As winter approaches…

More than a week has elapsed since my last blog (anyone noticed?) – the infernal chest infection has returned, making me more lethargic than usual, and my remaining energy has been divided among several projects. So here’s an update:


Our creative writing group (Write from the Heart,, which inspired me to produce the new novel, is planning a project to commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. We intend to produce a local ‘War Memorials Trail’ with a booklet to guide visitors to the area (there are numerous memorials in my locality, ranging from big public cenotaphs to discreet little commemorative plaques in churches and schools), and also to record the war-related memories of Second World War veterans, several of whom survive in the town and surrounding villages. We’ll be working with the local branch of the British Legion (our veterans’ organization) and the local heritage trust. We also hope to involve young people in the area; maybe they can produce an alternative trail booklet aimed at the teenage market and write their own reflections on armed conflict to complement ours.


On November 12th our Write from the Heart chair-come-secretary, Val, and I went to attend a Heritage Lottery Fund seminar to discover how best to apply for a grant to support this project. We’ve made some headway with the plan but there’s a lot more to do. We’ll have to offset travelling and printing and several other costs, so we’ll need money – not a huge sum, perhaps, but a few thousand. I suppose my previous experience in applying for grants might prove useful.


Meanwhile, Write from the Heart is planning a pre-Christmas party on December 12th to which local dignitaries such as counsellors will be – have been – invited. We’ll intersperse the provision of food and drink and the requisite socializing with performances or recitations of some of the work we’ve produced during the past twelve months or so, some related to our previous group project, ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’, and some to the forthcoming War Memorials project. We’ll also fit in some Christmas-related stuff to lighten the tone and elicit a few laughs (we hope).


Quite separately from Write from the Heart, a small group of mainly young (and mainly female) people who run the local ‘Inspire’ Festival are planning a ‘Fright Night’ to be held – potentially – in January or February 2014. The idea is to use one or several of the more spooky and gory local folktales as a basis and to develop a modern-day murder story around them, satirising some of the less sensitive and compassionate aspects of contemporary society and poking fun at some of its more bizarre features such as over-reliance on electronic communications in place of face to face conversation. Plans are in their infancy (as they say) but I’ve been given to understand that I’m to have a role as narrator and my knowledge of local folktales is to be exploited. Well, I don’t object…


Last night we had our bimonthly storytelling session in Glossop. I took the opportunity to tell one of the tales recorded by my friend the folklorist David Clarke in his new book of Victorian ghost stories from Sheffield, Scared to Death. (I went to the book launch in Sheffield on Halloween, bought a copy and got Dave to sign it for me. It’s a rich source of tales I didn’t already know!) The one I told last night was The Devil’s Footprints, a tale of unexplained prints ‘resembling those of a donkey, but clearly made by a biped’ that appeared in the snow in the village of Loxley during the extremely hard winter of 1854-5. Loxley is famed as the traditional birthplace of Robin Hood; it was a North Derbyshire village at the time but has now been more or less absorbed into Sheffield. Intriguingly, similar footprints appeared in other parts of Britain during the same winter and were reported in national newspapers incluing The Times; no convincing explanation was ever offered. But there are legends about mysterious footprints on Loxley Common in earlier times… The area was a notorious haunt of highwaymen and other felons, several of whom were gibbeted there, and ghosts have been seen on local roads as recently as 1985.


Next Saturday I’m going to attend another storytelling workshop to improve my skills (if possible!) – I’ll write about it in my next blog. By then I hope the chest infection will have subsided – and we won’t have too much snow!


  • Mishka Zakharin 30.11.2013 - 23:11pm

    Oooo–that sounds intriguing… (the biped donkey thingy, I mean). Sort of a faun, but donkey instead of a goat maybe? A variation on the centaur sort of? But instead of wise and scholarly, he just hoofs around making an “ass” of himself (literally!).

    Too bad I didn’t know of it whilest in the midst of my novel; it would have gone well with my “double-decker goat.” Oh, Well! Maybe next time…

    • Mark Henderson

      Great story, isn’t it, Mishka? Like all folktales it’s open for pilfering, exploiting, amendment, reworking and general freeforalling by anyone so inclined, so please assimilate it into any future work of yours. I’ll probably do the same… though I’ve never contemplated the possibilities of double-decker goats. Wonderful concept! (Why do I never come up with ideas like that?)

  • You may not have created a double-decker goat–but every once in awhile I find myself musing over an idea, and in the midst of it I realize it’s basically “a guy finds himself in the story he’s writing.” And then I think, “No, dammit! Mark already did that…”

    Thus, yes, indeed, one must be careful of the origins of inspiration… and that’s why I agree entirely about the joy of folktales and mythology–endless fonts of writery stuff from which any may borrow to make it their own!

    • Mark Henderson

      Yes, Mishka – and if you use folktales from your own culture for doing writery stuff, you’re well on the way to striking a rapport with your potential readers; you’ve tapped into a cultural resource with which they’re sort of familiar…

      Reminds me: I must learn something about text messaging, reality TV and games consoles so I can connect with the cultural resources with which potential readers are familiar…

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