What Is Advent?

shutterstock_156461975

In December of last year, I did several posts about different Christmas traditions in the U.K., plus one about the Lincoln Christmas market, which will be here again from next Thursday, December 3rd until the Sunday. So I decided to have a look at a couple of traditions I didn’t write about last year. And considering that Advent starts today, Sunday, I’ve put together some information about what Advent means and some of the traditions associated with it.

Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree
Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree. Author: Anneke. Creative Commoms.

Advent starts four weeks before Christmas, beginning on November 30th (St. Andrew’s Day) or the Sunday closest to it. This year it begins on November 29th. The day marks the start of the Christian year and the beginning of the Christmas season for many people in the U.K. Some people even decorate their homes this early, although most leave the household decorating until a week or two before Christmas Eve. In towns and cities, however, Christmas lights and a large Christmas tree in a central place, like a market square, generally appear during the first week of Advent. The huge tree in Trafalgar Square in London is a yearly gift from Norway, in thanks for Britain’s support during the Second World War.

The word Advent comes from the Latin word ‘adventus’, which means ‘arrival’ or ‘coming’ – referring to the birth of Jesus Christ as well as the time that he will come again. The origin of Advent preparations for Christmas is unknown, although it certainly existed by the year 480. It was also introduced by the Council of Tours (in France) in 567 as an order to make the monks fast throughout December until Christmas. Some people believe that Advent goes back as far as the time of the Twelve Apostles; others say it was founded by St. Peter. All in all, it is impossible to say exactly when it began.

Several traditions are followed during Advent – other than decorating homes and towns and sending Christmas cards and so on.  I think everyone is familiar with Advent calendars, as the one in my first picture above. What child doesn’t like to open one of the little doors each day from December 1-24, to see what’s behind?  Some calendars have little Christmassy pictures behind the doors – some showing the Nativity, or having a poem or part of a story relating to it. Others have pictures of teddy bears, Christmas trees, bells, candles, robins, snowmen etc. – anything connected to the season and Christmas celebrations. Nowadays, many Advent calendars simply contain small chocolates.

Styles vary from pieces of card to wooden structures and models that can be used each year.  Advent calendars were first used by German Lutherians in the 19th and 20th centuries, but have since been used by many Christian denominations. Here are some pictures showing different styles:

Christian churches take on a different look during Advent. Instead of the usual flowers that decorate many churches throughout the year, an Advent Wreath (sometimes called an Advent Crown) will be placed inside the church:

These wreaths are made of evergreens, like holly and ivy or some kind of conifer, formed into a circle – which represents God, i.e. no beginning and no end. The ‘evergreen’ itself is a reminder that God does not change, holly also being a reminder of the crown of thorns placed on Christ’s head at his crucifixion. Four candles are set around the circle, plus one in the centre. The candles can be of any colour, the central one generally a different colour to the others. Sometimes, four red and one white candle are used, red being the Christmas colour.

Unlit candles represent darkness. One of the outer candles is lit on the first Sunday of Advent, that one plus another on the second Sunday and so on until all four are lit on the fourth Sunday. On that day, the central candle is also lit, representing Christ as the light of the world.  The other four candles also have meanings and prayers on each of the four Sundays focus on those themes. They are Peace, Hope, Love and Joy.

Also, in Western Christianity during Advent, the usual liturgical colour is either violet / purple or blue. This colour is often used for hangings around the church, the clerical garments and, in some Christian denominations, often the tabernacle.

Censing during solemn vespers. St. Mary's Church, Greenville SC. Author: QuidMestXveritasatEnlish Wikipedia. Public Domain.
Censing during solemn vespers. St. Mary’s Church, Greenville SC. Author: QuidMestXveritasatEnlish Wikipedia. Public Domain.

A Christingle is used in many Christian churches in the U.K. during Advent. It is a symbolic object, its name meaning ‘Christ Light’, and is used to celebrate Jesus Christ as the ‘Light of the World’. The tradition was unknown in England before 1968 – so they weren’t a feature of my childhood Christmases.

Picture of en Christingle. Author: TimmywimmyatEngloishWikimedia. Public Domain.
Picture of en Christingle. Author: TimmywimmyatEnglishWikimedia. Public Domain.

The various parts of a Christingle represent different things. The round orange itself represents the world and the candle represents Jesus as the light of the world. The red ribbon (Christian faith) goes all the way round the world, its colour being a reminder that Christ died. The four cocktail sticks have two meanings: the four corners of the world or the four seasons. And lastly, the sweets (or dried fruits are sometimes used) are a  reminder of God’s gifts to the world, including love and kindness. (The small circle of aluminium foil at the base of the candle is purely for collecting drops of hot wax.)

Christingles have now been part of Advent celebrations in the U.K. for 47 years. It was John Pensom of The Children’s Society who introduced it to the Church of England in 1968. He adapted the form we see today from the original idea used by Bishop Johannes de Watteville in Marienborn, Germany in 1747. The bishop wanted to find a way to explain to children the happiness that comes through believing in Jesus. In his children’s service, he gave each child a lighted candle wrapped in a red ribbon whilst he said the prayer, ‘Lord Jesus, kindle a flame in these children’s hearts that theirs like thine become’.

There are other traditions associated with Advent, including the singing of Christmas carols such as O Come O Come Emmanuel and Lo, he comes with clouds descending, at church services. There are also some old ‘folk traditions’, both in the U.K. and other European countries that I could talk about, but I’ll not go into all of those here. I’ll just mention the most familiar one in Britain, which dates back to the Middle Ages. The custom was for poor women to carry around the Advent images: two dolls dressed as the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Anyone to whom these dolls were shown was expected to give a halfpenny (ha’penny). It was believed that bad luck would strike any household not visited by these ‘doll bearers’ before Christmas Eve. Not a pleasant thought to carry with you into the New year . . .

