RESTAURANT AND RHODESIAN BOILER

TRAVEL – PRAGUE

We stopped off for a quick bite at this cute little restaurant where we were the only people. In fact, most of the area was pretty deserted – possibly because they heard I wanted to take photos without crowds.

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If there is a castle to go in, then I go in.

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It’s not just a single building but almost a small town, with interlinking courtyards and of course the St Vitus Cathedral up there as well next to the palace.

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They began building all this in the 9th century and was home to Presidents, Kings of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperors. A World Heritage site it’s the largest ancient castle in the world occupying 70,000 square metres.

HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

The lovebirds, Isabella and Ferdinand, spend two hours together and renew their betrothal vows before Ferdinand returns to the town of Dueňas to wait for the wedding. The next few days are nerve-wracking. Henry’s forces could arrive at any minute. There is very little money for a wedding, how can you celebrate a royal wedding without money?  The couple are forced to borrow from members of the noble houses.

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But, as they say, that’s not all! There is the little problem of consanguinity – yes the pair are both descended from the same ancestor. It will mean a dispensation from the Pope of the time allowing them to marry. And the Pope is friends with …? You guessed it King Henry and the Marquis of Villena who are against the marriage.

Isabella gets a bit difficult at this stage and says that she cannot marry without this dispensation.  She is deeply religious, and although she believes in the divine plan for her nuptials with Ferdinand, if it is not done properly, then God will not look on favourably. Are they ever going to share a bed?

AFRICA FACTS

Last week I told you how we moved 450 kms north taking with us our new Ayah or maid or housekeeper whichever term you prefer. Agreeing she could bring her boyfriend, or husband, I never really found out which he was, at first was a boon. He helped light the Rhodesian boiler every morning. A stone built contraction with a shelf to place logs which were then burnt and heated the oil drum above which was connected to the hot water tank in the house.

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It was the only way we could have hot water indoors. But I also mentioned there were long queues of eager looking men outside our gate every afternoon during the hours Ntebling was not working. It took me a few days to work it out, but then the penny dropped when I saw money changing hands. Whether he was married to her or not, Ntebling’s male friend was also her pimp. With two young daughters in the house I just couldn’t risk it and sadly paid them an extra month’s wages and waved them goodbye. It would be cold showers for us until we found a replacement to work that Rhodesian boiler.

THE ADD BREAK

Having stared this year fighting a variety of unwelcome bugs, I’ve not yet launched my latest book. I’ve been dithering whether to just slide it out quietly or make a huge splash and scream about it from the rooftops.

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Watch this space, it will be out soon. In the meantime, this is the blurb.

Rare minerals have been found in the north of Togodo and representatives from six of the world’s most powerful nations are desperate to win the contract to mine and export them. The new president Ben Mtumba invites them on safari to bid for the rights. 

 MI5, aware of Amie’s old friendship with Ben, fly her back to spy on him and ensure Britain’s success in the mining venture. Should the new president prove uncooperative, they will support any one of several ministers who are more than willing to replace him as president.

 Between pressure from her own government and her loyalty to Ben, Amie is put in an impossible position, aware that both her life, the life of her unborn child, and Ben’s are all at risk.

 To add to her problems, her fiancé Simon has been sent back to England and she has lost all contact with him. He is unaware of the drama unfolding in Togodo and has information, which, if it came to light would have drastic effects on the safari and the auction.

Till next time, take care.

Lucinda

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DEFENESTRATION AND DITHERING

TRAVEL – PRAGUE

Still in the castle, we latched on to an English speaking guide who showed us the few rooms that were open to the public.

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She was particularly eager to explain defenestration, which is the practice of throwing people you don’t like for one reason or another out of windows after which they inexplicably died.

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In 1618, in an argument over religious freedom, two Regents and their secretary were thrown out of a window on the third floor – 21 metres from the ground. They survived. The Catholics maintained they were caught by angels or the Virgin Mary. The Protestants said they landed in a heap of dung. These days James Bond does that all the time without a hair out of place and not a speck of dirt on his white dinner suit.

HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

Servants are sent poste haste to Rome to get the Pope’s permission for cousins Isabella and Ferdinand to marry. Like the proverbial magician, the Archbishop of Toledo agrees to sort it all out. It is rumoured that he himself wrote out the dispensation.

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Are we to believe that Isabella thought a dispensation, to and from Pope Paul II in Rome could be obtained in 4 days? Even using the autobahns it would be pushing it.

