All nations: a mixture of the dregs of alcohol left in bottles.
Anne’s fan: a disturbance or thumbing your nose at the rules.
Bagpiper: a long-winded talker.
Bark at the moon: to waste your breath.
Bear garden jaw: foul language.
Beggar maker: a publican or taverner.
Belly gut: a greedy or lazy person.
Bring to one’s bearings: to see common sense.
Bull calf: someone who is clumsy.
Calfskin fiddle: a drum.
Cat sticks: thin legs..
Clodpoll: an idiot.
Cold cook: an undertaker.
Dutch concert: everyone playing or singing a different tune.
Eternity box: a coffin.
Fire a gun: to speak without tact.
Fish broth: saltwater.
Fly in a tar box: excited.
Full as a goat: very drunk.
Grog: watered rum.
Grog blossom: a drunkard.
Groggified: very drunk.
Gundiguts: a fat person.
Gut-foundered: hungry.
Handsomely: quickly or carefully.
Hang the jib: to pout or frown..
Hempen halter: a noose.
Higgling cart: a special cart used by hawkers or peddlers.
Hog in armour: a boastful lout.
Hornswaggle: to cheat, or trick.
Horse’s meal: food without a drink.
Hot: a concocted mixture of gin and brandy served warm.
Jack Ketch: an English executioner, his name became synonymous with hanging.
Jaw me down: a talkative fellow.
Loaded to the gunwale: drunk.
Look like God’s revenge against murder – very angry.
Lumping pennyworth: a bargain.
Marry old boots: to marry another man’s mistress.
Measured fer yer chains: to be imprisoned..
Ope: an opening or passageway between buildings..
Paper skull: a fool.
Pipe: a wine cask which held up to 105 gallons.
Pipe tuner: a crybaby.
Pump ship: urinate.
Rabbit hunting with a dead ferret: a pointless exercise.
Remedy critch: a chamberpot.
Ride to fetch the midwife: be in haste.
Run a rig: to play a trick, to cheat someone.
Rusty guts: a surly fellow.
Scallywag: a scoundrel.
Snail’s gallop: to go very slowly.
Soose: a coin.
Spanish trumpeter: a donkey.
Take a caulk: take a nap.
Tilly tally: nonsense.
Trodden on your/my eye: a black eye..
Turned off: hanged.


From Pirates! Truth and Tales
by Helen Hollick
In 1724 Captain Charles Johnson published a book entitled A General History of the Robberies and Murders of the most notorious Pyrates. From it we get our concept of pirates and piracy in the ‘golden age’ of the early 18th century and our main source of information about the more notorious rogues. It has tales of what we take as typical pirates with missing limbs, eye-patches, parrots and burying their treasure. Originally published as two volumes the first, more or less respects recorded detail, although with a few exaggerated fictional flourishes, and covered the 1700s pirates, while the second delved into the earlier 1600s buccaneers and is harder to believe for accuracy - it is more fiction than fact.

Because its publication is contemporary with the height of piracy, the 1700s section is usually regarded as being fairly accurate, although one man’s view can be biased and who is to say what is fact and what is fiction? There is one enormous difficulty with the book, however. We have no idea who Charles Johnson was, as the name is a pseudonym. There was no Captain Johnson recorded as a ship’s master (nor anyone in the military.) The author very obviously had a good knowledge of all things nautical, so must have been a sailor (or a pirate?) and shows a detailed knowledge of the pirates, their lives and their exploits. There was a writer called Johnson who produced a work entitled The Successful Pirate about Henry Avery in 1712, but he did not write The General History. Maybe the writer did not want his name linked with piracy? Which leads to the question... why not?

There have been various attempts to identify his (or her!) true identity, but to date nothing definite has materialised. There are several candidates, so here are some suggestions put forward by various scholars - and a couple of my own theories.

You can come to your own conclusions.

NATHANIAL MIST: a sailor, journalist and printer and who had his own printing press is a popular candidate. Arrested and tried for sedition on several occasions he was fined £50 in 1720, sent to the pillory and three months in jail for his passionate Jacobite tendencies. (Freedom of speech and democratic political beliefs were not embraced in the 18th century.)

