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Stately Ghosts of England…

June 23rd, 2012

If you’re in the mood for some Ghostly stories, need a laugh, or you love the weird and bizarre. You will love this program (on Youtube) made in the late fifties/early sixties called ‘Stately Ghosts of England’. It’s about an hour in five parts. The main personality is Margaret Rutherford (as herself) and these two other men. The whole program was scripted though all the people filmed try to act like it wasn’t which is what makes it hilarious. (At one point the Clairvoyant man says dramatically – “You don’t have two ghosts. You have three!” And then Margaret Rutherford says with a straight face, “Three! Three! Three!”). They visit real stately homes and talk to the real owners who talk about their family ghosts. In the last part the Lady of the manor is mechanically doing flowers as she talks about her ghostly experiences. Look for her husband (Lord) standing off to the left with folded arms leaning against the wall. You can’t buy that Lordly stance and superior expression! You can only inherit it from a family tree full of self-important individuals with generations of slender fingers in powerful pies. That stance sums up for me the traditional English Aristocracy which is struggling to survive in the modern world where successive governments demand crippling death taxes on their estates. I personally think it would be sad to see the breed die out, not that they’d give a dead daisy what I think.

This is brilliant television. The cameramen who shot it were artists. They did a beautiful job sculpting the light.

Ghost stories, History Notes

A death at le Château de Orthez…

June 19th, 2012

This last week I needed a treat so I ordered “Ghosthunter A Journey Through Haunted France” by Simon Marsden. For some reason I thought it was going to be a real ghost story book with photos, but it turned out to be more a photo-journal of purportedly haunted places with a few notes of ghostly happenings and or the author’s feelings as he walked around taking photos. If I’d understood what I was buying I’d still have bought the book (and loved it), I just wouldn’t have felt disappointed that I wasn’t getting a proper “story” for each site. That is my only negative comment. If you love France, black and white atmospheric photos of ruins and the macabre, notes of ghostly happenings, grisly histories and a list of  magical looking locations you’ll have to visit to see for yourself if they are haunted…I highly recommend this book!

Marsden visits quite a few ruins that were once important French Castles/fortified dwellings. Unsurprisingly, most of these places in the distant past were often owned by power-crazed psychos who caused mayhem and misery. One of my favorite site is entitled “Eternal Damnation” at the Château de Orthez (in the Pyrenees). All that remains of this chateau is the Moncade Tower and a few ramparts. Read more…

Book Reviews, Ghost stories, History Notes

Come into my parlour said the spider…

June 10th, 2012

There’s an organization in England called The National Trust which owns lots of houses…lots of land…lots and lots of stuff! They own more stuff than any one person could see in a lifetime without one’s eyes drying up, falling out and ending in one of their collections of stuff. Sensing their hoard might be missing a trick (ie missing opportunities to make money) they’ve put online a collection of photographs of some their stuff (and offer the option to purchase large detailed photos for personal perusal). If, like me, you enjoy trawling through endless photos of antiques (because you never know what might inspire a romance novel or end up on the must have wish list) this website is for you! Some of the souls choosing items to be photographed for the collection appear to be either blind or mad (is there anyone out there in the known universe who lives to trawl through numerous photos of pewter dishes that all look alike?), but that’s part of the charm. Typing “pewter” into the search box (you have to click on the search button – pushing the enter key does nothing) on the second page I discovered a pewter bedpan from 1820… Read more…

History Notes, Louis et Francoise, Museums, Regency Notes

Cabinet No 1…

June 8th, 2012

Last month I persuaded my Goblin to take me to this antique market west of Lincoln. It’s an ex military base where the old RAF buildings have been taken over by various individual businesses many of which sell antiques. I’d decided that I needed (yes, needed) to treat myself to something Georgian…preferably something that had been manufactured before and then survived the Regency period.

Being an overly optimistic soul I had visions of finding an ugly ceramic figurine or clock that no one else wanted. I gave myself a budget (that could be given stretch marks if I saw something that called my name and promised I’d die without it). The Goblin only lasted the first building and then went back to the car for a nap. I carried on, determined to find treasure. After three buildings I’d seen about three things I liked (in the first building), but none of them made me feel anything. I looked at the objects. They stared back. They were lovely, but they weren’t for me…particularly after I gave myself a mental slap and asked myself if I really wanted to spend 80 English pounds for a cup and saucer that for all I knew was worthless. I kept looking. I was feeling exhausted when I entered the fourth building called Astra Antiques Centre. As I stepped inside and saw all the glass cabinets my spirits rose. Behind all that glass had to be at least one thing for me.

Just inside the door, I was peering into the nearest case when I overheard the young man behind the counter tell three apparent customers (who were also young men) that all the best stuff was in cabinet No. 1 which was located at the top of the stairs. I made a mental note to find that cabinet and have a look because it doesn’t cost anything to look at the best stuff and dream. Long before I made it to the stairs I’d seen several Georgian cups and saucers I liked at only 20 – 40 English pounds which compared to 80 seemed like a steal. I didn’t really spend too much time looking downstairs, I was drawn up the stairs by the nagging mystery of cabinet No 1. Read more…

History Notes, I've been taking photographs, Regency Notes

Book Review: The Night Side of Nature…

May 20th, 2012

I don’t know if it’s a Vitamin deficiency, a lack of decent sleep or a morbid fascination for the weird and bizarre, but out of the blue I can be struck by an insane craving for real ghost stories. The craving demands stories I’ve never heard before; preferably weird ones that make me shiver and feel glad to live in my boring unhaunted house. (How do I know it’s unhaunted? That! is another story.) This last year I had the ghost story craving hit hard and I ended up having to buy (and borrow from the library) quite a few books before it was satiated. In my quest for stories I accidentally discovered ghost story treasure. The title, ‘The Night Side of Nature’ doesn’t sound like treasure. It makes one think of worms gasping for air on drenched sidewalks glistening in the moonlight. Treasure comes in all shapes and sizes! The author, Catherine Crowe, was not only a woman, she was the first person to attempt to scientific study (and then publish a book) on ghostly phenomenon. There had been earlier books on ghosts, but as she notes they were all written by men who’d already made up their mind that there was no such thing as ghosts. She felt such a well documented phenomenon found in every culture and every age deserved closer inspection.

