PANDAS AND PLANTS

TRAVEL

Now you may remember that Austria, with its capital Vienna, does not have a coastline, so sadly the Habsburg royal family could not have a seaside cottage.

But, nothing daunted, they decided to have another attraction instead. Can you guess what it is? A zoo! As the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I set it up in 1752 it’s the oldest continually operating zoo in the world.

We loved it and spent lots of time there particularly as they have giant pandas.

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The lady panda is called Yang Yang and there are three males Long Hui, Fu Long, and Fu Hu. What a lucky lady! And she must be a happy panda as in August 2007 Fu Long was born the first by natural insemination – and then 3 years later Fu Hu was born by natural mating. Yet another baby Fu Bao arrived in 2013 and then twins Fu Feng and Fu Ban.

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They were quite difficult to see, as they liked hiding in the leaves and DH tried to convince me that unless I was waving particularly nice bamboo leaves at them they wouldn’t wake up and come over for a chat.

HISTORY

The Dowager Queen, little Princess Isabella’s mother is sure that King Henry is out to get her children, she is quite paranoid about it, so she whips the two youngest off to another dark, damp and drafty castle in Aravelo to keep them safe.

Aravelo castle 2

The Princess Isabella has lessons and, under instruction from her mother spends an awful lot of time praying. She spends hours and hours each day on her knees.  Court etiquette is rigid, it’s more nunnery than a royal court. Her mother is so cruel she won’t even let her meet up with friends at the local shopping mall.

AFRICA FACTS

Last time I left off as we were filming in deep rural Africa on a project that was excavating the Devil’s Claw. A pharmaceutical company in Germany had tested the root and found it had benefits for arthritis so they ordered supplies from this rural community.

I accompanied the women who scoured the ground then pounced and dug up a root, taking only part of it before covering it over with soil again to continue growing – very ecological and sustainable. What astounded me is they seemed to know exactly where the roots are – the dry, sandy surface of the ground gave no indication that a root would be in exactly that place yet each time there it was a couple of inches below the surface.

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Not only had they prepared an ‘interesting’ lunch in the village hall for me and the crew they had also written and produced a play for us to shoot. A local villager consulted the witch doctor who (not surprisingly) prescribed Devil’s Claw for all his ailments. When we left they handed us bags full of roots, which DH tried later following the precise instructions, but from the look on his face, it didn’t taste nice at all.

All my books (except Unhappily Ever After my Fairyland comedy) are set in Africa which must be the most fascinating continent on earth.

AMIE 1 JAN 28 2018

You can find them all on my author page:

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

or my web page: http://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com

Till next time, take care

Lucinda

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CAFE AND CASTILE

We’d found a good Italian/Austrian restaurant to dine the night before in Vienna, so we earmarked it for the following night, their menu was extensive and the prices reasonable.

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But although we wandered the streets we were never to find it again!

We visited several more churches and I noticed with surprise that they were mostly Protestant. Living in Europe I’ve become used to seeing Catholic churches, but of course, it was in this part of the world that the Protestant movement began.

I found this amazing shop in the cellar and was tempted to buy until I remembered our small our little rabbit hutch at home.

HISTORY

I’ve decided that as I now live in Spain I should next showcase a very famous Queen, a woman I have to admire as she was so strong.

Her story is stranger than fiction, you couldn’t make it up.

Like many of her generation, she was very camera shy. Her grandfather was Henry III of Castile and this is a map to show where that was.

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Based on Image: Conquista Hispania.svg de HansenBCN derivative work:

And he married Catherine of Lancaster, daughter of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster.  They had a son called John and he reigned as King John II of Castile from 1406 to 1454. He was only a year and 10 months old when he became king and he was one of the most incompetent kings on record.

(Don’t worry, we’ll get to the heroine next week), this is just the opening preamble just to confuse you).

ADD BREAK

Since all my books except one are set in Africa, I thought I would share some of my photos with you.

I took these when we were filming in the Northern Cape, a dairy farmer, and his family.

