Thursday, December 27, 2012

THE CONDOR’S FEATHER – a South American perspective

Review – by Amy Turner, Cascada Expeditiones/Cascada Travel, Santiago, Chile.

“It has been said that this land was the last place on earth which God created. That he used all the pieces He had left over, the deserts, plateaux, mountains, rivers, lakes and glaciers. Not wanting to waste anything He threw them all together and created the tail end of the earth.”

This is just one of Margaret Muir’s evocative and memorable descriptions of Patagonia, a land about which so much has been written and repeated. Muir spends a great deal of time creating a sense of the Patagonian landscape in all of its beauty and, at times, savagery. She evokes the constantly changing colours of the Patagonian sky but also takes moments to cover the vast open steppe with its violent winds and sandstorms that rake the land, so the reader is left in no doubt of the formidable wild frontier that Patagonia once represented to most, even until the fairly recent past. She also clearly has a love for animals, vividly describing both domestic animals such as the dogs and horses that travel with their masters, and the wild guanaco, pumas, ostrich-like ñandus and condors that the travellers meet on their journey.

It’s not just the landscape and nature that feel well-researched and rooted in fact. The Condor’s Feather is actually inspired by the real-life travels of fascinating Englishwoman Lady Florence Dixie who rode across the Agentinian pampas in 1878 at the age of just 21, and Muir’s tale bears all of the hallmarks of meticulous historical research. Starting out from her country house in England, our heroine Cynthia “Thia” Beresford heads first to Liverpool from where she embarks on a lengthy steamship journey to Punta Arenas in Chilean Patagonia. We are treated to all kinds of intriguing details about the boat itself and steamboat travel in general during the late 1800s that lend a feeling of real authenticity to the story. On arriving in Patagonia, the reader learns about the history of the native peoples, the colonisers and the cowboys that roam the land along with Thia herself, without it ever feeling like a history lesson.

Thia, meanwhile, is everything that a Victorian lady shouldn’t be. Outspoken, strong-willed and a champion of feminist issues long before they came to the fore of most people’s minds. Muir also deals with issues of class at Thia’s country estate, Huntingley, in the English countryside. As readers, we see into the lives of both the upper classes and the army of downstairs staff that make their life of ease and leisure possible, with the eternal appeal created by the tension between the two.

Back in Patagonia, although there is a hint of romantic tension from the moment that Thia meets mysterious Welsh stranger Euan, The Condor’s Feather is definitely more adventure travel story than it is pure romance novel. Although Muir makes us wait until the dying pages to give up Euan’s dark secrets, the real twist is not the revelation of his past at all, but rather his relationship with Thia. Without wanting to spoil the ending, it’s worth mentioning that for a book that could stray dangerously close to swooning Victorian damsels falling at the feet of strong, silent cowboys, Muir deftly sidesteps these clichés and serves up an ending full of promise and free of stereotype.

The Condor’s Feather is an easy and relatively quick read that canters through grasslands, mountains and rivers, mixing cowboys and indians, criminals and turn-of-the-century aristocrats. All in all, a great piece of Patagonia holiday fiction!

Read The Condor’s Feather if...
•You’re a regular viewer of Downton Abbey.
•You’re planning to go horseback riding in Patagonia.
•You’d like to know more about Patagonia’s turbulent past.

The Condor's Feather is available as an e-book for in paperback.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Introducing Karen Mercury - writer extraordinaire

I first 'met' Karen Mercury through the Historical Novel Society and thoroughly enjoyed reading her historical adventure, "The Hinterlands".
A love or writing, travel and adventure was something we shared across the Internet Miles (Tasmania - Australia to California, USA), and when I was writing "The Condor's Feather", a story with a Newfoundland dog in it, she introduced me to Ishi, her Newfoundland.

Over the years, Karen has worked hard as a writer, but like many authors, including myself, she found it hard to find the right niche - and a publishing house through which she could make an income from her writing.
Having been complemented on her hot and steamy sex scenes, Karen slid across genre boundaries to find success in the increasingly popular market for erotic fiction.

