Quillpen, inky fingers
One writer ponders ...
on words-smithing or being happily distracted from the task in hand
and on the wayward nature of her Muse
and on the wayward nature of her Muse
I have deliberated before on the wayward nature of Mrs Muse, and I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that moving from one end of the country to another might perturb my penning pal. We moved from Cornwall to Fife in July 2019, and since Mrs M has been endorsing the notion of a new novel set in Scotland, one might have expected her to be waiting on the doorstep of our new home. But there wasn’t not a peep from her all summer. She showed briefly at Holyrood Palace in August; she’s a sucker for anything royal. But after a quick tap on the shoulder, she scarpered again. So, when a month later in September I decided to head up the M90 to Innerpeffray Library, I wasn’t expecting company. But then I wasn’t expecting the day to unfold as it did either.
Innerpeffray Library came highly recommended by a fellow bibliophile and I was looking forward to a pleasant day’s road trip with books as a bonus. With an overview of where I was headed, I let the Sat Nav tell guide me. My relationship with it being troubled, when it directed me off the dual carriageway not far outside Perth, I was immediately suspicious.
‘Turn right to Roman Road.’ It didn't look likely, was signposted something else entirely.
But round two sharp bends, there it was! Only a bloomin' Roman road; straight, classic width, ditches either side bordered by beautiful woodland. Wow!
A few miles on I had to stop when the trees dropped away as, high on a ridgeway, I faced a breath-taking view over the Strathearn. I was just about to get out of the car to take a photo when four police motorcyclists, driving in formation, swept past easily doing 50mph. Incongruous on a rural lane, they were clearly enjoying a Roman road too.
'Well I never!' I thought, took my picture and drove on.
Before long the brown sign for Innerpeffray Library sent me down a potholed track. A turf path though trees, a red squirrel bouncing ahead of me, led me past ancient yews surrounding a tiny chapel where a rash of goose-bumps swept me from head to toe. Around another corner stood the Library.
‘Hello! You took your time!’ said my precocious afflatus.
Beautiful books and friendly faces greeted me. A lovely volunteer explained the Roman origins of the site and the library’s history. I took a sharp intake of breath: 1680, a date central to my next novel. I had been looking for somewhere to ‘place’ the female protagonist. Even if Mrs Muse hadn’t been elbowing me in the ribs, I’d have known - this was it!
The weird coincidences continued: the gentleman giving me a tour of the reading room originally came from the Roseland on Cornwall’s south coast. That might account for his choice of pages in Camden’s ‘Britannica’. But his finger, pointing straight at Pendennis, the castle at the core of my books? No. THAT was extraordinary. There was more.
The exhibition in the display cases was on ‘Emigration’. A member of the Library had researched and highlighted a name amongst the many hundreds in the borrowers’ registers. Haxton. Ours is not a common surname anywhere so, of all the names in Perthshire, the odds of that had to be pretty long.
I was still shaking my head in disbelief when a charming couple came in. We were introduced. Roman re-enactors, they live about 500 yards from our new address. When they shared an experience that Mrs Muse began applauding with gusto, I beat a retreat on ‘overload’!
Deliberately taking a different road back to the A9, I found myself approaching the junction that I’d taken so warily almost exactly two hours earlier, but from the opposite direction.
There, sweeping across the carriageway ahead and disappearing into the trees, were four police motorcyclists. The same ones? I’ve no idea.
All I could hear was Mrs Muse yelling, ‘They aren’t police riders! They’re the ghosts of Romans, horsemen, and they continually ride the same route on one day every hundred years. They’ve just updated their steeds ...’
I don’t care where she’s been, but Mrs Muse is definitely back!