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Thursday 26 April 2012

Of Mice and Frogs (and cats) ~ Thursday Thoughts

Maybe I should run a poll.
Is it acceptable to get p'd off in the early hours of a morning because Pet Puss #1  has found (and abandoned) a new toy?

Now that young Sybil, Pet Puss #2 is 7 months and "been done" we leave the cat flap open at night. (Have you noticed: when its shut, they want to go out. When its open - they're happy to stay in?)

Sybil on my bed
So was it Sybil or Mab who found the frog and thought I would like an early morning romp? Probably Mab because she's 18 months old, bigger, butcher and quicker at catching things. Plus she often brings me gory presents. On the other pw, Syb is at that "if it moves pounce on it" stage. You should see my toes!

I'm not unreasonable, but I'm not keen on live "outdoor" animals hopping round my kitchen, but I tolerate it (anyone with cats has to.) What I do object to is said Puss #1 or #2 deciding it wasn't the right present after all & abandoning the poor thing in my kitchen.

Have you ever tried pulling the cooker out & poking under cupboards in your jim-jams looking for a frog?
Not recommended.

Sybil in my magazine basket
The other thing with gifts of frogs - the awful noise they make. It's like a baby screaming, not welcome while you are in bed sound asleep and having a beautiful dream.
Love em dearly, but sometimes my cats go to far.

Frogs tend to hide in dark corners and stay put. Unfortunately, you find their poor dried up little corpses several months later (or years if, like me, you very rarely move the cooker or washing machine!)

Mice I can handle. Mice usually find their way out of the kitchen, or scurry about, get caught a second time and thus enter the Great Mouse Hole In The Sky pretty quickly.

Mab on my office windowsill
 note my "Jack Sparrow" which has been turned into
 "Jesamiah Acorne"
(that's my best necklace he's holding)
Rats... ah, now one of my previous cats caught a rat, a bl**dy great big one at that.
I'm sorry to say I saw Scrabble (the cat) coming, dragging it up the garden path (it was dead) so I slammed the back door, locked the cat flap and pretended I was out. Sorry Scrab.

Mice, maybe.
Frogs, forget it.
Rats? I'd rather not.

I am wondering that perhaps it is not wise to have two cats.....?

Tuesday 24 April 2012

A College founded on Pirate Loot? Surely Not? (Part Three Tuesday Talk )

The Williamsburg, Virginia, College of 
William & Mary was founded on PIRATE LOOT – aaarrrgh!
              Buccaneers Davis, Wafer, Hingson 
& Dampier
& the Ship Bachelor's Delight

By John Fitzhugh Millar, 2010

Link here to Part One
Link here to Part Two :

19th century view of the Wren Building 
The judge at Jamestown was worried that if he tried the men as pirates and found them guilty other pirates might sail up the James River and destroy Jamestown. He therefore ignored the English constitution’s guarantee of a speedy trial, and left the men in jail for about three years. Eventually, their lawyer, a man named Perry, assisted by Virginia’s new Governor Francis Nicholson (in his first term), got them sprung from jail on a writ of habeas corpus (thank you, Charles II!). He was able to make a deal with the judge that they should be sent to London for trial. This was actually against the English Bill of Rights of 1689, which guaranteed trial in the closest courthouse to the arrest, but constitutional law was not a prominent field at that time.
   Captain Rowe and Admiral Holmes tried to gain possession of the loot, but managed only to confiscate a portion of it. Meanwhile, Cloise, who was the principal witness against them, had died. The three men sailed without escort or restraint to London aboard the merchant ship Effingham late in 1690, their good behaviour ensured by their loot being aboard a different ship. Once in London, the men were free on bail, but they still had to wait an unconscionably long time for their trial in 1692.
   The judge in London summed up at the end of the trial. He told the three men that he was convinced in his heart that they really were guilty as pirates, but he felt the prosecution had not made a proper case. He therefore offered them a plea bargain. If they were to offer King William and Queen Mary a large portion of their loot to be used for some charitable purpose, the court would exonerate them. The court’s offer was not far-fetched, since the crown had recently offered pardon to all English pirates who fulfilled certain conditions. The three men readily complied. The monarchs therefore issued this order: It is this day ordered in council that the money, plate, jewels and other goods belonging to said petitioners and seized by Captain Rowe, now lying in their Majesties’ warehouse or wherever, the same may be forthwith restored to the petitioners.

