Monday, December 24, 2007


I wish all of my readers and visitors to my blog the very best of this season of peace. It is a time to reflect on our blessings and and time to offer thanks.

It is with the greatest regret that I announce that I have been called home to England. My mother is in hospital and the prognosis is not good. I am sure you will forgive me if I do not post here for a week or two.

I do wish for you a safe, healthy and prosperous New Year and I will return to share more of my rambles later in January.

Michele Ann Young

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Regency Bath - Part III - The Circus

Before we get started on our topic for today, I just want to remind you that my newsletter will be going out this week, so if you would like to sign up you can find it on the sidebar to this blog.

Now, where were we. Ah yes, we left the Jane Austen Center and walked up Gay Street, an exceedingly steep hill, to the Circus. I paused here and took several pictures from all kinds of angles.
I particularly liked this one because of the sun reflecting off the windows and the gold toned stone. The circus, is a circle, and the townhouse curve around it in the most elegant way, broken only by the roads.

The next picture shows the top of the circle and the island of green in the center and after that the matching wing to the first picture completes the circle and you get a little glimpse of mother patiently waiting for the photographer to finish.

The Circus, originally called King's Circus, was designed by the architect John Wood the Elder, who died less than three months after the first stone was laid. His son, John Wood the Younger completed the scheme to his father's design between 1755 and 1766.

Wood's inspiration was the Roman Colosseum, but whereas the Colosseum was designed to be seen from the outside, the Circus faces inwardly. Three classical Orders, (Greek Doric, Roman/Composite and Corinthian) are used, one above the other, in the elegant curved facades. The frieze of the Doric entablature is decorated with alternating triglyphs and 525 pictorial emblems, including serpents, nautical symbols, devices representing the arts and sciences, and masonic symbols. The parapet is adorned with stone acorn finials. When viewed from the air the Circus along with Queens Square and the adjoining Gay Street form a key shape which is a masonic symbol.

The central area was originally paved with stone setts, covering a reservoir in the centre which supplied water to the houses. In 1800 the Circus residents enclosed the central part of the open space as a garden. Now, the central area is grassed over and is home to a group of venerable plane trees planted in the 1820's, so they could well a have been there at the end of the Regency. You can see those plane trees in my first picture. Here are a couple of views of the Circus, from 1773 and 1829 respectively. You can clearly see the open piazza in the first one.

Among the lessees of the south western segment, which was completed first, were the eminent politician William Pitt and his cousin Lady Lucy Stanhope, who took adjoining plots. On 18 November Lady Stanhope moved into her new-built house - the first in the Circus to be inhabited. Pitt's house was reported to be almost fit for his reception and he arrived in Bath around Christmas time. The most desirable houses were those on the north side, with their sunny south-facing fronts. William Pitt, by then Earl of Chatham and in his second term as Prime Minister, moved from his double-sized house in the south-western segment to one almost as large at no.11, while the spacious central house at no.14 was taken by John, 4th Duke of Bedford. The close proximity was convenient in October 1766 as Chatham and Bedford pounded between each other's houses in a round of political bargaining. For men such as these the Circus provided a second or third home. They were seasonal visitors, part of the ebb and flow of the haute monde between London, country estates and Bath. Permanent residents included those who catered to the seasonal flow, such as the artist Thomas Gainsborough at no. 17 and his sister Mary Gibbon, who became the chief lodging-house keeper in the Circus, running three houses there.

While small, this image gives an overview of the Circus, originally called King's circus by the way. You can see how each of the three roads intering the Circus are all confronted by a grand arc of building, just like the one in my picture of the north section.
This is an end of one of the crescents, you clearly see the columns, the acorns at the edge of the roof and the style of each town house, not to mention the blocked in windows, likely filled in to avoid paying window tax.

This last is typical me, a peek over the wrought iron railings, which would have been painted green or blue in Georgian times, into the area. The floor below street level, which usually contained the kitchen and cellars where the servants worked. Accessed by outside steps, tradesmen would have delivered through door from the street. Sometime there was a manhole in the street down which the coalman would deliver coal.

