Something Happy: The World’s Oldest Animal.

Jonathan the Giant Tortoise is 190 years old. He lives of the island of St Helena, in the South Atlantic. He was taken there from the Seychelles as a gift to the island’s governor, in 1882. He was already 50 years old at the time, and the climate of St Helena suited him very nicely. At 190, he is believed to be the oldest known living animal, and he is still going strong!

London In 1911: Lantern Slides

A collection of four thousand lantern slides was discovered in Bishopsgate. They were once used in lectures by the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society. Here are some examples from that vast archive of 1911.

The Tower of London, flooded by the River Thames.

Lightermen working on the river, towing barges.

A tea break for some London Firemen.

The Old Dick Whittington. A pub in Smithfield.

The Anchor Pub, Bankside. That is still trading.

Inside the dome at the very top of St Paul’s Cathedral.

A barber’s shop in Fleet Street, with a very historical claim to fame.

A Chelsea Pensioner from The Royal Hospital.

Outside Euston Railway Station.

The Reading Room at The British Museum.

The Four Musketeers: Part Eight

This is the eighth part of a fiction serial, in 790 words.

What followed was something of a quiet period, in my recollection. Helen didn’t mention her mum going on holiday, though she was much friendlier at work, and occasionally touchy-feely when nobody was looking. I presumed she had decided to throw all of her eggs into Trev’s basket, and trust to luck.

But there was still time.

The next time I spotted Janice, she went red-faced and tried to pretend she hadn’t seen me. But I crossed the road to tell her that she had made the wrong choice. I said I knew for sure that Johnny would dump her in due course, as he would never get past her background, whether that was gossip or not. She looked sad when I said that, almost teary-eyed. As she walked away, she turned and said “Sorry”. She said it very quietly, and that was the last time we ever spoke to each other.

So I was left with Susan, though she wasn’t a bad option to be left with.

Susan was as keen as mustard, and happy to keep me on side with some delightful feminine wiles that I enjoyed immensely. She was also teaching me things that would keep me in good stead when I was older. The icing on the cake was that she looked amazing, and everyone who found out we were a couple thought I was punching above my weight.

Big time.

Of course, she didn’t stop talking about us getting married, but she was also very sensible. Her idea was to save the deposit on a house somewhere, have a cheap Registry Office wedding, and no expensive honeymoon. The more time I spent in her company, the more I liked her. And the five years age difference didn’t matter to me at all.

We had to use precautions of course. No point her getting pregnant and ending up with a shotgun wedding. Especially with her brother riding high. She was on The Pill, and Keith had exceeded all expectations by being offered a place at Oxford. Bye bye, London University. Keith was going up in the world. He was getting a scholarship to study with the toffs and rich kids. At the time, I was really pleased for him. When I told him that, he hugged me.

I told him to calm down. The Four Musketeers were not huggers.

Even Johnny was delighted for Keith. We had a drink to celebrate his acceptance to Oxford, meeting up at The Anchor.

That’s when Terry stole Keith’s thunder. He announced he was getting married. We were all eighteen, and Terry had jumped the gun on all of us. He had met a girl on a plumbing job down in Sydenham, the daughter of the house. She was nineteen, and chubby would have been a compliment. But she adored Terry’s awful jokes, and they were both besotted.

It was a match made in heaven, as the saying goes.

Maria was from a family with a Spanish background, and they had welcomed Terry into the fold like you would not believe. The black-haired fat girl adored our idiot of a friend, but her welcome had been a bit too warm for our inexperienced Musketeer, and she was three months gone.

When we were supposed to be celebrating Keith’s rise in English society, Terry was asking Johnny to be the Best Man at his wedding. We bought another round, and toasted Terry and Maria. Keith looked a bit put out, but joined in. As for me, I was thinking about Terry’s mum, Alice. I often wondered if his dad had worked out she must have gone over the side to get pregnant. I doubted her and Georgie were up to much bed action back then.

Still, it was a rare night at the pub for the original Four Musketeers. Even Susan was okay with it. “Keith has done so well, he needs a celebration with his mates, Danny”. Naturally, where her younger brother was concerned, she was happy for us to all be out on a Friday night. And for my part, I was happy to be reunited with Johnny, and no mention of Janice. He hinted that he was going to finish with her soon, as the business was exceeding all expectations.

