This is about my real-life time travels – several thousand years into the past…
The past is important to writers and no less so to me. Of all the adventures I’ve had around the world, behind the lines in Northern Ireland, down the Xingu River in the Brazilian rain forest, with spies or with criminals or with some of the greatest scientists of my era, the most exciting adventure I had happened within five hundred metres of my house in England.
My writing office is on the first floor of a C16 house whose history I have researched all the way back to before the first Davis family lived here – in the 1600s – to when Norman French conquerors built the first recorded house on the site. But I thought that was as far as I could go.
But then I discovered some 12th and 13th Century tax records for the manor, and between writing assignments my researches started over.
At the margin of my garden is a thick belt of trees marking off what was once a historic estate, since demolished and colonised by a carpet of ‘executive homes’. I used often to reflect that while I might regret the loss of the great house, the new residents were a reasonable constituent of the television and film audience for which I was writing. Their homes were, to my eye, somewhat two-dimensional in historic terms. Could I, I asked myself, ever find a story in which the past which I romanced so much could break through the ashphalt crust of their roadways in a dramatic and startling way?
I never thought of such a story, although the ancient records showed that several hundred years before the great estate was assembled and the grand house built there, a humble man called ‘John of the Horestone’ lived in the vicinity.
A ‘horestone’, I knew, was an ancient standing stone, a relic of the Druid era of nature worship that preceded the Roman invasion of Britain. Could John’s Horestone still be standing?
It seemed unlikely, till I looked. When the estate was built, a belt of inner woodland was retained by the developer to protect the privacy of his own new home at the centre of the new estate. The woodland started where a spur of roadway ended. Where the woodland began the driveways of executive houses abrubtly ended.
I stood looking one afternoon, into a grove of trees, dominated in the foreground by a massive chestnut tree. Behind the chestnut stood a trunk, about six feet tall, covered with thick ivy. There was no standing stone. The wild garlic was blossoming on the woodland floor, and considered the proximity of the houses, the atmosphere had a little magic.
I stood and reflected. Before I left, I patted the ivy-clad tree trunk. It was cold and jagged. I lifted away some foliage. I was staring at a massive standing stone, almost my own height. I had found The Horestone of Rodborough.
This ancient worship site, dating to the era of Stonehenge, had probably been forcibly abandoned when the Roman invaders built their Temple to the god Mercury at Uley West Hill, four miles away. The name of the site had been lost when the Bownham Park estate was created by a rich local banker in the 1740s. I was the first to see the stone in centuries – previous searches for it had failed, as I later discovered.
My story about the Horestone of Rodborough is a long and rich story and led me to more explorations around the ancient landscape of Minchinhampton and Rodborough. I found at least five more unmapped ‘lost’ Neolithic monuments, to add to the two very famous ones that are known here, in what is already a famous archaeological landscape.
My writing career has distracted me from the chronicle of these journeys through the past till now. I will now return to them.
Strip joint-owner Jack Ruby, the Dallas Mob, the CIA and the assassination of JFK.
Starring Danny Aiello and Sherilyn Fenn.
Directed by John MacKenzie.
Screenplay by Stephen Davis from his play Love Field.
See Ruby at the IMDB
Tommy Lee Jones stars as CIA officer Steve Daley trying to unravel the riddle of high-level KGB defector Yuri Nosenko (Oleg Rudnik).
The real-life espionage case that started a secret war inside the CIA.
Screenplay by Stephen Davis.
View the details for the film at the IMDB