Well, there is lots more to show you about Bath, but I think this is enough for today. Until next time: Happy Rambles.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Regency Bath - Part II

Our first stop in Bath was the Jane Austen Center. Be aware, this venue is not wheelchair accessible. Mother womanfully climbed three sets of stairs so we could have afternoon tea. I should mention how lucky we were with the weather. It was sunny and warmish. Just right for walking (and pushing-- remember the wheelchair lol)

This is the outside of the Jane Austen center. The woman is in fact a life size doll, the gentleman however is real. I have a couple of pictures of him, he looked just the part and had a wonderful Somerset accent.

The Center itself is devoted to Jane Austen, and we learned much about her life. I also bought some out of print books, and mother bought me a note book with characters from the novels on the cover. The center is located at number 40 Gay Street, in a Georgian house very similar to number 25 where Jane Austen lived for a few months after her father died.

They displayed games that people played at Christmas time, spillikins or pick up sticks, cup and ball, bullet pudding and snapdragon, this last consisted of putting raisins in a dish, covering them in brandy, set it light to it and then trying to grab a raisin from the flames without getting burnt. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME or anywhere else, for that matter. I suppose they were used to open flame with all those candles hanging about.

Here is my Regency gentleman again, this time inside the gift shop.

I did enjoy the museum, and took a picture inside of the models showing a couple of typical regency outfits, which I thought you might like. The green is obviously a walking dress. I like the little cape, just covering the shoulders. The other is clearly evening wear, a silk gown with a matching spencer. It could also be worn in the afternoon, to an at home.

This last picture looks down Gay Street from the top of the hill, almost at the circus. I will be telling you more about that next time, but as you can see, in Bath there be hills. And I was very glad of the brakes on that wheel chair, I can tell you.

Still, after all the good food in the tea rooms including a very rich hot chocolate, I needed the exercise.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Regency Bath - Part I

I promised you some blogs on my visit to Jane Austen's Bath last month. In reality Jane Austen's Bath is a little earlier than the Regency. Both her visit to Bath as a young woman, after which she wrote Northanger Abbey, and the period during which she lived in Bath 1804 - 1806 were in advance of the time during which Prinny was Prince Regent in 1811.

Given that at this time of year, mornings and early evenings are gloomy in England, we set off about nine-thirty so as to have good light, and less traffic. We decided to take the A36 since it joins the A303 from Andover in Hampshire which is a nice quiet road out of that runs past Stonehenge. We are now in Wiltshire on the magnificent expanse of Salisbury Plain. Nothing quiet like Stonehenge in the pale light of a winter's day to set the imagination wheeling back in time, I can tell you.

Mother and I reminisced about bygone family picnics, the stones as our backrest, on our annual trips to the coast. There was a real sense of human history to those moments. We were saddened to think that these days, because people cannot be trusted to respect such ancient monuments, there is a fence between the henge and the visitor. However, as a side note, if you want to have that tactile connection to the past I highly recommend the Avebury henge, but only if you promise to be kind to these stone warriors of time. But more about that on another occasion.

Our journey took about an hour and a half and we enjoyed some magnificent countryside, the open vistas of Salisbury Plains, and the rolling hills of Somerset, the county in which Bath is located. Bath sits on the River Avon. As we drove down the hill via what would have been the approach to Bath from London in the old days, the wonderful bath-stone terraced houses clung to the hillside opposite. Mother, who had not been to Bath before was impressed. A major achievement, if I may so so. lol. This image gives you a sense of it, but is from Wiki, since driving and photographing do not make a good combination.

Our route took us past the Jane Austen Center, through Queens Square and to our final destination, alack not a Regency house, but a Victorian B & B.

Once we settled into our digs, which would make a story in itself, including me pinching my finger in mother's wheelchair, we began our rambles. And I look forward to telling you all about them and sharing my photos next time. I believe long blogs tend to lose the interest of readers, so I prefer to give you smaller chunks. But I am happy to taken any feedback on this format.

And don't forget, if you enjoy a quick read with characters set in Regency times, my short story, Christmas Masquerade is now in e-book format for the low price of $1.60 and for those who like to settle beside the fire with a long story, No Regrets is in a store near you. Ok so shameless self-promotion, but if I don't do it, who will.

Until Monday and Regency Bath- Part II, Happy rambles.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Regency Writer Returns

I'm back. I sure missed you all!!

The weather in England changes more often than I change my socks and I did that twice a day. Bath was bliss. No, not a bath or bathing, but the City of Bath. I took lots of pictures and did lots of research so have a good chunk to share with you coming up over the few weeks.

