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Archive for 'Britain'

Romance and the World War Two Era #historical #romance

           EveningTryst200x300          Unforgettable-200x300

Evening Tryst is set in 1940 and the action takes place in Biggin Hill, which isn’t far from London. Unforgettable is set in the city of London during 1941.

While many men headed off to war, the women left at home produced food, operated factories and took over jobs previously done by their menfolk. Time were tough…

Twelve Things That Occurred in 1940

1. Britain started to ration butter, sugar, bacon and ham.

2. Britain starts an anti-gossip campaign.

3. Gone With The Wind featuring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh was big with movie-goers.

4. The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland was also very popular.

5. Winston Churchill took over as Prime Minister of Britain.

6. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Finnegans Wake by James Joyce and How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn were big among readers.

7. You Are My Sunshine and A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square were popular songs.

8. The first nylon stockings go on sale in the USA (May 15)

9. The British Government order the removal of signposts and street names.

10. The London Blitz begins on September 7.

11. People had to queue to purchase restricted goods. They had to hand over their ration books before they could purchase these goods, once they got to the front of the queue–if the goods weren’t already sold out.

12. Blackout was a fact of life. Motor vehicle accidents were very common during the blackout.

But amongst the trials and tribulations, the people found time for a little romance…

Read an excerpt for Evening Tryst

Read an excerpt for Unforgettable

Superstitions About Tea

ReformBadGirlCup

I picked up The Penguin Guide to Superstitions of Britain and Ireland at my local library and the section on tea grabbed me because I’ve written a romance with a tea-leaf reader heroine. I hadn’t realized tea came with so many superstitions.

Here are a few of them:

Tea pot lids – if you accidently leave the lid off the pot when making tea, a stranger will call soon. People from Suffolk believe leaving the teapot lid off means you’ll be sent for—it’s not clear by whom—while those in Somerset think the teapot lid means the services of a doctor will be required before day’s end.

Pouring the tea – It’s bad luck for two people to pour tea from the same pot. In some regions two people pouring from the same pot will result in a pregnancy (I presume there is a man and woman in the equation as well as a teapot!)

Tea Stalk or leaves – if you find a stalk or a leaf floating in your cup of tea a visitor will arrive. It’s possible the visitor will be a stranger.

Milk and sugar – If you put milk in your tea before the sugar you run the risk of losing a loved one.

There doesn’t seem to be any logic to the superstitions, but I found them interesting. The only one I’d heard of before is the one about floating tea leaves. My parents used to say to expect a visitor whenever there were floating tea leaves.

Have you heard of these superstitions or do you have any to add?

Note: The book featuring tasseography or tea leaf reading is Reformed Bad Girl.

13 Random Travel/History Facts from Britain

Thursday Thirteen

Recently, I’ve been reading editions of Britain, one of my favorite travel magazines. It’s full of articles about different places in Britain and covers heritage, culture and various happenings in the UK. It’s a great magazine to read when planning a visit, which is why I’m busy reading back issues at present.

Here are thirteen random things that grabbed my interest:

1. In the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the car flew for the first time when it fell of Beachy Head.

2. The 3rd Earl of Egremont had 42 illegitimate children and the “Wyndham nose” can still be spotted in the streets of Petworth.

3. Every coronation since 1066 has been held in Westminster Abbey. William the Conqueror was crowned King of England on Christmas day, 1066.

4. The Scottish people celebrate Burns Night on 25 January to commemorate the life of poet Robert Burns who was born on this day in 1759. Lots of traditional foods such as haggis, neeps (turnips), tatties (potatoes), whisky and shortbread are served during the celebration.

5. Mary, Queen of Scots, was fond of a crisp, buttery shortbread made with caraway seeds.

6. In Norman times the word “forest” referred to a legal system in place to protect the venison.

7. While in prison in England, Mary, Queen of Scots, became adept at secret handwriting to communicate with the outside world. She used alum dissolved in water as invisible ink and wrote messages on bills. Recipients dropped the paper in water and the writing appeared.

