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Saturday, 21 December 2019

The Globe Theatre

James Burbage’s The Theatre was built in 1576 in Shoreditch but was forced to close when Giles Allen who owned the land came to the conclusion that theatre was little better than prostitution. Under growing Puritan pressure The Theatre was dismantled plank by plank, ferried across the Thames and reconstructed in Bankside or Southwark, the original ‘Sin City.' Being outside the ordinances of London, taverns, brothels, gambling dens and theatre flourished.

The Theatre - now The Globe, was completed in 1599 but was burnt to the ground in 1613 during an over ambitious production of Henry VIII. To announce the appearance of the king on stage, a cannon was fired and its sparks set the thatched roof ablaze. Rebuilt in 1614 – but without using thatch—the Globe lasted until 1642 when it was closed by the Puritans and razed to the ground in 1644.

It was over zealous Puritans that did for it, and a visionary American – Sam Wanamaker who saw its resurgence in the 1970s. Overcoming all opposition and using the plans of contemporary theatres, old engravings and the original foundations, Wanamaker built an almost exact replica using unseasoned green English oak and the technology of the time.
Why am I rabbiting on about this? My daughter currently works there as a highly effective tour guide – one of a portfolio of jobs she has keeping body and soul together.


As we waited outside, I couldn't resist taking a photo of modern London, in the interests of comparison. And if the link works, you can only imagine what Southwark was like if this was the more respectable London.

Records show they could squeeze in a thousand 'groundlings' in the open space in front of the stage. Entry cost a penny (in old money) and there were no toilets. Your choice was to vacate the playhouse and wee outside before  spending another penny to re-enter - hence the term 'spending a penny'. A more popular alternative was to wee where you stood, (Rather like old Liverpool matches before they had seating)  adding to the rich mulch of pastries, nut kernels and occasionally something more substantial.

Above the stage is where the 'A listers' sat. In the foreground is the standing area where the 'groundlings' were crammed together. In this instance they would have been seeing a group of actors trudging around the stage making strange whooshing noises. A workshop that had hired the stage for the night.

This tiered seating allowed for a good view of the stage, if you could afford it. It also allowed a good view of the aristocracy who could afford to sit above and behind the stage. 
Above and behind the stage, on the face of it, seems slightly ridiculous. Why would aristocrats, gentry and men of means pay more to see less - ie the heads and backs of the actors?
The point of course was less to see the play and more to be seen - Tudor and Stuart Selfies if you will, the instagram experience of old England.

And this is my last post before the New Year. A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Food for thought

The Jacobeans had a sweet tooth. At one Jacobean banquet the food was dominated by sugar to the extent that even the crockery was made from it. This madness continued, reaching perhaps its zenith with iced cakes depicting ornate plaster ceilings and even a miniature Rococo palace, formal gardens included.

James II being a good Catholic was more of a trencherman. At his coronation banquet in 1685, the new king and his wife Maria di Modena dined alone in Westminster Hall, to a meal of 170 dishes.

If he’d reigned a little longer, he may have sampled the exotic pineapple. The first pineapple grown in England was ripened in Sir Matthew Decker’s Surrey garden. The process cost the equivalent of £9,000 in today’s money, but the craze took off. It became the ‘must have’ fruit – for those who could afford it, and then, as with most things, the price came down until it became a Christmas treat for the young Keytons of Liverpool, usually from a tin and served with evaporated milk.

I was thinking of all this when I read about the new luxury ‘must have’ – the truffle that tastes of beans on toast and sold by Fortnum and Mason. The chocolate is made with baked beans and sourdough toast. In it is a smooth tomato ganache enclosed by a white chocolate shell, which, in turn, is coated in toasted breadcrumbs for that ‘must have’ beans on toast taste. It’s yours for £26.95 for ten.
And weep.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Your Christmas present sorted

Demons feed on it.
Set against the backdrop of appeasement, dark forces seek a never ending war and a world drenched in blood.
Two sisters fight, one corrupted and hating what she’s become, the other struggling against the inevitable.
The story of Elsie and Elizabeth McBride continues. Only one will survive.

All cheaper than a pint on kindle,  or, since it's Christmas, two pints in paperback

How long can a soul escape Satan?

Bloodline is the second book in The Gift Trilogy, which traces the occult rivalry between two sisters, Elizabeth and Elsie McBride. In the first book, Elizabeth escapes the forces that seek to corrupt her. In Bloodline, Elsie faces the same struggle—one even more intense with both her soul and the world at stake.

The struggle is played out against a backdrop of approaching war as magic manipulates key figures and real life events in the unseen shadow of Hell.

And what started it off.

The Gift

An occult ‘Downton Abbey’ involving Satanists, aristocrats, and Nazis.

Born in a Liverpool slum, Lizzie McBride is the daughter of an Irish seer who dies when Lizzie is barely twelve, leaving her in charge of two younger sisters and a grieving father. When her father commits suicide, Lizzie is caught between two worlds.
An aunt and uncle decide the three orphans would be better off with them in America, but Lizzie has other ideas and her life changes forever.

