A Titanic Weekend in Belfast

The weekend of 14th April was the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic, a hugely significant date in the maritime and social history of Belfast. We had arranged to visit the city for a Van Morrison dinner concert taking place that weekend in The Culloden Hotel. We had set out innocent of all knowledge of the imminent anniversary but … Read More

Stanfords, A London Treasure

Apart from the joy of reading books (and writing them!) there is also the pleasure to be had from just browsing in bookshops and handling the goods. Last weekend I visited Stanfords, probably Britain’s best travel bookshop. The store is in Covent Garden’s Floral Street, just down the road from Paul Smith’s flagship clothes shop. It is spread over three … Read More

She Stoops to Conquer at The National Theatre

She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith is one of those plays I always thought I had seen but actually never had, not unless I saw it as a school production way back when. Written and set in the eighteenth century, it is currently showing at London’s National Theatre. It is the best play I have seen so far this … Read More

Early Medieval Crafts- crosses and ornamental work

An interesting late seventh century Anglo-Saxon burial was, only last week, unearthed in Trumpington, a village near Cambridge. This early Saxon burial was that of a noble young lady and it is unusual in that her funeral involved a bed burial. Not many bed burials have been found. Yes, she was laid out on a bed, probably her own. As … Read More

Charms and Anglo-Saxon Medicine

When I came to research Early English medicine for The Handfasted Wife I found that there was no shortage of medical texts in the corpus of Anglo-Saxon writing. There are four books on healing in Old English and these are influenced by Classical learning on the topic. What I consider very interesting are ‘middle practices’. This is the accommodation of … Read More

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