Refs: Wikipedia

Top Marks

The Children’s Society (re. the introduction of the Christingle into England)

Thoughts on Writing a Trilogy

shutterstock_150508262

When I first started planning my ninth century novel about King Alfred and his battle against the Danes, I intended it to be just a single book.

011
Statue of King Alfred in Wantage, where he was born.

I’d spent a long time researching the period, as well as spending time in Denmark and visiting various sites around Britain. So I had files full of information.  As I continued to plan the book, I decided to widen the story by including a second protagonist. Eadwulf’s story became as long, and as important as Alfred’s

So that was the end of my plan to write a single book: I am presently writing Book Three of the trilogy.

Looking back, I now think I should have stuck with the idea of a single book. Not that I’m unhappy with the way my story is unfolding but . . .

. . .  it all comes down to ‘The trials and tribulations of a first time novelist‘, which I wrote a post about when my blog had barely started.

On top of all the other problems that first-time writers encounter with self-publication and even more so, with self-promotion, I’ve come to realise that a trilogy isn’t the best thing to write first time round. A one-off would have been so much easier to present to traditional publishers as well as being easier to market and promote. Nor would I have felt under as much pressure to finish the next book in line. I’ve had several people who’ve reviewed both books saying they’re now waiting for Book 3. Oh dear…

These are the covers of the first two books of the Sons of Kings trilogy:

Where I went wrong was in not waiting until I had finished  Book 3– or had at least written a good part of it – before publishing the first two books. I’ve read advice from various sources telling me that most readers aren’t happy to start reading trilogies unless they know they can work their way straight thorough all three books, so it’s best to wait until all three books are finished. I’m not sure whether that’s strictly true, but I do know that readers don’t like to wait too long for the next book to appear. I’m always eager to get my hands on the next book in a series I like, myself.

Well, it’s now almost a year since I finished writing Book 2, and I’d hoped to finish Book 3 by the end of this year. Unfortunately, I’ve spent a lot of time doing other things this year – including spending time away from home and writing a lot of longish posts on WordPress – and I’ve still some way to go before finishing the book.

shutterstock_167851352

It’s on this note that I have to say that from now my posts will be less frequent than they have been since earlier this year. I’m not taking a complete blogging break, just easing things off.

I also want to say a big ‘Thank You’ to all of you who downladed a free copy of Book One:  Shadow of the Raven during its recent promotion on Amazon. I was really pleased with the overall number of downloads this time!

thank-you-1030266_640

***

The Shadow of a Book Promotion

shutterstock_319842494

Tomorrow, for four days (18th-21st November) Book One of my Viking trilogy, Shadow of the Raven, will be free again on Amazon. I know that many of you ordered a copy last time it was free – for which I’m extremely grateful. As I’m sure everyone knows, it’s a great help to self-published authors just to have copies of their books ‘bought’ in this way, as it helps to make the book more visible on Amazon. Of course, it’s even better if people read and review it. As many other authors have said on WordPress, reviews are like gold dust to authors.

Both of my books are available from all Amazon marketplaces. Here are the two main links to Shadow of the Raven:

Amnazon.com:

Amazon.co.uk:

On this occasion, I’ve no other topic to accompany this short post, so I thought I’d add a short scene from Shadow . . .  Shadow of the Raven (Medium)

This part of the story is set in the Danish lands where Eadwulf, son of the Mercian king, has been taken as a thrall (slave). In this scene, he is forced to flee from the village by Ivar and Halfdan, the two vindictive sons of Jarl Ragnar.  Now Eadwulf is being pursued by Halfdan and his two minions, Skorri and Reinn  – and the vicious wolf-dog, Viggi.  Bjorn, who also appears in this scene, is Ivar and Halfdan’s older brother, the jarl’s firstborn.

Eadwulf has reached the forest in hope of shelter, only to find the pathway he chose blocked by a massive, fallen oak – just as Halfdan and the wolf dog catch him up:

*

‘So, Mercian, time for Viggi’s reward, I think,’ Halfdan said slowly, straining to hold the the snarling dog in check. ‘Nice try at the river, by the way, but I knew you must have crossed somewhere once the water became shallower. Didn’t take much to work that out. The broken branches and flattened grasses up the bank were a bit of a giveaway. And naturally, Viggi had no problem picking up your scent across the heath.’ Halfdan picked gorse flowers and bits of foliage from his breeks with his free hand and smoothed down his tunic. ‘Nothing to say, thrall?  Then let’s get this done with.’

Halfdan bent to unfasten the leather leash, the two boys peering from behind him, slavering in anticipation of gruesome entertainment.

‘Release the dog, Halfdan, and it’s dead.’

Halfdan spun round in alarm, treading on the hound’s tail and falling against Skorri and Reinn, bringing them down with him. The dog let out a yelp and snapped at Halfdan’s ankles, causing him to cry out in pain. The sight of his red-headed brother ready to loose the arrow from his bowstring caused Halfdan to emit such a startled cry that Eadwulf almost laughed.

‘What are you doing here, Bjorn? How long have you been standing there?’ Guilt coloured Halfdan’s face and he seemed to shrink beneath Bjorn’s scathing gaze.

‘More importantly, what exactly are you doing here? But before you attempt your feeble explanations, Halfdan, I’ll answer your second question: I’ve been here long enough to see what you were about to do and apparently I’m only just in time to put a stop to it!’