But today is a writer day. There is nothing as exciting as seeing your novel on the shelves in a store - or perhaps there is, after all. That is seeing your novel on a table in the middle of the store, which is how it is in my local Indigo Bookstore here in Richmond Hill. Yes, I did stand the book up. I thought it looked nicer that way.

Not only is there a pile on the table, but there is a pile under the table too. Here is the picture to prove it. That, my dear is a pile. I almost had a heart attack when I saw how many that had brought in. Now I will be running down there every couple of days to see if the pile went down at all. Men in little white coats will probably come and cart me off for some quiet time, if I am not careful.

I'm also going to leave some bookmarks inside them as a thank you to whoever buys my book....

Good heavens, while I was away, Fall turned into Winter and we have snow up the wazoo. That really was a surprise, since it was warm enough to walk around in a light jacket on the other side of the pond. Talk about a nice warm welcome home. brrrr.

This is a photo of my quietest fan, Teaser. Since he loves that I stay home with him all day, he was most disgruntled when I abandoned him for a week. Teaser believes he is a cat. Look at the way he is sitting on the back of the sofa. Dogs don't do that! And while I am writing he insists on his own chair right alongside mine. Any day now, he will decide to write his own stories. I can tell from the look in his eye.

OK, coming next, Jane Austen's Bath, Regency Bath, All things bright and Bath and probably some Christmas in Bath and the Regency. Until then~~ Happy Rambles.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Regency Fashion For December

I am leaving tonight for a research trip to England. I will only be gone for a week, but I thought I would leave you with some December Fashions while I am rambling in Bath amongst other places. I promise to bring back lots of interesting information!

The first two pictures are early in the era, and not yet the official Regency, but enchanting nonetheless.

The first plate is from the December 1805 Lady's Monthy MuseumThe Walking Dress is a Straw Gipsey Hat, trimmed with French Gray. Morning Dress, Spotted Muslin. Habit Shirt of the same. Cloak of Black Velvet, trimmed with Deep Lace. Swandown Muff and Buff Gloves. Buff Boots.
And the Evening dress
Of White Satin, Silver Tassels. Crimson Shawl, tied close round the Neck. Deep White Lace Veil. White Muff and Gloves.

This second plate is from a year later, December 1806 and also from the Lady's Monthly Museum. Beneath the shawl you can clearly see the high waist and low neck that we have come to associate with this era.

For the morning a White Muslin short Dress, trimmed with Lace round the Bottom—A Grey Pelisse of Georgian Cloth—Embossed Velvet Bonnet the same Colour—Silver Bear Muff.

The full dress is quite magnificent with the crimson shawl, don't you think. It is described as a White Sarsnet Round Dress with a long Train, and ornamented with Lace—Long Shawl of Crimson Silk—Hair fashionably Dressed—Swansdown Muff—White Kid Gloves and Shoes.

I thought I would do something from later in the period and given the holiday season I am adding the Christmas Pellisse from December 1818, almost at the end of the Regency. You have seen this one before, I know, but it is a favorite. It also gives us a good sense of how the styles had changed.

I will be back in a week or so, and will hopefully have some images of Britain that can tie into my flora and fauna post for December, and with any luck some interesting stuff about Jane Austen's Bath. Until then. Happy Rambles.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Regency Debt and Prisons

First, let me wish all those of you in American a Happy Thanksgiving Day, though it is well nigh over.

I decided to continue on with this item because it caught my interest. The issue of imprisonment for debt seems so archaic, but it was long after the Regency era that it ceased. And debtors were considered just as much criminals as thieves who were also imprisoned in these places. In other words, owing someone money was like stealing. Remembering back to my parents attitude, debt was much feared, and it probably stemmed back to those times which after all were not so very long ago.

I talked about the Fleet in the last blog. In addition there were two other prisons primarily used for debt in London. One of these was the King's Bench in Borough High Street, Southwark. King's Bench was a much hated prison and had a reputation for being filthy and overcrowded that often resulted in outbreaks of typhus fever. As far as I can tell, all the prisons were the same. This first picture is of the main entrance. This picture of the inside looks little different to the picture of the inside of the Fleet, a mix of people wandering around, some games being played. I believe that the wall was noticeable high, however. Again, treatment very much depended on how much you could pay the jailor. Debtors had to provide their own bedding, food and drink. Those who could afford it purchased 'Liberty of the Rules' allowing them to live within three square miles of the prison. In these times the position of Prison Warder was purchased and the warders then earned their livings by charging their prisoners and therefore the less you paid the worse your lot.