While Ferdinand realizes that he is marrying a deeply religious woman, whose devotion to duty is equally paramount, he is also convinced that she is his to command. Ferdinand the adventurer, so worldly, so much the man of action believes that this convent bred girl, a weak female will be subservient. Oh silly man, you have no idea at all have you?

 

AFRICA FACTS

I’m not sure how many people are aware the Africa is probably the richest continent on earth. It has many rivers, wide areas for agriculture and a wealth of precious and useful minerals deep below the ground. Many of its countries have access to the sea and deep water harbours. Trade routes east were established long before Europe was even aware just how big a land mass Africa is. It also has a workforce that, once educated and trained can meet the demands of a modern world.

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Sadly, with tribal infighting, civil wars, jostling for power and man’s insatiable greed so many suffer as a result. Will it ever come right? Well for the few at the top, life is pretty good now, except how relaxed they are is anyone’s guess. Only time will tell. In the meantime, maybe life will fall apart in the Old World – who knows!

There are lots of tale about my media work in Africa in my career memoirs, Truth, Lies and Propaganda and more Truth, Lies and Propaganda which may surprise you.

mybook.to/MemTLP                            mybook.to/MoreTLP

Till next time, take care

Lucinda.

A CASTLE AND A CHILD

TRAVEL – PRAGUE

More pictures of St Vitus cathedral as I took rather a lot of them and it would be a shame not to share them.

They started to build it in 1344, so as you can see, it’s quite new! I can truthfully say this as it was finally finished in 1929 in time for the St Wenceslas jubilee. The style is Gothic, which is very popular for large churches as they look big and important. Even today you can look in awe and wonder how they built them without modern cranes and machinery.

HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

Ferdinand is trying to reach Princess Isabella to marry her. Eventually, very late the small party of merchants arrive outside the castle of the Count of Trevino. It’s well guarded as the Count is ready for an attack, it’s also well known that he supports Isabella and will give sanctuary to Ferdinand.

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(I’m not absolutely sure this is the right castle, but I like the picture and you get the general idea).

The merchant’s party are tired and with no money to buy a meal, they are hungry and thirsty too.  They shout for the drawbridge to be let down, but seeing a party of rough travellers, one of the soldiers pushes a boulder off the top of the battlements.  Ferdinand is almost crushed to death. Obviously, he wasn’t expected.

I told you this was exciting, didn’t I?

AFRICA FACTS

As this bounces out through space and into inboxes, I will be in Miami for the Reader’s Favorite Awards. The book that has won the gold medal is the second book in the Amie in Africa series “Amie and the Child of Africa.”

I got the idea for the story from a news item. On the night of 14-15 April 2014 Boko Haram a fundamentalist group abducted 276 schoolgirls from their school in Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria. As far as I know not all the girls have been reunited with their families.

In the first book, Amie loses Angelina the little orphan she adopts when the civil war breaks out and so I put the two ideas together. A fast page turning tale with lots of adventure – pure escapism – pun intended.

Till next time, take care.

Lucinda

ST VITAS AND A VEHICLE

TRAVEL – PRAGUE

This week a few pics of St Vitus Cathedral. I usually take a photo of the name of a church, but this time I forgot and I’ve had to hunt on Google maps street view to identify it.

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It was quite awe inspiring.  It’s 600 years old and has in turn been called St Vitus, St Adalbert and St Wenceslas. (When I was little and sang that carol “Good King Wenceslas looked out…”  I thought it was – last looked out – and wondered what happened to him after that. My writer’s mind had him hung drawn and quartered, strung up, boiled in oil, burned at the stake or something worthy of the saint status).

In olden days in was the venue for coronations of kings and queens. It’s a Roman Catholic place of worship and this form of Christianity was forced on the Czechs under dominance by the Habsburgs. I discovered that in 1910 Catholicism was the professed religion of 96.5% of the population. The latest figures show 39.8% as atheist and 39.2% as Catholic.

HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

To be honest, Ferdinand is a bit cheesed off acting as a servant to one of the merchants. He’s a bit of a spoiled brat and doesn’t like being bossed about. He’s not too good at this undercover stuff, and grooming the mules and serving at tables and to now skulk around dressed in servant’s clothes on the way to a country where he is only going to be the king consort is demeaning.

The party travel mostly by night, but when they stop at an inn, they become fearful they have been discovered.  As soon as they finish their meal, they decide to press on with the journey. They discover that they have left the purse with all their travelling money behind.  It’s too risky to go back for it, so they ride on, penniless. Is there no end to this excitement?