We found that it’s generally the women who farm, along with the household tasks, childrearing, water collecting and just about everything else. This then was an exception and the old man was a delight. He’s taken onboard every new practice he can and was making a real success of his farm. They even arrange for school visits to show what can be achieved.

Another reminder about the Thursday guest blogs. I am fully booked for March but no one earmarked for April. No publicity is bad publicity, so if you would like a feature, please email me lucindaeclarke@gmail.com   or lucinda@lucindaeclarke.com   or you can pm me on Facebook.

Till next week, take care.

 

REINS AND REIGNS

We were drawn back to the Hofburg like moths to a flame. Looking at the size of it, I was amazed to read later that the Royal Palace in Madrid is even larger, though it certainly didn’t look like it to me. The Hofburg is also home to some very special horses, the ones that perform in the Spanish Riding school.

The ancestors of the Lipizzan horses can be traced back to AD 800 when Barb horses were brought into Spain by the Moors. In the 16th century, both Spain and Austria were ruled by the Habsburgs and Emperor Maximillian II brought a few of them to Austria and his brother established a stud to breed them. All Lipizzaner horses are descended from 8 original stallions and are very good at haute école or ‘high school’ classical dressage movements, with stylized jumps and other movements known as the ‘airs above ground.’ (They jump incredibly high and seem to float around in the sir waggling their hooves).

One other interesting fact is that Lipizzaner horses are born black and go a lighter shade each year. (In horsey language you never have a white horse, it’s always called a grey).

They stable the horses and have a full-sized riding school within the Hofburg building complex.

We didn’t go to the show, as we’d seen the performance several times before near Johannesburg where they also have a stud and give shows to the public on Sunday mornings.

They look so angelic, but one bit me while touring the stables in South Africa, we’d been warned they can be very bad tempered, even if they can hop and jump around very nicely.

HISTORY

Over many months I have posted about every king and queen of England starting from the very first king whose name I’ve quite forgotten. I’m a little nervous that if I say the wrong thing then I might be had up for treason – although there have been some amazingly critical programmes on television recently which ‘lift the lid’ on the nefarious activities of the royals and their bad behaviour. The Queen at Madame Tussauds, London

However, they have not found any fault with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who at 66 years is the longest living monarch in the world. What is most amazing is that not once, in all those years have we seen her cough, sniff, scratch an itch in a personal place, pick her nose or do anything that wasn’t 100% ladylike. I wish I knew how she does it. Does she have special underwear that never wrinkles? Or special medicines that ensure her nose doesn’t run or allow her to sneeze in public?

She must be the nearest thing to a perfect human to ever grace this planet.

Next week in the history section I shall be telling the story of another great Queen. I have a few to choose from, any preference? Leave a comment.

ADD BREAK

I just wanted to share with you the fabulous news that Unhappily Ever After was the solo medallist in the New Apple Literary Awards for Excellence 2017 in the humour category.  (Love that excellence bit!)

2017 NEW APPLE AWARDS MEDAL AMedal1000x1000

AND,

the third book in the Amie series Amie: Stolen Future was the solo medallist in the New Apple Literary Awards for Excellence 2018 in the Action & Adventure category.

A huge thank you to all their kind judges whoever they are 😊

You can find both on my web page

http://lucindaeclarkeauthor.com

or my Amazon page

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

As regular readers may have noticed every Thursday I host a guest blog. I am fully booked for March but no one earmarked for April. No publicity is bad publicity, so if you would like a feature, please email me lucindaeclarke@gmail.com   or lucinda@lucindaeclarke.com   or you can pm me on Facebook.

Till next week, take care.

 

 

VIENNA AND VIEWS

TRAVEL

While on our bus tour, we got brief glimpses of the UNO village complex which houses several departments of the United Nations and the St Francis Assisi Church. I just wanted to backtrackIMG_4895 on that a little to show you the pictures of some of the stained glass windows in the Votive Church we’d seen earlier (stained glass windows must be one of the most beautiful sights ever, especially when the sun shines through them). And also a picture of this amazing contraption, which I guess they must use for cleaning the windows or getting up anywhere high? It has a lot more charm than the modern cherry-picker.