Bjorn glowered at Halfdan, his arrow aimed unwaveringly at the dog. His gaudy evening tunic and baggy trousers were muddy and adorned with fragments of heath. ‘I’ve been roused before daybreak with a tale of my brothers’ wicked scheme and the request that I dash across miles of open land to deal with it. I’m now saturated to the skin and exhausted by moving faster than Sleipnir across the sky. Is it any wonder my temper’s simmering close to boiling?’ He released his breath with controlled calmness. ‘What I demand, Halfdan, is an explanation: preferably one that sheds a more favourable light on these antics and possibly justifies your behaviour, which frankly I, for one, cannot condone.’

Halfdan hung his head, mustering up the courage to answer. ‘We were apprehending an escaped thrall,’ he lied, looking for support from his two minions. But they had shrunk into the shadows, fearful of the authority of Ragnar’s firstborn. ‘This thrall thought he could just run away – from the jarl!’

‘And just why should he do that?  Where do you think a boy, a foreigner at that, could run to in a strange land? And manage to survive, of course?’

‘How should I know where he’d go? We just saw him running off.’

‘And at what hour would that have been?’

Halfdan’s brow puckered. ‘Perhaps two or three hours before sunrise.’

‘And you and Ivar are usually outside at that time?’

‘No, but . . .’ Halfdan faltered, clearly searching for a plausible lie. ‘We were roused by noises outside.’

‘So, you’re saying that this would-be escapee made so much noise he could have roused the whole village?’

Halfdan stared at his half-brother, opening his mouth to reply, but the words seemed firmly lodged in his throat. At length he garbled, ‘I saw the thrall running off when I went to the, um, latrine. I ran and told Ivar, who said that Viggi would soon find him. So we followed his trail to here . . .’

Bjorn’s bowstring remained resolutely taut. ‘Unfortunately for you, I have evidence to verify that events took place quite differently.’ He shook his head, his expression more of sorrow than anger. ‘And it’s apparent that had I not arrived when I did, Eadwulf would now be little more than a bloody mound at your feet!’

Unable to find words of reply, Halfdan remained mute, returning Bjorn’s calculating stare with cold-eyed defiance.

‘Get back to the village, the three of you,’ Bjorn said, flicking his bow. ‘You’ve no idea how tempted I am to sink this arrow in that evil cur’s skull anyway. Believe me, Halfdan, you’ll not get away with this. I’m not the only one who knows the truth of your intentions for this day.’

wolf-635063_640

Oops… I Wrecked My Blog!

shutterstock_181747097

Last Friday, I was happily playing around on my blog, updating my header image and adding extra pages for easier navigation around the different categories, when all of a sudden I received a message from WordPress. It informed me that my Media file was almost full . . .

Shock horror! What would I do for future posts?

paint-29329_640

The way forward seemed to me to be obvious. I’d simply have to delete all the images already in my Media file  . . . which is what I proceeded to do! I admit that I had so many photos in the file that I gave up after a while – fortunately, as it turned out.

All seemed well until I noticed that all my images had disappeared from my last post. I just thought I’d have to put those few back in again. Imagine my horror when I realised I’d totally wrecked most of my posts back to early September when I was doing my Malta posts . . .

All those Travel and History posts with big galleries of photos were now totally devoid of photos! So were many of my posts in various other categories. All gone . . .

shutterstock_155198426

To cut a long story short, I made my blog private so I could do the repair work necessary.

lego-36566_640

I’ve spent most of my time since then re-uploading all lost images. What a sad state of affairs.

I realise that the type of posts I do involve a lot of illustrations. So now the files are compressed and re-uploaded so they take up less space.  I’ve also been told there’s a way of getting Wikimedia images straight onto my posts without putting them into the Media library first. I haven’t tried it yet – knowing my luck it would probably wreck my blog… again!

I’m very aware that my Media library is likely to be full again before too long. The only answer to that, as far as I can see, is to upgrade to a Premium blog.

symbol-451842_640

I’ll think more about that when the time arises…

My apologies to all the people who’ve been requesting access to my blog, but I couldn’t possibly allow anyone in to see the mess. Now I think I’ve cleaned it all up. I’ve also missed visiting many people’s blogs, and I can’t see me being able to catch up on everything at the moment, unfortunately.  We’ll see . . .

*****

Word of Week (WOW) – Helicoid

wow (1)

Word of the Week (WOW) is a weekly challenge created by Heena Rathore P. and is a fun way to learn new words every week. To participate, simply do a post with your word and leave the link as a comment on Heena’s WOW post for this week (above link).

This is my second time through the alphabet and I’m looking at the letter H this week. Last time round I did the word hirsute.

So here is my WOW for this week: 

helicoid

Word

Helicoid

Pronunciation:

hel•i•coid  [hɛlɪˌkɔɪd]

Audio:

(Pronunciation of this word is different for the U.K. and U.S.)

