Oh dear, another blooper from David Mitchell in this week's Observer New Review.
Or, at least, a classic case of writing about something before reading it properly.
The first was that Cambridge University lecture timetables are being labelled with “trigger warnings” about the plots of various literary works, including The Bacchae and Titus Andronicus. So English literature undergraduates are being protected from the knowledge of, among other things, what one of Shakespeare’s plays is about, in case it upsets them.That is so not what the furore about this that I saw across my bits of social media was: what I saw was the push-back against the elitist assumption that eny fule already no that Titus Andronicus contains murder, rape, mutilation, and involuntary cannibalism (not to mention massive amount of racism).
And trigger-warnings aren't about protecting people from the knowledge that works of art contain disturbing material: they're precisely about letting people who haven't yet encountered them know that they contain material some people may find upsetting. Like the warnings you see at the beginning of a movie, just so you know what you're letting yourself in for.
And I'm really not sure that one can assume general cultural familiarity with one of the less-produced of Shakespeare's plays (the one that suggests that, had he been writing in the 1960s, he'd have been working for Hammer Horror - while some of the early comedies suggest also possibly moonlighting for the Carry On films, but I digress). Okay, there has been a movie version of the play itself, and Theatre of Blood alludes to it in one of the vengeances taken against the critics of the protag. But I doubt it's all that well-known to the individual on the Clapham omnibus.
Next morning Hannah went into the hothouses to cut some flowers to replace a bloom here and there in the vases that went droop, and discovered her brother Julius about some matter of tending pots.
He smiled at her. What, not up and about with Miss Flora?
I daresay she sleeps in, to recover from her journey.
Indeed the Channel crossing will knock one up! But – he turned around with a serious expression upon his face – has she said aught about Beauf – Sallington’s – suit to her?
Only – he sighed – there is some notion of the Duke’s that Beauf might set up his own establishment at Nitherholme, and he was saying, did he do so, might I not go with him and do somewhat about the gardens, that were never particular tended to, save for the herb garden when Lady Jane resided there, and have been much neglected since then, one could have a free hand in doing the thing, 'tis not like Qualling or the grounds of Mulcaster House, so there would not be established gardeners jealous of their place and saying, has always been done thus and so –
Oh, Julius, surely you would love that!
Also, Julius went on with a longing look, 'tis moorland country thereabouts, and I confide would be an almost untrodden field for the botanist –
Sure all sounds entire ideal –
- but one must suppose that his plans would be different did he intend to go marry.
One had to know Julius extreme well to know that he was most extreme concerned about this matter. Indeed it would be a considerable advancement for him, and Hannah knew how great a friendship there had ever been 'twixt him and Lord Sallington. Certainly he might fear that marriage would cause a breach – but was it Flora, that had been part of the same nursery-set? how could that create a gulph?
And then she looked at her brother and wondered. Had she not had particular opportunity to observe the very fine manly affection that existed 'twixt His Lordship and Mr MacDonald?
Why, she said, I daresay Flora will tell me soon enough.
In the afternoon she climbed once more to their meeting place, where Flora was already sitting, clasping her arms about her knees in her old way. Hannah went to squeeze in beside her.
Dearest Hannah Clorinda, said Flora, sure there is a thing I am almost frighted to ask you: but has there been with you any matter of falling in love?
Hannah laughed. Fie, who should I go fall in love with?
Why, how should I know, being away so long?
Hannah looked sideways at Flora. Well, she said, resisting the desire to teaze, I will confess that I have the greatest admiration and, 'tis true to say, affection, towards His Lordship and Mr MacDonald, that are both always so very kind to me. But they are quite out of my sphere, and naught that I would go pine for – and indeed, sure I take the entire apprehension that 'twould be a very foolish thing to set my girlish hopes upon 'em.
You were ever a sensible creature, sighed Flora. For I find myself – found myself, mayhap I will discover that matters are different when we are no longer under the Italian sun, or strolling in balmy moonlight and a little smoky glow from the burning mountain – somewhat unexpected smitten.
She sighed once more. We encountered Quintus and his friends in Venice and it perchanced I saw a good deal of Beauf, and then we went our ways, and then we met once more in Naples, and I found myself in a considerable liking to him, and indeed he to me, and there was a mention of marriage, but I said that perchance we were beguiled by the exceeding romantic setting –
- but 'twas not just that concern that halted me from saying yes to his offer.
She looked down at her hands pressing together. O, dear, Hannah, I like him most extremely, but I greatly dislike the thought of being a duchess. For one sees his stepmother, a most excellent learned lady, that I daresay would greatly prefer to spend a deal more time in her study than her duties of rank permit, and does not complain, but will sometimes let little things drop – will come in from some occasion and say she has been about duchessing, with a twist of her mouth.
And then, my dearest Tiger - she looked sideways at Hannah, who kept her face entirely straight – why, what may I call her? She would not have me call her mama, says 'tis a title she would not steal from Mama, so 'tis a pet name ‘twixt the two of us. But she says, that one should ever think when contemplating marriage that the duties of marriage will include matters to do with one’s husband’s station or profession, if only by behaving proper to that – that is, does one marry a clergyman there is a deal of proper behaviour expected in the matter of church attendance and parish duties &C, almost to act the ancillary curate, and if one marries a doctor one does not gossip upon his patients any more than he would, and must not complain is he called out at all hours to some urgent case.
She leant her head upon Hannah’s shoulder. And said, sure one may see married couples that are entire partners, like unto Mama and Papa, or the Wallaces, or the Samuels, or as 'twas with the Verikers – oh, that was sad news – but indeed, she says, a woman does not always realize in advance what will come to her, but must adapt to circumstances.
And however fond and kind a husband may be, 'tis quite out of the common that he will go encourage her ambitions as Mr Lucas does, that insists that Mrs Lucas has her own study in the rectory. That she confides he would do even was there not the matter of her fortune in the balance.
She fell silent.
Also, she said at length, I like Beauf most extremely, but I have found that I am also given to finding other fellows agreeable, if only for a while. I daresay, she went on, you have read, or mayhap heard, the marriage service? That I confide is not in particular different among Methodists from what pertains in the Established Church – sure one hears that the Quakers do the matter differently –
Dearest Flora, 'tis unlike you to babble.
- and while there is a deal of matter in’t that one could mostly happily swear to, there are some things… even more than the forsaking all others, there is that dread word obey. And Tiger says I should mind what a deal of rights the law and custom assign to husbands, and how little to wives. Sure, she said, a woman – or her prudent advisors – may tie up any fortune she has, but there has to be that forethought took, and even then, there are husbands will endeavour come around their wives by persuasion or even violence.
Hannah sighed. Indeed 'tis so.
But the thing that I always come at, Flora continued, squeezing Hannah, is that I would not wish to be parted from you. And sure I find it hard to come at any way one might marry and still have one’s dearest friend about one. I suppose you might come be my companion, but – she planted a kiss upon Hannah’s head – I should dislike to put you in that position of dependency -
Oh, she cried, but I am a selfish fool! Doubtless you have your own plans and ambitions –
Why, said Hannah, I confide that although I lead a most exceeding pleasant existence here, undertaking the flowers for the house and tending to the library, 'tis not a course I may continue entirely indefinitely. And latterly I was discoursing of the matter to Mr MacDonald, and he advanced the thought that I might go make a living by my pen -
Why, my darling, indeed you might. For Mr MacDonald had most thoughtful laid by for us copies of The Intelligencer, marked up with matters of particular interest, and Tiger was most prepossessed by those pieces of yours on historical ladies.
