Mary's musings

Mary Hoffman, author of over 90 children's books, including the Stravaganza series and Amazing Grace, has begun a web journal which will be updated roughly once a week. You can read more on

Saturday, April 01, 2006

What larks

"There is nothing quite so boring as a siege," says Guinevere in my Women of Camelot, and I have identified with her heartily this week as the path outside my door and around the house was turned into a ditch. Stevie had to leave for work through the French windows of my study one day.

Only once have I felt like pouring boiling oil on the besiegers though and that was when one of them was just too surly to bear. By and large they have been very good, working stolidly through the downpours of rain (hooray - rain!) this week, including Saturday. And it does look wonderful in spite of what Mr Grumpy says.

Today we went to buy some iron lamp-posts and the big one is very Narnia; it will be a consolation if it snows next winter to stand under it with packages, like Mr Tumnus.

A week ago I had a magical walk near some local ruins with the friend who came from London. We sat on a crumbling stone wall watching the larks rise over the cornfields, drinking black coffee from a thermos and speculating about our daughters (we have six between us). As soon as she got on the train back to London, she found a text message from No 2 daughter in Africa, saying she was engaged.

We walked back through the village to the pub for lunch and I told her Jack Straw lived there though I wasn't sure in which house. At that moment he walked up his path and in the front door, so that put an end to any uncertainty. We'd have bought him a pint if he'd turned up at the pub but I expect he had some serious planning to do for Ms Rice's visit.

Almost every heap and piece of paper in my study has been scrutinised, acted upon, filed or thrown away this week as the drilling thumping and stone-sawing has reverberated round my ears. Some of these had been hanging around in my inboxes for over a year. Very cleansing.

Not a good week for the arts. Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, recently praised for its production of Love's Labours Lost, which we are going to see next week, said alarmingly on its website that it would have to close in a few weeks if it didn't get £25 from 1,000 patrons. And this while a First Folio is expected to fetch 3.5 million at Sotheby's in the summer. Respect for the text is all very well but these guys in Bristol are doing a great job and need so little to stay afloat.

And then came the news that the Competition Commission are likely to give HMV/Waterstones the go-ahead to bid for Ottakars in May. Have they unstood nothing of what has been said to them? My writers' group (SAS) has been hurling e-mails through cyberspace in a great flurry of indignation and despair. We all know horror stories about Waterstones virtually deciding what publishers will publish; how much worse will it be if all the High Street has is Wottakar's?

We have consoled ourselves by booking lots of Shakespeare at Stratford, just up the road - Hamlet, Cymbeline, Juilius Caesar, The Tempest - and we were already down for all three Henry VIs in a day this summer. We were too late for the Antony and Cleopatra with Patrick Stewart and Harriet Walter, so I have to ring up daily for returns.

And this afternoon there were three hours of bliss with a BBC 2 transmission of Figaro from Covent Garden. Such a perfectly constructed piece of drama with such sublime music, and very well sung even though none of the cast was Italian. I hope Condoleezza Rice enjoyed her trip to the Blackburn Rovers football club a fraction as much.


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