I’m writing a novel. Yes, another one. My
first one is currently sitting unpublished in ametaphorical sock drawer, as all first novels should for a time. One day
I will take it out, dust it off and take another look, and possibly cringe, or
maybe even re-consider and re-submit it.
In the meantime I have an MA in Creative Writing
to complete. My final piece of work for the course is a novel: The Shakespeare Girl. As
part of the project I’ve set up a website to accompany the novel, which you can
look at here. I will be adding various reviews, images, news items and guest posts
to the site over the coming weeks, and eventually I will post an extract or two
from the novel itself.
The opening quotation above, as you might
know, is taken from Shakespeare’s tombstone. If we believe, as many do, that
these words are amongst the last ones written by the playwright himself, they
reveal an anxiety about exhumation which also makes an appearance in sixteen of
his thirty-seven surviving plays. When I first read about this peculiar obsession,
I was intrigued. I began to read about the Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare
is buried, and discovered that the building sits right on the riverbank,
hovering over the waters of the Avon, and that it is in some state of dilapidation.
Erosion, disrepair … a thought occurred to
me: What would happen if you had to dig up
That was the starting point for a story,
which I decided to people with characters whose lives are somehow connected to
the Bard: a professor, a student, an actress… In homage to Angela Carter’s Wise Children, I also decided to include
some type of reference –obvious, oblique, or somewhere in between – to every Shakespeare
play in the course of the book. Not to be clever – I’m learning about
Shakespeare as I go – but to try and neatly dramatise the way in which
Shakespeare infiltrates our daily lives, often without us knowing.
So, whenever time permits, I’m working away at
the novel. The plot, I think, is decided. The characters, I hope, are beginning
to come off the page. It’s ambitious, hopefully funny, certainly accessible,
and I can’t wait to finish it.
If you’d like to get in touch about my
writing, or about anything Shakespearean, or better still, if you’d like to contribute
something to my website, then I’d love to hear from you, at this address here. If
you’re on Twitter I also have a dedicated account to follow, here.
It takes a whole load of caffeine to successfully schlep around European cities. Here’s some of what I drank
to make it all happen...
coffee at Carr Saunders Hall, LSE, Fitzroy Street, W1 I decided to start this blog at the very beginning so everything that
came after would be an improvement. And it was. This coffee was oily, weak, and
came from a plastic jug that I was allowed to pour myself. It was an odd colour,
just generally awful in fact, but the amazing view from the rooftop courtyard of
the BT Tower across the street made that seem so much less important. Hello
London, I've missed you...
the courtyard coffee cart at the V&A, SW7 The V&A courtyard is lush, even in the floaty, spitty London rain,
and brightly peopled with Chinese yuppies splashing in puddles and a beautiful tiny
boy playing in the fountain. This was not bad coffee at all, good and malty and
the froth lasted really well. Suitably fortifying for the treasures of the
Flat white at the Serpentine
Bar & Kitchen, Hyde Park, W2 This coffee was the perfect temperature, which I appreciate for others might
count as not hot enough', but I like things close to room temperature (I spill
a lot, it’s a safety thing). This had a good deep flavour, just the right
amount of bitter, and a little creamy; a coffee worthy of the neighbourhood.
coffee at Cafe in the Gardens, Russell Square, WC1 The sunshine had hit hard by now. I could’ve had a lemonade you know.
This murky solution was weak and soapy with a sour lingering aftertaste. Not good.
Russell Square, you deserve better.
coffee at Elliot's Cafe, Borough Market, SE1 Borough is my absolute favourite bit of London. The view of
the Shard peering over the shoulder of Borough Market is thrilling, even if you
don’t like the Shard much (I don’t think I do). Elliot’s is suh a beautiful
place; handsome staff, lovely atmosphere. I wanted to do a Truman Capote thing
and say, ‘Oh, bring us something that takes forever...’A delicious, Market-sourced meal was crowned
with a cup of the finest coffee of the tour so far; rich, smoky, and a beautiful
colour. I’ve not had anything as good since North Tea Power back home.
Black coffee and flat
white at Creperie du Monde, Chatsworth Rd, E5 It’s very trendy round here, which is good, the hip tend not to settle
for bad coffee. The black coffee was really robust and great and the flat white
was, well, just a latte. I’m kidding. But really, what's the difference? I
can’t tell them apart, I’m too much a novice. Basically, it’s really good
Black coffee at Royal Teas,
Greenwich, SE10 Nice and earthy and strong, and a truly scrumptious gorgeous veggie breakfast
on the side. Plus a lovely outside table for earwigging the well-heeled Mums of
at Old Shoreditch Station, E2 Boy, this coffee tastes fresh, like they grew it and ground it right
there for me. Soy lattes are becoming a bit of a desert wine for me though, I
will go for the real deal next time, I think this high standard of coffee
Algerian Coffee at the Savoy
Cafe, Prague Since we have no clue what the exchange rate could be for the
wonderfully arcane Gothic currency that is the Czech Koruna we have no idea
what we’re spending so we go to the Savoy Café. The Algerian coffee is
astonishing; thick with egg liqueur, smothered in cream, strong as an ox underneath.
I’m almost too overwhelmed to eat the enormous caramel cream choux creation that
I accidentally ordered.
Iced espresso at God Shot, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin Cringe at the subtitle (‘The Future Urban Coffee Klub’), and only a
really hip coffee joint can afford to be so surly across the counter, but the
goods are up to scratch and beyond; super strong with the right amount of bite
and, weirdly/pleasantly, a kind of citrusy thing going on afterwards. Go out of
your way for this coffee. All the way to Berlin if you must.
Flat white at Café CK, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin The coffee in this city gets better around every corner. A block from
Gunshot, CK’s offering is nutty, buttery, served
by a friendly bearded English barista, and best drunk out of doors with bikes
and dogs aplenty.
Filter coffee at Anna Blume’s, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin
Everything at Anna Blume’s is superb; the three-tiered vegetarian
breakfast, gorgeous pan-European clientele, the sunny Prenzl’berg street corner
location. The coffee is so nice I had to get two of them, the second bigger
than the first.
Flat white at Bonanza Coffee
Heroes, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin Staffed by three handsome, sharp, moustachioed fellows. All very East
London. And vaguely intimidating in fact. But the coffee is rich and mellow and
so full of flavour. It tastes expensive,
but really isn’t. Hit there before you hit Mauerpark.
latte at Engelberg, Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin The last coffee of the holiday and by now it’s too hot for the hot stuff
so this chilled creation is divine; rich, looks like brandy, and spills a
lovely glow across the table as the sun pours into the sides of the glass. So
long Berlin, we love you, we’ll be back …