Hannah felt herself blushing all over. But sure I did not see quite how I might come at that.
Flora clasped her knees again and rocked a little in the old wonted fashion when she was thinking something over.
At length she said, hesitantly, you know that Tiger has a fine property in Surrey -
O yes, Yeomans, 'twas where Mama met Papa –
Say you so! – 'twas let for many years to the Ulrichs, very fine people, some connexion of the Samuels, but at present stands empty, and she does not go seek new tenants until certain repairs and refurbishments are made. And it comes to me, might we not ask her could we go live there, and devote our lives to study and writing and doing somewhat about the parlous condition of womanhood - for I apprehend that 'tis not an entire out of the common thing, for two ladies to live together and pursue their interests, like Lady Emily Merrett and Miss Fenster at Attervale –
- but are they not somewhat older ladies, past their marriageable years?
O, now, but I have heard that Lady Emily was one of the belles of the Season when they first went there, her suitors were entire desolated.
O, said Hannah, longingly, surely that would be excellent fine, but I confide that there would be objections -
O, poo, to objections! said Flora. Do I go convoke with Tiger upon the business I daresay she will come at some way it might be contrived.
Hannah clutched Flora’s hand. O, Flora! I should like it of all things.
Mason and I decided that one road trip was not enough, so we headed out at 1 am in search of a clear patch of sky. We drove in the direction of the Cherry Grove observatory that the Minnesota astonomers like, intending not to go all the way, per se, but to stop somewhere on Goodhue County Highway 1 to see what could be seen. I didn't think we'd make it out of cloud cover, but somewhere around Canon Falls, MN, we started to see stars in the sky. So, I drove a little further and we pulled off in a corn field.
We just got situated on the trunk of the car when, sure enough, we saw a bright light streak across the sky. It was the only one we saw, however, because the wind picked up and the clouds rushed in.
Still. Kind of a magical moment.
If it clears up, we're going to try again tonight.
Okay, this guy is clearly in a state of confusion: I’m in a kind of love triangle and am so confused about what to do.
It has got to a point now that I have told my girlfriend that we need to have a break so I can sort myself out. She has moved out and I do miss her a lot.... The space away from my girlfriend, I hope, would make me realise that she is the one for me and come back to her in a happier place where I feel I can be happy and give 100%.
Whereas she is probably busily blocking his number and any contact they have on social media and telling her friends not to pass any details on.
I mean, I think Annalisa Barbieri is right that probably neither of these women is The One and he is just trying to make one of them The One because he wants to Settle Down, but I do wonder if at least the girlfriend, if not the ex, is going to wait around for him to get his head together, and it's not so much a question of he should break up with both of them, but that he is likely to find himself broken up with.
Let him go, let him tarry:
So, much later, Hannah climbed up to the deserted attic of the west wing of Raxdell House, and out onto the flat part of the roof 'twixt chimney-stacks, to find Flora already there, changed out of her finery into one of her old schoolroom dresses.
O, Hannah, she said a little tearfully, I thought you might not come.
Why should I not come?
Sure I am a foolish creature, but I have been hearing so much about how you go take care of the library, and are quite entire Mr MacDonald’s pupil in philosophy and a deal of other matters, sure you become the blue-stocking, while I have been about the frivolity of travel.
'Tis not what your letters led me to apprehend, said Hannah, sitting down upon a ledge and patting the place beside her. Was a deal of good thinking about what you saw and society and politics and history, 'twas no account of balls and flirtations and parties of pleasure.
Why, will not deny that there were plenty of those as well, said Flora, sitting down beside Hannah and putting her arm around her as she had ever been wont. But sure I should have liked to have you there, though indeed I now apprehend why there was such a to-do when I proposed you should come.
She looked down at her feet and sighed. I have learnt a deal of matters about things that concern me and those close to me. She fell silent.
Some considerable while later she said, but I would desire disclose 'em to you, my other self, 'tis why I wished come here where we may be quite private and none may overhear.
You need not, said Hannah, is't some matter of family secrets (had she not once heard some spiteful gossip that Flora was a cuckoo in the nest, no child of Josiah Ferraby’s but of some adventure of his wife’s? She did not believe it – was there not the finest fondness 'twixt the pair of 'em, did not Flora greatly resemble her father – but mayhap she was mistook.)
No, indeed I must - 'tis a very beautiful thing – indeed I feel myself proud - She stood up and looked about her. Sure I am foolish – none ever comes into those attics save to spring-clean once a year, and 'tis not the time for the chimneys to be swept.
Why, said Hannah, one may see through the skylight, grimy though 'tis, that the attic is quite entire deserted - there is no reason for any to come nigh -
I know, I am foolish, but the secret is not all mine to disclose.
Come sit down, then, and whisper in my ear as we were wont.
Flora gave a little smile and came to sit down again. She put her arm back around Hannah and leant towards her. I am Aunty Clorinda’s child, she whispered.
Hannah turned her head. Why, now one had heard it, one saw that Flora was very much of Lady Bexbury’s colouring, and none of the other Ferrabys was so fair. And sure Lady Bexbury had always manifested the very greatest fondness for her god-daughter –
But – she began in a low voice – who –
Oh, indeed Papa is my father. 'Tis somewhat of a long story, but it came about that poor Mama was very poorly indeed after being brought to bed with Quintus – and was advised that she should have no more – and very greatly yearned even so – and when it happened that Aunty Clorinda, that was not at that time Marchioness of Bexbury, went with child, she loved Mama so much, and thought that she would make a much better mother than she would, and I should be in a family with loving brothers and sisters, that she gave me to her –
Hannah frowned a little. But one could see that Lady Bexbury and the elder Ferrabys had quite the finest affection between them, that Lady Bexbury and Lady Ferraby were an entire model of fine female friendship –
- but indeed, part of the plan for this Grand Tour was that so she and I might spend some time alone together, and that she might tell me all this – though sure she had some hesitation, 'twas not until we were come unto Naples that she brought herself to come out with it. And – o, I do not know, mayhap 'tis possible your own mama has told you somewhat of how matters were before Aunty Clorinda married the Marquess? – but indeed I could see why she might suppose it the better course.
I was a deal put about at first, Flora went on, but then I thought what a fine upbringing I had, how much I love Mama and Papa, and how loving Aunty Clorinda always showed to me and to the others, would come romp in the nursery when we were little &C.
Hannah smiled. Would come be your tiger, and your wombatt. She squeezed Flora and Flora squeezed back.
But – o, there is more that happened, and things I should wish talk over with you, but sure I do not wish to drown you. Might we convoke here again in a day or so?
One did not often hear Flora so hesitant in making a request. Hannah kissed her friend, her other self, and said, tomorrow, do you wish.
And, said Flora, I should wish to hear all that you have been about.
Hannah smiled and said, sure ‘twas arranging flowers, and keeping the library in order, and a deal of reading. Little enough to tell.
'Tis not what I hear! – that Mr MacDonald goes lecture at the college in Gower Street, and that he practises over what he will say with you, sure, my darling, you are entirely acquiring a university education.
Hannah felt herself blushing. Why, I do not think the matter is beyond the feminine intellect; and indeed we have much fine talk of history and philosophy and the progress of the natural sciences.
We must speak further of this, said Flora in her old downright manner, but indeed I must go dress, for the entire family comes dine, save of course for Josh –
Do I not know it! Mama is entirely about seeing that everyone’s favourite dish is served.
Hannah watched Flora scamper away, climbing down entirely in her old hoyden-girl fashion and not as if she was a fine young lady of fashion that had travelled and was being (was Julius right in so thinking) being wooed by a duke’s son.