U.K. : hee-li-koid

U.S. : hel-i-koid

Part of Speech

Adjective

Related Forms:

Adjective: helicoidal

Adverb: helicoidally

Meaning:

  1. Adjective: coiled or curving like a spiral:
Grapevine Snail by Jurgen Schoner
Grapevine Snail by Jurgen Schoner: Wikimedia Commons

2. Noun: (geometry) a warped surface generated by a straight line moving so as to cut or touch a fixed helix.

Animation of Helicoid. Author: 09glasgow09 Wikimedia Commons
Animation of Helicoid. Author: 09glasgow09 Wikimedia Commons

Word Origin:

  • Late 17th century (1690-1700) from Greek helikoeidēs ‘of spiral form’, from helixhelik / helic + oid (where oid means resembling or like)

Synonyms:  

circular, circling, circumvoluted, spiral, corkscrew, curled, cochlear, helical, tendrillar, whorled, screw-shaped

Antonyms: 

straight, uncurling, unwinding

Use in a Sentence:

  1.   Bill wandered around his garden, his camera in his hand. The cucumber tendrils that curled in a delicate helicoid were simply too perfect to be ignored.
"Kurgiväät" by Robert Reisman (WooteleF) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kurgiv%C3%A4%C3%A4t.jpg#/media/File:Kurgiv%C3%A4%C3%A4t.jpg
Cucumber tendril. Photographer: Robert Reisman  Wikimedia Commons

2. The staicase in the old building had been designed like a never-ending helicoid:

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Image courtesy of Pixabay

3. For this I have written a short story. It mght be best for anyone who detests physical geography to just ignore it.  🙂

Meander in Ashes Hollow. Author S, Knights.https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Meander_in_Ashes_Hollow.jpg
Meander in Ashes Hollow. Author S. Knights: Wikimedia Commons

Mr. Anderson gestured to the meander along a section of the winding stream the Year 10 students had come to study as part of their geography field work.

‘Right then,’ he started, ‘who can tell me how the helicoidal flow of the river contributes to the development of a meander?’

Fifteen year old Matthew Johnson raised his hand. ‘Helicoidal flow means the way the water flows in spirals, a bit like a corkscrew, Sir.’

‘OK… good so far, Matthew.  Now we know what helicoidal flow means. So how can we apply that knowledge to explain how it helps the development of a meander?’

Mary Scrimshaw tentatively raised her hand. ‘It’s to do with the way the surface flow of the water hits the outer, steeper bank, over there,’ she said, pointing across the stream, ‘helping to further erode it. Then the water sort of does a somersault as it bounces off it…’ She hesitated as a few students giggled at the idea of the water doing a somersault.

‘Excellent, Mary,’ Mr Anderson said with an encouraging smile. ‘The somersault you describe is due to the helicoidal motion of the water. Anything more to add…?

Mary took a breath. ‘The water that hits the outer bank then flows along the river bed – eroding more material as it goes, making the middle of the meander quite deep.  Then, when this eroded … er … sediment reaches the opposite bank – the inside bank, that is, where the current is slower – the river dumps it. This makes a sort of little beach on that side.’

Mr. Anderson beamed. ‘Wonderful, Mary… Now, would someone else tell us what we call this area that Mary described as like a ‘little beach’.

‘It’s a slip-off slope’, Jamie Rogers, blurted, looking pleased with himself for knowing that.

‘Hand up, next time James,’ Mr Anderson reproved. ‘But you’re right, a slip-off slope it is.

‘Now, before you begin your sketches, I need to remind you that all this is due to the helicoidal flow and I’d like your completed cross-sections that accompany your sketch to clearly illustrate how that works…’

***

I must confess that I don’t find helicoid a particularly attractive word. I’d much prefer to use helical or spiral in my writing. Helicoid works very well in maths and geography, though. And, after all, my WOW posts are not just restricted to beautiful words – much as we all like them. Many words in our vocabulary are not lovely… but certainly just as important.

If you’d like to view more interesting words, visit Heena’s Page

Word Treasure

The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

sisterhood-award

Having only recently responded to one a blog award nomination, I still have three more to do – so I thought I’d better get on with them. I’m doing each according to when I received the nomination, and this one, from Maria, at Doodles and Scribbles, is from late September.  I really do appreciate being nominated for these awards, but time hasn’t been a particular friend of mine recently. So I must apologise to Maria for hanging onto it for so long. I don’t seem to have enough hours in the day to fit everything in that I need to. Maria writes some lovely posts, including many great flash fiction stories, and I recommend you to take a look at her blog.

The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award is one I’ve had before, but not this particular version. I was pleased to find that it didn’t ask for any more facts about me, as I’ve used up a lot of those recently!

The rules for this award are as follows:

shutterstock_140966836

  1. Thank the giver and link their blog to your post.  (done)
  2. Answer the 10 questions given to you.
  3. Pass the award on to ‘N’ (as many as you want) other bloggers of your choice and let them know that they have been nominated.
  4. Give your nominees 10 of your own questions to answer.
  5. Include the logo of the award in a post or on your blog (first image above)

Right then, now to answers the questions:  

smiley-821993_1280

  1. Why do you write?

I’ve always loved to write (such a typical response!). Even in primary school I wrote stories about all kinds of things, often inspired by what I’d been reading at home or at school, or games created in the playground. I was always good at the basic spelling, punctuation and grammar, so it was just a case of using my imagination – which I never had a problem with. Nowadays, I write my books because I have a story to tell and need to get it out. I also become very involved with my characters and love developing them.

2. If you were to create a fictional character for yourself, who it be and why?

Having finished two of the three books of my trilogy, I can say that I’ve created a lot of fictional characters. Several of them, like Alfred the Great, are actual historical characters, so I’ve had to be careful to comply with whatever has been historically documented. But my story is set in the 9th century, when little was written about individuals’ characters, especially those of women. So it’s down to authors to flesh out the details. Sometime in the future, when I’ve finished this trilogy, I’d like to create some interesting Roman characters for a historical crime novel set in Roman Britain. At the moment my protagonist is likely to be a legionary based up on Hadrian’s Wall who will have some devious characters to deal with.