The next morning we walked into the central museum complex area as I wanted to take pics of the guys selling tickets for the various musical concerts. They were all dressed in period costume. To my surprise, they seemed a little reluctant to have their photos taken, but I persevered and there was nowhere for them to hide anyway!

HISTORY

Of course, we all know that princesses fall in love all the time but when Princess Elizabeth did, it was not at all popular. He was a Prince of course, but he didn’t have a kingdom or even a princedom anymore and his family was a bit strange as well.

PRINCE PHILIP

It was a big problem in those days, marrying other royals, they were all foreign!

The one Princess Elizabeth chose looked very handsome but had a decidedly dodgy family. His father had lost his throne and was no longer the King of Greece, all his sisters had married Germans and his mother was in a home for the insane.

But, on the other hand, he had lived in England and spoke the local lingo with a posh accent so maybe he would be OK.

qe !! MARRIAGE

In a blaze of publicity and a welcome respite from the drudgery of post-war life, the two married on 20th November 1947 in Westminster Abbey.

Now, this is something not many people know. Westminster is NOT an Abbey, though it is built on the site of an old abbey. It’s NOT even a cathedral. Its proper name is the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster.  It’s the traditional venue for royal coronations and weddings, having the status of a Church of England, ‘Royal Peculiar’  – a church responsible directly to the sovereign.

THE NATURAL BREAK (A polite way of saying that here is where I talk about my books)

Amie Back Story v2.1

Each month I write a new chapter to the Amie backstories, featuring mostly her elder sister Samantha and Ben whom she first meets as her cameraman in Togodo.

Sam is an idiot and constantly getting into one scrape after another on her first trip abroad, while Ben is psyching himself in his rural village to become a man. This is a teaser from the first chapter and you can download the next 14 chapters for free from my monthly newsletter.

This is the link to click on. http://eepurl.com/c-GqWr

PART ONE

Battered and bruised, Amie sat shivering alone in the small prison cell. How had this happened? Where had it all gone wrong? She thought back to where she had come from, anything to take her mind off waiting for the next appalling meal to be shoved through the flap at the bottom of the door. It was always the same, a heap of maize meal porridge, a watery stew in which floated the odd suspect morsel of meat surrounded by pulpy vegetables. The only drink they’d offered her was water and she wasn’t too sure that was clean. Despite her revulsion, when her stomach began to rumble after the first couple of days, she could sense her strength beginning to ebb, and she devoured the food and drank every last drop.

How long had she been there? Days, weeks? If only she’d thought to scratch on the wall to mark the passing of time, but it was too late now.

She took in her surroundings. One lumpy, stained, foam mattress on the bare concrete floor, a bucket in the corner that was emptied only once a day, a window securely barred, too high for her to reach and look out. She could hear the everyday sounds from the nearby market, but no one knew she was there; no one was going to come and rescue her. She lived with the ever-present worry that at any moment she would hear footsteps echoing down the corridor outside coming to drag her outside to go and answer more questions.

All she had left were thoughts and memories of her former life in a warm and loving family thousands of miles away in England. She smiled as she remembered the times she and her sister had discussed their future lives, it had seemed so easy, so predictable, so planned and precise, so ordinary. She could see it so clearly as if it was yesterday.

SAM

“Amie, I need your help with my homework,” said Samantha, flinging open the door to her sister’s bedroom.

“Not again! If you didn’t spend so much time mooning over Gerry, you’d get twice as much done. And how am I supposed to help? You’re two years above me!”

Samantha ignored the comment and threw herself onto the bed. “It’s all right for you, it’s all too easy, you’ll romp through your exams.”

“Only because I work hard, and concentrate in class. I know what I want to do and where I’m going. I have it all planned out.” Amie sounded smug.

Her elder sister sighed. “I guess I’ll go the teaching route, it’ll fit in better with being a housewife and a mother. Though,” she added, “I have no intention of getting tied down too early. I want to travel and see the world first.”

