Tag Archives: travel

The Lady Novelist pays her respects to King Richard III (part 1)

My relationship with Richard III is a bit rambling and has a few strange turns.

Like most people, what I knew of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester, boiled down to one simple story: he was a wicked, hunchbacked man who stole the throne and murdered his innocent nephews, before being cut down in battle while calling out for a horse.

Shakespeare’s play – a fiction written for a Tudor audience and heavily influenced by histories written by Tudor accounts – obviously in turn influenced centuries of popular opinion on this game loser of the Wars of the Roses.

These days, I’m a much keener advocate of King Richard III as a misunderstood monarch. Books like The Maligned King have sown enough doubt about his complicity in the boys’ disappearance and made me a Ricardian!

My road to becoming one actually began with Shakespeare, though, and Martin Freeman’s brilliant 2014 turn as the cruel and broken man.  (More recently, Kate Mulvany’s portrayal was breathtaking too).

Hot on the heels of my second viewing of theTrafalgar Theatre production, my friend, fellow writer and co-conspirator, Wendy Fries, dared me to write a Richard III/Star Trek’s Khan fanfiction. After 30 seconds of denying such a thing was possible, I wrote the first of what turned out to be 14 stories of time travel, reincarnation, epic love and redemption.

I turned Shakespeare’s (and Freeman’s) mad, bad Richard into a whole new character – and my curiosity about the real Richard was revived. Not long after I’d written the stories, Richard’s recently rediscovered bones were reinterred at Leicester Cathedral. The pathos of the moment, combined my unexpected emotional investment in both the fictional and the real King, spurred me onto further reading.  I read Jospehine Tey’s The Daughter of Time and then, hungry for facts, Annette Carson’s The Maligned King.

All of which brings me to Leicester, and on the trail of the history of King Richard III, who was surely no saint, but who wasn’t a black-hearted villain either.

The Bosworth Battlefield

My first day in Leicester took us to the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre. Between intermittent bursts of rain and sunshine, we were guided through the exhibition in the old farmhouse by the centre’s curator, Richard Knox.

The actual location of the battlefield wasn’t certain until relatively recently, when investigation located both the marsh in which Richard III’s horse got bogged and a wealth of medieval cannon balls. The Centre is located on what was the King’s encampment. From the nearby hill, a frame surmounted by Richard’s and Henry Tudor’s standards looks down on the valley where Richard met his end.

There’s a trick of imagination I indulge when visiting historical sites. I close my eyes and try to place myself across time, in the shoes of whoever once stood here. I have rested on the stones at the base of the Egyptian pyramids where workers once rested. I have placed my hands on Roman walls that were built by hands long gone to dust.

This day I stood on the earth that those long-gone medieval once stood on; suffered on; died on.

Here a man with a twisted spine – recently bereaved of both son and wife, an administrator with a concern for justice who was overhung with an appalling mistrust over the fate of his disinherited and vanished nephews – decided to live or die as a king of England.

Had he killed Henry instead of Henry’s standard bearer, the fate of English history may have been different.

The Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre takes no sides in the debate about Richard’s character. As Knox says during our tour, the job of the centre is to present the facts of the battle as far as they can be known. This includes presentations of the events leading to the battle, the kinds of weapons and armour used, the key events during the battle as understood from contemporaenous reports, and the aftermath.

The centre also presents material from the various archaelogical researches that went into locating the actual battlefield. Among the items on display is a boar pin, which would have been worn by one of Richard’s household, who rallied to him in the fatal final moments of the battle. Where it was found, the historians surmise, is where he fell, fighting

These final hours of Richard’s short life and two-year reign are covered at the centre with objective thoroughness. If you’re interested in medieval history, whether or not you’re a Ricardian, it’s worth the considerabal trek out to see this thoughtful and intelligently presented battlefield site.

Next I’ll be writing about the discovery of Richard’s body under a Leicester car park and his reinterment at the cathedral.

Tim and I were guests of the Belmont Hotel and the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre in Leicester.

The Lady Novelist explores Sherlock Holmes’s London (Part 1)

I am off on one of my semi-regular jaunts to the UK for the purposes of research and fun (which are usually the same thing).

2017 marks 125 years since Arthur Conan Doyle’s collection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes was published (1892) and 130 since A Study In Scarlet first saw print.