3. What’s your favorite book?

I haven’t got a single favourite book. I’ve read a lot of excellent novels, and enjoyed and admired the skills of the authors who wrote them. I read mostly historical fiction and crime novels, and really like a combination of the two. For historical fiction I’ve enjoyed books by Dorothy Dunnett, Wilbur Smith, Bernard Cornwell and Harper Lee. For crime novels, I’ve liked many authors, most recently Val McDermid. I’ve also enjoyed some of Patricia Cornwell’s crime books which delve into the forensic side of things. If someone twisted my arm for a single, favourite, I would have to cite ‘Game of Kings’ the first book of the Lymond Chronicles as my all-time favourite.

4. Idealism or realism?

I think we need a dollop of both idealism and realism in life: they balance each other out nicely. I believe a life spent totally in fantasyland can be a dangerous thing. We all need to live in the real world and face up to how things really are. Conversely, most of us can dream of having a better life, a better future – both for ourselves and the world in general. In my view, the bravest people are those who go out there and work towards making that happen.

5. What quote do you live by and why?

The quote(s) I like best are those which simply say ‘Be Yourself’. I think it’s so important to keep a firm idea in your head about who you actually are and not behave in a way you think will impress other people. Some of the unhappiest people around are those who try, or pretend, to be something they’re not. I don’t mean we shouldn’t aim high and work hard to achieve better things in work and home life – but when it comes down to it, we need to know ourselves to be ourselves

6. What’s the most challenging thing about being a woman?

For me, the most challenging thing about being a woman has been the need to balance bringing up a family and having a career. Having six children and a teaching career, I found it impossible to work for several years whilst the children were all still young. I admit, I wouldn’t have wanted to leave them with child-minders anyway, as few people did that in those days. And we never lived close to any family. When I had just the four children, I did take on teaching evening classes a few nights a week at a nearby boys’ detention centre  – which has now become a men’s prison – for a few years (the ‘boys’ being aged 14-21). That worked well for us because my husband was home from school by then. But even when I returned to teaching at a secondary school it was hard work fitting in all that needed to be done at home as well as finding time for the marking and preparation of school work. But, as they say … needs must.

Nowadays many women return to work within weeks of giving birth, whether through financial necessity or a love of their careers. Grandparents are called on a lot, and childminding has become far more stringently controlled and managed, almost as a ‘career’. And rightly so: parents need to know that their children are in reliable and responsible hands.

7. If you could spend a day with a character in a book or movie, who would it be and why?

The character I would most like the ‘get my head around’ is Francis Crawford of Lymond, from the novels by Dorothy Dunnett, set in 16th century Scotland. My daughter, Louise, is probably an even bigger fan than I am, and has read the series umpteen times. I have only read the books once and know I should read them again. Lymond, as he’s generally called, is one of the most complex characters I’ve ever come across in a novel and, even if I spent a day with him, I’d barely begin to unravel his many foibles, motives and incredible strengths. After a week, I still don’t think I’d understand the way his mind works and I’d probably want to kill him from the sheer frustration of that. He’s an awesome and totally intriguing character.

8. What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear ‘feminism’.

Feminism to me means women having equal rights to men. It can conjure up images of the antics of people like Germaine Greer back in the 1960s in their attempts to bring this to public attention. Undoubtedly such antics were intended to shock and get people to take note of the subject of women’s rights, both in the home and workplace. This ‘getting noticed’ plan was little different to the actions of the Suffragettes at the end of the 19th/ beginning of the 20th century. To me, fighting for those rights was justified, in many ways. We only have to watch films and comedy shows set in the 60s to remind us of the way in which women were viewed in western society back then. I believe that, in a place of work, if a woman does the same job as a man, then equal pay is her right. Jobs which involve the physical strength and size of a man are a different thing.

The bad side of feminism that too often raises its ugly head, is women behaving in a derogatory way towards men and being totally obnoxious to any man who offers simple courtesy towards them -by keeping a door open for them, for example (I’ve seen that happen.) To me it’s common courtesy to keep a door open for anyone following behind me, man or woman.  But this particular woman gave the poor man who’d held the door for her a real mouthful of abuse and the usual accusation of being a chauvinist pig! I won’t go into any more examples, but there’s a nasty side of feminism as well as a positive side of equal rights and equal pay. As for drunken and lewd behaviour, my feelings about that are applicable to both sexes. It shouldn’t happen – certainly not on the streets.

9. Name one thing you will never do in life.

Apart from the obvious things like committing crimes of extreme violence (!) and posing naked, I’m struggling to answer this one. I could say that I’d never swim with sharks – or even go down in a metal cage – because I have a real phobia about them. I went snorkelling on the Barrier Reef (Australia) a few years ago, to be asked by our two huge Australian guides when I got back in the boat, if I’d seen the shark down there. I hadn’t … but talk about freaking me out!

shark-47634_640

It was only a reef shark, they said. But a shark’s a shark to me! It put me off snorkelling for a while. But I just can’t resist lovely clear, blue water.

10. If your blog is a body part, what would it be and why?

I don’t see my blog as a body part. I know some people will see it as their heart, but I simply see it as an extension of myself and my writing, and another outlet through which the creative juices can flow. I love my blog dearly because of the wonderful people I’ve ‘met’ and ‘talked’ to regularly, but when it comes down to it, my priority right now is my trilogy. I love writing my blog posts though, particularly the flash fiction, and I also love doing my travel and historical posts. But my own writing needs more attention right now because I’ve neglected Book 3 for a lot of this year whilst indulging myself on WordPress. It’s now time for me to ease off on my blogging.  I won’t be saying farewell to all of my heart – just a part of it.

shutterstock_139583279

I’ll pick up the pieces later on.