Here is a little about Karen Mercury from her new Blogsite. Be prepared to burn your fingers when you enter!

When Karen was 12, she had a dream of being in a village on the coast of Kenya, so at 23 she bought a one-way plane ticket to Nairobi to find the village. She climbed the Mountains of the Moon in Rwanda to see mountain gorillas, hitchhiked overland through Egypt, Uganda, Zaire, and Zambia, lived with the Turkana in the Northern Frontier District of Kenya, went down the Congo on a decrepit steamer, and sailed up the Nile on a leaky dhow.

Her first three novels were historical fiction involving precolonial African explorers. Since she was always either accused or praised (depending how you look at it) for writing overly steamy sex scenes, erotic romance was the natural next step. Now a multi-published author, she is currently writing about the Triple Play Lodge in Utah, and lives in Northern California with her Newfoundland dog.

She is specializing in MMF westerns because let's face it. With two men who can take care of themselves as well as you, a lady can kick back, relax, and enjoy the scenery.

Best wishes, Karen.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Eighteenth Century bilge pumps - HMS VICTORY

HMS VICTORY – The Chain (or Yard) Pumps
“Four bilge pumps (two on each side) were operated by crank handles and lifted water by means of leather saucers fitted every three feet (0.91 m) to a continuous chain. Working efficiently, these pumps were capable of removing approximately 1,350 gallons (6,143 L) or water per minute from the bilges.
Based on a much earlier type, the design of this pump was improved upon by William Cole circa 1774. Nearby is an elm tree pump which, taking a direct suction from the sea, could deliver 25 gallons (114 Lt) of water per minute for washing decks and fire-fighting.”
This information was placed in front of the square pump.

The pump in the second pic may be the elm-tree pump but I am not certain.
Courtesy of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

The sequel to FLOATING GOLD - why the delay?

I have been asked - Why was there a 2-year gap between FLOATING GOLD and publication of the sequel THE TAINTED PRIZE?
The reason is because, when I asked my literary agent about writing a sequel, she said there was not much point!

That stopped me dead in my tracks. I stopped writing completely and took a year off, went back to University and did some more historical studies.
But, I held onto the belief that Captain Oliver Quintrell, Mr Parry and the rest of the crew of 'Elusive' were not dead in the water.
Having parted with my agent and publisher, I decided, in 2012 to go it alone and send the crew back to sea.
Hence THE TAINTED PRIZE is afloat - not packaged in the $54 hardback library version of a major publishing house (that was the RRP in Australia), but in a presentable self-published paperback, and also available as an e-book for only $2.99.

My joy is in sharing my work and look forward to the next adventure which I am just preparing to embark on.

FLOATING GOLD - a Review by Leserglede

Floating Gold, by M.C. Muir (Review on hardback edition)

In this salty nautical fiction novel from the romantic Age of Sail, Margaret Muir introduces Captain Oliver Quintrell, a man with an intruiging background, extensive nautical skills and a very good head on his shoulders. As we meet him, he is ashore, having been wounded and recently released from Greenwich Hosital and then stranded ashore due to the unexpected outbreak of the Peace of Amiens in 1802. He is a salty dog who has lost most of his fingers on one hand, an injury related to “direct contact with a four pound cannon ball.” Along with scores of other post-captains he finds life ashore somewhat difficult – his marriage is not nearly what it once was - and eagerly awaits a new command and new orders.

Floating Gold is a nautical thriller that involves a well-plotted treasure hunt. Other nautical heroes too have been chasing treasures on the high seas and in excotic locations, most often Spanish galleons loaded with gold, but none of them – to my knowledge – have ever been chasing a treasure like the one that is featured in this book. It is an innovative and entertaining tale, rich on detail about England and life at sea, and a tale that is very well told. Captain Oliver Quintrell had expected to be commissioned to a Royal Navy sixty-four gun ship-of-the-line or perhaps even a larger ship, but is instead given command of HMS Elusive, a frigate on a secret mission with sealed orders. As there is peace and ships are being decommissioned every day, he accepts the commissions even though he is disappointed.

