Blogging the Magna Carta #14

by Phyllis Irene Radford

The middle of the great Charter deals with laws and economics in practical ways.  For the first time these minutiae of legal disputes are written down and agreed to by the king and his barons.  They become the basis for a government founded on law rather than the king’s whim.  France did not have legal codification until Napoleon.

Stop and think a moment.  What would have happened to England if the Charter never came about and the civil war between John and his barons continued, making England vulnerable to French invasion?  Continue reading

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Confessions of a Ghostwriter: Writing Essentials

A client for my ghostwriting and editing services—I shall call him Rocky—once asked me what essential things a writer must do to lay the foundations for a writing career. He wasn’t asking about the writing itself, he explained, but about the things that separated those who break in from those who don’t. What and who did he need to know to break in?

I was a bit depressed by this because of the number of times we’d discussed how essential it was to give an editor or agent the very best work you could do.

Here’s some background: Rocky came to me years ago, certain breaking in depended upon who you knew, not what you did. This caused him to send a very prestigious editor a deeply flawed manuscript in the belief that his cordial treatment by the man at a writer’s conference ensured that he would see past any weaknesses in craft or prose to the golden ideas enshrined therein.

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Fetch the Comfy Chair

I am an avid collector–and reader–of nineteenth century media. Give me an 1816 La Belle Assemblée or an 1810 Ackermann’s Repository of the Arts and Sciences, and I’ll be happy for hours: though the serialized fiction featured in them can be violently purple-prosed and melodramatic, the articles on current events and scientific discoveries can be delightful reading…and then, of course, there are the fashion prints and their descriptions, which are pure candy.
But along with the lovely depictions of fashion in each month’s issue, Rudolph Ackermann published many other plates: scenery from abroad as well as solidly English country houses, the latest in carriages, depictions of royal residences, and frequently, over the course of the magazine’s twenty year history, images of fashionable furniture. Image-heavy advertising as we know it didn’t exist in the journals of the day, but furniture-makers, knowing that a picture was indeed worth a thousand words and hoping for a little free exposure, must have flocked to Mr. A, hoping he’d depict one of their products in the Repository along with a flattering write-up. Many of the furniture images depicted are of a peculiarly ingenious mechanical nature; we saw this a while back in an invalid chair that could be converted to military usages.

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BVC Announces Thistle Down by Irene Radford

Thistle Down by Irene Radford
THISTLE DOWN
Pixie Chronicles 1
by Irene Radford

Pixies don’t play tricks on other Pixies. That’s what humans are for.

Thistle Down has been stripped of her lavender skin, purple hair, her lovely wings, her Pixie magic, and grown to full human size. She lands buck naked in Memorial Fountain on a hot August morning during rush hour. Now she must figure out which person she must befriend in order to get back to Pixie. But first one of them must befriend her and together they have to save The Ten Acre wood from developers, arsonists, and predatory Faeries so that the heart of all Pixies can continue to delight and educate more generations of youngsters.

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Lounging in France 8: Carcassonne

If you want to think about medieval defense, this is a great area of the world for it. And here we come at last to the biggest and best example of them all, the citadel at Carcassonne.

Carcassone1

What’s fascinating about this World Heritage site, what strikes you like a blow over the heart, is that it looks so new. Look at that arch above my head, the chains for the drawbridge. So sharp and clean and fresh from the forge or chisel, as if Raimond-Bernard Trencavel, viscount of Albi, just stepped out for an anachronistic cup of espresso. The beauty of it is overwhelming. The place is mobbed, year-round, because everybody has to see this. Continue reading

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An Argument for Duck Eggs

The highlight of our Saturday morning is going to the Albany Farmer’s Market to buy duck eggs.

I didn’t think I would be writing today’s blog about eggs, but, well, sometimes if there is no looming personal subject or event to explore, and if I keep my promise to myself not to rant about present-day nonsense from a certain man who calls himself a President or about people who refuse to wear masks because their particular belief of individualism is combined with rabid distaste for anything bordering on “the common good”, then I’ll write about eggs, dammit.

