Jenny Kane & Jennifer Ash

Jenny Kane: Coffee, cupcakes, chocolate and contemporary fiction / Jennifer Ash: Medieval crime with hints of Ellis Peters and Robin Hood

Tag: history Page 2 of 5

Opening Lines by Janet Few: Barefoot on the Cobbles

This week’s opening lines comes from fellow Devon based author, Janet Few.

Pop your feet up for five minutes, and take a read of the first 500 words of Barefoot on the Cobbles

Barefoot on the Cobbles – a Devon tragedy by Janet Few

In the euphoria of the armistice a young woman lay dying. Daisy had grown up, barefoot on the cobbles, in a village on the rugged North Devon coast; she was mindful of the perils of the uncertain sea. Her family had also been exposed to the dangers of disease and the First World War but for Daisy, it was her own mother who posed the greatest threat of all. What burdens did that mother, an ordinary fisherman’s wife, carry? What past traumas had led, inexorably, to this appalling outcome?

Vividly recreating life at the dawning of the twentieth century, Barefoot on the Cobbles is based on a real tragedy that lay hidden for nearly a hundred years. Rooted in its unique and beautiful geographical setting, here is the unfolding of a past that reverberates unhappily through the decades and of raw emotions that are surprisingly modern in character.

More details about the novel, including information about how to obtain a copy, can be found at http://bit.do/bfotc; alternatively, visit the publisher’s website https://bluepoppypublishing.co.uk.Opening Lines

The magistrate was saying something. Polly, with throat tightening and heat rising, struggled to focus. He repeated his question but she was transfixed, unable to answer. Images and incidents from the past kaleidoscoped before her eyes. She saw her childhood home in the secluded Devon valley, her courtship with Alb, her firstborn being put into her arms. Her daughter, Daisy, skipping barefoot down the Clovelly cobblestones, living, loving, laughing. Daisy, bone thin and dying. Daisy, whose passing had somehow, in a way that Polly couldn’t comprehend, led to her being here in this crowded, claustrophobic courtroom, with every eye upon her. She must compose herself, pay attention, escape from this nightmare. All she wanted to do was dream of the past, both good and bad times but somehow more certain, safer, predictable. Times before everything began to spiral terrifyingly out of control.

Mr Lefroy, the solicitor, had assured her that she wouldn’t hang; this was a manslaughter charge not murder. Nonetheless, phantom gallows haunted Polly’s restless nights. Even when she calmed and the hangman’s noose receded, there was still prison. Prison meant Holloway. Polly’s hazy and fragmented impression of Holloway was gleaned from the terror-ridden stories of suffragettes’ force-feeding, that the pre-war newspapers had revelled in. Or would they say she was mad? Echoes of insanity had touched her in the past. There were barely acknowledged tales of people she knew who had been locked away. When compared to the prospect of prison, the asylum at Exminster was somehow more familiar but no less formidable.

Polly knew she must concentrate, breathe slowly, think about what she should say. Mr Lefroy had explained that all she needed to do was to keep calm and tell the truth, so difficult in this alien environment with all these well-to-do folk looking on. Faces. Faces whirled and blurred in front of her. There was Alb, shuffling in his chair and running his finger round the restrictive collar that she had helped him to fasten only this morning. He looked lost and bewildered, barely recognisable without his beloved trilby hat. Faces of the villagers, reproachful and remote. Mr Collins, her accuser, cold and self-possessed. Mrs Stanbury, gossiping neighbour, once a friend maybe but now here as a witness for the prosecution. Then, overlaying all of these, the vision of Daisy. Daisy looking like a young lady in her new hat, proudly setting off for her first job beyond the security of the village. Daisy fighting, screaming, twisting her head away from the spoon that held the broth that might save her. Daisy dying.

Was it really her fault, as they were saying? Polly wondered. Could she have done any more? She was a mother; mothers should protect their children. She had tried, she really had, struggled in vain to shield them all from harm. The enormity of her many failures consumed her. There was Bertie, not quite the full shilling, Violet and her troubles, the worry over Leonard while he’d been away at sea during…

***

You can find Janet at https://thehistoryinterpreter.wordpress.com/

Many thanks for sharing your first 500 words today Janet,

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

Opening Lines with K.M. Pohlkamp: Apricots and Wolfsbane

This week’s opening lines comes from the amazing K.M. Pohlkamp; an aerospace engineer who works in Mission Control no less! In contrast to her up to the minute profession, she has written a fascinating historical novel…Apricots and Wolfsbane.

Over to you…

The world’s first known serial killer was a woman.

That fact struct me after reading an article about forgotten females from history. Locusta was a female poison assassin from Rome (Gaul) who discovered it was more lucrative to use her knowledge of herbs to kill than heal. As a female engineer, I relate to the struggle of going against traditional gender stereotypes. Locusta must have faced challenges, but her gender would have been an asset in a field where surprise provided an advantage. There is not much known about Locusta, which incited my imagination. And the more I thought about her life, a story began to weave in my mind.

At the same time, my priest gave a sermon about the ease of falling into a cycle of sin and penance. How often we realize our actions are incorrect and then feel guilt but after awhile the guilt wears and it becomes easy to commit the sin again. Of course he was talking about minor offenses, but as a matter of reductio ad absurdum, I applied this concept to a murderer and placed Locusta’s inspiration at the height of the Catholic Church in Tudor England.

Synopsis of Apricots and Wolfsbane

Lavinia Maud craves the moment the last wisps of life leave her victim’s bodies—to behold the effects of her own poison creations. Believing confession erases the sin of murder, her morbid desires are in unity with faith, though she could never justify her skill to the magistrate she loves.

At the start of the 16th century in Tudor England, Lavinia’s marks grow from tavern drunks to nobility, but rising prestige brings increased risk. When the magistrate suspects her ruse, he pressures the priest into breaking her confessional seal, pitting Lavinia’s instincts as an assassin against the tenets of love and faith. She balances revenge with her struggle to develop a tasteless poison and avoid the wrath of her ruthless patron.

With her ideals in conflict, Lavinia must decide which will satisfy her heart: love, faith, or murder—but the betrayals are just beginning.

Apricots and Wolfsbane was shortlisted for the 2017 Chaucer Historical Fiction Awards and received 5-stars from Readers’ Favorite.

***

And the first 500 words of Apricots and Wolfsbane:

The violent display of convulsions lasted longer than I anticipated.

With my boots propped on the table, I remember watching beads of wax roll down the candle, marking time between my victim’s spasms. The brothel room was sparse, and the bed in the corner remained undisturbed. I had assumed the role of temptress that evening, but delivered a different climax.

I savored the fear on my victim’s face as much as my own unlaced mead. The sweetness of both danced on my palate. His repulsive gagging, however, I endured with patience.

My target focused upon me. His hand shook, reaching out in a misplaced plea for aid. Instead, I raised my goblet in a final toast while he turned purple. He glanced towards his spilled glass, and then studied my face with new understanding. With his last remnants of life, he pieced together what I had done. Those little moments made the act so delicious. And as his body collapsed upon the floor, I added one more success to my mental tally.

Murder just never got old.

The scratching of my chair sliding across the uneven floor broke the sudden, serene silence of the room. Driven by curiosity, my boots echoed with each step towards my victim.

The man’s eyes contained a lingering remnant of vibrancy despite the departure of the soul they once served. White froth percolated from his open mouth, overflowing the orifice to trail down his neck. It was not an honorable death, but my client had paid for certainty, not dignity.

Curious, I examined the large ruby on the victim’s pointer finger which matched the client’s description — an ornate setting with a coat of arms on one side of the gem and a mare’s head on the opposite. The worked piece of silver did not seem important enough to procure my service, but as a professional, I had not asked for justification, only payment. Material significance so often motivated patrons to fill my coffers. I recognized the inherent sin, but I never judged a client’s reason. I was not qualified to cast the first stone.