AFRICA FACTS

Of the 54 African countries I have only lived in and or visited 12 of them. I count myself very privileged to have travelled deep rural, into informal townships and many places not frequented by either tourists or local residents.

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With the film crew, we spent days in communities talking to local people, in broken English or with an interpreter. We also talked to wealthy people in positions of power. People are the same the world over, yet I saw more resilience, more fatalism and more courage than I have seen in so called civilised, western countries.

They  have a more happy go lucky approach too, as this picture below shows – yes the caption is true, I saw the paperwork.

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I was thrilled to hear that Truth, Lies and Propaganda was chosen by a book club in America. I do hope I get to hear what they thought of it.

Till next time, take care.

Lucinda

MEET MARK MOREY

I’ve lost count of the number of guests I’ve had on my blog, and I have not read all the books featured, but this week is different.

My guest is Mark Morey and I have read two of his books and thoroughly enjoyed them and the third, the one set in Japan is on my kindle and second in the queue to be read and I’m really looking forward to it.

I enjoy his stories as they are set in different countries and the first one that caught my eye was No Darkness as it was set in Zimbabwe.  But Let Mark tell you his own story.

MARK MOREY HEADSHOT

I hadn’t thought of writing fiction until I went to the local library to borrow a book, but couldn’t find anything which interested me.  By that stage I was tired of writing dry, technical dissertations, so I set myself the task of writing something more interesting.  It had to have interesting characters, and it had to have an interesting and unusual setting.  I thought authors better than me have written about many aspects of past and contemporary Western life, so I should tell a story far from that.

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My most recent novels please me the most.  No Darkness is set in my wife’s country of Zimbabwe, where we were married and had our honeymoon, and which has been through terrible times since then.  She and her people are the most wonderful people on this planet, and those good people don’t deserve what they’ve been through.  Nobody deserves what they have been through, but particularly not the people of Zimbabwe.  I have an insight into African culture and memories of my time there, which helped to write this story.  I hope those who read No Darkness will understand more about the tragedy of modern-day Africa.

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I like contemporary French music.  One of my favourite albums has a song ‘Dans Nos Souvenirs’ or In Our Memories.  I didn’t understand what it was about, until eventually I came across the Armenian Genocide of 1915.  I was quite shocked that I had never even heard of the first genocide, and I was sure that others would be the same.  Indeed, reviews have shown this is the case.  In Our Memories is currently under consideration for the UK school curriculum.

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The Syrian Civil War is complicated, and I set myself the task of writing Blood Never Sleeps about the rise and defeat of Islamic State in Syria.  For this I got the help of Syrian Kurds, who have translated my novel into Kurmanji Kurdish for use in their schools.  For Westerners, the stoicism of Kurds and Arabs under stress may seem a little distant at times, but this is how they are.  Even in battle, living or dying is in God’s hands, and if you die for a good cause then you will be a martyr.  But there is more to Blood Never Sleeps than battles and war.  These Kurds are aiming not for women’s equality, but for the total dismantling of the patriarchy.  I do thank Komutan Rodja Felat for allowing me to use her and her words in my story.  Also a big thank-you to ‘Clara Raqqah’!

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My country of Australia was shaped by the Pacific War against Japan.  My father and my uncle fought in this conflict, while my mother was terrified the Japanese would invade Australia and brutalise her.  At the time it seemed Japan would, but ultimately that was not their plan.  But how did a small nation decide to go to war against the rest of the world; a war they could never win?  After reading a crime novella set in pre-war Tokyo I was fascinated by the setting.  So Ketsumeidan opens in Asakusa, Tokyo in the year 1932, where forces seem determined to drag Japan to war.  I have been to Japan, and when I was younger I lived in Hong Kong and in Korea for a time, so I do understand the Asian way of thinking to a degree.  I have a friend who was born and raised in Japan, who helped me with aspects of Japanese culture.  Finally, a geisha helped me to get my geisha character right.  Ketsumeidan is the most truthful of these four novels.  Almost everything in Ketsumeidan actually happened, and wherever possible I used actual words of the people involved.  A letter by Shumei Okawa, the police interviews with Sada Abe, or the sad story of Chang Jiazhi (her real name was Zheng Pingru).  Zheng even had a Kenpeitai lieutenant as a friend.  It seemed like all the pieces were there waiting to be written, and all it needed was three, strong characters to bring this story to fruition.  For Australians and Americans, the war against Japan is well-known but not necessarily understood; while those in other parts of the world might be surprised that this brutal conflict was being fought two years before Hitler invaded Poland.  But Ketsumeidan is not about war and battles, rather individuals going against the flow because it was still possible that war wasn’t inevitable, and then when war happened; those who truly loved their country had to stop it from destroying itself.

All Mark’s books are available in e-book and print on demand paperback, from Amazon, Apple iBooks and other online retailers.

https://www.amazon.com/Mark-Morey/e/B00I3U8V2S/

Thank you Mark for being my guest this week. I hope lots of readers will check out your books and enjoy them.

 

 

 

CLOCK AND CLUELESS

TRAVEL – PRAGUE

One of the main things to see near the Old Town Square in Prague is the special clock.

It is currently being repaired and was covered with a sheet that only showed the picture of the clock.

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This is a pic off the internet to show the real thing – when it is not covered by a sheet.

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It is an astronomical clock first installed in 1410, so I guess it is due for an overhaul. The 12 apostles pop out on the hour.

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I’m ashamed to admit I have no idea what this building is, but I like the architecture. I popped the signage into Google translate and it told me it’s the  Law School.

HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

Now there were quite a few important and powerful people who didn’t want Isabella to marry Ferdinand but despite that, the two young people sign their agreement on February 7th 1469. Now all that remains is for them to meet and do the marrying thing.

The princess sneaks off but someone tells on her and Henry’s soldiers are sent to arrest her. (Told you this was an exciting story).

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Just in time the Archbishop of Toledo rescues her and takes her to Valladolid where she is safe.

Isabella summons Ferdinand from Zaragossa 200 miles to the east to come at once and marry her. Will he? Find out next time!

 

 

AFRICA FACTS

We were filming in a deep rural school and the teacher had prepared a Q & A session for the cameras. The question was “Who is the greatest man in South Africa?”

Rows of eager little faces were desperate to answer. “My Chief – Mr Magwane (the Headmaster) – Mr Sonenze (a teacher) – a famous footballer.”

After each ‘wrong’ answer, the teacher became more and more frantic. She gave them hints – such as prison on Robben Island – where is that? they wanted to know. Nobel prize winner – what is that? they asked.

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Finally, she gave up. “Mr Nelson Mandela,” she told them brightly.

“Who?” they asked.

She gave up.

We wanted to laugh, but as an ex-teacher I felt for her.

AD BREAK

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914

Till next time, take care.

SQUARE AND SQUATTERS

TRAVEL – PRAGUE

Close to the Charles Bridge is the Old Town Square – the focal point of the city.

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Old vintage Hollywood era cars were popular as tourist transport, though I suspect most were only a couple of years old if that.

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The square is lined with high end shops – DH had a very firm grip on my arm –

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The weather when went – beginning of June – was overcast and threatened rain, so many of the pictures are quite gloomy.

They have a Christmas market in this square and even at the end of June, it was buzzing

HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

Isabella decides she’d hung around long enough over all this marriage nonsense and all these men queuing up to wed her (a medieval form of all those unwanted friend requests on Facebook). It’s time to take action and she sends a letter – the postal service was much better in those days – to Ferdinand, telling him that it’s about time they got hitched and he better be quick about it.

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There is something our heroine doesn’t know – her being all good and simple and praying a lot – but her intended is no angel. He does like the ladies and he already has a son by one of them and he’s only 16. I can only think she forgot to take the pill.

Isabella has one condition though. Once married Ferdinand must come to her to get married not leave Castile without her permission. There were a whole lot more things he had to agree to but seems it was worth getting at least a foot into Castile which was so much bigger than Aragon his home country.

 

AFRICA FACTS

It’s very frustrating when politicians or even tourists take a whirlwind trip and then come back with all the facts. For example, I don’t know what it’s like to live in Prague after a few days there. Most guests are carefully shown handpicked projects, on routes that avoid the scruffy side of town and all the hosts are carefully coached beforehand.

It’s too easy to judge one culture by another. Take a squatter house for example. Built of wooden car-part packing cases, with tin roofs held down with old car tyres and draft-proofed with mud. Then you notice the satellite dish on top and gasp at the size of the television inside.

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Many happy residents were presented with newly built brick houses with indoor water connection and electric lights. It wasn’t long after the officials drove off that these new houses were up for rent while the ‘deserving’ families moved back into their makeshift house in the informal settlement. The money earned from letting was more important than the comfort of the modern conveniences.

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Time for this weeks advert – just what you have been waiting for!

 

AMIE OVERVIEW

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lucinda-E-Clarke/e/B00FDWB914

Till next time, take care.