Category Archives: History

Welcome to My November

Jillian here. I hate to say my life is dull compared to some of you. Laurie with her cider making, Jane with her bike/car adventures, Lavada with her hidden state treasures visits, Kit’s gardening and Tricia’s trip all sound so much fun. I’m here trudging along with the day to day grind. Working the day job and writing on a new story for NaNoWriMo on my lunch hour and at home in the evenings. I was supposed to go to New York City in October but my traveling companion had an emergency arise with her mother in law so we postponed.

My older son is in for a visit this weekend so that’s a very nice thing. He’s always a pleasure to be around. We both have long been Liverpool football fans and usually both watch the matches and text each other while they are being played. This week, at 6:30 am central time, we’ll be up and watching in the same room for the first time in ages. Looking forward to it.

I have a new Christmas anthology out that was a lot of fun to write. I am working on this NaNo story that’s a pretty heavy subject matter and is much slower going as the level of angst is pretty deep. My inspiration for the story is the true experiences of Oney Judge. She was a slave owned by George Washington. She escaped and he never freed her -even after his death, so she technically died a slave even though she’d been living in a free state for years at the time she passed away.

The law in Pennsylvania at the time George was president was that if a slave lived there for six months, that slave became free. A lot of owners removed their slaves just before the time ran—even for a day or two—as that act would start the six months running again. George did the same thing.  It was a shameful time in our history and I’m tackling it in this story. It’s clearly not a romance though she does eventually find happiness as the true life lady did. It’s difficult to write how the slaves were treated as less than human. I can only hope I’m doing them justice.

Happy Thanksgiving to those who celebrate. And bless the families who lost loved ones in WWI as we come up on Veterans Day and the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. Would that their sacrifices in the War to end all Wars had been true.

Advertisements

One Final Grab at Summer

We took advantage of some glorious late summer/early autumn weather this month to grab a few days away on the south coast of England. Sidmouth in Devon has been a favourite spot of ours ever since we moved to the south west area well over thirty years’ ago. The town is considered the gateway to Devon’s Jurassic Coast. Sidmouth has amazing beaches situated at the foot of prehistoric red cliffs and surrounded by the beautiful green hills of the Sid Valley. 20181010_160357

During one of our mega walks along the coast we stopped off at Jacob’s Ladder Beach and managed to find enough puff to climb the Ladder itself up to a rather splendid tea shoppe. Afternoon Devon tea served with a huge slab of coffee and walnut cake helped give us the energy to walk back to our hotel.It had some lovely views, too.20181009_180911

The hotel we stayed in was incredibly interesting. Some parts of the hotel date back to the 13th Century and boasts connections with Sir Walter Raleigh and the Prince Regent. It has fabulous gardens where you can sit and enjoy the sunshine under the shade of ancient trees like the one in the photo.20181009_161801 The hotel was one of the first buildings in the UK to achieve listed status in 1951. During renovations in the 1970s, archaeologists discovered some of the oldest structures in the town consisting of a spooky network of ancient tunnels and a domed subterranean chamber. Alas, we didn’t experience any spooky goings-on while we were there, just a lovely relaxing and enjoyable break.

Viv and Me Oct 2018Unfortunately, Ms. Vivvy couldn’t join us, although the hotel was incredibly dog-friendly, because she is not the best traveller. But we know how much she’ll love the beaches, so we’re going to dose her up and take her with us when we visit again over Christmas. She was pleased to see us when we got back, and as the autumn chill set in, she snuggled up with me under our furry blanket. The very best welcome home after a great trip away.

Tourists at Home

Recently, while my mum was staying with us (she lives a couple of hours away on the coast), we decided to spend the day in the nearby Georgian city of Bath. The weather was absolutely glorious, so instead of focusing on shopping as we usually do, we decided to act as tourists for the day and take in some of Bath’s major attractions.

