Saturday, 8 June 2013

Another Week, Another Distraction, Bernard Cornwell's Winter King, and Harry Potter's Invisibility Cloak

Three weeks ago I went to London for the weekend. At the end of the trip, with two hours until I had to take the tube to Heathrow Airport, I finally achieved my goal of visiting a bookstore.
I bustled from Victoria Station, past the back wall of Buckingham Palace and through the beautiful, green dampness of St James's park, to the grand shops and mansions of Piccadilly.
Drizzle fell constantly. I didn't care, I was going to a bookshop.
In the end, though, I didn't go to a bookshop, I went to two bookshops. The first was Hatchards, in Piccadilly. It's the oldest bookshop in the UK, on five floors, and it looks like this.

 I bought a copy of Idylls of the King Publisher: Penguin Classics, and a history of the Kings of England (exciting stuff). More importantly I roamed around their five floors, got recommendations from their lovely staff, and browsed through all kinds of fascinating little nooks and crannies.
And then, from there, I went up the road to Waterstones Piccadilly, ANOTHER five floor book store. What an embarrassment of riches! it used to be a department store called Simpsons, and it's huge.
Here I bought this:
Because I thought it would be interesting to see a historical representation of the King Arthur years.
It turned out it was more than fascinating. basically, in British history, there's a 500 hundred year gap, after the Romans left, and before the Normans came, when we know NOTHING that went on. While the Romans were around they wrote letters about people, and drew maps, and recorded battles, and accounts. Then they went, and everybody pulled their palaces down to make pig sties, and let grass grow on their roads, and stopped recording anything.
It's like there's an invisibility cloak over the whole time. A cloak that Cornwell attempts to push aside. He makes a real historical time fascinating, and quite dreadful, and the characters amazing.