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From Ancient Rome to St Andrews

12th July 2017

From Ancient Rome to St Andrews

Happy holidays! Teaching keeps me so busy during term time that it usually takes a few days to get into holiday mode, but this year I dived straight in! The first week was spent in Sorrento and I had an amazing time, eating lots of pizza and pasta and enjoying spectacular views.  

There were two massive highlights. One was having breakfast outside under the lemon trees every morning. For somebody from the West of Scotland, used to eating breakfast in the kitchen while the rain falls outside, this was utterly delightful, as was the cappuccino and freshly squeezed orange juice.

The second highlight was visiting Herculaneum. Aged eleven I read Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth and became fascinated by the history of Ancient Rome. I remember absolutely loving the brilliant BBC television series I, Claudius and as an adult really enjoyed Robert Harris’s historical novels Pompeii and Imperium. Walking around the site of an Ancient Roman town, wandering into its shops and villas last inhabited almost 2000 years ago, was incredible, and very moving. The town was buried in 79AD when Vesuvius erupted and the skeletal remains of some of the inhabitants, killed by extreme heat from a pyroclastic surge, were excavated in 1982.

I’m at home for the next two weeks, writing and reading, getting through my TBR pile at a steady pace. The first draft of The Unicorn Thieves is finished, so I’ve put that to the side for the moment and am working on Invisible Ivy. It’s partly in diary form, with events in two different time frames, and at the moment is a bit of an experiment, but an enjoyable one.

After that I’m heading to St Andrews for a week and am doing author events at Waterstones bookshops in St Andrews on the 25th of July and in Dundee on the 26th. Do come along if you can. I was thrilled to see The Awkward Autumn in the window of the St Andrews shop last week!