The Mystery of Buildings in the Eleventh Century

The Handfasted Wife is my historical fiction in progress. It is about Edith Swanneck, the handfasted wife of Harold Godwin. In this novel locations include late Anglo-Saxon estates, abbeys and palaces such as the Cathedral and Palace at Westminster depicted in an illustration from the Bayeux Tapestry. Not much is known on the historical record about Edith Swanneck. I speculate … Read More

Winter In Amsterdam

Two weekends ago, Amsterdam, a most sophisticated European city, halted as snow fell and the canals froze over. On Friday all was hushed, traffic crept along the canal sides and bicycles were parked up, along bridges, by curbs, marooned. We picked our way along slippery cobbles, over treacherous bridges and through narrow icy streets to warm museums, steamy cafes, or … Read More

An Eye for Fashion, Photography by Norman Parkinson 1954-1964

Last weekend I took a stroll into the past. I was delighted to receive an invitation from our friend Angela Williams to attend the launch of an exhibition of original vintage prints by fashion photography Norman Parkinson. Angela was Parkinson’s assistant during the early sixties. When he left his Twickenham studio she asked if she could have his surplus vintage … Read More

The Memsahib of Ooty, A Passage to Kerala, part 2.

E.M Foster’s Passage to India is not simply about the domination of the Raj, it is, more importantly, about human relationships. When Foster writes in his other famous novel, Howard’s End,the words, ‘only connect’, he emphasises that it is the connections between human beings that matter most in his writing. As I sat on the Nilgili mountain railway with our … Read More

A Passage to Kerala- Episode One-Christmas to New Year

I have always been a fan of E.M Foster’s novel A Passage To India. It encapsulates the tense atmosphere that can emerge from the meeting of two very different cultures when one culture conquers and as a consequence considers itself superior to the other.In Foster’s novel this tension is presented in the central enigma of what happened in the caves … Read More

Books for Four Seasons

I am an obsessive reader. Here I choose four of the many historical novels I have enjoyed in each season of 2011. It was hard to select but these are particularly good historical fictions. Winter Last winter I particularly liked This January Tale written in 1966 by Bryher, an unusual writer who is often forgotten. It tells of how the … Read More

Mistletoe, Mont St Michel and a Norman Castle

It is the edge of Winter, a liminal time and the trees in Normandy have great balls of mistletoe growing amongst bared branches. In Norman towns people are preparing for Advent, hanging municiple decorations and holding Christmas craft markets. So, last week, we set out from our borrowed farmhouse in the Norman Bocage to visit places we had not seen … Read More

Boots, a pilgrim staff and Santiago de Compostella

On a chilly November day last year I purchased a pair of Ecco walking boots and thick socks. Walking from Ferrol to Santiago de Compostella would be demanding so I prepared. Each weekend I broke in those boots, walking locally. At the end of May five of us flew from Heathrow by Vueling Airlines to A Coruna in Gallicia where … Read More

Divining a Witch

It is All Hallows Eve; a time for witches, dressing up and apple bobbing. The Historich Openlucht Museum(open air History Park) is on the outskirts of the Company town of Eindhoven, originally built to house the workers employed in the Phillips Electrical business. The park is a medieval time slip. As you enter you approach the Bronte Os (Multicoloured Ox) … Read More

Sutton Hoo and Handfastings

On Sunday I made the trip to Sutton Hoo for the first time. This is the site of a 7th century burial, a spectacular Saxon ship and mound graves containing grave goods which tells us much about life in East Anglia during the seventh century. The National Trust Museum on the site brings to life the treasure that was unearthed … Read More