She sighed, and more slowly made the descent herself.
Unsettling Canada - A National Wake-Up Call sounded like something I'd want/need to read from the minute I heard about it. A collaboration between two First Nations leaders, Arthur Manuel - a vocal Indigenous rights activist from the Secwepemc Nation - and Grand Chief Ron Derrickson - a Syilx (Okanagan) businessmen, it is touted by the publishers as bringing "a fresh perspective and new ideas to Canada’s most glaring piece of unfinished business: the place of Indigenous peoples within the country’s political and economic space."
Much of the writing on Indigenous rights and
Indigenous activism in Canada is not accessible to someone like me, who can pretty much only read ebooks. (I can read a physical, bound book, but only very slowly, stopping the minute my breathing begins to be affected, which in practice means three or four paragraphs a day, and that means only one or two such books a year, so I pick only the most important books to be read in this manner.) So I was delighted to find an ebook copy of this available from the library.
The book is written from Manuel's voice, wth advice and input from Derrickson. He begins with a rumination on the land of his peoples, what settler-colonialists have called the B.C. Interior, and on his work with the Global Indigenous People's Caucus - in particular, the presentation of a statement on the 'doctrine of discovery' to the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The doctrine of discovery is a poisonous piece of European colonialist legalism which says that a European sailing along the coast of the land and seeing the rivers flowing down from the interior had, by virtue of their 'discovery' of evidence of that land, more right to it in law (European-derived settler law, of course) than those peoples whose ancestors have lived on, gained nourishment from and stewardship to, for generations.
It's a law that has no justice or even sense of reality behind it. It can only exist if you pretend that Indigenous people never did. Yet it is the basis by which most of the land of the American continents were taken from the people inhabiting those continents, and it lies at the root of land claim discussions even to this day.
Manuel goes on to speak briefly about his family - George Manuel, his father, was a noted Indigenous activist but not very present during Manuel's early life - and his youth, which included time in residential schools due to his mother's long hospitalisation and his father's absences.
These two strands - the history of Indigenous land claims, and his father's legacy of activism, come together in the narrative of Indigenous resistance to the Trudeau government's Statement of the Government of Canada on Indian Policy - the 1969 White Paper.
"Ironically, the impetus for unity [among Indigenous activists and organisations], and what finally put my father into the leadership of the National Indian Brotherhood, was provided by the Trudeau government's Indian Affairs minister Jean Chrétien. In June 1969, Chrétien unveiled a legislative time bomb that was designed not only to destroy any hope of recognition of Aboriginal title and rights in Canada, but also to terminate Canada's treaties with Indian nations. ...
The statement sparked an epic battle that did not end in 1970 when the Indian Association of Alberta presented its counterproposal in the Red Paper. In many important ways it was the opening shot in the current battle for our land and our historic rights against a policy designed to terminate our title to our Indigenous territories and our rights as Indigenous peoples. The White Paper of 1969 is where our struggle begins."
The White Paper, in essence, sought to end all concept of Indigenous nations, abrogate all treaties, eliminate the concept of sovereign lands held in common by an indigenous nation, and force full and complete assimilation - ending by cultural genocide the disappearing of the Indigenous peoples that no previous strategy had quite managed to accomplish.
Resistance to the White Paper was strong. Indigenous leaders formally rejected the government's position, declaring that nothing was possible without the recognition of the sovereignty of Indigenous people and a willingness to negotiate based on the principle that "only Aboriginals and Aboriginal organizations should be given the resources and responsibility to determine their own priorities and future development." But although the paper was withdrawn, the positions it espoused have continued to resurface, recycled and repackaged, in government negotiations with Indigenous peoples to this day.
In 1973, however, a Supreme Court decision gave Indigenous peoples a tool for fighting the White paper proposals. In a 3-3 decision in the Calder case, the Supreme Court declined to set aside the provisions of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which stated that Indigenous peoples living on unceded land - which at that time included most of what is now Canada - had sovereign rights to that land, which could not be set aside by government fiat, but only surrendered via treaty. While a contested victory, and one that was less useful for many nations who had been tricked into giving up more rights than intended in colonial treaty negotiations, this decision still established the legal concept of the sovereignty of Indigenous nations which would eventually lead to more fruitful legal arguments.
Balancing between historical, academic perspectives and personal recollection, Manuel traces the story of the struggles of Indigenous peoples to reclaim their rights and build a new partnership with Canada over the past 50 years. As he examines the history of court arguments and governmental negotiations over issues of sovereignty, land claims, and other key points of dispute between Canada's Indigenous Nations and the Canadian federal and provincial governments, Manuel clearly and concisely explains the legal concepts involved at each stage. In so doing, he weaves a chilling narrative of repeated attempts to, quite literally, extinguish the rights, and the existence, of the original landholders in the interests of corporate exploitation and gain - a neo-colonialist project that would finish off what settler colonialism began.
Events that for many white Canadians passed by without any comprehension of what they meant to Indigenous peoples - the James Bay hydroelectric project, the repatriation of the constitution, the Oka crisis, Elijah Harper's lone stand against the Meech Lake Accord, the Nisga'a Treaty, the Canada-US softwood lumber disputes, the Sun Peaks protests, to name a few - are placed in a coherent context of colonial oppression and Indigenous resistance.
Manuel also places the struggle of Indigenous peoples in Canada within an international context, that of the "Fourth World" - defined as "Indigenous nations trapped within states in the First, Second and Third Worlds." He recounts his father George Manuel's role in the creation of the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, which led to the establishment in 2002 of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples - a document fiercely opposed and flagrantly ignored by Canada and the other major colonial nations, Australia, New Zealand and The United States.
What makes this book so important - and so accessible - is the insider perspective that Manuel brings to the narrative. He and members of his family were intimately involved with many of the key actions and negotiations; his personal knowledge of the dealings behind the scenes fleshes out his factual accounting of the events he witnessed and participated in. Manuel's personal lived experience makes this more than just a relating of legal points and bureaucratic counters, it allows the reader to feel the profound injustices faced by Indigenous peoples in their struggle to preserve their rights and their identities and their fierce determination to succeed.
Mason and I had been itching for a road trip, regardless, so we pulled out our handy guide to random Minnesota Road Trips, Oddball Minnesota: A Guide to Some Really Strange Places.I picked something at random, an entry called: "Hitler's Handkerchief." Apparently, in the Military Museum at Camp Ripley, there is, on display, a handkerchief supposedly once belonging to Hitler that was brought back as a war souvenir by a Minnesota soldier after World War II.
Google maps led me to believe that Camp Ripley was only about an hour and a half or so out of town, so it sounded like a lark.
It took us FOREVER to get there.
Getting punchy, Mason took pictures out of the car window:
You can see, at least, that it's a beautiful day. Today, temps were up in the 70s F/ 21s C. We stopped in Coon Rapids (a Saint Paul suburb/exo-suburb) at a Panera Breads for a spot of brunch and extra caffeine fortification for me. Turns out? I'm kind of cranky without enough caffeine. WHO KNEW? This is where I think we lost time, honestly. I wouldn't have thought it took us that long to find the Panera, but we were driving up and down Main Street a LOT.
At any rate, it was almost 1:00 pm by the time we finally hit Camp Ripley. Camp Ripley is military base/training center and the museum was inside, so we had to drive through a checkpoint and show ID. Shawn had warned us of this before we left, so I actually grabbed our passports. It's really the only picture ID Mason has, but, it turns out they didn't really care THAT much. They just took my drivers license in and swiped it and waved Mason and I through.
