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

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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.

TRIALS AND TRAVEL

TRAVEL – PRAGUE

That first morning we made for the Charles Bridge – it was a focal point for most of the tours and I had booked plenty of them (I didn’t have the courage to admit to DH just how many)

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There are many bridges over the Vitava River, but you can’t miss the Charles Bridge as it is I think the only pedestrian bridge.

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It was built in the 14th century and, later, lined with statues and today there are street musicians, postcard sellers, portrait painters, musicians and lots of tourists.

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I felt very stupid when I learned that Prague was the capital seat of the kings of Bohemia. (Yes, a real place and not just a description for people wearing Laura Ashley outfits and flowers in their hair while setting fire to incense sticks). The city only became one in 1784 when Hradcany, Lesser Town, Old town and New Town were all combined into one.

HISTORY ISABELLA OF SPAIN

All those important people come and ask Isabella to be queen of Castile now that her brother has been poisoned – but she tells them not a chance – Henry is still king and it would be a bit tactless of her, not to mention just a tad dangerous. There is another war as those top guys fight it out, but I won’t bother you with all that just skip to the end when Isabella and King Henry sign an agreement.

Richard of Gloucester

 

Brilliant, it says Isabella can chose her own husband (Hate to tell you but Henry has no intention of keeping his word).

Now the hoards flock to ask for her hand in marriage. Richard of Gloucester is one – later Richard III of England.

(Remember that little rumour about princes in the tower? – yes that one). Probably a lucky escape.

AFRICA FACTS

I know this next bit to be true, as several kind people who have left reviews have mentioned experiencing this as well.

So, you are home on leave and people ask you lots of questions about what it’s like and you tell them an amazing story or two. There are two reactions. Either eyes glaze over and you realise they are not listening or, they don’t believe you.

You shut up.

Or, they are fascinated and then say how much they wish they were living abroad as well.  “But you can,” we say – (in those days o’seas contracts were much easier to get). Then come the reasons – mortgage payments, family, current job, too big a risk, education, free medical care – the list is endless.

Yes, we had an amazing life full of highs and lows but as with everything there is a price to pay.

A few pics of people and places, both have crept into my books in one disguise or another.

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Lots more to read in any of my books.

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

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.

 

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.

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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.

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

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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.

MUSEUMS AND MUMS

TRAVEL

After another coffee and yet more apple strudel, we walked (I was gazing longingly at the taxis) to a venue labelled The Time Travel Experience – again no photos allowed.

This is a must visit if you go to Vienna. They take you from the earliest days when the city was founded to the present. Each small group has a multilingual guide leading us past talking mannequins, swirling roundabouts with flashing lights listening to Strauss, realistic displays, a superb film with 3D glasses which had me gripping the seat, a bomb shelter with the bombs exploding outside and a carriage ride. It was so cleverly put together and well worth the Euros.

It was time for more coffee and food.

HISTORY

Carlos 2

We left the Dowager Queen mother to little Isabella breathlessly waiting for the betrothal to little Ferdinand of Aragon, sadly he was the younger son and from dad’s second marriage, but then he was King of Sicily so better than a passing peasant. There were talks but nothing happened because while they were busy chatting his father King John of Aragon had a huge fight with his eldest son Carlos, stepbrother to Ferdinand and civil broke out and Navarre and Castile all got involved and it was one big mess. mind in this picture he looks more than a little-laid back.

Then another emissary arrives to grab Isabella as a bride, this time from the said Carlos above. He’s legally heir to the throne, but Daddy has disowned him. Isabella is not pleased, she has fanaticised about Ferdinand for years, as an escape from her insane mother and her fear of Uncle Henry. It might also something to do with the fact that Isabella is only 9 years old, and Carlos is 40.

AFRICA FACTS

I made a complete idiot of myself the other week by putting out a tweet giving the gestation period of a lioness as 11 days. One person noticed which was a thrill to discover that someone actually read one of my tweets. It should have been 110 days of course and the lioness will leave the pride and go some distance to give birth.

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The reason? Often the male dominant lion will kill the cubs. Not sure if he is worried about being daddy and bringing up stepchildren, but the lioness will wait about two months before returning to the pride. It’s an unsettling time for her as if there is a new dominant male he will kill the cub but her sisters will take turns on helping her feed her cub if they are lactating.

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You can read what happened when we edited footage about introducing lions into a game park for the first time in More Truth, Lies and Propaganda.

Till next time, take care.

Lucinda