Terry and Julie

I couldn’t not do this one: Matt’s prompt for this weeks Flash Fiction Foray is one of my all time favourites, Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks.

Three days after the letter arrived, her body was found at Beachy Head. On the paper tucked into her sleeve, the words, smudged by tears or rain, were barely legible. … died of his wounds last Friday … loves you … will always strive to be with you. And that is indeed what happened. Two lives lost; two souls join, repetitively, in  grieving recognition of a battle won. If you close your eyes, you can feel it, barely a puff of air, threading a ghostly path between the bustle of commuters: Terry meets Julie, Waterloo Station, every Friday night.

Pic’n’Post n° 17: What is the picture of?


What is the picture of?

Two guesses last week, and for the first time, two winners. Rosa (who doesn’t blog, so no link to give you) said Afghanistan or somewhere close, and Thumbup at Live Love Laugh lived up to the name of her blog with the brilliant answer “on a bridge” 🙂 So both get winner’s badges, but Thumbup’s answer leads me to add another rule: The answer must include a geographical place name. (No getting away with that anymore, I’m afraid!) 


The actual spot was the Hunza area of Northern Pakistan, specifically Gilgit, a small town on the Karakoram Highway. This was a road we travelled a few years back, and we would have liked to fly from Gilgit to Islamabad, but the weather prevented planes taking off so we had to take an overnight bus, stopping for breakfast in Abbattobad, where at the same moment, unknown to us (and presumably to everyone else on the bus) Bin Laden was tucking into breakfast too. Though the region is beautiful, Gilgit itself is not the prettiest of towns, and the total absence of women in the streets makes it unnaturally glum. But there’s a fascinating library with documents from the 19th Century chronicling some of the British attempts to control the area and spread further north to counter Russia’s expansionist dream of reaching India. A rivalry which lasted many decades and became known as the Great Game – a game which, with different actors, unfortunately continues to this day.

Congratulations, Rosa!


Congratulations, Thumbup!


This week it’s back to What? at the top of this page. Happy guessing!

Pic’n’Post n° 14


What is the picture of?

A little experiment today – rather than finding where it was taken, the challenge is to guess what it is. I can’t tell whether this is easy or difficult – I will find out thanks to your answers!

Many thanks to all participants in last week’s challenge, namely Thumbup at Live Love Laugh, our resident champion, Quilt MusingsCharlie at Untitled, Unfinished and Matt from thebookblogger. And Matt it was who spotted the combination of French and Indian, which meant it was taken in Pondicherry (renamed now as Puducherry) in the Tamil Nadu region of south-east India. After the French and British clashed several times in India in the 18th Century, Pondicherry was the only territory the French retained, not transferring it fully to India until 1962. In many ways it still has a French feel to it, not least through the street signs, the presence of a French lycée and a French-style old colonial district.


Congratulations, Matt!


Thanks to all participants. Keep the guesses coming – depending on the responses to this week’s picture, the inclusion of objects as well as places could become a regular feature of Pic’n’Post – let me know what you think. Happy guessing!

1066 and All That

The history of Britain, as any fule kno, begins in 1066 and stretches in a long, complicated, but strangely unbroken zigzag from Will the Conq to Liz the Second. Apart from kings’n’queens and a million battles, a few Things happened, such as Magna Carta or The Gunpowder Plot. Mr. Richards, our history teacher, made us learn all the dates well before we’d actually got there in the history book, so even though we were still on Richard II, we knew, for example, that Admiral Byng was shot for the loss of Minorca in 1757.

Other Things that happened were the South Sea Bubble (1720), a strange aquatic phenomenon involving a huge dome somewhere near Tahiti, and the Black Hole of Calcutta (1756), an uncovered manhole into which people fell and then spent the rest of their lives in a sewer. Although the peasants would sometimes revolt, there was no one in history apart from kings’n’queens, who generally did a couple of Things and fought a dozen battles before being murdered. One exception was Henry VII, who didn’t do much apart from end the War of the Roses, have Henry VIII (who did a lot) and be a Tudor. Kings’n’queens were either Good or Bad, and Henry VII was definitely Good, if a little boring.

Now, I’ve just finished Winter King by Thomas Penn. I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t expect to finish before 2018, so slow was my progress and so complicated the story. Here’s a representative passage: Philip of Burgundy’s unexpected death in September 1506 had got him thinking again about Catherine’s older sister Juana, whose pale, isolated beauty he had admired at Richmond the previous year, and who was now Philip’s widow. In recent years Henry had of course been pursuing Philip’s sister, Margaret of Savoy – rich, Hapsburg, and aunt to Philip and Juana’s son Charles of Castile, who was due to be betrothed to Henry’s daughter Mary. Well, after a while I stopped trying to figure out who was who and just went, “Yeah, OK,” like you do when you’re watching Mulholland Drive. And so, helped by a couple of plane flights, I managed not only to finish it but enjoy it. I’ve forgotten most of it already, but the lasting impression is of having to revise my view: Henry VII, apparently, was not just shifty, paranoid and avaricious, but a pioneer in the art of political spin. Now, if that makes you think of a recent British Prime Minister, you’re being very unfair. Because Henry, after all, didn’t take Britain into war. Tony Blair did.

C-A-T spells, um…


A month and half passed before I saw him again. Amid rumours of an imperial-backed invasion by Suffolk, and as the earl and his right-hand man Sir Robert Curzon were anathematized by bell, book and candle at St. Paul’s Cross, the country remained on high alert. 

The sentences above could come from the same book, but they don’t. And no prizes for guessing which one is Patterson and which one Thomas Penn. Now I read the Patterson six months ago, it took me all of two days. I even remember more or less what it was about. I’ve been on the Penn for a month and I’ve got to page 79 (300 still to go, and the typeset’s really small). Will I finish it? Yes. Maybe in 2018, but I will (I’m stubborn that way). Time was, I could take Wolf Solent in my stride, but now I have trouble with anything more abstruse than Alex Cross. Must be the age, I suppose. Not my own, of course, the one we live in (ahem…).