Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Barney Retreat and a A Sense of Place.

I sometimes treat myself to a visit to Barnard Castle in South Durham.

I had just finished a big editing, revising and publishing task and was  sorely in need of a break which, as I am not a walker,  means a ride in my little car to drink a coffee and scribble/and/or enjoy conversation in some congenial place.

The old South Durham town of Barnard Castle is one of my destinations of choice. I go there regularly to drink coffee and scribble.

As a  family we are very fond of this old Weardale town  whose affectionate name in this locality is Barney. Through the years we have shopped there and generally hung out here, Many times we have visited the elegant  Bowes Museum  to look at  its paintings and exquisite artifacts.

 I once spotted  a tiny Roman silver spoon in a case there. It had been picked up in the nearby town of Spennymoor, dropped by some Roman when there was no town there at all - merely a pathway across a moor.

This silver spoon has  found a place in my forthcoming  novel Lines of Desire.

Our own Barney,
It was in the Museum - as part of the Durham Book Festival - that I had a fascinating  In Conversation session with  the writer Adele Parks.

My grandson, the Boy Who Likes  Chocolate went to school in Barney and my daughter Madam Licked Spoon and her husband Sean,  called their border terrier Barney, I'm still not sure whether she named this delightful family member after the town or after the school.

I have posted  on this blog before here and here,   about how important a sense of place is for a writer of  long and short fiction.

And so  my recent R & R visit to Barney made me wonder whether Barney might be an interesting place to locate a story,

Although swept through with a broad roadway dedicated to trade, this small town is full of ginnels and narrow places and has an old mill on the river which some years ago served as a damp and creaking book warehouse and is now being developed.

Charles Dickens famously slept here and dreamed up Nicholas Nickleby. And I myself have some material on the mysterious and much reviled second wife of Sir John Bowes (the one who built the Museum). Her name was Alphonsine and she is a fascinating character. i gathered a lot of material into a box. But it is still there a box - perhaps to re-visit in later times.

I have to admit I'm a bit more attracted to the history of  the old  Barney where carpets were woven and Durham Quilts were made and through whose streets , through the years, have swarmed hundreds of boys from  Barney School to greater and lesser dramatic effect -   later to emerge  into the sporting and public life of the nation.

There surely is a great story lurking in there somewhere.

 So, occasionally stir-crazy from writing and reading all day,  the delights of retreating to Barney and drinking coffee or watching a film in the newly refurbished Witham Hall can count as research.

Can't they?

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