Tag Archives: story ideas

Status Update – Windsor Castle

Apr 05, 2017

The castle itself is so huge that there really isn’t a way to get a single pic of the whole thing.

So for those who don’t know, I’m adventuring in London for a week, looking for story ideas, researching a few things I already know I’m going to write about, and generally enjoying being in my happy place. I would absolutely live in London—or anywhere in the UK, for that matter—if I could. But seeing as they don’t have a visa category that fits me, I’ll have to make due with visit.

And yesterday I visited Windsor Castle! For those who don’t know, Windsor Castle has been a continuous residence of the Royal Family for the past 900 years! It was actually started by William the Conqueror shortly after he took over. And when I say “started,” I mean that various parts of the complex have been built, destroyed, rebuilt, added to, refurbished, and expanded over hundreds of years. In fact, the latest edition to the castle was done in the 1990s. But I’m getting slightly ahead of myself.

These are the old (old, old, old) Norman towers.

Or maybe not. Because I could talk about the magnificence of the design and decoration of the State Apartments or the incredibly art collection (I always get excited when I see very famous paintings in person, and there were very famous paintings that I knew on practically every wall of the place). I could talk about the Royal Family or the fact that Victoria and Albert lived there most of the time in their lives. But what I found most fascinating and what I really want to talk about is the fire of 1992.

I remember vividly when the castle burnt down. November 20, 1992. I have vivid images of aerial shots of one whole section of the castle in flames. But walking around inside of it, I was both curious about where the fire had been and what potentially was destroyed and how it could be that I wouldn’t obviously see all the damage.

Her Majesty’s personal entrance to the castle.

And that’s the cool story.

First of all, I learned how the fire started. It started in what was formerly a private chapel built for Queen Victoria. But the chapel was in an awkward location, and it got in the way of anyone trying to cross from the private apartments to the state apartments. What actually happened is that an ancient velvet curtain was standing too close to an old fashioned spotlight. It got too hot and WHOOMP! The whole thing went up. But not just that, because of the former structure of the roof, not only did the chapel ignite like kindling, it quickly spread all the way through the parts of the castle that were connected by the roof structure.

I think I remember stories of Prince Charles himself rushing to the scene and helping to rescue art and artifacts from the walls and rooms, but I can’t remember if that’s true. Anyhow, several of the larger rooms were massively damaged, including two large halls that adjoin what was the chapel. It’s a shame that I couldn’t take pictures of these rooms myself due to photography restrictions, because they would be really useful to illustrate the following stories…

So one of the rooms that sustained serious damage was the Grand Reception Hall. I took a picture of the picture of it in the Windsor Castle guide book that I bought. (Actually, all of these interior pics are from that guidebook). What you’re seeing is the restored room. The cool stories from this room are, first, the floor. That’s still the original floor, but with a twist. The floorboards were badly charred in the fire. So what did they do? Like a stain on a sofa, they flipped each board individually and put it back down in place. I thought that was awesome. The other story is that giant urn at the far end. It’s two tons and over six feet tall, so they couldn’t exactly haul it out of the room in the middle of the fire. The thing is, it’s made of malachite. And if you know anything about rocks (which I didn’t until the tour explained it), malachite doesn’t come in enormous slabs. So really, the urn is marble covered with a fine layer of malachite fit together like jigsaw pieces. Well, during the fire, the urn filled and doused with boiling water. So the adhesive holding the malachite to its base melted. All of the pieces flaked off in the days following the fire. They had to be reassembled piece by piece in the years of restoration that followed.

The other cool fire story is about St. George’s Hall, which is massive and beautiful. But for a historian, the story behind it is such an exciting insight into history that I was almost jumping up and down. See all that marvelous ceiling beamwork? Looks medieval, right? Nope. The entire ceiling was destroyed in the fire. There was a scary-sad picture of it looking like a burned out skeleton on the tour. So they reconstructed it. BUT, they did all the work in the medieval style with historical tools and erected it completely the way the original ceiling would have been made. And you may or may not be able to tell from this picture, but the texture and color of the wood is very, very different from the hundreds of years old ceilings you see in medieval buildings now. So for me, it totally informed on what these magnificent structures would have felt like when they were new…which is not the same as they feel now. I think places like Westminster Abbey (which I visited yesterday) and Winchester Cathedral (which I visited in 2010) would have felt much warmer and more vibrant than they do now.