In fact, VisitBritain is all about 2017 as ‘the year of the literary hero‘, referencing anniversaries related to Jane Austen, Enid Blighton,  the Harry Potter books, the death of war poet Edward Thomas and more.

My own special interest in Sherlock Holmes – in both queer and bromance interpretations – is leading me to Holmesian London over a the next three days. I aim to incorporate a few of these details into both Victorian and modern Holmes stories I’m working on.

The Langham

The Langham Hotel on Portland Place (off Regent Street) has more than one connection with The Great Detective.

Famously, it was at the Langham’s dining room in 1889 that Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle (not yet ‘Sir Arthur’) met with the publisherJoseph Stoddart. They were commissioned to write A Picture of Dorian Grey and The Sign of Four respectively (and even gave each other cameos in the resulting books).

Doyle went on to assign the Langham as the hotel of choice for three of his characters: The King of Bohemia (A Scandal in Bohemia), Mary Morstan’s lost father (The Sign of Four), and the former tearaway and poet Mr Phillip Green (The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax).

The Langham remains every bit as charming and elegant as its literary history suggests. The various restaurants and bars are lovely spaces to visit the hotel and raise a glass to Conan Doyle and his creations.

Britmovietours:Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour of London

The Sherlock Holmes Walking Tour of London, conducted by Chris Taylor of Britmovietours, is marvellously inclusive of Conan Doyle’s original stories, several films, the recent BBC and U.S. television adaptations, and even a glimpse of my favourite, the show that brought me to Holmes, the Jeremy Brett Granada series from the 90s.

Chris is enthusiastic and, even better, knowledgeable. I know a lot about the world of Holmes, having researched and read the stories multiple times as prep for writing The Adventure of the Colonial Boy and some upcoming short Holmes + Watson stories, but he was still able to surprise me with some tidbits about canon and BBC Sherlock.

The walk starts on Piccadilly Circus at The Criterion Bar, where John Watson’s old friend Stamford famously noted that he knew someone who might want to share ‘comfortable rooms at a reasonable price’ with him.

A meandering two hour wander took us past filming locations, over Waterloo Bridge and past some of Conan Doyle’s real-life haunts and inspirations (including the former Northumberland Hotel, now the Sherlock Holmes Pub) to fetch up at Somerset House. The latter is no longer the repository of records of Births, Deaths and Marriages but it stands in as a less reputable location in one Holmesian film.

The walk is £12 for adults: very reasonable given Chris’s energy and knowledge shared over two hours. If you want to know more, visit and book here.


I am about to topple over from lack of sleep (I touched down this morning, and headed out with half a globe and five hours sleep under my belt – GO ME!).

Tomorrow I’ll visit an exhibition and take another walk – so more reports from the field (hopefully more useful than Dr Watson’s during The Solitary Cyclist) are coming!

I have no secrets from Sherlock Holmes: Tim Richards and I are being hosted on this trip by VisitBritain.

Pssst. While you’re reading, please consider reading my new short story Near Miss, and my M/M paranormal thriller, Ravenfall, which is set in London!

The Lady Novelist visits Mars (via Sydney)

img_5929During my train adventures in late October, I spent a few days in Sydney, taking in the MAAS Museum and its excellent Large Hadron Collider exhibition, the splendid production of My Fair Lady and a marvellous little shop called The Martian Embassy.

The Martian Embassy is the Sydney equivalent of the The Time Travel Mart literacy project I visited in Los Angeles in July this year. (The Melbourne version, The 100 Story Building, doesn’t have an entertaining shopfront, sadly, but does the same good work with young people.)

The Martian Embassy is filled with bizarre and entertaining ‘Martian’ exhibits and artefacts for sale, which makes it a fun place to visit and shop. The proceeds all go to the programs run by the organisation behind the Embassy – the Sydney Story Factory.

img_5922Those programs are aimed at assisting young people in the area to changte their lives through literacy, creative writing and storytelling. The seating and tables at the back of the store host workshops, and there’s a library for attendees to use.