Bitterly opposing the Whig government he used the pages of his highly successful Mist’s Weekly Journal to attack Robert Walpole and King George (I) of Hanover. He frequently published his articles using a false name as author, or for the person he was condemning, although all his readers knew who he was talking about. 

(As example, if I were to mention Donald Rump and John Borrison, I think you would know who I meant.)

He also used a variety of authors who employed pen names, Daniel Defoe being one of them, despite being a known Whig supporter, an established spy and placed by the government to keep an eye on Mist, a fact which Defoe himself later confirmed. 

In 1727 Mist went a step too far by libelling the King and he fled to France, although his news sheets continued to be printed. A year later his presses were vandalised and destroyed. The journal was subsequently renamed and the still exiled Mist was spurred into supporting the Jacobite cause as much as he could. Maybe his efforts went too far, for by 1734 he had been ostracised by his fellow Jacobites, and in due course he was permitted to return to England. He died in September 1737. 

So what might connect him to The General History? It was first printed by Charles Rivington who had produced several of Mist’s books prior to 1724. The book was registered in Mist’s name at Her Majesty's Stationery Office. This does not necessarily mean he wrote it but was merely the publisher.

As a sailor, Mist may well have personally encountered some of the men and actions related in the book, but why would an active anti-government politician, who was determined to ridicule and lampoon the Whigs, suddenly decide to write a two-volume part-fictional book, under an assumed name, about pirates? A work that had absolutely nothing to do with politics?

DANIEL DEFOE: Born in 1660 in London is famous for the novels Robinson Crusoe and Moll Flanders. He has often been cited as being Charles Johnson because he was a writer of that era and produced several vaguely similar works in a similar style. Some copies of the book are even published with his name on the cover. Yet he published none of his other most interesting works under a made-up name, so why would he do so for this one?

His family name, of Flemish background, was Foe, his father being a tallow chandler. As a boy he would have experienced some of the most fearful events of London’s history, mainly the Great Plague of 1665 where over 70,000 Londoners died, and the Great Fire of London in 1666 where, in the area where he lived, the Foe’s house and two others were left intact.

Well educated, he had initially been expected to join the Presbyterian Ministry, but he preferred to become a merchant dealing with various mercantile goods and travelling widely in order to purchase and sell them. Unfortunately he went bankrupt by £17,000.

In his early thirties he travelled to Europe and by the time he returned to England, around 1695, he had changed his name to ‘Defoe’. Perhaps to escape more debtors? 

Another business venture failed while he was in prison in 1703 for political offences. He had written several political-based pamphlets writing against Catholic James II and had joined the ill-fated Monmouth Rebellion, escaping the disastrous result of Sedgemoor by the skin of his teeth. With James fleeing into exile three years later, Defoe heartily welcomed William of Orange and Queen Mary, becoming the leading royal pamphleteer. (He would have made a good modern-day political spin-doctor.) In 1701 he published The True-Born Englishman, a witty poem about racial prejudices that he confessed to be extremely proud of. 

War with Europe, Spain in particular, was again looming. In 1701 five men from Kent called for better defences of the coast by handing a petition to Parliament and the then Tory government. They were immediately, and illegally, sent to prison. Showing great courage Defoe confronted the Speaker of the Commons, Robert Harley, with a document reminding the politicians that ‘Englishmen are no more to be slaves to Parliaments than to a King,’ referring, of course to the days of English Civil War, King Charles I and Cromwell. The Kentishmen were released and Defoe proclaimed a hero. Except by the Tory government who thereafter regarded him as a Whig supporter and a great danger.

As a Dissenter, Defoe then became embroiled in religious matters, which at this time were barely separate from political issues. He was accused of sedition and in May 1703 arrested, fined and sentenced to endure three days in the pillory. His literary popularity won out, however, for instead of pelting him with the traditional rotten garbage the ‘audience’ garlanded the pillory with flowers and heartily drank his health. 

Sent back to Newgate prison to complete his punishment, his business collapsed and the welfare of his wife and eight children suffered. He appealed to Harley who eventually agreed his release, which meant Defoe had to work for him in return. Harley was the government spymaster, which meant Defoe became a spy. (You are permitted to hum the James Bond theme here.) (And incidentally, Harley appears in the Fifth Sea Witch Voyage: On the Account.)
 Defoe seems to have enjoyed his new role as it meant doing the things he enjoyed: travel and writing reports and pamphlets. In 1704 he reproduced eyewitness statements in what is believed to be the first piece of modern journalism when he wrote in detail about the Great Storm of the previous year which devastated miles of southern England, uprooted thousands of trees, destroyed hundreds of homes and killed more than 8,000 people. 

