Thomas Hardy

I’m in a Thomas Hardy phase at the moment. Not only am I currently reading (and enjoying) The Mayor of Casterbridge, but this weekend I had the opportunity to visit the author’s childhood home and the impressive house he built for himself once he became successful – both in lovely, scenic Dorset. Which is all very nice, but it’s not my main reason for today’s offering.

It is, instead, a link I discovered between Thomas Hardy and JK Rowling. What I’m about to reveal to the world may be common knowledge to my legions of followers; it was a surprise to me, but then I’m not a fan of the Harry Potter books, I’m afraid. As a fellow children’s writer, there is of course no reason why I should be envious of the multi-million selling and multi-millionaire author JK Rowling. None at all. None whatsoever. “N – O” spells “NO”. And as a fellow crime writer I have even less reason to be envious of “Robert Galbraith”, and I’m sure her books would have been successful even if her agent hadn’t accidentally let it slip that JK Rowling was the author when they weren’t selling so well. No problems with that. Beyond any shadow of a doubt. No, sir.

Er….where was I? Oh yes – Thomas Hardy.

Well, I was reading The Mayor of Casterbridge (which is by a proper, literary author, of course) and I came across two interesting phrases. At one point the eponymous mayor is scolding his daughter for using Dorset country dialect, and these are two of the terms he singles out: the name the yokels gave to the bumble bee, and the one they used for ‘indigestion’, namely, Dumbledore and Hag-rid.  I would never accuse JK of lacking in imagination and I’m certain she could have made up her own, original names but simply chose not to. Perhaps she was too busy counting her money or her castles or something – which she has deservedly earned, let me make that clear. We just don’t know, but anyway, that’s where she got them from.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to sell my dog so I can pay the the gas bill.


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Amazon Reviews

My international fan-base. I’ve found it’s best to do as they say.

There has been a groundswell of opinion among my international fan-base in favour of a new collection of helpful reviews reviews from Amazon. As you know, we authors treasure reviews from readers, especially ones complaining that the packaging was torn in one corner or the postman who delivered it was wearing trousers that didn’t quite match his jacket. So, in the spirit of encouraging further such boosts to our careers, I proudly present my latest collection:

Very good  (1 star)

This was purchased as a gift so I cant comment on its contents as havent read it but subject matter appears v.interesting (3 stars)

A great read (1 star) I wonder what kind of adjectives they reserve for 5 star books?)

Prompt delivery, but I have not Reagan it yet. (5 Stars) Perhaps you will enlighten us further once you have Reaganed it?


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Advice to Young Men

When a young man feels that a young woman could turn out to be his true love, the

“What a Waste of Good Beer” by Canaletto

question that’s bound to be on his mind is “Is the woman I plan to marry pure? Is she chaste?”

Well, now I have found the means of finding out with complete certainty. It comes from my trusty Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, and the method is from one William Coles, who clearly knew a thing or two, writing in 1657:

It is said that if the juice of the roots of nettles be mixed with ale and beer, and given to one that is suspected to have lost her maidenhood, if it remaineth with her she is a maid, but if she spew it forth she is not.

So give it a try, lads. (But stand well back.)

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Too late!






On the other side it says ARE OPEN

(Or possibly AR’E OPEN)

(Credit: Analytical Grammar)

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The Blog Must Get Through…

Even though I’m virtually snowed in having taken a trip to Wiltshire. Sadly, I’m not snowed in at the lovely George Inn, but I may need to struggle down there later today – just to make sure there are no stranded customers who need help, you understand.

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Allow me to Introduce…

As someone who isn’t very adventurous when it comes to trying new food, I think a gentle introduction like this is a great idea










My next guide to expanding one’s gastronomic horizons will be ‘Dim Sum? I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure…’


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I’d Have Been A Suffragist


St Catherine’s church, Hatcham, ablaze.

I’m currently researching an article on the suffragette movement for the children’s magazine Aquila, and it’s proving to be something of an eye-opener. Most people are aware that the suffragettes sometimes went to great lengths to gain publicity, and that they in turn suffered at the hands of the prison authorities. I’d always been vaguely aware that they engaged in causing damage to property – a boathouse in my own local town was burned down – but my view now is that the movement went beyond vandalism and into the realms of what we would today call terrorism, and that it’s more by luck than judgement that they didn’t kill anyone.

I’m sure the reason I was only vaguely aware of the extent of the violence is that, being an inconvenient truth, it is played down as befits the current ‘you’re either for us or against us’ climate. This perspective attacks any ‘off-message’ viewpoint and refuses to admit to any grey areas no matter how complex a situation might be. The suffragettes were heroines, and their actions mustn’t be questioned.

But there is another side to it.

The ruins of the tea house in Kew Gardens, London.

The movement was split from the start – Millicent Fawcett’s National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies didn’t believe in violent acts, recognising that it would lose them the support of many of the MPs whose votes were needed to bring about change, as well as disavowing the violence from moral standpoint.



The kind of thing I’m talking about is the burning down of churches (the Church of England didn’t support the cause so became a legitimate target) and many other (I’m talking hundreds) of cases of arson, including the orchid house and tea rooms  at Kew Gardens. Some of it was even more sinister. Postmen were injured by noxious substances left in post boxes. Suffragettes used the kind of pipe bombs that any modern terrorist would be familiar with. If there is one case that exemplifies the way it works, it would be Jennie Baines, who was involved in two notorious incidents.

In 1912 the prime minister Herbert Asquith visited a theatre in Dublin, and the visit was targeted by a number of suffragettes including Jennie Baines. Before the event, an axe was

Suffragette bomb damage, St George’s Church, Hanover Square London 1914, including the destruction of a stained glass window dating back to 1500.

thrown at Asquith, which narrowly missed him and injured an Irish MP. During the performance the women attempted to set fire to the packed theatre, and for good measure left a container full of gunpowder near the stage. The following year a train was blown up near Manchester and a policeman on patrol narrowly avoided being killed. Jennie Baines was arrested, and at her home police found bombs, gunpowder and a loaded gun.



Millicent Fawcett


But you will have to look hard to find this kind of information. I read two online biographies of her, and neither of them mentioned any of this.

I certainly would have supported a campaign to gain women the vote, but I hate the ‘I don’t believe in violence but…’ philosophy, and I believed a Gandhi-type approach of civil disobedience would have attracted more support more quickly.

Without a doubt, I would have joined the sadly neglected Millicent Fawcett’s peaceful suffragist movement.


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