The Last Days of Thunder Child

The Last Days of Thunder Child
War of the Worlds - spin off adaptation novel.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Dark Fire by C.J. Sansom (My Goodreads Review))

Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake, #2)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent historical read. Set in King Henry VIII's England of 1540. Matthew Shardlake must help Thomas Cromwell. The king's main man is in serious trouble concerning the Anne of Cleeves marriage. In an attempt to win back favour with the king, Cromwell enlists the help of the hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake to find the secret of Greek Fire. In this day and age, Greek fire is akin to an atomic weapon and would allow Henry VIII's navy to have tremendous power. The problems start for Matthew as he comes across a collection of dead bodies along his investigative way. Soon his own life is in peril too.

This is a gritty fast-paced historical thriller set against the backdrop of protestant reformist England etc. It has a splendid feel and is the second Shardlake story I have read. It was very compelling and I'll certainly be reading the third instalment after this exciting historical thriller brought 1540's London to life.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Sunrise Over the Fenland.

It was a glorious sunrise over the Fen. We had got up before driving to King's Lynn on a shopping expedition. This is before coming back and finding a Soviet Tank in front of the drive - as you do. 

The kind morning moment allowed for reflection of a kind autumn day. We had a coffee and watched from the gate as the sun came up. A fine start to my four days off of work.

An Old WWII Soviet Tank Blocked My Drive.

We were coming home from Kings Lynn shopping centre today and my drive was obstructed by a lorry and trailer carrying a huge old Soviet T-34 type tank. Like one of those used at the Battle of Kursk in 1943.

The Lorry had just pulled out of a driveway that runs along the railway line. It goes out into the fields by the River Nene. There is a yard there with several tanks. The work that occurs here involves renovating old pre-War vehicles. When finished they are taken away to various collectors here there and everywhere. Perhaps even drama studios. 

The lorry finally moved passed and I was able to go into my drive as my wife, Carole, quickly photographed the tank. It looked splendid and very retro. 

The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray (My Goodreads Review)

A compelling and often frightening account of how we European's are wrapped in our leader's political denial to get to grips with the many wrongs that have been festering. Problems and resentment from decades of denial caused by uncontrolled mass migration of Islamic culture into our continent. A pretence that the peoples of Europe supported this mass influx of Muslim people. How we (Caucasian Europeans) have become subjugated by the twisted politically correct rulers of our nations. A pretence that we must feel culturally enriched by camouflaged denials of our rulers. The persistent denial of the facts we everyday people have seen. The persistent muffling of concerned people. The debasing of concerned people. People not allowed to mention for fear of being labelled RACIST.

RACIST - The condemning word that gives anyone a free pass to victory over any sensible debate. The radical change of many of our inner cities and the criminal negligence of Police and Government to stop the problem. The persistent and much more enthusiastic attempts of the Police and Government to deal with the consequential or secondary problems that have begun to surface from their continued denial.

It tells us everything we know but what we are afraid to say. This is a very brave book and I recommend it to all who believe in freedom of speech.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett - (My Goodreads Review)

A Column of Fire (Kingsbridge, #3)
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed the two earlier Kingsbridge stories. This third one is set a few hundred years hence and the town's folk are still prosperous as merchants and love their town's wonderful cathedral. This story starts off in 1558 and young Ned Willard is eighteen years of age. He is madly in love with Margery Fitzgerald and she is in love with him. It is the latter days of Bloody Mary the Catholic queen of England and Ned's family are hoping that Protestant Princess Elizabeth will become queen.

The story takes the reader on a dynamic and exciting journey through the reign of Queen Elizabeth and Ned becomes a member of the English Secret Service. He is instrumental in ensuring the virgin queen's safety through the many circumstances of her reign. We are taken to the French court of Catherine de Medici and young Mary Stewart (Queen Of Scots). We are on adventures during the St Bartholomew's Massacre in Paris. The Babington Plot the Spanish Armada and even the Gunpowder plot too.

A roller coaster ride of political intrigue, murder and deception throughout. An absolute page-turner entwined with real historical events and characters. We are taken from 1558 to 1620 and I enjoyed every page of it. A splendid historical story and I would recommend any history lover to read this.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

The Bus Stop in London.

I found this clip on LinkedIn. I had to put it on the blog. I loved every individual's face as the strange scenes played out through the glass of the Bus Shelter window. My favourite is the huge tiger coming down the busy London street directly for the waiting commuters. The reaction is pure gold dust. 

I can't imagine how I would react to the tiger. Obviously, the others would make one jump but I think the brain would kick in quickly and one might perceive the illusion on the glass window. However, the tiger might confuse and cause a fright. By the time you jump the beast is making its way around the bus shelter. It would certainly make the heart skip a beat.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Winged Escort by Douglas Reeman (My Goodreads Review)

Winged Escort

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A BIG WOW! For this Douglas Reeman story. I always enjoy most of his War stories, but this one was exceptional. I think it is because I always feel compelled by aircraft carriers and have a particular interest in HMS Ark Royal and her Fairy Swordfish (Stringbags) during World War II. Therefore, I was seduced by the front cover. I know this is wrong but the story is even more exciting than the lavish and dramatic front cover.

In this tale, we go aboard an American made aircraft carrier, called HMS Growler, as she prepares for her mission to protect a convoy on route to Murmansk in the Soviet Union. We are introduced to various characters. The main man for the reader is twenty-six years old RNR pilot Tim Rowan.