I did admire my victim. After all, he was a fellow criminal. I believed his talents as a thief must have been remarkable to pilfer the ring unnoticed from the finger of its owner. I often boasted of my own sleight of hand, but admittedly, I could not accomplish such a feat. Though in my defense, assassin clearly trumped thief.

After donning the black leather gloves concealed within the lacings of my bodice, I returned to business. I pushed the tipped chair out of the way and pulled on the ring, but my motion abruptly halted.

Caught at the knuckle, the gem did not budge.

I stared at his limp hand, dumbfounded, before a flame of focus burst through my body. How I craved and savored that rush. That high, and the feeling of power, motivated my ghastly craft all those years. Despite the stress, I never lost control of my…

 

About the author

K.M. Pohlkamp is a blessed wife, proud mother of two young children, and an aerospace engineer who works in Mission Control. She operated guidance, navigation and control systems on the Space Shuttle and is currently involved in development of upcoming manned-space vehicles. A Cheesehead by birth, she now resides in Texas for her day job and writes to maintain her sanity. Her other hobbies include ballet and piano. K.M. has come a long way from the wallpaper and cardboard books she created as a child. Her debut historical fiction novel, Apricots and Wolfsbane, was published by Filles Vertes Publishing.

Links:

Watch the book trailer

Visit GoodReads and see what others are saying

Amazon.com

Amazon UK

Google Play 

***

Many thanks for some great opening lines.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny

End of the Month: From Harry Corbett to MASH via David Nivan

I’m never sure why, seeing as it’s only two or three days shorter than the other months of the year, but February goes to fast. It always feels at least a week shorter than all the other months.

The plus side of this, is that Nell Peters is back already with her latest End of the Month blog.

Over to you Nell…

Hello, and top of the morning to y’all. Come on in out of the cold and grab a hot beverage to warm your cockles, so to speak.

The actor, Harry Corbett was born in Burma on this day in 1925, the youngest of seven children. His father, George, was serving with the British army as part of the Colonial defence forces, but the boy was sent back to England aged just eighteen months to be brought up by his aunt, after his mother died of dysentery. As an adult, Corbett enlisted in the Royal Marines during World War II, serving on the heavy cruiser HMS Devonshire. Is there such a thing as a light cruiser, I wonder? In 1945, he was posted to the Far East, and reportedly killed two Japanese soldiers while engaged in hand-to-hand fighting. Yikes.

Back in Blighty, after a spot of desertion, he trained as a radiographer before moving into acting, initially in repertory – it was then he added the middle initial H to his name, to avoid confusion with the guy who found fame with his hand stuck up Sooty’s bottom. If asked, he would claim that the H stood for ‘hennyfink’. What a wag. Although acknowledged as an accomplished Shakespearean actor, Corbett was best known for his role as Harold Steptoe, a rag and bone man who lived with his irascible father, Albert (played by Wilfrid Brambell, who was actually only thirteen years older than Harry) in a dilapidated house, attached to their junkyard and stabling for the cart horse, Hercules. The series ran from 1962 until the Christmas special in 1974.

Must have been interesting on set, as Corbett smoked sixty fags a day (until his first heart attack in 1979, when he cut down to twenty), and Brambell was an alcoholic and gay – at a time when homosexual acts were against the law (decriminalised 1967). It was a second heart attack that killed Harry H in March 1982, aged fifty-seven – he was survived by his second wife, a son and daughter, Susannah, who played Ellie, Peter Pascoe’s wife in Dalziel and Pascoe. Outliving Corbett by almost three years, Brambell died of cancer aged seventy-two, in January 1985.

Over in the Soviet Union, it was on 28th February 1953 that Joseph Stalin had a pow-wow with Beria, Bulganin, Khrushchev & Malenkov – it must have been quite a knees-up because the very next day Stalin suffered a massive stroke, which killed him four days later. Perhaps they were celebrating the births of American wrestler Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat, (real name Richard Blood); Ingo Hoffmann, Brazilian racing driver; and Paul Krugman, American economist and New York Times columnist, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2008?

Mention deoxyribonucleic acid – the molecule that contains the genetic blueprint for cell reproduction – more commonly known as DNA, and most of us could excavate the names Watson and Crick from the memory bank. Officially, it was on this day in Cambridge, also in 1953, that the two scientists were credited with the discovery of the chemical structure of DNA. However, it was at King’s College London, that Rosalind Franklin obtained an image of DNA using X-ray crystallography (the science of determining the arrangement of atoms in crystalline solids), an idea first broached by Maurice Wilkins.

Franklin’s image, known as Photograph 51, was taken by Raymond Gosling in May 1952, when he was working as a PhD student under her supervision. It provided critical evidence in identifying the structure of DNA and was thus a vital contribution to James Watson and Francis Crick’s creation of their famous two-strand, or double-helix, model. There is some doubt that Franklin gave her permission for the image to be used. Of the four main players – Watson, Crick, Wilkins and Rosalind herself, she was the only one with a background in chemistry, and the only one who did not share the Nobel Prize (Physiology/Medicine) in 1962. She died far too young of ovarian cancer on 16th April 1958 – my sister’s first birthday.

Raymond Massey

Had he not died in 1995, Sir Stephen Harold Spender CBE would be loading his birthday cake with a whopping one hundred and ten candles today. He was an English poet, novelist, critic and essayist who highlighted themes of social injustice and the class struggle in his work, which came to prominence during the 1930s. He was big pals with WH Auden and Cecil Day-Lewis – they met as Oxford undergraduates, even though Auden and Spender had both been pupils at Gresham’s School in Norfolk – and along with Christopher Isherwood and Louis MacNeice, they were sometimes referred to as the Oxford Poets. Right now, I am getting nowhere fast with this and I can relate to a line in one of Spender’s poems: As I sit staring out of my window…

Who can remember the coronation ceremony of Liu Bang as Emperor Gaozu of Han on the last day of Feb 202BC, which initiated four centuries of the Han Dynasty’s rule over China? No takers? OK, what about the first boat load of gold rush prospectors arriving in San Francisco from the east coast in 1849 – the very same day that jockey Tom Cunningham won the eleventh Grand National riding a horse called Peter Simple? Still no? I’ll make it easy-peasy then – we all know that when he was sworn in, in 1952 (Charles) Vincent Massey became the first Canadian-born person to serve as Canada’s Governor General since the Canadian Confederation, eight days after his sixty-fifth birthday. We do, don’t we? He was the eighteenth GG, by the way.

Vincent’s younger brother, Raymond Hart Massey, also briefly dabbled on the sidelines of politics when he appeared in a 1964 television advertisement in support of Republican presidential nominee, Barry Goldwater. Massey denounced incumbent US President Lyndon B Johnson’s strategies during the Vietnam War, suggesting that Goldwater had the nous to win the war quickly. Johnson won a landslide victory and the war trundled on until 30th April 1975, when Saigon fell. Taking the hint, perhaps, Raymond went into acting, becoming a US citizen along the way. His film appearances were many and varied and he was no stranger to the TV screen during the 1950s and 60s, most notably playing Dr Gillespie to Richard Chamberlain’s eponymous role as Dr Kildare.

Massey married three times. His high-profile estrangement and divorce from second wife, actress Adrianne Allen, was the inspiration for Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin’s script for the film Adam’s Rib (1949), starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. In a You Couldn’t Make It Up scenario, Massey went on to marry the lawyer who represented him in court, Dorothy Whitney, while his by then former wife, Allen, married the opposing lawyer, William Dwight Whitney. But before they fell out, Massey and Allen produced two children, actors Anna and Daniel Massey.

