Good Things Can Come in Threes…

Today is Sunday, March 26, and I have three things to crow about…

First, today is Mother’s Day in the UK, a day when I get lots of nice prezzies. This date doesn’t coincide with Mother’s Day in other countries around the world, but in Britain (in case anyone didn’t know!) we’re sticklers for tradition. And our Mother’s Day – or as it was  originally called, ‘Mothering Sunday’ – originated several hundred years ago and has gradually evolved to become what it is today, with Mums getting cards and gifts ranging from flowers, chocolates or meals out and so on…

I wrote a post about the history of Mothers’ Day two years ago, and retweeted it last year. It would probably be pushing things a bit to retweet it again but a link to the original post can be found here.

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The second thing I’m happy about is that today the clocks have moved forward an hour, putting us into British Summer Time (BST). From October to March we’re on Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). In the UK the clocks go forward at 1 am on the last Sunday of March – which, from what I’ve seen on other people’s blogs, is a week or so later than in the US – or, at least, in some areas of the US.

Moving the clocks forward means a lot to me because I loathe the long, dark nights of winter and now daylight lasts an extra hour every evening! Yippee! It does mean that mornings stay dark an hour longer, but that gradually adjusts over the next few weeks. Naturally, in contrast, I whinge and moan every October when we move the clocks back and evenings get dark an hour earlier. Then it’s boo-hoo time!

Many people remember whether clocks move forward or back with this little saying, which I believe came to the UK from ‘across the pond’: Spring forward, fall back.

This is interesting because we haven’t called autumn “fall” in the UK for a few hundred years. Apparently, the word travelled to America with the early settlers and stuck, whereas its use eventually changed to autumn here. According to this site the use of the word was first found in print in 1545 in an archery instruction manual by Queen Elizabeth’s tutor Roger Ascham, who refers to autumn as faule of the leafe. 

I don’t intend to write about the reasons behind the moving backwards and forwards of clocks, other than to say it involves daylight saving time (DST) and its use has interesting origins. Perhaps I’ll write about that next year.

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My third thing to be happy about today is my latest review of Shadow of the Raven on Amazon UK. I confess, I haven’t read any books by Giles Kristian, so that’s something I’ll do as soon as I finish Book 3 of my trilogy. This is the review, which I’ve just copied from Amazon. I’ve no idea who Catherine is, but I’m very grateful for her lovely review.

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read.

By catherine stelfox on 21 Mar. 2017

 Format: Kindle Edition

Well written with fabulous characterisation. I would even go so far as to say that Milli Thom is very nearly up there with Giles Kristian: Strong praise indeed. I’m eagerly looking forward to reading the next two books in the series.
Millie Thom makes every action lend weight and meaning to the story. That the author knows her subject well shows in her attention to detail.
All this contributes in making this book a thrilling reading experience, and my delight in finding a new author who can provide my ongoing cravings for a Viking fix is to be celebrated.

*****

Lovely spring… Who wouldn’t be happy at this time of year?

A Look at Cornwall (4): The Magic of Tintagel

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On the second full day of our week in Cornwall last year – a Monday – we set off from Newlyn in the south-west of the county where we were staying, and headed north-east for 63 miles to the site of the village of Tintagel and its famous castle.

Tintagel Castle is one of the most famous historic sites in Britain and long associated with King Arthur, though its history reaches back centuries before the tales of the legendary king. The actual name, ‘Tintagel’, probably comes from the Cornish word ‘Dindagell’ or ‘Dintagel’, meaning ‘fort on the constriction’, or ‘fort on the headland’.

Tintagel sits on one of the finest sections of the Cornish Coastal Path and is built half on the mainland and half on a jagged headland or ‘island’ that projects out into the Cornish Sea. These photos, as the one directly above from an information board at the site, show the connecting bridge between the mainland and island.

We started our visit in the village of Tintagel – where most tourists park – before heading up the track for the half-mile walk towards Tintagel Head and the castle. The car park we chose was opposite a very aptly named pub, where we stopped off for coffee before setting off:

And this is the track…

This is the signpost at the bottom of the first part of the climb up to the castle. If we carry on walking past here, we come to the Beach Cafe and visitor facilities – and the sea.

Before I show a few photos of the parts of the castle we explored, here’s a little about the history of the Tintagel area.

The site of the castle has been inhabited since the Roman period and probably even earlier. There is no real evidence of an Iron Age fort, although it is believed that the site would have been similar to promontory forts on other S.W. headlands – such as at the Willapark headland a mile to the east. Nor is it known how much activity there was at the site in the Roman period. There is no evidence of Roman structures, but a few artefacts dating from the late 3rd to the early 4th century have been found, including an inscribed pillar. This was originally in the cemetery of St Materiana’s, the 11th century church in Tintagel village, but has since been taken inside the church itself. Other small finds, such as Roman coins and pottery have also been discovered in the area.

