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The Foreshadowing

One view of the conflict in the Middle East as we remember the Massacre of the Holy Innocents

A Different Way
The Virgin Speaks

We had to go a different way –
I suppose it was to be expected –
Taking the path that snakes down into Egypt
And the rufous sands of our kindred
Country, shuffling the stones out of place,
The vegetation, itself acicular,
Resembling our abraded mood,
Fraught and fugitive.

Forewarned by a compelling dream,
We speedily forsook our homeland,
And the shabby stable enshrined by Grace,
Wherein the Spirit of our True Abode
Consumed us in its shimmering vision
And we did indeed possess
That Kingdom promised to our
Forefather, Abraham.

How soon the world's rapacious jaws
Were poised to trap the infant Hope of Israel.
Herod trod the warpath, his blood up, lest he be called
To forfeit power. Rather slay the nation's
Innocents, be sure the threat has died
The death, feasting can resume
And the illusion that he alone
Invents salvation.

No resting-place, no refuge then,
The night air gnawed the cheek-skin,
Yet the firmament above hosted the selfsame stars,
Their aspects changing subtly,
That guided men of wisdom,
Rulers of the East, and honest shepherds,
From a cold and rocky altitude
And garnered them.

Oh Abraham, hallowed patriarch!
Spearhead of our toilsome path,
God pledged a race as populous as gems of heaven,
And you believed, but could not trust the manner
Of its coming. You, childless and disdained,
Took matters into your own hands,
Abetted by Sarah, true daughter of Eve,
And begot elsewhere

A bastard line, the Ishmaelites,
Born of your housemaid, Hagar, who scorned
Her mistress' shrivelled womb and barren years,
Earned persecution for her spite and fled
Into the wilderness. It was those ancient footprints
We, the Holy Family, retraced, adjusting
Cosmic balance that quarter might be
Given to exiles.

Time's passed, is passing, will pass,
The sum of it , the essence, still distilling
I am caught up in paradise no mortal mind
Can bear the telling of. All lives, breathes peace
Unclench your fist for Eucharistic Bread,
Earnest of that age-old pact, and you will
Richly gain a foretaste of this Land,
Bending to prayer

The strife on earth does not abate,
And conflict scars the centuries for Jew
And Arab cousins. No ploughshare, no pruning-hook
Their arms foretell.  Ire explodes and gushing blood
The soil stains. Sheol needs no further depths
When they distrust God's will, an inalienable
Commonwealth, plum-rich, and blindly shun
His Different Way.


Gale-torn planes and still unbowed
of an otherworldly sea

zephyr-stirred beneath frail skies
whispering antiquity

lyric pastorale with lambs
through clover twilight heavenly 

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Ruby Wedding

Incident on an ordinary Monday

Crimson rose, your Ruby Wedding,

not a gift to me,

jewelled rose, your bounty bleeding

blossom from the tree.

Velvet bee that sweet heart singing,

trapped inside the glass,

on pane of death, your life-force squand'ring,

echoes of the Mass.

Limpid wall of stings and sighing,

communion averse,

God by woman's hand supplying

rescue from the curse.

Wings upswept on morning gilded

home on smiling rose,

in her silken petals folded,

bee his purpose knows!

Charles Napier Hemy

Still Joining Up The Sparkling Dots

The quotations below encapsulate many of the reasons I chose the novel form for the Berkeley Series.

There is no doubt that fiction makes a better job of the truth.

Doris Lessing

Nothing factual that I write or say will be as truthful as my fiction.

Nadine Gordimer

Biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man. The biography of the man himself cannot be written.

Mark Twain

Like many rich men, he thought in anecdotes; like many simple women, she thought in terms of biography.

Anita Brookner

Biography lends to death a new terror.

Oscar Wilde

Discretion is not the better part of biography.

Lytton Strachey

I had to do the book because there was an unauthorised biography which didn't tell it like it was.

Cilla Black

Just how difficult it is to write biography can be reckoned by anybody who sits down and considers just how many people know the real truth about his or her love affairs.