Mary and William
   The monarchs observed that these alleged pirates had been arrested in Virginia. A delegation from Virginia had recently petitioned the crown for financial assistance to establish a college there. Therefore, William and Mary concluded that the money should go to that college. The college was duly established in 1693, with a combination of the former pirate loot (the College’s portion came to about 1000 pounds, with a purchasing power of several million dollars in today’s money) and some of the Virginia quitrents collected by the crown.
   The college building was constructed of brick, supposedly to designs donated by Sir Christopher Wren, at the village of Middle Plantation, about six miles from Jamestown, and was named after the royal benefactors: the College of William & Mary. It was the second permanent college established in English America. Six years later, the village of Middle Plantation was greatly enlarged to make it into the new capital of Virginia, so they renamed it after King William: Williamsburg.    
   Governor Francis Nicholson, an amateur architect, devised the street plan and designed the Capitol building and the Governor’s Palace, and then redesigned the College after it had been destroyed by fire in 1705.
1702 - The earliest known drawing of the
Wren Building
 by Franz Ludwig Michel a Swiss traveller
   Unfortunately, no building at the College has ever been named in tribute to Davis, Wafer or Hingson, who had contributed (however reluctantly) a large proportion of the money used to found the College, nor is there any memorial (such as a social club) to the Batchelor's Delight [sic. Helen: It is worth mentioning here that the spelling sometimes differed - Bachelor's Delight / Batchelor's Delight, 18c scribes did not have modern dictionaries or spellcheckers!This oversight should surely be addressed. The only other American college with such an unusual source of original funding was Brown University at Providence, Rhode Island, founded in the 1760s entirely on the proceeds of rum-smuggling, but that is another story.
   Wafer, who was immune from further prosecution for his piratical voyage, wrote a book about some of his exploits and his observations of the Cuna Indians, A New Voyage & Description of the Isthmus of America, published in 1695. The rare book section of the College of William & Mary’s Earl Gregg Swem Library contains a first-edition copy. Anthropologists and naturalists today still find Wafer’s observations useful.
    Meanwhile, Dampier had finally returned from his harrowing voyage in 1691, so Wafer encouraged him to incorporate the story of the Bachelor's Delight into his new book, A New Voyage Round the World, published in 1697. The College of William & Mary also owns an early edition of that work. A miniature portrait of the ship Batchelor's Delight has been identified on an early eighteenth-century French map of the Americas, and another miniature portrait is on a period map of the Galapagos. Accurate depictions of specific pirate ships are extremely rare, which makes these two engravings all the more important.
   Wafer next stirred up enthusiasm in Scotland for founding a colony at Darien, Panama. The colony was not a success, but its very existence was a major cause of the parliaments of England and Scotland voting to merge into a single British parliament in 1707.

    Dampier made another voyage to Australia and New Guinea in 1699-1701 in command of the Royal Navy frigate Roebuck, and he returned with copious charts and information on the flora and fauna of the region. He went back to the West Coast of Latin America in 1703-1707 in command of the Royal Navy 26-gun frigate Saint George, accompanied by the 16-gun privateer Cinque Ports. This time, it was all legal, since England and Spain were officially at war – the same war in which England gained Gibraltar from Spain. During this voyage, the captain of Cinque Ports marooned crewman Alexander Selkirk on the island of Juan Fernandez off the coast of Chile, shortly before Cinque Ports sank with the loss of all hands; the pirates left there by the Bachelor's Delight in 1687 had meanwhile disappeared. Selkirk’s experience served as the model for Daniel Defoe’s The Life & Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719. Dampier sailed around the world a fourth time in 1708-9 as navigator under the command of Woodes Rogers, on two privateer ships, Duke and Duchess, and Dampier managed to talk Rogers into picking up Selkirk to bring him back to England. Dampier introduced Selkirk to an excited Defoe. Woodes Rogers became Governor of Nassau in the Bahamas and was responsible for putting an end to piracy in that area of the Caribbean by enforcing an amnesty - and no quarter given to any pirate who did not accept it.

Woodes Rogers
   As for Davis, he returned to Jamaica shortly after Port Royal had been destroyed by a devastating earthquake in 1692, and fell into piracy again. Jamaica was no longer a haven for pirates, so he sailed into the Indian Ocean. While there, he encountered former shipmate James Kelley, who had rediscovered the Bachelor's Delight and been elected her new captain; Kelley had moved from Jamaica to Rhode Island, before sailing with a Rhode Island privateering commission to Madagascar. The Bachelor's Delight, under the command of George Raynor of New York, had previously arrived at Saint Mary’s Island (a pirate base just northeast of Madagascar, commanded by New Yorker “King” Adam Baldridge), after capturing a rich prize on the Red Sea that netted each man 1,100 pounds. She had presumably spent many of the intervening years based at Saint Mary’s (now called Ambodifotatra) and Fort Dauphin (now variously called Faradofay and Taolagnaro) at the southeast corner of Madagascar, and cruised among the Comoros Islands, the Seychelles, Reunion and Mauritius. Kelley and his crew, who were down to only twenty men by this time, were apprehended by Muslim thugs near present-day Mumbai, India. The torture they had to endure caused the death of several of them. The ship was confiscated, and disappeared from history at this point. A full-sized copy of the ship Bachelor's Delight is shortly going to be constructed in Canada for a sail-training operation ( based in Hampton Roads.
   Davis and Kelley therefore thought themselves lucky finally to fall in with Captain William Kidd in 1698 at Saint Mary’s Island. Kidd and his followers had decided to retire from piracy and return to normal life in Britain, but their luck had run out. Davis and Kelley would have been far better off if they had dropped in on Captain Giles Shelley of the 30-gun Nassau from New York, who returned home safely. Kidd and his men sailed the large ship San Antonio back to Lewes, Delaware and then on to Boston, where they were all arrested, shipped to England aboard the 48-gun Royal Navy cruiser Advice in 1700, tried and hanged. Kelley had enough time before his execution to write a memoir of his activities, which was published as A Full & True Discovery of all the Robberies, Pyracies & other Notorious Actions of that Famous English Pyrate, Captain James Kelley. In it, he revealed that he had used many aliases, including James Gilliam/Guillaume (apparently no relation to the Boston Captain Benjamin Gillam/Guillaume mentioned above), Sampson Marshall, and Gilliam/Guillaume Gabriel Loffe or Lawes. For some reason, Kelley’s entire piratical fortune ended in the hands of Rhode Island’s Governor Samuel Cranston, who was in the habit of passing out privateering commissions to any generous, would-be pirate who asked him.