We were issued a pass:
Not very official looking, but there it is. I also forgot to drop it into the box on the way out, so I guess I went rogue with this....
The guard told us to turn left at the tanks. For some reason, I wasn't entirely expecting THESE kinds of tanks:
The museum... well, was it worth the long drive? The hanky was there, so I guess there was THAT. I did take a picture of it, but I decided against posting it on Facebook because: Nazis, you know? I did take some pictures of the interior:
There were a lot of displays like this one of the Viking Division of the Minnesota National Guard, with uniforms and other memorabilia. It might have been more interesting if I had someone other than an Already-Bored-of-It teenager. Mason was far more amused by the sign we saw on the way to the museum which read:
"You Can't Beat Rickey's Meat"---ah, teenagers.
On the way back, we saw a sign for 'pick your own' pumpkins and a Corn Maze. Corn Mazes are such iconically Midwestern thing that we decided we HAD to stop. It was actually quite a lot of fun. I mean, really we just wandered around on dirt paths that had been trampled in the dry corn stalks, but... I dunno. It was a THING. Kind of made the whole ridiculous road trip worthwhile.
The funny part is that I *think* corn mazes are supposed to have the reputation of being scary. This one wasn't. I mean, it was BROAD daylight, so that was probably part of it. I suspect this could have been a little more spooky in the twilight, but also, as you can see from this picture--Mason is almost taller than the corn stalks. So, there was no real way we'd get lost. Also, we're not two, so I suspect that's a big part of it.
We also picked our own pumpkin.
Still, all and all, this was a fun trip. We didn't really do much except drive A LOT, but we always say: it's not the destination, it's the JOURNEY. Mason and I had a blast listening to crap country music, chatting, and giggling at various oddities along the road. Good times.
Though... I do think I will cross off "Hilter's Hanky" from my bucket list. I may also attempt a lot more research before randomly choosing another site from the Oddball book.
Or, I have just been followed on Twitter by 3 people who are the same person, and I do not think there is anything holy about having 3 Twitter identities which are all touting your book/s.
I am also mildly beset by people who, having by some means or other found my website, and discovering something there moderately pertinent to their interests (sometimes, I swear, it is Just One Word in the middle of text), email me offering to 'contribute' or begging me to link to their pages, or add in their link collections, without actually considering what the various bits of my site are doing.
E.g. on my - not even this year's, several years back - listing of my Quotations of the Week, is one which alludes to [problem] - which I probably posted originally because it was neatly turned and complete in itself and not because I have an overwhelming interest in [problem]. This is really not an appropriate venue for a link to somebody's site which is All About [Problem]. Point Thahr Misst.
Indeed, more or less equivalent to, if I had the famous quote attrib Mrs Patrick Campbell re the hurly-burly of the chaise-longue, sending me their list of links to custom makers of high quality chaises longues.
And they do not give up: there is one person who has been positively badgering me, even though I have ignored their email except to mark it as junk, because, for extremely personal reasons, I have a link to a UK charity dealing with [condition], to add in their set of links relating to [condition] which seem entirely US-related, several of them dealing with issues around healthcare which are still - so far - irrelevant in the UK context.
My site is a small, personal, and carefully curated site dealing with various interests of my own and not exactly inundated with hits, except when some media outlet links to certain pages.
Y O Y?
Raxdell House was positively humming with excited anticipation.
Hannah Clorinda Roberts looked beyond the flowers she was arranging in a vase on the windowsill, out of the window. It was a lovely late spring day. Her father and her brother Julius were about the gardens – as if anything needed doing to improve upon their perfection.
She stepped back, looked at the flowers, and stepped forward again to make a slight adjustment to one of the lilies.
There were footsteps coming down the stairs.
Why, Hannah, do you have fresh flowers at every landing? Excellent fine they are too.
Gervase Reveley, Viscount Raxdell, her parent’s employer, smiled down at her. You must be glad at Flora’s return, he said.
Hannah bobbed and smiled and nodded, although she was not sure – was she glad? Flora had been away so very many months, must have had so many experiences during her Grand Tour: could it be the same between them? Flora had wanted Hannah to accompany her, but there had been – difficulties.
Lord Raxdell proceeded down the next flight, still an athletic figure although his dark hair was now lightly frosted, as Hannah watched him go.
She knew how very – out of the common – her situation was. The child of servants, even were they not merely upper servants, but the renowned cook Seraphine and the greatly esteemed horticulturalist Elisha Roberts. A sufficient degree of African ancestry to be counted, she reckoned, as quadroon and the same proportion of less-marked French ancestry. Yet her place in this household – more like some dependent relative held in great affection. Educated alongside the Ferraby children, the dear companion of their beloved cherished youngest, Flora.
Hannah made a final scrutiny of the flowers, shrugged, and went to the place that would always calm and soothe her spirits, the library. She did not need to take out a book and read: just being there made her feel – in the right place. Which was, she thought, somewhat incongruous. And yet, it was her place. It was the place where she undertook the useful task of making sure the books were where they were supposed to be, of keeping the volumes of the catalogue up to date: and where she had learnt the skills of finding things out, where to look things up, and writing things down.
Mr MacDonald was already there: he looked up, his habitually severe expression softening at the sight of her. Hannah – you look quite the calmest creature in this house today.
She sighed. 'Tis a delusion, she said. I am as agitated as any, that is why I come here to address myself to work.
I am in much the same state, he confessed, and also find it answers to be out from underfoot, while there is a deal of domestic activity in train.
Indeed there is, as if all was not already in order. But I daresay 'tis even worse at Lady Bexbury’s own house.
Oh, indubitably. Anyone would suppose she was one of those sticklers that will most immediate note the one speck of dust or the single spot that is not properly polished.
Hannah frowned. Is it not – not for her, or rather, 'tis done not because she would in the least complain but to provide the appropriate setting? (She had spent quite a lot of time in the past months considering over the phenomenon that was Lady Bexbury and her effect upon her intimates and her wider circles.)
Mr MacDonald broke into one of his rare and delightful grins and said, Sure you hit it off! We all undertake things to express our welcome, in our own particular fashion – for my part, I have a deal of books and journals that I have kept by for her, Gervase – His Lordship – has made sure that that Melusine has been given exercize as well as being well-groomed, Mrs Ferraby makes sure all is swept and garnished, your mother prepares her favourite dishes, your father and Julius ensure the gardens look their best – how else may all show how very pleased they are to have her back?
But, he said, I daresay your own particular feeling is for Flora’s return?
She sat down, and clasped her hands before her upon the library table, and swallowed against the lump in her throat. I daresay, she said at length, she will have changed.
There was a moment’s silence. And have you yourself stayed entire the same? asked Mr MacDonald.
Oh, said Hannah. Of course she had changed. Just because she had stayed in the same place did not mean she had remained frozen as Flora had left her. There had been these hours in the library, the conversations and arguments – she had been acquiring an education that, did she consider upon the matter, and think of what she had been told of Oxford and Cambridge, was very likely superior to that acquired by many that could write BA after their names.
He cleared his throat, removed and polished his spectacles, replaced them, and said, I shall greatly miss our convocations – sure you have an excellent mind and the finest apprehension.
Hannah felt tears come to her eyes. Why, she said, must they cease? There is still so much I have to learn.
'Tis the like case with all: happy are those that know it. Sure I do not think you will give up study – but you and Flora were ever the inseparables. It must make some difference.
