Not Doing Research

My articles on Research and the Author are intended to help writers to avoid the mistakes I’ve already made and give ideas about finding out information for their stories. Research is catnip for me. It lures me in to strange places and bewitches and befuddles me until I’m blissed out in interesting and largely useless facts.

Back when I first started writing about the eclectic and eccentric characters at the White Hart in Tales from the White Hart, Kadogan was already fascinated by candles. He watched them, counted them, arranged them and complained about them endlessly. In the latest instalments in Back at the White Hart, Kadogan has decided to invest in candle making equipment, which makes sense to him but no-one else. What could go wrong? Anyone who knows Kadogan thinks that plenty could go wrong and the potential for unexpected fires, runaway fragrances and cursed wicks are endless.

Writing classes always advise new authors to write what they know. I know nothing about candles but can’t resist the fun that I can have mixing Kadogan with candle making. I considered doing real life research and making a few candles so I looked around for an easy and inexpensive candle making kit to get an idea of how it could go. Sometimes it’s all about the details. I’d love to be able to add a touch like the smell of melting wax or the feel of the wicks. I had a look on eBay, which is my normal starting point.

On the surface, this seemed like a good idea. I love candles. There’s one burning as I type this. It’s nicely fragrant, slightly crackly and bought from the supermarket. I ask for candles for birthdays, Christmas and Mother’s Day. My son knows to candle me up on all gift giving occasions. Making candles seems like a logical next step. However all the adult kits that are the most like the experience of proper candle are extremely comprehensive. There are bundles that are quite reasonably priced that include melters and hot plates and thermometers along with ample supplies. For less than £50 at the time of typing I could find a kit that includes 200 wicks, although perhaps enough wax for ten candles or so.

But I can see the slippery slope. If I’ve got all this kit along with the spare wicks, it couldn’t hurt to pick up a little wax and fragrance and dye to make a few more. Surely it would be more cost effective, even if I priced it against supermarket candles. I could spend perhaps an evening or two and churn out a dozen candles. There are two good reasons why I shouldn’t consider it.

The first very good reason is that I am accident prone. I drop things. I spill things. I scald myself in improbable situations. My family never trusted me with jam making as I couldn’t be trusted with boiling fruit and sugar. I once set fire to a chip pan full of fat and far too many of my family are surprised that I only did that once. There is no way I can be trusted with melted wax – it’s a fire hazard and scald hazard combined.

The second excellent reason is that I have a shopping habit that gets out of control when it comes to hobbies. Knitting is a good example. I enjoy knitting but I love shopping for knitting. My yarn stash can be measured in heaps and I have random bags with needles, tape measures, patterns, bodkins and stitch markers all around the house. The amount of yarn I’ve accumulated due to seeing a really good deal when my impulse control was looking the other way is ridiculously large. I’ve a surprising amount of sewing kit as well, considering that I’m scared of my sewing machine. If candle making joined all my other hobbies, it wouldn’t stay in a small corner. I’d see a deal on wax or wicks and, before I knew it, candle making gear would be spilling out of the cupboards along with all the rest of my hobbies.

I thought very carefully about all of this. There are a multitude of videos on YouTube about candle making and I can watch them without risking burning myself or overdoing the shopping. Not only that, I can knit while watching those videos and decrease the yarn stash at the same time.

I’m skipping the real life research. I hope my reasoning helps other writers make informed conditions about when research on YouTube is good enough.

With Apologies

I fail at February and March. I always have. It’s the time of year when things like funerals and loss of ability to function happen for me. I am also easily distracted by, well, practically anything and I’m more susceptible around now.

I apologise for missing out on the posts. This happens every year yet still somehow takes me by surprise and I let people down. I’m sorry. Normal service (whatever normal service is) will be resumed on Monday.

I’ve been thinking a lot about reviews. Something is niggling at me and prodding me to keep going, but I feel uncomfortable reviewing authors who are in the same sort of genre as me. It feels like I’m poking at them and I really don’t want to do that. I want to be encouraging.

Over the last couple of months, when things have been less than straightforward in my private life, I’ve been reading my bodyweight in romantic eBooks. I know that eBooks technically have no easily measurable weight (can you tell that I have an extremely STEM son) and that I’m very much a larger lady, but it’s the best way to describe my reading. I’ve even read Hockey romances, and I’ve never seen a hockey game. I’m not even sure about the rules.

