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.

view of a man on city street
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.

adults airport architectural design architecture
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.

africa map for tweet

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.

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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.

MUSIC AND MUTI

TRAVEL

Everywhere we went in Vienna we were offered tickets to concerts. Now both DH and I love classical music, but we hadn’t packed evening dresses or a tux so we declined many of these historically dressed ticket touts. However, one particularly eager young man explained that the audience didn’t have to dress up for any of the smaller venues.

The programme was very much to my taste, Strauss x 2, Mozart and light opera – no rap or jazz and that suited me fine.

It was held in one of the minor palaces and sadly they didn’t allow pictures, though I did sneak this one before it started. My biggest fear was the tiny red velvet covered seats with very spindly legs, and DH is a large guy and my over active imagination could just see his chair collapsing – I mentally read the headlines, only I wouldn’t be able to understand them as they would be written in German.

HISTORY

La Beltranaja

 

The new princess born to King Henry and his Queen Joan is christened Joanna, but everyone whispers the name La Beltraneja.  Court gossip is “The Queen is a harlot, the King is a fool and the child is a bastard.”

Please note this picture was painted a little time after her birth.

 

Beltran_de_la_Cueva

 

 

Many say that Beltran de la Cueva (remember, he was the cool, skinny guy who was the Queen’s bit on the side) does everything for his king! – even produce a bastard heir.

For this, he is promoted and given the title Count of Ledesma. Here’s his pic to remind you.

 

AFRICAN FACTS   SANGOMAS PART 3

I heard many stories while I lived in Africa about spells being put on westerners. I was told my horses had been poisoned for muti (medicine) as a way of making me move the stables when we first moved to Francistown.

emaciated horse

My head stable boy told me we were on sacred ground, although I’m sure the lady who owned the farm was unaware of this. She had allowed us to use the land in return for looking after her two horses which were barely fit for the knacker’s yard.

I was solemnly informed that I had been warned when two of the horses had their manes and tails cut off. However, I’d no idea it was anything more than wanton vandalism and came to the conclusion the hair was wanted for fly whisks. If only I had listened to them sooner.

You can read the whole story of the riding school for free  here

 

and by signing up for my monthly newsletter you get the second part free as well.

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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.

me 6

Till next time, take care.

 

RATHAUS AND (W)RITING

TRAVEL (VIENNA)

After we left the Vienna Experience exhibition we spent several minutes standing on the pavement discussing which way to go – I won’t go as far as arguing exactly but it got heated. Want to know who won? DH, nauseatingly he was right. We spent time meandering the streets getting a feel for the place – to me the vibes screamed music, history and art – quite heavenly.

This building is the front of the State Opera house.

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They offer free tours and we left it to the last day to go round it – sadly it was closed on that day.

So, we headed off to the Town hall or Rathaus (the name in German) instead. I know it’s silly but I kept imagining scenes similar to the Pied Piper of Hamlyn – how we often think about politicians?

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I’m not sure we were supposed to go inside but there were no notices telling us not to and we were very good and didn’t vandalise anything or scrawl graffiti on the walls either. It was a veritable maze with several wide staircases covered in red carpet over the marble floors.

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HISTORY

When Joan Henriquez Ferdinand’s mummy hears of the intended betrothal of her stepson Prince Carlos with Isabella, she is furious because she is all for the marriage between her darling Ferdinand and Isabella. But all is not lost because Carlos is now locked up by his Daddy the king and is languishing in jail. Not the best place for a royal to get married, even in those days.

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King John is forced to release his son, but shortly after, Carlos dies in rather suspicious circumstances. It’s said that his ghost still walks the streets of Barcelona.

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And it gets worse. Living quietly in Olite, Blanche [Henry’s ex wife the one he had before Joan Henriquez] is now very scared. On Carlos’ death, she has inherited Navarre. She is still imprisoned by her own family, in general she has a very sad life. She also dies under suspicious circumstances at the age of 40.  Like Carlos, she was probably poisoned. What dangerous times, better to be a peasant I think.

AFRICAN FACTS

When we first started filming in the rural areas around Johannesburg, it was easy. The local people were so friendly and helpful. If we asked them to cry they wailed loudly enough to be heard in London. If we asked them to laugh they cackled till we begged them to stop.

But, somewhere word got out that in Hollywood, actors were paid obscene amounts of money, and they began to demand payment. Sadly, our budget did not stretch to this and we were at a loss as to what to do. Until someone hit on the idea to ‘pay’ them in plastic buckets and bowls.

buckets and bowls

It worked! We got our footage and they walked off with brightly coloured plastic ware and everyone was happy.

Later, when I was running my own company in KwaZulu Natal I handed out lollipops for appearing in my movies. The idea was to give them to the children, but the grown-ups were having none of that and queued up to get theirs as well. It led to lots of laughs and some amazing footage.

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This picture is not a mock-up, this lady was having her first lesson in learning to write.

all books day 5 group promo May 2018

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

Till next time, take care.