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WARNING: This is a spicy romance with mmf and gay love scenes.

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.

Fun at the Frost Fair

Let’s travel back in time…

Imagine yourself in England—London, to be precise. It’s almost Christmas or Yule, and it’s cold. There’s an air of excitement because the Thames has frozen over. Traders are rubbing their hands together. Local residents are anxiously watching proceedings. Children are gleeful because if the cold snap continues, the ice will be thick enough for a Frost Fair.

So what is a Frost Fair? Here’s the scoop. The old London Bridge caused the water to run slowly and during cold conditions the water froze, sometimes for months. When the ice was thick enough to support weight, the frozen Thames became a playground. Locals played games and skated on the ice. Local traders set up booths and the crowds flocked to the Thames to join in the festivities.

I write historical romances set during the 18th century, a little before the official Regency period. If the characters from The Spurned Viscountess and Mistress of Merrivale were to travel to London for the Yule season they might go shopping for trinkets and gifts to give their loved ones.

The Thames froze over during these years in the 18th century: 1709, 1716, 1740, 1768 (a little frozen), 1776, 1785 (a little frozen), 1788, 1795. Source~Wikipedia.

So let’s get back to the fun.

Jocelyn and Leo Townsend from Mistress of Merrivale are strolling on the ice. Leo has his daughter’s hand firmly in his grasp. Cassie’s eyes are wide as she gazes at a juggler. Then a puppet show grabs her attention. Jocelyn laughs and together, she and Cassie drag Leo over to join the crowd.

Once the show finishes, they visit a ribbon seller. Jocelyn buys several ribbons to give as gifts and lets Cassie choose one for herself. Cassie picks a scarlet ribbon and insists that Jocelyn tie it in her hair immediately.

Leo buys cups of hot cider and slices of spicy gingerbread. They meander through the crowds and pause to watch some acrobats. A roar comes from across the way, an animalistic growl and a louder shriek. Jocelyn takes on quick look in that direction and urges Cassie to move on to see the sailing ship, stuck firmly in the middle of the ice. There’s no need for Cassie to catch a glimpse of the bear baiting.

The scent of cooking meat fills the air while men and women shout of their wares. “Hot beef here!”

“Oranges! Oranges!”

“Buy Frost Fair prints here!”

Occasionally, the ice creaks. A group of children jeer at a hunchback while three young maids giggle and clap at the antics of a strolling minstrel.

The hour grows late, and Leo, Jocelyn and Cassie make their way to their carriage. Cassie goes to sleep on the way home while Jocelyn cuddles against her husband’s side. His hand rests on her rounded stomach, and they both laugh softly when their baby kicks. A family outing to the Frost Fair ends with love and a snatched kiss just before the footmen opens the carriage door, and Leo hustles them inside out of the cold.

Note: The last Frost Fair took place during the winter of 1813-1814 when the ice was thick enough to lead an elephant across the river near Blackfriars Bridge. New innovation during the Victorian era increased the flow of the river and ended the entertainment known as the Frost Fair.

Sources: London by Peter Ackroyd, Georgian London, Into the Streets by Lucy Inglis and Daily Life in 18th Century England by Kirstin Olsen.

Mistress of MerrivaleMeet Jocelyn and Leo in Mistress of Merrivale – order at Amazon http://amzn.to/1eW93rW

Jocelyn Townsend’s life as a courtesan bears no resemblance to the life she envisioned in girlish dreams. But it allows her and her eccentric mother to live in relative security—until her protector marries and no longer requires her services.

Desperate to find a new benefactor, one kind enough to accept her mother’s increasingly mad flights of fancy, Jocelyn is nearly overwhelmed with uncertainty when a lifeline comes from an unexpected source.

Leo Sherbourne’s requirements for a wife are few. She must mother his young daughter, run his household, and warm his bed. All in a calm, dignified manner with a full measure of common sense. After his late wife’s histrionics and infidelity, he craves a simpler, quieter life.

