|Franz Eugen Köhler,|
The midsummer fires were, I believe, normally lighted on the feast of St John, which is the 24th June, so you still have time to gather your kindling Or perhaps you'd rather use the occasion for a bit of divination.
In Steve Roud's Guide to the Superstition of Britain and Ireland we are reminded the Eve of St John was the time to pick pieces of valerian, stand them in a little mound of clay and name them after members of the household.
Check them in the morning and anyone whose plant is fallen or drooping the next day might not see the Summer Solstice again. For the less morbidly minded, name the plants after potential sweethearts and if the plants are bending towards each other in the morning, romance is certainly in the air.
Personally though, I'll be pondering the History Hot 100 of 2015 from History Extra. It's one of those lists that probably means very little, but nevertheless provokes a lot of questions about history and our relationship with it.
The list is, apparently 'the product of six weeks voting by readers and historians who were asked to nominate the historical figures they are most interested in at the moment.' I would love to know how large the sample is.
The first thing that strikes me is the focus on political leaders rather than writers, artists or even scientists though I am glad to see Turing in the top 25. Jesus and Shakespeare are there too, but I think it's compulsory to have them in the top 25 of any poll.
I think the list also shows the enormous sway that is held by television and film - in fact, I wonder if Turing would have made it in were it not for Mr Cumberbatch. I'm sure Thomas Cromwell is there thanks to the BBC's masterly dramatisation of Mantel.
And we also see the influence of topicality. I would love to know if there was a list before Richard III was discovered in the car park, and if so where he was on it. Seeing Wellington and Bonaparte there in the year of the 200th anniversary of Waterloo makes sense, as does the inclusion of William Marshal 800 years after Magna Carta.
Which makes me wonder, how aware are my fellow novelists of upcoming anniversaries when thinking about your next books? I tend just to follow the next idea, but I'm beginning to think I'm missing a trick.
Entry 100 is Joan of Arc - two below Elvis Presley.
Hopefully Manda Scott's new novel - Into the Fire will boost her ranking in the History Hot 100 of 2016.
Into The Fire is just out, but the way, and according to The Times it is 'a masterclass in writing historical fiction'.
Once I've done pondering the list, I shall be reading it in the long summer evenings of the coming week, by the light of the midsummer fires, with a stalk of valerian tucked behind my ear.