This prison rebuilt after 1758 occupied a site of about 4 acres and contained at least 300 rooms, but was still very crowded in Regency times.There was a long range of four stories with a central chapel. The front rooms facing the yard were better those those around the back and there were also 8 superior rooms. Decent accommodations were much more expensive here than they were in Fleet Prison. Besides the rooms there was a kitchen, coffee house, stalls and public houses. The yard provided 3 pumps and racket grounds & fives courts. Women and children were excluded after ten o'clock.
Here is a description written by an inmate to his lawyer in 1817, one William Hone:
I have met with very little accomodation too at this place -- so that, though I am in general pretty adaptable to circumstances, no great comfort has been my portion.The prison is full and decent rooms not to be had but at an enormous price. I think I shall have one tomorrow which though dark & not very airy will be better than wandering in the area or idling in the coffee room without the power of writing in it. Like the Seer of old I shall get a table & a chair & a stool (& a few books withal)
While Mr. Hone was in trouble for popular liturgical parodies in this time of unrest, a time at which the Home Office was very concerned about public unrest, he also ended up a bankrupt. But I thought a personal if brief description of this prison brought it to life.

Well, I delved into the Kings Bench Prison in far greater depth than I intended so will leave the last Prison until next time, as I have found an interesting story about that one too.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Regency Christmas ~~ Plum Pudding

Yesterday, our family made its Christmas pudding. It is a ritual at our house that starts off the Christmas season, although everything else is left until later in December. The first job is to buy all of the currants and raisins and other ingredients. I like to buy them fresh at the bulk store. And of course we have to buy the stout. We add all the ingredients to an enormous bowl, one daughter chopping the almonds, another grating the lemon and the orange, while I do the measuring. DH decided Christmas lights were the chore of the day and disappeared until stirring time. The whole process takes up a good part of the afternoon, as there is a great deal of talking and laughing and cups of tea.

Once the whole thing is in the bowl, all of us stirred the mix, and of course made a wish, I am not telling you mine because then it doesn't come true, but it must made while stirring with a wooden spoon in a clockwise direction. Then the mix is covered and left over night before it is put into the traditional bowl and steamed. That is what I will be doing today.

We followed this tradition in my family as a child, my mother did it in hers and my husband’s family did the same thing. And as far as I can tell, their parents and grandparents did it too. It got me to wondering whether in fact this was a tradition in the Regency.

I did discover that in Regency times, Christmas puddings were called plum puddings and were made on the Sunday before Advent, therefore five Sundays before Christmas Day. (I see I am early by one week.) Apparently, in the 1800’s poor people would put money into a club at the grocers so that they would have enough money to pay for the ingredients. Clearly, plum pudding, was an important part of the festivities if you had to save up for it. By the way, it was banned by Oliver Cromwell, and brought back into fashion by George I.

Christmas puddings were steamed in those days and I steamed mine today. Our ancestors steamed them in a pudding cloth, which gave them their round, ball shape and according to Dickens (who was born in the Regency) smelled like washing day when steaming. I use a basin.

It does seems that the tradition of wishing while stirring the pudding is of long standing, but I was unable to find a source which said it existed prior to or during Regency times. I did discover that plum puddings were often a starter course in those days, and were only turned into dessert in Victorian times.

Did you make your pudding yet, those who celebrate Christmas? Do you even have pudding on Christmas Day? I know lots of people who don’t like Christmas pudding.

If you are looking for a stocking stuffer, may I recommend Holiday in the Heart, it is a heartwarming anthology from Highland of twelve Christmas stories, one of them by me, and is available on Amazon everywhere.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Prisons in the Regency

I know this sounds like a bit of a gloomy topic, but it is rather fascinating, especially if one of our characters gets into a bit of trouble.

