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Saturday 30 November 2013

A Free Book to Mark the Start of Advent

To celebrate the coming of Christmas and to thank all the kind people who have purchased my books and sent me lovely emails during 2013, for the next few days, I am creating a kind of Advent Calendar, with a different offer each day.

Tomorrow, Sunday 1st December, I am beginning with offering a FREE download to Kindle of my new book: Alice, The Enigma . If you have a Kindle, please feel free to help yourself to a copy!
(The offer applies only for one day so please don't forget to collect your copy!)

Please keep returning too, to this site to see the next day's offer!

Thursday 28 November 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all American visitors!

It would be very pleasant if we here in England had a day for being thankful! 

Meanwhile, I added an American song to a little video about flirty little Bertie being a little fickle in his friendships (unfortunately the video was too long for me to convert to be able to edit it):

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Princess Alice

I am very happy to announce that my new biography of Princess Alice - Alice, The Enigma - is now available on Kindle, and also in paperback. The paperback and Kindle versions have different covers but the text is the same.

Paperback version

Kindle Version

This is not a great tome of a work but I found immense satisfaction in writing and researching it, not least because it reinforced my conviction that, despite the criticism heaped on Queen Victoria and Prince Albert nowadays, it is clear that they did their utmost to create a very happy childhood for their children.  It was also my intention to delve a little into the many contradictions in Alice's character in an attempt to understand her motivation and her fascinating personality, which was quite different from the many portrayals of her as a rather gloomy and somewhat frail person. Alice was truly a very profound being and I hope that those who read the book will find as much pleasure in it as I found in writing it. 

Friday 22 November 2013

November Can Be Beautiful, Too!

November always seemed to be a miserable month with the nights drawing in so quickly, the cold and rain and all the gloom of poppies and memorials. One of the many happy discoveries that comes from having a dog is the need to venture out to trudge through mud and rain every day...and some days just take you by surprise and fill you with awe, as happened on my walk with Bertie today. November can be very beautiful and happy after all!

Saturday 16 November 2013

Don't They Know What It Is To Be a Child?

Nowadays we look back in horror at the terrible treatment of children in factories, sweat shops and mines in the Victorian era and wonder how people could have tolerated such abuse. The advent of education for all children was, in part, intended to correct that awful maltreatment and to ensure children had an opportunity to develop their talents. ‘Education’ – obviously from the Latin ‘to lead out’ or ‘bring out’ – means to draw forth and develop whatever gifts and talents we have inside. My own education was, I believe, based on that ideal and I am eternally grateful to my Grammar School teachers and the gentle atmosphere of the wonderful school I attended (and, incidentally, where I also had the good fortune to teach for a while).
Although I am no longer involved in that area, I listen to education ministers and see what is happening in schools and I am appalled! Where is the ‘drawing out’ of talents when so much depends on forcing things into children’s minds, and there is so little time for them to develop their personal abilities? There might not be slave-labour in sweat shops in England, but isn’t there an even greater abuse in crushing children’s minds and individuality? Now, records are kept – not only by schools but by government departments, I believe – of every single child’s progress in certain areas...why??? Are children commodities of the state? If I were still a child in school, I would consider it an invasion of privacy for some unknown person to have records of my judged abilities in various subjects, while having no idea who I am or what I believe or where my talents lie! Repeatedly, we hear the phrases ‘our children’ and ‘what we must do for ‘our’ children’ and I cannot help thinking, “They are not my children or our children and they are certainly not the state’s children!”
Recently, someone put forward the ridiculous suggestion that children should start school at the age of two! It is interesting to look at the education of one of the most brilliant men ever to have graced these shores – Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg. He was placed under the care of a tutor before he was 5 years old, but his tutor recognised the importance of play and fun and exploration, and so the prince’s education up to the age of six was simply play, stories and picture books. At six, he had lessons for one hour a day. From seven to nine-years-old, he had lessons for three hours a day, and not until he was nine did he have five hours of lessons a day...and he turned out to be one of the best educated men imaginable!
I think some ministers ought to read Francis Thompson’s wonderful description of childhood: “Know you what it is to be a child? It is to be something very different from the man of today. It is to have a spirit yet streaming from the waters of baptism; it is to believe in love, to believe in loveliness, to believe in belief; it is to be so little that the elves can reach to whisper in your ear; it is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses, lowness into loftiness, and nothing into everything, for each child has its fairy godmother in its soul...”
Meanwhile, though this is a puppy and not a child, here is a very, very wobbly expression of the joy of childhood/puppyhood (and it is impossible to hold a camera straight, while holding a lead on a Bichon in the midst of the famous ‘Bichon Buzz’ so please forgive the terrible quality!):

Monday 11 November 2013

Dulce et Decorum est...