BEN

Seven thousand miles further south sat another young person thinking about his future, a future which could not be more different to the one Amie faced. He scuffed his bare, black toes in the dust making swirling patterns, only to obliterate them and begin again. He hated to admit it: he was frightened. It was bad enough for the other boys, but he was the son of his father who was brother to the chief. They would expect more of him, he would possibly be the first one and he would not dare flinch, nor cry out however bad the pain was. He shuddered just to think about it. It was made even worse knowing that he was the youngest in the age regiment, and on his shoulders rested the standing of his family in the tribe.

Like the dust particles he was stirring, thoughts circled around Ben’s head. He was torn, halfway between the old world and the new. He was now part of the modern Africa. He lived in a house with a bathroom, hot and cold water flowed from the taps, and he slept in his own bed. He attended the best school in Apatu, run mostly by the local British expats who showed him pictures and videos of places on the other side of the world. He watched in awe as pictures of spaceships rocketed skywards, saw men walking on the moon, and listened as they explained how satellites orbited the earth too far above them to be seen. In many respects, he was receiving a similar education to Amie, but that is where the similarity ended.

He was familiar with the village where his family sent him for the holidays. When he was very small it was fun to throw off his shoes, run barefoot across the savannah and bathe naked in the shallow river. He’d follow his father’s cattle for long days under the blazing sun, occasionally screaming and chasing away the odd hyena or wild dog that came too close. He’d wave his long stick and jump up and down without getting too close. To his relief, not once did the predators come any nearer, but slunk off with their tails between their legs.

In his earlier years, he’d enjoyed the company of the other boys close in age, as they ran free as birds, ducking and diving under the lower hanging branches of the smaller thorn trees. They spent hours poking long sticks into the tall, red termite mounds, throwing stones at the weaver birds’ nests to bring them crashing down to the ground, much to the frustration of the males who shrieked with fury. Hours of hard work patiently weaving the strands of dry, yellow grass into the tightly knit balls precariously fixed to the very end of the thorn branches, lost because of the fecklessness of some nasty little boys running wild. He’d competed in the informal running races, mock fighting with sticks against the others, and sitting breathlessly at the feet of the local storyteller. The old man had told tales of past heroic deeds by members of their tribe, stories of how the majestic African animals lived on the plains and the legacy of the ancestral spirits who guarded the tribes-folk from beyond the grave.

Till next week, take care.

 

TOURS AND TRUTHS

votive church

Since we had purchased a 24 hour ticket for the Vienna HOHO bus next morning we made for the bus stop and got on the wrong bus. We hopped off and while waiting for the bus we wanted, we visited the Votive Kirk.

This was built following the attempted assassination of Emperor Franz Joseph in 1853, by his brother Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian to thank God for saving his life.

The next bus took us past the Burgtheater and then out into the countryside.

It was a pleasant drive, through Grinzing as far as the Klasterneuburg monastery. The weather was cold and overcast and no one got off at any of the stops, possibly because they were unsure when there would be another bus back to the centre of the city.

A third bus drive took us out of the city in the opposite direction, the north east, to Donauturn, which is the park area enjoyed by the Viennese. There is a huge tower there a restaurant and a fun fair.  We also passed over the Danube with many cruise boats plying to and fro and tried to work out the where the Danube splits into 4, the river, the tamed river, the canal and the lagoon overflow.

We wandered round the city centre for a while found a great Italian restaurant and that day, despite the bus tours we walked 9.5 kilometres – a gold medal level for me.

HISTORY

By 1944, the eldest princess, Elizabeth had also joined the army, mending trucks and teaching drivers to drive and teaching driving instructors how to teach driving to people who couldn’t drive. I know this is true, because my mother was in the same section and she had pictures of them.

