Oh, this is bad ... and it's not as if I haven't had one or two things worth blogging about. But what with birthdays, colds, gigs, balls and various other distractions, let alone trying to finish my sample chapters of the Shakespeare book, I've neglected my blog.
Bad me. Bad, bad, naughty, thoughtless me.
Anyway, it's not just Shakespeare round here, you know. Yes, I know I've written about visits to Shakespearean places, but there was someone else whose trail I keep stumbling across.
Every day I went to school I passed a road in Hall Green where one J.R.R. Tolkien was said to have grown up. A bit further on was Moseley Bog (a tiny bit of nature in the midst of the city), where he was supposedly inspired.
When I moved to the wilds of Worcestershire, my wife - the Divine Kim - told me that she'd grown up in a wee village called Abberton, which the locals called 'Obbiton. A little while later I was having a chat with an entertainer in a local hostelry and he explained how he had traced the journey undertaken in The Lord of the Rings from somewhere nearby to somewhere on the Welsh border.
Seems J.R.R. Tolkien wrote more or less from memory, inspired by places he knew - the Hobbits came from 'Hobbiton', of course. And it was all around here. Looks like I live in The Shire.
At the weekend, I took Divine Kim out on a special birthday treat. She wasn't allowed to know where. We drove to the Forest of Dean (very strange place - lovely, but weird) and stopped at Puzzlewood, where we had a picnic, talked to some animals ... and then entered the wood.
The Romans did a bit of mining there, a couple of thousands of years ago. Thereafter, nature slowly reclaimed the workings. Now, as you walk through this wood, following curious little paths through mini gorges of mossy stone, you feel as though you're walking through the long-forgotten ruins of an ancient civilisation. Or you're in Jurassic Park. Or a fairy/elf/witch/dragon is about to appear.
It's difficult to describe the magical, enchanting effect of Puzzlewood. I'd been there once before, one week day, on my own, and I was a little disconcerted at the weekend to find that there were other people in the wood (but never mind, they were all very friendly and polite, and we rarely saw them). Kim and I took loads of photos (they're up on Facebook) and she loved it - I think it cured her lingering cold.
But - guess what. J.R.R. Tolkien used to spend quite a bit of time wandering round Puzzlewood. They say it inspired him ...
I've never seen the Lord of the Rings movies. In some ways, I feel I don't need to. I mean - they were shot in New Zealand, on the other side of the world. Whereas I grew up in, live in and occasionally get to visit Middle Earth.