The mission turns out to be very difficult. The Elusive encounters storms, treason, murder, and sabotage until they finally arrive at their ultimate goal – a treacherous island close to the Antarctic. And hidden on this desolate, dangerous island is a vast, very mysterious treasure of unknown origins that Captain Quintrell, his officers and crew must find and carry back to England. Can Captain Quintrell retrieve the cargo he has been sent to find and return with it safely to England?

The story is entertaining and excellently told. The book felt very authentic - Margaret Muir knows life at sea and has visited the mysterious and dangerous island in the story. Her background and travels show in her writing and gives a sense of reality to the fantastic scenes she describes. However, I felt it took a little too long before the action started, but when it did I liked the book a lot. There was also too little naval action in the book, I felt – but I tend to be a tad “bloodthirsty” when I read nautical novels. I also liked the hero – Captain Oliver Quintrell – and found him intriguing, but while I am quite convinced he has an excellent head on his shoulders, I am not as yet equally convinced that he has the balls to become a beloved nautical hero.

Floating Gold is an excellent nautical fiction debut by Margaret Muir. I hope she continues to write about Quintrell – a character that I feel has a lot of potential.

If you like historical fiction, salty sea tales or clever adventures, Floating Gold is a book you should get hold of – it is very entertaining, well written and intelligently plotted!
Thanks to Leserglede for posting this review.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rack railway to Montserrat Benedictine Monastary (Spain)

A sea of cloud rolls in.

The Mountains at Montserrat in Spain is well known as the site of the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, which hosts the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary and which is identified by some with the location of the Holy Grail in Arthurian myth.

The Abbey can be reached by road, by the Aeri de Montserrat cable car, or by the Montserrat Rack Railway. The lower stations of both the rack railway and the cable car can be reached from Barcelona's Plaça d'Espanya station. From the abbey, the Funicular de Sant Joan funicular railway goes up to the top of the mountain, where there are various abandoned hovels in the cliff faces that were previously the abodes of reclusive monks, whilst the Funicular de Santa Cova descends to a shrine.

The Montserrat Rack Railway - Catalan: Cremallera de Montserrat, IPA: is a mountain railway line north of Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain. The line runs from Monistrol de Montserrat to the mountain-top monastery of Montserrat.

The line is 5 km (3.1 mi) long and has a rail gauge of 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in). The first 1 km (0.6 mi) of the line, between Monistrol and the only intermediate station at Monistrol Vila, is operated by conventional adhesion. The remainder of the line is operated as a rack railway using the Abt system, overcoming a height difference of 550 m (1,804 ft) with a maximum gradient of 15.6%. The line is electrified with an overhead supply at 1500 V DC.
The line is operated by the Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC).[1]

While the pics are my originals (Oct, 2012) the detailed information is coutesy of Wikipedia.

BOOK PROMOTION MYTHS DEBUNKED – for self-published authors

There is so much written about the importance of promotion, publicity and marketing with a new book that new authors often get caught up in it and forget that they are writers.
Here are my conclusions following the recent release of my latest novel.

I did no pre-publication promotion. I did not send out media releases or media packages. I did not have a book launch. I did not do any subsequent book signings. I did not ask friends to buy my book. I have done no marketing.
Currently, I have NIL Reviews or Stars and only 1 ‘like’ registered on the Amazon book page – yet, after less than 2 weeks, my e-book is selling 6-10 copies a day on Amazon and, yesterday reached No 9 on Amazon’s eBook Fiction>Sea Stories list.
So why is my new book selling? And in a genre which is difficult to compete in (particularly for a female writer)?

I finished my final edits to my manuscript on Thursday morning, 15th November (two weeks ago today). On the same afternoon, I published it as a paperback with
I ordered a single copy for myself and that night sat at home, opened a bottle of champagne and drank half (on my own) after toasting my achievement.
The same evening I sent the MSS to Custom-Book-Tique to be formatted for Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).
Three days later – the book was published as an e-book on the Amazon Kindle website.
I created a page on Facebook dedicated to this new novel, I posted my release onto Facebook (twice) and on my blog. Then I sat back and within days was amazed.

