First, I must apologise for the delay in producing this blog post. Life has been very frantic, what with Covid, writing and editing. The weather hasn’t helped either, in fact I increasingly use the term ‘global weirding’ to describe the meteorological effects, in Britain at least, of climate change. Frankly, it’s been a bloody cold and wet late winter and early spring and life in the garden has featured mud everywhere, and buds stubbornly refusing to crack open – yet the lawns continued to grow. Then, about a week ago in the last few days of March, the Weather God came to his or her senses and suddenly temperatures shot up: three days ago it was about 22 Celsius, now it’s back to a chilly 8. Those three days of above average temperatures (including the hottest March day, in England, for about 50 years) allowed me to get my First and Second Early potatoes planted – but frosts (including air frosts!) are forecast, so I’ve got to remain cautious. So that gives me an opportunity to return to this blog (‘and not before time!’ I hear loyal followers muttering…).
In mid-to-late March I received the proofs of my next book, which you’ll have already gathered from the title of this post, is all about Scenes from Prehistoric Life. There are fifteen Scenes and as I write this short post I am very aware that I’ve proofread eight of them – so I’m (just) over half-way through them and have a deadline for their return to my Editor at Head of Zeus, of April 20th. So with luck I’ll make it, providing, that is, I don’t start a tirade in this blog about Brexit or the horrible lurch towards the hard right in British politics, which is worrying so many people, myself included. So no ranting. No tirades. Get thee behind me Satan (visions of Andy Hamilton in Old Harry’s Game…).
Herewith a few well-chosen words about my new book (and I can’t be arsed to repeat the title for a third time, although I can hear my publicist urging me to do so: ‘repetition never hurt anyone, Francis!’). She can be very persuasive… So I will, its…
…wait for it…
…Sod it, let’s skip straight to the cover picture (cue roll of drums and the approaching sound of the Band of the Coldstream Guards playing stirring extracts from The Enigma Variations):
I think that’s a really good cover which the designers at Head of Zeus have assembled, based on a print by artist Andy Lovell. They’re all to be congratulated: well done! This is a book which follows on from what I was attempting to do in Paths to the Past, which many readers have told me they enjoyed a lot. As I’ve pulled back from a day-to-day involvement with the nuts and bolts of archaeology, but continue to spend the majority of every day outside and getting my hands dirty with practical work, I’ve started to contemplate why the ordinary, day-to-day aspects of life matter so much – and how they can link us so vividly to the lives of people in the sometimes very remote past.
I don’t want to stress what this book is not about, but seeing as how history on television, and via Netflix and similar outlets, these days is all about royalty, fantasy and great leaders, I think it’s time to put forward a different way of viewing the past: from the bottom, up; not from the top, down. And when I say ‘up’, I’m not just referring to how ordinary men, women and children would have viewed their social and spiritual leaders – although of course that’s one part of the story – but how they might have thought of themselves and the lives they were living. I suppose I’ve always been interested in what it means to be human and how we all have the power to change the world for worse, or better. For me, these things matter profoundly and in Scenes I’ve tried to rethink the past, as I’ve read about and experienced it, in a slightly different way. This is certainly not a book for students or academics, unless, perhaps they find themselves reading it when we’re all allowed, once again, back into pubs – or maybe when they’re sitting in a garden, gin-and-tonic in hand, while listening to the sound of crows returning to their night-time roosts, as the sun slowly retreats below the distant horizon. Does that set the Scene? I hope so. Publication date is August 5th. So there’s not too long to wait – and with luck (if enough copies of the hardback sell) there’ll be a much cheaper paperback a year later.
Finally, of course it’s impossible to predict a virus with any precision, but I’ve already had my first (Astra-Zeneca, Oxford) vaccine and have been booked in for my second one next week. As I write, 32 million Brits have been jabbed. We’re also likely to get a variant boost-jab in September/October. With luck the so-called ‘new normal’ will see Covid managed rather like ‘flu, and if that is indeed the case (fingers crossed!), then I should once again start re-connecting with my readers at signings in bookshops and Literary Festivals up and down the country. I find those signings so rewarding: it’s great to meet my readers and hear what they really think about my books. And I’m delighted to say that some of my latest offerings have been well enjoyed, especially, Home, Paths to the Past and, of course, The Fens. Let’s hope Scenes goes down as well as they did! And heartfelt thanks to all my readers for their, for your, loyalty and patience.