Roots

102. Hochelaga, Land of Souls (film, dir. François Girard, 2017)
103. Show of Hands, Wake the Union (album, 2012)
104. *Show of Hands, Arrogance, Ignorance and Greed (album, 2009)
105. David Stevenson, The Scottish Revolution 1637-1644: The Triumph of the Covenanters (non-fiction book, 2003)
106. Conrad Russell, The Fall of the British Monarchies 1637-1642 (non-fiction book, 1991)
107. Dead in a Week (or Your Money Back) (film, dir. Tom Edmunds, 2018)

I read some history: it is suddenly all alive, branching forwards & backwards & connected with every kind of thing that seemed entirely remote before. I seem to feel Napoleons [sic] influence on our quiet evening in the garden for instance - I think I see for a moment how our minds are all threaded together - how any live mind today is of the very same stuff as Plato’s & Euripedes. It is only a continuation & development of the same thing - It is this common mind that binds the whole world together; & all the world is mind ... I feel as though I had grasped the central meaning of the world, & all these poets & historians & philosophers were only following out paths brancing from that centre in which I stand.
— Virginia Woolf, aged 21, quoted in "Virginia Woolf's Reading Notebooks" ed. Brenda Silver (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983), p.5

The doing of history is a love letter to a place or a people. If you love someone, you want to know more about them, and you want to know about where they came from and how they came to be themselves. So you read their story and if it doesn't exist yet then you ask them about it, and if someone asks you about it then you tell it. Hochelaga, Land of Souls is a love letter to Canada, to Quebec, to Montreal, and also to the doing of archaeology and the digging up of things and the passing of time.

Edinburgh is a place where history is a love letter. I started writing this blog in the café of Waterstones on Princes Street, looking up at the castle in the sunshine. I discovered last year that the top floor of Waterstones used, in the 80s, to be a gay club called Fire Island; the street itself was (I believe) built as part of the New Town in the 18th century. Some of these things are easy to find out about, and now that I know them I sometimes repeat them to myself like a bedtime story - knowing a lot about a place is not the same as feeling at home in it, but the two feelings border on each other.

Now as I hit send, I'm in the university library that looks out over the Meadows. I've been working on Past Tense this afternoon. I have actually finished episode 6; it's long since recorded, and waiting to go out. But there are complications - about ten thousand words' worth of them, in fact - and today I feel very small, as if I'm trying to do something very much bigger than me, and in the meantime here I am interloping in the library of a university I don't go to.

Knowing about a thing is not the same as feeling at home in it. History can be an act of service. These thoughts are going somewhere but I don't know where it is yet.

Other things I've seen/heard/read this week: Diaries. Diaries, diaries, diaries. Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath and Naomi Mitchison and Willa Muir, and mine. Plath winds me up as a general rule - we have very different taste, but I wanted to see how she thinks.  I may have solved the mystery of why I don't seem to read as much as I did a few years back: this week I've read the introductions to, or chapters from, about six different books. My mind probably looks like one of these