So – I established the practice of wearing late Victorian or Edwardian-style outfit when out doing a book event; everything from a WWI-era grey nurses’ dress with a white apron and kerchief, to a black taffeta bustle skirt and jacket with a blue ribbon sash hung with orders and jewels and a white widow’s bonnet (a la Queen Victoria). It’s an attention-getter in a room full of other authors and readers, and a wonderful social icebreaker/conversation starter: Hi, my name is Celia, I write historical fiction, so I like to dress the part!
Although ruckus is perhaps too mild a term for the flaming dumpster fire, train wreck or thirty-car pile-up on the interstate, for the public relations disaster that has been called down upon the Windsor family by the present king’s younger son. One isn’t so much drawn to look, in horror – just that one can’t look away from the international spectacle of a man napalming relationships with his own family, all egged on by his wife and the news/entertainment media.
(For Veteran’s Day – a reprise post from 2018)
There is a lovely little classical piece by Maurice Ravel – Le Tombeau de Couperin, composed shortly after the end of the war, five of the six movements dedicated to the memory of an individual, and one for a pair of brothers, all close friends of the composer, every one of them fallen in a war of such ghastliness that it not only put paid to a century of optimistic progress, but barely twenty years later it birthed another and hardly less ghastly war. Maurice Ravel himself was over-age, under-tall and not in the most robust of health, but such was the sense of national emergency that he volunteered for the military anyway, eventually serving as a driver – frequently under fire and in danger. Not the usual place to find one of France’s contemporarily-famous composers, but they did things differently at the end of the 19th Century and heading all wide-eyed and optimistic into the 20th. Citizens of the intellectual and artistic ilk were not ashamed of their country, or feel obliged to apologize for a patriotic attachment, or make a show of sullen ingratitude for having been favored by the public in displaying their talents.
Rutupaie, the modern Richborough Castle, in Kent, England – was once the site of a notable Roman military garrison graced by an enormous marble triumphal arch visible to ships arriving in the port, a tall lighthouse, and a thriving civilian town with an amphitheater. The lighthouse and the triumphal arch are long gone, but a large portion of the circuit of twenty-five-foot-high walls still remain visible above ground. This was the terminus of Watling Streat, a keystone in the network of carefully engineered roads which covered Britain like a net. It was most likely the site of the original Roman bridgehead in the time of the Emperor Claudius, which would in large part become the province of Britannia. Rutupaie became the major port of entry all throughout the four centuries that Roman power held sway over that far and misty isle, their ships and galleys guided into safe harbor after dark by the fire atop the lighthouse.
In one of the opening chapters of the novel The Lantern Bearers, a young Roman-British soldier makes his decision to remain in Britain when the legions are finally and officially withdrawn by order of the Emperor. Having deserted his unit as they are on the point of departure for the last time, he lights the great fire atop the lighthouse, as the galleys row away on the evening tide; a last defiant fire, as darkness descends. Peter Grant, who blogs at Bayou Renaissance Man noted this week that Rosemary Sutcliff’s series of novels about the Romans in Britain and the long, slow, painful dying of Roman civilization there were being republished at a reasonable price in eBook. This reminded me again of my very favorite historical author; The finest and most evocative historical novel ever in English is either the Rider of the White Horse or her retelling of the Arthurian epic, Sword at Sunset. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s version, The Mists of Avalon, is overwrought trash in comparison.
Yes, there is a heatwave going on in Northern Europe this week – or at least, to them it’s a heatwave. To those of us who live in Texas, it’s just a normal summer, with temperatures in the 90s and reaching three digits. Supercilious Europeans, Brits and Canadians, and lunkheaded Americans like perennial tween know-it-all Taylor Lorenz are forever chiding us about our excessive air conditioning in homes, government buildings and offices, little recking that basically, most of the United States is on the same latitude as the Mediterranean and North Africa – and without efficient air conditioning, large swathes of the southern states would just plain old be unlivable – and no, in the South it’s not a dry heat, but a soggy and humid exercise in physical torment. So I do feel for those suffering Europeans and Brits, I really do. My brother and sister and I spent the summer of 1976 in Britain, which turned out to have been one of the hottest on record, rather like the heatwave this year. We – accustomed to So-Cal summers didn’t at first really grok how unaccustomed the British public was to this kind of summer heat, what with the grass in the parks dying for want of water.