20180611_130351First we visited Bath Abbey. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked past the Abbey and enjoyed various concerts inside it, but acting the tourist I discovered that it’s one of the most visited places in the south west of England, and one of the largest examples of perpendicular Gothic architecture in the country. It was founded in the 7th Century and rebuilt in the 12th and 16th Century, and has been a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of years. In 973, the first king of England, King Edgar, was crowned here, and the service set the precedent for the coronation of all future Kings and Queens of England.

After admiring the Abbey, we decided to treat ourselves to 20180611_124624morning coffee and a Bath bun at the Pump Rooms just across the grounds. Built in 1706, the Pump Rooms form part of the Roman Baths, and still retains some of the original Georgian features. While dining, visitors are treated to music provided by an excellent pianist, and there’s the opportunity to ‘take the waters’ of the hot springs still poured via the original marble vase, now over 200 years old. The waters are said to have curative powers. (sidenote: it tastes foul). 20180611_114031

The Pump Rooms were very fashionable amongst 18th Century high society.  Jane Austen mentioned it in some of her novels “Every creature in Bath was to be seen in the room at different periods of the fashionable hours”, and it provided inspiration for other notable authors, namely Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein while staying nearby.

As we wandered around the city, my mum was fascinated by the living statue street performers. But on such a hot day she was very concerned that they were out so long in the sun without a  break. Knowing my mum’s caring nature, I had the impression that at any moment we would be heading along to the nearest supermarket to order a supply of water for distribution amongst Bath’s outdoor performing artists! 🙂20180611_130335

We thoroughly enjoyed our day as tourists, but we did manage to get some shopping done, too. Why change the habit of a lifetime?

Gallery

Cocoa

This gallery contains 3 photos.

During our cruise one of the ports of call was Limon Costa Rico. During a river tour we stopped and our tour guide came back on board the bus with what looked like a giant nut. He asked if we … Continue reading

Simple Pleasures

I love napkins/serviettes. Not just the crisp white linen varieties found in restaurants and at formal dinners, but the pretty paper versions. They make me happy. I know that sounds daft but sometimes it’s the small things scattered throughout the day that bring a smile. I tend to pick up packs of paper serviettes while out and about, and almost always bring them home from trips away, both home and abroad.

20180525_133724While at lunch last week, Jane (after looking at me sideways when I admitted my fetish for paper napkins) helped me demonstrate a particularly pretty variety used by our eating establishment. And no, we hadn’t imbibed too much wine 🙂

Napkins/serviettes have been around a long time. The first napkins were used by the ancient Romans who used pocket-sized pieces of fabric to mop their brows while eating. The Spartans used lumps of dough to wipe their hands, a practice which morphed into sliced bread used by the ancient Greeks. Paper napkins came into use after the invention of paper in ancient China during the 2nd century BCE.

The practical soon became an art form, too. Elaborate napkin folding techniques date back to the time of Louis XIV of France and to 16th century Florence. Today, it is not uncommon to find intricate folding designs both in restaurants and at private functions.

Who knew the simple napkin/serviette could have such an interesting history?

The more things change…

When AJ and I travel, we almost always carve out time to visit the local art gallery and museum. During a few days in Derbyshire, we found a small art gallery in the city of Derby virtually dedicated to a famous local 18th Century artist, Joseph Wright. We didn’t know much about him or the art of the period, but we were lucky to visit at a quiet time which meant we had what amounted to a private tour of the room housing his paintings.

Our guide was incredibly knowledgable about Joseph Wright and pointed out many things in the paintings that I’m sure we would have missed if we hadn’t had the benefit of his expertise. Here’s a link to the gallery if you’d like to see some of the paintings.

Joseph Wright was considered the first professional painter to express the spirit of the Industrial Revolution and was famous for his use of light and dark in his paintings, especially favoring subjects portrayed by candlelight. Some absolutely stunning work.

But what caught my attention was the artist himself. An amazing creative, with absolutely incredible talent, he was prone to fits of depression and doubts about that talent. During one period of his life, after he had produced paintings such as A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery (see link above), and having received bad reviews for some of his work, he became really disillusioned with himself and his art and stopped working completely.  He wrote:

“I have heard nothing but humiliating observations on my paintings. which have tended much to the inactivity of my pencil for sometime past. What a mere machine I am become. Depressed and renedered useless by a little censure and put into motion again by a little flattery. I really believe my enemies might persuade me I have no pretentions to paint. What a thing have these weak nerves made of me.”

