the written word

The key to being ‘modern man’ lies in his civilised pursuits – the arts, writings, all those things that specially mark us as fundamentally different to animals, even the clever ones.  The Egyptians started the ball rolling with their hieroglyphs about 3400 BC, with coherent texts coming in around 2600 years BC.

In the grand scheme of things that doesn’t really seem very long ago does it?

Putting it in to a British context, the neolithic era saw the locals living in small extended family groups who would work the land in a semi settled manner, they would wear basic hide garments, build barrows, causeways and around 2500 BC put together Stonehenge, for reasons we know not what.  But whilst that has to stand as a stunning example of tooless basic engineering and one we Brits should be duly proud, we can’t duck the fact that we didn’t start writing stuff down onto tablet or papery stuff until over 3000 years later with the epic Anglo Saxon hero poem of Beowulf.

Civilisation is generally considered to have begun around 6000 years BC  in Mesopotamia – an area that would set it in modern day Iraq, and it was from this very area that we see the first epic story, written in Sumerian cuneiform, a sort of detailed picture series on stones around 2000 BC – the Epic of Gilgamesh as it’s called is a story of the daring do’s of King Gilgamesh of Uruk

What I find fascinating is the epic story of Gilgamesh recounts, a number of early biblical tales as delivered in Genesis – and as a means of comparison, it is believed that the life of the old Testament Abraham is dated around 1900-1800 BC which puts him in historical touching distance to the author of the story; and furthermore, King Gilgamesh himself was believed to have been a historical figure in Sumeria c.2700 BC which places him as a physical contemporary of the early Genesis characters.

Finding unadulterated manuscripts or stones from antiquity are rarer than hens teeth, but they are the gems we long for – to help us place ancient history in context, to act as corroboration.

And herein lies one problem I have and this doesn’t make me clever or unusual – when one considers ancient religious texts – the danger for corruption, especially where translation has taken place, but also where the same language has morphed, developed and changed over time, means that our reliance on the text as the unadulterated truth is challenged severely.

I cannot believe the Bible is written under divine influence.

I love the idea that the Gilgamesh story lends credence to stories such of the great Flood and even Adam and Eve that gives me a spark of some historical corroboration that is guiltily exciting.

But the Bible, as a reliable document is perhaps a stretch too far – of the 3 Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity  – it is the Bible which for me presents the greatest challenge to unravel – because in part I feel it has the answer to my soul searching and in part is complete doctored fantasy.

 

 

 

 

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Giving….and meaning it.

Today I gave away £50.

Ok that’s not a huge sum, I realise that. But it is truly £50 I don’t actually have spare. All January I have been hemming and hawing over spending £60 on a much needed pair of curtains for my daughter’s bedroom and I have held off, trying to find the right time to part with the cash. So those curtains are now going to have to wait another month. That’s another month of indecision as to whether I have chosen the right pair!

I generally don’t give money to charity. I have in the past, I’m not mean and sometimes I am moved (usually children and animal charities who make me cry!) enough to give one off sums. But charities usually leave me feeling ‘off’. They are all so worthy, there are so many, and they would all bankrupt me to each get a pledge.

And I am angered at how much I see hived off by big charity administration – and I end up thinking – yes laudable, but I need my money. I don’t wallow in spare sadly!

I mentioned a few posts back that I was reading a book which I had asked for as a Christmas present – Matlock the Hare & The Riddle of Treffapuggle Path by Phil and Jacqui Lovesey – and I loved it.

I loved it so much,  I gladly used a christmas Amazon voucher to purchase the next volume – Matlock the Hare and The Puzzle of the Tillian Wand – which I am reading now. These are good sized books it has to be said, and it is lovely to have proper illustrations – I haven’t read a grown up book with illustrations for as long as I can remember – and I love these illustrations, I really do.

I found the book series and the talented pair who write/draw them quite by chance on instagram – I am now an avid follower, Jacqui Lovesey’s illustrations are great and I have promised myself one of my own to hang in the house when I can afford it!

Jacqui works quite hard on social media – working to bring their combined talents to people’s attention and I can see that it is a hard road to hoe.

I see vacuous and frankly stupid instagrammers with thousands of followers – and then there are whole swathes  of the truly talented, who work so hard to get their work seen. And it isn’t just traditional artists, but crafts people, small scale wonder workers – and I find myself really really irritated at how the world seems celebrity obsessed, and these people with vast sums of money at their disposal actually have limited talents at best who just seem to attract more and more for being ever more crass.

Matlock might not be everyone’s cup of tea. But there will be others, completely over shadowed and hidden from us, all desperately trying to get out there.

All January, the Lovesey’s have been campaigning on social media about a crowd funding project they are launching (have launched) today – to bring a new book of art work out in to the light. Funding is to publish the book.

Part of my new years resolution to myself has been to concentrate on the small, to do small things that bring me pleasure – I don’t want to have my life cluttered with junk – both physical (like my house I talk of) and mental ( stresses that make me feel ill). I am doing brilliantly at the minute surrounding myself with activities that feel good – and in turn I am feeling pretty good too.

One thing I have instigated in to my new ‘small pleasure mean a lot’ routine for myself, is to try and go to bed a bit earlier each night and read a small while  – and the Lovesey’s books have been my companion each night since Christmas. I’m sleeping better, and each night ends nicely, calmly and with some  happiness. It is amazing how much better I am since doing this.

