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.

Osama castle

(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

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STREETS AND SECRECY

TRAVEL – PRAGUE

I don’t think of myself as a travel writer, so it’s always a tussle between noting down what I have seen and taking time to look at things. I didn’t keep a diary when we were in Prague, so I’m relying on my memory here and that’s a very dangerous thing to do.

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Many of the roads are quite wide and there are tram lines everywhere. We did take a short ride on one on the last day, and they are more fun than riding on a bus, but don’t ask me why – they just are.

Two views from the Charles Bridge.

HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

Now we’re coming to another exciting bit. I left off when Isabella is in hiding but under protection and she has decided it’s time for Ferdinand to come and marry her, but he must be quick. Lots of people want to stop them.

ferdinands dad

 

But there is a problem – isn’t there always? King John of Aragon, Ferdinand’s dad has fallen on hard times and he doesn’t have enough money to fit out his son with all the clobber needed for a royal wedding. Sad eh?

That’s King John on the left.

Ferdinand 5

First though he tries to fool King Henry of Castille – remember he doesn’t want Isabella and Ferdinand to get married. So King John makes very noisy preparations to send a whole retinue to the court of Castille.

Meanwhile, a party of 6 merchants quietly leave for Valladolid which is where Isabella sits waiting.

That’s Ferdinand on the right. Can you see the family resemblance? No, I can’t either.  I just love that saying “Momma’s baby, Poppa’s maybe.”

AFRICA FACTS

There are a total of 54 countries on the African Continent, among which are the 5 poorest in the world –

  1. Central African Republic — GDP per capita: $656 (£535)
  2. Democratic Republic of Congo — GDP per capita: $784 (£639) …
  3. Burundi — GDP per capita: $818 (£667) …
  4. Liberia — GDP per capita: $882 (£719) …
  5. Niger — GDP per capita: $1,113 (£907) …

The two richest are Nigeria and South Africa followed by Egypt, Algeria and Angola. Much of this wealth is due to the minerals beneath the ground, especially the oil in Nigeria and a wide range including gold and diamonds in South Africa.

Maps often distort the size of Africa, this one is more realistic. This shows you how large it is in comparison to other places.

AFRICA REAL SIZE

Often I get carried away and forget to mention my books, but you can find them all here on my Amazon page,

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

or click through from here to my web page.  https://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com

Whoops, just remembered – Unhappily Ever after my political satire is on sale for $/£0.99 until the end of the month. Picture Fairyland in chaos as the royals wallow in their misery and unhappy marriages and the Green Giant is sent from the Red Party to foment unrest among the happy peasants.

Till next time, take care

Lucinda

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.

prague clock

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).

Bishop of toledo

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.

mandela

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.

Fedinand 3

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.

BETS AND BEGGARS

TRAVEL – PRAGUE

Most of the statues first put up on the Charles Bridge between 1600 and 1800 have met a sorry end due to wind and weather, but they are being restored.

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One statue in particular is of St John of Nepomuk. There are all kinds of stories about him – and it is rumoured the tales surrounding his being thrown off the bridge for one reason or another was to make him important enough to become the first Bohemian Catholic saint.

photo Sergey Ashmarin

It’s said if you rub the brass cross at the bottom of his statue you will either a) return to Prague or b) have your wish granted.

Personally, I think they are hedging their bets and I don’t think I rubbed the right bit! There was quite a queue. (DH walked right on past) but us writers take no chances – you never know!

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HISTORY – ISABELLA OF SPAIN

Next to arrive with a marriage proposal was the brother of the King of France.

Alfonso V Portugal

 

Hot on his heels is Alphonso V of Portugal giving it another try.

He really doesn’t look that exciting does he?

Isabella turns them all down. She is still determined to marry Ferdinand of Aragon and they haven’t even met!

Ferdinand young

 

OK, you have to admit Ferdinand on the right looks better than Alphonso and they are roughly the same age. A bit sulky – but maybe the painter was on a go slow?

But King Henry sends her a letter (or something similar) telling her she must marry the King of Portugal or he’s going to lock her up.

She hides out in a town called Ocana where the local people like her.

Will this girl get any peace?

AFRICA FACTS

Like many who grew up in Europe or America I had most of the perks growing up – a telephone, car, a roof that didn’t leak, indoor bathroom and food on the table. We were not wealthy by any means but basic needs were met.

I also learned a little about the world from newspapers, magazines and much later the television.

grayscale photo of little boy

Photo by Dazzle Jam on Pexels.com

So, when I first arrived in Africa – Kenya – it was such a shock. The poverty, the shanty towns, the beggars, the half-clothed children. There was also the sharp contrast with the suited business men, the fashionable ladies – the wealth gap was enormous. I reacted as many a tourist would – at first though, I did learn not to give to the beggars – do it once and in milliseconds there is a crowd with their hands out.  I also learned to pay the protection money each time I left the car – refuse and risk four flat tyres, or scratched paintwork.

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The day my attitudes changed was when I saw a wee scrap of a child holding a brush, tin of polish and a piece of cardboard. He offered me a shoe shine for cents.

I agreed and every time I went into town I paid him to clean my shoes. Now, I had less respect for the beggars, I could harden my heart to those who wanted something for nothing.  It’s something most expats learn sooner rather than later.

Have you read any of my books yet? Want to take a peep? Why not click on this button.

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

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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.