The Act of Union with Scotland in 1707 gave him the opportunity to travel North of the Border and keep his new master, Harley, informed of events and public opinion. Between 1724 and 1726 he published three volumes of his Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain.

Not all his writing was political, he originally published several works of a spiritual and moral nature anonymously, and it is believed that in all he produced more than 500 titles as novels, satirical poems, essays, articles and religious and political pamphlets. 

But. He does not seem to have written much about ships, shipping or nautical matters. Nor pirates.

During Queen Anne’s reign, from 1704 to 1713, he produced The Review a serious and in-depth newspaper written almost entirely by himself. Initially a weekly publication it expanded to three times a week, even continuing while Defoe was again imprisoned by his political opponents. It unashamedly discussed politics, religion, trade and morals and was a forerunner of the modern people’s press. 

No pirates though.

With the crowning of George of Hanover after Anne’s death in 1714 the Tory government gave way to the Whigs, who in turn came to value Defoe’s writing and ‘intelligence’ talents. He produced various other work, most notably in 1722 with the appearance of Moll Flanders, A Journal of the Plague Year, and Colonel Jack, his last work of fiction being Roxana published in 1724. He died on 24th April 1731, but his most famous book, Robinson Crusoe had been published in 1719, based on the real marooning of Andrew Selkirk, with information supplied by Governor Woodes Rogers. 

Robinson Crusoe was not about pirates, though was it?

There does not seem to be much in Defoe’s life to connect him with the in-depth detail and knowledge of the sea, sailing and sailors explored in Johnson’s book. Where would Defoe have found the time to write something he knew very little about? He was a political, religious and moralistic writer who followed the common writer’s advice of ‘write what you know.’ Admitted he knew nothing about being marooned on a desert island for four years, but he did meet Selkirk, and like all good journalists, he would have squeezed every bit of the story out of him then turned it into an exciting, and highly profitable, read.

As for pirates… there is absolutely no connection.

WOODES ROGERS: My favourite candidate is Governor Woodes Rogers. 
  • He was in England, having temporarily retired as Governor of the Bahamas, and was facing debtor’s prison. 
  • He knew a lot about sailing and pirates
  • He claimed that he was approached by a man who intended to write a history of piracy, and dutifully supplied him with detailed information. This man, he said, was Johnson.
  • The General History was a ‘best seller’ on both sides of the Atlantic and Rogers found himself a national hero for the second time. Why? All he did was talk to a man who was writing a book.
  • His connection with the book, and presumably Johnson, made him rich again. 
  • Because of the nature of the book, and being, no doubt, concerned that someone might take offence, not least some of the still living pirates, he used the pen name and kept his identity secret. 
  • Rogers knew Daniel Defoe.
  • Daniel Defoe knew Nathanial Mist.
  • Ergo...Woodes Rogers was Charles Johnson.

Naturally I have absolutely no proof of this, but does it not make logical sense? 

More fancifully, we do not know what happened to Anne Bonny. Perhaps she wrote the book as a memoir of her days at sea? Henry Jennings had retired to his Barbados plantation. Could he have been the author? Or I could attribute its writing to my pirate, Jesamiah Acorne in a future Voyage of the Sea Witch

Now, there’s a thought …

Released on
a novella e-book:
how Jesamiah Acorne became a pirate!

details soon!

Embarrassing Book Signings? by Loretta Livingstone

Embarrassing book signings? Yup, those. 

You turn up, breathless with excitement, assured the event has been well-advertised (yeah, never take that for granted. Do your own advertising - always!) to discover lots of chairs laid out, coffee ready - and nobody there. You sit, biting your nails, trying to look more confident than you feel, and eventually two or three people trail in, wander over to the section allotted to you and sit down. 

Hallelujah! You haven't got to speak to an empty room. You watch the clock anxiously, and, at last, one more person ambles in. You catch the host's eye and telegraph silently, frantically, 'should I start now?' and you don't know whether you want to wait in case there are any latecomers or just get on with it.