HMS Growler uses the famed Fairy Swordfish and Seafires. Seafires are Fleet air arm marine version spitfires. The action throughout the story is splendid and very gripping indeed. There are submarine attacks, attacks in the Norwegian Fjords, head to head, cruiser and destroyer action. And this is just in the first half of the story on the Barent sea run. We then go to the Pacific where HMS Growler is with another battle group facing Japanese Kamikaze attacks.

If you love seafaring stories, this one is an absolute must. One of the most dynamic war stories I've ever read. Heroes, Villains, wet behind the ears boys coming of age and some not getting the chance. Plus a backdrop of winning the lady of his dreams. GREAT STUFF!

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The Thirteen-Gun Salute by Patrick O'Brian (My Goodreads Review)

The Thirteen-Gun Salute (Aubrey/Maturin, #13)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another splendid continuation of the Jack Aubrey and Steve Maturin adventure. It is 1813 or 1814. The War with France and the USA is still happening. Aubrey and Maturin are on a new ship and must meet with the HMS Surprise after the fulfilment of a diplomatic mission in the South China Sea on Java - a Dutch-influenced area of the world. A man named Fox is in charge of the negotiation. On the competing French side are two British traitors, one of whom, is the arch-cad and card cheat from Treason's Harbour story and others. Edward Ledward, once of the Treasury and Andrew Wray, (The arch-cad)

Some diabolical climax concerning the devious dealings of these traitors comes to an almighty and surprising climax. We are left on the edge of a new adventure and wanting more.

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Friday, 28 September 2018

Didn't we just love Emma Peel?

Didn't we just love Emma Peel? As a kid, I would always be good on the evenings that this was on TV. The Avengers was so out there for me. It was on rather late but my Mum always knew I liked it. And in our house, if one wanted something, one had to get Mum's approval. So behave and perhaps I might get to see it.

In the sixties decade, Britain and the U.S. had wonderful escapism TV programmes. I suppose many of these retro shows are rather passe and twee nowadays. However, I still look back at many with nostalgic fondness. These things were part of the little 'impressionable boy' world I grew up in.

The Avengers and The Prisoner were two smashing TV shows that I was a glutton for. I liked the Avengers because of John Steed and Emma Peel. Every week they would have to confront some sort of bizarre criminal who found some diabolical way of potentially upsetting the normal way of life. 

It was gorgeously far-fetched and unashamedly so. That was what I think I liked about it. Even today, I enjoy the repeats of the show. Especially if the glorious Emma Peel is in it. I know the actress is Diana Rigg, but I like the character of Emma Peel. It fills me with 'Retro Brit' Nostalgia.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Letter of Marque by Patrick O'Brian (My Goodreads Review)

The Letter of Marque  (Aubrey & Maturin, #12)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm profoundly in love with Diane Villiers. Steve Maturin's estranged wife. Both these characters turn over another leaf in this glorious tale of the continuing Aubrey/Maturin saga. Captain Jack Aubrey has been struck off the naval list because of enemy agents framing him for a stock exchange crime he did not commit. Many know he has been framed and the enemy agents guilty of the entrapment have fled the country. Aubrey is presented with HMS Surprise, which Steven Maturin has bought out of his inheritance. Therefore, Jack Aubrey is sailing the ship as a Letter of Marque - a privateer. He is still fighting for his country and trying to clear his name and win reinstatement back into the Royal Navy.

Once again I was enthralled by this twelfth story of the Royal Navy saga set in the time of Napoleon and the British/American War of 1812 to 1814. I can't wait to start on the next one. Splendid stuff.

The Reverse of the Medal by Patrick O'Brian (My Goodreads Review)

The Reverse of the Medal (Aubrey & Maturin #11)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started this yesterday and today I finished it. I could not put it down as a new development comes about. Another great yarn in the Aubrey/Maturin series. Once again Jack Aubrey proves he is a dab hand as a seaman. He chases an American commerce raider across the sea after leaving the West Indies. It is a nail-biting chase and the American ship is handled well by an experienced crew. Again, as much as Captain Aubrey is splendid at sea, he is a Buffon on land. It's as though his good sense deserts him when he steps off of the ship. In this story, he lasts a few hours before he gets himself into a diabolical mess. His naiveness of financial markets and stock exchange lands him in terrible trouble. His trusted friend Steve Maturin is splendid on land and a Buffoon at sea. These two friends complement each other. Maturin must do much to aid his friend in this part of the Aubrey/Maturin saga. I absolutely love these novels. They would make a dynamic TV show. The Movie was very good but the novels are something else. Splendid stuff. I can't wait to read the next one.

The Far Side of the World by Patrick O'Brian (My Goodreads Review)

The Far Side of the World (Aubrey/Maturin #10)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another great story in the Aubrey/Maturin saga. This time HMS Surprise is chasing an American commerce raider called USS Norfolk. It is 1813 and Britain is at war with the fledgeling nation USA. The crew of the Suprise endure all sorts of onboard dilemmas as the go around the Cape Horn and into the Pacific where they know the Norfolk is after the lucrative British Whaling ships. 

The movie starring Russel Crow was loosely based on this plot for the beginning, though it was very different in many ways. Please do not get me wrong. The movie was splendid and I really enjoyed it immensely. But in reality, it is a very different story because the enemy is a Frenchman and the year is 1804 in the movie. Also, many of the characters are different and the ending is dramatically different. I think the movie took snippets from many books and put together a rather fabulous film.

Anyways, back to the actual novel of the name. It is also splendid and a dynamic read. Another piece in the saga's jigsaw of events surrounding Captain Jack Aubrey and Steven Maturin's marvellous adventures. 