Hannah wrinkled her nose. O, Flora will be going about in Society, and being presented, and there will be suitors, I doubt not, both for her own merits and as a daughter of a wealthy and influential family. 'Tis a world where I may not follow her. I am sure I shall still have many hours to give to the library. But mayhap I should be thinking about finding a place - though indeed I am educated beyond my station. Oh, I daresay I might go out as a governess, though there must be few families would want one of my dark complexion –
Are there not, said Mr MacDonald, families of a like heritage that have gone prosper in the world and would desire educate their daughters to their own new station –
Oh, belike! Yet I do not feel in myself any desire to be a governess – sure one hears it may be a hard and miserable life, I confide that few are in that happy condition Mrs Lowndes enjoyed, but also I do not have that paedogogic inclination that she manifests.
Have you never thought that you might earn a living by your pen?
Have you not already published articles and criticism in The Intelligencer? I assure you, Mr Lowndes does not make space in his pages out of charity.
Oh, but –
He smiled and said, For if our virtues did not go forth of us, 'twere all alike, as if we had them not.
I mind, said Hannah, that the gentleman to whom that exhortation was expressed showed one of very corrupted virtue.
Does not mean that the sentiment itself is wrong.
Well, said Hannah at length, I will think on’t. For sure I would rather teach through words in print than before a classroom.
Entire my own sentiment!
But indeed, she went on, there is a deal of different 'twixt placing an occasional piece in The Intelligencer, and earning a living by one’s pen.
Mr MacDonald looked thoughtful. I daresay you will have heard of that very enlightened course of action that Mr – I mean, Sir Josiah, as we must now style him – undertook, concerning settling an allowance on his daughters as well as his sons, rather than laying the money by to swell some husband’s purse –
Even, said Hannah with a little quirk of her lips, did Bess and Meg go marry almost precipitate!
Even so, they were not obliged to do so, and in their matrimonial ventures, were able to follow their hearts. But what I come at, and mayhap 'tis entire interfering of me, is that besides the very fine places your parents have here, they have that interest in the factory that makes pickles and preserves from Seraphine and Euphemia’s receipts, were able send Julius about that Grand Tour with his friends, pay the premium to apprentice Joseph to an apothecary, I apprehend that there is some likelihood that Daniel will be educated for the ministry –
Hannah wrinkled her nose. May be just some boyish notion, she said.
- why should they not provide you with a competence that might support you while you went build up a connexion for your writing? I am sure they would do the like were you a boy.
But I am not a boy.
(She doubted that her brothers received anything like the exhortations and warnings about beguilement that her mother had addressed to her, ever since she came to womanhood. She was suddenly not to go help Josh Ferraby in his menagerie, must not do this or that. It was exceeding tiresome, and she had supposed that some fear of foreign seducers lay behind Seraphine’s determined refusal of Flora’s pleas to Hannah to accompany her upon her Grand Tour.)
She could see that Mr MacDonald was about to begin perorate upon the topic of the inequitable treatment of women, but at that moment one of the footmen entered to say, Lady Bexbury and Miss Ferraby’s carriage just comes in to the stableyard.
Oh! cried Hannah, I daresay all are drawn up ready to greet 'em; let us go at once.
Indeed let us go most expeditious.
All were already greeting the arrivals as they emerged from the carriage: Flora embracing her parents, followed by Lady Bexbury embracing Lady Ferraby and shaking hands with Sir Josiah, taking both of His Lordship’s hands and smiling up into his face.
As Flora moved to make her curtesy to His Lordship, and then to embrace Mrs Lowndes, she was looking around her with a little frown.
O, she cried, picking her skirts and quite running across the yard, Hannah, Hannah, o, I have missed you so, I thought mayhap you were away.
Merely lingering in the library, said Hannah, feeling her spectacles misting. Oh, Flora, you are looking exceeding well.
Sure I am glad to hear it, for we had quite the horridest Channel crossing.
And so fine dressed!
Why, am I in company with Lady Bexbury, do not wish to look like a poor relation or hired companion. But, o, Hannah, I have such a deal to tell you.
What, more than was in those fat letters you sent me?
Indeed there were matters I did not wish to put into letters, but to tell you to your face.
Hannah looked at Flora. She minded that Julius had remarked that when he and his friends had run into Lady Bexbury and Flora upon their travels, Lord Sallington had seemed considerable taken with Flora. Was a fine match in prospect, with the likelihood of some day being a Duchess?
Flora looked around. Lady Ferraby was already beginning to urge them indoors where a collation had been laid. Why, must go do the dutiful first, but might we not foregather in the old secret place upon the roof, later?
Hannah nodded. So, whatever it was, was not yet something that Flora wished to announce publicly.
And I suspect that it is Very Much Not Done to yell 'Speak up' or 'Use the Mike' when someone is giving an important formal lecture signifying professional advancement.
Maybe my hearing is getting even worse than I thought? Or maybe that lecture theatre has really crap acoustics.
(Speaker is a lovely person who does lovely work, and I bought the book that was also being launched and had it signed, but I was really rather frustrated by the actual lecture.)
But at least there were some really lovely visuals which were entirely relevant to the topic on hand.
Also put in a bit of a strop by the young person who checked my name off the list, and said 'join the queue', waving in the opposite direction to where it turned out the relevant queue was forming.
But I did see two people I knew (besides speaker) and did a little bit of catch-up with them, so I have socialed more than I recently have.
The headline says it all: The Dispatcher is an Amazon Deal of the Day, so you can get it for under a buck on the Kindle. What a deal! But it’s only for the day (October 19, 2017), and it’s for the US and Canada. I’m not sure if the price applies on other retailers today, so you’d have to check it out for yourself. Regardless, if you’ve not picked up this novella yet, today is a good day to do so. Enjoy!
Attention, British readers: Empire Games just came out in small format paperback today, with a price cut from the big trade paperback. The ebook edition also got a whole bit cheaper: Kindle edition here.
(The US paperback/cheap ebook will be along a bit later, because Tor UK and Tor USA are actually different publishers with different schedules.)
I’m really excited about how well my novel project is going. I’m close to a third done which is a big marker for me. I though tit might be fun to post a couple excerpts from the first two chapters (they each have a different point of view character). I’ve put some up excerpts on my Patreon before (where you can get a new story or poem from me each month for as little as $1, plug over, thank you.) These are new excerpts.
Smog hovers over the mountains ringing the valley, grey underbelly lit orange by the last rays of sunrise. In winter, Marie’s garden is filled with pale color, splashed with infrequent dapples of red from dogwood and witch hazel. The woodchip path threads from the back porch through the flowerbeds, pausing to circle the wide-crowned whitebud tree. Droopy-headed snow drops and star-shaped glories of the snow drowse along the path, clustered close to the ground. Crocuses, violas, and camellias grow in higher beds, pastel blues and violets shimmering like chiffon.
Breeze shivers through the whitebud’s branches, tumbling a snowfall of tiny, bell-like white blossoms. It stirs the evergreen hedges encircling the garden, casting shifting shadows across green, white and brown. Lavender hellebore scales the leafy walls, its contrasting color creating the illusion of depth, as if the hedges could continue forever. Marie’s roses remain a few months from blooming. Their branches scratch bare and thorny against the dawn.
More kids arrived, and everything was glowy and strobey, and a bunch of people had put music on their phones and all the different genres rattled and clashed against each other, and some people asked if she wanted to buy something, which she did, but she didn’t have money. She set up singing near the front where there was better music, and some people stopped and told her she sounded like Beyonce, and a couple of guys told her she was a cunt, and someone else told them to fuck off.
So much spark. So much sizzle. Dancing wasn’t enough to get the lightning out of her fingers and her elbows and her toes. Her skull was full of electric fists that kept punching and punching and if she couldn’t break loose then they were going to hammer shards straight through her scalp and she needed to move, to move, to move.