Law, Crime, Punishment and Policing were very different in the Regency than they are today. Often in our books our not so bad characters can end up in the hoosegow for debt. In other words if you could not pay your debts the merchant to whom you owed money could request the court to throw you in prison until you paid them. To us that seems a little bit of an oxymoron, since it would be difficult to earn money while in prison. The idea was, I think, that your family and friends would raise money to get you out, however often a man's whole family would be incarcerated with him, as per the next picture, because they would have no money and nowhere else to live.

There were several debtors prisons in and around London and of course many others across the country.

The Fleet was one of the oldest, a debtors' prison as early as 1290, situated on the east side of Farringdon Street, on the east side of Fleet market and derives its name from the Fleet stream, which flowed into the River Thames. The prison was burnt by the rioters in 1780, but was immediately rebuilt on the old plan.

One visitor describes it this way: "The court into which you enter is the whole length of the building which is about 90 feet. Passing through the lobby, you enter the inner court, where the prisoners entertain themselves with tennis fives, and other amusements, as represented in the print. The keeper is called the warden of the Fleet, and his fees from the prisoners for turning the key, for chamber rent, etc. and this amounts to a considerable sum."

Apparently an additional fee was charged not to put the prisoner in chains; the most unfortunate souls were put in the cellars, called sarcastically by the prisoners, "Bartholomew Fair", subterranean dungeons where perishing from illness was almost guaranteed. The conditions were deplorable; when ill-treated prisoners died, their deaths were chalked up to "jail-fever.". While there were improvements to this prison early in the nineteenth century, it was really horrible.

So, make sure you pay your credit cards.

We look at another prison next time. Until then, happy rambles.

Monday, November 12, 2007


I am happy to report that both book-signings went extremely well the past two weekends. The last one in Chapters in Scarborough, was highly exciting, because they had actually shelved copies of No Regrets. At both stores customers were fabulous to talk to and I made lots of new friends.

I am working hard on the next book, which is due to my publisher next week, so I am going to leave you with this picture of a happy me, with Kayla Perin and Teresa Grenieri, the other author was Stephanie Bedwell-Grime who kindly took the photo. We all sold lots of books and had a wonderful visit.

Until next time Happy Rambles

Friday, November 9, 2007

Regency Fashions for November

In the Regency, just like now, the nights were drawing in, as we say in England. This really means the sun was rising and setting early in the evening. And of course, the temperatures were dropping. So just what sort of fashions were they promoting for these cooler months.

This one is from November 1814 La Belle Assemblee. Short pelisse of deep lilac, shot with white; and on each hip a Spanish button. It is made with a collar up to the throat, and trimmed round with rich fur; sleeves long and loose, with a fur at bottom to form a cuff, rather shorter in front than behind, and two Spanish buttons are placed just at the bottom of the pelisse in front, which fastens with a loop crossing from one to the other. The bosom is ornamented in the same manner; a belt of embroidered ribband round the waist, and a gold clasp in front. A bonnet of the same materials as the pelisse, crown a helmet shape, front very small, and a wreath of laurel round it; three white feathers are placed at the back of the bonnet, and fall over the front; broad ribband, same as the bonnet, is pinned plain under the chin. The hair is brought very low at the sides, and a single curl on the forehead. Buff gloves, and dark brown kid boots. Large silver bear muff."

Quite lovely and it looks reasonably warm.

These on the other hand, from Ackerman's Repository look like they would only be worn indoors although one is labelled "walking".Walking Dress [standing]— Robe of White Indian muslin, with Spanish vest and Flemish skirt, ornamented at the bottom, bosom, and sleeves with needlework, or appliquéd lace; antique cuffs, pointed collar, fastened in the center of the throat with a topaz broach. Bonnet á la Mary Queen of Scots, composed of intertwined crape and straw, and lined throughout with rose-coloured sarsnet; the extremity of the crown finished with Vandyke scallops in white satin, the edges terminated with straw; a small bouquet of autumnal flowers in front, blended with bows of white satin ribbon, and tied under the chin with the same. French tippet of leopard skin shag. Shoes and gloves of rose-coloured kid. Now bonnet a la Mary Queen of Scots sounds interesting.
Morning Dress [seated] — A plain muslin round gown with long sleeves, and embroidered habit shirt; short sleeves over, composed of alternate lace and muslin; habit shirt trimmed round the throat with a deep lace. Muslin spencer jacket without sleeves, very short, trimmed round the arm-holes, bosom, and waist with lace. A helmet cap, formed of alternate lace and stripes of embroidery; finished on the crown with a square of lace, edged with beading; in the front, full quillings, or gathered lace, formed in a sort of turban; the cap tied under the chin with white ribbon. Gloves and shoes of buff-coloured kid.