Thursday, 20 September 2018

The Amazing Story of Frank Finkel of the Western Frontier in 1876

I watched an amazing History channel documentary on YouTube. It was a splendid story that historians cannot verify or reject. There are so many things that add credence to the man’s story. I wanted to present it in a flowery light. However, the documentary I watched told it in a different way. It was most compelling. I would like to present it in another way. It is set in the United States’ Frontier of 1876.

I want to ask the reader to imagine a trapper in the American West. A loner who is called Bill. A scruffy and bearded man. Perhaps dishevelled and hygienically challenged. It is 1876 and the time is around the last day of June or perhaps a couple of days into July. It is hot and the height of summer. By all accounts, our trapper is a man of an age between 30 and 40 and is rather grumpy. He takes shelter in a course shack where his one companion is lying inside on a sick bed. The man on the sick bed is suffering from Tuberculosis and is dying. All in all, circumstances are not good for Bill and his companion. Perhaps Bill is thinking of such things as he is chopping wood. He has a rifle close by because he is in Indian Territory. The Wild West frontier.

Suddenly another injured and dishevelled looking man appears. He is bloodied and exhausted. He is caked in blood upon his forehead and has the look of a person barely alive. Bill raises his rifle and starts to tell the wretched man to move on. He will not help him. Move on or Bill assures the wretched and injured man he will shoot him.

For the wretched man who had been travelling for many days, this is too much to bear. He had been wounded upon his horse and had been forced to shoot the animal after five days of riding. He had a bullet wound in the foot. Another in the abdomen and a ricochet of another in his forehead just above the eye. The man’s plight had been desperate and after days in the wilderness, his one chance of salvation was screaming at him to move on. And with the threat of being shot again. The wretched man had given up by this moment. It was more than he could bear. He collapsed.

Grumpy Bill would have sighed in anger. He did not need this further stress to his already complicated problems concerning his companion dying of Tuberculosis in the harsh wilderness. A wilderness that offered little salvation. A wilderness where plains Indians preyed upon settlers. Especially if they knew them to be vulnerable.

Reluctantly Bill managed to get the unconscious man to the coarse hut where his friend was. They realised that the young man was a Calvary trooper. Bill began to treat the wounds as best he could. The bedridden companion advised him how to go about things from his sick bed. The Trooper slipped into a coma for a few days but his metabolism held strong and he pulled through. The bullet wounds were dressed and managed to heal. When the trooper came around many days later, the man in the sick bed next to him had died of his consumption. Grumpy Bill needed the Trooper’s help in moving the dead man outside to a suitable location for burial.

Grumpy Bill may have now known that the Trooper’s name was Frank. His real name is Frank Finkel but he had used the alias name of Frank Hall when he joined the United States Army several years prior. He had been twenty in 1874 when joining the U.S. Army and one had to be twenty-one at the time. He, therefore, lied about his age and called himself Frank Hall instead of Frank Finkel.

Grumpy Bill allowed Frank Finkel to recuperate around his old shake until the fall. In that time, Grumpy Bill must have warmed to Frank. When Frank decided to leave and head north, he was given a horse. Perhaps it was the dead man’s that they had buried after Frank recovered from his wounds. He made for a boom town north of Yellowstone. It was called Fort Benton.

Frank was now out of uniform and in civilian close. One of the first things he learned once getting to civilisation was the fate of the 7th Calvary. He read all about the terrible fate of General Custer and his men at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. He learnt of Captain Benteen's and Major Reno's troop too. The whole thing shocked him. He was supposed to report back to the nearest Army office or he could be registered as a deserter. There was every opportunity to do so.

Frank Finkel did not. He had lied about his age and many of the bodies from the Battle of the Little Big Horn were unrecognisable. Custer’s group and Reno’s group had suffered loses. The corpses had been mutilated beyond recognition. Plus many were missing presumed dead. In the 7th Cavalry, Frank Finkel was not known. Only his alias of Frank Hall. He had had enough of the army and the West was a place where one could easily hide and become someone else.

Frank Finkel went to California first and then moved to Washington State. He found a town to settle in where the railroad was coming. He used his knowledge of carpentry and farming and gradually acquired wealth. He also got married and built a splendid house for himself. He lived in this town in Washington State for forty years and made many friends. He was an ageing man in his sixties when he had some friends around on the veranda one afternoon. They were chatting, smoking and drinking when one of his friends began to chat about General Custer. As the debate began to get heated, Frank sat listening to each man’s rendition of what happened. Some of the accounts were wild and full of speculation from men who had not witnessed the event. Frank could stand it no longer and decided to butt into the debate with an extraordinary claim.
He told them that he knew of certain events because he was there. He had witnessed much of what went on. He said that many reports concerning Custer’s troop would not true because he was a trooper in C troop under Custer’s command. Obviously, his listeners were shocked and the story of his young adventure in the 7th Cavalry spread like wildfire. 

It was 1920 by this time and Frank was an old man. A deserter who had accidentally escaped from Custer’s troop during the massacre. A local newspaper reporter in the town asked for an interview and Frank agreed. The story he told was one that even historians could not disclaim or discredit. They do not all believe it is necessarily true, but they can’t find things wrong. He actually testified that Custer’s troop did not cross the river and even said from where he was they never even got sight of the Indian village that they were trying to approach from a different area to that of Major Reno. Later historian and Indian accounts would add credence to this.

Frank Finkel AKA Trooper Frank Hall said that his C Troop unit was fired upon by hostile plains Indians from a dip in the ground. The Indian combatants were on foot with their ponies concealed beneath the mounds from where they were firing up the scarp towards the troop of C Company Cavalry. He said the small unit decided to charge the group on horseback but had no idea how many hostiles were concealed behind the dip in the ground. He was not sure if they were trying to escape or break through the lines.