But the coolest of the cool parts of the reconstructed castle is the brand new Lantern Lobby. This is where the fire started. Like I said, it was formerly Queen Victoria’s private chapel. But when it came time to rebuilt, they brought in architects to take a look and totally rethink what the space should be. This room is what they came up with. And the ceiling is incredible. But unlike St. George’s Hall, which was reconstructed in the medieval fashion, this ceiling and it’s vaulting was designed by computer! All of the angles and placement and calculations were designed specifically to draw the eye upward and to bring it together into an amazing, aesthetic harmony. And really, this pic doesn’t do justice to how perfectly that mission was accomplished. It’s so cool.

So those are just some of my observations about the castle. I have another really awesome story about St. George’s Chapel (which is bigger than the Cathedral in my hometown), where my man, Charles I, is buried. But I’ll tell that story in another blog post.

Could You Go Back In Time And Change History?

Nov 09, 2011

Okay.  This may be the single most important blog entry I have ever written, asking the deepest, most important question known to mankind.  I have gotten into heated arguments and nearly lost a friend over this question (Tammy Martin, I’m looking at you!)  Here it is….

Can you go back in time and change history?

I have heard so many answers to this question, from the scientific to the fantastical, from mathematicians, historians, writers, artists, philosophers, and crazy people.  For whatever reason it’s something that can spark an argument in no time flat.

Here’s my answer:

No, you can’t go back in time and change anything.

Because history already happened the way it did.  Anything that anyone from the future who goes back in time to change things does is what has already happened in the present.  Meaning you can’t go back in time and save Lincoln from being shot because he was already shot.  It’s a done deal.  You can’t go back and kill your own ancestor, thus negating your existence, and you can’t go back and stop Hitler from coming to power.  Because it already happened.

In this reality.

I do, however, think that you could go back in time and change something, stop Lincoln from being killed, kill your ancestor, or stop Hitler from coming to power, but it would create a splinter reality.  You would then find yourself living in a reality where Lincoln WAS saved, for example.  But you would no longer be a part of this timeline anymore.  In other words, you can go back in time but if you change anything you won’t be able to return to the same future that you left from.  You will effectively cease to exist in that timeline.

I have an idea for a series of novels that deals with this issue.  In it someone has discovered time travel.  Only it’s an academic pursuit.  It’s not public knowledge.  Very few people know about it.  Time travel is part of a particular university’s graduate studies program.  Only a very few people are selected to take part.  Think of it as research by immersion.  You sign on to be a part of this program and are sent back to the time period of your study to live for a limited number of years.

Throughout history in this world there are carefully guarded safe-houses where students in the program live.  They are equipped with all the modern technology the program needs to transport people and messages to and from the era of history.  But the natives to the time period can’t get wind of them, so they’re hidden.  The people of history are sorted into three categories: green, yellow, and red.  Students of the program can interact with “green” people all they want because they are completely unimportant Joe Nobodys.  “Red” people are absolutely off-limits.  They are the well-known figures of history, Lincoln, Hitler, anyone related to you.  Even speaking to them could spell disaster.  Then there are the “yellow” people.  Those are the people who might be important but no one is quite sure.  Students are ordered to stay away from them too, just in case.  But of course since this is a story they would have to be involved in the plot.

So yeah, that’s my idea.  I need to come up with a few good plots to make it work.  I will someday.  There would have to be something about a student being discovered, someone from history going back to the future, a whole alternative universe being splintered off by accident, maybe even connecting splinter universes somehow.  We’ll see.

Now, back to the original point at hand.

NO. Just ... No.

No, I don’t think you could change history at all if you went back in time.

Do I think time travel is possible?  I mean, really possible?

*sigh*  I really want to answer yes to this question.  But no, no I don’t.

What about you?  Time travel or no time travel?  Could you mess up history or not?