***

And here are my nominees:

point-36834_640

Norma at Emovere

Amanda at Something to Ponder About

Susan at Susan’s Personal Blog

Morgan at The Diary of a Computer Science Student

writenlive at Read Write Live

Jean at White House Red Door

Chioma at livehomeandaway

Bekki at Dartmoor Yarns 

Joy at Tales fron Eneana

Daniela at DanielaApostol

Questions for my nominees:
shutterstock_141264133

1. How would you describe what your blog is about?

2. Do you see your blog changing (as in expanding or developing in any way) at some stage in the future?

3. Do you write your blog posts straight onto the WordPress page or onto a word document first?

4.  When you write do you need to be on your own or are you happy to write with others around you?

5. Which is your favourite species of tree, and why do you like it?

6.  If you were to have a day out somewhere easily reachable from your home, where would it be?

7.  Which ‘celebration’ (annual or otherwise) in the country where you live do you enjoy the most?

8.  Which way would you choose to travel, given the choice: car or train?

9. Which subject did you enjoy the most at school?

10. What do you think is the best thing about being a woman today?

A Penny For The Guy . . .

Spectators gather around a bonfire at Himley Hall near Dudley, on 6 November 2010
Spectators gather around a bonfire at Himley Hall near Dudley, on 6 November 2010. Author: SJNikon – Sam Roberts. Wikimedia Commons

On November 5th last year I wrote this post about how the celebrations for Bonfire Night – or Guy Fawkes Night – in the U.K. have changed since my childhood in the 1950s. Yesterday, I posted about the history behind the celebrations and thought it might be an idea to re-post this to complement it. I’ve made a few minor changes to the original and added a couple of pictures (I had no idea I could use Wikipedia or Wikimedia images when I first started my blog!). So here it is...

 

Millie Thom

6_november_bonfire_from_flickr_user_sjnikon Spectators around a bonfire at Himley Park near Dudley Nov. 6. 2010. Author: S.J. Nikon -Sam Roberts. Commons

Remember, remember, the fifth of November,

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason why gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot.

This well known rhyme has been sung in Britain by generations of children as November 5th approached. It is still sung in primary schools as children are taught the historical significance of Guy Fawkes Night / Bonfire Night and why it is celebrated with bonfires and fireworks. Literacy, drama and art work of all types also stem from this colourful spectacle.

There’s more than enough online about Guido Fawkes and his co-conspirators, and why they wanted to blow up King James I and the Houses of Parliament, so I won’t elaborate on that. Guido suffered one of the most horrible deaths imaginable for his part in the plot – and being…

View original post 592 more words

Remember, Remember…

shutterstock_118892797

Last November I wrote a post about how Bonfire Night, or Guy Fawkes Night, is celebrated in the U.K. today – and how different it is now to when I was growing up in the 1950s and 60s. In that post, I didn’t focus on why Bonfire Night is celebrated in the first place: in other words, I wrote little about the history behind the event.  But in this post, that’s what I do intend to do…

In earlier centuries, the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 was often called the Gunpowder Treason or the Jesuit Treason (treason being a crime involving disloyalty to the Crown in any way, including plotting against the sovereign’s life). It was a failed plot by thirteen Catholics to assassinate James I by blowing up the Houses of Parliament.

Portrait of James VI and 1, c. 1606, by John de Critz. Now located in the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Public Domain

So what was the reason for the plot?

When Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, English Catholics who had been persecuted under her rule had hoped that their future would be greatly improved, and her successor, James I, would be more tolerant of their religion. James  had had a Catholic mother (Mary Queen of Scots) and had a Catholic wife. At first, the signs were promising and reforms were made. But by 1605, under pressure from his spymaster, Sir Robert Cecil, and in an effort to appease the more extreme Protestants such as the Puritans, James once again incresed the penalties on anyone practising the Catholic faith.  He ordered all Catholic priests to leave England.

Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury. National Portrait Gallery. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain
Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury by John de Critz the Elder. National Portrait Gallery. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain

This so angered some Catholics that they were willing to take extreme measures, supported by the Catholic monarchies of Europe. Two plots against James had already failed when a third group of plotters began to take shape, under the leadership of Robert Catesby, a well-to-do gentleman of Warwickshire. The thirteen young men hatched a plan to strike at the opening of Parliament on November 5th, 1605. Eight of them are shown on this picture:

Detail from a contemporary engraving of the Gunpowder Plotters. The Dutch artist probably never actually saw or met any of the conspirators, Source: National Portrait Gallery. Wikimedia Commons
Detail from a contemporary engraving of the Gunpowder Plotters. The Dutch artist probably never actually saw or met any of the conspirators, Source: National Portrait Gallery. Wikimedia Commons

Once James was dead, they intended to put his daughter, Elizabeth, on the throne, thus returning England to the Catholic faith.

Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia, daughter of James 1. Artist: Robert Peake the Elder 1551-1619. Photographer@ Weiss Gallery. National Portrait Gallery, London. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.
Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia, daughter of James 1. Artist: Robert Peake the Elder (1551-1619). Photographer: Weiss Gallery. National Portrait Gallery, London. Wikimedia Commons. Public Domain.

It was Guy Fawkes (who had adopted the name of Guido while fighting for the Spanish) who posed as a servant called John Johnson and began locating sources of gunpowder.

Guy Fawkes by Cruikshank
Guy Fawkes in Ordsall Cave by George Cruikshank in 1840. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons

The plotters rented a cellar/undercroft beneath the House of Lords (a chamber inside the Houses of Parlaiment shown on the first image above) and began stocking it with enough explosives to kill the king and the most powerful men in the land when they met on November 5th. Eventually they managed to store 36 barrels of gunpowder, enough to reduce the House of Lords to rubble.