The small troop were met with intense fire and quickly the charge faulted. As Frank Finkel (AKA Frank Hall) and his horse twisted and turned in the confusion, a shot hit him in the foot. He still struggled to keep his mount under control when a second shot hit him in the abdomen. As he raised his carbine, a third shot hit his weapon and ricocheted up and hit him above the eye. Blood ran down his face from the wound but the bullet had not penetrated. He was semi-conscious as his mount bolted with him still in the saddle. His horse trotted off and away from the conflict. Frank was carried away while the rest of his comrades fell.

He was badly injured and not knowing where he should go. The mount was just moving away from the battle. He came to two different water-filled gullies that had undrinkable tainted water. The third offered some respite as he and the horse could drink. He and his mount continued for five days until his horse stopped exhausted. It could go no further. Frank reluctantly shot the wretched beast to save it from being attacked by coyotes. He left the beast’s corpse and just continued walking for some more days. He would eventually arrive before grumpy Bill and receive help.

Much of Frank Finkel’s story adds up. There were also other details of accounts that help him. What also adds to his credibility among some historians is the fact that his alias was correct. There are accounts of other troopers escaping too. One on a white mount. This was an opportunity for Frank to grasp at something but he insisted that his horse was brown and not white. He stuck to his view of the events. He did not even know of Custer’s command until the fall when he got the news at Fort Benton.

He told his story in 1920 and much was made of his celebrity. He died in 1930 at the age of 76.    

Below is the very interesting History Channel Documentary via YouTube.    

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

A Science Fiction Adaptation that Steams Towards the Moment of Action.

A Science Fiction Adaptation that Steams Towards the Moment of Action!


1. Did you enjoy the dreadful thought of the War of the Worlds Tripod Fighting Machines from Mars?

2. What About the War of the Worlds 1953 Radio Broadcast?

3. Or the Jeff Wayne War of the Worlds Musical?

Science Fiction Lovers Indulge This Thought.

Imagine, if you will, how it would have been to be a Victorian sailor from retro British times of 1898. You are on board HMS Thunder Child and the ship is picking up strange semaphore messages from the shore stations. Invaders from Mars are striding about and destroying the entire fabric of our nation. Would you believe such outrages things? The entire ship would be alive with speculation and disbelief. These sailors were destined to see three Martian fighting machines and confront the colossal edifices in battle.

As an impressionable young lad, I always found myself pondering such things.

I would walk about in my dream thinking, “If I was in that story, I would do this or that.” I found myself wishing for all sorts of adventures.

When I read H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds, I remember getting a tremendous lift out of the short excerpt when an ironclad called H.M.S. Thunder Child attacked three Martian tripods in the River Blackwater to save a paddle steamer full of refugees. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

The Last Blast of Floral Colour for the Dying Summer.

I got home from work and went into the back garden. My wife had been pottering about in her much-loved domain for most of the day. Our little dog Darcey was wiggling her bottom and tail waiting for me to make a fuss of her. Which I did. Something that must be done upon my return home each afternoon.

I told Carole about the Common Buzzard I had seen on the telephone pole and she told me of a Red Kite being pestered by crows above the fields to the front of our house.

It was then that I noticed the flora around the garden pond. I made some 'wow' type comment and Carole said a new little aspect of flora had grown about the new pond we had put down. I thought it looked splendid. In a few weeks, the whole garden will look bleak and so will the fields and tree clusters. The winter stillness will come with its new look. Bleak and sad. Windswept but not too bad.

The Fenland Buzzard on the Telephone Pole.

I was driving along the country lane in the Fenland between Manea and Upwell. I turned onto the bridge over the Sixteen-foot river, where the sign said to March. I was returning to the work depot after finishing my day's work. As I trundled along the uneven tarmac of the lane towards March town, I was looking out over the fields. There is nothing but fields and criss-cross networks of canals that drain the Fens. It is peaceful, rural and I absolutely love it all. Especially when my work day is over and I can take a comfortable drive back to the council yard and clock off. 

It was then that I saw her on a telephone pole. I say 'her' but in truth, I was not sure of the buzzard's gender. The reason I decided the buzzard was 'her' as opposed to 'he' was because of the colouring. I had seen a Common Buzzard with a similarly mixed fleck at Sandringham a year before. On this occasion, a falconer was holding the wonderful creature and he told me the buzzard was female. Therefore my buzzard on the pole was a female too. Just a whim but there you have it.

My heart always leaps every time I see a bird of prey. The Fenlands is full of them and their numbers are increasing. This beautiful creature was staring at me from the telephone pole and did not move off as I drew nearer. It just looked at me as I drove past. Her plumage was lovey and I cursed to myself. 'Dam and blast! I never have the camera when driving.' 

I trundled on listening to the audio novel on my mobile that was placed on a charger stand. All of a sudden my mind clicked into gear. 

"Mobile!" I exclaimed to myself. 

Better than no camera at all. I pulled into a layby further down the road and checked no vehicle was coming along behind me as I turned around and went back to the buzzard's location. As I rounded the bend I could see the creature in the distance and slowed the van down. I knew she would get spoked as soon as I moved for the camera. They have spectacular eye-sight. I stopped the van picked up the mobile and put to camera settings just as she got spooked. I managed a couple of clicks but she took off as I was snapping away.