Food for thought for all the creatives out there, because I’m sure we can all understand these feelings. How many times has a bad review or negative response to our own work made us put down pen, pencil, brush, needle, etc? It’s comforting to know that we’re in good company, and that even the greats suffered through periods of procrastination when they felt their work just wasn’t good enough.

Some things, it seems, never change.

Tricia’s website

If You Go Down to the Woods Today…

Which is precisely what I managed to do last month for a few days. With Dave on the mend following his op, my friend Avis and I slipped away by coach, visiting the beautiful county of Warwickshire, England for a “Bluebell Walk”. The bluebells were out early this year, and are stunning. Knowing this and when combined with a touch of literary culture, Avis and I we were in for a treat.

Anne Hathaway’s Cottage

First to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (William Shakespeare’s wife). I visited here back in the 60s, as an 11-year-old on a school trip, and well remembered the thatched building and gardens, although 50 years on one now enters through a different building to reach the cottage, and the gardens have expanded. Following a brief history of the house we were allowed to wander at leisure with staff on hand to explain and inform. I’m certainly glad I didn’t live there – no mains electricity, no water on tap and no central heating; one could well imagine how difficult life was back in the 1500s. Outside, I was disappointed to see that the bluebells amongst all the colourful tulips in the beautiful front garden were the Spanish non-native type. They certainly wouldn’t have been found here in Shakespeare’s time. I hope the gardeners dig them all out soon.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace

Then on  to Stratford-upon-Avon. Again, it’s some 50 years since  first exploring this town. The main street on which William Shakespeare’s house  is located is now pedestrianised, thankfully, but a large visitor centre now sits incongruously alongside it. We decided against doing the house tour; instead we took a pleasant walk through Stratford and enjoyed a spot of lunch.

Walton Hall Hotel

A few miles outside of Stratford we arrived at our hotel, set in 65 acres of park and farmland. What a fabulous place! Although the main part of the hotel is modern, it’s built in the grounds of a large 16th century mansion (history & info link) recently owned by the late Danny La Rue.  The rooms were lovely, the beds so enormous they could easily sleep 4 persons! And joy of joys, I had a balcony too so as the dawn chorus started, I opened the French doors and enjoyed my early morning coffee outside as I listened. Bliss! The food was excellent, the staff faultless. In fact, it’s one the few hotels I’ve stayed in where I wish I could have stopped for longer, only the bluebell woods called and thus, after a delicious breakfast we were on the road again, heading for Coughton Court (pronounced Coat-un). I’d never heard of this National Trust Tudor treasure until this trip. Can’t understand why.

Once there, we headed straight for the woods and the bluebells, after all this was the main reason for our trip. There were swathes of them. And the scent glorious. If you’ve never smelt an English bluebell wood you are missing a treat. However, there is only so much one can say about bluebells, but I did take lots of photos, mainly for painting reference.

Of course, Thugs Bunny and Mr Tumble had to get in on the act!

We spent several hours wandering around enjoying the spectacle before heading back to explore the house itself. Coughton Court is still occupied by the sixth generation of the Throckmorton family, infamously involved in the plot to murder Queen Elizabeth I in 1583 and put Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne. Inside, we could wander freely, allowed to touch things, sit on the furniture, even try on some of the Tudor clothes on display. Helpful guides were on hand to explain items and various histories of the house and family. Coughton also boasts magnificent gardens, better than Hampton Court apparently, but I have to admit we were too exhausted to venture further so settled on coffee and cake instead. This is definitely a place to go back to. To read more about the house and the Throckmortons I’ve included this link .

Coughton Court

Time eventually caught up with us to make our way back to the coach and home. A lovely, relaxing two days and a much needed break. Now patiently waiting for the next one.

PS: Meanwhile, I feel a painting coming on…