Like his father, Daniel married three times – first, actress Adrienne Corri (only slightly spooky to pick someone almost sharing his mother’s name); second, actress Penelope Wilton (Calendar Girls (2003), Shaun of the Dead (2004), Pride & Prejudice (2005), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012), The BFG (2016) and all six series of Downton Abbey – to name but a few); and third wife, Linda Wilton, who is one of Penelope’s two sisters. I’m not saying a word.

Incidentally, Raymond Massey died of pneumonia in Los Angeles, California on July 29th 1983, just shy of his eighty-seventh birthday and on the same day as David Niven, with whom he had co-starred in The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) and A Matter of Life and Death (1946). Niven would have been one hundred and nine years old tomorrow.

On the home front, the sale of the family house completed on time – never thought #2 and I would manage it, but it was handed over duly stripped of all furniture etc and decades of accumulated ‘stuff’. There was so much paperwork to go through, I had to ship quite a lot back to Norfolk, as it was far too time consuming to do it all on site with the deadline looming. Luckily, we have a few spare bedrooms here and I have been able to stash it out of sight for the time being – can’t put it off forever, though.

However, sorting out utility bills and cancelling the many, many insurances – any eventuality/act of God was covered, sometimes in duplicate or triplicate I suspect – had to take precedence. As usual, a Power of Attorney complicates matters and there are extra hoops to jump through before anyone will actually deign to talk to you, but I think I can see the teeniest chink of light at the end of the very long tunnel now. The biggest relief was waking up on the Monday morning following completion, and realising I didn’t have to whiz off to the station to embark upon the four hour journey to Twickenham, where I would stay until Friday.

On 28th February 1983, the final (2.5 hour, 256th) episode of M*A*S*H aired in the US. It was entitled, Goodbye, Farewell and Amen – I think I’ll borrow that and add a cheeky Toodles.

Thanks, Jenny – maybe see you in March?

NP

***

Huge thanks Nell. Another corking blog.

See you next time!

Jenny xx

 

What if a child was caught up in the Crusades?

Today I’m delighted to welcome Wayne Turmel to my blog, with a fascinating insight to the development of his protagonist, Lucca le Pou.

Over to you Wayne…

As an author, I’m asked all the time: “Where do your characters come from?” My standard response is, “when a mommy and daddy character love each other very much…. “ but that’s not necessarily true.

In the case of Lucca le Pou, the 10-year-old hero of two of my historical novels, his creation was an interesting look at how an authors—at least my—twisted mind works.

Given that Lucca is a very optimistic and funny character, it started rather bleakly. This photograph was sent around the world at the height of the Syrian Civil War. (To be clear, it was at the height of anyone caring about it, the war continues, and people keep dying.)

This photograph touched me deeply, as it should anyone with a pulse. It got me thinking about children in war time, which led me wonder about children in one of my favorite periods to read about, The Crusades.

By doing what authors do, which is ask “what if?” an awful lot, a character came to mind.

What if… a child was caught up in the Crusades?

What if… that child was a half-French, half-Syrian orphan?

What if… that kid witnessed the Battle of Hattin? (this would spare me writing two separate books, since Hattin is something of an obsession of mine)

What if… I wrote a story aimed at adults but YA audiences, say anyone over 14, could enjoy as well?

What if…  instead of a pathetic, dreary tale of unrelenting sadness, the kid was smart and funny and a survivor? (Think Kipling’s Kim, only during the Crusades)

From those questions, I came up with Lucca the Louse. Lucca is raised in the Hospitaler orphanage (because Templars are so 2017) and takes refuge in the St Lazar leper hospital (because what’s cooler than a whole order of knights who have leprosy?)

I should feel guilty, I suppose, that a young boy’s misery got me thinking about an epic and often funny adventure. But I love Lucca, and so do the readers of Acre’s Bastard, the first book in the series.  I mean, he survives attempted sexual assault, kidnapping and attempted murder and still has time for a good poop joke. The book even starts with his first attempts to see a naked lady. It isn’t all doom and gloom.

With the second book, I had to continue the story because the war continues, and Lucca must flee a dying city. I paired him up with a young Lebanese Druze girl, also an innocent victim of the Holy War, and the two of them risk everything to flee to Tyre. I hope people will love Nahida as much as they do Lucca.

Here’s the synopsis of Acre’s Orphans, out January 21 and available on Amazon worldwide and in good bookstores everywhere:

Ten-Year-old Lucca the Louse narrowly escaped the worst disaster to befall the Kingdom of Jerusalem, but he’s not safe yet. His beloved but doomed city of Acre is about to fall into Saracen hands, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.

Days after his return, he uncovers a plot to rip apart what remains of the Crusader Kingdom. Acre’s only chance lies in the last Crusader stronghold; the port of Tyre.  Carrying an important secret, Lucca—accompanied by a young Lebanese girl, a leprous nun, and a Hospitaler with a dark secret—must make his way through bandit-infested wilderness to seek help. Will he find assistance for those left behind, or will it be too little, too late?

This exciting sequel to “Acre’s Bastard” is a rollicking, humorous and thrilling adventure story that stands alone, but adds to the growing legend of Lucca le Pou.

Thanks for the chance to tell my story, and I hope people enjoy the books!

Author Wayne Turmel

www.WayneTurmel.com

@Wturmel

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Wayne-Turmel/e/B00J5PGNWU/

 

 

Many thanks for blogging with me to day Wayne,

Happy reading everyone,

Jen x

Publication Day: Edward’s Outlaw

It’s time to raise a glass- or a large mug of black coffee in my case.

The third book in The Folville Chronicles launches today!

Edward’s Outlaw follows hot on the heels of The Outlaw’s Ransom and The Winter Outlaw.

Edward's Outlaw

Available in both ebook and paperback formats, you can buy your copy today!

***

Here’s the blurb

January 1330: King Edward III’s England is awash with the corruption and criminal activity that his mother, Queen Isabella had turned a blind eye to- providing it was to her advantage.
Now, having claimed the Crown for his own, Edward is determined to clean up England. Encouraged by his new wife, Philippa of Hainault and her special advisor- a man who knows the noble felons of the countries Midland region very well- King Edward sends a messenger to Roger Wennesley of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire with orders to work with the county sheriff to arrest five of the Folville brothers…including the newly married Robert de Folville.
Robert takes his wife, Mathilda, to Rockingham Castle for her own safety, but no sooner has he left, when a maid is found murdered in the castle’s beautiful guest suite, the Fire Room. The dead girl looks a lot like Mathilda. Was she the target, or is Mathilda de Folville’s life in danger?
Asked to investigate by the sheriff in exchange for him deliberately taking his time in the hunt for her husband, Mathilda soon uncovers far more than murder…a web of carefully laid deception which trails from London, to Derbyshire, and beyond…

***

(Although Edward’s Outlaw can easily be read as a standalone novel, you’ll get a little more out of the story if you’ve read books one and two)

You can find out lots of information about Edwards’ Outlaw, from how it was written to what inspired it, and read an extract or two, by following the launch blog tour which begins today!

Happy reading (and blog hopping)

Jennifer x

 

 

End of the Month: Spooky October

It’s that time again! Yes- really- it is the end of the month again!

So, let’s hand over to Nell Peters to see what she’s uncovered for us this month.

Over to you Nell…

To paraphrase the late David Frost; hello, good morning/afternoon/evening, and welcome y’all. In case you hadn’t noticed, this is the last day of October, aka the day we glance in the mirror and girly-squeal at the scary Halloween mask reflected, only to realise it’s not a mask after all.

There is a film called 31st October – an Indian Hindi historical action drama, written and produced by Harry Sachdeva and directed by Shivaji Lotan Patil.