"Never mind," I told myself as I looked at two shots I thought I could put in the blog. I drove on passed to the next layby and turned around again to resume my journey back to the yard. As I passed the telephone pole again, the buzzard had returned and she was staring down at me as I passed. Just like the first time - almost dΓ©jΓ  vu.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Treason's Harbour by Patrick O'Brian (My Goodreads)

Treason's Harbour (Aubrey/Maturin #9)

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Espionage on the island of Malta plus conflict at sea. The whole saga is captivating. Steven Maturin really shines in this. On land that is. Where he excels.

Jack Aubrey is the same at sea, but rather like a fish out of water on land. These stories seem to switch between Maturin being the star in port or land with Jack Aubrey being a total master and commander aboard ship.

The espionage angle of this story is very gripping. Maturin is aware of all the deceit and complications too. A skilful enemy agent and his recruits want to infiltrate the Admiralty on the island of Malta. They are blackmailing a Sicilian Lady who is married to a captured British seaman. As Maturin uncovers things we are presented with more puzzles for future stories.

Jack Aubrey is ordered to come to terms with a titled middle eastern man who they suspect is allying with the French and who is demanding vast sums of money for neutrality or alliance etc. This leads to a great duel of ships at sea.

Another enjoyable part of the Aubrey/Maturin saga. I've already got the following story to this. The Far Side of the World. Truly splendid seafaring yarns.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell (My Goodreads Review)

Faceless Killers (Kurt Wallander, #1)

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ouch, I hate to say this BUT...

A very hard hitting and exceptionally violent murder story. OK, that will draw the reader in straight away. It is set in Sothern Sweden and the year is 1990. Inspector Wallander of Ystad Police Department must find the savage murderers of an old age couple on their isolated farm. The whole thing is very compelling.

As Wallander digs deep into the mystery we go on all sorts of twists and turns. It is splendidly written and I would advise anyone to read these Wallander stories.

I do, however, have one big axe to grind with this particular story. I obviously can’t say too much because of spoilers. The writer Henning Mankell focuses on a very emotive and much-discussed subject. It is commendable and brave to do this. However, I also wished the plot was not watered down by a counterplot of the opposite angle. It always happens that this type of subject must have a compulsory or secondary issue. It has to be brought in. It spoilt the story for me. I felt it was trying to appease the PC brigade. It is just a personal opinion of what was a rather well-written story. That is why I only gave an average mark despite the superior writing ability of Mankell's very good stories.

The Crown for Castlewood Manor: My American Almost-Royal Cousin Series by Veronica Cline Barton (My Goodreads Review)

The Crown for Castlewood Manor: My American Almost-Royal Cousin Series

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A young American woman named Gemma Alexandra Lancaster Philips decides to visit her ancestors in Britain. One of her distant and late aunts had married into the British aristocracy back in the 1930s. Her related Brit family estate is competing for the rights to have a new and hopefully popular TV saga filmed on location at their grounds. Such a project would increase revenue for running the vast family mansion and grounds. With TV revenue and an increase in visitor attraction, such a win would be a lucrative deal and set the estate’s financial balance in good order for the foreseeable future.

The estate is known as Castlewood Manor. This is the first story of my American Almost Royal Cousin Series. Gemma is persuaded by her actor mother to go over to Britain and help her aristocratic cousins win the competition. She leaves behind her Malibu house and cheating boyfriend and begins a new adventure with her dashing cousins, Kyle and Evan to win the important TV competition.

The problem is, there are other aristocratic estates participating in the competition too. And there is a complete lack of British sportsmanship about the whole affair. The dirty tricks are being pulled out of the bag in the most ghastly of ways. The coveted prize knows no bounds. For even the diabolical murder of participants is entertained.

Gemma and her cousins must walk a tight line as the competition progresses. Even when the Queen and other members of the Royal family attended functions, foul play is still lurking for the participants. We have the typical English cad and the rude obnoxious Brit rich bitch all thrown into the mix.

If you enjoy Cluedo board game style Murder Mystery or Hercule Poirot etc, I think you will enjoy this. One of the things we all do is to try and see if we can guess the murderer. Then when we find out, we all think ‘Oh blast!’

Well, I never see the end coming the way it did. I don’t think you will either. A very enjoyable read.

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Thursday, 13 September 2018

Another Dog Walk to the Fenland Bird Hides.

There were a large number of Buzzards flying about. Also many Kestrels too. In the distance was a Marsh Harrier. It looked good through the binoculars but was too far for a decent photograph.

The bull does not seem to mind us being there. Just so long as the river between is there too.

I always wonder how long the rickety old cottage will last. When will it fall down? It certainly looks as though it could do with some TLC. 

Our little dog, Darcey was full of spirit. Finally, she could leave the car and go for a run along the bridle path and up the scarp of the dyke.

Sometimes they go speeding along the river and you automatically click with the camera. It is more like a reflex action. I did not know what it was at first because its wings seemed to flap furiously. It would drop and rise, drop and rise. I caught it several times and when I got home and studied the photo shot, I realised it was a Woodpecker. 

Darcey always looks forward to a walk along the bird hides at Manea. The trouble is, she can't always contain her excitement while driving there. She whines and yelps all the way. Once we are there, she is fine and can run and let off some pent-up steam.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

We Love Our Lazy Cat - Fat Bob.

Our cat Bob is one of the laziest cats that I have ever known. He is a great cat and does not cause any trouble. He is just Bob! Bob the laziest cat in the world. All he does is sit about on the roof of our bungalow or the next door neighbour's roof. He looks out across the fields to the front but never crosses the road. His domain is our back garden and the next door neighbour's garden too. He will challenge any moogy that ventures upon his patch. 