Somewhat disappointed but relieved that at least a few have shown up, you manage to fill your hour with what you hope is sparkling entertainment. Two of the audience are even looking at you and smiling.

'Any questions?' you encourage.
Blank silence. 

Um, what do you do now? You flounder for a few minutes and gasp with relief when the host thinks of something to ask. A little more talking and it's over. You don't let your smile falter when they leave. They pass your desk - but they don't buy anything. The two nice ladies who seemed to enjoy your talk have gone, and one of the gents heads towards you. You grab your pen ready to sign a book - and he whips out his own book and starts to tell you all about it. His - not yours! You grit your teeth and force a smile; you even answer him graciously as he chatters on. Then, the other gentleman catches your eye. 

Aha! A buyer.

You manage to disengage with Mr. Own Book Promoter and slide over to your new audience. He's most interested in what you do. Can you tell him how to go about publishing, please?


So, you're done. You think you did quite well, considering, but you've sold no books and no one took your business cards or flyers. And you didn't even cover the petrol money. To make matters worse, you were so optimistic, you bought thirty books especially for today. (That was always a big mistake for me.) You donate one to your host and take the other twenty-nine home. At least you won't have to buy any for your next ten or more events - if you even get any more.

The first one I ever did was in a restaurant and I was delighted to get the 'gig'. I'd prompted it with a poster on social media suggesting that having me might help boost business (rather cheeky considering no one had heard of me) and someone got in touch. I had envisioned a cosy little cafe where people would buy coffee and cakes, listen to me, and buy my books. The reality was somewhat different.

I had a table in the lounge part of the venue where mums stopped by for coffee after dropping off their kids, and other people sat hunched over laptops, oblivious to my babblings. Meanwhile, the hustle and bustle of diners in the back part of the busy restaurant competed against my unamplified voice.

No one had actually come to hear me apart from a few kind friends and neighbours - and I cannot tell you how much I appreciated their presence. To shout at people who were trying to chat over coffee was, to say the least, embarrassing.

However, my husband and I had a cunning plan. Iain has his own company. More importantly, at the time, it was situated nearby. And he had staff. Staff who were all too willing to down tools for an hour and be entertained. Yes, we had Rent-a-Crowd.

And so, for an hour, I hollered my work out to at least a small interested audience of friends and acquaintances, some of whom were kind enough to buy a book. Of course, being a newbie and an optimist, I had massively overestimated how many books I would need, and they still moulder in a drawer today since they are poetry and I now write fiction.

Most of us, if we're honest, have done more than one event like this. Even the good events often only move about four books and seldom break even. 
Should we give up? Not on your life, and here's why.

Firstly, never despise small beginnings - you never know what they might lead to. That first part is actually from the Bible, and it's jolly good advice.

Every time you get asked to do an event, it's a compliment; it's also a chance to help get your name out there. Even if only three or four people turn up and don't buy a book, next time they hear your name, they'll know who you are. And if you publicise each event on social media, it can prompt another opportunity. People get to see that you are someone people want to listen to (you don't have to say how few turned up; put some spin on it). That makes them more likely to check out your books. And eventually, you might get offered a paying event. I've just done my first ever of those. I've been doing talks and signings since 2012 and often, but not always, selling a few books, but I've never broken even. This time, I came home with a profit.

If your event was at a library, people who previously thought maybe the reason you're an indie is because you aren't good enough for the traditional publishers will now start to realise the libraries think you are (trust me, libraries don't invite you if you don't meet reasonably high standards - they have their reputations to think of). So you are virtually accredited by a library signing.

And think about this - how many comedians and singers have you heard talk about their early appearances, the ones before their 'overnight success'? Mostly they consider it their apprenticeship - being heckled in dingy pubs and clubs with small, dirty (or no) dressing rooms, and only a few years back they'd have been smoky, too. How lucky are we? We get nice clean conditions (often in libraries, surrounded by books - lovely) talking to people who are (usually) polite enough to listen to us.

So, don't lose confidence; pluck up your courage, and get back out there. It will pay off if you give it time. But... don't take too many books....

Read the Discovering Diamonds Review

Loretta Livingstone Amazon Author Page:

Have you had a similar experience? Or how do you entice people to book signings - let's hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below.

Pirates and Mermaids…

published by s-books as e-book
by Helen Hollick

a prequel Jesamiah Acorne Adventure!