8. There is no single copy of the original Magna Carta document. Multiple copies of the charter were distributed throughout medieval English towns.

9. The Magna Carta documents were written in Latin on parchment made from dried sheepskin.

10. A first edition of the novel Emma by Jane Austen was dedicated to the Prince Regent.

11. The term “livery” has come to denote the uniforms of certain servants, but in medieval times it meant a living allowance that included food, money and other rewards.

12. A tax on male servants started in 1777, raised to help fund British fighting against North American colonists after their declaration of independence, lasted until the 1930s.

13. John Russell, a servant to the Duke of Gloucester, wrote advice for servants in the book “The Book of Nurture.” Would-be servants were given the following advice – Do not pick your nose or let it drop clear pears, or sniff, or blow it too loud, lest her lord hear. Do not retch, nor spit too far.

I don’t think a servant’s life would have worked for me, but I’d love to attend Burns Night, and I’ve never met a piece of shortbread, I didn’t like. Caraway seeds would totally work for me. What say you?

Southampton, Winchester and Jane Austen

During our recent visit to Great Britain, we stayed in Southampton and did a day trip to Winchester. These are both places with Jane Austen connections, and as a writer I was intrigued.

After Jane’s father died, the family had to move to Southampton for financial reasons. Jane, her sister and mother moved in with a married son. We stayed at the Dolphin hotel in Southampton, which is where Jane reportedly went dancing. Jane Austen’s 21st birthday party was held in the ballroom at this hotel. We also wandered along the city wall promenade where Jane Austen walked with her family.

Dolphin Hotel, Southampton

Jane lived in Chawton, Alton from 1809 to 1817 with her mother, her sister Cassandra and a friend Martha Lloyd. Jane became ill with a mystery disease (some sources say it was her kidneys) and Cassandra and Jane traveled to Winchester in order to receive better medical treatment. They stayed in a Castle Street house (currently a private residence) and Jane died at age 41 on 18 July 1817.

JaneAusten_CastleStreet

Jane was laid to rest at the Winchester cathedral. Her memorial stone doesn’t mention her writing and a brass plaque was added in 1872 to rectify this shortcoming.

Memorial Stone, Winchester Cathedral

Double click for larger version

JaneAusten_BrassPlaque

Brass Plaque commemorating Jane Austen’s writing.

There are lots of Jane Austen landmarks in Winchester and the surrounding Hampshire countryside. I visited only a few, given my limited time, but it was a pleasure and a privilege walking in Jane’s footsteps.

Are you a Jane Austen fan?

Strolling Through English Village Life

With the approach of the Olympic games I thought I’d post a few photos from Britain. This week I’m all about villages. England has some gorgeous villages with pretty cottages and thatched roofs.

UK - Cornwall, Mousehole

This is the seaside village of Mousehole in Cornwall. (pronounced Mowzel) I remember eating morning tea—a vegetable pastie and a cup of tea—in a small cafe in Mousehole. It was delicious.

 

UK - Cotswold 2, Lower Slaughter

The Cotswold area is full of pretty villages. They’re also over run with click happy tourists—a trade off for the locals, I guess. This is the village of Lower Slaughter.

 

UK - Dartmoor thatched cottages

This is a village in the Dartmoor area. The roads are narrow and you never know what you’ll find around the next corner. These ones all have thatched roofs. Very cute!

 

UK - Cotswolds, Bourton on the Water

And finally Bourton on the Water is one of the prettiest Cotswolds villages in my opinion. There’s a river running through the center with tiny walking bridges so people can cross. One of the attractions in the town is this miniature village, which is an exact replica of the real one. It even has a model village within the model village.

I always think of cozy mysteries, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot and Midsummer Murders when I think of English villages. The quaint buildings hide so much crime and passion! I have a real soft spot for these books and TV shows. Maybe I’ll even write a village set romance one day—with a few bodies strewn around, naturally.