The cellar underneath the House of Lords, as drawn by William Capon, 1799. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.
The cellar underneath the House of Lords, as drawn by William Capon, 1799. Public Domain. Wikimedia Commons.

As the day planned for the strike neared, it became clear to some of the plotters that innocent people would be killed in the attack, including people who had fought for the rights of Catholics.   Lord Monteagle, the brother of  Francis Tresham, one of the plotters, received an annonymous letter (almost certainly from Tresham)  warning him to avoid attending the opening of Parliament on November 5th. Monteagle passed the letter to Robert Cecil.

Cecil decided not to act immediately: he wanted to catch the plotters in action. On November 4th he ordered searches of the whole of the Houses of Parliament and Fawkes was arrested. He was dressed ready for a swift get-away, with spurs on his boots.

Painting of the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot and the taking of Guy Fawkes by Sir Thomas Knevet. 1823. Source: Henry Perronet Briggs - http://www.parliament.uk/gunpowderplot/children_arrest.htmWikimedia Commons
Painting of the discovery of the Gunpowder Plot and the taking of Guy Fawkes by Sir Thomas Knevet. 1823.
Source: Henry Perronet Briggs – http://www.parliament.uk/gunpowderplot/children_arrest.htm    Wikimedia Commons

Most of the conspirators fled as they learned of the plot’s discovery. Several made a stand against the pursuing Sheriff of Worcester and his men at Holbeche House, Catesby’s home.

 Holbeche House near Dudley was home of Robert Catesby leader of the Gunpowder plot. It is now a nursing home. Author: Gordon Griffith. geog.org.uk. Creative Commons
Holbeche House near Dudley was the home of Robert Catesby, leader of the Gunpowder Plot. It is now a nursing home. Author: Gordon Griffiths. geog.org.uk. Creative Commons

Catesby was one of the plotters shot and killed, leaving eight of the survivors, including Guido Fawkes, to stand trial.

Fawkes suffered two days of severe torture on the rack in the Tower of London before confessing everything.

A torture rack (as the one used on Guido Fawkes) photographed in the Tower of London by David Bjorgen. Creative Commons
A torture rack (as the one used on Guido Fawkes) photographed in the Tower of London by David Bjorgen. Creative Commons

His chief interrogator  was Edward Coke:

Sir Edward Coke Author: attributed to Thomas Athow, after Unknown artist, after Cornelius Johnson. Public Domain. Wikipedia Commons
Sir Edward Coke, chirf interrogator of Guido Fawkes.  Author:
attributed to Thomas Athow, after unknown artist, after Cornelius Johnson. Public Domain. Wikipedia Commons

The confession Fawkes signed shows how much his joints, including those in his hands, had been so severely damaged.

Signature of “Guido” on his confession under torture, very faint and shaky. Public Domain

At their trial on January 27th 1606, the eight surviving conspirators, including Fawkes, were convicted of high treason  and condemned to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

The execution of Guy Fawkes' (Guy Fawkes), by Claes (Nicolaes) Jansz Visscher, given to the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1916. Wikimedia Commons
The execution of Guy Fawkes’ (Guy Fawkes), by Claes (Nicolaes) Jansz Visscher, given to the National Portrait Gallery, London in 1916. Wikimedia Commons

The punishment consisted of the the victim being dragged, usually by a horse, on a wooden frame to the place where he was to be publicly put to death. This involved a gruesome procedure in which the victim was first hanged until almost dead, them emasculated, disembowelled, beheaded and quartered (cut into 4 pieces).  The intestines /entrails were thrown onto a fire and the other remains were usually displayed in prominent places, such as London Bridge.

In the months after the plot, new laws were passed removing Catholics’ right to vote and restricing their role in public life.  It was 200 years before these restrictions were fully lifted.

*

In Britain we continue to celebrate the failure of the plot against James I and the execution of his would-be assassins on November 5th every year. The burning of a ‘guy’ – an effigy of Guido Fawkes on top of a bonfire – has ensured the plot survives in national memory.

Remember, remember, the fifth of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason why gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot.

Here are a few pictures of Bonfire Night in the U.K.

Word of Week (WOW) – Guttersnipe

wow (1)

Word of the Week (WOW) is a weekly challenge created by Heena Rathore P. It’s a fun way to learn new words every week. To participate, simply do a post with your word and leave the link as a comment on Heena’s WOW post for this week (above link).

This is my second time through the alphabet and I’m looking at the letter this week. Last time round I did the word gregarious.

So here is my WOW for this week: 

xenomania

Word

Guttersnipe

Pronunciation:

gut·ter·snipe

[guht-er-snahyp] ((gŭt′ər-snīp′)

Audio:

guttersnipe

Part of Speech

Noun

Related Forms:

Adjective: guttersnipish

Meaning:

  1. A child of the slums who spends most of his or her time in the streets:
Street Urchins: oil on canvas. Artist: Karl Witkouski, 1810-1910. Public Domain
Street Urchins: oil on canvas. Artist: Karl Witkouski, 1810-1910. Public Domain

2.  A contemptuous term applied to anyone regarded as having the unsavoury manners, morals, etc. sometimes associated with those living in filth, poverty, or squalor.

rude-151093_1280

 

Word Origin:

C19: (1855-60) gutter+ snipe: originally a name applied to the common snipe (the bird the common snipe, which picks food out of gutters – and well suited to the boggy marshlands around rivers like the Thames in Victorian London) then to a person who gathered refuse from gutters in city streets.

