New Worlds: A Trip to the Dentist

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

However much you dislike going to the dentist now, you’ve got it good.

Like surgery, this is a field that has benefited immeasurably from the widespread use of anaesthetic. Imagine your dentist drilling out a cavity, pulling a tooth, or draining an infected abscess with you feeling every moment of it — or better yet, don’t. (I recall once reading an account from a dentist who mentioned that some of her macho-men patients declare that they don’t need numbing . . . and then seriously regret their choices a couple of minutes in.) Dentists basically used to be torturers you avoided if at all possible.

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Fobbed Off

Charm bracelets have been in fashion for decades, right up until the present day; girls (and women!) still seem to love them. But in the 18th and 19th centuries, they weren’t necessarily for girls…and they weren’t bracelets, either.

Pocket watches began to come into their own in the second half of the eighteenth century, thanks to improvements in technology and metals science. A pocket watch usually is attached to one’s person somehow; the last thing anyone wants is their expensive and delicate timepiece falling out of their pocket every time they chance to bend over. A length of ribbon or cord sufficed, but a chain or strip of chain mesh was both sturdier and offered more scope to show off with. Continue reading


BRIDGERTON and Regency Romance


Regency romances have been a “thing” since the Silver Fork novels of the 1830s, which I suspect Georgette Heyer grew up reading.

I started reading Heyer as a teen, which taste combined with my love of the Hornblower series by C.S. Forester and Annemarie Selinko’s Desiree, sparked my interest in early modern Europe. That was cemented when I discovered Jane Austen.

Before long I began to discern the difference between Austen’s Enlightenment-era comedy of manners and Heyer’s unabashed glory in Silver Forkness.

And that was okay, because both writers were doing different things with escapism: Austen envisioned an ideal of human behavior imbued with Christian principles and forbearance, reserving her satire for those who fell short, and Heyer fashioned an ideal social hierarchy where birth will always tell, but one must play by the rules to win happily ever after amid title and riches, and satire was aimed at the audacity of the social climber.

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BVC Spotlight: EMPRESS by Alma Alexander

Book View Cafe member Alma Alexander recently suffered the devastating loss of her husband. To help support her through this difficult time, we are shining a spotlight on her novel EMPRESS. You can also purchase other books of hers here, join her Patreon, or donate to the relief fund organized by her friends at GoFundMe.

Empress by Alma AlexanderEmpress
by Alma Alexander

A whispered prayer on a holy mountain:
“Give me the life I was meant to live.”

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Our Daily Water

We moderns are in the habit of carrying our own water with us. There are entire sections for bottled water in the grocery store. Plastic or steel or whatever water bottles are sold everywhere so we can refill them and take them with us to the gym or on a bike trip.
But this was not always so. When I was a girl there were no plastic bottles. If you wanted to carry water with you, you might have a glass bottle or a thermos, heavy and fragile. If you didn’t carry water with you, you might hope to seek out this sort of thing. The picture is of an old water fountain in downtown Portland, Oregon. It doesn’t have to be turned on — the water runs all the time. It is the modern descendant of the old fountains. Continue reading


A Chat about a Cathedral

I’m plenty busy now with writing-related projects, including my own which are back-burnered for a chance to make some real money—not to disparage the importance of my own work, just sayin’. But I keep thinking about jigsaw puzzles. And relearning how to play chess. The attempt to teach cribbage to the husband got very bad reviews (from him) because I had to look up the rules all over again. I used to play this game with my grandmother and I marvel how that, as a 9-year-old, I understood them then.

She was a whiz at card games and Scrabble. Canasta, Casino, solitaire—my sisters and I played a sort of solitaire race game—Klondike—to see who could get all their cards onto the aces first, and you could use anyone’s ace pile.

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The Rambling Writer’s Italy, part 4: The rest of the Roman Forum

Follow along with Thor and me as your Italy virtual vacation continues with our ramble through the Forum, the heart of ancient Rome.

NOTE: Since travel is still on hold with the pandemic continuing, I’ve started a new blog series offering a virtual vacation and time-travel to my first big trip with Thor in 2008. Italy! Starting with highlight photos posted here on Saturday, Jan. 30, I’ll continue every week. Join us in Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice, and Milan. Buon viaggio!

We broke off our exploration last week at the Temple of Vesta, where those brave Vestal Virgins kept the sacred flame alive to ensure Rome’s security. Now let’s take a look upward at the Palatine Hill that overlooks the Forum. The cruel emperor Caligula built a sprawling palace atop the hill, which overflowed into the Forum behind the Temple of Castor and Pollux: Continue reading


Island Life: When It Snows, It SNOWS

I love snow! So fluffy and pretty, so magical, so peaceful, so…inconvenient.

Well, not usually. Usually we’re pretty self-sufficient out here. You have to be, to want to live on an island with only an unreliable (and fairly expensive) ferry system to connect you to “civilization”. We work at home (even before the pandemic), we’re always well-stocked with groceries and toilet paper and wine, we have plenty of firewood…so when it started dumping down snow just before Valentine’s Day, we oohed and ahed and took lots of pictures…

…and began worrying about whether we were going to be able to make it down the hill to get our covid vaccinations.


Longtime readers (like from, say, two weeks ago) will recall that we’ve been working hard trying to get on the list to get vaccinated…with very little results.

But then a miracle happened! Continue reading


Month of museums #7: Taonga and Tarantulas

When I moved down to the Antipodes in the early 1990s, it was the first time that I had really had direct contact of any kind with the culture of that geographical milieu – oh, sure, I had heard of the Polynesian seafarers and their extraordinary navigation by the stars, I’d heard some of the mythology and the legends before, the name of Maui was not entirely unknown to me, but it was all at second-hand and distant remove. It was here, in Auckland, that I got to see the descendants of those Polynesian seafarers in the flesh (wearing jeans and t-shirts, to be sure, but descendants nonetheless…) I impressed locals no end by being able to “read” Maori fluently – oh, I had no idea what I was uttering, but I could PRONOUNCE it properly once I was told the rules, because I was born into a phonetic language and I could translate the governing principles of that into the equally phonetic Maori. And eventually I learned a few important words along the way. Words like mana. And tapu.

And taonga.

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