Some guy danced with her and grabbed her tit, and she elbowed him in the ribs, but when another guy came up behind her later, she let him kiss her for a while until she got bored. There were other girls dancing and she watched them, the slither and sleek of their legs beneath their cut-offs, the chocolate dart of their eyes beneath jagged liner. She slipped between them and their bodies were close and press, and she licked the taller one’s neck, and her skin was salt and sweat, and Jamie was singing again, and someone’s hand was soft on the small of her back. There was so much smoke everywhere like haze, and people’s colored lights beaming through it and making everyone look pink and blue and weird and wonderful.
What I read
Ingested two David Wishart Corvinus mysteries, Trade Secrets (2016) and Foreign Bodies (2016) - Severn House having finally decided, it seems, to come down at some point to a price for their ebooks that is more or less comparable with mass market paperbacks rather than hardcover. These were pretty much the mixture as usual - combination of what seems to me pretty solid knowledge of what Rome and its Empire was like at the period, with upper-crust Roman sleuth cracking wise and somewhat anachronistic as the bodies pile up. There is probably a rule with extended series like this that if you haven't given up somewhere along the line, you will as a matter of habit pick up succeeding episodes as they come along.
Tremontaine Series 3, Episode 1. Interested to see where this is going to go.
Discovered by entire chance that there is an ebook of short stories about Rosemary Edghill's Bast, Failure of Moonlight: The Collected Bast Shorter Works (2012), which I had not known about and gulped down. This led me to a binge re-read of the 3 Bast mysteries - set in the world of contemporary Wicca/Paganism of the 1990s - :Speak Daggers to Her (1995), Book of Moons (1995) and The Bowl of Night (1996). I thought these held up pretty well, though possibly more for their evocation of a particular time, place and subculture, and Bast's own moral ambivalence, than for the mystery plots. In an essay appended to the shorter works she wonders if these will be what she is remembered for, eventually: she's written quite a lot in various genres under various names. I see that when I reread the space-opera trilogy Butterfly and Hellflower, written as eluki bes shahar, I felt it had rather lost its shiny. There were also, I think, some rather generic fantasy works and collaborations with Mercedes Lackey which have pretty much faded from memory, and I'm not sure I ever read any of her romances.
On the go
Only Sexual Forensics which got a bit back-burnered lately.
The next episode of Tremontaine Season 3. Maybe Ruthanne Emrys, Winter Tide, which I have heard good things about, and is at present very briefly a giveaway from Tor. Also, have received some more v srs books from An Academic Publisher for reviewing a proposal (when offered this, I specifically look for books which are hideously expensive destined for university library editions that I would not buy for myself).
Do you ever have dreams where you're suddenly much more agile or strong, physically, than you are in real life? I have these occasionally, and they're always incredibly memorable. A lot of times I'm a thief, escaping somewhere or breaking into some upper story apartment, and I have this ability to be super agile and climb ANYTHING, almost like Spider-Man. But, every once and a while I have super-strength. I still remember one about being a vampire at a DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles, for my non-American friends, a genuinely frustratingly slow place) and just tossing furniture around, because I could.
Last night I dreamed I was an anime character (Renji Abarai) who was challenged by some other guy (Ichigo? Dream set piece villain? ??) and I was maybe drunk, but I get up and go into this stance, and punch the guy hard enough to stagger him back with my right, and then left hook him hard enough he goes THROUGH THE WALL.
It was AWESOME.
I love dreams like that. They're so empowering. And, while they're technically violent, they're usually not... angry or scary? You know? This one very much felt like a demonstration of my abilities, rather than me responding to a threat. One of the things good dream interpreters will ask you is: "Well, what was the main feeling of this dream?" The main feeling was: DAMN, IT IS GOOD TO BE BIG AND STRONG.
Then I woke up all small and fat and... ah well.
How about you? Any dreams like this?
Last week I had the pneumococcal vaccine, courtesy of what is still, mostly, a beneficient National Health Service.
Unlike the flu shot, it is a one-off and should, as they say, See Me Out.
However, while I tend not to have any repercussions from the flu shot, this one gave me a sore arm, like, really sore for 2-3 days and still quite tender after that, as well a day or two feeling Vaguely Crap, that well-known unspecific medical condition.
Thought this was All Over, but this morning, discovered I had a Sore Armpit. Don't know whether this is a final repercussion, a muscle I pulled and didn't realise, or, since partner had something yesterday that might have been a virus and involved various aches and pains, whether it is that, though on the whole I would say I feel a good deal less Vaguely Crap than a few days ago.
A general condition of Slob-Out was declared and has not yet quite terminated.
Today Tor Books is releasing Old Man’s War in a spiffy new “mini”-format hardcover edition: All the benefits of a hardcover book, miniaturized for your convenience! It’s available at your favorite bookstores in the US and Canada, and it’s no coincidence that it’s being released just prior to the holiday season. Stocking stuffer, my friends, and/or a nice little gift for, like, day four of Hanukkah. But you don’t need to wait for the holidays to get it. You can get it today. For yourself! And pick up several copies for friends! Distribute them like Pez! It’s the Covandu version of OMW, if you will, and if you get that joke, thank you for being a fan.
I’m delighted at this new mini hardcover of OMW because, among other things, the original hardcover run of the book, almost thirteen(!) years ago now, is actually pretty small: about 3,700 for the first printing, and about 7,700 overall. OMW really took off in the trade paperback edition a year after the initial release. As a result, the hardcovers have always been hard to find — great news for collectors, to be sure. Not so great for anyone else.
So, dear everyone else: This edition is for you. Enjoy!
Hey, you know how irritated you get when your internet access goes down? Elizabeth Bonesteel gets you. And so does her latest novel, Breach of Containment. She’s here to explain — provided your connection doesn’t suddenly go out…
We live in the woods, and that means, among other things, we have the crappiest internet service in the state*.
(*This almost certainly isn’t true. I’ve heard rumors there are towns in the western part of the state that still rely on dialup. I keep hoping that’s an ugly rumor spread by Verizon to keep us all compliant and grateful.)
People in town rely on a mish-mash of solutions. Ours is a T1 line. It’s slow (1.5 Mb up/down), and when it drops it drops for days. There’s nothing quite like the sensation of seeing Netflix give up the ghost, and then pulling up your web browser to see that progress bar just…stall.
It amazes me how much I’ve come to depend on the net—not just for news and cat videos, but for a sense of connection to the rest of the world. When the line goes down, it’s so easy to imagine there’s nothing out there at all anymore—that the silence will go on forever, and we’ll sit here alone in the woods, never discovering what’s happened to the rest of the world.
Within my lifetime, society has become dependent on instant communication.
Breach Of Containment is set roughly a thousand years in the future, where we’ve colonized a (still pretty damn small) part of the galaxy. Despite the distances, everything is elaborately connected. In addition to a network of government and military communications channels, all monitored and encrypted, there are entirely unregulated data streams over which both reliable and unreliable information fly unfettered. Most of my characters live aboard Galileo, a military starship, and they’re never disconnected from the officers giving orders. Neither are they ever free of consequences when they get creative about interpreting those orders (which happens far more often than it should).
At one point, as I was assembling this book, I thought: what if all that gets cut off? What if I dump them in the soup, and sever their access to intelligence, orders, even news of their families?
