The Northumberland Arrives

Sir George Cockburn - HMS NorthumberlandThe man who everyone but a few believed to be Napoleon Bonaparte had been keeping to his cabin for a few days. Some on board HMS Bellerophon believed that he was distraught (or sulking) at the news that he was to be exiled to St Helena, a response encouraged by those in his entourage who knew that the man they insisted be called L‘Empereur was, in fact, heading for Dublin in the company of Bernard Lacey.
On the 6th August 1815 that most dangerous time for Lacey’s scheme, when the replacement Napoleon was on board a ship where people had seen, and spoken to, the real Emperor, was coming to an end. HMS Northumberland, under the command of Sir George Cockburn, arrived in Plymouth with a crew handpicked for its lack of knowledge of the prisoner who was to be transferred from the Bellerophon on the following day.
It had been a busy few months for Sir George, having, the year before, been heavily involved in the attack on Washington that led to the burning of the building that was painted white to disguise the damage made by the British and which became known as The White House.


It’s not Summer yet

PrairialAlready people are complaining about the ‘summer’ weather – but it is not summer yet. Meteorologists have that season beginning on June 1 (to make their statistics easier to calculate and compare) but traditionalists have it beginning on the Summer Solstice – June 21 this year. In the French Republican Calendar the first summer month (Messidor) begins on June 19 (Seigle).

In the French Republican Calendar (used from late 1793 to 1805 in France (and it’s territories – but surprisingly enough nowhere else) there were 100 seconds (each one 86.4% of a conventional second) in a minute, 100 minutes (each one 144% of a conventional minute) in an hour and 10 hours (each one 240% of a conventional hour) in a day. Ten days made up a décade; three décades made up a month; three months made a season and there were four seasons in the year.

Today, Thursday the 21st May 2015, would have been duodi (the second day) of décade 25 (the 25th week) An 223 (the 223rd year).

Since every month and day was given a name (to replace religious Saints’ days) today is Hémérocalle Prairial (roughly translated as Daylily day in the month of Pasture.

In the current Catholic calendar (not the one the Republican Calendar replaced) 21 May is feast day of (amongst others) St Eugène de Mazenod, the patron saint of dysfunctional families.



quackLast Saturday was the annual Yarmouth duck race on the Yar.

Whether it had anything to do with that, or the great weather, I don’t know but yesterday morning a Mummy Duck and her brood of seven or eight ducklings were spotted waddling across the bottom of our garden. (I couldn’t count them as they kept falling over and running round in circles.)

To get to us they must have walked at least a mile along a busy(ish) road – and crossed it – so all credit to Mummy Duck for getting them this far.

I have no idea where they were going but I hope it wasn’t too far and that they have all reached wherever it was safely.


I’m not very good at competitions.
I am a coward, preferring, most of the time, to keep my head below the parapet, out of the firing line so I can avoid any risk of losing. I could never, for example, stand for election for anything.
My father stood several times as a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate through the 40s, 50s and 60s but he never won – he was a Liberal and in those days (as today?) it was a very unfashionable political position. No. I could never stand for election.
But I do go in for some easy forms of competition.
Several years ago I won the bonus ball at two pubs, the Sunday meat raffle and the Giant Easter Egg Draw – all in one week. This week I won the pub bonus ball, and I’ve drawn Costa Rica in the World Cup sweepstake (stranger things have happened!), but I don’t see those as proper ‘I only win if I’m better than everyone else who’s entered’ competitions.
I have won two of those, though in neither case did I actually put my name forward. In 1968 I was awarded the Sixth Form Prize for Geography at my school (Birkenhead High, and I still have the atlas I won) and in 2006 my first book, The Last Dance, won the David St John Thomas Prize for self-published fiction. The £250 I won for that was more than eaten up by the cost of going to Harrogate to pick up the cheque.
Now I’m breaking the habit of a lifetime and entering my work (myself?) into a real competition.
Last week I submitted my fourth book, Highly Unsuitable Girl, to Guardian Legend Self-Published Book of the Month competition.
Fingers are crossed……..


Spring is two thirds of the way through and what’s happening?

Liverpool Football Club may or may not win the league for the first time in 24 years – but even if they don’t come top they’ve done brilliantly.

England Cricket is going through a transition period and may or may not come out better at the other end, surely it could hardly be worse than this last winter. (Did they mean to lose against The Netherlands so Ashley Giles wouldn’t get the job?)

And I’m on my final “Director’s Cut” of the two books A Set of Lies and Her Parents’ Daughter that have occupied my mind for 12 and 4 years respectively.

Perhaps by the end of May Liverpool will be Champions, England cricket will know where it’s going and perhaps, also, I’ll be progressing publication of both titles……

And, just perhaps, it will be warm and dry again with a long hot summer in prospect……


February is nearly over, and although I have to say good riddance regarding the weather and the road works in Bouldnor Road blocking easy access to Yarmouth I have to say it has been a good month.

I’ve finished the umpteenth draft of HER PARENTS’ DAUGHTER and am getting happier and happier with it every day. It should be out and about in time for Christmas – one way or another. The future of A SET OF LIES is becoming more settled and should also be available, at least in e-book form in September – in good time for the bi-centenaries coming up next year.

But more importantly the daffodils are out in the garden. And daffodils are increasingly in evidence on people as the Marie Curie Daffodil Appeal gets under way.

Every year I buy three daffodils to add to my collection (one for each dead cat – Solomon, Pachelbel and Beaver) and attach them either to my scarf or to my multi-coloured woolly hat. The hat always brings a smile in the middle of winter – it even made the papers in Ludlow five or six years ago.

Buy yours. Marie Curie is such a good cause. “Wear your daffodil with hope.”

Bah Humbug!

Nine days to Christmas and it’s warm, wet and windy on the Isle of Wight this morning. Although the leaves haven’t quite all fallen from the oak tree by the front gate they have, pretty-much, left all the other trees and cover the lawn and the drive as a very real reminder that some clearing up will need to be done.
Perhaps a Christmas Day bonfire will be in order.
Having a bonfire is one of the better things to do on Christmas Day.
Bah Humbug!
Husband Colin and I were in a pub in Shropshire, quite close to the Welsh border, a few years back and prominent in the Christmas decorations was a big red banner saying
B A H  H U M B U G !
“What does that mean?” innocently asks an American tourist.
“It’s Welsh for Happy Christmas.” Says the Landlord with a knowing smile to his regulars.
“Well Bah Humbug to you all.” Replies the innocent tourist with an innocent smile and a handshake.
Perhaps that tourist, and his wife, still smile and say ‘Bah Humbug’ to complete strangers at this time of year.

Where did “Bah Humbug!” come from? Is it Dickens? It sounds like it should be Dickens? I must check.