Sunday, August 29, 2010

Reception for the Release of Forbidden

Illustrator, Audrey Ledgerwood (left), and I enjoy a few moments together at a reception given on Wednesday, August 25th by Sosanna K. More than 50 people attended the event where I introduced my novel, Forbidden. I gave a brief description of the story, and answered questions from interested readers. This is my first work of fiction having penned five non-fiction books over the last ten years.

Forbidden is receiving good reviews from readers in America and England.

ISBN: 978-1-935605-34-8.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Commemorating those Airmen from the 94th Bombardment Group of the USAF

Within a short distance of the magnificent cathedral at Bury St. Edmunds lies a tranquil rose garden. I was interested to see how the gardens began – who inspired such a beautiful place. I was genuinely surprised to find out that it was a fellow American, Mr. John T. Appleby served with the 487th Bomb Group located near Lavenham in Suffolk. He was stationed in the county for only half a year…but it was long enough for him to fall in love with the area. He decided to write about his experiences, and penned a slim volume entitled, Suffolk Summer.  Mr. Appleby did not accept the royalties on the book, but instead donated them to the rose garden to commemorate those brave souls who lost their lives fighting a war so far from home.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Statue of King Edmund at Bury St. Edmund

In the grounds of  Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, stands this magnificent sculpture of St. Edmund King of East Anglia (c. 841-70) who met his death at the hands of an invading army.

The following excerpt is from my book, Extraordinary Places...Close to London. (ISBN 0-8038-2031-3). Many people have described the book as a "travelling companion," but also that they've enjoyed "the nuggets of history, ghost and witch stories too..." Some have also described it as an "armchair travel book."

According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles (a detailed account of the history of England covering 1000 years from Roman times to the middle of the 12th century) “…a great heathen force” of Vikings arrived in 865 on the eastern shores of England known as East Anglia. They lost no time in conquering every village in their path; ravaging and pillaging until nothing was left. Then a threatening message to King Edmund from Ivar, the captain of the Danes, “You will surrender your possessions and your people to me or die.” The king summoned his most faithful bishop for guidance but his suggestion that the king should flee was unacceptable. “…Alas bishop, I would rather die fighting so that my people might continue to possess their native land.” The bishop informed the king that word had come from the battlefields that his armies were defeated, all was lost, and surrender or flee was the only options.
The Chronicles tell us King Edmund was captured, tortured unmercifully and suffered unmentionable terrors. The Dane offered Edmund his life if he would renounce Christ. He would not, and was lashed until he almost died. With every lash he cried Jesus’ name infuriating his captors. Finally, he was tied to a tree and killed by a hail of arrows so that “…hardly a place on his body was not covered with arrows…” He was then beheaded. As a final insult, the pirates hid King Edmund’s head in the forest so that it could not be buried with his body.

Soon after King Edmund’s death, the Britons and some reformed Danes began to regard him as a saint because of his courageous life and honorable death. A shrine was erected and pilgrims traveled from all over Britain to honor this great man.

It is thought the final resting-place for the remains of Saint Edmund is a town called Bury St. Edmunds, in Suffolk, but some believe his remains are still in the churchyard at St. Andrews in Essex.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Anglo-Saxon Cathedral and the Bishop's Chapel

During a recent trip to Norfolk, England, I visited the ruins at North Elmham. I found the whole site fascinating and intriguing. The design of the chapel appears to be unique, combining flanking towers in the 'armpits' of the transept. The style of architecture is reminiscent of the churches in Germany from the 9th through the 12th centuries, and I wondered if the chapel design reflected the bishop's personal taste. If a visitor has an interest, I highly recommend visiting this very quiet and secluded ancient site.

The following information was provided by a small booklet published by the North Elmahm Parish Council.
The ruin at North Elmham have perplexed generations of architectural historian. Some have believe that they include the remains of the pre-Conquest cathedral, but the current view is that they represent a Norman bishop's private chapel, built on the site of the timer cathedral at Elmham which was transferred in 1071 to Thetford, and from there to Norwich in 1094.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Wild Animal Sanctuary

Deep in the countryside of Keenesburg, Colorado, is the Wild Animal Sanctuary. As soon as a visitor enters the compound, the roar of the cats can be heard, especially when they hear the trolleys carrying their food. There are so many tigers, I lost count. We arrived on Tuesday morning around 10:00 AM during feeding time, (they are also fed on Thursdays and Saturdays) and watched from the overhead observation walkways as literally hundreds of pounds of meat were thrown into the cages of the waiting animals. Each tiger has its own cage with a pool. The animals are well cared for and see a veterinarian often. Many of the large cats, bears, wolves, etc. have been placed in the sanctuary for their own protection. Sometimes, they were terribly abused, beaten, chained to posts, and kept in small cages for many years. To see them play in their individual "baths," climb or play in a habitat as close to nature as possible, was an absolute joy. But, keeping these animals safe and free from harm costs a small fortune, so please visit...and visit support this wonderful organization.

Please visit The Wild Animal Sanctuary at:
Or telephone: 303-536-0118

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Phrase Origins (The Dennis Miller Show)

As one of the Word Mavens of Kansas City, Mo, I was part of a three member panel including Mr. Kris Kobach and Mr. Robert F. Wilson, both professors at UMKC. We appeared for almost 18 months on the Walt Bodine Show, (KCUR) NPR’s affiliate in Missouri. We had a great time answering listerners' calls about etymology and phrase origins.

As an avid listener of Dennis Miller's daily radio show, I’ve noticed that he, and some of his guests, often use a particular phrase or saying to describe a person or incident. We know instinctively what Dennis means when he utters the words, “I like the cut of his jib,” but where did that phrase originate? Some other favorites include: Three sheets to the wind; taken down a peg; back to square one; face the music; showing his true colors; snake in the grass, hat trick, etc. I will describe the origin of some of those phrases here -- others will follow another day.

By the way, some of these sayings are centuries old, and could have multiple origins.

Cut of his jib. Judging the character of an individual by the way he is dressed.

This was a nautical expression and meant that a skipper could identify an oncoming ship by the rigging of the jib, a triangular sail that projects ahead of the foremast. Each country had its own way of cutting and rigging the jib that was easily recognizable. If a skipper came across a ship and didn’t like the cut of the jib, he could take evasive action.

Three sheets to the wind. To sway back and forth.

This was first used in the early 19th century and does not mean the sails on a ship, but the chains or ropes that attach the sails. If the sheets come loose, the sails would become unstable and therefore the ship would flounder back and forth.  The behavior of a drunken sailor could be thought to mimic the movements of a floundering sail. 

To take down a peg. An 18th Century British Navy term.

During the 1700s a ship’s colors were raised to indicate an honor and the higher the honor, the higher the peg to which the flag was raised. If a man was taken down a peg, he was reduced in honor and esteem.

Rules of the Inn - 1786

One of our favorite places to eat and drink are the pubs of England. On a recent trip, I photographed a plaque on the wall. It reads:

No thieves, fakirs, rogues or tinkers
No skulking loafers or flea-bitten tramps
No 'slap an' tickle' of the wenches
No banging o' tankards on the table
No dogs allowed in the kitchen
No cock fighting
Flintlocks, cudgels, daggers and swords to be handed to the innkeeper for safe-keeping
Bed for the night    1 shilling
Stabling for horse   4 pence