Friday, April 13, 2012

A Sprig of Broom

A Sprig of Broom was the first novel I had published - way back in l978. I re-published the novel just before Christmas. Why did I write this book in the first place? Well funnily enough I was inspired by a day trip my late husband, John and I took in l977.

It was a lovely sunny day in midsummer. We decided to go to the Yorkshire Dales, and tootled here and there, rested by beautiful rivers and by some odd quirk ended up in Middleham. When you arrive at Middleham you think you are in a village but actually it is a town, albeit very small. It has wonderful, lovely Georgian cottages, a smattering of welcoming pubs and all dominated by this romantic castle.

I discovered that the castle was once the home of King Richard the Third; I didn't know much about him but I was tremendously moved by a potent atmosphere in his castle. It was so quiet and peaceful, open to the skies but there was not even the sound of birds. It's a lot more commercial now but then there was just this lovely lady at the office. John and I fell in love with Middleham and the castle. I went onto research King Richard and found much to admire. Here was a man very far removed from Shakespeare's version.

John and I often went back to Middleham. We would rent a cottage and I would spend a good deal of time wandering the castle. Wenslydale itself is gorgeous, there were lots of lovely walks that we enjoyed.

I did write my book A Sprig of Broom, oddly set not in Middleham but in Wales (another favourite place but more of that at some other time) however, I did manage to, in my opinion, put the matter straight regarding the kind of man Richard was.

Just one other amusing anecdote that illustrates horses for courses (excuse the pun folks). When we arrived home I phoned my parents. I was talking to my Dad and he asked where we had been. "A little place called Middleham," I said, expecting to have to explain exactly where that was.

"Oh," says dad, an avid horse racing follower. "Mark Johnson trains there."

So I discovered two things about Middleham - Richard the Third and horse racing stables - both came to fascinate John and I on our visits. There was something so medieval about seeing those horses thunder across Middleham Moor. I have so many happy memories of Middleham and what a stroke of luck ending up there one lovely sunny Saturday afternoon.


jrlindermuth said...

You make it sound such a lovely place to visit, Margaret. Interesting how a place can seem to 'talk' to a writer. I hope it hasn't got too commercial over the years.

margaret blake said...

Not really,just that last time I visited the castle there was a real bossy guy in the office, and that was not as friendly as it once was. Probably me! But you are so right, places like this can really talk to people.

Maggi Andersen said...

It sounds wonderful, Margaret. As my husband is keener on horse racing than history, I may even get him to visit one day. I wonder if the broom is similar to the yellow flowering plant we have here in Australia.

margaret blake said...

I am not sure, Maggi. The broom is a small yellow flower, so perhaps it is the same and was taken by some English person at one time.
Your husband will be fascinated by the racehorses trotting along the streets, a lovely sound and sight.

Jen Black said...

As a fan of both Richard and horses, I really ought to visit Middleham again! Broom, also known as gorse here, is flowering right now, instead of waiting til May as it usually does. Watch out for the prickles!

margaret blake said...

Oh Jen, I am not sure that "Broom" is actually gorse, although they might be related. Broom has a smaller flower and the one that I had did not have prickles. But I am not a horticulturalist so I could be wrong.

You MUST go to Middleham, you would love it.

Paula Martin said...

As you already know, Margaret. Middleham is my all-time favourite castle and I agree it has an amazing atmosphere. Once went to a Medieval weekend there, where a small group of actors (in costume) performed scenes from Richard III's life. It was somewhat unnerving to see 'Richard III' striding across the grass outside the keep!

margaret blake said...

Ha, ha bet it was, Paula. I so love that little town and the castle and just about everything about the place. I long to go again, must do so one day.

Cara Cooper said...

I have a love/hate relationship with Wales, the other place you mention Margaret. I find it very atmospheric, eerie at times there is so much countryside and forest. But I've never been there when it doesn't rain!