As followers of Jesamiah Acorne’s various nautical adventures know, the series of Sea Witch Voyages starts in January 1716 with Jesamiah, not yet a Captain of his own ship, about to take part in a pirate ‘Chase’ and a fight at sea with a prospective Prize.

He is aboard the Mermaid, with Captain Malachias Taylor in charge, and the opening scene, set off the coast of Africa, leads the way to what will be a turning point in Jesamiah’s life.

But what of his life before the events of Sea Witch? We know from the backstory that he fled his home in Virginia to escape the vicious bullying of his half-brother, Phillipe, and then crewed with Taylor, but how did that happen?

How did he learn how to be the experienced seaman - and pirate - that he is?
How did he learn to fight?
What adventures, and risks, did he face in those days of his youth?
How did he develop from the  frightened boy of not quite fifteen years old, to the cocksure, confident Captain that he became?

When The Mermaid Sings is a novella, 
(e-book only)
 which will answer all those questions – and more!

Coming soon – hopefully, the end of September, but watch this space for updates, cover reveal and snippets from the story! Or to get exclusive and pre-public glimpses, sign up for my newsletter!

And here, for the first time beyond editors or publisher is a glimpse of When The Mermaid Sings!


“You alright, son?”
   A man was bending over him, taking his arm, half-shaking it, half-assisting him to rise. Jesamiah looked up into a face with weatherworn, tanned skin, several teeth missing and a beard that was more grey-grizzled than the brown it had once been. Bright eyes sparkled beneath a three-corner hat that sprouted a feathered plume.
   “You alright?” the man asked again.
   “Yes, I think so,” Jesamiah answered, scrambling to his feet. He was at the harbour – how had he got here? Three ships, in addition to Anna, rested at anchor, the nearest sporting a splendid figurehead with carved seaweed hair draped over her bare breasts; her fishtail curled as if clinging to the bow itself. Mermaid.
   “You sure?” the sailor asked again, his hand still clasped to Jesamiah’s arm.
   “Just a bit dizzy, that’s all.”
   “Not surprising,” the man said with a nod and grim smile. “That’s some cut to your head. You came down quite a wallop.”

Touching his fingers to his temple, Jesamiah looked at the sticky smear of blood left on them.
   “I saw you take the tumble as I were coming ashore. Noticed you earlier, too, with Tom Markham?”
   Jesamiah nodded, then wished he hadn’t. “Aye, from Anna over there.” He pointed her out.
   “Stannis still her bosun?”
   Not risking another nod, Jesamiah confirmed that he was.
   “Nasty piece of work. I’d as soon shoot him as serve with him.”
  Not making a comment that could land him in trouble, Jesamiah answered, tactfully, “You know him, then?”
   The man indicated a scar on his face. “We had a serious falling-out a few years back.”

The dizziness clearing, Jesamiah took a deep breath and was grateful that the man made a grab for him as he again tottered precariously. He attempted a jest: “I’m not sure if it’s the wound or not finding my land-legs yet. The ground’s pitching as much as the deck did.”
   “Ah, you’ll soon adjust, son. Your pa always takes a few hours to do so.”
   That cleared Jesamiah’s head as efficiently as a dousing with a bucket of cold seawater. “My pa?”
   The man studied the boats at anchor in the harbour. “Aye. I take it Charles is not here? No sign of his vessel out there. Has he sent you off to sea?” The man chuckled. “’Bout time, if you ask me.”
   Unexpected tears swam in Jesamiah’s eyes. He rapidly blinked them aside. “My father passed away a few months ago.”
   The man removed his hat, wiped his hand across his mouth and nose, sniffed loudly and blinked as rapidly as Jesamiah had done. “I’m sorry to hear that, lad. Right sorry. He was a good man.”
   Taking a step backwards, the man held out his hand. “You are, of course, Jesamiah? You are the image of Charles. Got your ma’s dark Spanish eyes and hair, though.”
  Initially tentative, Jesamiah hesitated, but took the proffered hand and gripped it in a firm handshake. “My apologies, but you are…?”
   “Taylor. Captain Malachias Taylor of the Mermaid, yonder.”

