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Saturday 23 April 2016

Happy Birthday Bill

400 years, Four whole centuries since the greatest writer in English passed this way, April 23rd, the day he was born in 1564 and the day he died in 1616. William Shakespeare. A playwright, poet and actor from Stratford on Avon about whom we know very little but who left his mark on our language and culture like no other before or since.

A genius who scratched out the trials and tribulations of life, wrapped up in comedy tragedy and history. The aspirations of commoners, Kings and Emperors for our delectation and delight.

Love, lust, jealousy as well as honour and nobility;  all found in the pages of his plays and the words we've often sought for that moment then borrowed, adapted or plagiarised to make a point!

He was 52 when he died, not a bad innings for his day, and yet that vital spark never died, nor will it. Whenever an actor treads the boards, a movie director calls "Action!" or someone looking for the right words for that extraordinary moment where the whole of life hangs by a delicate thread, to draw the hushed "yes!" to a fateful question and Romeo wins his Juliet: that spark will glow brightly.

My uncle Bill called him Billy Wobbledagger and as a child it took me a while to work out who he was talking about, Scholars have spent years doing the same, compiling theories about who he really was, where he came from. The name behind the alias or whatever flights of fancy took them to unpack the history of the lad from Stratford, Blue-ing his blood to explain the extraordinary talent, convinced his real identity lay in grander circumstances, convinced no commoner could create such works.

Perhaps Shakespeare's greatest creation is himself, The puzzle that surrounds the genius. The imagination, wit and wisdom of his plays., the playfulness and passion of his sonnets. The chronicles of hard won lessons of life, of victory and defeat!

The blank pages of his life about which we know so little may tell us what is important; the source of the gift is a mystery but his gift to us is well known, loved, imitated and respected. He walked this way once, as we all do.Then left his words, his dreams and stories for us to hold, cherish and pass on.

So many times, the whispered homage, "I wish I'd written that!"

For every one of them... Thanks,.

Happy Birthday Will!

Tuesday 12 April 2016

World Book Night

 Eleven days to go

23 April, a portentious date in English literature, the birthdate, and the day he died, of William Shakespeare, shared with the festival of George, England's patron.

Shakespeare used the saint as a rally; Cry Harry, for England and St George.
It's time to rally the forces again on World Book Night, originally celebrated with World Book Day in March but recently as a stand alone, volunteers across the globe will be handing out books; as a gift, genuinely something for nothing.

Statistically, 36% of adults in England are said never to read, and along with World Book Day in March, World Book Night aims to put books into the hands of people who might not usually read
There is the official selection of titles, but what can we do as individuals, as authors and readers?

Share what we love, spread the words. The official selection may not be to everyone's taste, but there is something out there for everyone; a novella, an epic, a cracking good read. Put the imagination in gear and share a book with someone you know, a book you have read and loved, your choice, see if you can work out what they might like...

...and let the adventure rattle onwards!