Elizabeth: Looking Out the Window

Laycock Abbey © Eldridge Photography

Laycock Abbey © Eldridge Photography

Summer holiday season is winding down, school will be back in session for many students next week, and the stores are already stocking up on Halloween candy.  Where does the time go?  We’ll be back to our self-publishing series next week, once I finish easing my way back into post-vacation real-life, but today we’re going to talk about refilling the creative well.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, the Girls in the Basement went on strike while I was off on vacation.  Instead of coming home with thousands of lovely new story words, I had a notebook full of blank pages.  Had I known that was going to happen, I’d have left the writing paraphernalia at home and packed an extra pair of shoes and the other camera lens.  Lesson learned.

Highgate Cemetery © Eldridge Photography

Highgate Cemetery © Eldridge Photography

Fortunately, even though I wasn’t writing, I still had plenty of opportunity for creative thinking just by looking at what was around me.  One example was the visit Eight Lady Jilly and I took to the Highgate Cemetery in London one Sunday.  There is nothing like Victorian Gothic atmosphere to get the ideas flying.  There were monuments overgrown with roots and foliage and graves that looked like the perfect resting place for a vampire or two.  While I don’t write stories set in the Victorian period (yet), if I ever do, it may be to tell the tale of the poor woman’s body that was left in the temporary catacomb vaults and never reclaimed by her family for proper burial.  I can’t help wondering why they never came back.   Did they die in a cholera epidemic or run out of money or did they just not care?  There’s a story in there, I’m sure.

Bowood House © Eldridge Photography

Bowood House © Eldridge Photography

A visit to Bowood House in Derry Hill the next Sunday gave me a first-hand feel for how some of the characters in my Regency story might have lived.  The grand Robert Adam designed rooms with their ornate details and walls full of paintings and statuary were a sight to see (sadly, no indoor photography allowed).  It was nice to be able to walk through the rooms, as my characters might have, and to imagine what kind of staff (and how much money) it would take to keep a place like that going.  My favourite part of the estate was the Capability Brown designed landscape.  Vast sweeping vistas, a sinuous lake, a hidden waterfall, and even a Greek temple off in the distance (you can see it peeking out of the left-hand side of the photo above) – it was a little hard to comprehend that the landscape was all man-made and that at one time it all belonged to a single family.  I could just imagine a Regency house party there, and had lots of ideas about the mischief that could occur near the hidden waterfall and Greek temple in the twilight.

Merton College © Eldridge Photography

Merton College © Eldridge Photography

There were many other little moments here and there during my trip that triggered thoughts that went into the little notebook I always carry in my purse.  Most of them are not likely to turn into anything, but a few may find their way into a story or may trigger other new thoughts the next time I look at them.  To give my creativity a little extra charge, I made sure to leave an offering on the “good-luck griffin” at the college where I was staying.  It may just be a coincidence, but last night when I was thinking about my contemporary story before falling asleep I had two fresh ideas, including a new character to up the conflict between my hero and heroine.  I’m going to give the good-luck griffin credit for at least one of the ideas.  Seems only fair.

So, it’s never too soon to start planning my next vacation.  If you’ve got any suggestions for places to go or things to do that offer scope for creative thinking, I’m all ears.

7 thoughts on “Elizabeth: Looking Out the Window

  1. Highgate Cemetery has been used as a setting by Tracy Chevalier and Audrey Niffenegger, who liked it so much she became an official guide, so there must be some good creative vibes among the tombs and shadows. A vampire or two would be perfect!

    I know you’ve visited Ireland already, but how about Scotland for your next adventure? A trip to the Isle of Skye, and maybe some of the other islands, might be fun. Castles, history, legends, stunning scenery, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and maybe a wee dram or two 😉

    • Scotland sounds fantastic, Jilly. It has been on my bucket list for years and I follow a few groups on Facebook that post beautiful pictures from there on a regular basis. I also have a friend who just moved there with her family; I have been living vicariously through her blog posts. Definitely a place to inspire a lot of ideas.

  2. I came down here to recommend Scotland, and found that Jilly had beaten me to it. But I’m gonna me-too that one, and add the recommendation that you read Rosamunde Pilcher’s “Winter Solstice” before you go. While not a period piece, it otherwise ticks all the boxes for books I think you’d like.

    • Scotland seems to be the place to go. As for Winter Solstice, it’s in the TBR pile, really. Unfortunately a box of books from Oxford arrived this week, moving everything down a bit. I’ll get to it, really I will 🙂

  3. Graveyards must be in the air! (So to speak.) Yesterday, I just finished reading a NYT article about mass graves, and how even today, people are winding up in “potter’s fields”, sometimes abandoned by their families through bureaucratic miscommunication. Sad, and even sadder that the families couldn’t keep in contact when their loved ones were still alive.

    • I’m not too surprised about the “potter’s fields”, since graves/burials can be awfully expensive and there seem to be a lot of people out there without families (or out of contact with their families). As for graveyards, I loaned my Highgate cemetery guidebook to a friend who is just starting a new blog about stories from the cemetery (made up stories about the folks buried there, based on their gravestones, etc.). Death is apparently more popular than I knew.

      • We just buried my grandmother, who had donated her body to science when she died two years ago, so the article hit me kind of hard. She could have ended up anywhere, but the college she’d donated to her body to was responsible and very respectful.

        I’m sure she’s past caring now, but it would have been disturbing for her survivors if she never was returned.

        My daughter wasn’t feeling well, so I had to skip the burying. But last time we were out at that graveyard, I remember there being lots of prickly pear cactus; and my footwear wasn’t designed for walking amongst the cactus. Such an odd thing to find in a graveyard!

        I do like graveyards, for some reason. So many surprises, and so many stories are contained on the headstones. I’ve never gone at night, so all my associations are sunny, tinged with just a bit of melancholy.

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