Based on fact, it focuses on the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination on 31st October 1984 and stars Vir Das, Bollywood actor and comedian (although the funnies might have been in short supply in this script) and Soha Ali Khan, actress. The film had its official screening at the London Indian Film festival 18-20 July 2015, before going on general release fifteen months later.

Reaching the tender age of eighteen today is Willow Camille Reign Smith, who is professionally known as Willow, an American singer, actress and dancer and the daughter of Willard Carroll Smith Jnr and Jada Pinkett Smith. Her dad is of course better known as Will Smith, star of the TV series, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and numerous award-winning films. In my end-of-September blog for Jenny, I mentioned Hungarian author, Frigyes Karinthy’s 1929 hypothesis that all living things and objects are just six degrees of separation away, so that a ‘friend of a friend’ chain can be made to connect any two in a maximum of six steps. Want to take a wild guess at the title of the film in which Smith played his first major dramatic role? A shiny new goldfish (bring your own bowl) for those who guessed it was Six Degrees of Separation (1993).

Frigyes Karinthy

On the very day that Willow was born, Kazuki Watanabe, Japanese musician, guitarist and lead songwriter of the visual kei rock band, Raphael, died aged just nineteen, from an overdose of sedatives. In case you were wondering (as was I) visual kei is a movement among Japanese musicians, characterised by varying amounts of make-up, elaborate hair styles and flamboyant costumes, similar to glam rock. The group were popular, with all their releases entering the top 40 of the Oricon (holding company of a corporate group that supplies statistics and information on music and the music industry in Japan) charts, but disbanded after Kazuki died.

Also breathing their last – though aged a slightly more reasonable eighty-five years – on this day in 2000, was American journalist and screenwriter, Ring Lardner Jnr (born Ringgold Wilmer Lardner), who was blacklisted by film studios during the Red Scare of the late 1940s and 1950s. A member of the US communist party since 1937, he moved to Hollywood to be a publicist and script doctor before writing his own material. In 1947 he became one of the highest paid scriptwriters in Hollywood when he signed a contract with 20th Century Fox for $2,000 a week (equivalent to approx $22,000 a week today). A short-lived claim to fame, however, as later that year he was called before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) to account for his left-wing views, two days after he was sacked by Fox. Along with nine others, collectively known as the Hollywood Ten, he cited the First Amendment and refused to answer their questions, but the HUAC and appeal court were having none of it; Lardner was sentenced to twelve months in prison and fined $1,000 for contempt.

Nine of the Hollywood Ten

Blacklisted in Hollywood, he moved to England for a time where he wrote under several pseudonyms for TV series, including (and this will interest Jenny, aficionado of all things Lincoln green) The Adventures of Robin Hood. After the blacklist was lifted in 1965, Lardner worked on scripts for some high profile films, including M*A*S*H (1970), which earned him an Academy Award (his second) for Best Adapted Screenplay. Perhaps as some sort of posthumous tribute, an episode of Robin Hood first broadcast by the Beeb in December 2007, was entitled Lardner’s Ring.

Sticking with 31/10/2000; that was the day Soyuz TM-31 became the first Soyuz spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station (ISS). Launched from Russia, it carried the three members of Expedition 1 – Russian cosmonauts Yuri Gidzenko and Sergei Krikalev, with American William Shepherd – who collectively formed the first long-term ISS crew.

Lowering the tone as usual, I thought you might like to know there are two toilets aboard the ISS, both of Russian design, which have waste and hygiene compartments using fan-driven suction systems. Astronauts first fasten themselves to the toilet seat, which is equipped with spring-loaded restraining bars to ensure a good seal. A lever operates a powerful fan and a suction hole opens to allow the air stream to carry waste away. Solid matter is collected in individual bags, which are deposited in an aluminium container, and stored for disposal when full. Liquid waste is evacuated via a hose connected to the front of the toilet, with anatomically-correct urine funnel adapters attached to the tube, so that men and women can use the same toilet. Urine is collected and channelled to the Water Recovery System, where it is recycled into drinking water. Fancy that. Actually, I’m not sure I do …

On the last day of October 1941, the destroyer USS Reuben James (named after a boatswain’s mate famous for his heroism in the First Barbary War) was torpedoed by a German U-boat off Iceland, killing more than one hundred sailors – the first US Navy vessel sunk by enemy action in WWII. This was on the same day that, after fourteen years of chipping away, Mount Rushmore was completed.

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is a massive sculpture carved into Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. The monument took shape under the direction of Gutzon Borglum and his son Lincoln, the sculpture’s 60’ high granite faces depicting presidents George Washington (1st), Thomas Jefferson (3rd), Theodore Roosevelt (25th) and Abraham Lincoln (16th). The site also features a museum with interactive exhibits.

It was historian Doane Robinson who came up with the idea of carving the likenesses of famous people into the hills to promote tourism. His initial plan was to feature American West heroes like Lewis and Clark (led the first expedition across the western terrain of the US), Red Cloud (one of the most important leaders of Oglala Lakota, part of the Great Sioux Nation), and William Frederick – Buffalo Bill – Cody (scout, bison hunter, and showman), but Borglum decided the sculpture should have a broader appeal and chose the four presidents.

Buffalo Bill

Another mount; the Mountjoy Prison helicopter escape happened forty-five years ago today, when three IRA volunteers flew out of the Dublin jail, aboard a hijacked Alouette II helicopter, which landed in the exercise yard. With IRA Chief of Staff, Seamus Twomey doing a five-stretch and senior republicans, J. B. O’Hagan and Kevin Mallon also being incarcerated in Mountjoy, the command structure was seriously depleted. So, a plan involving explosives that had already been smuggled into the prison (how?!) was hatched; a hole would be blown in a door (anyone else’s thoughts drifting to Michael Caine/The Italian Job? Just me, then) which would give the prisoners access to the exercise yard. From there, they would scale a rope ladder thrown over the exterior wall and bundle into a getaway car, driven by members of the IRA’s Dublin Brigade. Alas (or not!), the plan failed when the prisoners couldn’t gain access to the yard and the rope ladder was spotted.

Back to the drawing board, Plan B involved the helicopter, with pilot Captain Thompson Boyes flying under threat of having his head blown off by the firearms trained upon him. In the exercise yard prisoners were watching a football match, when shortly after 3:35 pm the helicopter swung in to land, with Kevin Mallon directing the pilot using semaphore. (Seriously? If I wrote that in a book, my editor would throw it out as way too far-fetched!) Prison officers on duty initially took no action because they believed the helicopter carried the Minister for Defence, Paddy Donegan, who presumably was in the habit of dropping in for tea. It was only when prisoners surrounded the eight guards present and fights broke out, that the officers realised an escape was in progress. Twomey, Mallon and O’Hagan boarded the helicopter and it took off – apparently in the confusion one officer shouted ‘Close the gates, close the f***ing gates!’ Doh! The escapees landed at a disused racecourse in Baldoyle, where they transferred to a hijacked taxi and were whisked away to safe houses.

Mallon enjoyed his freedom for the shortest time, as he was recaptured in December 1973, O’Hagan early in 1975 and Twomey in December 1977. In the aftermath, all IRA prisoners were transferred to maximum security Portlaoise Prison, and to discourage any further getaway attempts the perimeter was guarded by troops from the Irish Army. And shutting the stable door etc, wires were erected over the prison yard to prevent helicopters landing in future – so presumably poor Paddy Donegan had to get the bus with the rest of the hoi polloi.

On the home front, the OH and #3 son returned safe and sound from their jolly in South Africa, vowing to go back next year and take #4 with them. Fine by me, as I really enjoyed the peace! On their penultimate night they’d booked an hotel near Cape Town on line and had a long drive through filthy weather/bad visibility/electric storms to get there, relying heavily on sat nav. Arriving very late, son gave his name – Piers – at reception and was told they were expected. Shown to a sumptuous twin, with patio doors opening onto a veranda and the beach, they were much impressed by the value they were getting for their money – until they went to pay the bill next morning and were charged considerably more than they had been quoted. They were in the wrong place and the booking had in fact been made by someone called Pierre who didn’t turn up, his travels presumably thwarted by the weather conditions. What are the chances? I gather OH and #3 weren’t overly worried, as it was such a great room.