I’ve decided to work with this. The Friday review slot will be either my subscription from the British Library or a absolutely-non-paranormal-or-fantasy-or-anything-supernatural romance. I can’t seem to write anything without breaking out in vampires, so I’m safe from treading on the toes of an author who writes in the same genres. Also, I get to legitimately indulge in a romance at least once per week.

Another point is that I had a load of writing prompts cued up to post so they have kept going. I haven’t seen many people taking advantage of them, but I’ve enjoyed having them steer the story of Back at the White Hart so they are likely to continue. Please feel free to use them if they also work for you.

I plan to eventually put Invitation Accepted into a book form. I’ve noticed that people return to this regularly, so let me know if you want me to push that to the head of my extremely long writing to-do list. I’m always incredibly flattered that anyone reads my work, so if there any requests or questions, I’d like to hear them. I may not have shown it over the last few months, but I want to be respectful to anyone kind enough to read my stories.

Now I’m getting back to completely re-writing Across a Misty Bridge which is far too much fun to be legal and a good reminder of where things started.

Sorting Out Characters

I’m finally catching up with the writing prompts. I don’t cheat – I don’t try and fit prompts that work for my story and I don’t check upcoming prompts to make things easier. Instead I’m allowing Back to the White Hart to wander its winding way through the random prompts and watching with interest to see where it ends up. I’m very much enjoying the chaos that is inevitably attached to that particular story arc.

I’ve written quite a lot around the White Hart. There’s around 200,000 words contained in the three books on Amazon and I’ve written quite a few extra stories which you can find under After the White Hart. The stories go back at least a decade, as well, so trying to remember all the little details that keep it real for me is a trial. This is even worse when I factor in the issues I have finding stuff on my computer, you know, like I said in a previous post and that I was certain that I was going to sort out. I’m sharing this as it may be a comfort to other writers, or even a little useful. Besides, it makes be at least slightly accountable.

To be fair, I’ve been slowly chipping away at chaos. It doesn’t help that everything that I save to my laptop is also saved to the cloud, but not everything that I save to the cloud is saved to my laptop. I have spent far too long trying to find a relatively recent copy of Tales from the White Hart and far too much bad language. I was trying to remember what Martin’s name was before he changed it to Martin (Aelfhelm, for the record) when I was writing Qualified Success and I couldn’t think of it. So today I started a character record by dragging out a project notebook that I had planned to use as a price book.

It’s a fault in my character, but I have to work things out for myself. The starting plan goes like this. I’m using a separate section for each collection of stories. In each section, I’ll have an index (which meant I had to number all the pages, except that I only numbered the odd pages because I could work out which page came, for example, between 7 and 9), and then I can check the index for a character.

I’ve made a key for the characters, together with highlighters. I’m not sure how that will work, but it’s a start and I put it at the start of the section. I’m working on the theory that I’ll end up changing it to make it more convenient, but it will do for now.

Yes, my writing is that bad

Then I’ll go through the various books I’ve written, make notes of the characters and include things like ‘how do they like their coffee?’ and ‘previous lovers/friends/enemies/pets’ and, in the case of the elfen, ‘previous and current obsessions’.

It’s going to be scrappy, messy and I’ll be adding bits as I go along. I’ve tried creating characters from a template and they just snigger at me and do what they darn well please. So when I’m writing and I add a quirk or a detail, I’ll note it in the book. When I’m looking up whether a character prefers red or blue, I’ll note in the book as soon as I find it. I may use the book as I’m writing new stuff but I wouldn’t put money on it. I’m not that organised.

And I’m limiting my work to five minutes a day because I have a lot of other stuff that I want to write and that’s about my attention span at the moment. Here’s hoping that it’ll help my writing.

New Year, Same Old Me

This is my first chatty post of 2024, and it’s traditional to give tips on ‘how to make things work’ and ‘how I schedule’ or ‘planning for the New Year’. Anyone who has followed any of my stuff will snigger at the thought of me not only actually planning something, but also sticking to it as well!

I swear that if I decide to turn right, plan to turn right and let everyone know that I’m going to turn right, that I’ll absolutely without question end up turning left. I have issues. I may even have a syndrome, like the Hulk in Avengers Assemble. Whatever it is, I refuse to make promises, no matter what the calendar says.