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 Twitter: @HelenHollick

Cruisin' Down the River Rhine

“How do you fancy a river cruise?” asked my dear friend and graphics designer, Cathy Helms one day way back in 2016 during one of our Skype calls.
“Um…” was my reply, “what do you have in mind?”

In mind, was joining Cathy, her husband Ray and her mom, Lynn on an eight day cruise down the Rhine from Basel to Amsterdam.

Fast forward several months to August 2017….

There I was at 6.15 a.m outside a Premier Inn hotel near Heathrow’s Terminal 5. (Comfortable, nice hotel)  I was awaiting the arrival of the regular and efficient hopper bus to take me to the airport. A couple of hours later – and with the kind, also efficient help from the Assistance staff, my B.A. flight took off heading for Zürich  (with equally as helpful cabin crew who took care of me because of my fading sight. Most impressed.)

Landing was fine, passport control was fine, baggage reclaim, ditto – again all with very helpful assistance. Now for the Big Test. Cathy & co were due to land at Zürich  from North Carolina (via a transfer at Munich) just five minutes or so after me… and would you believe… they did! What timing!

So we boarded another (included in the trip) hopper bus to the Moevenpick Hotel, Zürich, dumped our baggage in our rooms (I was sharing with Lynn) grabbed a bite to eat – and the US contingent went to bed. Yes it was only about 3pm but there’s this irritating little thing called Jet Lag…  Actually, I confess, I went too as I was also shattered.

Lynn and I toddled down for a wonderful dinner in the outside Restaurant – oh that Black Forest Gateau  was to die for, although just as well we shared one between the two of us – it was enormous!

All photos ©CathyHelms
Next day we were not due to join the boat until early afternoon, so we signed up to go on a coach trip to the Rhine Falls.

The falls are located on the High Rhine on the border between the cantons of Schaffhausen and Zürich, between the villages of Neuhausen am Rheinfall and Laufen-Uhwiesen/Dachsen, next to the town of Schaffhausen in northern Switzerland. They are 150 metres (490 ft) wide and 23 metres (75 ft) high. The falls cannot be climbed by fish, except by eels that are able to worm their way up over the rocks.

Very impressive, even given the long walk down dozens of steps and then back up again.

Me and Lynn
My only comment about Switzerland, though: it is very expensive.

Day 1. August 5th 2017
So, after collecting our luggage, into the coach again and off to Basel to find our home for the next week: Avalon Tours Tranquillity II.

Tranquillity II
Slightly disconcerting to discover when we got to the docks that the boat was double-moored alongside another cruiser (this happens a lot, apparently). Our cabin (mine and Lynn’s) was number 102, small but very clean and very comfortable. It was on the lower level, so no State Room with those great big ‘patio-door’ windows, but the slit windows were fine, and as I discovered that night there was one lovely (for me) delight at being near the water level. I could hear the water gurgling along the hull – just as my Jesamiah Acorne would when aboard Sea Witch. I tell you, that sound is the best for being soothed to sleep!

Folded bunny towels!
And the daily newsletter

Ray, our waiter, Danny, & Lynn
First night dinner (and indeed every meal) was delicious, wine (or beer or soft drinks) included with the meal. I had red wine, of course, but it was really good to be offered a different wine each evening. Have to say here, the only one I wasn’t keen on (and I’ve found this at home as well) was the Shiraz. The best wine was the Regent 2016.

dinner is served!

There was a very comfortable coffee bar at the rear of the boat where tea, coffee, fruit juice and cakes and biscuits were available as self-service. We spent much of our time there, very pleasant viewing of the river and a fairly quiet spot as most passengers tended to congregate in the bar lounge at the bow.

Day 2 Breisach
Cathy and co went off on a coach trip through  the Black Forest, (I didn’t – already seen it). In the afternoon we set sail for the next stretch of the Rhine…

Blackforest Gateau
Sitting reading on the sun deck while travelling downriver was glorious. (Incidentally there are quite a few low bridges at the higher end of the Rhine, so check with your tour operator before booking because the sun deck has to be lowered for the boat to sail beneath them – which on some cruises means several days without use of this upper, open, deck.)  There are also many locks, which were efficiently negotiated and very interesting!