John F Miller runs a superb B & B Newport House in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia - worth a visit!
John and wife, Cathy
John is also connected with the building of a couple of replica ships - Rose, now known as HMS Surprise (yes, the one in the Master & Commander movie) and the Lady Washington - known to Jack Sparrow fans as Interceptor... 

Lady Washington

Interested in Nautical matter, especially nautical fiction? Why not come along to the London2012 Historical  Novel  Conference - and join us at The Captain's Table - our special Workshop group on All Things Nautical

Woodes Rogers and William Dampier both appear as characters in the first of my Sea Witch Voyages - details of the books here

Fancy a trip to Colonial Williamsburg?
 I pop across quite often - via their webcam
 Don't forget UK people, Virginia is about 6 hours behind GMT 
at the time of writing this (10.30 a.m.)
 it is still night over there!

update addendum in comments below!

Thursday 19 April 2012

The Blood(y) Test - Thursday Thoughts

I have to go for a blood test. All to do with my high blood pressure, possible thyroid etc. Now I don't mind going for a blood test, but this whole thing is turning into a bit of a saga.

I reckon I could make a novel out of it.
Blood test #1 last year. GP didn't seem concerned by it, barely looked at the results and told me there was nothing wrong. Great, except my optician was concerned because there obviously was something wrong.

Turned out I had high blood pressure and mild glaucoma. Eye drops for the rest of my life and tablets to keep the blood pressure down (and told to not get stressed.) The main time I get stressed is when at the doctor's surgery....

A few months later I see another doctor who says I should have had another blood test. No problem - except he wanted me to up the dose for the tablets and go for a test in two weeks. Christmas was in the middle of all that. I went for the test (lots of waiting around lah lah lah) the results never arrived.
Lost, gone AWOL, whatever....

Back to the GP - the one I originally saw, who stated "But your blood pressure is normal. Why do you want more tablets?"
Now I'm not usually very bold with doctors (no idea why, I don't have a problem speaking my mind elsewhere) but that remark annoyed me.

"Maybe" I said menacingly, "my blood pressure is normal because I am taking the tablets."

When I went back for the next repeat I made sure I saw the decent quack. Who sent me for another blood test. (To replace the one that hadn't turned up)

It involves going by car and finding a parking space. Designed to put the blood pressure up.
I get there, walk into the clinic and find it had closed five minutes beforehand (took ten minutes to park the car) I was furious. They had altered the times of the clinic - nothing about changed times on the form I was given, nothing about changed times on the Internet (I'd looked - to check the times)

So today - as soon as I've written this and had my shower and got dressed I am going on yet another Great Blood-letting Expedition.

If you hear the equivalent of Vesuvius erupting you'll know my blood pressure has gone sky high and burst.

And how much do they take? A whole phial?
Gracious that's nearly an arm full!

(UK people my age will know that quote from the marvellous comedy Tony Hancock sketch, the Blood Donor)

Tuesday 17 April 2012

A College founded on Pirate Loot? Surely Not? (Part Two Tuesday Talk )

The Williamsburg, Virginia, College of 
William & Mary was founded on PIRATE LOOT – aaarrrgh!

              Buccaneers Davis, Wafer, Hingson 
& Dampier
& the Ship Bachelor's Delight

By John Fitzhugh Millar, 2010

Link here to read Part One

While on the west coast of America, Davis’ ship sacked Guayaquil, Ecuador and raided various other ports, including Leon and El Realejo in Nicaragua, Paita and Sana in Peru (impressive ruins of Sana, destroyed by a natural disaster 35 years later, are now a proud tourist attraction featuring the pirates!), and Arica in Chile. However, not all their raids ashore produced useful treasure, and one raid on Panama went badly wrong. One Spanish ship they captured was full of slaves from Africa, so they set them free ashore, and welcomed a few (including Peter Cloise) into the crew of Bachelors Delight.

