Friday, 13 August 2010


Today is such a day that even Jeffrey Archer might be tempted to stop working and selling himself, just to sit on the beach, under an arc of cloudless blue, and watch the waves. In fact I'd offer myself nearly any excuse not to be doing what I really should be doing, which is taking Book III to the finishing line. Of course, I always leave the less enjoyable parts of writing a reference book to the end: index, bibliography, all the tops and tails and that is why I am swinging the lead. But this agreeable state of vacancy, of idleness, gave me time to think about a couple of items that I have on the table by me as I write: a piece of the Cutty Sark's keel, removed during a restoration (and sold on board her with a certificate of authenticity); a piece of charcoal, which I put out with silver coins on New Year's Eve and bring in after midnight, in an act rooted in the same ancient British paganism that makes me a witch (as mentioned earlier in the blog) and a plastic envelope of old coins: there is a Crown (ie five shilling piece) commemorating Sir Winston Churchill, dated 1965. My father bought these for my sister and me. There is a George V silver threepenny bit, which might have done duty in some Christmas pudding of long ago. There is a silver one quarter rupee, issued by the East India Company, dating from the reign of William IIII and a 1931 silver shilling and a 1948 nickel florin that my mother gave to me. But the two most precious are: an 1896 Florin (two shilling piece) and a 1775 halfpenny. The Florin my mother bought for me when I was into collecting coins as a boy and the halfpenny my father bought from someone who had found it in the ground near an old stile and he placed it by my bed overnight to surprise me in the morning. This little cache has followed me everywhere and comprises my Celtic talismans and, if I lost them, I suppose that I should feel as devastated as Beau Brummell felt when he mistakenly gave his 'lucky sixpence' to a cab driver (he even dated his change in fortune from that event).

Contemplating the items and writing about them has provided me with diversion from compiling the index for Book III but now time is up and I must get on with it...

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