In the photo, he is looking directly at me. He has a hopeful glint in his eye because he knows I often give him a slice of ham. He sits by the fridge, looking at me when indoors. If I go to get the milk for my tea, he is there meowing and trying to scrounge a quick slice.

My wife, Carole, and I were going out when I see Bob on the neighbour's fence. He must have known we were doing the shopping as he made no attempt to move. He is a great lump and when he jumps down from the high fence, there is a distinct lack of finesse or any type of feline grass. We just hear a splat! Bob seems to belly flop upon the ground. Yet he never seems to be injured. He stands up and waddles off. A big fat hairy lump of fur.

Despite his un-cat like ways, we love him dearly. He is twelve years old now. As a little kitten, he was snow white. Then he went a sort of sandy blond colour as he grew.  

Monday, 10 September 2018

A Duel of Dissatisfying Satisfaction.

Prelude to a Duel of Dissatisfying Satisfaction. 

Imagine the scene, if you will. It is dawn on the 27th of May. Early summer of 1798. I can’t be sure, but it might be a Sunday. Perhaps a Saturday, but most likely, Sunday. I would imagine the sky is clear and blue with the promise of a kind day. The trees are full of new green and vibrant foliage. You are on Putney Common and enjoying a morning stroll. The birds are tweeting their morning song. Early risers are rare but not uncommon. Soon the church bells might start to ring. If it is a Sunday.

Continue to imagine you are one such early riser on this fine morning of 1798. At one remote area of the common, you would saunter upon a scene. There is a small group of gentlemen gathered about for an event. They are witnesses and referees to a rather important and perhaps, an impetuous consequence that consists on this fine morning. And from this, there could be something of further national magnitude. Depending on the result of the developing circumstance. This is the cinema before you – the reader travelled back in time.

For on this particular morning, it is for an even more bizarre occasion than usual. A duel is about to take place. A rather special duel due to one of the participants being the Prime Minister of the entire nation. Duels have taken place on Putney Common before, but this one is a little different. What on Earth would bring a Prime Minister to take part in such a ludicrous match? What would the nation think? What would the tabloids of today report if heads of state did such a thing in this day and age?

In London of this time, like any other time, the debates in the House of Commons can get heated. The world of politics is often so. Politicians of the days of 1798 could sometimes get a little carried away in the heat of the moment. Often, the angry man might demand satisfaction in the heat of such angry and argumentative flashes.

Angrily Whigs or Tories retorting words like, “By God Sir, I’ll call you out!”

Then perhaps a nonchalant reply of, “…And I should be happy to oblige Sir.”

Perhaps the customary slap with the glove and the demand for satisfaction. Such a thing, or similar, had happened to bring about the state of affairs on this early summer morning in late May.

A gentleman had felt slighted and insulted. An important man from the House of Commons. His name was George Tierney. He was a Member of Parliament and represented Southwark at the time. He was the son of an Irish Merchant who had been a prize agent stationed in Gibraltar, where George Tierney had been born in 1761. He went into law as a young man but abandoned this for politics. By 1798, he was known as an Anglo-Irish Whig MP.

He would hold a number of offices as, The Treasurer of the Navy, President of the Board of Control and also, Master of the Mint. Each position was one of significant importance to the running of the country.

The man who had caused offence to George Tierney was William Pitt the Younger - the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Ireland. It was one day before his thirty-ninth birthday. William Pitt being born on the 28th of May 1759. He had become the youngest Prime Minister ever in 1783 at the age of twenty-four.

William Pitt had overseen the country during the French Revolution and on this day of 1798, the nation of Britain had been at war with the new French Republic run by Napoleon. It was the beginning of the Napoleonic Wars. William Pitt was now a self-styled independent politician and was bringing about the new age of Tories. In a bitter argument in the House of Commons, Pitt the younger, and Prime Minister, had claimed George Tierney in want of patriotism.

In a mild way, I suppose one might call ‘want of patriotism’ treacherous. The Whig MP George Tierney did so. And on such a conviction, he challenged the Prime Minister to a duel on Putney Common.

So this is how you, the reader, stumble upon the ominous ceremony on the summer morning of May 1798 while taking your stroll through Putney Common.

It is pistols at dawn. The contest between the outspoken critic of the British Prime Minister’s policies, George Tierney – the MP for Southwark.  And the opponent, William Pitt the Younger – the Prime Minister of Great Britain and Ireland, complete with his disagreeable policies and his insult of ‘want of patriotism’ to the slighted MP standing before him.

So the curtains are drawn on this fine morning and the dreadful contest is about to take place. Have tempers cooled since the argument? What if one should kill the other? What further consequences would follow?

Pistols were raised and aim taken. The Prime Minister was a slightly built and thin man. He was a narrow target to aim at. George Tierney, on the other hand, was a rather rotund figure and presented a better target. It is not known who fired first or if each man fired at the same time. Both missed!

Was it all a charade in the end? Was either man told to miss after common sense was talked into both by their seconders? Who knows? Neither could back down with honour intact once the challenge was called. Perhaps they had to go through the motions and deliberately miss. Once each man had fired honour had been satisfied by each party. Maybe it was just a ritual that had to be performed once the foolishness had been uttered?

Each man went back to his office and played his role in the running of the nation. Perhaps they were each a little wiser after the impulsive event? Once such things were done in these circles of gentry, perhaps the protocols had to be seen through. Even if they came to an agreement of the words being uttered in haste. Maybe the missing was a routine route of the satisfaction being arrived at for both parties? A way of avoiding more dreadful consequences?

William Pitt the Younger would die in office in 1806. George Tierney would live on until 1830. 

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Julius Caesar Raids Ancient Britain.