Common Snipe. Author: Alpsdake. Commons
Common Snipe. Author: Alpsdake. Commons

Synonyms:  urchin, street urchin, ragamuffin, waif, stray, outcast, orphan, scarecrow, gamin (dated)

archaic: mudlark, scapegrace, street Arab (offensive) wastrel, tetterdemalion

Two guttesnipes, 1910. Author: Egon Schiele. Public Domain
Two guttesnipes, 1910. Author: Egon Schiele. Public Domain

Use in a Sentence:

For this, I just have a short story:

Mrs. Rowbotham scowled as she walked into the classroom full of overexcited adolescents. Teaching English to this lot on Bonfire Night was going to be well nigh impossible. Normally well behaved, today, all they could think about was how many fireworks they’d got.

‘Silence!’ she growled as she reached her desk. Silence was instant, as she expected. No one argued with her. ‘You’re behaving like a room full of guttersnipes! And I don’t like mannerless brats in my room.’

Matthew Henderson’s hand shot up, the cheeky grin on his face blatant. This cocky lad always considered himself spokesman for the group.

‘Take that ridiculous grin off your face before you speak, Matthew, or you’ll be seeing me at the end of school.’

The grin instantly dropped. ‘Sorry Miss. I just wanted to ask what a guttersnipe was.’

Mrs. Rowbotham sighed. ‘Does anyone here know what a guttersnipe is …? Well,’ she continued after a negative response, ‘guttersnipe is an old word that can mean someone – generally a child – who spends his or her life in the streets. It could refer to the homeless and destitute, or to someone who lives in an area of squalid housing. It’s often associated with the filthy conditions of the Victorian slums. But we still see the word used today, often in a derogatory way, referring to people living on the streets in many areas around the world. Their situation is often very sad…

A homeless man in Paris, June 2005. Author: Eric Pouhier. Commons
A homeless man in Paris, June 2005. Author: Eric Pouhier. Commons

We can also use the word to mean someone with shockingly bad manners – like you rowdy lot today!’

Jenny Marsden’s hand shot up. ‘I saw a great film once… about a Victorian woman called Eliza who came from the slums o’ London. Filthy she were; never ’ad  a bath. She sold flowers in the streets to get money t’ buy food –’

‘And this ’ere rich bloke comes along and decides to make  ’er  into a lady,’ Danny Roberts cut in, ‘with posh manners un’ all. Right good film, that were.’

Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison from My Fair Lady. Flower girl, Eliza meets Professor Henry Higgins.
Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison from My Fair Lady. Flower girl, Eliza meets Professor Henry Higgins.

The buzz of agreement sounded and Mrs. Rowbotham nodded approvingly. ‘Ah, so now we’re getting somewhere. The film is undoubtedly ‘My Fair Lady’, based on a play called ‘Pygmalion’ by George Bernard Shaw – although it’s set in Edwardian times, Jenny, a little later than Victorian era. A young, ill-brought-up woman, who lived in the slums of London… Though she wasn’t completely destitute, her appearance and uncouth manners provide a good example of a guttersnipe.

Mrs. Rowbottom  smiled as she lifted a set of books down from the shelf. Though not the lesson she’d planned, ‘Pygmalion’ would do very nicely for a day like Bonfire Night.

‘Please Miss, can I be Professor ’iggins….’ Matthew’s voice rang out.

*

(I’m quite fond of Professor Higgins. I was a Higgins for 23 years before I got married – my dad was Thomas Higgins.  The Yorkshire kids I taught at that time always dropped the ‘h’, so I was invariably Miss ’iggins to them!)

*

"Pygmalion" by George Bernard Shaw at the Rheingau Theatre in Berlin c1946. Eliza Doolittle with her father. Wikimedia Commons.
“Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw at the Rheingau Theatre in Berlin c1946. Eliza Doolittle with her father. Wikimedia Commons.
Delrae Knutson as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, 1986. Author: Delrae Knutson. Commons
Delrae Knutson as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, 1986. Author: Delrae Knutson. Commons

If you’d like to view more interesting words, visit Heena’s Page

Word Treasure

A Piece of Flash and a Frog.

nature-808795_1920

This is a short story I wrote earlier this year, intending to post it for a flash fiction challenge (FFfAW) which had a duck pond as the prompt. In the end, I wrote a story about a witch and the ducking stool and posted that one instead. That story can be found here. I came across this story sitting in my Documents file today, and as I’ve (reluctantly) given up writing flash fiction for a while, I thought I might as well bring it out of hibernation. The picture is not the same prompt: this one is courtesy of Pixabay.

So here’s my story:

Frog Wisdom

Drusilla hovered over the edge of the pond, scanning the blue-green water. Around her, the greening leaves of forest trees rustled in the April breeze.

‘Where are you, Alfrin?’ she called. ‘I know you’re down there somewhere. I saw you shoot off when I asked you to lay the table.’

After a few moments, she heaved a sigh. ‘If you don’t show yourself this minute, I’ll send your father to fetch you. You can’t hide anywhere from him, you know.’

A tiny head bobbed up, right next to a lily pad on which a big, green frog squatted. ‘But Dad’s already here!’ Alfrin retorted. ‘He’s showing me how to play hide-and-seek with the tadpoles.’

Freda, the frog, nodded sagely. ‘Of which I heartily approve. Our children need to play.’

A larger head suddenly emerged. ‘Hello darling. The water’s lovely… just couldn’t resist…’

Drusilla flapped her wings, ready to rant, then paused. Alfrin was learning to socialise, after all.

Two water sprites in the family would try the patience of any self-respecting fairy.

elf-157508_1280

Word Count: 173