During the so-called ‘Dark Ages’ – roughly the 5th-7th centuries – Tintagel was an important and prosperous stronghold. Right across the island are the remains of rectangular houses. Fragments of glassware, wine-jars and other decorated pottery vessels have also been found, all evidence of a thriving trade with Mediterranean regions at this time. Some of these Dark Age houses can be seen in the next few photos:

There is little evidence of activity over the following 500 years. Then, in 1138, Geoffrey of Monmouth in his work, History of the Kings of Britain, linked Tintagel to King Arthur. Since the site had no military value, it seems it was this legend that inspired Richard, Earl of Cornwall, the younger brother of King Henry 111, to build Tintagel Castle here in 1230.

In the early centuries an isthmus (narrow neck of land) would have linked the mainland to the island. We know that the isthmus survived until the 12th century, as it was recorded by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the above-named book. But by the time Earl Richard was building his castle the isthmus had already partly eroded away and by 1540, the antiquary John Leland reported that the only way onto the island was by longe elme trees layde for a bryge. Today, passage between mainland and island is via the man-made, wooden bridge shown above.

And so our journey upward began…

Once we got to the top of the incline leading from the signpost on the lane, we arrived at the first part of the castle, which is on the mainland. The ticket kiosk is here and as we’re members of English Heritage we didn’t have to pay – other than the cost of the requisite Guide Book (requisite for me, that is). We didn’t stop to explore the mainland section of the castle as we were keen to get over to the island. So on we pushed towards the island, across the bridge and up dozens of steps, with my rickety knees complaining all the way.  

But the views of the sea, the beach and cliffs – not to mention, Merlin’s Cave – were worth it:

The parts of Earl Richard’s castle on the mainland include the lower and upper courtyards, or outer bailey, which has suffered greatly from erosion of the cliffs. When the castle was built in 1230, the mainland and island parts of the castle were connected by what was left of the isthmus, which had already partly eroded. Richard probably fortified this neck of land with a gatehouse and possibly some kind of drawbridge, which has now been lost as a result of landslips.

Our first stop on the island was the inner ward, or courtyard, with a great hall and chambers. Between 1240 and 1260, a curtain wall was built, forming a high, battlemented enclosure around the courtyard:

We pushed on through the gate in the curtain wall…

…and headed on up toward the top of the island:

The ruins at the top of the island date mostly from the Middle Ages. There is a well…

…and a small walled garden. The garden was first recorded in the 1540s  and excavations  in the 1930s show it was used for flower beds and herbs, although its position on the top of the island seems strange.  The garden has since become linked with the story of Tristan and Yreult/Isolde. In some versions of the myth, the lovers meet in the garden. A number of slates inside the wall, tell part of the story. Unfortunately, the light on some of them make them difficult to read:

Further on, close to the edge of the cliffs, we came to the statue of the warrior (King Arthur?):

And to finish off, here are a few photos of the views from up there:

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References:

Guide Book and leaflets from Tintagel Castle

Wikipedia

English Heritage: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/tintagel-castle/

Virginia Creeper

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Virginia Creeper

The first time Emily saw the outhouse at the bottom of the rambling, overgrown garden, she was entranced by the colourful foliage bedecking its red brick walls. Her family had only recently moved into this old house and investigating it thoroughly was irresistible to an inquisitive girl of twelve.

‘The one covered in Virginia Creeper?’ Dad asked, glancing over the rim of his teacup when she’d asked about it last night. ‘It was the gardener’s domain years ago. An ancestor of mine was gardener here before the Great War. He was sent to the Western Front and is buried out there in Flanders.’

This was all news to Emily, but interesting all the same. She wondered whether that was the reason Dad had wanted this place so badly, especially as it was very run down and needed a lot of work doing on it. Until now she’d thought Dad wanted the house because it was big, and cheap for the size. Mum was expecting again, and a family of eight would need a lot of bedrooms.

‘If you look inside, you’ll see some really old tools,’ Dad added as an afterthought.

‘Make sure you don’t touch anything,’ Mum warned, bouncing Emily’s youngest brother, Stevie, on her lap before standing to take him up to bed. ‘Tools can be sharp.’

Straight after breakfast, Emily headed out into the early September sunshine, pushing the dismal thought of school next week to the back of her mind. She flipped the latch on the old door and stepped inside.

A young man wearing a flat cap was humming to himself as he hung a variety of rusting rakes along a wall. ‘Hello, Emily love,’ he said. ‘I’d hoped you’d pop in today. ‘Your dad said you might.’

‘He did? When did he tell you that? Who are you, anyway? Are you one of the workmen come to repair all the windows?’

‘I’m your great-great-great-grandad. Now there’s a mouthful for you to get your tongue round. I’m the gardener your dad told you about last night and my name’s George. I’d seen you having a look round yesterday, so I thought I’d best introduce myself next time you came.’