Rebecca West

One good anecdote is worth a volume of biography.

William Ellery Channing

People think that because a novel's invented, it isn't true. Exactly the reverse is the case. Biography and memoirs can never be wholly true, since they cannot include every conceivable circumstance of what happened. The novel can do that.

Anthony Powell

There is no psychology; there is only biography and autobiography.

Thomas Szasz

There is properly no history, only biography.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Biography is the only true history.

Thomas Carlyle

I can find my biography in every fable that I read.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Almost any biographer, if he respects facts, can give us much more than another fact to add to our collection. He can give us the creative fact; the fertile fact; the fact that suggests and engenders.

Virginia Woolf

When THE WOLF AND THE LAMB was a Work in Progress, I described it as a biographical novel, a recognised genre in those days. Several months after publication, the tag was changed to 'novelised biography'. This doesn't fit under a ready-made heading, but more accurately describes what's going on. To me, and it seems to readers, 'biographical novel' is opaque,  whereas 'novelised biography' sparks curiosity. Who? When? Where? How? Why?
    The subtle shift in emphasis has aroused a more focused interest.
    Why not just write a biography? It might have been easier! A novelist, whilst using imagination to reconstruct events and decide what hinges upon what, cannot muse upon a timeline. A story demands positive chronology and, because it is about real people, that deserves to be as faithful as can be made.
    Firstly, I chose the novel form because the story begged to live in 3-D. It needed to be a product of the social, cultural, economic, religious and political conflict of the times. The late Georgian era was one of dynamic change to landscape and livelihood and the beginning of a revolution that is still going on. Then there was Bonaparte, the Corsican Monster, on the doorstep. I wanted to make a psychological journey into Mary Cole's life and try to discover how it was for her, how she forced the locks of the oubliette that was the female universe, whilst keeping the reputation lost to her ambitious sisters. There is no doubt that she identified with many of Mary Wollstonecraft's beliefs, but never resorted to aggressive, or even assertive, feminism.
   The second reason, and this is bound up with #1, is because I can tell you what appears to be true, but it may not convey the truth about this remarkable lady. Yes, mine is a personal reconstruction and it's possible that there are places I've joined up the dots wrongly. But from ranging wide and delving deep into research documents, trawling through thousands and thousands of records, checking and cross-referencing, this is the basis on which I believe it happened. It proves nothing if not the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction.
   As a young novelist, I rifled through less well-known figures of history in a bid to find a subject that snagged attention but hadn't been tackled. On an arts course based in Bath, a visit to Berkeley Castle brought the quest to an end. There, in the drawing-room, flanking one side of the fireplace wall, was the Hoppner painting above. It brought a tingle to the nape. I knew that woman. In spite of her Jane Austen clothes, Mary Cole struck me as modern, a woman whose strength of character shone through her beauty. There is in her a wistfulness, a touch of injury and a resolve not to be defeated by circumstance. She had plenty of confidence, instilled by a mother who saw status as an accident of birth, and a father who strove to provide an education for his daughters, albeit modest, in a local academy.
   They were all women of destiny.
   The sisters, Ann and Susan, made themselves available among the aristocracy and eventually married well, emigrating to the New World where they daily played out their roles among prosperous merchant bankers and the founders of the American Constitution. Mary, the youngest, was demure, and from the moment the feckless Lord Berkeley spotted her sitting in a bow window in Gloucester with her needlework, he hounded her from every hiding-place, finally resorting to kidnap.
   She consorted with all the movers and shakers of her day, including royalty, some of whom were antagonistic and some who genuinely loved her.
   Her story has been with me for thirty years. I do hope readers will enjoy it, but whatever they make of it, this is my magnum opus. Into Book Three, the story is still evolving and there are more scintillating dots to join up which cast a trenchant light upon the earlier decades and present a whole new tier of consequences. One thing is certain, old enemies die hard and scandal has a life of its own.
   It is a fascinating journey which has enriched my life beyond telling.

A Berkeley Castle window through which Mary might have looked out upon her beloved Vale