Born in 1800, Crowe was an educated English woman fluent in German and German philosophy. A very logical person, she had an open curious mind. Published in 1848, this book is much more than a collection of 18th and 19th century ghost stories. Because Crowe is retelling stories that have been recounted as taking place in ordinary life the reader gets a detailed glimpse into the past one rarely finds in biographies or personal letters. As a social history this book is solid gold. As story-fodder (stuff that feeds the story factory in any writer’s brain) it is platinum. As a collection of ghost stories it is an Aladdin’s Cave! I loved this book and highly recommend it. The author’s introduction and the first chapter or two are rather thick going, but once she starts sharing ghost stories I found it hard to put down. I highly recommend it. I can’t believe I’d never come across it before I bought it though maybe I wasn’t ready for it… To give you a sample of what I mean I have to share my favorite ghost story from the book…

From page 232 using Crowe’s spelling and punctuation: Read more…

Book Reviews, Ghost stories, History Notes, Regency Notes

And the Universe smiled…sort of…

December 14th, 2010

Today I managed to scribble messages of love on two specially purchased Christmas cards. I made a great start – instead of writing ‘Hello’ I wrote ‘Hellow’. My head cold has been doing weird things to my head (weirder than normal). Read more…

History Notes, I've been taking photographs, I've been thinking, King John

Hester Bateman – Georgian silversmith…

November 20th, 2010

One of the things I often say to myself is, “You don’t know something until you know it.” Perhaps I need a constant reminder of the obvious because I tend to assume things. For instance; I assumed that Georgian silversmiths were all men. Today I’ve learned that they weren’t. This shouldn’t surprise me (having researched numerous women artists from all ages), but it does. My knew piece of knowledge (like most of my interesting knowledge) was accidentally acquired. I walked into town to get a few things and stopped off at the charity shop (again) and found four issues of a magazines from 1967, ‘The Antique Dealer and Collector’s Guide’. I flipped through them all and found they each had pictures or articles about some Regency or Georgian item/artist that I had to have. At home at my desk I pulled the first one off the pile and was flipping through to find “the good stuff” when I came to an ad titled Silver by Hester Bateman. I assumed Hester was a dealer. Having admired the tea pot, I read the paragraph under this photo… Read more…

History Notes, Regency Notes

Figaro…Figaro…Fi…gaa…rooow…

August 30th, 2010
One of my heros, Beaumarchais

One of my heroes, Beaumarchais

I must have been about ten and my sister eight when one of us somehow heard the word Figaro sung three times…the third Figaro drawn out. I remember us singing at the top of our voices, “Figaro…Figaro… Figaaaroooo”. It must have been irritating to anyone within hearing because to fully enjoy the three notes you have to sing them over and over.

I’ve no idea how the word or tune came to be a part of my life, but Figaro stuck. When the movie Amadeus came out in mid 80’s and one of his operas briefly mentioned in the movie was The Marriage of Figaro. Being in my teens, it dawned on me that this must be where the word came from. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever listened to the entire opera. I thought I had and then I found out that my copy was missing parts and I can’t actually remember if anyone in the Opera actually sings, “Figaro Figaro Figaaaroooo”, but it was no longer a meaningless word. It was name. It was a person. Read more…

History Notes, I've been thinking

Is your face a prison of love…?

August 16th, 2010

I’ve been in a strange morose state the past few weeks (months?). The thought of blogging or writing to kith and kin seems to switch on the fog machine in my brain. It’s belching out fluffy gray clouds as I write. The spell of morose mental weather could be caused by the actual weather which has been mainly overcast for weeks. I’m one of those people affected by positive ions in the air (due to certain types of weather)…really…and no, I don’t hear alien voices…none with strange accents anyways (writers always hear their characters talking). So I’ve been a morbid wench (What is this ache, twinge, throbbing pain? I’m going to die…my Goblin will be lonely…until he finds a new wife…etc), but at the same time I’ve been slowly writing or rewriting. My brain clears when I work on my stories, but not when I try to write a birthday letter. I find this really irritating as the longer I don’t write the letter, the longer I’ll feel guilty, the more I feel guilty the more I procrastinate. Screams rend the still night air… Read more…

History Notes, I've been thinking

Guest Blogger, Linore Rose Burkard: Princess Charlotte of Wales

February 12th, 2010

Princess Charlotte:

Romantic Royal, Doomed Daughter

(Or, the Princess Who Should Have Been Queen)

by Linore Rose Burkard

Princess Charlotte of Wales

Princess Charlotte of Wales

Imagine if Queen Victoria never came to the throne because her cousin, Princess Charlotte Augusta (1796-1817), beat her to it. Of course this couldn’t have happened: Despite being as wildly popular to the England of her time as Princess Diana was to ours, Princess Charlotte never became the Queen she might have been, and by birth, should have been, for the simple reason that she died before getting the chance. Read on to catch a glimpse of Her Royal Highness, Princess Charlotte of Wales -Daughter of the Regent (later George IV). She was passionate, a sometime pawn of her warring parents, and a great favorite among the English during the Regency until her tragic death in 1817. She was a romantic ideal to her subjects, (even Jane Austen loved her) but a doomed daughter. A future monarch who would never reach the throne. Read more…

Guest Bloggers, History Notes, Regency Notes