It seems to me that it would require a balmy day to be abroad in these two outfits, unless you are promenading around your drawing room. Which is something we see in Pride and Predjudice, the two ladies walking and talking as around the room, while others look on. How constraining that must have felt.

By the way I will be at Chapters, Scarborough (Kennedy Commons), signing No Regrets. Yes, indeed, it is on the shelf. If you are out and about on Saturday, do drop in and say hello.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Guy Fawkes in the Regency

Remember, remember the fifth of November,
Gunpowder Treason and Plot
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot

Of course, since it is November 5 today, I thought I would remind you that celebrating the failed attempt of Guy Fawkes to blow up the British Houses of Parliament in 1605 has been an ongoing event in Britain since that time.

As early as 1607, there is a record of bonfire celebrations taking place in Bristol on November 5th and it was traditional for children to black their faces with the ashes in imitation of Guy Fawkes who, it was believed, performed a similar function in order to try and camouflage himself.

The exact date when "guys" were first introduced into the November 5th festivities is not known, but it would have been while James I was still on the throne. Later, after the reign of Charles II, children began making guys a few days prior to the event and then parading their creations throught the streets while chanting: "Penny for the guy." The money collected was later used to purchase fireworks. The tradition of tossing the guy into the bonfire probably began in the Eighteenth Century and included effigies of the Pope, the Young Pretender and Devils as much as they did Guy Fawkes. The custom of burning the guy had become an integral part of the celebrations by the Nineteenth Century.

Therefore, in Regency times it was most likely celebrated with a village bonfire and the burning of an effigy of Guy Fawkes or the Pope. Over the years, fireworks were added and these days many people celebrate the evening in their backyards rather than communally.

It would be quite all right to find a bonfire on this day in the Regency and since I am contemplating a book set in November I may well keep this little tid bit in mind.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Flora and Fauna of Regency Britain - November

I thought I would do a bit of fauna today, and I would actually like to focus on the British red squirrel which is now an endangered species, because of the introduction of the North American grey squirrel.

The red squirrel would have been the only squirrel you would have seen in Britain during the Regency. Note the tufts on their ears and their very reddish color. Grey squirrels were not introduced into Britain until 1876, when they were imported as a novelty.

Baby squirrels are called kittens. I did not know that! Squirrels can swim and they are right or left handed. Not that you would ever need this level of detail.
But they would be seen busily collecting and storing nuts and seeds for the winter around this time. Red squirrels do not hibernate, by the way, so they are seen all year round. I just recall them being more noticeable at this time of year.

November tends to be a cold month with frosts and rain, "dull and cheerless" our naturist calls it. But the weather is local and changeable, so you can never be sure.

Another creature you might see on your rambles in the woods at this time of year is the hedgehog. The hedgehog is the only spiny mammal in England and does not shoot its quills. Its main means of defense is to roll up in a ball and look prickly. Not much good if they are on a modern day road let me tell you. They can often be found in gardens, but they are mostly nocturnal, so you might find one during the day, curled up under a hedge. November is a time when they are busy eating insects and worms, building themselves up to survive a winter of hibernation. Gypsies used to eat them. They would cover them in a clay-like soil and bake them in the embers, much like a baked potato. While I don't have a hedgehog in the novel I am working on at the moment, I did use the little creature in a simile.

All right, just a bit of flora for balance.

The naturist is very insistent that November is a time for mushrooms in England. I thought this useful from two perspectives, first you would see them, and secondly you would eat them!

Beechwoods have their own species of edible fungi, from something called a horn of plenty to another called chanterelle, which is bright yellow. And of course beech trees are simply beautiful. This picture looks more like what I think of when I think of a mushroom. it is called a field blewit mushroom and is certainly available in November. It is found in open fields, pastures and marshes, often after the first frosts.

Now that is the kind of mushroom I like to see on top of a well buttered slice of toast for breakfast.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

No Regrets Is Available!!!!

There is nothing more moving than holding a copy of your book for the first time. At least to me. Here is a picture from this past weekend.

