31 Jul 2011


I've spent the last few weeks travelling through England and part of Scotland. Now back home, I feel different, refreshed and above all ... inspired.

What had been intended as a final research trip for my Cotswolds-based novel, has become much more. Travelling tends to do that: you start off with an idea of where you want to go and what you'd like to do, and somewhere along the way the real journey takes shape.

We hadn't had much time to prepare in advance, but at least the bare essentials were sorted: a base of operations in my oh-so-beloved Cotswolds, a schedule half filled with meetings with friends and family, and a long list of things to do and places to see. We could wing it from there.

During those weeks we explored many Cotswolds towns and villages; we drove up to the North of England, the Scottish Lothians and the Kingdom of Fife; we spent time with family in Lancashire and Yorkshire, then drove south again to Wiltshire where we visited Stonehenge and Avebury, impressive prehistoric tombs and (more recent) hill figures.

Back in the Cotswolds, a day trip to the Forest of Dean lead us into Puzzlewood, which is said to have inspired Tolkien's Forest of Fangorn.

Inspiration is everywhere, all the time, but it seems more apparent when we're travelling. Whether that's due to a vacation mindset, to having more time, to being more relaxed and aware or to the fact that we're in an unfamiliar environment, the fact remains: away from home our senses feast on details we would normally overlook.

Holidays are the perfect time to say 'yes' to opportunities as they arise. I'm glad we let others decide part of our agenda or we wouldn't have discovered the fascinating historic sites around the famous Wiltshire stone circles – or enjoyed a delicious Thai banquet in the old Roman city of Cirencester.

If we hadn't accepted a lift from a friendly driver on our walk to Woodchester Mansion, we wouldn't have met Jim, the passionate archaeologist, who drove us through the mud and up the hill to show what he was working on and explain it to us with verve and vigour.

Inspiration truly is everywhere – for the eyes to see, for the heart to touch and for the mind to explore.

Over the next few weeks, I will share plenty of stories and photographs of the places we've visited (and maybe throw in a few clues about how some of them tie into my novel), but I want to start off by pointing out a few sites and sights that have inspired other writers (and film makers) in the past:

1. Puzzlewood

Puzzlewood is a 14 acre woodland in the Forest of Dean near Ross-on-Wye, Gloucestershire. It is one of the remaining ancient woodlands in England, and said to have been an inspiration for J. R. R. Tolkien's forests of Middle-earth.

It has also been used as a setting in the BBC series 'Merlin' and 'Doctor Who'.

2. Gloucester Cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral is an architectural masterpiece that has been used in several Harry Potter films. Parts of the historic cloisters, for instance, served as Hogwarts' corridors.

It has also featured in the 2008 Doctor Who Christmas special, and I have no doubt the building has inspired countless of other visitors in their creative endeavours.

3. Woodcarving in Ripon Cathedral

While his father was a canon at the cathedral in Ripon, Yorkshire, Charles Dodgson (better known under the name of Lewis Carroll) might have been familiar with the intricate woodcarvings in the cathedral's 15th century misericords.

One of them depicts a rabbit caught by a griffin while another rabbit disappears – you guessed – down the rabbit hole.

4. Rosslyn Chapel

The Midlothian village of Roslin in Scotland is home to one of the most impressive and inspiring buildings I have ever seen: Rosslyn Chapel.

It was already mentioned in Sir Walter Scott's early 19th century poem 'Rosabelle' (here's a reading on YouTube), but has probably become most famous because of Dan Brown's 'Da Vinci Code' and the 2005 film.

Which sights, sites, trips or tidbits have inspired you?
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6 Jul 2011

Enjoy the Silence ...

My wonderful friends, it is time to take a short summer break on the blog, disappear from everyday reality and dive into the world of my novel.

I will be back at the end of July, refreshed and full of new blogging and writing ideas.

Enjoy the silence ...

And of course, the original: 

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2 Jul 2011

What Does it Mean to be You?

I watched an interesting video the other day, in which British philosopher Julian Baggini speaks about the Self, personal identity and what it means to be 'You'.
I found it so gripping I wanted to share it here.

As philosophers go, his speech doesn't give answers, but it does spark a lot of ideas and reflections to eventually come up with our own.

I liked that he doesn't automatically subscribe to the notion that loosening your sense of Self, or detaching yourself from your Ego is the ultimate goal and the ideal way to go if you want to become more compassionate.

I've encountered that idea a lot in very intelligent, caring and spiritual people, but I'm still not sure I agree with it. Maybe it's part of being a Leo, or maybe it means I'm way too attached to my Ego and nowhere near spiritual enlightenment, but I believe more in refining and educating your Self as a means to understand and recognise other people's individual perspectives on the world.

I have the impression that my sense of Self and my personal pride don't so much hinder me as rather help me to take other's Selves into account in my own decisions and in the way I live my life. I might of course be deluding myself.

Either way, here's Julian Baggini's speech. It's about 20 minutes long. Enjoy!

Julian Baggini is the author of several books and articles and together with psychotherapist Antonia Macaro  he writes a column for Financial Times Magazine, called 'The Shrink and The Sage'.
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