From Baltimore To T.V. Land on Elev8

May 07, 2014

          I have moved to the edge of nowhere, far removed from the seats of strife. I’ve borrowed the far removed from the seats of strife bit from an early explorer and botanist called William Bartram. I am very fond of it. You might be surprised at how often I can manage to drop that line into ordinary conversations about the price of a return ticket on the DART.

          I’ve been here three days already. The nearest shop is four kilometres away in Baltimore, which is a fishing village in West Cork. A couple of weeks ago while randomly surfing the net, an advert for a pet-sitter/tenant leaped out at me. What grabbed my attention was the part that said: “Must Love Books.” That’s the kind of discrimination I can relate to in a landlady.

          I didn’t know anything about Baltimore. I asked one of my brothers who said that in summer, the village is over-run with braying yachties from Cork City called Gerald. That didn’t sound hugely enticing. So I checked out Baltimore on Wikipedia. Apparently it was ransacked by Algerian pirates in the seventeenth century who carried off more than 100 locals as slaves. That’s why there’s a pub in the village called The Algiers Inn. And, according to Wikipedia, Baltimore is the birth place of Napoleon’s favourite white mare, Intendant

          Pirates, Slaves and Napoleon’s horse! Sold!

          Intendant would make a great title for a children’s story about Intendant’s ghost who has returned to the land of her birth and irritates the local horse population to no end by bragging about her glamorous, high-society days with the Emperor, whom she calls Nap. She’s always peppering her conversation with pretentious French phrases and turning up her nose at the local oats. The story could practically write itself. I’m thinking a kind of Ghost of Canterville/The Horse and his Boy mash-up. By all means, feel free to go ahead and steal that idea.

          I’ve done some further research and I haven’t been able to verify the Wikipedia claim that Intendant was born around here. However, I came across a fascinating book written by an Australian journalist, Jill Hamilton, about Marengo, Napoleon’s famous war horse. It is called “Marengo the Myth of Napoleon’s Horse” and you can find it on Amazon.

          Two of Marengo’s hooves and his skeleton wound up in a British museum. A third hoof served as an ornament in the Officer’s Mess at St. James’s Palace. The fourth hoof along with Marengo’s skin got lost. I mean, seriously, the things people lose. How do you misplace a horse’s skin?  Mistake it for a tablecloth? Is it possible that someone out there is unknowingly using Marengo’s fourth hoof as a novelty ashtray?

          A customer reviewer on Amazon heaps praise on Jill Hamilton’s Marengo book but goes on to say: “The author’s account of the origin of the famous Arab steed is at variance with the statements made by the great equine historian, Anthony Dent, who maintained that Marengo was a three-quarters Arabian foaled in Ireland.”

          I love reviewers like him although I wouldn’t want him anywhere near reviewing my books. He has me wondering if somewhere along the way the records of Intendant’s lineage got mixed up with Marengo’s.  I mean, if a hoof and a horse’s skin can go missing, surely it is not too far-fetched to think that some records got bungled. I’ve got an idea for a children’s book involving the secret love-foal of Intendant and Marengo. But the book will have to wait because I’ve already started my new novel, Driven. I’ve written the first three chapters and consumed three-quarters of a box of Rice Krispies. How did writers power their novels before the invention of breakfast cereal?

            The fourth chapter of my new book will also have to wait because I got a call from the always fantastic Clare Kelly of The O’Brien Press telling me to hoof it back to Dublin to go on telly. I’m going to be on the kids’ show, Elev8, on RTE 2 tomorrow, Thursday at 4 p.m. I’ve never been on T.V. before. I’m excited but nervous as well. I’m not one of those people who are endearingly awkward. I’m just awkward. I can totally picture myself knocking the presenter’s mug of coffee into her lap, setting off a chain of events that ends up looking like a scene from Planes, Trains and Automobiles Redux. If I can manage to limit myself to just knocking over my own water glass, I think I could live with that. I’ll give you a report on my T.V. experience next week!  

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