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I totally failed at this year’s A to Z challenge. It’s not that I wasn’t interested or motivated or ran out of ideas. I had been sufficiently organised to make myself a list of things to write about. No, I just ran out of energy.

So Q to Z will have to wait for next year. Sorry guys.


As last year, just click on the image to the left to be taken to the A-Z website and links to other blogs taking part. Good luck to everyone and I hope the inspiration keeps flowing.

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Pilgrim

Depending on your background and/or ethnic origin, very different images spring to mind when seeing the word ‘pilgrim’. When I Googled for an illustration for the word I was shocked at how many cartoons and photos there were of people in inaccurate pseudo-17th century dress because I just don’t associate pilgrim with Pilgrim Fathers.

Pilgrims exist in every age, country and religion, and since pictures speak a thousand words I’m going to let Google image do the talking for me. Here are a few pictures from around the world. I’ve tried to choose pretty ones.


Medina in Saudi Arabia


Lourdes in France


Santiago de Compostela, Spain


Ynys Enlli off the north coast of Wales where the soil is “made from the bones of a thousand saints”!


Tai Shan, a sacred mountain, in China


One of forty thousand pilgrims bathing in the sea at Gangasagar.


As last year, just click on the image to the left to be taken to the A-Z website and links to other blogs taking part. Good luck to everyone and I hope the inspiration keeps flowing.

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Ogilby

This handsome chap with his periwig and modest collar is John Ogilby, a man who reinvented himself whenever necessary and who seems to have been a roaring success at whatever he tried.

Born in Scotland in 1600, he had to support his family when his father was imprisoned and did this by firstly winning a lottery, then by using part of the money to apprentice himself to a dancing master. He was soon good enough to open his own studio but was rendered penniless again when he was injured while performing. Using his contacts he found a place as a dancing tacher with The Earl of Strafford who took him to Ireland and sponsored him in starting Irelands first theatre. Ogilby became a theatre impresario until the rebellion of 1641, got involved in the fighting, escaped an exploding castle and was shipwrecked as he fled Ireland.
He arrived in England penniless again, walked to Cambridge and decided to learn Latin. He so impressed the scholars that they taught him for free and in 1650 published a translation of Virgil that netted him a small fortune. Ogilby decided to give Greek a go next. Looking ahead, he started a publishing business to print his own books and his illustrated translations of Aesop and Homer became all the rage.
Once Charles II was on the throne, England, and Ireland was ready for the theatre again so Ogilby returned to Dublin, built a new theatre and wrote music for the plays. With that endeavor a success, for once, he returned to London to start a new publishing venture and had a bright idea. With the help of some of the finest artists and engravers of the time he made the Britannia, Britain’s first road atlas. Despite losing almost everything, again, in the Great Fire of London, he rebounded and at the age of 74 was appointed “His Majesty’s Cosmographer and Geographic Printer”!

So how many careers was that? Dancer, dance teacher, theatre manager, student, scholar, translator, publisher, writer of show tunes, geographer, and finally publisher by appointment to His Majesty the King.

I find his road maps particularly interesting because they just show the road and what one might encounter along it, although he took some artistic licence with the depiction of the more picturesque bits of scenery. This is the one for where I live.

PS just noticed I got the date wrong on this one, which should have appeared yesterday, so you’ll get another later tonight.


As last year, just click on the image to the left to be taken to the A-Z website and links to other blogs taking part. Good luck to everyone and I hope the inspiration keeps flowing.

~~~

Norns

These lovely ladies are part of the Norse pantheon, both loved and feared by those big hairy Vikings. The three most important Norns were Urðr), Verðandi and Skuld, who functioned as minders of Yggdrasil, the World Tree, and prevented his roots from rotting, but other Norns governed the fate of mankind, turning up at births and deaths and determining what happened in between.

The Valkyries were a separate branch of the Norns, responsible for harvesting the souls of the most valiant amongst the recently slain. Other norns fulfilled the same function as Morai did in Greek mythology, spinning the thread of a man’s life and deciding when it should be cut short. Although it’s possible that the idea of these spinning females had cross-pollinated from the Mediterranean to the chilly North, I prefer to think that warriors all over the place looked at the complexities of weaving and thought, rather uneasily, that women might be a bit more clever than they ususally gave them credit for.

Tomorrow – actually I have no idea what to write about tomorrow so it’ll be a nice surprise for me too.

Boy, do I feel special! Not only do I get to reveal the cover of a long anticipated novel but it concerns one of my favourite military campaigns! I’m so looking forward to reading this book.

Well what do you think?

There’s so much to love in this image. I could talk about all the little details in it all day. Congratulations to J P Kenwood on such a super cover and kudos to artist Fiona Fu. It’s brill!

Here’s the blurb:

Dominus by J P Kenwood

In AD 107, after a grueling campaign against Rome’s fierce enemy, the kingdom of Dacia, Gaius Fabius returns home in triumph. With the bloody battles over, the commander of the Lucky IV Legion now craves life’s simple pleasures: leisurely soaks in fragrant baths, over-flowing cups of wine, and a long holiday at his seaside villa to savor his pleasure slaves. On a whim, he purchases a spirited young Dacian captive and unwittingly sparks a fresh outbreak of the Dacian war; an intimate struggle between two sworn enemies with love and honor at stake.

Allerix survived the wars against Rome, but now he is a slave rather than a victor. Worse, the handsome general who led the destruction of his people now commands his body. When escape appears impossible, Alle struggles to find a way to preserve his dignity and exact vengeance upon the savage Romans. Revenge will be his, that is, if he doesn’t lose his heart to his lusty Roman master.

Dominus is a plot-packed erotic fantasy that transports readers back to ancient Rome during the reign of the Emperor Trajan. This is the first book in an alternate history series—a tumultuous journey filled with forbidden love, humor, sex, friendship, political intrigue, deception and murder.

Dominus will be released on Smashwords and Amazon on April 21st! No buy links yet available but follow JP on Facebook and Tumblr to be the first in line.


As last year, just click on the image to the left to be taken to the A-Z website and links to other blogs taking part. Good luck to everyone and I hope the inspiration keeps flowing.

