One of the aspects of British culture I love the most, is just how ancient it all is. We have a luxurious past full of great daring do, dastardly deeds, heroes, heroines, Kings and castles. It is so rich that one can only begin to appreciate all the intricacies and intrigues our history has to offer. I feel a little sorry for any international visitors who wish to know more, because even I struggle to know where to begin.
I think I would always suggest Arthurian legend as a starting point; it is quintessentially us despite its dubious reality. Mystical fantasy, romantic entanglements, witches and wizards mixed with power struggles and war; what more could anyone want? There is an entire breed of author who strive their whole lives to create a holiday novel with such juice and gossip, I hate to tell them there is no need.
However, having said this, I know precious little myself. I have been to Tintagle Castle in Cornwall said to be Arthur’s home, and seen the supposed graves of Arthur and Guinevere at Glastonbury Abbey. I have also sat upon Glastonbury Tor, thought to have been the Isle of Avalon whence the downs were flooded, and looked across the land once covered in knights battling for some fair maiden’s virtue. But this is about it. I haven’t actually read anything of fact, or indeed of fiction.
When this information was shared with Steve’s Dad, horror crossed his face. The fact that I had not read the following series appears to be something of sacrilege. Mary Stewart’s trilogy, The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills and The Last Enchantment (although a quick Wikipedia search suggests there are two more . . .?) are thought to be some of the finest Merlin-Arthur based stories around. Published in the 1970’s, this is just another series of books I have missed but now they have been brought to my attention (and conveniently borrowed) so that more amends can be made. Eventually. They have been added to the pile and will, I am sure, be lovingly devoured as soon as possible. However, Steve has other ideas – he has removed my order to place his Christmas Book, How I Escaped My Certain Fate by comedian Stuart Lee. This probably isn’t the worst idea as I do really want to read it and, it not being fiction, will be rapidly forced to holding up the pile once avoided.
So yes, a little more Arthurian knowledge awaits me, and in the mean time I can watch the BBC’s cheesy adaptation Merlin on DVD as Santa willed it so.