#3 has since done a lot of to-ing and fro-ing UK/India/Thailand and it’s even more difficult than normal to keep up with where he’s currently hanging his hat. He has some more leave due early in November and will hopefully be around for our annual combined Halloween/Bonfire Night party, delayed for his attendance in his guise as everyone’s favourite uncle.

Favourite Uncle!

I have sold the family home in Twickenham to my parents’ neighbour, who offered my dad an obscene amount of money many years ago and when refused, bought the house next door. It’s strange to think that it will no longer be ‘our’ house after so long, but now that my mother is in residential care (she’s not been thrown out yet!), it’s impossible to justify paying those whopper fees, plus meet the expenses entailed in keeping a large, empty house going.

I say empty, but of course the place is filled with possessions accrued during sixty-odd years of marriage – including a zillion dust-collecting figurines of varying value, so beloved by my mother. We have taken a few favourite pieces to decorate her room in the home, along with family photographs etc, but that has hardly made a dent. What does one do with so many complete dinner services, tea sets and ornate crystal glasses for any drink you care to name? Some of the furniture will be sold, some given away – it may take a while to clear the place! Then there’s the garages and outbuildings, the garden …

Yikes! Best make a start!

Thanks, Jen and toodles everyone! NP

***

Good luck with all that sorting and moving hun!

Thanks again for a fabulous blog.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

 

 

End of the month: A glimpse of autumn

OK, so who said it could be almost September already? No one asked me! I have far too much to get done this year for it to be time to knock on September’s door.

However! As it is the end of the month, I’m flinging the door open wide to the wonderful Nell Peters.

Over to you Nell…

Guten Morgen meine Freunde, and anyone else who just happens to be passing. Here we are at the end of August – how on earth did that happen? The school summer holidays are all but over and we are standing at the edge of the slippery slope that descends into cold weather, short daylight hours, Halloween, Bonfire Night and *whispers* Christmas. Yikes!

There is already Christmas stuff in our local Tesco …But before we start hanging up our stockings and buying earplugs as protection against Slade, there’s the OH’s birthday to celebrate. On the day he was born (1961), the Dutch National Ballet was formed through a merger of Netherlands Ballet (Dance Director, Sonia Gaskell) and Amsterdam Ballet (Dance Director, Mascha ter Weeme). This put an end to the rivalry or ‘ballet war’ between the two companies – loaded tutus at dawn? OK, anyone else harbouring a stereotypical mental image of prima ballerinas noisily pirouetting their stuff across the stage in wooden clogs, with a tulip clenched firmly between their teeth? That’ll just be me, then …My paternal grandfather, Wilfred, was also born on this day way back in 1897 – he was the one who lied about his age to become a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps in 1914. Wilfred shared his date of birth with American actor, Frederic March, born in Racine, Wisconsin, who appeared in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Best Years of Our Lives, as well as German writer and poet, Marianne Bruns, born in Leipzig. They died in 1966, 1975 and 1994 respectively, so Marianne walks away a clear winner of the longevity prize. Also on this day in 1897, British General Horatio Kitchener’s army occupied Berber, North of Khartoum, and Thomas Edison patented the Kinetoscope (kinetographic camera), the first movie projector. Say cheese!

by Bassano, proof print, 29 July 1910

August 31st 1976 wasn’t a good day for either Mexico (their currency, the peso, was devalued) or George Harrison, when Judge Richard Owen of the United States District Court found him guilty of ‘subconsciously’ copying the 1963 Chiffons’ tune, He’s So Fine  and releasing it as My Sweet Lord in November 1970. The record reached #1, making George the first Beatle to have a solo chart-topper, but with nasty terms like ‘copyright infringement’ and ‘plagiarism’ thrown into the legal mix, the shine may have faded somewhat from that achievement.

Perhaps musical composition (and this is pure hypothesis on my part, since I am tone deaf!) bears similarity to writing a novel, in that everything is to a certain extent a re-mix? The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations (1895) is a list compiled by Georges Polti, to categorise every dramatic situation that might occur in a story or performance. He analysed Greek classical texts, plus classical and contemporary French works, along with a few non-French authors. In the book’s introduction, Polti claims to be continuing the work of Carlo Gozzi, who also suggested thirty-six basic plots.

However, in 1965, Kurt Vonnegut submitted a thesis to Chicago University, arguing that there are in fact only six scenarios that form the foundation of literary ‘shapes’. Much to his great annoyance (fair enough – anyone who has ever laboured over a thesis knows how much blood, sweat and hair-tearing goes into it) his work was rejected. But years later the dust was blown from the manuscript and the premise used as a springboard for researchers at the University of Vermont, who fed 1,737 stories from Project Gutenberg – all English-language fiction texts – through a programme that analysed the language for emotional content. They concluded there are ‘six core trajectories which form the building blocks of complex narratives’. Way da go, Kurt!

On this day in 1730, amusingly-named Gottfried Finger (sounds painful) died. You will all know he was a Moravian Baroque composer and virtuoso musician, the viol (of the viola/violin family) being his weapon of choice – many of his compositions were written for the instrument. Finger was born in Olomouc, the modern-day Czech Republic, and worked for the court of James II of England before becoming a freelance composer. Sometimes known as Godfrey, he also wrote operas and entered a contest in London to adapt William Congreve’s The Judgement of Paris as such, but after managing only fourth place he grabbed his bow and resin in a huff and moved to Germany, where he died in Mannheim.

Gottfried was preceded in death by one Ole Worm (snigger), Danish physician and historian, who breathed his last on this day in 1654, aged sixty-six. Ole was the son of Willum Worm (it just gets better!) a wealthy man and mayor of Aarhus, and Dorothea Fincke, the daughter of friend and colleague, Thomas Fincke. Thomas was a mathematician and physicist who invented the terms ‘tangent’ and ‘secant’, while teaching at the University of Copenhagen for more than sixty years. I really hope he was given a gold watch for long service. To give Ole his due, while he was personal physician to King Christian IV of Denmark, he courageously remained in Copenhagen to care for the sick, during an epidemic of the Black Death. Olé, Ole! So sorry …

More recently, Walter William Bygraves – better known as Max – died in Australia on this day in 2012. Born into poverty in Rotherhithe, London in 1922, he worked his way up to become a comedian, singer, actor and variety performer who had his own TV show. He appeared in the Royal Variety Show twenty times, as well as hosting Family Fortunes. Bit of a lad, was our Max – not only did he have three children with his wife, Blossom (real name Gladys), he added another three, born as the result of extra-marital affairs.

Exactly a year after Max, David Paradine Frost died of a heart attack while enjoying a life on the ocean wave, aboard the MV Queen Elizabeth – he’d been booked as a guest speaker. Born the third child and only son of a Methodist minister, Frost took the well-trodden Cambridge/Footlights route and, after graduating with a Third in English, went on to develop a hugely varied career in the media. He first came to the viewing public’s notice in the UK when chosen to host the satirical programme That Was The Week That Was in 1962, and his popularity led to work in US TV, plus a series of high-profile interviews, including Richard Nixon. A post mortem revealed that Frost suffered from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a hereditary heart disease which affects roughly one in five hundred people – sadly, it also killed his oldest son, Miles, in 2015, when he was just thirty-one.