In theory, hopefully, with a following wind and a little luck, this year my posting schedule on here should like something like this. Monday is when I put up a little flash fiction. I’m currently playing around with the characters from the White Hart, but who knows what else could come up. Tuesday should see a writing prompt. It’s quite selfish and I’m using it like a gym, a way of strengthening my writing muscles, but all are welcome. Wednesday should be some sort of chat or news or my thoughts on the world. Thursday should be the ongoing story that’s also being posted on Royal Road, although I may also do some catch up on other stories. Friday should be a book review to keep me reading.

That is the theory. All bets are off now that I’ve committed it to paper. I’m currently sitting here with a hacking cough and a wide selection of aches and pains. January and February are also traditionally when I’m lowest, so I’m trying not to plan too much for the next month or so.

I absolutely have no right to share anything to do with planning. However I hope to get a lot more writing done. Avid readers have a TBR pile – a ‘To Be Read’ pile. I have a TBW, a ‘To Be Written’ list. Kane deserves to have his story told and I should finish off the story at the hotel. I’ve been muttering about re-writing Across a Misty Bridge for years. I’ve got some ideas for what could be happening to Darren (poor lad) and some of the side characters from the White Hart. I wouldn’t mind revisiting the characters from ‘Grumpy Old Gods’ who I’m sure are getting up to plenty of trouble. I also need to look back at the books that were previously published by the awesome Three Furies Press and perhaps get them back in print. And then there’s all the other stories… My ‘To Be Written’ list, if written on a length of paper, in two columns, in small writing, would be at least as tall as me. I’m not that short.

I refuse to put what I’m planning next as that has, in the past, been the utter kiss of death to any project. However I hope that you would consider keeping me company on this journey. I listen to requests, I want to hear you, and I am utterly dependent on encouragement. And there is a surprisingly wide selection of paths I could pursue. Did you know that I was considering writing a Mrs Tuesday’s Book of Household Hints? Or a ‘How not to Housekeep‘ type book. I currently live in a domestic disaster, so I should have a lot of experience to offer that.

This is the time of year to make promises. Bitter experience tells me that I fail at promises. However I am very comfortable letting any reader know that I am grateful for their attention and that I will do my best and saints can’t do more.

If you have any requests, ideas or comments, I would love to hear from you. I make no promises, but I will absolutely listen.

Practising Writing

I’ve started posting writing prompts again. It was mentioned to me in quick succession from a few sources and I thought that I would have a play. At time of typing, I have writing prompts cued up for Tuesdays up to the end of February 2024. I set the word count at 500 words (I went over by fifty on my last response here), tried to pick out a good range of pictures and quotes and hoped for the best.

My goal was to work on my writing, like a gym. It can be tricky to keep the word count low, at least for me. My characters start talking and they get carried away. I was hoping to reference the crew at The White Hart, the former pub and now shop and cafe which is staffed by a very miscellaneous group of elfen, werewolves and boggarts with the occasional normal thrown into the mix (you can find more about the world of The White Hart here and some previous short stories here). The idea wasn’t to worry about background or characters but to write a complete, self contained scene that was at least a little interesting to read.

Writing that small scene can be unexpectedly hard.

The first consideration is to make that scene readable to those who haven’t read the three novels and associated short stories. Making that not only readable but perhaps interesting while trying to avoid irritating a regular reader is tricky and something that I’m working on. That’s one of the reasons I’m calling it a writing gym. I can’t just dump any old stuff. I have to carefully consider who could be reading this.

The second consideration is word count. I’m clear that the 500 word limit is a suggestion and not set in stone, but it’s very useful. I find myself carefully picking over the words when I inevitably run over. This is incredibly good gym work as I have to consider the value of every word. I’m choosing between adding information or rounding out description and it’s forcing me to look closer at my writing. This has to be useful when it comes to my other work.

As for making it entertaing, well, that’s something that’s always a work in progress. The brutal truth is that the more you write, the better you get. The short stories that I’m putting in after the prompt are my way of putting in time and effort to make my writing better. I’m playing fair and not looking ahead to the next prompt too early, which is I suppose the equivalent of training with the right weights. I’m taking it seriously, although I hope that the stories are fun.

So thank you for reading. I hope that I can make it worthwhile coming back again. I’d love to hear what you think so please feel free to drop a comment. And please enjoy the chance to play the writing prompts, as long as you find it fun.