Tall Ship in the Chesapeake Bay
   Dampier eventually tired of this life, so he joined the crew of Captain Charles Swan’s Cygnet (another formerly Spanish merchant ship captured by English buccaneers) as navigator, and sailed west across the Pacific to complete his second voyage around the world. The fractious crew left Captain Swan on the beach in the Philippines. Then after he had made extensive observations of the geography, flora and fauna of the wild north coast of Australia (which Joseph Banks found very useful about 80 years later), Dampier himself was marooned with one colleague by the mutinous crew in the Nicobar Islands (between India and Malaysia), and yet the pair amazingly survived a long ocean voyage on a small raft or dugout-canoe with outrigger they had built, until they were picked up at Banda Aceh in Sumatra by a merchant ship headed for England.
   When asked how much is enough, John D. Rockefeller once said, “Always a little more,” but the crew of the Bachelors Delight came to the conclusion in mid-1687 that they had indeed gained enough treasure. That was also the same moment when they heard the news at Panama that the dreadful King James was being thrown out by Parliament and replaced by his daughter Mary and her husband William. Life in England would definitely be better under William and Mary than it was under James. Moreover, James had just signed a proclamation offering amnesty to pirates who registered with English authorities. Therefore, they decided to sail back to England.
   The adventurers prudently planned to hedge their bets. They buried approximately one third of their treasure at Chatham Bay on the north coast of Cocos Island, 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, in case they were somehow deprived of the rest of their loot on the way home. (Helen: this is interesting - most of the history of pirates books I've read claim that the Treasure Island notion that pirates buried their treasure is a myth. This rather proves that it wasn't!)
 It is said that Cocos Island (now Isla del Coco National Park), which is only five miles long, is the site of no fewer than three treasures from separate pirate ships, but, in spite of many expeditions mounted over the years by treasure seekers, nothing of value has ever been found from any of them. It is now illegal to dig there. (Helen: hmm so maybe it is a myth after all :-(  )
   Several of the crew, who had lost their shares through gambling, asked to be put ashore on Juan Fernandez Island as the ship headed south past Chile. What became of them is not recorded, but they were probably rescued by other visiting ships in a short space of time.
Rounding the Horn
   They rounded Cape Horn in dreadful weather in the autumn of 1687. A book published in 1803 asserted that Davis and his ship were the first people ever to see Antarctica (the next people were as late as 1820!), and it was probably the result of the ship being blown off-course through Drake’s Channel towards the Antarctic Peninsula at this passage off Cape Horn, although it could also have been on the sail back to Chile from New Zealand. When they reached the tropics in the Atlantic, Dr. Wafer called a meeting of the entire crew. He told them that if they all appeared in England at the same time with their loot, they would probably be recognized to be pirates, and could be arrested and hanged in spite of any royal proclamation. He suggested that they should draw straws. The men with the first three short straws (among them was notorious pirate James Kelley, who had joined the crew because he was an old friend of Cook) should get off in Jamaica with their share of the loot, the next three in the Bahamas, the next in South Carolina, and so forth. The remainder would sell the ship in Philadelphia (which had been founded only a few years earlier), and take passage onwards to other colonies on coastal ferries. After remaining in the colonies for two or three years, they could drift back to England if they wanted to. They agreed. Davis accepted a royal pardon from the governor at Port Royal, Jamaica, and let it be known that the coin treasure to be divided among the crew came to more than 50,000 Spanish dollars, plus countless jewels and silver and gold plate.

   As planned, they sold the ship in Philadelphia, apparently to one or more of the pirates in their crew, because the ship next surfaced in a pirate cruise on the other side of the world. Wafer and Davis, along with seaman John Hingson and a former Spanish slave, the African Peter Cloise, drew the straws for Virginia. They sailed down the Chesapeake Bay from Philadelphia on a local ferry and dropped off three crewmen in Sussex County in what later became Delaware (their plantation, named Bachelor’s Delight, was located where the village of Laurel now stands), and they dropped off a crewman named Berry (and presumably his two colleagues) in Maryland, where Berry named his land Bachelor’s Delight in Charles County. Then they registered as ex-pirates with Commander Thomas Allen of HMS Quaker, 10 guns, and managed to deposit their loot with a local banker. Wafer said he intended settling in Norfolk. They were immediately arrested, however, at Jamestown under suspicion of piracy within hours of their arrival by order of Captain Simon Rowe of HMS Dumbarton, 20 guns; he said he was acting under orders of Admiral Sir Robert Holmes, whose vigorous anti-pirate campaign stepped on the toes of many colonial officials. Davis had been recognized from his piratical activities from a decade earlier. The royal pardon he received in Jamaica apparently carried no weight in Virginia.

Part Three Next Week

John F Miller runs a superb B & B Newport House in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia - worth a visit!
John and wife, Cathy
John is also connected with the building of a couple of replica ships - Rose, now known as HMS Surprise (yes, the one in the Master & Commander movie) and the Lady Washington - known to Jack Sparrow fans as Interceptor... 

Thursday 12 April 2012

Is all this marketing worth it? ~ Thursday Thoughts

Facebook, Twitter, Blogs. Answer the string of e-mails, add comments, click the "like" button. Smile, say thank you for the ReTweets, the Mentions.
And that is all before breakfast! 

Is it worth it, all this marketing? The being nice to people I don't know and probably will never know, in the forlorn hope that by being nice they will buy a book?

That's what it is all about - getting my name, and therefore my books, known, because, let's face it, there is no point in me writing a novel of anything between 130-170,000 words (that's a lot of words) if not a soul is going to buy a single finished copy.

But it is not considered etiquette to say outright "Hey! This is a good book! Buy it! Read it!" - although the occasional shameless plug is permissible. I had a mad weekend last weekend, plugging my Discovering the Diamond.

 I did feel awkward posting up about it everywhere BUT, and this is the point, I was pushing it because it was free. A weekend special deal on Kindle. So I felt I was not asking people to spend money, I was saying "Hey, its free!"
Well yes, in the hope that these nice people would then buy another book as well...

But if you don't tootle your own trumpet occasionally, no one else is going to toot-toot it for you are they?

The thing is not to go on and on about "my (your) book". I'm afraid the endless "read my book", "take a look at my book", "hey, you'll love my book" could result in me blocking, removing, unfollowing and unfriending.