As they embark on their arrangement, Leo and Jocelyn discover an attraction that heats their bedroom and a mutual admiration that warms their days. But it isn’t long before gossip regarding the fate of Leo’s first wife, and his frequent, unexplained absences, make Jocelyn wonder if the secrets of Merrivale Manor are rooted in murder…

Warning: Contains mysterious incidents, a mad mother who screeches without provocation, scheming relatives, and a captivating husband who blows scorching hot and suspiciously cold. All is not as it seems…and isn’t that delicious?

The Lindow Man: Found in a Bog

The British Museum is a must-see stop during a visit to London. It’s full of fascinating exhibits, and I could spend hours there. Unfortunately, I had Mr Munro in tow, and he has a much shorter attention span!

British Museum

I love the imposing facade of the museum, and even better, entrance is free. No matter what your interest, there will be something to excite you. The mummy section is amazing.

Every time I visit the museum, I like to see the Lindow Man. He’s a blog man, his body found in a peat bog at Lindow, north England in 1984.

Bog Man

This poor man died a particularly gruesome death. He was struck on the head several times and strangled. His throat was also cut, and he was left in the bog. It’s thought he was around 25 years of age and was in good health prior to his death. The bog preserved his hair, skin and many of his internal organs.

You can see and read more about Lindow Man at the museum website.

Do you have a favorite museum? A favorite exhibition?

13 Events From This Week in London History

 

Thursday Thirteen

I’m currently reading The London Book of Days by Peter de Loriol. For my TT this week, I thought I’d give you a quick rundown of some of the things that happened this week in London history.

Thirteen Events from London History

1. Nov 24 1434 – There was a severe frost. The cold snap continued until Feb 1435 and the river Thames froze over. Frost fair alert!

2. Nov 24 1740 – A man called William Duell was hanged at Tyburn. His body was prepared for dissection by surgeons, but they found he was still breathing! They ended up deporting him instead.

3. Nov 25 1944 – World War two is in full swing. By this date 251 V2 bombs had been dropped on London. The first V2 bomb was dropped on 8 Sep 1944.

4. Nov 25 1952 – A murder mystery play called The Mousetrap, written by Agatha Christie, opened at the New Ambassadors Theatre. This show is still running in London at St Martin’s Theatre. I’ve seen the show twice and loved it both times.

5. Nov 26 1703 – A hurricane struck London. It ripped off roofs, destroyed spires and turrets and forced ships from their moorings.

6. Nov 26 1962 – The Beatles recorded their single Please Please Me at the Abbey Road Studios.

7. Nov 26 1969 – Margaret Thatcher said in an interview, “No woman in my time will be Prime Minister…Anyway, I would not want to be Prime Minister, you have to give yourself 100 percent.”

8. Nov 26 1983 – Gold bars worth 26 million pounds were stolen from Brink’s-Mat security warehouse at Heathrow Airport. The resulting investigation took almost 10 years and most of the gold was never found.

9. Nov 29 1814 – The Times newspaper was printed by steam instead of manual power. The steam printing press could print 1100 sheets an hour.

10. Nov 29 1855 – A public meeting was held at Willis’s Rooms to raise funds for what became the Nightingale School of Nursing.

11. Nov 29 1934 – Prince George, Duke of Kent married Princess Marina of Greece at Westminster Abbey.

12. Nov 30 1016 – King Edmund II of England was reputedly stabbed in the bowels whilst in the outhouse. He died on the same day.

13. Nov 30 1936 – A small fire at Crystal Palace, Sydenham raged out of control and destroyed the entire building. 88 fire engines were deployed to fight the fire. Melted glass was everywhere.

The London Book of Days is a really interesting book full of snippets about London history. If you enjoy history, you’ll love flicking through this book.

Golden Square, London

Visitors to London will notice there are lots of green areas in the Westminster and central city areas. Some offer workers a breath of fresh air and a place to while away their time during a lunch break while others are a private oasis available to the surrounding homeowners.

London’s squares date back to the mid 17th century. They were an English concept, copied by other cities and countries.