On the domestic front, August has been a time of upheaval and life-changing decisions. I can see a chink of light at the end of an eight year long tunnel, which began when my dad had a minor stroke. At that time, both my parents had already started to show obvious signs of dementia but weren’t diagnosed with the vascular variety until four years later. It was all downhill after that; even with some family members helping out and five visits a day from private care providers, we staggered from one crisis to the next.

After my dad died last year, my mother inevitably spent some time on her own and to counteract this as much as possible, #2 son – bless him – stayed at the house Mon-Fri, supplementing the care visits. This still left weekends and that’s when I would spend hours on end gawping at images from the CCTV system we had installed for my mother’s safety. Things came to a head during the recent hot weather, when she started to refuse both liquids and food – she quickly became so weak that she ended up doing an overnighter in hospital on a saline drip. We’d bent over backwards to adhere to both parents’ wish to stay in their own home, but after giving it our very best shot, #2 and I simultaneously decided that we’d come to the end of the road – hard decisions had to be made, and quickly.

Over four days we planned a military operation to get my mother out of the house she hasn’t voluntarily left for a very long time, to begin the four weeks of respite care I’d arranged in a rather swish care home – previously checked out for just such an eventuality. By stealth – the theme tune to Mission Impossible playing on a loop in my head – we got clothes, toiletries and a few personal items together and stashed them out of sight, arranged for one of the visiting carers who has a good rapport with my mother to stay on for extra time to act as escort, along with another carer borrowed from the home, we also borrowed a wheelchair from the home, booked a disabled taxi, managed to grapple through an assessment of needs with one of the care home staff, and crawled to the pub exhausted the evening before Evacuation Day.

Everything went like clockwork on the morning. My mother was sitting in the hallway, all dressed and fed and in the wheelchair – we’d told her she had an appointment and though protesting loud and long that she didn’t want to go, we steadfastly ignored her. It was a case of now or never – and never wasn’t an option. Then just as the taxi was due, there was a car accident at the end of the drive – no one hurt, but damaged vehicles blocking the road caused a huge tailback. When the taxi eventually arrived, the two carers swooped into action and had my mother out of the door and into the back in seconds – amid wails of outrage – and rode shotgun during the short drive to the care home. #2 and I followed at a safe distance, the burden of guilt weighing heavily on our shoulders.

As always, I’m writing this blog in advance so that Jenny has time to do the magic thing with it. There are six days to go until the respite period ends and we will know then if a permanent place can be offered – stressful, nail-biting times. So far, things have gone well. My mother is eating and drinking almost normally and interacting with others and staff and has had quite a few visitors. It’s a well-run, friendly home with a good atmosphere – her room has a lovely view of the gardens and one day she may even venture out there. The fees are eye-watering, but she has round-the-clock care from brilliant staff, in a safe and secure setting – you can’t put a price on that.

Wish me luck!

Thanks for having me, Jenny. Toodles.

NP

***

GOOD LUCK!!

Guilt is always such a nightmare- especially when you’ve done the right thing.

Thanks again for such a fab blog,

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

 

Hibiscus Tea and Temples: Wind Across the Nile

Today I’m delighted to welcome Chrissie Parker to my blog. I urge you to read this fascinating post all about her love of Egypt- a passion which lead her to write the novel, Wind Across the Nile.

Why not pull up a chair and have a read?

Over to you Chrissie…

I’ve a passion for ancient history, especially when it relates to Egypt. I try to impart to people what an amazing place it is but words never seem to wholly do it justice, I always say, the only way to learn about a country is to go and see it for yourself. Tourism makes up a large percentage of Egypt’s income and in recent years tourist numbers have been lower than normal due to a variety of reasons.

When I talk about Egypt I’m aware of its struggles as a country and the challenges it faces daily, but I’m more aware of what a truly incredible place it is to explore. Egypt’s filled with endless culture and history and modern day life sits neatly alongside ancient sites and monuments that are thousands of years old. Contrary to some reports Egyptian’s are friendly, accommodating people who will welcome you with open arms and make you feel at home, and now couldn’t be a better time to visit. Due to recent low tourist numbers, some sites that would usually be crowded and sometimes difficult to see, have been relatively quiet, giving visitors the chance to spend more time there and really absorb their surroundings, making them feel as though they’re the first people to have stepped into that temple or tomb for generations.

We all know about the famous sites such as the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza, but there are many more wonderful places to see in Egypt. There’s the fantastic mortuary temple at Medinet Habu in Luxor, that has some of the best coloured reliefs and accounts of Egyptian life I’ve ever seen. The temple of Isis at Philae is a beautiful temple that only stands today thanks to rescue work undertaken many years ago by UNESCO that saved it from flooding and being lost forever. If you have the time you could journey to the edge of Egypt itself to gaze upon the awe inspiring Abu Simbel, home to two temples built by the greatest of Egyptian rulers, Ramses II. It’s a sight that just takes your breath away and leaves you wanting more. The list is just endless, and with so many temples, tombs and other ancient sites spread throughout the country, visitors are spoilt for choice.

Egypt also has many museums that house its huge collection of ancient treasures. The largest is the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, (which is now in the process of moving to the Giza Plateau under the new name of the Grand Egyptian Museum) it contains over a hundred thousand artefacts from across Egypt as well as the impressive collection from Tutankhamun’s tomb, and items belonging to the heretic King Akenaten. If, like me, you have a penchant for the more gory side of Egyptian life you can gaze upon a well preserved collection of mummified bodies of Royalty past in the well laid out mummy room. In Luxor there are two museums, the aptly named Luxor Museum housing a multitude of treasures discovered during excavations in Luxor and Karnak, and the Mummification Museum where every item is dedicated to the ancient art of preserving the dead for the afterlife, including tools and mummies.

If you get bored with the history, and I promise you won’t, you could meander your way through the many shopping streets and bazaars bartering for some interesting souvenirs, or beautiful hand crafted goods, whilst accepting a friendly stall-holders hospitality of a glass of hibiscus tea. If this isn’t to your taste, the luxurious Winter Palace Hotel in Luxor is an ideal place to have a break for a relaxing lunch overlooking the Nile. There are so many incredible things to see and do in Egypt, whether you choose to visit Cairo, Luxor, or venture further south to Aswan. You could even combine all three by leisurely cruising down the Nile on a Dahabiyya.

So, when considering your next holiday, why not try Egypt? There’s more to see and do than you could ever fit into one visit, and you’ll be welcomed with open arms and feel at home in a country that was just made to be discovered. If that hasn’t quite persuaded you yet then just imagine stepping onto a felucca to sail serenely along the river Nile as the beauty of Egyptian life passes you, whilst the sun slowly sets to leave you with nothing more than a bright shining moon and twinkling stars to guide you gently back to shore.

***

Blurb for Wind Across the Nile

Can she survive where her ancestors failed?
Suffering with grief after the tragic death of her family, Cora Thomas flees to Egypt, desperate to escape the overwhelming loss.
In Luxor, she meets gruff Egyptologist Nick Foster who wants little to do with her, and his employee Sam, who instantly becomes a much sought-after friend.
As she settles into life along the Nile, discovering the country’s vast history and culture, Cora learns about the contents of an old diary discovered in her parents’ home. As the diary’s story unfolds, it reveals hardship, love, tragedy and a potentially life-threatening family feud spanning generations.

From the rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands to the ruinous sands of the Egyptian desert, Wind across the Nile is a story of unbreakable family bonds, adversity and self-preservation.

Buy links:

Kindle – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wind-Across-Nile-Chrissie-Parker-ebook/dp/B07GC1WTPT/ref

Paperback – https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/191640250X/ref

 

Bio

Chrissie lives in Devon, UK, with her husband. She has published six books including Integrate and Temperance (books one and two of The Moon Series), Among the Olive Groves, Nabataea and The Secrets, a collection of Poems and Short Stories. Wind Across the Nile is her sixth book. Other work includes articles for the Bristolian, The Huffington Post and The Artist Unleashed. Chrissie also writes regularly for the Zakynthos Informer. Chrissie’s poem Maisie was performed at the 100 poems by 100 women event at the Bath International Literary Festival in 2013. In 2016 Among the Olive Groves won an historical fiction award in the Summer Indie Book Awards. Chrissie is passionate about Ancient History, Archaeology and Travel, and has completed two Egyptology courses and an Archaeological Techniques course with Exeter University.