“To be honest, Danny. I have more money than I know what to do with. Janice is no more than a habit that I can do without. The stolen gear is coming in vanloads. Me and dad are minted, and I don’t see why a slag like Janice should benefit. I’m setting my sights higher than her, I tell ya.”

Well, as you might suspect, he should never had told me that.

Then again, he had drunk seven pints of beer.

Film Review: Fanny Lye Deliver’d (2019)

***No ending spoilers***

This is a British independent film, written and directed by Thomas Clay. It is set in 17th Century England just after the civil war, and stars two of Britain’s finest actors, Maxine Peake, and Charles Dance. With my interest in the period, and having seen the excellent casting, I was excited to be able to watch this free on TV, courtesy of Channel 4.

The scene is rural Shropshire, the year 1657. Cromwell rules in England, and the Puritans enforce religious observance. They are against any other religious beliefs, and do not agree with revelry, drunkenness, or excessive celebrations. Some ordinary people opposed the Puritan restrictions. They embraced ideas about female equality, free love, and asserted that there was no heaven or hell, only earthly life. To the Puritans, they were heretics and blasphemers.

Fanny Lye is married to Captain John Lye, a man who served with distinction in the Parliamentary Army and returned home to buy a farm and land in the county. Despite her poor background and lowly upbringing, he married Fanny, giving her security as his wife, and also a son, Arthur. But he is a hard man, and a strict Puritan. He beats both Fanny and Arthur for the slightest reason, and regards her to be his property.

Returning from church one Sunday, the family is surprised to find two strangers in their house. They had arrived naked, and stolen clothes to wear. The young man claims that he and his wife were robbed on the road to Salisbury, and asks to stay until they are able to continue their journey. He also says he served in Cromwell’s regiment in the war, so Captain Lye takes pity on him.

But when men arrive at the farm looking for two heretics who are wanted for fornication and religious crimes, the young man takes Arthur hostage, threatening to kill him if they are betrayed. The men are the local constable, the High Sheriff of Shropshire, and his assistant. The Sheriff holds a warrant to arrest and execute heretics, and anyone harbouring them. But Captain Lye refuses him entry, claiming to have not seen any strangers.

After this incident, the film takes a darker turn. The young couple stay on at the farmhouse, and the atmosphere changes to one of great tension. Afraid that they will kill his wife and son, the enraged captain tries to overpower them, but is injured and securely tied up. He is then forced to listen as his wife is seduced by the teachings of the new religion, and then made to watch while she makes love with both the man and woman at the same time.

He bides his time to take his revenge, but nothing works out as we expect it to.

I really enjoyed this film. The atmosphere of repressive 17th Century England is second to none. Set design and scenery is completely convincing, as is every member of the small cast, especially Maxine Peake on brilliant form. Yes, it has one sex scene, and some sudden and brutal violence. But it is all in context, and no worse that you would see on any modern TV drama.

Yet another ‘small’ film that shows there is more to see than the big blockbusters that are so popular.

Here is a trailer.

Staying Late

The strange weather continues. Yesterday was the 1st of December, but you would not have known that in Beetley. It was bright and sunny, with blue skies until almost 3pm. The temperature even got up to 10C, before falling back at sunset.

This confused the insects, who have stayed late. On Beetley Meadows I saw three different bumblebees, and walked through clouds of midges hovering over the riverbank. That proved to be a bad idea, as I received three large (and very itchy) bites on my head.

The trees have also been confused, but yesterday the local Oaks decided it was time to shed their leaves at long last. Those leaves have stayed late on the branches, and many still retain their green colour. There were thousands of leaves drifting gently to the ground, like multi-coloured extra-large snowflakes.

By the time I was walking home with Ollie, my shoes were crunching on a carpet of freshly-fallen leaves. When we made our way along the small woodland path, it was quite magical to see and feel them cascading down on us.

The same thing was happening to the large Oaks at the front and back of our house.

This reminded me that leaf-clearing season is late this year, but will still have to be done at some stage.

The Four Musketeers: Part Seven

This is the seventh part of a fiction serial, in 756 words.