What comes to your mind when you think of villages?

Thirteen Haunted Inns of Britain

Thursday Thirteen

The last time I visited my local library a book called Haunted Inns of Britain & Ireland by Richard Jones caught my eye. It’s full of info about ghosts and haunting, and I found it fascinating. I’ve even visited a couple of the pubs.

A list of Thirteen Haunted Pubs

1. The Mermaid Inn, Mermaid Street, Rye, East Sussex
The Mermaid has several ghosts, including a gray lady. Early one morning a resident woke to find a pair of phantom duelists, dressed in doublet and hose. They thrust and parried with their rapiers until one received a fatal wound.

2. The Chequers Inn, Smarden, Kent
In room 6, the staff sometimes see a clear impression of a person on the bed even though the room is empty. Dogs dislike the room with one dog requiring a tranquillizer to calm him. A female guest was woken by something scratching her back. Another woman woke to find a man standing in the open doorway. She shouted at him and he vanished.

3. The Spaniards Inn, Hampstead, London
Dick Turpin is one of the pub’s ex-customers and he stabled his mount Black Bess here. People hear Black Bess’ ghostly hoof beats gallop across the car park in the dead of the night.

4. The Ostrich Inn, Slough, Berkshire
A landlord used to ply his rich guests with drink, and once they were asleep in his best room, he’d unbolt a special trapdoor and tip them from their beds into a vat of boiling oil below. Then, he’d sell their horse and belongings. He did very nicely until a guest saw his bed tilt and shouted for help. Staff at the pub complain about a sinister atmosphere while loud noises wake the landlords. It’s said one of the victims causes the noises.

5. Jamaica Inn, Launceston, Cornwall
Made famous by Daphne du Maurier’s novel Jamaica Inn. Several ghosts wander the old hostelry. A ghost stands outside near a particular wall. He doesn’t answer greetings, but will slowly dissolve and vanish.

6. The Knife and Cleaver, Bedfordshire
A male and a female ghost reside here. One day a barman watched the pages of the booking diary turn by themselves. Then a ghostly hand appeared over his shoulder. He wasn’t sure which ghost it was and didn’t wait to find out.

7. The Bull Hotel, Suffolk
Doors open and close by themselves. Objects fly across the room and chairs move during the night. It’s said Richard Everard, who was stabbed to death, is the cause of this activity.

8. The Lifeboat Inn, Thornham, Norfolk
The landlady decided the pub was missing a resident ghost and made one up. The staff were shocked when they actually started seeing a tall, dark stranger as described by the landlady in her pub brochure.

9. The Scole Inn, Scole Diss, Norfolk
A husband suspected his wife of having an affair. He murdered his wife in a fit of rage. Fast forward in time and visitors to the inn have reported sightings of a sad lady in room 2.

10. The Fleece Inn, Evesham, Worcestershire
It’s said the ghost of Lola Taplin, a previous landlady, haunts the inn. She always banned food and only served alcohol. Customers have watched their sandwiches tossed in the air and thrown across the room. Ghostly footsteps are also heard.

11. Ye Old Black Bear, Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire
A headless figure has been seen walking across creaking floors and dragging his chains behind him. It’s thought he is one of the Lancastrians defeated by a group of Yorkists at the Battle of Tewkesbury.

12. The Puesdown Inn, Compton Abdale, Cheltenham
This used to be a coaching inn frequented by highwaymen. One of the ghosts is said to be a highwayman who was shot. He returned to the inn and knocked loudly on the door, demanding entrance. Ghostly knocking is often heard while one landlord saw a ghostly coach pulling into the yard.

13. The West Arms Hotel, Llangollen, Denbighshire
The hotel is haunted by a blue lady. It’s said a woman was killed in a fire that broke out in the pub. If a fire is lit in the front lounge, the blue lady appears.

Have you visited any haunted places? Have you seen a ghost?