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History

The battle at Battle

The misty morning created a great atmosphere around the great gatehouse.

The misty morning created a moody atmosphere around the great gatehouse.

It’s not the most imaginative name really – Battle. The town built on the site of the Battle of Hastings – which of course didn’t happen at Hastings at all – it happened at Battle.

And there’s an abbey there too – called Battle Abbey. Or rather, the remains of an abbey.

And a school in the middle of it all – called … you guessed it, Battle Abbey School.

However, it matters not one whit about the lack of imagination in the name – the landscape more than made up for it as I visited the place that changed England forever. Continue reading

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A fright at the museum…

Here's a wonderful old computer they call the witch - yes with a W. Although...

Here’s a wonderful old computer they call the witch – yes with a W. Although…

 

I love museums – they’re fascinating places full of really really old and interesting things.

They house ancient statues and primitive tools – the riches of long dead Kings – that sort of stuff.

Imagine then, the double take I did when I saw something all too familiar in a museum… something I had used in real life not all that long ago (or what I like to think was not all that long ago)… Continue reading

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Who was at Hoo?

One of the largest of the Sutton Hoo burial mounds. It looks so plain - no hint of what lay beneath.

One of the largest of the Sutton Hoo burial mounds. It looks so plain – no hint of what lay beneath.

 

It’s really strange to suddenly find yourself in the midst of one of your old school text books.

Even in Australia we were taught about Sutton Hoo – the burial mounds in Suffolk that contained an Anglo-Saxon ship and a vast treasure. I now know we were taught just a tiny part of a fascinating story.

The legend of the woman who “discovered” the tombs is an interesting as what she found. Continue reading

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The ghost at the crossroads…

One of only three photos known of Robert Johnson - he was a bit of a charmer!

One of only three photos known of Robert Johnson – he was a bit of a charmer!

 

I love a ghost story. And a legend. And music.

So it was inevitable that while in the American south on holidays, I should go in search of the ghost of Robert Johnson.

We found his grave – all three of them .. and the crossroads where he sold his soul to the devil. Three or four of them.

There are many variations on the legend of the musician meeting the devil at the crossroads and as many songs that tell the tale, accompanied by haunting guitar riffs of wild fiddle playing.

The legend didn’t start with Robert Johnson – but for me, it is all about him… Continue reading

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Elvis is in the building…

The King - but when I first saw him, he was a totally  different person.

The King – but when I first saw him, he was a totally different person.

 

I can remember the day Elvis died.

I was a teenager, the most junior reporter at a TV news station in Australia. When the news broke, my boss immediate scheduled the Elvis story as the lead item for that night’s news.

I was confused – the idealistic, university-student me thought news was about politics and world events and ‘important’ things. Not the death of some has-been singer.

Now I have been to Graceland – and I understand a lot more about why Elvis was important.

Continue reading

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A difficult history…

The Laura Plantation house - built on stumps so Mississippi floods would not touch it

The Laura Plantation house – built on stumps so Mississippi floods would not touch it

 

Like so many people, I’ve seen Gone With the Wind. My vision of the American deep south was very much formed by Clark Gable’s charm and Vivien Leigh’s accent. I didn’t really believe either were strictly accurate, so on our Mississippi River road trip, I was very keen to visit some of the plantations along the river.

There are a lot open to inspect – but I wanted to find somewhere that would give me a glimpse of real history – not what is portrayed in the movies.

I was very conscious that behind the grand vision of the glorious antebellum South lies the far less palatable vision of slavery.

Even if at times it is a bit tough, I do like my history to be accurate and real. Continue reading

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The Mighty Mississippi

The sun sets over the river at Natchez - where the paddle steamers used to dock.

The sun sets over the river at Natchez – where the paddle steamers used to dock.

 

Continuing my blogs about my US road trip – I thought I should talk about the cause of the whole venture – the Mississippi River.

At school we were taught that the Mississippi is one of the largest rivers in the world (4th longest I believe). We learned about its role in opening America – in trade and transport and about the plantations worked by slaves along its banks.

But they were just facts and figures.

I fell in love with Ol’ Man River through music and books… and having finally met my love after all these years – I was not disappointed… Continue reading

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City of the Dead

The gates of New Orleans oldest cemetery

The gates of New Orlean’s oldest cemetery

 

I’m back from a fabulous road trip – crossing the USA from south to north along the Mississippi River – 1400 miles (or close to).

Over the next few weeks I want to share some of that with you …

There were a lot of literary references during the trip – and a lot of music as well…

It all started in one on my favourite places – a graveyard (no surprise there really).

Continue reading

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A visit to King Herod’s palace

This Wiki image gives you some idea of how spectacular it is.

This Wiki image gives you some idea of how spectacular it is.

 

Masada is a place of legend – and a place I had always wanted to visit – and on my recent trip to Israel, I did.

It was spectacular in so many ways – it’s really hard to know where to start. There’s history and geology and tragedy and Peter O’Toole…

I guess it starts with this amazing free standing rock plateau on the edge of the Judean Desert – overlooking the Dead Sea.

It looks high – but in some ways it’s not… the top is just 33 meters above sea level … of course the base is more than 200 meters BELOW sea level… (the Dead Sea is just a stone’s throw away). Continue reading

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Stories from beyond the grave

The Historic church and graveyard at Cades Cove, TN.

The Historic church and graveyard at Cades Cove, TN.

 

I know – I’m too late for Halloween.

But whatever the time of year – I do love graveyards. Old graveyards.

Whether it’s a Neolithic burial mound, a stone cross on the moors or a marble mausoleum, each has stories to tell.

It should therefore not be any great surprise that a certain amount of my Appalachian Mountains holiday was spent in graveyards.

The address of the log cabin where we stayed was Scruggs Cemetery Lane. It was interesting that the cabins website doesn’t actually mention that. Perhaps they were afraid of putting people off.

Not me. Continue reading

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Writing retreats 2020 - Intensive tutor-led retreats with Janet Gover and Alison May

Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence Finalist for The Wild OneColorado Romance Writers Award of Excellence Finalist for The Wild One
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