The e-Book started to attract orders – 1,2,4,6 a day (90 books so far – not huge, but not bad in 2 weeks!
Remember – No pre-promotion. No who-ha. No costly mailings to libraries or news media. No printed promotional postcards or flyers. NO phone calls. (Yes, I have done it all in the past).
I did send out 6 review copies of the paperback to appropriate places, but so far have had no replies.

So, WHAT IS THE ANSWER? Why are people buying my book?
Firstly, and most importantly – sales are the result of Amazon’s unsolicited promotional tactic of adding the few short words on the book's page, namely “…Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
I understand this statement has a viral effect and I believe that sales grow exponentially from it.
Secondly, that this book was a sequel to an earlier book (also self-published as an e-book).
Other facts which are important but are not as significant here:
This is my sixth published novel, I am told I write well, and the book was professionally formatted (the sort of thing potential readers ‘look inside’ for when purchasing from Amazon).
In the past, I have spent hours on promotion and marketing on previous books and achieved very, very little. I have spent oodles of money on promotional material – in fact, in some cases, more than I ever received in Royalties from those early books from the traditional publisher.

Finish your novel – and if you are confident your work is polished and saleable, self-publish in paper and e-book.
Then ignore all the advice you get about promotion and marketing and START WRITING YOUR NEXT NOVEL.
The novel referred to here is THE TAINTED PRIZE by M.C. Muir

HMS Victory – CAPSTAN turned by 140 men

The Jeer Capstan “was used for hoisting stores, guns, boats, raising topmasts, yards and hoisting lower yards on their jeer tackle.
The upper part called the drumhead, worked in unison with its counterpart on the deck below, and was operated with 140 men manning the 14 capstan bars.

All of the iron stanchions surrounding the capstan were removed before operation. Ladders, wooden pillars and guns in close proximity were also removed.
This Capstan, which is still able to be turned in its original bearings, is the only surviving example of a late 18th century capstan.”

Pics taken by author and information provided on HMS Victory at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

From Garbage to amazing animal sculptures

Sayaka Ganz uses reclaimed plastic household objects as her materials. Her recent sculptures depict animals in motion with rich colors and energy. She was born in Yokohama, Japan and grew up living in Japan, Brazil, and Hong Kong. Currently she teaches design and drawing courses at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW).
Lalé Welsh wrote on FB: “Too bad the very garbage it was made with is what will keep the real things from soaring...”


Nelson was not the only senior officer to return to England in a barrel.
“The large barrel standing at the ship’s side represents the original water leaguer in which Nelson’s body was contained for its journey back to England for burial.
To preserve the body, Surgeon Beatty had the leaguer filled with brandy. Although carried in the ship as an alcoholic drink, brandy was the best available spirituous solution suitable for this purpose.
Under tow by the 98 gun ship ‘Neptune’, the ‘Victory’ finally anchored at Gibraltar one week after the battle.
Beatty used this opportunity to dilute the brandy with preservation fluids comprising spirits of wine and myrrh. The leaguer was then placed in the steerage and lashed secure to the mizzen mast.
The ‘Victory' sailed home Monday 4th November and anchored off Portsmouth Thursday 5 December. Arriving off Sheerness 18 days later, Nelson’s body was transferred into its coffin and taken up river in the Chatham yacht to Greenwich where Beatty found the body in a good state of preservation.
The idea of preserving a body in a cask of brandy was not just done for Nelson but was the accepted common practice for preserving senior naval officers who dies at sea.”

HMS Victory - Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


It was only released last week and this message came through to me today:
I am half way through your newest book "The Tainted Prize" and finding it hard to put down. Besides knowing your maritime history and tall ship sailing, I love that you don't cookie cutter the plot and your characters are so well developed and believable. In every scene you set up, I feel I am actually there through the characters eyes , thoughts, and impressions.
(Lisa Goodwin - USA)
THE TAINTED PRIZE is a nautical fiction adventure set during the age-of-sail.
It is the sequel to FLOATING GOLD.

Shipwreck painting - do you know the artist?

