For all of you who suffer from folk innuendo syndrome, I should start by saying no, this is not a Beltain related topic. It’s about steam engines and Druids.
Only when I went to the Cambridge (Gloucestershire) vintage car and steam show last weekend did I remember what I was doing there the previous year. It’s a small show – a field of old cars, a steam car (the only car I have ever loved!) a steamroller and a few baby traction engines puffing about. There was also a lot of rain. Last year I was working on Intelligent Designing for Amateurs. It’s a fiction thing and it’s coming soon… and as the title suggests, it is a bit about people playing God.
But I digress. I’d read Ronald Hutton’s Blood and Mistletoe the previous winter, and that was a big influence on writing Druidry and the Ancestors. I needed to make some kind of meaningful response. A legacy remained. The sheer insanity of revival Druids, the mad energy, shameless disregard for facts, fraudulent invention… that had got under my skin. At the time I couldn’t see any way of bringing that to my ‘proper’ Druidry so I did what I usually do with impossible things, and put it in a story. How to do revival Druids? I didn’t want to work with the actual historical figures, so I needed to invent some equally crazy people to play with.
One of the consequences of this, was Henry Caractacus Morestrop Jones (Archdruid) complete with moustache, a robe that looks suspiciously like a nightdress, and a heightened sense of self importance. I wanted some slightly more sympathetic Druids as well though.
Then, at last year’s vintage car show with traction engine event, I watched the steam roller pootle back and forth, slowly. Inspiration popped into my head. Not the kind of spiritual, fire in the head awen inspiration we normally like to associate with Druids, but very silly inspiration. Druids on a traction engine. The scope for low speed chases struck me at once. I like a good slow chase for comedy value. Jack Barrow does them well, too.
In the process of writing a book, its’ not difficult to lose track of the source material, especially with fiction where I’m not making the same conscious effort to remember what I got from where. As a result I sometimes get the curious pleasure of re-encountering a thing and realising that it set me on an imaginative journey.
Druids on a traction engine.
I gather Dr Who has sinister cybermice in it, so I may have been a bit prescient with that one. Yes, it’s been a strange year, creatively speaking and the upshot is a strange book.