Golden Square (thought to originate from Gelding Close when the land was used for grazing horses) began life in 1673 when John Emlyn and Isaac Symball initiated development here.

Early residents of the thirty-nine houses that surrounded the square were the Duke of Chandos, the 1st Viscount Bolingbroke and the Duchess of Cleveland. During its early years the square was a political centre and a sought-after address. This changed by the 1750s when newer and more fashionable addresses to the west on the Burlington estates became favored.

Foreign diplomats moved in from 1724 to 1768 and later 18th century residents included dancer Elizabeth Gamberini and singer Caterina Gabrielli.

Charles Dickens used Golden Square as a setting for one of the houses in his novel Nicholas Nickelby in 1839. The woollen and worsted trade moved in toward the end of the 19th century.

During the Second World War an air raid shelter was dug beneath the garden and the iron fence taken for salvage. Restoration work took place after the war and the garden was opened to the public in November 1952.

We visited on a sunny weekday and the square was full of workers eating their lunches. Not a bad place to be during a lunch break.

Golden Square

Golden Square Sign

Golden Square

Sources:

Informational sign at Golden Square

The London Square: Gardens in the Midst of Town by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan

13 Facts About the Tower of London

Thursday Thirteen

If you’re a tourist in London chances are you’ll spend some time at the Tower of London. I’ve wandered through the tower, gawked at the crown jewels and checked out the ravens and beefeaters. It’s a place that breathes and sighs history.

Thirteen Facts About the Tower of London

1. The Tower was originally build by William the Conqueror and used as a palace and fortress.

2. It was never supposed to be a prison, but the inhabitants discovered that the fortress kept people in as well as keeping people out.

3. During World War II the tower was used to house prisoners of war.

4. Ravens have always been kept at the tower. At least six ravens are kept and they’re replaced if they die. It’s said if the ravens leave the tower bad luck will arrive.

Tower of London Ravens

5. The Tower of London is home to the crown jewels and has been for centuries.

6. Every night at 9:53 pm the ceremony of the keys takes place where the Queen’s Guards and the Chief Yeoman Warder lock all the gates.

7. On 6th November 2012 the keys were stolen. *gasp*

8. Only 22 executions have taken place inside the Tower of London. Most took place at nearby Tower Hill.

9. The last execution was of Lord Lovet, a Jacobite, on 9th April 1747.

10. The Tower housed the royal menagerie, which included lions, an elephant and a polar bear. The polar bear was allowed to hunt for fish in the Thames while on a leash.

11. The Duke of Wellington closed the menagerie in 1853. The animals became the first in the London zoo, which is in Regent’s Park.

12. Several ghosts haunt the tower, including Anne Boleyn, Henry VI, Lady Jane Grey, the Princes in the tower and a grizzly bear. I didn’t see any of these during my visit.

13. The Tower has been a tourist destination since Elizabethan times.

Source: www.royalcentral.co.uk

Have you visited the Tower? If not, what would you like to see?

Ballet and Pas De Death

I’ve been thinking about ballet recently, which is peculiar since I have never been a ballerina and know nothing about ballet. My one experience of ballet was when we lived in London. A customer of the pub where we worked gave us two tickets to attend the ballet at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. It was a programme of short dances, and we enjoyed the show even though we didn’t understand a lot of what we were seeing. The thing I remember most was how noisy their shoes were since the sound of shoes scraping across the floor was easy to hear from our seats.

PasDeDeath-210x300

Pas De Death (The Dani Spevak Mystery Series)

A side note: I was looking for a ballet picture to illustrate my post and remembered fellow Romance Diva Amanda Brice has a mystery series featuring a ballet dancer. I thought I’d use the cover from her latest release and give her series a shout-out. The first book in her series is called Codename: Dancer. If your teenager is a reader and a ballet fan, you should definitely check out this series.

Now back to the reason for my post. One of our holiday stops in August will be at St. Petersburg in Russia. Since we have the opportunity to attend the ballet we’re grabbing it with both hands. After all, the Russians are very good at ballet. I believe we’ll be seeing Swan Lake.