I don't want to read/buy/look at your book. I want to chat to you, find out who you are, what you do. I want to be entertained by witty conversation, share a laugh - maybe even a few tears. I want to get to know you.... then.... and only then, I might look at your book.

So that is how it works folks. The nitty-gritty facts of an author trying to jump up and down among the thousands of other authors, trying, desperately to be noticed.

On the other hand, Tweeting, Facebooking and Blogging has meant that I have met many fabulous people (you know who you are!)  Who are now good acquaintances or cherished friends.

I may only sell a few books by waffling on about these things, but who cares - I have a treasure chest of friends! So yes, the marketing is worth it. 

 (er .... any chance of you buying one of my books?)

Tuesday 10 April 2012

A College founded on Pirate Loot? Surely not? (Tuesday Talk - Part One)

The Williamsburg, Virginia, College of 
William & Mary was founded on PIRATE LOOT – aaarrrgh!

              Buccaneers Davis, Wafer, Hingson 
& Dampier
& the Ship Bachelor's Delight

     In 1682, Charles II (reigned 1660-1685) was regarded by many at the time as the best king England ever had. For example, the charter he issued to Rhode Island in 1662 is a model of liberalism, and his Habeas Corpus Act of 1679 is a cornerstone of Western law. However, since Charles had no legitimate children, it was becoming obvious that his brother James would be the next king, and James had a good chance of becoming the worst king England ever had. Therefore, a group of about fifty men in their early twenties decided to get out while the getting was good, and seek their fortunes elsewhere. They intended to go on a “privateering” voyage (a polite word for “pirating”) to the Caribbean, even though they knew little about sailing. 
  Technically, privateering meant being licensed by the English government to attack enemy ships in wartime, whereas pirates had no such license. Our group of men had no such license, but they did not see that as an insurmountable problem.
   They bought an old ship called Revenge, which had been captured by pirates from the French in the Caribbean, and they hired its previous owner, an experienced professional captain, John Cook (or Cooke,) who had commanded a pirate fleet a short time previously. Cook declared that the most important asset for a pirate cruise would be a competent doctor. They first sailed to the Caribbean, where they picked up Dr. Lionel Wafer (also spelled DelaWafer), ship’s “chirurgeon” (surgeon) in Panama. Wafer (1640-1705) had served Cook’s fleet of pirates as surgeon in 1679, until he had been persuaded to join another group of pirates commanded by Bartholomew Sharp off Cartagena, Colombia. Sharp and his men had abandoned Wafer in the jungles of Panama when the doctor had been seriously wounded in the thigh by the accidental explosion of a keg of gunpowder. The Cuna Indians had not only saved his life but also completely healed the wound, thanks to their skill with herbal medicine, which they also taught Wafer. In fact, when Cook first arrived, he failed to recognize Wafer, since Wafer was dressed and painted exactly like the Indians! One of Wafer’s friends, John Hingson (also spelled Hinson and Hingsett), had stood by him, so he was also welcomed aboard Revenge.
   Wafer and Hingson had heard that another old colleague, William Dampier (1651-1715), was hiding out at Hampton, Virginia (note: Hampton was known as Elizabeth City until 1706, so Dampier would not have known the name Hampton), hoping to escape the notice of the authorities after some notorious pirate adventures. Also hiding with Dampier was Edward Davis. Dampier had sailed around the world in 1679, so his expertise was considered to be crucial to the success of this voyage. The would-be pirates therefore sailed from Panama to Hampton, where they arrived in April 1683. They quickly persuaded Dampier and Davis to join them, and sailed on 23 August for the Guinea Coast of Africa, where they arrived in November.

William Dampier
   Their ship being rotten, the crew members were on the look-out to seize an appropriate replacement. They spotted a small, brand-new Danish ship anchored in the Sierra Leone River, presumably waiting for a cargo of slaves. Dampier and crewman William Ambrosia Cowley engaged the Danish owners in an all-night card game with the ship as the intended stakes. They won the game, and renamed the new ship Bachelor's Delight (sometimes spelt Batchelor's Delight - as you may have noticed with personal names, spelling was not uniform in those days). The ship was described as “pretty.” Some reports describe her as a large frigate of up to 40 guns, but other sources, including two pictures of her, show her to have been a mere corvette of 14 main guns. Presumably, the Danes received the rotten Revenge as a consolation prize. One crew member later asserted with false bravado that they had seized the Danish ship by force, that she was loaded with female slaves, whom the pirates took as consorts, and that they burned the Revenge so as to leave no trace, but the surviving evidence does not support such an interpretation.
   Here it should be noted that another ship of about the same size and appearance called Bachelor’s Delight, with Benjamin Gillam/Guillaume (1662-1706) as captain and John Outlaw as mate, sailed from Boston on a “privateering” voyage to Hudson’s Bay on 21 June 1682, arriving at Nelson River on 18 August at the southwest corner of Hudson’s Bay, in what would later be called Manitoba. The crew founded a private fort that would later be called York Factory (subsequently a principal outpost of the Hudson’s Bay Company), but fort, ship and men were all temporarily captured by the French adventurers Radisson and Groseillers. Ship and crew spent the winter under arrest in Hudson’s Bay and sailed to Quebec the following summer, where they were released by French authorities in October 1683. This is clearly a different ship.