This painting was posted on facebook with no acknowledgement of the artist. I would dearly like to find out who painted this picture, where it is now and who owns the copyright.
For the present I have shared it on my timeline page and wish to acknowledge the unknown artist.
Please leave a comment if you can help at all.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gibraltar's permanent residents - Barbary Apes

Who’s the cheeky monkey then?
On The Rock at Gibraltar – this was as close as I wanted to get to one of the Barbary Apes (macaque monkeys). Walking up the hill, one leapt up and grabbed my hat but was disappointed when he discovered it was pinned to my shirt – (old sailing habit).
Across the bay is the old Spanish town of Algiceras whose history stretches back to Phoenician, Roman and Moorish times.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Remembering the PILGRIM FATHERS - Happy Thanksgiving

This PILGRIM FATHERS MEMORIAL is in Southampton, England.
The plaque read: The Separatist congregation from Babworth, Nottinghamshire (1586-1604), which moved to Scrooby in 1606, to Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1608, and to Leyden in 1609, sailed from Delft Haven in the SPEEDWELL, ON August 1, 1620, to join the MAYFLOWER with its London colonists, here. Both ships sailed on August 15, 1620, for the New World. After turning back to Dartmouth, and a second time to Plymouth for repairs, the SPEEDWELL was abandoned and on September 16, the MAYFLOWER alone sailed to Plymouth, New England with 102 passengers.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

THE CONDOR'S FEATHER - Free on Kindle for 3 days

FREE for 3 days - THE CONDOR'S FEATHER -22 to 24 November 2012
It's different and doesn't slot into any genre category easily. It's set mainly in Patagonia. It's Historical - set in the 1880s before this wild South American country was tamed. It's Travel. It's Action and Adventure. And it's Equestrian all rolled dinto one, but it's not a romance per se, which is possibly why it does not attract reviews. Here's hoping that will change. Here is the UK link:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lloyd's Patriotic Fund presentation Sword

Lloyd's Patriotic Fund presentation Sword

Ornate gold engraved swords were presented to naval men for outstanding duty during the Napoleonic War era.
This particular gold sword is housed in the British Maritime Museum at Greenwich.
It was presented by the Lloyd's Patriotic Fund to Charles Mansfield, Captain of HMS Minataur for contributing to the victory over the combined fleets of France and Spain off Cape Trafalgar, Oct 1805

HMS Warrior - staying clean on an 1860 fighting ship

HMS Warrior equipped with washing machines!

At over 400ft long and 58ft beam and displacement of over 9000 tons, she was the biggest war ship of her time (1860). Her 5267 hp steam engine was fired by 10 boilers and 40 furnaces for which she carried 850 ton of coal.
But in grand British tradition, the Warrior’s stokers (the men shovelling the coal for the furnaces) had white uniforms!

Hence the necessity for washing facilities for both men and uniforms.

For the men and boys who worked in the boiler and engine rooms, baths were provided.
However, for the rest of the crew - each mess of 18 men had two buckets of cold water twice a week to wash in!

But rather than hand washing their white uniforms, HMS Warrior was the first ship to have washing machines.
The washing machines were filled with hot water. The clothes were put in, along with scrapings of soap. Turning the handles worked all the machines at the same time.
Clothes were then put through the wooden mangles to squeeze out the excess water.
(From HMS Warrior – Points of Interest – 1860)
HMS Warrior is a museum ship and a major exhibit of Portsmouth Historica Dockyard.

Cooking on wooden sailing ships in the 1700s and 1800s

Feeding the sailors in the 18th and 19th century sailing ships - especially during voyages of discovery or times of fighting such as the Napoleonic Wars - was on eof the most important jobs ob board ship.
But what were the cooking stoves like? Ad was the fire a danger on a wooden ship?