Things didn’t work out as I had expected with Janice. She was happy to eat a Wimpy cheeseburger and chips, then drink two vodka and limes in the pub after. But when I said I would walk her home, she was prepared with her answer. “That’s okay, Danny. Thanks for the dinner and drinks, but you live in the opposite direction. I’m only a couple of minutes from home, and it’s not that late. I’ll be alright. We should do this again sometime though, it was nice”. Then she kissed me on the cheek and walked away without looking back.

Unconvinced, I still felt sure she was interested. But lots of people we knew might have seen us in the Wimpy or the pub, so she was probably worried about someone telling Johnny before she had a chance to concoct a story. Janice could wait.

My Friday night date with Helen didn’t go that well either. She seemed keen enough in the pub, and expected me to see her home all the way to Islington. But when we got close to where she lived, she pulled me into an alleyway between two houses. “Better not come all the way. My mum loves Trev, and is friends with his mum. She wouldn’t be pleased if she saw me with you. It’s been nice though. Maybe we could do this again when she goes to my aunt’s caravan? I’ll be in the house alone then”. She sealed the offer with some snogging that took my breath away.

It was a long haul home after that, but I was happy with the promise of more to come once her mum had her holiday.

When I went out with Susan on the Saturday, I had to have a story ready about the leaving drink. Naturally, I told her I was bored to tears. Everyone had been at least forty, and of course I would much rather have been out with her. She seemed to accept the lie, as when we were in the cinema we only saw about ten minutes of the film, with her snogging me like a maniac in the back row. Back at her place later, her mum had stayed up late to make sure there was no hanky-panky. She made me a ham sandwich and gave me a cup of tea, but there was no chance she was going to leave us alone together.

On Sunday afternoon, I was sitting on my bed reading when my mum came to tell me that Johnny was downstairs. I hadn’t even heard the knock on the door. I said to tell him to come up, but when he walked in the bedroom, he had a face like thunder. I knew immediately that someone had told him about me and Janice. What I didn’t know until later was that it was Janice who had told him. He couldn’t shout, but his soft voice was very threatening.

“Honestly Danny, I could slap you. What are you doing up the pub with my bird? I mean to say, we are The Four Musketeers, we don’t mess around with each other’s birds, do we?” I knew better than to deny it, so just shrugged. I said how I had bumped into her getting off the bus. I was on my way to the Wimpy Bar, and it seemed to be the decent thing to ask her to join me. He shook his head. “That’s not how she tells it. She reckons you followed her along the street asking her to go to the pub. She said no, but you kept on. So she agreed to go to the Wimpy, then you pestered her to go on to The Anchor. That’s how she tells it”.

The advantage on my side was that Johhny was well aware of Janice’s past. Even as he raged at me, I knew instinctively that he didn’t believe her. So I told him that she was trying to make him jealous. It was just a burger and two drinks with my mate’s girlfriend. I didn’t touch her, didn’t even walk her home. He knew he had overdone it, but his pride kept him going. “Well I have to take her side, you know that. But what you say sounds fair too. Let’s leave it at that, but don’t try it on with her again, or there will be trouble”.

After he had gone, I went back to my book.

But I was going to have to have a word with Janice.

BookFunnel Book Blast Just for Today

Your chance to get some great reads at bargain prices, including one of Stevie’s books. TODAY ONLY!

Stevie Turner

Genres: Mystery & Suspense / Paranormal, Romance / Paranormal, and Sci-Fi & Fantasy

There’s a $0.99/£0.99 book fair that will be running on BookFunnel for today only. You can find it on the link below:

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Thankfully there are no book covers in the promotion featuring tattooed and muscle-bound men with bare, hairless chests. I therefore decided to add my novella ‘Finding David’ to the promotion:

When Karen and Mick Curtis attend a demonstration of clairvoyance for the first time, Karen is singled out by the medium, Rae Cordelle. Rae has a message from Karen’s son David, who passed over to the spirit world many years before. The message shocks Karen and sends her on a journey of discovery, rocking her previously happy relationship with second husband Mick, David’s stepfather.

Review:

Turner always has rich characters who draw us into her stories. I also enjoyed how the story carried through…

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Victorian Fashion: 1860-1901

Fashion was important in Victorian society. For the middle and upper classes, proper dress sense was essential, and clothes had to be changed for numerous occasions during the day. They dressed for leisure activities, for business, and then dressed formally at night to eat dinner.

Even the poorest people were rarely seen without a hat, and manual workers usually wore ties or scarves when working. As the fashions changed during the Victorian era, those who could afford to do so made sure to always be ‘on trend’.