Structurally, that idea both simplified and complicated the plot. Breach Of Containment is, in many ways, your traditional are-we-preventing-or-starting-a-war adventure story. Galileo is working in an atmosphere of uncertainty and deceit at this point: some of their orders are legit, some are distractions designed to keep them out of the way of internal government intrigue, and they don’t always know which are which. When the communication channels back to Earth are lost, it suddenly stops mattering which commanding officer is trustworthy and which is a seditious traitor. Losing communications meant my characters didn’t need to waste time figuring out whether or not a bunch of tangential folks we don’t care about are on the right side or not.
But severing communications also let me play with people’s heads, and it’s no secret I love the messy character stuff. I’ve got three principals at this point, and Breach Of Containment begins with all of them stretched thin. Elena, formerly Galileo’s chief of engineering, has been out of the Corps for a year, and is feeling rootless and without purpose. Greg, Galileo’s captain, has been dutifully following orders, but is feeling less and less like his years of service have resulted in making any substantive difference for real people. Jessica, Greg’s now-seasoned second-in-command, sees most clearly the tightrope they’re walking between following potentially erroneous orders and dealing with a massive conspiracy that is almost certainly beyond their ability to stop.
Basically, I made sure everybody was tense and cranky, and then I cut their T1 line.
On top of that, I put them on a timer. There’s an armada headed toward Earth, and the big question is whether they’re intending to help, or to invade the vulnerable planet while nobody can warn them. And the only sources of information my happy crew has got? A retired Admiral who’s a gray-hat at best, a rival government’s starship and her relentlessly cheerful captain, and a nervous emissary who’s delivered a cryptic message that she seems convinced makes perfect sense. (Oh, and a talking box. I always forget the talking box.)
When you have no news and you can’t Google, how do you make your decisions?
Here in the real world, I didn’t have a smartphone until last December. (I’m not a Luddite. I’m just cheap.) Since then, the T1 outages have been far less unnerving. It’s comforting to be able to check Twitter and verify the outage isn’t part of some apocalyptic event. Sometimes I’ll even waste some data on a cat video. But every time, in that few seconds before my Twitter feed comes up, I feel that disorienting sense of being unmoored from the rest of the world. It’s not a great state of mind in which to make important decisions…but it’s not a bad catalyst for a plot.
There has been the most ominous-looking light over north London for several hours now - a sort of copper colour. The sky is covered by a greyish cloud with wisps of whiter cloud drifting across it.
No rain, a bit of a breeze wafting through the trees in the street, but so far, nothing stronger.
The effect is somewhat John Martin-esque, or possibly requiring figures to run through the pocket park behind the house crying 'Heathcliff!' 'Cathy!'. Or at least, the foreshadowingly brooding overture to such.
I assume this is something to do with Hurricane Ophelia, even if so far this part of England is not supposed to be affected. This morning when I went shopping it was sunny and unusually warm, but I put that down to the Little Summer of St Luke.
We're getting geared up for a trip to visit the in-laws in Indiana and I had wanted to get the car checked over before we took it on the road. I dropped everyone off as usual at work/school, and headed for Dave's Auto. I asked them when they might have time for me, but, alas, it was not today. In fact, probably not until Wednesday, which I agreed to, forgetting that I had to work. It occurred to me half-way home, and when I reached for my cell phone to call them back to cancel, I realized that I'd forgotten my phone at home. I gave up and got myself a conciliatory coffee at Cladaugh and then made my way back home.
Having had planned to spend my day dealing with the car, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do, but--you know, it's not like there's a shortage of things to be done, so I'm currently sitting at the laundromat waiting on a final load of rag rugs to finish washing. Then, I'm going to dash over to the Super Valu or whatever the gas station is across the way and vacuum out the car in prep for the trip.
We're not even entirely sure we're going to do this trip, after all. Yesterday wen we were pulling out the air-conditioner to take back up to the attic for the season, Shawn's back went out again. She's in the delicate phase, where she FEELS like she can do all the things, but one wrong move will set her all the way back. She did the ONE WRONG MOVE. If she's not feeling better by tonight, we will likely cancel the trip because 10 hours in a car is _not good_ for the back.
Mason and I were sort of looking forward to the road trip, because ROAD TRIP! Plus, I was going to make a special effort this time to find postcards of Indiana to send to my various pen pals. But, we might still be on--even though it will mean leaving without having a chance to have the car looked over. Fingers crossed for things to turn out for whatever is best.
Okay, I think that's my buzzer.
They walked slowly back towards the villa in silence. Lady Bexbury was conversing of novels with a well-looking fellow of middle years, that to Beauf’s astonishment spoke English with a somewhat Cockney accent though he was as bronzed as any Neapolitan. She made introductions and Beauf apprehended that this was Traversini’s dear companion. Should be entire ecstatic, said Lady Bexbury, would you stay to dine the e’en. Although Beauf felt that all he wanted to do was to return to Naples and brood in his room, or if Julius was around, tell him what had passed, he could not refuse.
Sure it was a very fine dinner, especial had they not been expecting any company. When they had finished, and night had fallen, Lady Bexbury offered that the sight of fireflies among the olive trees was most exceeding pretty, why did Flora not take His Lordship to see 'em? Flora bit her lip, then smiled and said, sure 'tis indeed the prettiest thing, let us go view 'em. And somehow, as they walked towards the olive grove, their hands found one another. Over there, said Flora, that quite menacing red glow? 'Tis the burning mountain Vesuvius: here are lesser fires.
She gestured towards the little sparks of light darting among the olive trees. Indeed 'twas a most exquisite pretty sight. He turned towards Flora and saw his own pleasure mirrored on her face. Mayhap it was the romantic setting; mayhap the excellent wine they had drunk had somewhat to do with it; but he put his arms around her and kissed her as no decent man should kiss a respectable young women before they had reached an understanding. And Flora kissed him back as no respectable young woman should kiss a man that had not already spoke to her papa.
At length they drew away from one another. Beauf began stammering an apology: oh, fie, said Flora, you must have apprehended that I too was quite overcome. She looked down at the ground. 'Twas most exceeding pleasant, I liked it quite extremely, should greatly desire to do it again: but, dearest Beauf, 'twould not be right. I hope, said Beauf, I should not take advantage of your kindness - Flora looked up with a bewitching smile and said, sure I have the greatest confidence in your honour. But m – my godmother has conveyed to me certain matters concerning the sexes –
And, said Flora, drawing herself up and looking like a small Valkyrie, I daresay there are those would condemn her for sullying my maiden innocence or some such nonsense, but I find myself in entire agreement with her that 'tis a shocking thing the way young women are kept in ignorance of matters so very material to their lives and happiness. Why, said Beauf, I fancy my stepmother would be in agreement with such arguments. And when one goes ponder over the topic, 'twould at least be prudent were young women given some warning concerning how some men carry on.
Flora gave another of her enchanting smiles and said, but she avers that young women should also be informed about their own natures: and that they should know that they may find that there is a traitor within the citadel that undermines their resistance to a siege. Beauf looked at her and considered upon this – was it a confession? – that she too felt ardours that might lead them into most improper conduct together. Indeed, Flora said more soberly, I come to an apprehension of her meaning. But she says, too, that does not always import for better for worse &C.
We had better, said Flora, be returning to the villa. She sighed. Flora, said Beauf, dearest Flora, at least say that I may speak again, when we are back in Town and not beguiled by romantic surroundings. She sighed again. You may, dearest Beauf: perchance we may find that 'twas entirely a glamour and you may go find one more apt to duchessing than I. I do not think so, he said. In all our travels have seen none that moves me as much as you. Flora made a little noise, almost a sob, and then turned towards the villa.