   Cook, Dampier, Davis, and Wafer told the rest of the crew that the Caribbean was not a fruitful place to be a pirate because it was infested with Spanish military patrols. The chief pirate bases at Tortuga and Petit-Goave (Haiti) were being suppressed, leaving only Port Royal, near Kingston, Jamaica, which had not yet been destroyed by the earthquake of 1692. A far better place would be along the Pacific coast of Latin America. No roads could be built along that coast, because it was mostly vertical all the way up to the peaks of the Andes. Thus, all the Spanish silver, gold and jewels from the mines of the interior had to move along that coast in mostly unarmed merchant ships in order to get them to Panama. The Spanish knew that it was almost impossible to sail around Cape Horn, so they felt quite safe in not fortifying their cities on the West Coast and in not paying for warships to police the seas there, and not even arming most of their merchant ships.

Cape Horn
   Accordingly, the English adventurers in their well-built ship sailed around Cape Horn, and for the next several years they plundered from Chile to California, with a string of exciting adventures of avoiding and defeating Spanish military opposition. They were easily able to hide in the numerous islands along the coast, including the Galapagos off the coast of Ecuador and Juan Fernandez off the coast of Chile. They were the first Englishmen ever to see the Galapagos, and the charts they made from their measurements were the standard charts of the Galapagos well into the nineteenth century. Dampier made extensive notes and observations of the wildlife there that Darwin found of great interest 150 years later. Along with Cowley, Dampier made the first charts of the Galapagos, and gave the islands their present-day English names. The crew members of the Bachelors Delight were also the first Europeans to see Easter Island far off the coast of Chile, although they gave it a different name, and they did not stop to explore it; it was not rediscovered until Easter Day 1772.

    Cook died off Costa Rica in 1684 of an illness picked up in Chile, and the crew voted to replace him with the experienced Edward Davis, Dampier’s friend.

   By this time, several English and French “privateer” ships (formerly Spanish merchant ships, captured and armed by disorganized English and French pirates, who had crossed the Isthmus of Panama on foot) were operating along the west coast of Latin America, and some of them formed an alliance to attack a Spanish treasure convoy. Three French captains, Francois Grognier, Pierre le Picard, and the Sieur Raveneau de Lussan, failed to support Bachelors Delight, which suffered heavy damage and several deaths during the attack as a result. The English decided to avoid the unreliable French corsairs in the future.

   After this incident, a fleet of hastily-armed Spanish government ships (doubtless merchant-ships seized without payment) gave chase, so the English aboard Bachelors Delight sailed due west from Chile with the Spanish in hot pursuit for a few days. The Spanish gave up the chase, but the English were unaware of that, so they kept sailing for a few weeks until the lookout called out, “Land-ho!” They spotted the long, high coast of an unknown land, which they called Davisland after their captain. They must have been the first westerners ever to see the east coast of New Zealand, which is what it turned out to be. The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman had visited the west coast in 1642, but without stopping. When French explorer Marion du Fresne and the British navigator James Cook came to New Zealand in the 1770s, many of their men were eaten by the Maoris (the Maoris did not write, so it was not recorded whether the French sailors, with their garlic, tasted better than the British), so it was probably lucky that Davis, just as he did later at Easter Island, prudently gave strict orders that no member of the crew should go ashore.
   However, if they had gone ashore, perhaps they would have seen giant Moas, a mostly nocturnal, wingless, flightless bird, whose females sometimes stood over 16 feet tall and weighed 600 pounds – essentially emus the size of a giraffe! They were considerably taller than the 1000-pound elephant bird of Madagascar. Preying on the moas were Haast Eagles, whose wings spanned up to 14 feet – more than two feet greater than any bird living today. Both species of giant birds became extinct by 1830. Actually, Dampier and Wafer, the two literary members of the crew, never mentioned the birds in their journals, but it is possible that the men on lookout duty may have seen the birds – and thought merely that they had drunk too much rum! The adventurers then returned to South America as fast as they could sail, taking a more southerly route to catch the strong westerly winds in that latitude.

Part Two next Tuesday!

John F Miller runs a superb B & B Newport House in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia - worth a visit!

John and wife, Cathy
John is also connected with the building of a couple of replica ships - Rose, now known as HMS Surprise (yes, the one in the Master & Commander movie) and the Lady Washington - known to Jack Sparrow fans as Interceptor... 

Rose / Surprise
Lady Washington

Thursday 5 April 2012

Milk? Semi or full cream? - Tuesday Talk

My 'Tuesday Talk posting is meant to be just that - random things that I'm thinking or talking about (interspersed with interesting guests who pop in to talk about interesting things)

This morning I'm thinking about milk.

Many of us have semi skimmed milk because we don't want the fat content, right? We settle for semi-skimmed because full skimmed is more like white water and tastes horrible. Semi-skimmed doesn't have that much flavour either - but with all the talk about obesity & mustn't eat/drink fat la la la .... semi-skimmed it is.

The Milk Factory
Last week on Radio 4's Woman's Hour they had an interview with a nutritionist (can't remember her name now) but she basically talked about the reason why so many of us are lacking in the vitamins we need - especially Vitamin D, which is relevant to those of us with S.A.D. (the seasonal syndrome which causes depression in winter. I take vitamin D tablets to guard against it  - they work.)

