Mens Temporum . UK

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The Warthog

This incident is an example of how my free writing approach to my novel allowed far more souvenirs from the future to find their way into it compared to how it would have looked had I focussed on constructing a well structured story that followed all the recommendations for what is considered good writing.

One mistake that novice writers tend to make is including in their work items that don’t support the story itself but are simply there just because the writer wants to write about them somewhere. I mentioned elsewhere that my wife and I spent some time reading draft novels by inexperienced writers while we were subscribing to an online writers’ forum and we saw this as a common fault ourselves. In contrast I wrote my novel simply to dispel the assortment of thoughts crowding into my head and structuring the story well was only a secondary consideration. Even so I did my best not to let these incursions take up too much space and hinder the progress of the story. One bizarre item that I felt had to be included was really difficult to explain though and that was the belligerent warthog.

The normal thread of the story was that the time-defying building was able to abduct apparently random people from the future so that they could converse with the people from the present inside it. The unexpected materialisation of a belligerent warthog in the building’s reception instead therefore made no sense at all as conversation with it was impossible and all it did was cause panic among a number of scientific researchers present, who subsequently left the project. In my story this incident was something that had happened in the past, so had no direct impact on the plot and indeed seemed entirely unrelated to it. I had no idea why I had felt so certain that it should be included at the time.

Not far from our home is an unusual tower. The beautiful mock Gothic Hadlow Tower is considered to be the tallest folly in Britain. For many years it deteriorated as a consequence of neglect under private ownership but in 2011 a scheme was finally put into action which involved its compulsory purchase for a nominal sum and its restoration by a trust using a grant from the National Lottery. While the tower itself was little more than a hollow shell the floors below it were converted into holiday accommodation. Also the entire outside of the structure was restored to its original glory. The grant came with a requirement that the public must be given access to the tower a minimum number of times a year and the trust was able to schedule these open days between letting out the accommodation to visitors. The action group who had originally campaigned for the restoration turned to providing a visitor centre in the ground floor reception room to serve the public on open days and we subscribed in a small way to the funding of this aspect of the work, as a consequence of which we were eventually invited to take a tour of the building. It was during this tour that I unexpectedly discovered the evident inspiration for the warthog in my draft novel completed many months earlier.

We first entered the ground floor reception where the visitor centre had been assembled. As the tower is octagonal the room was roughly circular and around the top of the wall ran a timeline showing many significant historical events during the tower’s existence. I noticed one obvious error in the text describing one of the events. Its name was wrongly written as “Boar Wars” instead of “Boer Wars”. I had a sudden amusing impression of British soldiers fighting wild pigs in Africa and pointed out the error to our guide. Some time later the local historian told me that she had provided the details for the timeline but the signwriter had copied that entry incorrectly.

On reflection after the visit I realised how closely this real experience had matched the event in my novel. The belligerent warthog, evidently a boar, had materialised in the circular reception area of my fictional building just as the African wild pigs had materialised in my mind in the tower’s circular reception. Furthermore in the novel the reception area had a lift on the right hand side as I normally imagined it and during the restoration a lift had been installed in the tower on the right hand side of reception as one entered. This lift enabled disabled visitors to stay in the accommodation provided upstairs, the original narrow spiral staircases being entirely unsuitable for them. In the novel the people from the future who materialised in reception were always referred to as “visitors” and equally reception in the tower was used as the visitor centre. In the novel the director of the building stated that while operating it was surrounded by nothing but time and in the tower its reception was also surrounded by time in the form of the timeline on the walls. Given that all these features had been designed and installed after I had written my novel and I had never seen any plans for them there was no way that I could have had any knowledge of them while writing my novel. The fact that the renovation had first been put into action in the early months of 2011 was also a synchronicity as had happened with other incidents. Hence my strong feeling about needing to include the apparently irrelevant warthog incident had either been a remarkable coincidence or a clear souvenir from that future visit to the tower.

I continued to struggle to justify the warthog incident in my fiction writing, writing a draft chapter mentioning it again for a potential further novel, although that only made the mystery even more incomprehensible, but finally I was able to explain it fully in the draft last chapter of the potential last novel of the trilogy. If any critical reader of my original novel had asked me why I included the warthog in it I could honestly have told them that that was a revelation yet to be made, but I certainly had to work at covering up my real life bizarre reason.

The Hadlow Tower and its action group will also be mentioned in connection with the novel and other incidents elsewhere on this site.

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