The coachman was mayhap a little displeased at being routed out from the kitchen and flirtatious conversation with the buxom Giulia, no hag-like sorceress. But he went ready the horses, and Beauf took his leave of Lady Bexbury and Alf, bowed over Flora’s hand. As he mounted to the carriage, and it began to drive away, he glimpsed, through a window, the fleeting sight of Flora kneeling by her godmother’s chair, her head in her lap, Lady Bexbury stroking the golden curls. Beauf thought that he would have welcomed an attack by banditti as a distraction from his troubled thoughts.
There were no untoward happenings on the road back to Naples. At their lodgings, he found Julius alone – he had not expected Bobbie to be in, but Quintus had regular habits. Is a dinner of some medical club or such, said Julius, seeing Beauf look around, that Quintus was invited to. But, dear friend, you look troubled. Oh, Julius, sighed Beauf, going to sit beside him upon the chaise-longue, indeed I am troubled, for Flora – was’t another woman I would say, goes play the coquette, but 'tis not Flora’s way – Julius put an arm around Beauf in the old way.
Beauf rested his head upon Julius’ shoulder, thinking of all the times they had comforted one another. He was blessed in having such a friend. Surely marriage, especially marriage to Flora, whose own dearest friend was Julius’ sister Hannah, would not come between? Julius remarked that he was going to see a very fine garden the morrow, would Beauf care to come? Indeed he had not seen so much of Julius lately, would be most agreeable to spend time in one another’s company. That would be exceeding pleasant, he said, do you desire my company. How not, said Julius, smiling.
This week's bread: the Blake/Collister My Favourite Loaf, white spelt/wholemeal/einkorn flour, made up with the remains of the buttermilk.
Saturday breakfast rolls: the adaptable soft roll recipe, 4:1 white spelt/buckwheat flour, maple sugar, dried blueberries.
Today's lunch: New Zealand venison loin medallions, panfried in butter, served with sweet potato oven fries, cauliflower florets roasted in pumpkin seed oil with cumin seeds (I think these could have done either with being cooked a bit longer, or broken up into smaller pieces), fennel cut into thinnish strips, healthy-grilled in olive oil, and splashed with elderflower vinegar.
Oh, David Mitchell, I normally like and approve of your columns, but this one?
Which made me think of pretty much all societies, 'throughout history', where just because there was a belief in a higher power didn't mean that there wasn't massive conflict over: who was the real higher power and how best to worship that higher power. And even when there was a generally accepted overall belief system, there are differences within between schools of thought and practice (cf persecution of Christians or Muslims who are not of the predominant category within a particular nation). Heretics get persecuted at least as much as infidels.
And you may like to think
I know in my heart that had I been brought up in such a setting – say, in Anglican Victorian England – I wouldn’t have quibbled with those answers and would’ve been comforted by them.
That would Anglican Victorian England which a) pretty much invented the concept of honest doubt and b) within the C of E, massive conflicts between High and Low Church, no? Not so cosy.
Paging Mr Blake and the Ever-Lasting Gospel. Written at the same time that a large number of actual clergymen had gone into that line of work because they were the third son and it was a living, and why would anyone trouble themselves over the 39 Articles? and it gave them plenty of time off for hunting.
No doubt Lady Bexbury apprehended something of his reason for the visit: very shortly she said, I daresay you have come see Flora. At present I confide she goes walk in the olive groves – Alone? cried Beauf. La, she is as safe here as she would be at home. There will be none to come trouble her: 'tis most exceeding useful to have a cook in the place that is give out a strega and able to cast heavy curses upon trespassers &C, even is Giulia not so powerful a one as Guiseppina, that was her aunt, used to be.
Beauf blinked: he would have liked to know more of the matter – surely Lady Bexbury did not believe in witchcraft? 'Tis a useful superstition, she said smiling. But away to the olive groves – she waved in their direction. He bowed over his hand and went where she pointed. Sure olive trees were a very picturesque sight – he wondered whether there were artists had painted them – but even more delightful was the sight of Flora Ferraby, in a becoming light gown, a wide-brimmed hat upon her head, carrying a parasol. Why, Beauf! she cried, almost running towards him. Such a pleasure.
Flora dropped her parasol and clasped his hands in hers. Sure 'tis good to see you, she said. And are the others here as well? They remain at Naples, he said, looking down at her: perchance she had neglected one day to carry her parasol or put on her hat, for she was a little browned by the sun: however unfashionable, 'twas exceeding becoming. But, she said, tell me all of what you have been at, for Quintus’ letters only recount such and such an operation he saw, or some anatomical demonstration he attended. We have been here some while.
So, finding her hand remaining in his, he walked with her among the olive trees and told her of their adventures since Venice. But, he said, did she not go about a good deal in Society at Naples? He had been surprized to hear no reports of the bella signorina Ferraby and sighings over her. La, said Flora, we live here most agreeable quiet, sure I became somewhat jaded with the pursuit of pleasure, and sure these Italians are excessive amorous and given to jealousy, 'tis exceeding tiresome when they brangle over whether I go favour one more than another.
But is it not a little dull? Beauf asked. As I collect you have no great interest in painting water-colours, that one might well wish to undertake in such fine scenery did one have the skill. Indeed 'tis not, said Flora. My dear – my godmother is quite the finest company, there is an excellent fine library with a deal of English books in the place, Marcello is entire happy to escort me on excursions to classical antiquities &C – fie, I suppose I should say Signor Traversini, but I catch the habit of informality from Her Ladyship’s old acquaintance of him.
Also, she went on, there is excellent fine conversation of an e’en: Marcello and Alf are quite the greatest friends of Mr MacDonald, in constant correspondence, sure 'tis good serious discourse such as I have been feeling the want of. For from early years I was used to hear Papa and Mama and their company talk of matters in Parliament, and questions of business, and it feels home-like. And oh, have you heard? Papa goes be knighted. Entire well-deserved, said Beauf, my father the Duke holds him in quite the greatest esteem. Oh, 'tis an entire mutual esteem, said Flora.
Beauf looked down at Flora. He had seen more beautiful women, women with all the feminine arts of flirtation, but none of them had affected him as Flora did. Oh Flora, he said, I find myself in an ever-increasing fondness for you, sure I cannot suppose my father would make a deal of a fuss whosoever my choice lighted upon, he is not that kind, but I confide he would welcome a closer union with your family, there could be no objection, indeed I hazard 'twould delight my stepmother. Dear Flora, I should be honoured would you be my wife.
Flora dropped her head and gazed at the ground, and let her hand slip out of his. Oh Beauf, she said after what seemed like an exceeding lengthy silence, sure I am entire aware of the great honour you do me, and indeed I find myself in great liking towards you. But, she said, and then paused again. I know, she began again, that 'tis considered quite the highest achievement of a young lady to attach a fellow of your rank; but – oh, dearest Beauf – 'tis that matter of rank and being a Duchess in due course, gives me pause.
Why, you could not but adorn such a position, cried Beauf. Indeed, replied Flora, I hope that did it come to it I should do all that was proper: but I am in some concern that I should find it most immense tedious. There are duties and responsibilities, and sure I think some of 'em I could contrive to quite well. But I think of all the doing the polite, and making agreeable, and sure I do not attain to have my – godmother’s capacity to smile upon bores and laugh at weak jests, I entire lack her skills of diplomacy.
I see, said Beauf, that I have come about the matter very abrupt – 'twas not thus that I meant to proceed, but it has been on my mind ever since Venice, that I have seen no woman that I like so much as you and that I should desire to be wedlocked with. Flora gave him a wistful little smile and said that sure they were still yet young and perchance 'twas an entire glamour cast by these romantic parts, and mayhap did they go look at one another on a chill foggy day in Town, 'twould be another tale.