I decided to do a little research about the history of ballet. Here are a few highlights:

1. Ballet seems to have originated in the Italian Renaissance courts during the 15th century.

2. The nobility learned the steps and danced in the performances.

3. King Louis XIV was responsible for making ballet even more popular and standardizing the dances. It’s said his passion took ballet from a hobby or interest for amateurs to entertainment carried out by professionals.

4. Until the 1730s ballet was performed mainly by men. They were able to wear tights while the women were restricted by long skirts.

5. No one is sure when pointe shoes were first used, but historians credit Marie Taglioni with dancing on pointe in the 19th century. She certainly developed the technique.

6. 18th century Marie Camargo was the first dancer to dance with shortened skirts. The audience could see her ankles and were scandalized, although they appreciated the skill of her footwork, which they could now see clearly. Tights were in common use during the late 18th century.

Sources: www.dancer.com and www.histclo.com

Are you a ballet fan? Did you learn ballet as a child? Please tell all.

Get Lost in London

Mr Munro and I spent six years living in London. A country girl, I didn’t think I’d enjoy living in a big city, but I grew to love it and was sorry to leave. There’s so much to see and do, so much history, and when I needed open spaces a walk or run in one of London’s many parks such as Kensington Gardens or Hyde Park.

Here are a few of the sights around the city of London.

UK - London_Tower Bridge

This is the famous Tower Bridge on the river Thames.

UK - London, Regent Park

This is Regent’s Park, once hunting grounds for Henry VIII. It is now the home of the London zoo.

UK - London, Kew Gardens

This is one of the many glasshouses at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew. The gardens are huge and take all day to wander around. They are home to a wide variety of plants from all corners of the world, some of which are very rare.

UK - London_Big Ben

The famous Big Ben. The name refers to the bell within the clock tower and hearing Ben chime is quite special. I gawked every time I walked past.

 

UK - London_Horseguard

A horse guard. The horses are so quiet. They stand calmly while tourists act quite stupidly, jumping around with their cameras and shrieking.

If you could go to London tomorrow what landmark would you want to visit first?

Do not Steal the Daffodils!

Firstly, I’m visiting Brinda Berry today where I discuss peanut butter, writing and my latest release, Cat Burglar in Training. I’m also doing a giveaway.

One of the pubs my husband and I worked in while we lived in London was called the Grosvenor Arms. This was a small pub, on Grosvenor Street, a stones throw from Bond Street and right in the heart of Mayfair.

When I was a kid I loved to play monopoly, so it was a thrill to actually live and walk down some of the streets bearing the familiar names from the childhood game.

Grosvenor Square and the American Embassy were a few minutes down the road. Hubby and I would go for walks, even on days that were a bit nasty to get a breath of fresh air. At that time pubs used to close from 2.00pm to 5.30pm, and we had a few hours off.

Shelley, Grosvenor Square, London

 

London during the winter can be very gray. Not only did all the workers wear black, but the sky and buildings were often a sullen gray color, which was depressing for everyone. I loved the spring when the daffodils would pop out of the ground and bring a touch of sunshine with them.

Now and then, during our walks, hubby and I would “liberate” a few daffodils and take them back to our room to keep in a vase. I liked to enjoy the spring indoors too, and hubby indulged me.

One day, we’d just picked a few daffodils and a policeman walked along the footpath. I quickly hid the daffodils under my coat (see said coat – exhibit A – in the photo). He must have seen us, but luckily ignored our transgression and walked on.

The policeman scared us, since it was an unwritten rule not to pick the flowers. We never stole another daffodil, instead saving our hard-earned pennies to buy a bunch at one of the markets. I still love both daffodils, spring and walking though. Some things never change.

Now, in a totally unrelated subject – I’m on the hunt for a cheesy name for the fictional strip club I’m writing about at present. My mind is blank. Does anyone have a suggestion for a name for my strip club?



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