke to each other were enough and we also had the communications we could create using our Machines. We could send messages by vision-phones from our homes and through our personal vision-movils. We could record our voices and music and dances and songs and we could picture ourselves and our surroundings and film stories – all of that. We preferred speaking face-to-face though and everyone would rather have a story told to them than see it acted out…
I’ve not forgotten about the colours. We lived by them – no exaggeration. Without written words and figures colour-coding was needed to keep our lives running smoothly – well, to keep them running at all…
That’s why I couldn’t help smiling at the young man who came in because in spite of his dull white clothes his own colours were rich and intriguing. And he was wary because of my eyes. My hair was pleasing enough – a pale gold – but my eyes were the problem. Back then humans avoided wearing blue and didn’t use the colour for decoration. Blue signified danger.
Old, Bold and Won’t be Told
In 1610 Shakespeare created a rich role for an ageing woman; the character of Paulina in The Winter’s Tale. She is crucial to the story – particularly to the almost magical events and family reconciliations in the final scene – and she’s unique among the many older women portrayed on stage during the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods in that she maintains active, dramatic centrality until the very end of the play.
Though none of them quite matches the powerful Paulina there are other thoroughly engaging old women (both good and bad) in Shakespeare’s plays. However, it’s important to be aware that Shakespeare, like his fellow playwrights, often depicts the old woman critically, reflecting socially approved models of good behaviour along with deep anxieties about bad behaviour, for the ageing ladies of his day. He also presents onstage male methods of schooling unseemly conduct. On the ‘good’ side the old woman is usually imaged as guiding, counselling and supportive (often in a maternal role) and on the ‘bad’ as a butt of comedy or a source of discomfort because of her loss of looks, inappropriate sexual desires, verbal incontinence and potential for dangerous behaviour. Only Shakespeare moves beyond these good and bad dramatic stereotypes, though, in creating a handful of women who are old and bold and certainly won’t be told what to do. They challenge male authority and Shakespeare celebrates such defiance, highlighting the creativity of the old woman. This book explores these ageing women in detail – they are the two wives in The Merry Wives of Windsor (1597–98); Gertrude in Hamlet(1600–1601); Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra (1606); Volumnia in Coriolanus (1608) and Katherine of Aragon in Henry VIII: All Is True (1613). However, Paulina is the finest example for, in presenting her audience with the dramatic ‘reincarnation’ of the supposedly dead Queen Hermione, she becomes the creator and director of her own production – the female equivalent of the man who made her up.
For a sound recording of a lecture derived from this book – click here.
Rose in the Mud
This book contains ideas for organising yourself and your writing along with a range of exercises to get you going – whether you’re just beginning to develop your writing skills or have hit a block in your work and want to try out some different activities to get yourself back on track. The exercises included fiction and non-fiction writing so you can use them to check out where your writing talents lie.
There are 30 exercises in all so if you use this workbook on a daily basis you’ll have writing ‘prompts’ for around a month which should be enough to get you up and running. By then you’ll know your writing strengths and be able to assess these against the concluding checklist. And there’s information about how to progress further.