This was taken at the Emerald City Writers conference, and apart from all the wonderful workshops and the other authors, I signed No Regrets for the very first time.

Here is the picture to prove it. No Regrets should be in stores here in Canada this week, but it has been spotted in America already. My newsletter will be going out this week and if you are a subscriber, you will be entered in the draw to win a signed copy. Good luck to you all.

Today, I am blogging over at Titlewave where I get together with the other American Title Finalists who were in the historical contest two years ago. We have become sisters, it seems, after all we went through in the contest, we could not part, so use the blog as a way of keeping contact.

Several of my sisters were at the Emerald city conference and you will see us all at the booksigning standing behind Gerri Russell who, while incapacitated by knee surgery, was her usual charming, sweet self. Also in the picture you will find Ruth Kaufman, Gina Black and Theresa Meyers, and me, in pink.

Today, I am interviewing Christine Wells about her book Scandals Daughter a Berkely Sensation on the Titlewave Blog. Drop by and leave a comment. You could be the lucky winner of a signed novel.

Until next time, have a Scary Halloween and Happy Rambles

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Dogs as Pets in the Regency

My last doggy post for a while, I promise. By the way, has anyone seen No Regrets in a store yet. B&N said my copy was in the post, so it must be close.

If any of you live in Seattle, I am signing at the Emerald City Conference this weekend. Do drop by and say hello.

OK here we go. Dogs as Pets

It is my sense that despite the last post which indicated some working dogs were not treated well, given the number of times dogs show up in family portrait, the Englishman and woman with leisure, have always loved their dogs.

One of the most famous breeds are King Charles Spaniels, which were favorites of that monarch and pictured here with his children.

By the Regency these dogs had much shorter muzzles and a more domed head than is pictured here, so much more like the King Charles we know today. I did like this Royal picture though.


The truth of how the Pug came into existence is shrouded in mystery, but he has been true to his breed down through the ages since before 400 B.C. Authorities agree that he is of Oriental origin with some basic similarities to the Pekingese. China is the earliest known source for the breed, where he was the pet of the Buddhist monasteries in Tibet. The breed next appeared in Japan and then in Europe, where it became the favorite for various royal courts.

The Pug became the official dog of the House of Orange after one of the breed saved the life of William, Prince of Orange, by giving alarm at the approach of the Spaniards at Hermingny in 1572. What a great story!!!

This picture is from 1808: Although today’s Pug is distinguished by an almost flat face, the Pug of 1800 had a distinct muzzle, and in this case cropped ears.

Italian Greyhounds

This smallest member of the Greyhound family is of very ancient lineage, for its history dates back at least two thousand years. Although its name suggests that the breed originated in Italy, cynologists believe this charming little dog originated in Egypt. Eventually, the breed was taken by Roman soldiers from Egypt to Mediterranean areas, where they soon became the favorite companions of Greek and Roman ladies. . . By the Middle Ages, the breed had spread throughout southern Europe when they became known as Italian Greyhounds.

It has never been used for work of any kind, it is a natural sight hound. Throughout the centuries Italian Greyhounds have been favored as pets by royalty: Catherine the Great of Russia, Mary Queen of Scots, James I and Charles I of England, Frederick the Great of Prussia and Queen Victoria were a few royal owners of the breed.

And of course this picture is the one I just had to pick, because in the picture of the greyhound is a Maltese. It is hard to see the little dog he looks more like a pillow, but he is there. And so my little dog's breed was also around in the Regency. One of these days, one of his ancestors is going to star in one of my novels. Until Next time. Happy Rambles.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Regency Europe - Italy

The nice thing about going to Europe is that much of it is way older than the Regency era, so it means you can have your story set in other places besides or as well as England. Toying with an idea, this summer we decided to take a trip to Italy during our normal visit to England.

Now I must say, this was a very special trip for us, a joint birthday celebration. And we took the Orient Express from London to Venice. I have never felt so pampered in my life. However, as we all know, they did not have trains like this during the Regency. On the other hand, I think it gave me a sense of the luxury our nobility would have expected in their everyday lives.

The main point of the trip was to look at Venice, probably the city as close to the original as any one could find on the continent. This first picture is taken out of our hotel window. Yes, we actually looked down on a canal. What a thrill.