On HM Bark Endeavour (c1770)
The fire for cooking was contained in the fire hearth and the smoke went up the chimney through a funnel to the weatherdeck. Cooking could be done in the oven but the pork and beef was boiled in large round pots which sat in large round holes on the top - next to the hanging net bags into which each mess-table put its 6 pieces of meat and each bag was labled with the table’s name. To prevent heat descending to the wooden deck, beneath the fire hearth was a layer of sand with bricks, slate or stone slabs.
Kevin Boatman Foster offered this description of the firehearth: The fire was contained in a sheet-iron patent galley stove. The stove usually had a hot water tank, several ovens with sheet or cast iron doors, heating surfaces for pans and kettles surrounded by iron pipe railings, and an iron and copper smoke pipe equipped with a damper. It rested in an open-topped sandbox capped with bricks. The galley stove was one of the most complicated machines on board a sailing ship. Small vessels had smaller sheet-iron stoves, capable of baking inside and cooking on top. The simplest version of galley on a sailing ship was an open topped sand box atop bricks for an open fire to heat cook pots. Those were found on larger dhows and other vessels in the Indian ocean as recently as the last hundred years.

The Galley - HMS Warrior 1850 - Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – here the galley had to cater for hundreds of men every day.

Fireheath - HMS Victory (c1770) - replica - Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Medieval Boat Building c. 1450

Boat building from the Medieval era – found at Southampton’s West Quay c.1450.

This reproduction shows the early stages of construction – first keel, stem and sternposts in position, then the strakes (planks) to form the bottom of the boat. The Frames were fixed to these then the planking. This was the method in northern Europe. In the Mediterranean they built the hull first and fitted the frames in later.

Replica Medieval cargo vessel (Southampton’s West Quay)
This type of boat was used in the 14th century to export wool (from Britain) and import wine and other goods.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Church of the Sailors - Southampton

While in Southampton, I noticed this anchor in the ruins of an old church. The plaque behind it read:
“The Church of Holyrood erected on this site in 1320 was damaged by enemy action on 30 Nov 1940. Known for centuries as the Church of the Sailors, the ruins have been preserved by the people of Southampton as a memorial and Garden of Rest, dedicated to those who served in the merchant-navy and lost their lives at sea.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


I’ve had a blog for years
I don’t post about me (boring!) or on writing per se. I don’t post long blogs, but I do blog briefly about anything and everything of interest to me.
I have no Followers and I have no blog Counter, so I was amazed when I discovered my Blogspot Stats.
Page views today – 77
Page views last month – 1489
Page views all time – 39,863
I would have to argue that blogging works.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Portsmouth Sally Port

I found three portals/doorways/sally ports within 50 yards of each other in the old Portsmouth fortification wall sea-wall. They plaques (detailed below are immediately are adjacent to the Square Tower. All three cut through to the beach from which many naval heros left England's shore.

Here are a couple of the plaques:

Apart from this place marking NELSON's departure for the Battle of Trafalgar, the plaques mark the departure of the FIRST FLEET to Australia, also MATTHEW FLINDERS departure south in 1802, plus Sir Walter Raleigh's expedition across the Atlantic to establish ROANOKE in Virginia. This is also the spot where CATHERINE OF BRAGANZA landed in 1662 for her marriage to Charles 11.
If you we could only see the ghosts of those who passed through this very special place. But we can imagine.

The ROANOKE VOYAGES to VIRGINIA (now N. Carolina 1584 and 1587)
The plaque on the wall at the Portsmouth sally point remembers Sir Walter Raleigh’s second expedition which left this place April 1587, 91 men, 17 women and 9 children to establish on ROANOKE Island - THE CITTIE OF RALEIGH – the first English village in America. The colony disappeared between 1587 and 1590.
For the author on the HNS site who plans to write this story.

THE TAINTED PRIZE - launched today

Nautical fiction adventure set during the age-of-sail.
The year is 1803 and aboard HM Frigate, 'Perpetual', Captain Quintrell heads south to the Southern Ocean. His orders are to find a missing ship even if it means sailing all the way to Peru. But in order to complete his mission, he must face the challenges of the Horn, an unnerving discovery, French privateers, political intrigue and even deception and unrest amongst his own crew. THE TAINTED PRIZE is a classic age-of-sail nautical fiction adventure and the second in the series following FLOATING GOLD.