When the crowd funding project was announced, I was curious – I checked out the Kickstarter site to see what it was all about. And I was impressed with how modest the amounts being asked for were. Amounts that in themselves I could see would be beyond most people just being able to produce without help, but small enough not to discourage people from offering a helping hand.

This morning the first thing I found myself doing was checking out their kickstarter page to see how they were doing, and in the back of my mind I think I already knew that I was intent in giving them something – I wanted to give. Not for the rewards – actually the Loveseys are incredibly generous, giving out little things to backers. But honestly, I wanted to give them something to help them achieve something lovely- bring a beautiful book to light, but also because in reading their books and enjoying them – I wanted to give something back.

Giving £50 is practically unheard of for me – part with £50 and have nothing tangible to show for it??? Really?

I feel really happy.

 

Magical Reads…

I’m a bit of a mystical – magical book lover when it comes down to it. I know this can take a variety of different ‘angles’, there’s lots of slightly different genres – I tend to prefer the ‘fey’. Wizards and spell crafting, evil doers and a whole posse of Elven, Fairy and Brownie folk to light the way.

Does that sound a whole lot Tolkien-esque? I imagine it does, but it is interesting that I was introduced much later to JRR than you might assume and that my imagination had been fired a long long while before I knew the joys of the Shire.

I broke my fantasy reading teeth at about 10 yrs old, on the work of Alan Garner – truly a master of the craft and I stubbornly hold he was a far better, more gripping story teller than JRR even though it became obvious as I grew up, that Mr Garner had undoubtedly been strongly influenced himself by Tolkein.

I remember being annoyed that Gandalf appeared to me to be a work around of Cadellin Silverbrow, and the horror at realising that Gandalf had arrived first!!!! In fact there are many who felt that Garner more than doffed his cap toward the old master, some went so far as to say he downright cloned aspects. However true that may or may not be, I don’t care to have the argument – I loved ‘the Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ and the rest of the series, whereas I had only a milky sorta liking for the Fellowship journey – it was for me, as a youngster, overly long and dark and I have never revisited it in later adulthood. I did however love the films.

I read the Garner stories over and over again- Elidor, the Weirdstone with it’s wands and high magic (and it’s sequel the Moon of Gomrath – a tale of old dark magic), the Owl Service ( you make her flowers but she want’s to be owls) and even Redshift and then preceded to read them to my younger sister and we both gobbled them up. But despite trying, neither of us have ever been able to impart the joy of Garner to our own children – and it is worth saying also, that  none of our kids would touch Tolkein with a barge pole -????

I figured that the love of all things magic had just passed them by – but they were saved from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and it’s ilk by something quite extraordinary. Harry Potter.

My eldest son, who is now 26, was at that age when Harry was hardly known at all, and was reading them before the books became a leviathan franchise – and he waited impatiently for each new book to be released. By the time he had read them all, my sister’s eldest, now 18, followed in his footsteps and quickly became a Potter buff too and latterly my sister also defected from Garner to Rowling – having read all the Potter books to two offspring and read them herself, twice over- she firmly established them as the magical book series par excellence. I was having none of it. I was a purist and a stubborn one at that – I wasn’t interested in this boy upstart.

It wasn’t at all difficult to encourage my eldest son to read. JK Rowling was pretty much  pushing on an open door where he was concerned. But my youngest son, now 13, he was a much tougher nut to crack because he hated reading and was particularly bored by fiction.

Only this last academic year was he brought, by his English teacher, kicking and screaming to the Potter book club – only, miraculously he read the first 3 in quick succession and has had the 4th bought as a Christmas present.  Holy Impossibility Batman surely? But no. He’s really liked them. Not loved them he says, but very definitely liked them.

So, given the fact that the plaster cast on my hand this Christmas pretty much put paid to anything more interesting, I took it upon myself to read Harry Potter. Not all of it – just the first book. And it was ok. I was pleased there was more detail and roundness to it than was in the film even though I was impressed to see that the film was pretty true to it overall. I didn’t love it. I don’t think I can be bothered to read any more of it and it felt to me like toy town magic – I wasn’t scared of ‘you know who’ and I didn’t believe in Harry and co, nor felt their angst and danger but more importantly, Albus Dumbledore did not carry the wand with gravitas like Gandalf or Cadellin – in fact he seemed a bit puny.

Another aspect that I wasn’t expecting was that I assumed as the children ran through the none existent platform at King Cross, they were transported to a parallel universe, only I now realise that Wizardy pure bloods live hand to jowl next to muggles and I was slightly put out by the notion that there was no special magical world. Now the exact same thing is true in the Weirdstone – but unlike Muggle-land, Alderley Edge imparted magic, legend and folklore in a way that Stoke Poges just can’t match.

I may have forced myself to read a bit more of the series, just to say I’d done it – if I hadn’t been side tracked by the prospect of another journey with the most majilicus of wizards, Matlock the Hare.

I may have let this trilogy pass me by completely had it not been for the most wonderful artwork that accompanies the series by Jacqui Lovesey. Having seen her work and the website of Matlock – I realise that illustrations do not have to be banished to the children’s section alone; her work is so evocative, I wonder why more authors don’t consider it.

I’ve only just started part 1 of the trilogy and I do hope it holds up to my expectation. I follow Jacqui on instagram and I was so taken with the way the story and pictures call to you – I was even prepared to excuse the fact that the wizard is a hare.

It is different, even the liberal smattering of new vocabulary makes it at once curiously addictive and off putting all at the same time. I’m prepared to be won over, transported and enchanted – every evening before bed!

Let the wand waving commence……