Obviously, these canals were like this during the Regency era too. During that era, Venice was like a rag doll, pulled back and forth between Austria and France under Bonaparte.

And the next picture is also taken from our hotel window directly into a garden. I notice all kinds of these little walled courtyards of green tucked into the most unlikely places. Of course the big palaces had amazing gardens, but it was these little tiny spaces that fascinated me the most.

As did this next spot, a landing place for gondolas to deliver or pick up goods. These days everything is still done by boat, but gondolas are for tourists and ceremonies, groceries are delivered by motor boat and garbage is picked up that way as well. Because of all the bridges and the streets which are paved, in addition to the canals, there are always people pushing hand barrows along streets and up and over bridges. I think Venetians have to be very fit to manage all of that walking and stair climbing.
Definitely something to remember when setting a book in this city. You also have to know your way around. The alleyways twist and turn, so it is very easy to get lost, as we found to our cost.

This last view just seemed so old world to me, with the building encroaching right over the walkway, leaving only an old tunnel, the boats lined up along the walls, along with the grills and the balconies and the washing hanging out of the window.

Of course the history of Venice is a whole other story, but I hope you enjoyed this little peak at my vacation. Until next time, Happy Rambles.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Regency Dogs - Part III

Well, why not, since I am on a roll as they say.

I am going to continue with sporting dogs, and in particular with the pointer, because it is such an old breed. Obviously, given our distaste for hunting these days, this is not something anyone is going to describe in any great detail, but that doesn't mean you should not know about them. I am also experimenting with blogger. They have this Play thing that shows images as they are mounted. I am such a geek. I just have to see if my picture will come up, when I post it here.

Anyway, a little bit about the pointer. They developed in England at the same time as they developed in Europe, and their job is to stand perfectly still nose pointing at game in the grass, or on water, until the hunter has time to get off a shot, be it bow and arrow, or gun or until the greyhounds could be brought up for coursing. Obviously, they have to stand still or they will frighten away the creature too soon.

Around the eighteenth century wing shooting became popular, meaning pointing at a covey of birds until hunters are in place, they the birds are sent up to be shot, "on the wing". Pointers are used for this too. These days, they are better off shooting clay pigeons, me thinks. Fortunately, camera glare on this picture obscures the victims. lol

Hmm. I guess the pictures go up when you post the blog. I will let you know next time.

On with dogs. I could not pass up the opportunity to look at one of my favorite breeds. The collie. Sheepherders. I think I may have mentioned in a previous post that I had the privilege of watching a modern shepherd work with his dogs, when we were in Wales earlier this year. The shepherd whistled, the dogs worked and the sheep got organized into the proper pens. Fascinating. Next time I go back, I am going to interview that man, if I can.

Collies fall into the category of herding dogs. Though this kind of dog has existed in Britain for probably more than three centuries, they were not the dog of the landowner or aristocrat, and therefore not the prized possession of those who kept records. And not the subject of a lot of paintings either, according to an expert.

From The Working Border Collie, by Marjorie Quarton:
The first ‘sheepdogs’ were savage creatures whose function was to protect their masters’ flocks from wild animals and human marauders rather than to herd them. It would be interesting to know the story of the first exasperated shepherd who thought of training the hunting instinct of his dog so as to gather his sheep and goats and to fetch or drive them on command. Wild dogs round up helpless animals such as sheep in order to single out one and kill it for food. . . It must have occurred to some observant dog lover centuries ago that, if a single dog could be trained to head off a flock of sheep on his own and stop when told, the sheep could be penned unharmed in folds.

I had to include the following from Quarton, even though it made me feel sad.

The early writers about working dogs were working men. James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, wrote a touching story called ‘Duncan Campbell, or the Faithful Dog.’ The dog, Oscar, a collie, is treated with a casual cruelty by everyone except his master; the story shows how little working dogs were considered in those days. Hogg also wrote often of his own collies, Sirrah and Hector, in the early 1800s, showing a love and understanding all too rare at the time.

This picture was painted before 1805.

The last dog today is a Corgi, a favorite of Queen Elizabeth II.
Rather than an herding dog, this dog was bred to chase cattle further afield on common land, so that they did not over graze close to home. Your typical ankle biter, right? And that was its job, to nip at the heels of the cattle and move them along.

Sadly, once the fences went up, the need was lost. But it is a very very old breed.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.