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Magical toadstone…

June 24th, 2012 Comments off

Inflicted with a moderate migraine, I’ve been distracting myself by admiring the old rings featured on the Ashmolean Museum’s online archive. I particularly enjoyed the love rings (of course). I didn’t know that clasped hands on rings as a symbol of fidelity and love goes back to Roman times (though it makes sense that it would) and that the symbolism was used all over Europe. I was only familiar with the Irish Claddagh ring. I now want one of the gloriously creepy 15th century Italian rings with boney sculpted 3-D hands clasping each other…till death..etc? I forgot all about love rings when I caught sight of the words “Magical Ring”! Clicking on the picture I discovered the ring was set with toadstone; a substance I’ve never heard of. Have a look at this example. On reading the short paragraph my throbbing head filled with snatches of fairy tales…

Categories: History Notes, Museums Tags:

Stately Ghosts of England…

June 23rd, 2012 1 comment

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.

Categories: Ghost stories, History Notes Tags:

A death at le Château de Orthez…

June 19th, 2012 2 comments

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…

Update on Dancing the Maypole…

June 11th, 2012 8 comments

Dancing the Maypole, the main book I’ve been working on over the last four years, is very very nearly finished. Today I completed chapter 48. There should only be two more chapters and an Epilogue (unless I’m wrong and there’s more – Please Nooooo!) This book has ended up twice the length of my other books which is partly why it’s taken so long. Once Dancing the Maypole is finished I’ll crack open Once Upon a Wager (which should only need about three more chapters unless I’m wrong) and hopefully have that on line this year as well. Tomorrow I start chapter 49! I’m nearly done!!!!

Categories: Dancing the Maypole Tags:

Come into my parlour said the spider…

June 10th, 2012 2 comments

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…

Cabinet No 1…

June 8th, 2012 Comments off

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…