Re-reading childhood books

Re-reading childhood books

Gosh we have changed. By Jove and lashings of ginger beer. (I just posted this on my blog but thought it might also sit here on the Captain Cobbler website too – so here it is)

I have just been reading an article in the Guardian about re-reading the books of childhood. For those of you out there approaching or exceeding my age I guess the article and the subject matter will quickly register. Those of a much younger persuasion may have to make the leap to your own childhood reading and re-read that to see if the comments hold true. The two particular authors referred to are Enid Blyton and Captain W.E. Johns.

The article http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/nov/25/re-reading-the-famous-five-and-the-biggles-series-is-not-only-disappointing-its-mystifying

In a way, it is fortunate that because I am in Brazil at the moment and all my English belongings are packed away in boxes in England, I cannot check out what the author, Jeff Sparrow, is saying. Why, fortunate? Because I am not sure I WANT to be disappointed and mystified in the way he is suggesting.

I am a liberal and have been a lifelong liberal – and a pretty radical one at that – so I have long “known” that the adult view prevailing is that both of the mentioned authors were not in the least liberal. In fact the consensus is that both were pretty illiberal and their stories contained much bigotry and racial stereotyping. Clearly, in my own case, I was subjected to other values which did not allow such stereotypes to become ossified in my brain – except to say, perhaps, that I would still respond positively to the fact that the Spitfire was probably the best plane ever invented; even though I am, and have been for as long as I can recall, a pacifist!

My point here is that although I can see that one`s childhood reading can engender stereotypes, we perhaps need not always try to be perfectly politically correct in censoring such books – just ensure a balance is always available in terms of creating lasting human values. As some of you will know I enjoy an occasional good malt whisky, but I am reasonable sure such a liking was not caused in any way by the fact that Biggles downed a few in his books. I am sure of this in the same way that I do not litter my speech with lots of “By Jove”s.

Jeff Sparrow makes the point that Biggles` “nervous high pitched laugh” and the whisky drinking was probably true to life experience of Captain Johns recognising what we would, these days, call a pilot who was suffering from post-traumatic stress. Sparrow goes on to say that in the later Biggles books the pilots now drank non-alcoholic, “wholesome lemonade”.

Swiftly scanning back to my childhood self, I recall the Biggles book as “exciting” reads. So, I am not sure I want to be disappointed to find, for myself, the truth of what Sparrow says – “Suffice to say that some acquaintances are best not renewed. Johns – how to say this kindly? – is not a great writer.” He certainly sparked an imagination in me of what travelling by air might be like. I distinctly remember one occasion as a child of, perhaps 10 or so, sitting in my dad`s car, with a pal from nearby and we were flying over Africa for ages – I can still “see” the forests as they spun by below us.

To give Sparrow credit, he quotes from another writer who looked back in a more academic fashion.
<em>In his study Blyton and the Mystery of Children’s Literature, David Rudd identifies a similar phenomenon in respect of Blyton. It is, he says, common for children to lose themselves in Blyton’s books – and then just as suddenly abandon them….</em>
“Of his own return back to the Famous Five books he’d once loved, Rudd writes:
<em>I found the magic lacking, while the simple vocabulary and the old-fashioned and often embarrassing attitudes obtruded woefully … We adults are left with empty words, whereas our children, like millions of others, are transported.</em>

Rudd makes a simple but persuasive argument – namely, that as children, we read in a quite different way to adults.

And isn`t that a good job, too. So, let us celebrate it and move on.

One little anecdote to add to this is a recollection of a much later visit to our house of another Liberal friend, Alistair, with his then girlfriend, later to become wife, who is German and was, therefore unfamiliar with the topic of our conversation. Alistair had found a Biggles book on our bookshelves and that generated a long discussion about our mutual childhood liking of everything Biggles. Alistair`s German girlfriend came into the room well after Alistair had put the book back on the shelf, but we were continuing the discussion of Biggles for quite a while.

She sat listening with interest to our excitement but clearly not quite able to grasp its subject matter. This became obvious when, in a pause in the conversation, she asked, with all innocence… “By the way – what ARE biggles??” As you may imagine this reduced Alistair and I to helpless hysterical laughter and it was quite a while before either of us were able to breathe enough between gasps, actually to explain it was not a “what” but a “who”. Relating back to my recent post about happy moments – this was clearly one of those and will remain so until I die, or go Gaga!

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I LIKE the Historical Novel Society!

I LIKE the Historical Novel Society!