To find out more about Chrissie visit her website www.chrissieparker.com

Social Media links:

Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/ChrissieParkerAuthor

Twitter – https://twitter.com/Chrissie_author

Blog – https://chrissieparkerauthor.wordpress.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/chrissieparkerauthor

Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/ChrissieAuthor/

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/27035030-chrissie-parker

***

Many thanks Chrissie. fantastic blog.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 

 

 

 

 

End of the Month: July in a Nutshell

Another month has zipped by, and so Nell Peters is here with her popular roundup of events. A belated happy birthday to Nell (who shares the same birthday as me), and thanks, as ever, for another fab post.

Over to you…

Good day! Both Jenny and I are a year older since we last met, and while the Football World Cup didn’t actually come home, sales of waistcoats rocketed. That’s July in a nutshell and I’m not even going to mention tennis or Donald Trump …

Someone celebrating their birthday this fine day is JK (Joanne Kathleen, as I’m sure you all know) Rowling, who clocks up fifty-three years. The Harry Potter series of books hit the shelves in June 1997, with publication of HP and the Philosopher’s Stone, and the last (seventh), HP and the Deathly Hallows was released in July 2007. Rowling’s imagined biography for her main character saw him born on 31st July 1980 in Godric’s Hollow, whereas the actor Daniel Radcliffe, who played Harry P (again, as you all know – I have a talent for stating the obvious), was born in Queen Charlotte’s Hospital, London – where sons #2, 3 and 4 were born – on 23rd July 1989, about nine weeks after #3. I’m sure if Daniel’s mother had known then the significance of the last day of the month, she’d have held on. In keeping with the 31/7 theme, the play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne, with contributions by JKR, was published worldwide at midnight on this day two years ago. And what do you give the woman who can have anything she wants for her birthday? I like to think at least one of her friends will give her some tasteful Harry Pottery. I’m so sorry …

A name caught my eye as I was researching people born on 31st July and immediately appealed to my pathetic sense of humour – take a posthumous bow Arthur (John) Daley; not the ducker and diver, but an American sports writer and journalist born in New York City in 1904. He wrote for The New York Times (his only employer) for almost fifty years, producing over 10,000 columns with an estimated twenty million words – and in 1956 was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for his troubles. He reported on the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, and when he was chosen to repeat that role in Berlin in 1936, he became the first Times correspondent to be sent overseas for a sports assignment. In later years, he covered the Olympics in Rome, Tokyo, Mexico City and Munich. Daley lived in Old Greenwich, Connecticut with his wife, Betty and their four children, two of whom followed in his footsteps to become journalists on the Times. He died of a heart attack on January 3rd 1974, as he was walking to work, and is buried in the ambitiously-named Gate of Heaven Cemetery, New York.

Poor old Arthur didn’t make the Montreal Olympics in 1976, but I did. I managed to miss all of the long, hot summer that cooked the UK that year, but Montreal summers are always hot, with crippling degrees of humidity because the city is a series of islands. Being around three months pregnant and very sickly, I quite regretted shelling out for a ticket for the opening ceremony, as I sat through the rather lacklustre proceedings, feeling like death.

Montreal had experienced the coldest winter on record during 1970/71 (152 inches of snow, yikes!), followed by a period of violent political unrest. The terrorist Front du Libération du Quebec (FLQ) exploded ninety-five bombs in the city – the largest of which blew up the Stock Exchange – and kidnapped the British Consul, James Cross, along with the Minister of Labour, Pierre Laporte. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau responded by imposing martial law, and armoured personnel carriers patrolled the streets, with troops detaining hundreds of people without charge. The FLQ released Cross but murdered Laporte, and the city was a pretty scary place to be for a very long time – even when I arrived in ’74 – particularly if you spoke with a British accent.

You might think, then, that the Games of the XXI Olympiad – to give them their official title – would be embraced as an opportunity to turn a corner, to go some way to ease the tragedy of the 1972 Munich Olympics, and demonstrate that sport could transcend all. After all, the Games were the first to be hosted by Canada and, to date, the only summer Olympics held there. But no; multiple strikes, organised corruption, theft and sabotage, along with rocketing costs, left the city with a debt of (Canadian) $1.6bn which would take decades to clear, not to mention an unfinished stadium. And to add to the fiasco, as the Games were about to open, twenty-two African nations withdrew, because the International Olympic Committee refused to ban New Zealand for sending the All Blacks rugby team to tour in apartheid South Africa.

But the British did turn up, and one of the women toddling around the stadium, dodging cement mixers and wearing the rather hideous uniform – red skirt suit, white shoes, bag, scarf that looked like a hangman’s noose, topped off with what one of my grandmothers would have described as a muck-spreading hat – was Princess Anne (without her horse, in case you were wondering?)

My only claim to fame is that I’ve watched the Olympic Torch procession up close and personal twice – first in Montreal in torrential rain and then in sunny Norfolk in 2012, prior to the London Olympics. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Zara Phillips won a silver medal on her horse, High Kingdom in the Equestrian Eventing final on 31/7/12. This was on the same day that two car bombs killed twenty-one people in Baghdad and a second power grid failure in India in two days left 670 million people without power. That’s an awful lot of redundant toasters.

I doubt Zara ever met our niece, who was a volunteer chauffeur during the London Games – as a teacher she was on summer hols and didn’t have to take leave. Not speaking a word of Russian, she was the perfect choice to ferry around a Russian ambassador, who didn’t speak a word of English. What a jovial pairing that must have been (he did, however, manage to invite her to some lavish official function – an offer she tactfully and wisely refused.) Worst of all, she had to wear the awful pink and purple clobber assigned to all staff and volunteers. Who ‘designs’ these outfits, I wonder – colour blind orang-utans with no dress sense?

As I write this in advance, I hope I’m not tempting fate by mentioning that this July has brought hot temperatures and little rain to the UK. And some record heat levels were recorded elsewhere in 1994. It was 39.3°C in Pleschen, East-Germany on this day; Arcen Limburg, Holland recorded an average over the month of 22.0°C – the warmest July since 1783; and Stockholm averaged 21.5°C, their hottest July since 1855. Phew!

Loretta Young

Lots of weddings have taken place on 31st July over the years; American actress Loretta Young married advertising executive Tom Lewis (1940); singer-songwriter and musician Ray Charles married Eileen Williams (1951); singer Natalie Cole married songwriter Marvin Yancy (1976); Bee Gee Robin Gibb married author and artist Dwina Murphy (1986); actor Patrick Dempsey married make-up artist Jillian Fink (1999); Lady Davina Windsor married surfer and the first Maori to marry into the Royal Family, Gary Lewis at the chapel in Kensington Palace in London (2004); and then a double whammy in 2010 when singer-songwriter Alicia Keys married award-winning rapper Swizz Beatz in Corsica, and Chelsea Clinton, daughter of former US President Bill and wife Hillary, married investment banker Marc Mezvinsky in New York.

We had a family wedding on 31st July 2015, when our oldest niece (aforementioned Olympic chauffeur) tied the knot in Stratford-upon-Avon, from whence her OH hailed. It was a lovely old country house-type venue and no expense was spared, as the sun shone down on the bridal party and their many guests. Our immediate family had a couple of wardrobe malfunctions in the footwear department – #2 son forgot to pack his smart shoes and so had to wear trainers with his formal suit, but that paled into insignificance compared with #1’s experience. Can you imagine why anyone would order a pair of very expensive shoes off the internet and not try them on to make sure they were a good fit? The first time those shoes met his larger feet was in the hotel room as he and his wife were getting ready for the ceremony – he was giving the bride (his cousin) away because her dad had died four years previously, so no trainer substitutes for him.

