It’s winter. Dark and gloomy. Though, here in UK, it’s still quite warm. Or at least not as cold — yet! — as winter sometimes can be.
We have houses with central heating and double-glazing to keep out the cold and the draughts. Back in the Regency, they weren’t so lucky. Though, to be honest, I remember a house we bought in the 1970s that was incredibly draughty. I used left-over curtain material to sew a draught-excluder in the shape of a snake for the gap under the sitting-room door.
And I grew up in a non-centrally-heated house with a draught screen as part of the standard furnishings, about six feet high and with four brocade-covered panels. We had draughts and we definitely needed it. Continue reading →
This weekend, we four Libertà authors are reminiscing about things military.There’s something about a man in uniform, isn’t there? Even Lizzie Bennet was impressed (for a while) by George Wickham in his scarlet regimentals. But is it also true of contemporary military men? Continue reading →
So here we are again, at the beginning of another November. At this time of the year the winter sun shines directly into my kitchen window. It acts as a spotlight to any dust or marks that I have missed. And I miss a lot.
Oh dear, I do not think I would make a very good housekeeper! I would much rather be reading a book.
And talking of books, at the end of this piece there is the chance for you to win a few (four!) plus extra goodies.
On a recent visit to Winchester — which, to my shame, I hadn’t visited before, even though I lived in Hampshire for 20 years — I felt duty-bound to pay homage at Jane Austen’s grave in the cathedral.
Jane Austen’s Gravestone
It’s a plain black stone, set into the northern aisle of Winchester cathedral, among dozens of others. If you weren’t looking for it, it would be easy to walk over and past it. The cathedral, though, knows it’s a tourist draw so they’ve made quite a display of it, with several stands that tell visitors about Austen’s life, and about her early death in 1817.
The gravestone makes no mention of Jane Austen’s writing. Women at that time (and later) were usually described by their virtues and by their relationships with men; as daughters, wives, mothers, aunts. So it was with Jane. Continue reading →
Those who know me from Social media will probably realise that I have moved. A big move. Massive. After 30 years in one house I have moved to the Scottish Highlands. To Wester Ross. It has been described as Britain’s last great wilderness, and with good reason. Moving here is not just another country, it is another life and a very different one. The language is almost the same. Almost, but not quite. One has to think more about it. No one asks where you live, it is where are you staying, as if you are just passing through.
Hospitality is generous, tea, cake or biscuits are often offered as a matter of course. Which means I need to brush up on my baking skills.
Okay, I doubt I will EVER bake anything this good!
The Scottish Highlands from a writer’s point of view
I travel through this land with my writer’s hat on. The landscape feels old. Continue reading →
Altering History. In other words, changing what actually happened into something that didn’t happen; or didn’t happen in quite that way; or happened at a different time…
Is it OK for an author of historical fiction to do that?
Always? Sometimes? Never?
Does it depend on what the alteration is? Some think it’s OK to alter small things, relating to minor characters, but not decisive things relating to really important characters.
Some might say an author can do whatever he or she likes, provided the reader knows what the author has done. In other words, the author has to come clean.
Others don’t care, as long as the end result is a good read.
The Roman Frontier? We Brits immediately think of Roman soldiers stationed at Hadrian’s Wall to defend the empire against painted marauders (the Picts or picti) from the barbarian north.
We imagine their life was cold and wet and miserable. Some of them certainly sent letters home to Rome to ask for warm woollen socks. Clearly northern Britannia was not a place for short tunics and sandals.
Hadrian’s Wall: not exactly warm and cosy?
On the German frontier, the weather was warmer than Britannia, especially in summer. Short tunics and sandals would have worked just fine.
But guarding a frontier against a potential enemy — who (mostly) didn’t attack — was probably 99% boredom.
Today is very special because it is both Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. It is, of course, also the centenary of the end of fighting in the First World War.
“Armistice” is an interesting word. It is a temporary truce during which warring parties meet to discuss possible peace. I remember my grandmother telling me that, before she told me anything else. I was very small.
The emotions coming out of the radio into the small suburban sitting room awed me. And so did those of the two elderly ladies, tough as old boots in my previous experience, who were both damp-eyed.
From them I picked up a terrible sense that we had made peace at the very last moment. And that we might not have. It has stayed with me ever since. Continue reading →