A Gift for Giving

I was lucky enough to have a small piece of writing published on the #HazardousToYourSanity blog which was a tiny piece of fiction about gift giving and you can find it here, if you’re interested. It’s about a gift that, while given in love, is quite different from the sort of thing that the reciever enjoys. I didn’t want anyone to think that the story was modelled on my darling husband who gives great gifts. It’s loosely modelled on my parents when I was young.

My late mother would bend heaven and earth to get the perfect present. She would watch carefully for clues, scour the charity shops and haunt the bargain stores and markets. She didn’t have much money but she would stretch it to get the best possible gift, suited the individual even if she couldn’t understand it herself. She was dedicated. She never forgot birthdays, anniversaries or important dates and even now I am trained on a subliminal level to make sure that a card and gift arrives to anyone who moves house, changes jobs, has a child or anything Hallmark. I can feel her shade at my shoulder, tutting if I forget.

My late father failed at gifts. He was generous to a fault but he had a sort of ‘gift-blindness’ that amused me but drove my late mother scatty. They got married on the 9th March and my late mother’s birthday was the 6th September. Every year, without fail, my father would get gifts for my mother on the 6th March and the 9th September. The arguments that followed were epic and prolongued. Added to which, my mother loathed anything pink and frilly. The last gift my father gave her before an incredibly hard fought divorce was a bright pink and frilly dressing gown. It didn’t help.

The ‘gift-blindness’ wasn’t anything malicious. After the divorce, I was grateful if my father remembered my birthday in the correct month. And the gifts were incredibly well meant – my father had a heart the size of Cheshire – but were random. My uncle was even worse. I once got a knock-off Crazy Frog key ring with sound effects. If you can remember Crazy Frog, you can imagine how incredibly tacky a knock-off of that was. My uncle thought it was a brilliant joke, spent a fortune on me in other ways, unexpectedly and unasked covered a load of wedding expenses and was a warm hearted, generous guy with a skewed idea of gifts.

My take is that no matter what the gift is, you smile when you accept it, find something nice to say about it and take the love that comes with it. We all know that some gifts come with malice. But in my experience, most gifts, no matter how crazy, come wrapped in layers and layers of love and that is worth cherishing.

Stretching the Writing Muscles

I’ve been thinking about writing prompts again. I’ve done them before and had a lot of fun with them, but I felt that they were getting in the way so I stopped. They’ve always had a place in my heart, though, and I feel that it’s good for me. I look at a situation and a have a think and I have to be careful, disciplined and controlled in my writing. This is a good thing and I have always likened it to going to the gym. It’s a way of pushing ideas around and building up the writing muscles.

Unfortunately I’m the sort of person who, if I decide to go left, promise myself that I’ll go left and plan to go left, will inevitably turn right. I’m not being awkward. I’m just being me. So while I’m making a plan, who knows how it will turn out. I don’t stress about it any more.

The plan (and please let me stick to it) is that I will post a prompt every Tuesday and then post my response to that post on the Monday. Anyone who wants to join in with the fun is incredibly welcome. The rules are here, but the chances of me checking that you stick to the rules are very low indeed. In general, write something that is inspired loosely by the picture, the quotation or a combination, in more than twenty words but less than five hundred words and have fun. And write something that you wouldn’t be ashamed to be caught reading on the bus. When you consider the sort of things people read on the bus, you’ve got some latitude.

Writing and journalling can be incredibly good for your mental health. They are certainly good for mine. If I get two thousand words written then I have enough of a boost to spring clean the kitchen. Over the next few months I’m going to be exploring ways to write more and more and the writing gym is part of that.

I hope that you will feel able to use the prompts in a way that benefits you. You may not want to share, or you may want to write a novel instead of the 500 words, or you may want to play with the ideas for a while in private before sharing and that’s okay. If you do feel able to share, I would really love to see what the wonderful things that you create.

And I hope that, whatever else happens, you can have fun.

A Writer’s Life: Thinking About Murder

It’s well known that a writer’s search history isn’t fit to see. Mine includes gems like ‘saddles in 10th century Paris’ and ‘what sort of flowers are there in July in Italy’. It also may or may not include (and I admit to nothing) such gems as looking for arsenic on eBay or Amazon, descriptions of hemlock and what laudanum tastes like. It’s research and absolutely nothing to do with my very dull real life.