I just opened the May reviews of the Historical Novel Society today and discovered that they have now reviewed my debut novel “Captain Cobbler: the Lincolnshire Uprising 1536” and, WOW, they have done a good job (lol)! For the review see

http://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/captain-cobbler-the-lincolnshire-uprising-1536/

It seems rather a long time since I published it and launched it on the 477th anniversary of the Uprising, 1st October 2013 – and, so, I was beginning to think all my hard work and writing effort might just disappear under the churning appearance of thousands of self-published books each year. And then this lovely review slips from the ether into my computer – what a day. Certainly it will become a May Day to recall with a happy smile.

It was quite moving to see such a warmly worded commentary from such an illustrious and independent source – he sighs contentedly! Do feel free to go and have a look for yourself and do please pass it on to anyone you know who may like historical novels… I`d like to get the word out there!

The novel presents a story which may change your views of one of the best known historical figures, the very much larger-than-life figure of King Henry Vlll. Certainly the research I did to enable me to tell the story of Nicholas Melton made me view Henry`s reputation in a much different light.

If you want to see more about the novel, take a look at my website – www.captaincobbler.com  or if you simply want to go straight to buy the novel go to Amazon here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Captain-Cobbler-Lincolnshire-Uprising-1536/dp/1475997795

Remember the e-book is only about £2, less than the price of a decent cup of coffee.

Oh – I DO like the Historical Novel Society – ROCK ON!

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Arthur and Catherine

Very soon after Catherine arrived in England she was married to Arthur, Prince of Wales, son of King Henry Vll….now read on….

Her wedding to Prince Arthur – a few days later – was no less theatrical but, considering it had been so long in coming for the young couple and so long in the planning, it all passed in something of a blur. Catherine could recall brief snippets of conversation, some even in English which, by now, she was beginning to understand little by little. It was, however, all a bit more overwhelming than she had anticipated, not least because the bedding of the princess with her new husband took place, of course, in public to show the world it was official and properly done.

Once the couple were actually in the bed the curtains were tactfully drawn around them but they both knew they were surrounded by ladies and gentlemen in waiting and would be throughout the night – many of them staying awake for a long time in case they were needed, of course.

All nearby sets of ears would be attuned to the least indication of need – which also meant that everyone would be able to hear all the exchanges between them too, except, perhaps, the softest of whispers. Both parties could barely understand a word of the other’s language though – so soft whispers proved to be of no use whatsoever – and on more than one occasion the mechanical logistics of lovemaking proved to be beyond them, unpractised and embarrassed as they both were.

*******

 

The morning after……

They both woke early the following morning and Arthur, giving his new bride a quick buss on the cheek, leapt out of bed through the curtains before he could appear too embarrassed and speechless (as he knew himself to be).

Catherine heard him call his menservants to him loudly and imperiously (as only a fourteen-year-old could) and heard a huge laugh when he said, “So, gentlemen, I have been in Spain for the night”. Even after she had managed to work out what the individual words actually meant she had no idea why this could have caused such uproarious laughter as it did, and it took some considerable explaining from the slightly more worldly-wise Maria de Salinas to fix in her mind the ‘double-entendre’ of being “in Spain” all night.

When the penny finally did drop for her, she blushed beetroot and Maria had to work very hard not to upset her mistress further by breaking into the laughter she felt bubbling up. As it was, Catherine was cross with Maria for a full twenty-four hours before she began to see the funny side if it herself and let Maria talk to her again.

Indeed, it would be yet another full day before Catherine brought herself to make light of her first night of matrimony and confide to Maria that “not only had Arthur not been “in Spain” at all but had found himself quite a long way from the Spanish border before he let loose his cannon”. She “…hoped for a more intimate military encounter in due course!

Nevertheless, on the morning of the first day of the marriage itself, as soon as Catherine had vacated the heavily curtained bed three learned doctors had been sent by the king and the Count de Cabra jointly (two English doctors and one Spanish man of medicine) to inspect the bed.

As they hoped, they found some signs of semen on the bed and since Arthur’s signet ring, set with garnets, had severely scratched Catherine’s inner thigh during their fumblings, they found several small drops of blood, again as they hoped, although they clearly thought it was from somewhere other than Catherine’s thigh. The good doctors, after some mumbling discussions between them, felt able to go back to their respective masters and report, on the basis of their forensic evidence, that the princely marriage was off to an appropriate start. It was, however, a conclusion with which, had Catherine been privy to it, she would not have concurred.