Julius Caesar Raids Ancient Britain.

A Roman Commander's Strange Diversion.

Why did Julius Caesar drop everything in Gaul for an adventure in Ancient Britain?

Julius Caesar

Ancient Britain’s Upstart Cassivellanus and Julius Caesar.

An Event Over Two Thousand Years Old.
When I think about Julius Caesar's attack on Ancient Britain I find it hard to grasp why he made the choice. There are many different reasons told by various historians. This creates further confusion. Some historians had access to accounts written by ancient scholars like the Greek historian Dio Cassius. His record of the event was written two hundred years after Julius Caesar died. The Greek historian, in turn, had access to archives containing Caesar's personnel reports. Many of the names given to Ancient Britons are what Romans decided to call them. Often, they are not the original Celtic names. These Roman scholars are prone to exaggerate in favour of Rome from accounts written by Romans. There is a lot of economic truth. This means much of the history must be speculation. The great Julius Caesar and his visit to Ancient Britain is a story told from many different perspectives. Some modern-day historians say he tried to invade and failed. Others think his visit was a raid. A successful one that achieved a favourable result.
I watched a documentary about the Russian Revolution on TV. Three eminent historians told three different accounts of how Lenin felt and why he gave his speech before a crowd in Petrograd (St Petersburg.) Each historian had different views and reasons. Not all of these learned people could be right. But they could all be wrong. This was in 1917 and there are written records plus film. One hundred years later and these people still don't have a uniform opinion about a historical event. What are the chances for something that happened over two thousand years ago?
What is probable?
1. Julius Caesar did lead an expedition to Ancient Britain.
2. He was fighting the Gallic Wars in Gaul.
3. There was such a person as Cassivellanus. (Latin name. Not his Celtic name)
4. There was such a person as Chieftain Mandubracius of the Trinovante. (Latin name. Not his Celtic name)
5. There was an Atrebates Chieftain called Commius. (Latin name. Not his Celtic name)
I'm kicking off with speculation.
I would like the reader to picture a Roman camp somewhere in Ancient Gaul (today's France.) Inside the camp is Julius Caesar. For some years he has been in the land of the Gauls. He has a large Roman army of many grand legions, but the Gauls are proving to be difficult people to subjugate. There are persistent uprisings around Gaul.
Caesar's tent would be large. There would be certain luxuries and there would be fine Roman furniture. Even a chair for receiving important visitors. He is sitting in such a chair when a group of disgruntled Chieftains from Ancient Britain come before him. Julius Caesar and his Roman guards have grim demeanours. Perhaps it is raining outside of the tent. The atmosphere is a sombre one. The news that the displaced Britons bring is not good for the Roman Commander. He must indulge and get caught up in the politics of these usurped Britons. Why would he do such a thing? The Roman Commander was already in a volatile situation.
During the period of time that I'm writing about, Julius Caesar had been fighting a series of campaigns. He had been in Gaul for three years. These were known as the Gallic Wars and they lasted from 58 to 50 BC. At around 55 BC these wars were far from over. The Gaul Chieftain, Vercingetorix, may have started leading attempts to form a unification of tribes against Caesar’s Roman Army. Though not yet effective, perhaps the knowledge of something simmering was present in Roman minds. Bigger battles are yet to come in Gaul. Then, in the middle of these unresolved and sporadic Gallic wars, why did the Roman Military leader drop everything to invade Britain?
How about this.
1. Was the Gaul Chieftain (Vercingetorix) already trying to unify the Gaul tribes? (A plan in its infancy.)
2. Could Vercingetorix have sent diplomats to Ancient Britain?
3. Were Ancient Britons about to join the unification plan while still in its infancy?
4. Did Caesar invade Britain to thwart such a plan?

The event I do not believe.
Great Julius Caesar tried to invade Ancient Britain and failed. At least that is the way I remember learning it at school. Julius Caesar's ships landed around 55 to 54 BC. As an impressionable child, I had visions of Roman soldiers jumping from the galleys into the sea. I saw them wading through the waves towards the beach. They were about to conquer Ancient Britain. Then a host of brave British warriors painted in blue wode charged onto the shore and drove the Roman soldiers into the sea. The Roman ships returned to Gaul and great Julius Caesar was driven away. I suppose it sounds wonderful and patriotic from my British schoolboy perspective. I doubt the real historical event was anything like that.
Back to some speculation and what was known.
What information did Julius Caesar receive from his sullen British visitors? What lured the Roman Commander away from the struggle in Gaul? Britain was full of feudal Celtic kingdoms. Just like Gaul. The culture of Druid worship was the same as in Gaul. Students from Gaul came to Britain on religious learning programs. The Britons' ways were similar to all the Celtic regions of North West Europe. But the Britons were across a sea. Why bother with them?
I do not know anything about leading many thousands of men against an enemy in a foreign land. I should imagine it would be a very consuming endeavour. Julius Caesar must have had a complex and political reason to take legions away on a quest in Britain. Especially when Gaul was nowhere near defeated.
The group of usurped Ancient Britons were led by a Trinovante Chieftain called Mandubracius. They had been displaced by one all-conquering Chieftain. The fugitives probably convinced the Roman Commander that it was in his best interests to help them reclaim their feudal realms. They may not have supported the Roman Empire, but the situation with the strange all-conquering chieftain in Britain made the Romans a lesser evil.
Mandubracius is a Latin name meaning the black traitor. His Celtic name sounded like Avarwy. Romans often admired their enemy. They worked with and rewarded traitors, but they did not always approve of them. It is possible that Caesar did not have a high opinion of the displaced Ancient Britons that came for his help. But the new all-conquering chieftain in Ancient Britain may have been viewed as a new warlord.
Some historians presume Julius Caesar led a raid on Ancient Britain. As opposed to a failed invasion. An expedition that achieved a primary goal. Julius Caesar may have feared something called a Corion Toutas. This word means a multiple tribal alliance. It was what Caesar was suspicious of in Gaul. Vercingetorix would form a Corion Toutas. Perhaps it may appeal to British tribes? Caesar would be aware how difficult tribal unification could be. Ancient Britain may have achieved the first part of a Corion Toutas of tribes. A unification before Vercingetorix formed one in Gaul. All these Celtic Tribes shared a culture. The Gauls were brethren. Could the new upstart British warlord develop into a difficult warlord? Could the Corion Toutas join the Gauls? Become bigger and confront the Roman Legions? If this was so, then Julius Caesar's interest in raiding Ancient Britain becomes reasonable. A Roman alliance with grateful British Chieftains would rid Caesar of further enemy unification from Britain.