Available from US and UK as a Kindle e-book ($2.99) and from as a paperback ($16.00)

Friday, November 16, 2012

An (embroidery) Stitch in (Tudor) Time.

On wandering through the back door of Hampton Court Palace one finds a display of work by the ROYAL SCHOOL OF NEEDLEWORK. It is here, in one of the Palace apartments that EMBROIDERY CLASSES are conducted. You can learn Jacobean crewelwork, silk shading, basic goldwork (magnificent) and either canvas work or blackwork. Each module takes 8 days of tuition. There are over 70 course offered from 1 day (71 GBP) to Certificate, Diploma and 3 years in TRADITIONAL exquisite hand embroidery skills as such that decorated the garments of Tudor kings and Queens.
The RSN is the only organisation in the world to teach western embroidery at this level.
To learn more go to or you can visit them on Facebook.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Henry V111's Mary Rose - past, present and future

When Henry V111's ship, MARY ROSE was receovered from The Solent in 1982, the bodies of numerous sailors (and a dog) were recovered from the wreck. Many of these have been preserved and/or been subjected to forensic tests to ascertain more about life in the 16th century.
The remains of one sailor however was interred at Portsmouth Cathedral - about a mile from the dockyard an quite close to the Sally Port and Portsea Beach from which Henry V111 watched his flag ship go down in 1545.
It seem fitting that there is a grave to one of the men who lost their lives on that fateful day so long ago.

This is the new Mary Rose Museum building which will be opening in 2013. I was pleased that I saw the ship undergoing its restoration process a few years ago.
Situated in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, I was standing close to HMS Victory.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

HMS VICTORY - Sailors' superstitions and a lucky horseshoe

Sailors, during the age-of-sail, were very superstitious – of such things as The Flying Dutchman. That superstition continues today in many parts.

In order to combat the evil spirits, a horseshoe was nailed to the foremast and could be seen on most ships of the day.

This section of Victory’s foremast (?) is displayed within the ship at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth..

A cross section of a mast from HMS Victory also reveals the composition of the mast – obviously not hewn from a single tree.

This link from Google books mentions Herman Melville and HMS Victory, Lord Nelson and the horseshoe pinned to the foremast.

On the old superstition: 

"In the month of September, 1825, lightning struck a brigantine which lay at anchor in the Bay of Armiso, in the Adriatic. A sailor was killed by the bolt, and tradition says that on one of his hips was seen the perfect representation of a horse-shoe, a counterpart of one nailed to the vessel's foremast in accordance with the custom in vogue on the Mediterranean.

"In a German work, entitled "Seespuk," by P. G. Heims,  the writer remarks that, among seafaring people, the old pagan emblem, the horse-shoe, whose talismanic origin is so closely associated with horse-sacrifice and the use of horse-flesh as food among the heathen nations of the North, is even now the most powerful safeguard aboard ship against lightning and the powers of evil.

"There are comparatively few small vessels laden with wood, fruit, vegetables, or other merchandise, sailing between Baltic Sea ports, upon whose foremast, or elsewhere upon deck, horse-shoes are not nailed."

Taken from The Lucky Horseshoe

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gibraltar tunnels and guns

Gibraltar - where The Rock inself hides an intricate network of tunnels dug deep inside it for guns dating back to the Napoleonic period plus later eras.
This gun - near the top of The Rock has no marks on the trunnion.
Note: behind the gun on the rock face are what appear to be caves - these are embrasures for the cannon.

The Windsor Gallery was the first tunnel dug into The Rock of Gibraltar. It was constructed by the Corps of Engineers in 1783 after having taken a year to dig. The heavy guns which stood at the embrasures were all hauled up the mountain by hand. The zigzag road up the side of the hill has a series of iron rings in the rock face which were used for hauling.

Downtown Gibraltar - The plaque reads: These four Russian guns were captured in the Crimea 1854-58 were presented to Gibraltar by the British Government in 1858.
Not exactly Rotherham cannons but may be of interest.

Gibraltar - half way up the Rock looking north to the narrow border with Spain (hidden by cloud) only a mile away. WW2 guns point across Algiceras Bay to the coast of Spain.