Emily suddenly smiled. ‘But you’re, uh, dead…aren’t you?’ He nodded. ‘So you must be a ghost! I’ve always wanted my very own ghost. Can I come and see you every day…and can I just call you Grandad? And I’d love to know what it’s like to be a ghost. And, if you can remember, can you tell me what it was like in this house before the Great War?’

‘All in good time, Emily. We’ll have some years to talk now we’re acquainted. I can tell you a lot about many things – and yes, just Grandad will do nicely. But please don’t ask about what happened in France the day I died, ’cos I don’t rightly remember after I went over the top.

Emily had no idea what he meant by ‘over the top’, but she’d look it up later on. ‘That’s all right, Grandad. I wouldn’t think anyone would like to remember their own death. We’ll talk about nice things, I promise. So, tell me, what it’s like to stay young-looking forever … and how long have you’ve been talking to my dad … did you know him when a little boy … and why have you grown Virginia Creeper all over the outhouse walls?’

Grandad suddenly laughed. ‘You’re just like your dad was at your age. He couldn’t keep quiet for a moment, either. I’ll answer one of your questions, Emily, but then I need to rest for a while. I grow Virginia Creeper because it reminds me of my beautiful wife – your great-great-great grandma. Her name was Virginia, you see, and she had lovely red hair. So whenever I see the plant at this time of year, I feel she’s still with me.’

Emily felt a sudden lump in her throat. ‘That’s such a sad but very romantic story, Grandad. Thank you for telling me.’

‘Right then,’ Grandad said. ‘I’m very glad to have met you, Emily, but I really need to rest now. Come back to see me tomorrow and we’ll chat some more.’

Emily watched her grandad fade away then hurried back to the house. She’d spend some time searching the Internet for information about the Great War and ‘going over the top’. Then she’d look up all about growing Virginia Creeper. So tomorrow, if Grandad mentioned them, she’d have no need to ask so many questions and tire him out.

But there was one question that continued to pique Emily’s curiosity and she sighed, knowing she wasn’t likely to find the answer on the Internet. Tomorrow, she’d simply have to ask Grandad why he couldn’t meet up with Grandma now that they were both dead.

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This is a story I wrote over a year ago as one of the longer ones for my book ‘A Dash of Flash’. 

For anyone who doesn’t know what a flat cap is, here’s an image from Wikipedia with a little bit of information about what one actually is – also from Wikipedia.

Flat cap, side view. Photographed by Heron. Creative Commons
Flat cap, side view. Photographed by Heron. Creative Commons

“A flat cap is a rounded cap with a small stiff brim in front. The hat is also known as a cabbie cap, longshoreman’s cap, cloth cap, scally cap, Wigens cap, ivy cap, derby hat, jeff cap, duffer cap, duckbill cap, driving cap, bicycle cap, Irish cap, Newsboy cap, Crook cap, Joao’s hat, Sixpence, or a Paddy cap. In Scotland it is known as a bunnet, in Wales as a Dai cap, and in New Zealand, as a cheese-cutter.”

“The style can be traced back to the 14th century in Northern England, when it was more likely to be called a “bonnet”, which term was replaced by “cap” before about 1700, except in Scotland, where it continues to be referred to as a ‘bunnet’.”

My husband, who’s as ‘Northern’ as can be, being a Yorkshireman, wouldn’t dream of gardening without his flat cap on his head.

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The Game of Life – FFFAW

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The Game of Life

Max stared at the iron bars, cursing the day he’d met Sophie. He’d been happy before then, his future stretched out like an unplayed game.

To Sophie he’d been little more than a prize bull, a trophy to display to her friends. One twist of the nose ring kept him compliant throughout each humiliating display. With her shapely body close to his, he’d gaze at her beautiful face and melt all over again.

But when Sophie demanded a diamond as proof of his love, Max panicked. At nineteen, that kind of money was not to hand and robbery had been his only option…

Alarms screamed before he’d left the shop, the old jeweller’s blood dripping from his knife. No hope of evading arrest; surveillance cameras didn’t lie.

He’d stared at those bars for two years now and dreaded the next twenty-three. Early release was unlikely for taking a life…

He refocused on his lonely game of Solitaire and reached for the pills concealed in his shoe. His game of life would be ending here.

Word Count: 174

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This is my story for Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers, a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a story from a given photo prompt in 100-150 words, give or  take 25. If you’d like to join in, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday – Tuesday every week.

This week’s prompt was kindly provided by MajesticGoldenRose.

Apologies for the morbid nature of my story this week. I really am feeling very down at the moment and happy thoughts seem to evade me. Perhaps I need some sunshine…or some fairy dust from Tinkerbelle. 🙂

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To read other stories or add a story yourself, click on the little blue frog:

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