In Vino Veritas (or maybe not!)
Welcome to the third of my weekly newsletters, Not in the Script (NITS), an author’s ramblings about sources of inspiration and the stuff that never quite makes it into a finished work, or conversely pushes the boundaries of what might have been true if we dared to think it.
I’ve recently read Fiona Forsyth’s Blood and Shadows set in the Roman transition period following the Battle of Philippi (42BC) and the ensuing years in which Rome was transforming itself into Empire. It follows the fortunes of three friends dealing with their traumas after the battle and its accompanying upheavals.
They spend a lot of time in bars and tavernas as they sort themselves out, and we’re talking a lot of sorting out here with the odd murder along the way and plenty of political intrigue leading to, frankly, an amazing climax.
At this point, let’s have an ad break. In a future NITS missive, Fiona’s going to tell us all about the wine these lads were knocking back and, interestingly, what they added to it. Trust me, it will be bottled poetry.
So why the picture of two black cats at the bar?
Firstly, I built that bar. More correctly, an outdoor kitchen and bar. Well, I confess I had help of course, and within a couple of months of moving to Southern Spain I had learned how to order building materials in Spanish, made friends with the country’s champion digger driver, and found a couple of sunburned diamond geezers who knew all about rebars and roofing. Here we are, making a start:
Secondly, those cats deserve their repose. They were found in a dustbin in Mijas, two kittens, scrawny, with broken bones, mewling weakly for someone to show a little compassion. You see, the Spanish reckon black cats are unlucky. Hence the dustbin. Not all Spanish distrust black cats of course; the vets who saved their lives were compassionate and brilliant. So was our daughter who had this thing about rescuing animals whether they needed rescuing or not. We drew the line at donkeys. Thank goodness there are no hippos in Spain.
But here we were with an outdoor kitchen right next to the swimming pool with a view over of the ancient battlefield where Julius Caesar fought the last battle in his civil war. We (my wife, cats, dogs and visiting family) would shoot the breeze of a gentle evening and hail locals tapping olives in the groves and listen to the glorious cicada symphonies. It felt like abroad as my wife would say, and indeed it was. Here’s the finished project:
This was where the writing journey began: In Vino Fictum. I wrote my first historical fiction novel, Libertas, at that bar. And my second, Line in the Sand. And while my wife Lynda was away on business, a third which was fuelled by a wicked local concoction and my misery in her absence and would at first sight appear to be utter nonsense. A kind of wacky sci-fi allegory.
Wait a moment. Isn’t some of the best off-beat fiction nonsense? Alice in Wonderland, Just-So Stories, Lord of the Rings, Pinocchio, Jonah and the Whale, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Winnie the Pooh…
It was so weird I published it under a pseudonym and I’m not telling you the title or the author right now because I’ve dug this out of my e-attic and I’m going to republish it and give it away right here.
That way you can savour the full value of a home-made outdoor bar serving Rueda Verdejo, Rioja Crianza, some tasty boquerones, tortillas and albondigas:
Yup, in vino veritas and a little bit of el invento.
Meanwhile, being a true nomad, we now live on the tiny island of Alderney, the northernmost of the British Channel Islands, where there’s no need to build an outdoor bar. There are plenty to choose from, and the beach is just over there, there’s an archaeological dig just yards from our home, and we have our own literary festival…
There’s lots more to come from me but in the meantime, please read and review my latest book, Sea of Flames. Thank you in advance.
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Oh, Alistair, those cats!
With thanks for the mention! 🍷