And that’s the thing – in my real life I’m looking for things like how to get rid of ink on school shirts, or when the council are collecting waste, or whether a shop will be open at a particular time. As a writer, I’m looking for ways to kill people. I worry that I’ll end up on a list somewhere.

I’m currently planning a murder – in a book, obviously, and it’s made me wonder. Murder is probably easy if you don’t mind being caught. You could just walk straight up to someone and be violent. And there’s a story, right there, about someone with a terminal diagnosis and a grudge. I’m not planning on writing that sort of story at the moment. But if you don’t want to be caught, you have to be tricky.

I thought about it some more as I was on the school run and I came to the conclusion that violence would be a difficult option. With all the forensics and CCTV and stuff, you would be bound to be caught. DNA gets everywhere and I wonder if old murderers will be caught because a relative posted their genetics on a family history site and there was a match with an old crime scene. And thinking about those sites, I wonder how many long lost cousins and unsuspected half-siblings have turned up and caused havoc in families. I’m sure that there are all sorts of scandals waiting to come out. But that’s a different book.

So if the murder wasn’t with violence, then wouldn’t it have to be by poison? I was thinking about this while I was knitting. Getting hold of poisons is quite hard, I suppose. You can’t call into the corner shop and pick up half a pound of arsenic for rat poison like you once could. I was told that apple pips contain cyanide, but I imagine that you would have to bake a vast amount into a pie. According to my brief and unscientific web search (which isn’t helping my search history), morello cherry pits have the most cyanide easily available in fruit. But what if you want to murder someone urgently and it’s not cherry season? You can buy sacks of cherry pits online (to make heating pads, apparently), but I don’t know if they need to be fresh if you want cyanide. I’m not searching for that. I have to draw the line somewhere.

Administering the poison could be tricky. Someone could notice that you had bought the supermarket’s entire stock of morello cherries and are now pressing some almond-tasting tea on rich Uncle Cedric. According to the murder mysteries I’ve read, cyanide smells of almonds, so someone collapsing after eating an almond macaroon will raise some suspicion. There will be questions about the source of that macaroon once a ton of cyanide is found at the autopsy and the murderer would be found in no time.

All the ideas I could think of about murder weren’t working out. If you stopped and thought logically about it, everything fell apart. I was facing the awful truth that I’m not very good at murder which is a drawback for a writer. Then I was looking for hand cream and found exactly what I was looking for.

And if everything goes well, I’ll be able to share the story with you by the end of July.

About Steve Adderson

I think the best way to describe my writing career is erratic. I’ve spoken how Forgotten Village ended up as an accidental self publish, and that I had the original inspiration for King’s Silver back in 1997, over twenty years before it made it to print. I have no idea to this day how I ended up being inspired by steampunk (though I’m glad I was) and, to be honest, I have no idea what I’m going to do next.

Steve Adderson was a character that I stumbled into back in 2013. I followed a writing prompt from Write on the Edge for a story prompted by a picture and limited to 500 words. Something about Steve Adderson seemed to work and so he ended up in the response to the next prompt, and the one after that, and the one after that. In the end, I had quite a collection which I pulled together and called Across a Misty Bridge. It was posted in a few places and added on to bits and pieces but it never made it to its own book. After that story ended, he became co-owner of The White Hart and found himself never far away from trouble. I have a soft spot for Steve.

After some very kind comments about Steve on the last piece of fiction, I went back and looked at his story. I’m a much better writer now than I was back in 2013 (though there is still plenty of room for improvement), and I’m not necessarily limited to 500 words. I would love to hear if you would be interested in me going back and rewriting the original series, giving it a bit more life and perhaps adding a chapter or two. It’s almost like I feel that Steve would deserve it. I may also have an idea or two for some stories about him as the main hero, which I also think he very much deserves.

I’m a little hesitant as it’s not new stuff, but it would be very carefully refurbished and shined up. With the shock of losing Three Furies Press, I’m shaking loose a lot of stuff and getting the old stuff properly organised to go forward into the new stuff with a little more energy. Giving Steve a little more polish would be part of that process.

As a reminder, here is the original from 22nd April 2013.

Exchange on a Bridge

Steve Adderson, call centre worker and now dealer with the Faerie Realm stepped nervously onto the bridge.  It was the same concrete bridge it had always been, however now there was a tall man in a motorcycle helmet standing next to his dark motorbike in the centre of the bridge.

The motorcycle rider removed his helmet.  “Are you Mr Steve Adderson?” He asked. 