The next few weeks consisted of much to-ing and fro-ing of the child bride and her child groom, getting ready to move their extended household to Wales as the king had ordered, with only an occasional foray into the recesses of the four-poster bed. Outside of the bed’s curtains Arthur was much given to noisy shows of boyhood bravado, heavy with innuendo and braggadocio, but behind the darkened screen, Catherine (and depending upon the timing of said episodes of melodrama, minutes or hours later, Maria de Salinas too) knew the story to be rather different. Arthur was either too quick or too soft, or as yet, too inept to conquer his maiden’s true virtue.

Catherine’s quiet requests for Maria’s help fell on stony ground too, since she could only provide theoretically sound advice, being unpractised herself – and Catherine forbade her friend to seek more mature advice. Indeed, probably the only sound counsel Maria felt seriously able to give was to “be patient – it will sort itself out”.

In fact it became a problem of diminished importance, anyway, since Arthur busied himself with plans to move to ‘take charge’ of the Welsh Marches at the behest of his father the king. And so the newlyweds only shared a bed every ten days or so.

Arthur hid his embarrassments behind a farrago of hinted claims, so was in no position to seek real help or counselling even if he had wished to. And, thus it went, that his personal courtiers, many of them only a little older than the prince himself, though, no doubt well versed in matters of lust as some of them were, allowed themselves to assume everything was rosy in the prince’s bed.

Sadly the issues never did get sorted out satisfactorily. Only a few weeks afterwards they moved to a different – but damp – household, which made the prince’s breathing much worse. And his sickly state became more worrisome to both his doctors and to his young bride.

To the great shock of his parents they received the unwelcome news of his untimely death, delivered by fast courier, only just a few hours after they had read, with amusement, of his rather grandiose plans for the enhancement of his household, in a letter whose journey had been started at a more normal speed some days earlier. The boy-prince was embalmed and rushed by chariot to the Abbey of St Wolfstan’s in Worcester where he was buried with but modest ceremony.

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Historical novels in the Library?

This post is directed specifically at the Historians, Librarians and Archivists group and The Writer’s Group on LinkedIn to ask a question of expert group members. My novel was published on 1st October this year and although it is a work of fiction I have tried as far as possible to stick to the historical facts of the Lincolnshire Uprising of 1536 and events before and after.

It is not an academic work, but I did much more research over a much longer period than I did for my Master’s, by research, in Marketing many years ago, so I am pretty confident it is soundly based, though I have, in some areas, taken occasional flights of fancy for creative effect. My question is this:- As an Indie writer, are there specific things I need to be doing to get my novel accepted into Libraries as opposed to selling direct to the public?

And that question prompts a couple of supplementaries:-

a) Is there a minimum position on the best-seller lists which one needs to achieve before being considered for libraries?

b) Are there specific Reviews one should be targeting which would help? …and

c) Do historical novels ever make it into the academic libraries of schools, colleges and universities… well, I know some do because I have seen them there, but the question is, perhaps, HOW do they get there?

For general information I flew from Brazil to England to do a series of book-signings in Lincolnshire on and after the anniversary of the uprising, which started on Sunday 1st October, 1536. On the way back to Brazil I called in on New York to launch the book in the US and did a series of radio interviews and a couple of book-signings there. I have a Blog, the book has a website, soon to be getting upgraded, and I have positioned myself on Facebook, Twitter and, of course, LinkedIn. All of which is simply to show I am serious about getting my story “out there”.

But, as far as Libraries go, what else do I need to do? I would very much appreciate comments and advice.

Posted in Captain Cobbler, Lincolnshire, Tudor Times | Tagged | 1 Comment

Christmas music

Captain Cobbler would like to share a little Christmas Music with readers and potential readers which was linked to him by a modern cousin living in Vancouver Canada – it is sung by the Capilano University Choir – Enjoy!!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Almf_xlDm7A&feature=youtu.be

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Extracts from the novel

If you are visiting the website and wish to read a couple of brief excerpts from the novel – you can either click on “Falling from Grace”, under ‘Categories’  at the side or “Christmas 1535″ on the picture above – either will take you to a brief extract… then, if you have enjoyed the extract, you can quickly visit Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com to buy the book!!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Captain-Cobbler-Lincolnshire-Uprising-1536/dp/1475997795

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History for foodies – Happy Christmas

Just a very quick blog to redirect FOODIES to a delicious blog…

Enjoy

 

http://englishhistoryauthors.blogspot.com.br/

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