And guess what? The vitamins and essential stuff in milk is in the fat content bit. For the fat content in milk to affect your weight (i.e. the bit that stays in the body and puts fat on, as opposed to being processed as nutrients or expelled) you would have to drink at least a gallon of milk a day.

By drinking semi-skimmed milk all we are doing is removing the essential stuff we need - and denying ourselves that lovely creamy taste of full milk on our cornflakes of a morning.
So, since last week we've stopped having semi-skimmed in my family and gone back to "real" milk. Breakfast is now enjoyable again; tea and coffee tastes better (especially coffee) and I'm drinking more glasses of nice, cold, milk. Lovely.

Moo - drink my milk - its good for you!
I honestly don't know if it is relevant - and its probably nothing more than a co-incidence, but since changing milk I have finally managed to lose 1lb in weight. Up until now, despite not having chocolate, crisps, biscuits, cake, fries, bacon sandwich etc etc I've still put weight on.

Anyone know of a good milk only diet?

Thank you for visiting - come back soon!

Tuesday 3 April 2012

Bad Boys. Heroes or Cads? (Tuesday (recycled) Talk:

As most things are Green-geared and recycling is encouraged … and I haven’t got a lot of time today, I thought I would recycle an older post that was buried way down in the archives.

Before I get shouted at for being sexist I’m mainly talking about the heroes here – the drop dead gorgeous guys. Reason being, I prefer a drop dead gorgeous guy to a sultry, big busted, sexy seductive female. Bit bread & bread to me, I like a thick spread of butter and lots of jam! :-)
Guys (or gays) reading this, feel free to add your views in comments at the bottom!
I do have another article about feisty women – hope that evens the balance a little.

A discussion came up on Facebook about some readers liking their heroes in historical fiction to be faithful to their partners, one reviewer said she would give one star less if a character was unfaithful. I tried pointing out that in history “being faithful” was perhaps not so strictly adhered to or morally unacceptable – especially with blokes going off to sea or to fight for months (years!) on end. Plus, I argued, many women probably preferred their going off bonking other women because of the level of death in childbirth – and no contraception. The best way to avoid pregnancy? Avoid getting pregnant.

I'm not sure of my historical facts as recent history is not my field, but I have a feeling that moral fidelity came in with the Victorians. Don't know if anyone can put me right on this?

So what part does sexual “excitement” and a good dollop of “phwor” come into historical fiction? Readers love a charmer of a rogue - the "bad boy made good" hero. The sexy guy with the come-to-bed charisma. And beyond historical novels, why are we so drawn to the drunken womaniser, the werewolf, the vampire?

I prefer the character Bill Sykes to goody-two-shoes Oliver. (How many of us of my age group adored Oliver Reed in the musical Oliver! ?)  
Is it the excitement these characters create, the knowing that they are dangerous? Plus of course, in fiction, they are usually tall, dark, and incredibly handsome. 

Richard Sharpe (Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series) in the TV series was made “irresistible” to many viewers via  Sean Bean. A hero of a soldier who loves his woman, but rarely stays loyal. It’s a long time since I read the books, was the character as “sexy” in print as on the TV screen?
Jack Sparrow – oh how we drooled over him! (Well OK, Johnny Depp, but even he doesn’t have a squeaky clean past.) The Glitter Vamps in the Twilight series made girls swoon (not me, I hasten to add, I prefer my vamps to be dark, dangerous and definitely untwinkly).

Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind was a bit of a cad, and to be non-sexist, Scarlett wasn’t exactly the good little wife was she? “Oh Ashley, Ashley….” 

Ross Poldark (Robin Ellis) is another one I lost my heart to, in the TV series and in Winston Graham’s fabulous novels. Poldark was rugged, capable, all man – but had his flaws. And his female opposite, Demelza (the lovely Angharad Rees) was as alluring
(for fans, I found this brilliant Poldark Website from where I (ahem) borrowed the images.

And then my own Jesamiah Acorne has difficulty keeping his breeches buttoned. I deliberately made him the lovable scoundrel.  Quick to laugh, formidable when angry, torn between the love of the sea and his ship, and the woman he wants as his own. And so easily seduced….
Would these characters, and the hundreds I haven’t named because I’ve only picked a few of my favourites, be as interesting if they all fell in love, got married, and then stayed at home with pipe, slippers and a crackling fire? I very much doubt it.

In an historical context, men were rarely loyal. Is it only 'now', i.e. recent history, that we see love and sex as the same thing? I don't think they did back in the past. The two were separate issues. Sex was sex, love was …. probably not as common as it is now, for the simple reason men and women didn’t move around so much, which limited choice, and there were no Celebs to drool over, apart from maybe a passing knight, or travelling troubadour.
So, is the sexy hero supposed to be faithful to his wife/woman - or do you mind if he occasionally strays? Would you expect a guy in a modern contemporary novel to be faithful, but not worry so much in an historical novel?