Steve swallowed nervously.  What had possessed him to deal with someone who described themselves as elfen?  “I’m Steve Adderson.” He said, his voice almost breaking with fear.  “Are you Lord Marius?”

“I am indeed.” There was a hint of impatience. “Have you brought it with you?”

Steve swallowed again.  “Yes, I have.”

“And payment has cleared in your account?” Lord Marius asked.

“No offence, but when I was first contacted I read up a bit and they mentioned fairy gold…” Steve took a deep breath.  Lord Marius was a lot taller than him, and he had a dangerous edge that went beyond the trappings of a biker.

“As a kindness, and hoping for a speedy transaction, I will share some small information.” Lord Marius leant casually against the railings of the bridge.  “If you are dealing with the elfen, never take food, or drink or cash.  Cheques are usually safe enough, though nothing in any path is guaranteed.  And this treasure that you bring me, which has been bartered hard for, well, that is an illustration of elfen foolishness.  You were contacted by Lord Cerdig.” Lord Marius sighed.  “He does not see a great deal of the sunlight realm.  He ventures here rarely and his influence is waning, particularly amongst the younger members of his court.  He seeks to bolster his position so he finds something that his more powerful neighbouring prince covets to buy aid and support.” Lord Marius shrugged.  “However this neighbour is in the grip of a strange obsession.  It is a curse of our kind.  He is quite desperate for treasure such as you carry, no matter how odd it seems to others, he pines for it.  So Lord Cerdig offered highly for it, lest another find it first and win it from you.”

“I was a bit surprised.” Steve said.

“Your treasure has some value in your world, but it is not the same value as that to a desperate elfen prince, buying the heart’s desire of a much needed ally.” Lord Marius sighed.  “Please give it to me.”

Steve hesitantly handed it over.  Lord Marius took out the object, examined it with careful fingers and then finally nodded. 

“It is exactly as described.” Lord Marius said.  “Here is a bonus from Lord Cerdig, all the papers are in order.”

Steve’s reflexes caught the car keys that Lord Marius threw at him.  The very new BMW car keys.  And then he watched Lord Marius ride off into the mist carrying with him a package that would cost, at the best valuation, one fiftieth of the price of the second hand BMW he had been looking at longingly in the local showroom.  And some elfen was now the owner of a 1936 Rupert Bear Annual, mint condition.  He held up the keys to the growing light.  What was the car equivalent of fairy gold? 

Please let me know what you think – time for a spruce up?

My Writer’s Life 3rd May 2023

Look what I made! I’ve been sorting out a pic for the new story for Royal Road and I managed to do this! I’m speaking to someone incredibly talented who will do the proper one as things work out, but I think that this will do for a place holder. I’m still surprised that I managed anything like this! I fail at pictures.

Going forward, fiction will be posted here and on Royal Road. You can see where I’ve started here. I hope you feel able to have a look around the site. There’s a lot of interesting stuff on there, and some great stories. I’ll put chat and news on here and Substack, so that you can get a notification if you want one.

I’m looking forward to the Coronation. Yes, I am a loyal subject of King Charles III, and my ancestors would turn in their various graves and resting places if I didn’t show respect, but I also admit that I’ll be watching it as a writer. I’ll want to know what happens and when and there’s a chance that it will suggest ideas for scenes in books later on.

Image of Charlemagne and Einhard from WikiCommons

And I keep wondering about the coronation of Charlemagne as the first Holy Roman Emperor. He’d gone into Italy and down to Rome to help out the pope at the time, Pope Leo III. Apparently the Pope crowned him Holy Roman Emperor in a sort of ambush, without warning Charlemagne before hand. And apparently Charlemagne tried to refuse it. It’s hard to believe that a wily operator like Charlemagne wouldn’t know what was coming, and that he wouldn’t spot a large, shiny crown hanging around as he knelt to pray. On the other hand, being crowned the Holy Roman Emperor meant that Charlemagne and his successors kept getting dragged into Italy’s very complicated and fragmented diplomacy and regular warfare. And what the pope bestowed, the pope could take away and the struggle for authority didn’t encourage peace. The conflict between Pope Gregory VII and Emperor Henry IV, for example, was epic.

Saturday will mark a change, a point in British history, a moment when it is officially done and seen to be done. I’m looking forward to it immensely (and I’ll be taking notes)