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.