Getting my rant out of the way, I’ll start.

First, this subject arises from a comment of the husband’s. He pointed out that Europeans, the French in particular, greatly prefer ducks and geese as their poultry choices over the American equivalent chicken and turkey. One of the farms coming to the market sells both chicken and duck eggs. When we discovered this several weeks ago, only duck eggs remained—the chicken ova were sold out, so we bought two dozen from the duck, and now we’re hooked.

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The Rambling Writer Celebrates Summer Solstice

Take a deep breath with me and remember we’re all riding the turn of the earth’s wheel together. Welcome, summer! (Or winter, if you live in the south lands.)

NOTE: Due to a lot of “life” this week, I’m postponing the next Thailand post until next Saturday, June 27.

Since prehistory, traditional cultures have celebrated the turning of the seasons, honoring the solstices (the longest and the shortest days of the year) with rituals and festivals. It never hurts to simply step outside and reconnect to the earth, in whatever ways we can in these days of concrete cities (not to mention pandemic). Today marks the summer solstice (either midsummer or start of summer), and the usual festival at Stonehenge is cancelled due to Covid-19. But if you’d like to witness it virtually, English Heritage on Facebook will livestream coverage of both sunset and sunrise, as marked in the ancient astronomical circle of stones. At sunrise, the sun shines through the “gateway” in the circle. Continue reading

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New Worlds: What to Expect When You’re Expecting

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

Pregnancy is far more than just a biological process. And as any woman who’s ever been visibly pregnant can probably attest, every second person out there feels like they have the right to offer advice on what such a woman should and should not do.

We’re understandably twitchy on this subject, because pregnancy is a fraught thing. On average, something like ten to twenty percent of confirmed pregnancies end in spontaneous miscarriage; when you expand that to all fertilizations, the number might rise as high as thirty to fifty percent. There’s a good reason why many couples don’t announce that they’re expecting until the first trimester has ended: miscarriages are common, and the vast majority of them happen in that early, uncertain span.

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Blogging the Magna Carta #13

by Phyllis Irene Radford

In the middle of the Magna Carta we encounter clauses that are often glossed over because they are boring and deal with economic issues.  In truth this is the heart of King John’s problems with his barons.  If these issue were not being violated, they would not have to be addressed.  Both sides blatantly disregarded the core of their feudal vows because they distrusted the other party.  Without that trust the feudal system of interlocked protection and support did not work.

So we continue with King John’s economic peace treaty with his barons.

29. No constable shall compel any knight to give money in lieu of castle-guard, when he is willing to perform it in his own person, or (if he cannot do it from any reasonable cause) then by another responsible man. Further, if we have led or sent him upon military service, he shall be relieved from guard in proportion to the time during which he has been on service because of us.

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Artist in Residence Quarantine Diaries Episode 7: Taking Joy Where You FInd It

Couple of things that came along in the past couple of weeks.

One: The Clog Saga

I owned a pair of those Dansko clogs – you know the kind I mean – and loved them right until a large chunk of the sole simply broke OFF one day (I literally lurched). Here’s the thing: I was devastated. I loved those things. Not least because I am blessed with peculiar feet and shoes that fit me decently without rubbing blisters in half a dozen esoteric spots are rare as hen’s teeth. I have veyr high arches and as a rule I cannot wear shoes that cut across the instep because I cease to be able to WALK after ten minutes of torture in those. The clogs… HAD an across-the-instep thing happening. But it was HIGH across the instep, and for some reason there was no pressure there, just s comfortable hold-in-place fit.

So my favourite go-to slip-on shoes were broken, and I mourned them.

I wandered to the Dansko website, and I noticed that they had a “repair” button on there. WIthout any great hope of anything actually coming of it, I sent them a cellphone shot of my shattered sole and asked if this was in fact fixable at all.

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