When I was at the Time Travel Mart, I bought a little booklet of stories written by the kids who did the workshops. The Martian Embassy offered the same chance to support their project here. Whelp contains stories, poems and essays by young people from Sydney.

img_5928Its forward is by one of my favourite writers, Benjamin Law. The stories are hugely varied, full of flair, humour, imagination and, from time to time, startling insight. Some of the tales are downright Kafka-esque! It’s fabulous to read the result of the project’s work with young people.

Next time you’re in Sydney, drop in to The Martian Embassy at 176 Redfern Street, Redfern NSW 2016. In the meantime, you can:

The Lady Novelist crosses the Nullarbor by Train

img_6127 In late October I had the wonderful opportunity of joining Tim Richards, Travel Writer, on a train journey across Australia. I’ve crossed the Nullarbor once before, when I was moving from Canberra to Perth. That was by bus and I don’t have very fond memories of it. I can’t even recall the landscape, though I seem to be able to remember the back of the seat in front of me, because I stared at it for three days.

The XPT

img_5917The first leg of the trip was the overnight XPT from Melbourne to Sydney, courtesy Destination New South Wales. I like taking the overnighter to Sydney.

Sleeping on a train is a slightly odd sensation, but the train leaves from the middle of Melbourne and arrives in the middle of Sydney.  Cutting out the airport – the getting to and from, the having to be there early, all the security brou-ha-ha – is surprisingly relaxing.

It’s also unexpectedly charming to have this little cocoon of time away from the usual frantic activity. You can kick back in your compartment (shared, usually, so travel with someone who you like, or at least doesn’t snore) and read, look out the window, contemplate your sins or, if you’re me, all of the above while also plotting a new book.

If you have time to travel overnight, it’s a more calming way to both leave and enter a city. And of course rail retains the romance of being a 19th Century mode of travel that is more flexible, more relaxing and more pleasant than either flying or driving.

In case you can’t tell, it’s quite my favourite mode of travel.

About the XPT

The Indian-Pacific

img_6075After a few days in Sydney (and more on that in some other post) we lobbed up for the journey across Australia to Perth, via Broken Hill, Adelaide, Cook and Rawlinna – the latter two a ghost town and a sheep station respectively.

Great Southern Rail hosted us on this journey, and launched us in style with cocktails and live music on the platform.

Sleeping on trains, with its unexpected rocking cradle motion, still takes a bit of getting used to, but I tell you now, I adapted right away to just being on a train sliding through the landscape.

img_6115If you think the journey’s better done by plane, you’re probably missing the point of this version of travel, which is all about the getting there, not the arriving.

There’s always something liminal about being on a train, especially at night, and especially in unfamiliar territory. That feeling of being separated from time and space is both strange and soothing.

img_6135It’s an opportunity to contemplate; or to strike up conversations with strangers. In this time of constant connectivity, I really enjoyed having long periods of time to focus on some books. Tim and I also caught up on a few episodes of Game of Thrones.

I of course spent time gazing out the window. Australia is a vast country, varied it’s true, but also vast stretches of land that doesn’t change for hours.

img_6158The Nullarbor itself is almost hard to look at, especially for this city dweller. I’m used to having objects that interupt my line of sight constantly. It’s never just a smooth plain to the horizon. But the Nullarbor is just that – a vast expanse of red dirt and low shrubs, that goes on and on and on and on and on… it induces an almost horizontal vertigo.

Not all the scheduled excursion stops were possible – wet weather is not always your friend – but a trip to Hahndorf in Adelaide, a stop by the ghost town of Cook and dinner under the stars at Rawlinna were all fantastic, and part of that sense of just mooching along and enjoying the sense of time and space expanding out from our little bubble of forward motion.

img_6152Speaking of dinner, the food was endlessly excellent, using local ingredients where possible, and these two vegetarians were very well nourished from start to finish.

I enjoyed the XPT, but I absolutely adored the Indian-Pacific. The journey gives you three and a bit days of quiet but not solitude; of contemplation in motion. There’s time to talk, to listen, to think.

You can look at a far horizon across land so very flat that you can feel how you are sitting on the disk of the Earth.

Or you can have a really nice nap before the next glass of champagne and fascinating dinner conversation with a stranger.

For those three days, you may be living in a smallish metal tube that’s hurtling across the landscape, but you are also living unfettered by your established routine and out of your usual environment, so you can cocoon or commune as your heart sees fit. There’s nowhere else to be, after all.

About the Indian-Pacific