Silent Skies

One can’t help wondering about the fall out – literal and metaphorical – of the volcano in Iceland. Is this going to be an event of such magnitude that it turns up later in the archaeological record? One of our guilty pleasures is to video the back-to-back episodes of Time Team which are broadcast on Saturday mornings and then to watch one each lunchtime. Yesterday we watched the one about St Osyth’s, near Colchester in Essex. Some wooden posts had become visible in the creek. Investigation showed it was a dock which was abandoned in the 17th century. The archaeologists, looking at the physical record, said that some catastrophe had happened between 1650 and 1700. ‘In the diary of Samuel Pepys,’ said a historian, ‘he speaks of the great surge which flooded Westminster in 1670.’  [All these dates are from memory and therefore dubious!] The archaeologist couldn’t be sure – I mean, literature as evidence? – but said the date and the time were coincident to the wrecked dock.
Despite the doubts, it was a lovely tingly moment when we saw something which Pepys had mentioned. Everyone is blogging about the ash cloud but how will it show up archaeologically? As a thin grey layer over Europe? Or will it be a marker for a sudden change in economics, when the first world swops places with the third? Anything could happen, and be dated to 2010, when a cloud of ash finished off a culture already brought to its knees by greed and corruption.
A bit dramatic, perhaps, but isn’t that what novelists are supposed to be?
In our stories it’s good to have events happening at three or four levels. International, national, local and personal. It’s a trap, of course, since fascinating research can have us going on about such events too much (don’t I know it) but in right measure it will provide warp threads, i.e. structure to your story.
Meanwhile, we dance under silent skies.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Hello Linda! Towse Harrison told me about your Blog – so here I am.
    I _so_ agree with you!
    I had an e-mail from a friend in America asking if I was OK; “It must be awful” she said “living in London with all that black ash everywhere. Is it affecting your breathing? Are you all having to stay indoors?”
    I put her right…. on the contrary it is wonderful – able to sit in the garden and no planes making a noise overhead.
    Your Blog also reminds me of something I read about being accurate with small facts. How many of us take care with the small incidentals in our historical fiction? The writer of the piece used an example which went something like: ‘in 300 years time an author is wriitng a novel about the death of Princess Diana. it is a wonderfully emotional book, so factual, so well written… of course, the author had no idea that the Princess would not have been driven around in a Ford Fiesta… ‘
    Good luck with the Blog – are you on Twitter?
    Helen Hollick
    Main Website:
    Muse and Views Blog:

  2. I’m not on Twitter, no, although I did look in briefly at the site today. There’s some very funny stuff there. I came to WordPress from Blogspot because I thought it was more advanced and did cool things like show comments. But it doesn’t! Any advice? Now I’m going to go off and see how to change the picture, which I believe you think is common 🙂

Leave a Reply

Close Menu