"If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied."
(Rudyard Kipling)

" ...the old lie:
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori..."
(Wilfred Owen)

Remembering with sad respect the millions killed in unnecessary wars.  

Saturday 9 November 2013

A short video & Bertie's Birthday

A short video to introduce Alice, The Enigma

Today is my puppy's first birthday. He went to the groomer's after rolling in fox poo, which he seemed mightily pleased about...far more than I was! He also received a new coat, a rice bone and a goody bag of various toys. He has spent every evening for the past week hiding under a chair or a table, terrified by the firework explosion so I am trusting that tonight he will just relax and enjoy his presents!! 

Happy Birthday, Bertie! 

...Alas, Bonfire Night has turned into Bonfire Week and Bertie has, once more, been cowering under a chair. Why do they make such very loud fireworks? And why do they make fireworks which leave plastic cylinders all over the place, and which are harmful not only to puppies but to wildlife in general?

Friday 8 November 2013

Alice, The Enigma

Princess Alice has always intrigued me, not least for the contradictions in her character. This fascinating woman has often been presented as little more than a footnote in history - merely a daughter of Queen Victoria or the mother of Tsarina Alexandra. A dedicated philanthropist, who devoted herself to the service of the poor, she was simultaneously attracted to beautiful jewellery and earned her mother’s censure for her love of ‘fine society’. Unorthodox, yet profoundly spiritual, she, who wrote of her resignation to the will of God in the most heartrending circumstances, was accused by the Prussian Queen of atheism, and was not ashamed to be associated with one the most controversial theologians of the age. She loved her children deeply and was devoted to her husband, yet her marriage became increasingly unsatisfying and, as she told the Queen, being a wife and mother did not come naturally to her. Unconventional and unafraid of involving herself in taboo causes, she was ever conscious of the privileges and responsibilities of her royal status; and, while inspiring devotion in the people whom she selflessly served, she was criticised, too, by those closest to her for her outspokenness and inability to endure a lack of commitment in others. 
daughter of Queen Victoria or the mother of the Tsarina - and, due, perhaps, to her early death and the bereavements and losses she endured, she is often seen as a rather sombre character, somewhat sickly and rather dour. In fact, the opposite is true - she was renowned for her cheerfulness and sense of humour, and, far from the ascetic persona that has often attributed to her, she was a passionate aesthete and deeply emotional person.
What is most intriguing, however, is the way that Alice demonstrates that the endless criticism of Queen Victoria & Prince Albert's parenting, is utter nonsense. The greatest tragedy of Alice's life was not, in my opinion, the bereavements she suffered or her own early death, but that fact that her childhood was so blissful and idyllic that nothing that came afterwards could ever match it. 
In my forthcoming biography, Alice - The Enigma, I hope to have captured a little of her essence and have sought to delve into that enigma in the hope of gaining a greater understanding of such an interesting person.


Sunday 3 November 2013

Coming soon

Coming soon – Alice, The Enigma - a new biography of Princess Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse. Over the next few days, more information about the inspiration for the book and my purpose in writing it will be available.

Friday 1 November 2013

Happy Birthday, Grand Duchess Elizabeth

Happy Birthday, Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, who was born on All Saints Day 1864 and named after her ancestor St Elizabeth of Hungary. The lives of the two Elizabeths were to bear a remarkable similarity. Both were princesses who lived through turbulent times and, following the deaths of their husbands, sold all they had to care for the poor. Both became saints.
The earlier Saint Elizabeth said:
“I want to be able to say You were hungry and I gave you food; thirsty and I gave you drink; naked and I clothed you; sick and I came to you; in prison and I visited you...”
The sentiment was echoed by Grand Duchess Elizabeth.