This candid street scene shows just how well people dressed on a daily basis.

Visiting The Tower Of London, and listening to a Yeoman Warder speak about its history. The children wear smaller versions of the adult clothing.

A reasonably well-dressed working man.

The attire of a businessman.

Tightly-laced corsets and bodices gave ladies incredibly small waists.

Female dresses became more relaxed at the end of the era.

Dressing for activities like cycling required a certain style.

For customers who lived a long way from shops, they could order their fashions from catalogues. This an American example from the same period.
It is selling patterns, for the clothes to be made at home, or by a dressmaker.

The Four Musketeers: Part Six

This is the sixth part of a fiction serial, in 754 words.

As expected, Susan agreed to change the day of our date. I didn’t go with working late, as she knew that never happened. I told her that some old bloke was retiring, and I was expected to go to his leaving drink.

There were now three women to consider. Helen, the typist at work, Susan being my actual girlfriend, and Janice. I can be honest now, and say that I never really fancied Janice. Before she started seeing Johnny, she had been around a bit, and it showed. I wouldn’t say she was known to be ‘easy’, but some of the much older boys in the area had definitely sampled her charms.

My anger at Johnny’s attitude to me might seem misplaced, in current thinking. But you have to remember that I was still young, and such things held an importance to me far beyond what they actually represented. We had been the Four Musketeers, and he had considered himself to be the best of us.

And he still did.

Even though he worked a market stall, and his girlfriend had a dubious background. The fact that she wouldn’t go all the way until they got engaged spoke volumes to me. I wonder how many others had promised to do just that, then dumped her when they got what they wanted.

All of this was happening in a very different era. Most kids of that age these days would still be at school, and not really thinking about having a regular girlfriend or boyfriend. They would be playing video games, chatting on mobile phones, thinking about where to go on gap years, and be determined not to get involved with anyone too soon.

For us back then, we were expected to act like adults. Get a job, bring in the money. Settle down with someone, have kids, and repeat the cycle we had observed in our families. And let’s face it, we were keen to do that. Being thought of as immature was one of the worst things that could happen to us. The faster we grew up the better.

Friendships mattered to me too. I had stuck with all of them, only to find that Terry was a clown, Johnny was a big-head, and Keith wanted to be posh. So I reasoned that if that was how it was going to be, then I would get one up on all of them. Hopefully without any of them ever realising. Then I would revel in my secret satisfaction that none of them were better than me, whatever they might have thought.

It was going to be a long process, but I thought it was worth the wait.

Helen was an impulse. She didn’t owe me friendhip, or anything else to be honest. But she had simply irritated me by going on about the wonderful Trev. He was a football fan who had qualified as a lift engineer. He spent his days driving a van around North London fixing or installing lifts. He went out with Irene because he had known her a long time, and because he thought he should have a girlfriend. He would sooner be out drinking beer with his mates, or watching football at Arsenal.

But like the rest of us, he was a product of his background.

Not that I meant him any harm, I didn’t even know him. But if I got my way with Irene, then Trev would have the wake-up call he so badly needed. And Irene would discover that there might be more to life than a lift engineer who lived in the same postal area.

Janice came first, purely by chance. I jumped off a slow-moving bus on my way home from work that Wednesday, and almost knocked her over as she walked along the pavement. Whe she saw it was me, she softened. “I was just about to have a right go at you. Just as well it was you, Danny”. I walked along with her, even though it was the wrong direction. I asked her how Johnny was, casually conversational.

“I hardly see him these days, Danny. Once a week if I’m lucky. If he’s not on his stall, he’s out with his dad buying stock. I’m starting to think he takes me for granted, I really am”. It was like taking candy from a baby. I suggested we go and have something to eat at the Wimpy Bar, then a drink after. Her eyes lit up.

“Yeah, why not? That would be lovely”.

Random Photos Of London: 1880s-1970s

A horse-drawn bus and its conductor, 1880s.

A young girl cuddling her cat. Spitalfields, 1890.

The Rotherhithe Tunnel under construction. South London, 1906.

The same tunnel in regular use, 1930.

Women chatting in a street in Spitalfields, 1935.

Small boys teasing a guardsman at the Tower of London, 1959.

An impromptu street dance, 1970s.