A turd in your teeth (and other colourful insults)

I came upon this pungent epithet in a book by Ruth Goodman on renaissance Britain. Roughly translates as “eat shit”! Many people know that popular swear words like “struth” originated in the more religious times of pre Reformation England when “shock factor” in swearing came from using sacred words to add colour and emphasis toContinue reading “A turd in your teeth (and other colourful insults)”

First wipe your spoon

He took a last mouthful of potage, wiped the worst of the mess off his spoon and replaced it in his purse. The Tawny Sash I may have mentioned before the common misconception (born of Hollywood) that table manners were non existent during the times of the Tudors and the Stuarts. Wrong! Sitting down toContinue reading “First wipe your spoon”

(And) when did you last see your father?

The Victorians have a lot to answer for. I love this famous 19th century painting by Yeames, with all its colourful, misleading detail. The bad guys are dressed in black with tall hats. The good guys (who are mainly damsels in distress) wear lace, velvet, satin. Unfortunately for the story, it is somewhat spoiled byContinue reading “(And) when did you last see your father?”

Tracking the Real Virginia: The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck

Erika Robuck’s sixth novel The Invisible Woman (PenguinRandomHouse 2021), is something of a departure from her previous works. Robuck is best known for “wife-of-famous-male-writer” plots, as the author herself describes it.  Ernest Hemingway’s wife Pauline in Hemingway’s Girl (Berkley 2012) and Zelda Fitzgerald in Call me Zelda (Penguin Group USA 2013) are typical examples. In 2014, Robuck was named Annapolis’ AuthorContinue reading “Tracking the Real Virginia: The Invisible Woman by Erika Robuck”

Ghostly warriors

“Would Byron’s men haunt the Down in years to come, a restless and wild eyed horde charging into the guns of Waller’s army for evermore?” (From The Welsh Linnet) Visiting battle fields is a melancholy, but addictive, pursuit. At some places the air remains thick with the ghosts of the dead. I visited Culloden atContinue reading “Ghostly warriors”

Review of Thorne Moore’s “The Covenant”

This historical saga, subtitled “The Life and Death of a Righteous Woman” is set in rural Wales in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is a prequel to Moore’s first novel “A Time for Silence” and follows the lives of the Owen family, tenant farmers on a small piece of land “twenty-four acres, one rood,Continue reading “Review of Thorne Moore’s “The Covenant””

The Google rabbit hole (trivial research worries of an historical novelist)

When Lewis Carroll decided to make a white rabbit a central character in Alice in Wonderland, did he wonder what breed of rabbit it was? Did he dress him in a suit and waistcoat because it was easier than working out what breed of rabbit was likely to frequent the Surrey countryside? Rabbit holes remainContinue reading “The Google rabbit hole (trivial research worries of an historical novelist)”

A fine day for killing

“It would be a fine day tomorrow, a fine day for killing or being killed.” My hero, wandering through the camp the night before the 1644 battle of Cropredy Bridge (a bit like Henry V), muses philosophically on the weather. Living in Melbourne, it is sometimes hard to remember how cold and wet British summersContinue reading “A fine day for killing”