Pursued by her aunt, Lizzie cannonades into the young and charismatic magician, Aleister Crowley who, for his own reasons, takes her under his wing.
He introduces her to Lady Gwyneth Morgan, daughter of the richest family in Wales and sister to the flamboyant occultist, Evan Morgan.
At this point Lizzie doesn’t realise her gift— the power to unlock Hell.
When the occult world discovers this, governments and powerful individuals seek her out.
Only one man can protect her: the magician John Grey.

The Gift is the first book of a trilogy, beginning in 1912 and ending in 1941. The three books trace the magical rivalry between two sisters, Elizabeth and Elsie McBride, interweaving between historical events.

Saturday, 30 November 2019

Coming soon

The 'must have' Christmas present.

And  final book of The Gift trilogy:

And now just the marketing. Joy

Saturday, 16 November 2019

Ants, wine and cryonics

I love reading weird but useless facts, useless until the right story comes along. A recent example is the Saharan silver ant that can run 108 times its body length in a second or, in human terms, Usain Bolt reaching speeds of 470 mph. Apparently it gallops. Another useless fact. You want more? As it approaches its top speed, none of its legs are touching the ground but are flicking back and forth 40 times a second. It is their way of dealing with the Saharan sun and temperatures of 60 degrees centigrade. This is when lizards, their natural predator, are comatose in shade allowing the ant to emerge and scavenge what’s left to find. Speed rather than shade is their only protection. One imagines if their legs touched the ground overlong, they’d sizzle and crisp.

Evolution is a wonderful thing, which brings me round to the Zos Wine Saver at £49 a pop and cylinders (they come in packs of two, each one reusable 15 times—another useless fact unless you see this as a commercial) at £14.99. 

They can, apparently keep wine fresh for up to eight weeks? Grief, you could buy a case of wine for the price of a Zos Wine Saver + cartridges.

And who, in God’s name, is going to keep a bottle of wine for eight weeks anyway?  What parsimonious, miserable soul would do such a thing? The hospitable Temperance man or woman might feel obliged to keep a bottle of wine for the occasional guest, Okay, I get it. But they’d be a damn sight better off giving it away afterwards  rather than dabbling in vino-cryonics. The grateful guest will remember them. The Zos Wine Saver will not.

Unlike the Saharan silver ant, we keep wine a week, sometimes a tad longer. In such cases a piece of twirled up kitchen paper is more than sufficient. But here is a beautiful illustration of two parallel worlds. The Saharan silver ant has little interest in keeping wine fresh for eight weeks, but the miserable sods who owned such a thing wouldn’t last long in the Saharan sun.

Friday, 8 November 2019

Oliver Cromwell, Charles I and the Wetherspoon App

I am very seducible, which, unfortunately, is not the same as being seductive. The Gasman called (not the Postman) and seduced us into buy ‘Hive’, which allows you to control temperature and lights without leaving your chair. The smartphone is truly smart. Worse, Echo. Dot’s Alexa came with the deal, and she is even more seductive. So, you get the drift then, you understand where I’m coming from when I confess I find the Wetherspoons app another irresistible temptation.

No more queuing and jostling at the bar, pretending politeness to those around you while all the time calculating who’s justifiably next, and at the same time maintaining a gimlet stare on the barman or woman.  No, instead of all that you sit and tap an instruction on your phone and your drink or food mysteriously appears at your table. You anticipate when you might next want a drink and tap again. It’s like having your mouth attached to a beer tap, your wallet to a Hoover. At least you think twice having to fight your way back to the bar. 

I was thinking of this whilst staring at the ceiling of the Kings Head in Monmouth—a Wetherspoons pub, and wondered what past generations would have thought of such luxury - or perhaps witchcraft.

What would Charles 1st have thought when he popped in from Raglan Castle in 1645, or indeed the ardent Royalist Mayor of Monmouth in 1675 when he commissioned the ceiling and the various royalist portraits that dominate one of the snugs. Who needs servants when you have a smartphone or indeed the Wetherspoon App?

Pictures of Charles II and Charles I

And for those without smartphones, plenty of books

One wonders what Oliver Cromwell would have done with a smartphone, for while Charles drank in the King’s Head in 1645, his nemesis, Cromwell,  drank in the Queen’s Head just over the road during roughly the same period. In fact Cromwell stayed there several times during the Civil War and made good use of his time by destroying Monmouth Castle.

The Queens HeadI

The Kings Head in Agincourt Square

It's hard to believe that in 1835 there were 15 pubs and inns in Agincourt Square. As the rhyme once went: A gin court here, a gin court there, no wonder they call it A gin Court Square. Poetry has moved on since then; perhaps an C18th Rap. 

For generations The King’s Head was a major coaching inn, which gives me the excuse of incorporating this photo of a nearby lane. Who wouldn’t want some hot punch after this? And what wondrous witchcraft would  the Wetherspoon app  appear to the tired and weary traveller.

So visit Monmouth, with or without the Wetherspoon app and enjoy good beer in both pubs. The Queens Head has no app but it does have several ghosts, some ‘secret’ rooms, and you can stand on the spot where a reckless cavalier was shot dead when trying to assassinate Cromwell. No pictures unfortunately.