ADD BREAK

The second of my career memoir sees me returning to South Africa and once more writing scripts for video production. Eventually, I founded my own small production house and made dozens of movies for international conferences, awards ceremonies and … for heaven’s sake I made programmes for anyone who would pay me. Over 15 years I traveled Africa shooting (camera kind) in deep rural areas, meeting chiefs, witchdoctors, celebrities, politicians and ordinary folk. The tales are both heart-warming, sad and educational (did you know some animals are gay?).

More Truth, Lies and Propaganda

Caroline died last night. It was a long, lingering and particularly nasty death – just as I had planned. I had originally decided to kill her by chopping her to pieces under a combine harvester, lots of blood and gore flying everywhere. I could see the birds flying up in protest, small insects bombarded by pieces of her, and the cries of the crowds gathered to stare at the miniscule remains of what had once been a beautiful, young lady. But then at the last minute I changed my mind. Why destroy the peace of the English countryside?

I promised at the end of my last book (Truth, Lies and Propaganda) that I would tell you how I finally got rid of Caroline, so I have described her demise at the end of this book.

Are you curious to know what Caroline had done to deserve a vicious and torturous death? Quite frankly I haven’t the faintest idea. Perhaps she is the heroine in a book I’ve not written yet. She is a marvellous example of how you can do exactly what you want to do if you are a writer, as long as you don’t put it into practice in everyday life.

As authors we control the lives of those we create, it’s one of the perks, but we have a lot less control over our own lives. What was I doing, sitting in a small front room in London, my feet freezing despite the thick woolly socks and furry slippers, my fingers numb as they pecked at the keyboard?

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I glanced up at the grey, leaden sky and shivered. I could hear the swish of the cars passing by as their tyres skidded over the wet tarmac and the slap, slap sound from wellington boots as people walked past the house. Years earlier I hadn’t even heard of SAD, the syndrome where you get depressed by bad weather and lack of sunshine. Here in London, I had not seen the sun for several days. I remembered my first airplane trip when we rose above the clouds, and there, to my amazement, was the sun, throwing its beams over the top of the fluffy white pillows in the sky. It was still there, of course it was! How stupid of me to think the sun had deserted us, but that’s the feeling you get when you don’t see it for days and days.

What was even worse, this weather was destroying my creativity. I battled to put words on paper, even though I had a contract to write a series of radio programmes for the South African Broadcasting Corporation. (I shall refer to them as the SABC in the future as I’m far too lazy to type it all out each time).

I had recently returned from living in Durban, a city on the east coast of South Africa, fronting the warm Indian Ocean. There, the words flew straight from my brain and magically appeared on the screen, well sort of if you get my drift, I’m using a little poetic licence here.

I began daydreaming about the work I had done in the past, the fun I had with the amazing people I had met. I remembered the excitement of working in the SABC radio studios in Johannesburg, the friends from the Communications Department in Durban and all the wonderful experiences out in the African townships with the crew, while filming a wide variety of programmes.

But that was all over. I had just finished the last SABC programme and I doubted they would ever give me another series, I lived too far away. The classroom beckoned a return to the profession I had trained for decades earlier.

I was not looking forward to it one little bit. I had heard tales of the modern monsters who now inhabited the hallowed halls of learning. If it was bad 30 years before, it was even worse now, ‘Health and Safety’, and ‘I Know My Rights’ had seen to that. It seemed to me that a black belt in judo and other martial art qualifications prepared you better for the classroom these days, than the three years they offered you in teacher training college in the 1970s.

What was worse, I was not living in the best area of London either, so I was expecting the worst if they even considered offering me a job. I’d not graced a classroom for years, and I was just a little bit out of touch. No, I was a lot out of touch. The kids would make mincemeat of me.

Till next week take care.

TRAVEL  – AMSTERDAM

In May of this year DH and I spent a week in Vienna, and after only half a day I fell in love with the city. It’s absolutely beautiful and steeped in history.