The wedding was in two parts – the first conducted by a celebrant in the ruins of an old chapel in the grounds. Son managed to escort the bride from house to chapel wearing the crippling shoes, but they were removed at the first opportunity, and when he walked the bride into the official proceedings within the house, he did so in his brightly-coloured socks. That was also the case for the photographs – at least there were no visible holes. Nor did anyone seem to notice that #2 and 3 were wearing almost-identical blue suits – #2’s newly-purchased and #3’s hired. Despite an enviable honeymoon in the Maldives, the ‘happy couple’ had separated before Christmas. Slightly bizarre that the outfit I purchased far outlasted the marriage …

#2 son’s wedding was booked for 30th July 2011, but, alas, was called off a few months beforehand – there seems to be some sort of wedding curse going on here! That year for us was four funerals and no weddings … Looking on the bright side, cancellation meant the dreaded stag do would not go ahead – they’d planned a long weekend on a canal barge. The very thought of several inebriated young men, staggering around on deck in close proximity to murky waters, turned my blood cold – not helped by my friend Allison insisting on referring to it as The Boat of Death. The wedding may not have happened, but the couple are still together, as are another couple who actually did get married on that day.

Step forward once again Zara Phillips, who wed rugby player, Mike Tindall. Without any nuptials to attend, the OH and I nipped up to Edinburgh for a few days, not realising the wedding would be taking place down the road in Canongate Kirk – in fact, several people staying at our hotel were going to the bunfight. As I hadn’t packed my embarrassing hat, we decided not to gatecrash.

Speaking of which, hat’s me lot – sorry again! Thanks, Jenny!

Toodles!

NP

***

Thanks again Nell!

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

 

 

Opening Lines: Perception & Illusion by Catherine Kullmann

It’s Thursday! That means ‘Opening Lines’ day is upon us. This week I’m handing over to Catherine Kullmann to share the first 500 words of her Regency period novel, Perception and illusion.

Over to you Catherine…

Thank you for hosting me on Opening Lines, Jenny. About me, very briefly; I was born and educated in Dublin. Following a three-year courtship conducted mostly by letter, I moved to Germany where I lived for twenty-five years before returning to Ireland. I have worked in the Irish and New Zealand public services and in the private sector. I am married and have three adult sons and two grandchildren.

It was only after I took early retirement that I was able to fulfil my long-cherished ambition to write fiction. My books are set in the extended Regency period, a fascinating time when the foundations of our modern world were laid but also when male/female double standards reigned supreme. Married women had literally no rights, their very being or legal existence being suspended during marriage. Historical fiction opens a window to the past that helps us understand and value the present and I particularly enjoy the challenge of having my characters behave authentically in their period while making their actions and decisions plausible and sympathetic to today’s readers.

My novels are generally triggered by “what if?”, “what next?”, or “what happened then?” I always want to know what comes after the first happy end. Perception & Illusion begins with a classic damsel in destress scenario. But what happens when two people who hardly know each other marry? Falling in love is easy; building a trusting, true relationship is not so simple, especially when life, as it tends to, gets in the way of love.

Matrimonial Maps charting the perils and pitfalls of the course of true love were popular in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I have taken the chapter headings for Perception & Illusion from the legend of a nineteenth century matrimonial map published in Ireland by lithographers Callaghan Bros. Cork. They throw an interesting light on how ‘inclination’ and ‘amour’ were viewed at the time.

Perception & Illusion: Does a fairy-tale ending always guarantee Happy Ever After?

England 1814: Brought up by her late grandparents after the death of her mother, Lallie Grey is unaware that she is their heiress. When her father realises that he will soon lose control of his daughter’s income, he conspires to marry her off to his crony, Frederick Malvin in exchange for a share of her capital. But Lallie has fallen in love with Hugo Tamrisk, heir to one of the oldest titles in England. When Hugo not only comes to her aid as she flees the arranged marriage, but later proposes to her, all Lallie’s dreams have come true. She readily agrees to marry him at once.

But past events casts long shadows. Hugo resents the interest his three elder sisters take in his new wife and thinks they have turned her against him. And then there is his former mistress, Sabina, Lady Albright. As Lallie finds her feet in the ton, the newly-weds are caught up in a comedy of errors that threatens their future happiness. She begins to wonder if he has regrets and he cannot understand her new reserve. A perfect storm of confusion and misunderstanding leads to a final rupture when Lallie feels she has no choice but to leave. Can Hugo win her back? Will there be a second, real happy end for them?

First 500 words of Perception & Illusion

The Great Ocean of Love represents a period of life that all persons are supposed at some time or another to pass.

Lallie knew the instant she set foot in the house that her father was making one of his rare visits to Alwood. It was difficult to define what had changed. The house was quieter, almost unnaturally so and the atmosphere was charged with a peculiar tension.

“Excuse me, Miss Grey.”

John, their only footman, noiselessly closed the door to the servants’ quarters and carefully steadied a tray of decanters and glasses before carrying it to the library. He wore his best livery. Balancing the tray on one hand, he slowly turned the door knob so that it didn’t squeak. Everyone knew that Mr Grey would not tolerate anything less than perfection and more than one servant had been turned off immediately for failing to meet his standards.

It was as if he needed to assert his position as head of the household, despite the fact that he was the most distant of husbands and fathers, Lallie reflected as she hurried to the schoolroom. Her stepmother was not inclined to stand on ceremony at home, but her father would expect his younger children to make a formal visit to the drawing-room before dinner.

Her half-brother James, who was entertaining his younger sisters with stories of his prowess at cricket during the recent summer half, stood awkwardly at her entrance. He had shot up since they had last seen him and was not yet comfortable in this new body.

“Lallie,” he reddened at his new deep tone, “will you help me later with my neckcloth? You know how my father is.”

She smiled warmly at him. “Of course I will. Beatrice and Eleanor, come with me now, if you please. Once you are ready, you may sit quietly in my room while I change my gown. I’ll come to you then, James and we may all go down together.”

 

Robert Grey was a slim gentleman of medium height, his clothes the epitome of restrained perfection. His curly fair hair was clipped close and brushed forward a la Caesar, a modish style that suggested a nimbus of laurel leaves crowning his high forehead. The head so embellished was habitually cocked a little to one side while the faint curve to his lips spoke of a jest that only he could appreciate.

“Good God,” he said lightly, when his son followed his sisters into the drawing-room. “What have we here? A hobbledehoy?”

“Dear James has grown so much, hasn’t he?” Mrs Grey said fondly, ignoring the boy’s furious blush. “It won’t be long before he’s looking down on you, Robert. He takes after my father, of course.”

Lallie bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself smiling at her father’s petulant expression but something must have betrayed her inner amusement and his gaze swung to her.

“I trust you have been behaving yourself, miss.”

He might have been addressing a recalcitrant…

***

Perception & Illusion is available worldwide from Amazon as eBook and paperback, and is free on Kindle Unlimited.  https://nrnk.co/a/B06XRJ2TF9 

You can find out more about me and my other books, The Murmur of Masks and A Suggestion of Scandal on my website www.catherinekullmann.com . There you can view the Matrimonial Map referred to above and, in My Scrapbook, discover historical facts and trivia relating to the Regency. My Facebook author page is fb.me/catherinekullmannauthor 

***

Thanks Catherine. Sounds great!

Don’t forget to come back next week to rad 500 words from Jacqueline Evans.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

Page 2 of 5

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén