SPIRES AND SUPERMARKETS

TRAVEL – PRAGUE

While I had booked several trips in Prague, having lost my notes, I’ll have to stretch my brain here! But that’s fine, there isn’t a lot left to stretch.

We went for a walk to orientate ourselves.

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I noticed that much of the architecture is what I call European.

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Prague lies on either side of the Vitava river and is called the City of a Hundred Spires. I suspect this might be because there are a lot of buildings with spires on them.

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HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

Isabella now takes time out to do a bit of travelling round Castile with her brother, then pops into a convent for a bit of R & R. While there she gets the news that her bother has been poisoned.

She rushes off to see him, but he’s fine. She goes back to the convent but the next day he is dead. The assassins got the date muddled.

Isabella stays in the convent of Santa Clara and prays a lot she is very upset – well you would be, wouldn’t you?

AFRICA FACTS

Another observation about coming home on leave when you’ve been working abroad.

All of the places we lived in before we moved further south to South Africa were not very first world. For example, in Libya it was impossible to buy fresh milk, so we purchased powdered milk in tins. We had one choice of cheese, one of butter and most other products – no ready meals, not a lot that was familiar or hygienic. I only ever bought whole beef fillets – which I then had minced by the butcher, or cut into chunks. Goat, camel and chicken carcasses lying on the butchers’ floor looked so unappetising.

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Photo by Fancycrave.com on Pexels.com

Back in England in the supermarket I stood rooted to the floor. Firstly, the sights, sounds, bright lights and piped music overwhelmed my senses. Secondly, I couldn’t cope with the range of produce. Butter: salted, unsalted, English, Dutch, French, Irish. Large sized, small sized, foil wrapped, paper wrapped. It was all too much for me. Kind people stopped to ask me if I was feeling ill?

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Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

We desperately missed our pork products and often on landing would rush to the airport cafeteria and order bacon sandwiches and a glass of real milk. Usually we were feeling very sick by the time we climbed into the hired car! Makes you wonder doesn’t it?

Lots more information about living abroad in any of my books wrapped up in exciting, fast moving stories.

http://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com

Till next time, take care.

 

 

 

HOTEL AND HOUSEKEEPERS

TRAVEL – WELCOME TO PRAGUE

I so often cringe when I read the ‘proper’ travel blogs as mine are simply ramblings of a geriatric couple ‘sticky-beaking’ (one of DH’s favourite sayings) as we amble from place to place.

Overall impressions? Touristy. Crowded. Well Oganized. Pretty. Reasonably priced.

DH had booked an all in package of flights and hotel – and I am in real trouble here as I don’t think I kept a diary this time – well I can’t find it anyway. I think I was just too tired overall and decided to soak up the sights.

PRAGUE HOTEL 1

 

We drove up to Barcelona to catch the flight to Prague and booked into the Red and Blue Designer Hotel.  It didn’t look much from the outside and I thought this was rather a strange name, but everything was either blue, or red. It didn’t look much from the outside but it was nice inside.

 

PRAGIE HOTEL 2

We had a blue room which was enormous. It overlooked the park and had coffee making facilities which always makes me happy – though breakfast was included. We got in quite late at night by taxi from the airport so just in time for a coffee and bed.

 

 

HOTEL BFAST ROOM

There was one thing I’ve never come across before. There was a little note about the pillows they put on the bed – the size, density etc. We were asked to tell them if we wanted harder or softer pillows or a different dimension. I’ve seen room furnishings on sale in Hong Kong, but never asked what density I required my pillow!

 

HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

Isabel young

Last time we left the young princess waiting for the arrival of her new bridegroom – an ugly, fat, dirty old man who was vain and vindictive and supposedly celibate too. Just what every young girl dreams of!

His family was ecstatic about this high-class marriage and Don Pedro Girona sets off with a huge party of people to come and marry the girl he never thought he would get his paws on.

But either miracles do happen or Isabella prayed extra hard because, guess what, at Villarubia, on his triumphal journey to Madrid, Don Pedro is taken ill after supper and dies!!  Saved again.

 

AFRICA FACTS

Coming home on leave after maybe two years spent in another country, was a really strange feeling. Your attitudes and mindsets had changed. Expats had a different view of the world and had to be very careful what they said. I remember putting my foot in it when I mentioned we had help in the house.

My friends were horrified my Ex and I were perpetuating the colonial system. I didn’t know how to explain why it was expected, and even demanded, by the locals. As a foreigner, you were not playing your part if you didn’t employ local people to help in the house and the garden.

I had many a discussion with hopeful maids – or should we call them housekeepers now? – that I honestly didn’t need dozens of them working, one was enough. At one point I caved in and employed two. In my case it didn’t mean me sitting round having cups of tea all day – it meant that I could cope with two jobs at once, including the weekends – teaching and running a riding school.

WRS sign up 3 APRIL 2018

The discussion nearly turned into a mini riot in our local pub as we tried to justify a different way of life in a different culture. While we might have large houses, fair sized gardens and some had pools, most of us worked very hard – especially the men who had to cope with a lot of frustration. It was usually impossible to work without backhanders, fawning on local and powerful officials and waiting for the ‘fixer’ who promised something three weeks ago. Again, the remarks from friends that you shouldn’t perpetuate the system of corruption was not understood.

I’m hoping to launch Amie book 5 soon, until then, if you want to catch up this is the link to my Amazon page.

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

Till next time, take care.

 

PACKING AND A PROPOSAL

TRAVEL

Earlier This year DH and I went to Prague for a few nights. Another venue to tick off the bucket list. There are so many places I want to see and time is running out – not to mention that the money has already run out.

I’d been fantasising about spending a week there as so many people had told us it was so pretty, but DH found a ridiculously cheap four-day trip which included flights and hotel. I honestly don’t know how they can offer so much for comparatively little money.

Having quickly checked there was no revolution brewing, or recent invasion, I rushed off to pack my suitcase.

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Photo by Tranmautritam on Pexels.com

Considering I’m a dummy when it comes to techie stuff, I’m an expert on organising. I have a file of lists on my laptop – equipment to pack for hot, cold, warm and in-between weather. It cross checks with lists for a weekend, four to five days and longer trips.

What is more, it’s colour coded too. (Yes, I can hear your gasps of admiration from here)

Orange donates what I will carry in my handbag, pockets etc.

Blue donates what goes into the big suitcase

Green is for the contents in the carry- on bag.

And there is a sub total in purple for all the things that need to go into that little plastic zip-lock bag I will waggle at the customs men.

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Photo by Riccardo Bresciani on Pexels.com

On our last few trips I’ve been pulled over every time for extra surveillance. I’ve no idea why and I could get paranoid about it. I’ve stared very hard into the mirror and honestly I don’t think I look like a drug dealer or any kind of criminal come to that.

As I pack, I cross off each item on the list only highlighting stuff that gets put in last minute.

In the meantime, DH casually throws a few things into his case and gives me one of ‘those’ looks and he’s ready to go.

So, next Monday we will set off for Prague.

HISTORY

Isabella of Spain

order of Calatrava

There is a lot of fuss about who should be the next king, with everyone taking sides. The next marriage proposal for Isabella is Don Pedro Giron – he would be politically perfect for one faction. He is old, and revolting and once slobbered all over Isabella’s mother – that is conveniently forgotten.

 

Pope Paul II

There could still be a small problem, as Don Pedro is the Grand Master of the Order of Calatrava and sworn to celibacy, but everyone knows he’s a notorious lecher. He’s also considered vindictive and vain. It will require a dispensation from the Pope too. But that arrives just in time as the marriage is organised with indecent haste. How is poor Isabella going to get out of this one?

Pic above is the order of Calatrava and the one on the right the pope at that time.

AFRICA FACTS

When we started traveling and living overseas in the 1970’s things were very different.

There was no internet – so no Skype, no FaceTime, no WhatsApp and no emails. Communication was by mail – real old fashioned letters composed on real paper with a real pen and folded into envelopes – followed by a trip to the post office, to buy stamps and pop the envelope in the box. Then you had to wait.

Sometimes the letters would not be delivered, or take 3 – 4 weeks in each direction. Questions asking how you were recovering from the flu were so out of date you’d forgotten having had the flu.

Phone calls were astronomically expensive and you had to book them in advance. To make sure the family were at home to take the call, you needed to write weeks in advance and wait for the return letter to arrange the time.

Few of us had phones in the house. So, that often meant a trip to the office to make the call.

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This map might give you some idea of distances.

It was difficult for family at home to see how big the grandchildren had grown and often birthday and Christmas gifts were aimed at a lower age group.

Most of us got to go home for a couple of weeks every year, others only got leave every two years. While it was great to see friends and family it didn’t take long to realise you were no longer on the same page – as Amie found out on her trip back home.  (to be continued)

AMIE series BLACK FRIDAY 2 X 99C 24 NOV 2017

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

Till next time, take care.

PURE SELF INDULGENCE

Now I hope I’m not too spammy on my blogs, aiming to entertain rather than scream ‘buy my books, buy my books’. But usually on the first Monday of the month I write about general things or have a little rant. That gets it out of my system for the next four weeks. I’m a little behind this September what with having a birthday an’ all and many kind people to thank for their good wishes last Monday.

It was a special occasion.  DH organized a surprise dinner with lots of friends which was amazing. I got a new iPad – except I can’t work out how to transfer my old stuff onto the new one.

Yes, I turned that Biblical number – you know which one that is so don’t pretend. 😊

I also heard the amazing news on the day before that Amie and the Child of Africa had won a gold medal in the Readers’ Favorite Awards AND Amie Stolen Future won a silver. I was over the moon.

A lot has been said that these awards are worthless, and they do nothing for sales. I can’t say that either Amie books has hit the bestseller lists this last week (well I could, but it wouldn’t be true!). For me though the worth of the awards is an affirmation that someone, somewhere believed my books are worth reading. That to me is worth its weight in gold, or silver. I so often fret about the final product.

I was the same with my media work. The moment I finished the final mix on my video and television programmes I wanted to make them better, change bits, work on them, longer. Of course, with broadcast and event deadlines this was never possible. I would shudder when clients watched the final product sure they would find fault, but they seldom did. Then I worried they were too polite to say so!

There was one exception but the changes needed to be made because one of the organizations featured in the programme had been charged with fraud – hardly our fault. The big problem was it happened just before the banqueting ceremony when the film was to be aired. We were behind the scenes re-editing as everyone else was having their dinner!

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(OK, SO THIS IS AN OLD PIC OF ME – YOU NOTICED RIGHT?)

What I started to say was that while so many authors are shrieking with joy as they publish their latest book, I would prefer to sneak it out quietly hoping everyone will notice it without me mentioning it at all!

But that doesn’t happen does it?

I think I have finally decided on the title for the next book in the Amie series – book 5. Hopefully out in October.

I’ve also completed two more shorter books, back stories to Amie. One stars Samantha her sister with her boyfriend Gerry on a holiday from hell,

Amie Back Story - Sam-Gerry

And the other is all about Ben growing up in Africa, with some interesting facts many might not be aware of.

Amie Back Story - Ben

They should be out soon.

Till next week when I’ll be back to normal with the travel, history and updates, take care.

Lucinda

MOCK CASTLES AND MOSQUITOES

 

TRAVEL (LOCAL)

In the Moors and Christians parades there are groups or filaes either Christian or Moor and they fundraise throughout the year to pay for the costumes and bands and props for the battles they fight. Some towns put up mock castles and use boats to arrive and for the parades there are often camels, fire eaters, elephants and dancing girls as well.

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Possibly the most impressive are the horses. The Spanish Riding School you can now see in Vienna and Johannesburg with the Lipizzaner horses came from Spain. During the parade they perform amazing dressage steps dancing on their back legs – which is something not every horse can do. They take your breath away. (I always wear a good pair of shoes when I go to watch, as they come awfully close to my toes).

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HISTORY

Isabella of Spain

Joanna of Castile
JOANNA OF CASTILE

Isabella’s plan to get out of marrying the very elderly Portuguese King Alfonso aged 32, is to say she can’t agree unless the Cortes (sort of parliament) agrees. This is unlikely to happen as they don’t like the Queen and Alfonso is her brother

There follows lots of wrangling and bargaining from opposing sides, which I won’t bore you with except that Henry tries to make the marriage happen by offering his daughter to his half brother. Yet again, for the moment, Isabella escapes marriage as the kingdoms are about to go to war over all this marriage nonsense.

 

 

AFRICA FACTS

I was dismayed when we returned to England for a couple of months to discover that my youngest was telling her new friends that we had lions and tigers walking down the paths outside the mud hut we lived in. (They might have noticed the inconsistencies in this as there are no tigers in Africa). Thing is, they believed her and she thought this hilarious.

Africa is still a dangerous place the heat encourages bacteria and other diseases to grow quickly. The smaller creatures are the most deadly of all.

MOZZIE

Durban had eradicated the anopheles mosquito that carries malaria – though a new strain now attacks the brain and there is a very low recovery rate if you contract that.

We filmed in a laboratory where they bred mosquitoes and I was curious to know how they fed them. Simple. They keep them in old plastic tubs covered with netting.

GUINES PIG

They also keep guinea pigs, shave their tummies, and then place them on the netting where they sit happily chewing lettuce leaves as the mozzies dine at the same time below. It doesn’t affect the guinea pigs apparently as they are used in rotation in a perfect symbiotic relationship. As long as they don’t try to shave my tummy!

This and other stories in the Truth, Lies and Propaganda series.

Till next time, take care.

TANTRUMS AND TEMPERATURES.

While I am between countries I thought I would share some pictures of one of the local fiestas.

Each year many of the towns on the east coast (and I think along the south coast as well) have a 3 day festival celebrating the Moors and Christians. Now, in case you didn’t know Spain was invaded in 711 AD from North Africa by the Moors. They conquered most of it, except for the far north around Santiago de Compostela. Being a mainly Christian country that was not viewed too kindly by the Iberians and they battled to take back the conquered land. This was not accomplished until 1492 almost 800 years later.

The term Moors refers primarily to the Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, and Malta during the Middle Ages. The Moors initially were the indigenous Maghrebine Berbers.

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On day 1 at festival time, the Moors invade and take control of the town. On day 2 the Christians fight back and on day 3 they all march together in a big parade, usually lasting at least 3 hours.

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The costumes take your breath away. In a few towns they make or buy them, but mostly they are hired from huge centres for the festivities so they are different every year.

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I found this utterly fascinating as in South Africa they are working so hard to bury their history, changing road names, re-branding to Africanisms and using the past only as a vehicle for blaming the state of the present.

A replacement road sign in Durban

Here in Spain they celebrate the diversity and most places you can see remnants of Moorish architecture and culture.

HISTORY

Isabella of Spain

Ferdinand 5

FERDINAND

Since last week I’ve discovered Alfonso was only 32 when he wanted to marry the 13 year old Isabella, but to her that was like, ancient!! The Queen can’t wait to get her married off and out of the way, while Dowager Mummy bleats her daughter is already betrothed to Ferdinand of Aragon. Isabella agrees with this, she’s madly in love with the dashing Ferdinand of Aragon and she’s not above throwing a real tantrum if she can’t marry him. Now that his brother was bumped off he’s the heir to the Aragon throne and quite a good catch.

To get out of this new betrothal to Alfonso of Portugal, Isabella turns to Don Frederick Admiral of Castile, father of Queen Joan of Aragon who is a man of great experience.  She feels that she can trust him.  And he comes up with a plan.

AFRICA FACTS

It’s a mistake to think that Africa is warm all the time. The summers are hot but it can get quite cold in winter. Of course, nothing like as cold as many places. Durban on the east coast is a subtropical climate and the temperature rarely drops below 9 degrees Centigrade. I never needed a coat there but I had several jerseys. The contrast between a hot day and a cooler night can feel so much more and it’s possible to shiver at 10 degrees Centigrade.

AERIAL BEACHFRONT
DURBAN BEACHFRONT

Johannesburg is 1,753 metres (5,751 ft) above sea level and Nairobi is pretty much the same at 1,795 metres. Even towns in Botswana are over 1,000 metres above sea level. As a child I always thought that the higher up you are the hotter it would be – closer to the sun aren’t you? Apparently, this is not the case as Mount Everest at 8,848 metres proves.

Visitors to Nairobi and Johannesburg will notice the oxygen levels are lower at these heights and will need to take things easy for the first few days.

joburg

JOHANNESBURG

Since I have little fashion sense, I don’t need to worry too much what Amie wears – usually cargo pants and t-shirt and good, sturdy boots. In book 4 these became more dangerous than she could ever have imagined.

Till next time, take care.

GOODBYE AND GLASSES

TRAVEL

Now you probably think that DH (Dear Husband) and I go globetrotting all the time.  No, sadly that is not true at all. We manage to get away maybe once or twice a year. If I could, I’d be exploring new places at least 50% of the time.

This week the last few pictures of Vienna (of course, since DH is social media shy I can’t use any that show him).

This first is the hotel we stayed at – highly recommended – and I was particularly impressed to learn that during World War II it was used as lodgings for the German high command. Hedda Hopper the gossip columnist also stayed there. Of course, I had to play the mental history game – imagining I was there at the time.

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And a couple of side streets and a restaurant where we had a typical Austrian meal. I think the Austrians have their cuisine just right. I was very sad to say goodbye to Vienna as I really loved the city.

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HISTORY

Isabella of Spain

About time we talked about Isabella herself. She’s now at the court and life is much better. Beatriz Fernandez de Bobadilla becomes a maid of honour and a friend to Isabella – a very important servant who helped to change the face of the whole world.  I’ll come back to her later and you’ll find out how.

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This picture is a little fuzzy as she refused to sit still while I photographed her.

But the dowager Queen (Isabella’s mother who is a bit, no a lot, over the edge) does not behave well at court, and the King sends her back to Arevalo, probably to Isabella’s relief.

Alfonso V Portugal

 

Isabella turns 13 years old a ripe age for marriage in those days and the Queen’s brother, King Alfonso V of Portugal, asks for her hand in marriage. The year is now 1464. He looks a heck of a lot older than 13 doesn’t he? And to be quite honest she’s not thrilled at all. Not too cuddly with in all that armour and he  doesn’t look as if he has much of a sense of humour.

 

 

AFRICAN FACTS 

SANGOMAS PART 3

We had been filming in a rural village where they had recently installed electricity and the local sangoma (witch doctor) acted as a spokesperson on camera. I hesitantly asked her if she would throw the bones for me. She agreed and I returned a few days later and sat in her hut on the floor. She lit incense sticks and threw a mixture of objects onto a grass mat and chanted. There were some small animal bones, together with Coke bottle tops, half a clothes peg, scraps of material and glass and pieces of painted wood.

After quite some time she said “Take care driving as there is danger. Also, your eldest daughter will need to buy glasses.

gold framed eyeglasses
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I was sceptical but kept my speed down to 30 kilometres an hour for days. Possibly as I was driving so slowly the police pulled me over and noticed my rather bald tyres. They said I would hear from them. I didn’t, so missed the time to pay the fine, also the date to appear in court for non-payment and so they issued a warrant for my arrest. (I had to admit it eventually that I’m a criminal).  It all got sorted but gave me a hell of a scare.

And, within a year my eldest daughter was prescribed glasses despite having had 20-20 vision up until then.

So, I would never, ever discount what the sangomas say – just in case. There is still much we don’t understand.

FB BANNER UPDATED SEPT 2017

Ouma Adede the sangoma appears in all the Amie books, with cryptic messages for her which come true but not in the way Amie expects.

myBook.to/Amie1   At the moment they are all in KU so you can read them for free.

Till next time, take care.

MEET LUCINDA E CLARKE

Yes, this is me! I just wanted to share the graphics that Melanie P Smith put together for me when it was my turn in the ‘A Reader Recommends’ promo. I was just blown away.

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me 2

me 3

me 4

me 6

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A few handy links.

Web page – http://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com

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

Till next time, take care.

COLUMNS AND CURSES

TRAVEL

We had a guide while touring the Parliament building in Vienna.

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I noticed there was not a lot of furniture around – but maybe there isn’t an IKEA in Vienna?

This is where the 183 members of the National Council meet – I thought it great that we were even encouraged to take photographs. It’s really difficult to get inside the Houses of Parliament in London.

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The Federal Parliamentary assembly has naked ladies propping up the pillars. I do hope that the members, while sitting listening to long boring speeches, don’t let their minds wander to other more enjoyable pastimes.

HISTORY

Isabel young

Now life becomes exciting for Isabella. She is no longer under Mummy’s control but that of the king, and she will finish her education at court.  Alfonso is put under the care of a tutor and Isabella becomes part of the Queen’s household.

The princess has plenty to eat, lives in a castle adorned with gold and silver and has lessons in reading, writing, spelling, grammar, maths, art, chess, dancing, embroidery and music.  She lives a relaxed lifestyle, except for the fact that Henry will not allow her to leave Segovia.  However, she is astute enough to have full knowledge of what is going on in the kingdom, the court is a hotbed of intrigue.

 

AFRICAN FACTS 

SANGOMAS PART 2

witchdoctor 2

A lot depends on the financial status of the family of a sangoma (witch doctor) and how long they have been practising their craft, but many have ordinary, everyday jobs as well. I met them in the health department, working in shops and even road sweeping. Generally, they are treated with a lot of respect by the community, and are partially feared for the powers they have.

It may surprise many to learn that even professionals such as medical doctors (even those trained overseas), teachers, politicians, just about anyone, will consult sangomas for potions to make someone fall in love with them, put spells on those they don’t like, to protect them against enemies or for good crops or successful business deals.

I named my witch doctor in the Amie series as Ouma Adede – Ouma is a respectful term used by Afrikaners which literally means grandmother but is often used as a respectful address to the elderly.

The Amie series  has been translated into Spanish and other languages are in production.

Till next time, take care.

PARLIAMENT AND POTIONS

TRAVEL

We had booked a tour of the Parliament building in Vienna and the MP’s were kind enough to leave the building so we could go and have a good gawk at it.

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It’s a very imposing building (I’m convinced I was Christopher Wren in a former life, I love gazing at architecture).

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I just love that sign telling you where you will find missing children! There didn’t seem to be any around to claim though.

HISTORY (WELL KIND OF)

Now that Carlos of Aragon is dead, busy haunting the streets of Barcelona, his younger brother Ferdinand is heir to the throne. We can forget about all the girl children, because under Salic law women cannot ascend the throne in Aragon.

Fedinand 3

This is Ferdinand, but I couldn’t find a picture of him before he got a crown.

Isabella, still controlled by her mad mother spends most of her days praying, but Mummy is now really furious as King  Henry’s wife Joan (miraculously) produces a daughter and so Isabella and her elder brother Alphonso are a step further away from the throne to rule Castile. She is not a happy bunny.

Then, King Henry, summons Prince Alfonso and Princess Isabella to attend court at Segovia, probably so Henry can keep an eye on them. Isabella is now 11 years old and Alfonso 9.

 

AFRICAN FACTS 

SANGOMAS PART 1

Tribal medicine and herbal cures are still alive and well even in the cities in South Africa. You can often see the witch doctors (both men and women) also called sangomas, as they are often dressed more traditionally and are liberally adorned with beads, charms to ward off bad luck and have chicken bladders in their hair.

witchdoctor 1

On two occasions I was told by the sangomas themselves that they woke in the night and followed a voice telling them to leave their homes and walk. They had no idea where they were going but followed paths and roads until they finally arrived – often after days – at the home where they were expected. In each case their host or hostess was an experienced witch doctor who told them they had been chosen to carry on the profession and taught them everything they knew. In both cases the newly trained returned to their home villages to practice.

(More next week)

Amie makes friends with Ouma Adede the best known and most powerful sangoma in Apatu – and I based her on my meetings with the witchdoctors I met and talked to.

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Till next time, take care.