Cassivelanus of Ancient Britain

Caesar’s Problem in Ancient Britain.

The all-conquering chieftain in Ancient Britain was portrayed as a power-grabbing and self-styled warrior called Cassivellanus. He had taken control of many British feudal kingdoms. The tribal leaders who did not accept Cassivellanus, as overall supreme chieftain, were driven from power. Perhaps there was more politics to it. Maybe Cassivellanus found some type of platform. There could have been gatherings where he preached about a need to help the Gauls. It would be reasonable that various tribes supported the idea of an alliance. They must have feared and known of the Roman Empire.
Cassivellanus is almost certainly not the Chieftain’s real name. It sounds more Latin and is probably a title. There seems to be an anonymity about him. A lack of personification. The Chieftain is thought to be from the Catuvellauni lands of Britain just north of today’s River Thames.
Caesar needed to do something. First, he tried without committing a Roman army. He sent a diplomatic mission to Britain. Of all the Celtic kingdoms in Gaul, one nation was friendly to Rome. It was the land of the Atrebates. The Chieftain was known as Commius. The land is roughly where today’s Benelux region of Europe is.
The Atrebate, for some reason, allied with the Roman Empire. In support of their Roman alliance, the Atrebate Chieftain went on a mission to Britain with some trading merchants. It would have been diplomatic and to see what the alliance of tribes looked like. He was not received well. As an Atrebate the anti-Roman tribes of Britain would not trust such a man. Commius was taken hostage by Cassivellanus.
Julius Caesar then took a fleet of galleys to Britain. The expedition crossed the Channel and sailed along the coastline. On board, his fleet of ships were two of his legions. The 7th and 10th. The rest of his army remained in Gaul where the series of tribal wars continued. The Romans landed near Deal, in Kent and were reported to have met with resistance. This part of the story becomes vague. Some say that the Romans went back to Gaul. The landing failed. If there was a major battle, why does it not have a name? The Roman archives always note battles. Even ones the Romans lost. If the Romans did return to Gaul, they came back the following year.
Caesar created an encampment. He needed a strong bridgehead. The Roman stronghold remained for some time. It lasted for many months. During this period many of his ships were wrecked in a storm while anchored in a bay. Julius Caesar was also brought the devastating news of his daughter's premature death.
From the coastal encampment, the invaders sent out reconnaissance patrols. Deeper penetration into Britain did not happen immediately. There were skirmishes as Britons engaged some of the investigative Roman excursions. On one occasion a high-ranking Roman officer was killed in an ambush. I get the impression of a palisade fort by the coast. Like the structures in the American Wild West. Except this was a palisade in barbarian Britain. The natives were Britons in blue wode. Savages waiting to ambush the Roman patrols as they marched through the forests.
Finally, Julius Caesar decided to press on with his mission. The Roman Commander assembled and then led his army westward before bending to the north. There were more military engagements along the way. The Romans also took a few British strongholds. Gradually the invaders moved through Britain’s forests pushing the Britons back. Caesar was surprised to see that the enemy used chariots during some of the engagements. After some time, The Romans reached the River Thames. On the other side was the land of the Catuvellauni where the upstart British Chieftain Cassivellanus came from. There were several attacks against the Roman Army again. The Romans held their ground and eventually captured a high ranking enemy Chieftain. His tribe was allied to Cassivellanus.
The Romans had done enough to force Cassivellanus to parley. Many of the other tribes wanted the captured chieftain freed. The tribal alliance was breaking down. Cassivelanus sent an envoy to broker a peace. As these talks continued, Commius the hostage was used to negotiate. Cassivellanus agreed to withdraw his hold over the tribes of the British Chieftains he had displaced. Caesar was able to return control of the feudal kingdoms to the usurped British Chieftains. The British leader adversely referred to as Mandubracius (Black Traitor) got back his Trinovante land and people. Perhaps his people did not want him back? All the desperate Chieftains who had come to Caesar in Gaul were grateful. The Roman Commander had made friends of these men by aiding them. In return, they pledged not aid the Gauls. He also brokered the making of the British Atrebate. A new migrant kingdom in the south. Caesar would have eyes and ears in Britain.
Julius Caesar and his Roman army accepted the pledge of Cassivellanus not to wage war on neighbouring tribes. The upstart Briton had to respect the old Chieftains. This done, the Romans returned across the Channel and back to the campaign in Gaul. The Roman Empire would not return to Ancient Britain for another ninety years.

Why Raid Ancient Britain?

Julius Caesar's dilemma during the Gallic Wars.

Celtic lands of the Isles.