VIENNA HOTEL

We stayed at the Erzherzog Rainer Hotel and I was thrilled to discover it had an interesting history as well. It’s located in the heart of the Freihausviertel also home to many small shops and was established in 1813 by Leopold Nedomansky who was the court supplier for picture frames. The appointment was quite an honour, except the nobles were lousy at paying their bills so he thought about businesses which demanded immediate payment – restaurants and lodgings. He went ahead and built a hotel, but was savvy enough to realize he needed a patron to give it a bit of class. He flattered Archduke Rainer by naming the hotel after him and he was on the road to success. – I’ve always said it’s ‘who you know’.

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The same family owned it for 80 years before selling it to another family of hoteliers, but in that time it has been used as lodgings for the top German soldiers during the Second World War, and if I remember Hedda Hopper and a couple of other famous people have also stayed there. And now, of course, there’s me too.

HISTORY

Now you must all have heard that behind every great man there is a woman – or preferably in front if the truth be known. In this case, as poor old George was catapulted onto the throne, the woman, lady behind, beside and in front of him was his wife, Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, a Scottish lass who had married the Prince several years before.

GLAMIS CASTLE

She was brought up in this little shack north of the English border.

RED CHEEKED BIT

I’ve shared the opening pages of the Amie series here, now it’s time for the three memoirs. My first one, Walking over Eggshells sold all of 37 copies in the initial twelve months after it was published – before I found out I had to tell people about it – I had this belief that people would magically find it all by themselves!

 https://www.books2read.com/u/md7Py3

The first time I tried to leave home, I was three years old. Not that I could have told you that at the time, but many years later, while looking at some childhood photos, I asked my mother what age I was when I wore the red hat and coat. “Three,” she replied, and I remember quite clearly putting them on for my first intended escape into the outside world.

It was a cold, overcast day in a quiet suburb of Dublin at the beginning of the fifties. We were in the lounge, and my mother was sitting by the fire listening to the radio. I walked quietly to the door, hoping she wouldn’t notice, but as I reached up towards the door handle, she reminded me in her cold, hard voice not to let the cold air in from the hallway. I opened the door just wide enough to squeeze through and pulled it shut behind me.

I dived under my bed and pulled out a small brown, cardboard suitcase. I’d thought about this departure for some time and had already made a mental list of what I would need on the journey to my new life. I packed three Noddy books, my favourite doll, a comb and a clean pair of underpants. I struggled into my coat and hat and I was ready to run away.

Quietly, I crept back along the hallway to the front door and gazed up at the door latch. It was way above my head.

“And where do you think you’re going?” My mother stood in the lounge doorway, her arms folded across her chest and she looked furious. Having got this far, there was no turning back.

“I’m leaving home,” I squeaked.

“Oh, really? And where are you going?”

“I’m, uh …” I knew exactly where I was going. I’d thought about it very carefully, but I was not about to tell my mother. She would know where I was and maybe, just maybe, come and try to bring me back.

“Little girls who want to leave home should be tall enough to reach the doorknob. If you go, then don’t bother coming back. I never want to see you again. I don’t want you. You’re nothing but a nuisance. I wanted a good little girl who would do as she was told, not a bad, bad little girl like you.” My mother went back into the lounge and slammed the door.

I blinked back the tears. Why couldn’t my mother love me? I tried so hard to be good. Earlier that morning I had broken a glass full of milk. It had slipped out of my hands and crashed to the floor.

“Look what you’ve done now!” screamed my mother.

“I’m sorry, Mummy, it fell,” I burst into tears.

“Clear it up right now!”

“Yes, yes, but please don’t be cross with me, please. I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I was shaking as I looked at the mess on the floor. The milk was slowly disappearing under the stove.

“You never give me any reason to like you. You’re always saying ‘sorry.’ If you really meant it, you wouldn’t do the same thing again and again and again. You said ‘sorry’ when you broke my best cup. I suppose that just fell, too? Don’t say ‘sorry.’ ‘Sorry’ doesn’t mean anything to you.”

As soon as my mother had gone back into the lounge, I dragged a chair from the kitchen, climbed up and opened the front door. I jammed the suitcase in the gap and returned the chair to its place in the kitchen. Then, as quickly as I could, I grabbed the case and ran down the front driveway.

Till next week, take care.