~~~

Mamluk

Busy day today so I have picked a post that I can illustrate a lot.

Mamluks were the enslaved soldiers who served the Caliph in Persia, then in other countries, most notably Egypt. They were property but treated well and encouraged to compete for advancement. I find the set up interesting because it shows how a train of thought can be repeated. Local soldiers may have their own loyalties to family, tribe, governor but displaced persons far from home for whom compliance can reap huge benefits are far more likely to be devoted to the provider of those benefits.

Caligula and Nero chose Germanic slaves to form their body guards, and the Emperors of Byzantium had their Varangian guard, the Mamluks were selected from the strongest Georgians, Circassians and Kipchaks to be loyal to the Caliph and him alone.

As a military grade they were one of the longest lived organisations, existing from the 8th century AD until the early part of the 19th century.

Mamluk from Aleppo painted by William Page some time between 1816 and 1824.

Mamluk heavy cavalry armour c. 1550, bearing a resemblance to the armour used by the Sarmatians.

The last of the Mamluks – Roustum Raza, painted around 1793 by Vernet. Roustam was born in Tblisi and was purchaed as a body guard and personal attendant by Napoleon Bonaparte during the French invasion of Egypt. Roustam stayed with Napoleon until his death on St Helena, when he returned to France and settled in Dourdan. He died there in 1845 at the age of 61 or 62.


As last year, just click on the image to the left to be taken to the A-Z website and links to other blogs taking part. Good luck to everyone and I hope the inspiration keeps flowing.

~~~

Limey

Limey is a slang term, often pergorative, from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa applied initially to any British seaman and later to any Brit.

This could be because they were small and green by the time they got off the boat in Cape Town, Sydney or Wellington but it isn’t. It’s because of these:

In the 18th and 19th centuries limes saved as many lives of British naval personnel as penicillin did in the 20th century.

These small green fruit not only add a pleasant tang to grog but their high vitamin C content kept the dreaded scurvy at bay. Scurvy is a disgusting disease, debilitating, painful and unsightly, were the collagen forming connective tissue in humans begins to break down. Painful joints hamper movement, swollen and receding gums cause tooth loss. The patient is exhausted, emotionally unstable and eventually the internal organs begin to break down. And it began to affect the crew fast. Naval records show that on a six week tour of duty almost three quarters of the men would show signs of the disease if they had no access to fresh food.

It wasn’t until 1930s that we really got a handle on what causes scurvy and how it can be successfully treated, but long before that people had developed ways of handling it. Hippocrates described the disease in the 4th century BC and prescribed green vegetables as a cure. In the British navy it wasn’t all rum and flogging. Some captains were very concerned about their men and tried all kinds of cures, but it was found that citrus fruits, which were easy to transport and would stay good for a long time, were the best treatment. Imagine the atmosphere on the ship where the captain experimented with feeding his men large amounts of cabbage!

In 1753 naval surgeon James Lind published his Treatise of the Scurvy, recommending that limes be carried on all naval ships. The British Naval ignored his findings officially for several decades but individual captains followed the advice and once it had been proven to work the authorities began to provide limes or limejuice to all their ships.

And not just ships. I remember my grandfather telling me how his platoon was provided with crocks of lime juice during the Great War when they were in Palestine [and how one night the commissariat accidentally gave them the stone jar full of whisky that had been decanted for the officer's mess].

So soldiers, sailors and all kinds of travellers in hard places can thank the humble lime. Being called Limey is a small price to pay for keeping your teeth in your head.

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