These are the comments and subsequent discussion, from Facebook :

Michele :
I get very disheartened when men are portrayed as lovable bad boys. As a mother, wife, sister and daughter I know there are many men who are entirely faithful and not one whit less exciting or amusing or lovable because of it. I find it tiresome that unfaithfulness is constantly written into stories and novels in a way that suggests it is a price one must expect to pay for being in love with someone extraordinary. It isn't. It would be so nice for once to read a male hero with zap & spirit & the ability to love so deeply they remain faithful.
I think readers like a true love story as well. I think that is the real reason the Twilight series did so well. It made such a change to have an enduring faithful male hero.
Mr Darcy and Mr Rochester being perfect examples of my ideal. Lots of faults and dark moments - but faithful and true once pledged.

Helen :
I agree, but in a historical context I disagree. Not necessarily saying this of my character, but until recently I would think many women were quite grateful for their men to "scratch an itch" elsewhere, for the simple reason there were no contraceptives and 1 in 4 women died in childbirth. Remain constantly pregnant with a faithful husband, or have him enjoy himself elsewhere?
Not sure how you can say Mr Rochester was faithful - didn't he lock his first wife up and pretend she didn't exist?

Michele :
She was completely bonkers though - I think the relationship counted as over morally speaking. Plus, it is also possible to be faithful and not have sex in a way that makes babies. I'm sure people in those days would have worked out ways of 'getting round' things. Including ways of getting rid of unwanted pregnancies - didn't they? I'm vaguely remembering Demelza Poldark and was it Ross Poldark? I think he did go astray or loved someone from afar- but Demelza wasn't at all pleased about it.
 I'm not saying it would be common - but then the uncommon is what we like to read about isn't it? The exceptions and the exceptional are fascinating. What would a man who went against the mores of the times be like? What would make him love so deeply that unfaithfulness would not be an option? I'd be enthralled. Especially if it didn't hinge on religion :)

Did you ever read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys? A good interpretation of why she was mad. And would we expect a man to stay faithful if he was away at sea, for instance, for months on end?
I'm interested in whether our view on sexual fidelity is a "modern" view as compared to that of the past.
A form of contraception was known from the 17th Century - lamb's intestines, or even a leather sheath, but these were not used to stop a pregnancy but to protect the man against STDs. Most men would find it shocking to not "do what they needed" (as Jesamiah says in Sea Witch -'... use a woman like a coffee house, go in and out without spending anything" (and no, he wasn't actually talking about himself)
Again, putting this into a historical context, I think people in the past regarded "sex" as something completely different to "love".

The Libertine (Johnny Depp) 
Good guy? Bad Guy?
Definitely sexy guy!

Jenny Q :
I like my heroes faithful. In historical fiction about real men, I can accept adultery because it really happened. But if the character is fictional, I want to read about a faithful one. Infidelity is pretty much the one thing that will ruin a book for me.

Alison Connolly :
I think we cannot possibly use modern standards to judge historical behaviour. Most marriages were not made for love. They were more of a business arrangement, although I won't deny that feelings could grow from those beginnings. From that I think we could draw the conclusion that men would not consider that they would be betraying anyone by indulging in any extra-marital nookie and most of the wives involved would probably expect it.
So, yes, it's ok for the hero to stray - probably closer to the truth than expecting him to be faithful.
And Richard Sharpe could charm me anytime!

 Allison Macias :
I have to agree with Jenny. I am perfectly fine with historical references to infidelity if its factual. I know that relationships don't always equal forever or faithfulness/
While I prefer my hero to be faithful once caught, it’s not a deal breaker if he strays a bit. I don't want him bedding every woman. But loyalty = swooning!!

Kelly :
Helen, I have to agree with you. Historically speaking, men strayed as much as they do now. But there were much different standards then for men and women. It was accepted and even expected that men would "scratch the itch" when needed but women were expected to remain virgins until their marriages were arranged - where else were men to go but to the whores? As with many historical society values, we cannot judge with 21st century values.
Personally, I prefer my heroes to be flawed and real, like your Arthur and Jesamiah.

Pauline Barclay :
Your pirate is a rouge, but a lovable one. Over at my Blog is an award for you, so please when you have a moment, go and collect it. You so deserve it...hmmm I hope the pirate won't steal it!

Susan Gourley :
I like reading historical fiction and would rather have it realistic than redraw history to make it fit into our contemporary views. The other side of historical women wanting to avoid pregnancy though was the diseases their unfaithful husbands brought home.

Jules Frusher :
I also think that we can't impose modern sexual etiquette on historical fiction... not if it's going to be realistic historical fiction. Maybe there is a distinction to be made between the grittier sort of HF and the romantic version?
As well as men being away for great lengths of time, it was also considered a bad thing (even a sin) for a woman to have sex whilst pregnant (because it could not lead to procreation). I'm sure not all couples complied but for those that did it meant that the man, if faithful, would again have to do without until after her churching. (Helen: so we are talking seven – eight months abstinence here!)
Plus, it was accepted that men sought release elsewhere, especially when their spouse was not available. The only time it might have been frowned upon is if he lived openly with his mistress thus publicly humiliating his wife (although this is what Eleanor of Aquitaine suffered with Henry and Rosamund Clifford).
Of course, for the women, the rules were very different!
As for my preferences, I like my bad boys bad :-)

At the risk of being controversial, and definitely with no intention of offence, from reading most reviews on, it does seem that US readers are more reserved about fidelity. American readers prefer the faithful hero, while us Brits don’t mind them straying from the marriage bed. Is this because Americans are more deeply religious than the British I wonder?

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