Strasbourg is the capital and largest city of the Grand Est region of France and is the official seat of the European Parliament. Located close to the border with Germany in the historic region of Alsace, it is the capital of the Bas-Rhin département.
Strasbourg's historic city centre, the Grande Île (Grand Island), was classified a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1988, the first time such an honour was placed on an entire city centre. Strasbourg is immersed in the Franco-German culture and although violently disputed throughout history, has been a cultural bridge between France and Germany for centuries.

Me Cathy & Ray

We had our own excursion into Strasbourg, wonderfully navigated by Ray and Cathy (including a trip into town via the tram!) Apologies to any French readers, but as I have often founded before, almost everyone we stopped to ask if they spoke English (in my poor French) shrugged & said no. One chap was helpful, and one lady but the tram driver… I mean not even the basics? Hrrmph. Anyway we had a lovely cool drink a Starbucks (!) sitting outside in a wonderful open square watching a display of bubbles!

Heidelberg is situated on the river Neckar in south-west Germany. Located about 78 km (48 mi) south of Frankfurt, Heidelberg is the fifth-largest city in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. Founded in 1386, Heidelberg University is Germany's oldest and one of Europe's most reputable universities. Heidelberg is a popular tourist destination due to its romantic cityscape, including Heidelberg Castle, the Philosophers' Walk, and the baroque style Old Town.’

the Castle
 Again I did not join the official tours today – a lot of walking involved, unfortunately, which is beyond my poor old knees. My friends went off, though, and viewed the Gutenberg museum with the famous very first printing press, designed circa 1450 by Johannes Gutenberg. 

The first printing press
 ‘Mainz is the capital and largest city of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate in Germany. It was the capital of the Electorate of Mainz at the time of the Holy Roman Empire. In antiquity Mainz was a Roman fort city which commanded the west bank of the Rhine and formed part of the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire; it was founded as a military post by the Romans in the late 1st century BC and became the provincial capital of Germania Superior. The city is located on the river Rhine at its confluence with the Main opposite Wiesbaden, in the western part of the Frankfurt Rhine-Main region; in the modern age, Frankfurt shares much of its regional importance. The city is famous as the home of the invention of the movable-type printing press, as the first books printed using movable type were manufactured in Mainz by Gutenberg in the early 1450s.

Lynn and I strolled to the main shopping centre – very interesting to see the German branches of UK shops, and we took shelter in a bookshop when it suddenly decided to rain. Again, interesting to see familiar book covers with German text!

The Rhine
 then the Rhine Gorge
and Koblenz: Rhine valley wine country!

The excursion to Rudesheim was fantastic! In particular, Siegfried'sMechanical Music Cabinet, a Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments. Fabulous! Situated in the Brömserhof, a knight's manor of the 15th century. Just above the Drosselgasse in Rüdesheim am Rhein, with about 350 mechanical music instruments out of three centuries, an eventful 45 minute tour with music. 

I love gallopers!
This was followed by the German equivalent of Irish Coffee…

The cruise through the Rhine Gorge,  
  viewed from the sun deck, was fabulous.

The Rhine Gorge is a popular name for the Upper Middle Rhine Valley, a 65 km section of the River Rhine between Koblenz and Bingen in Germany. It was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in June 2002 for a unique combination of geological, historical, cultural and industrial reasons. The region's rocks were laid down in the Devonian period and are known as Rhenish Facies. This is a fossil-bearing sedimentary rock type consisting mainly of slate. The rocks underwent considerable folding during the Carboniferous period. The gorge was carved out during a much more recent uplift to leave the river contained within steep walls 200 m high, the most famous feature being the Lorelei. The gorge produces its own microclimate and has acted as a corridor for species not otherwise found in the region. Its slopes have long been terraced for agriculture, in particular viticulture which has good conditions on south-facing slopes. The river has been an important trade route into central Europe since prehistoric times and a string of small settlements has grown up along the banks. Constrained in size, many of these old towns retain a historic feel today. With increasing wealth, many castles appeared and the valley became a core region of the Holy Roman Empire. It was at the centre of the Thirty Years' War, which left many of the castles in ruins, a particular attraction for today's cruise ships which follow the river. At one time forming a border of France, in the 19th Century the valley became part of Prussia and its landscape became the quintessential image of Germany. This part of the Rhine features strongly in folklore, such as a legendary castle on the Rhine being the setting for the opera Götterdämmerung.’

The Rhine Gorge

ships that pass in the night - well, OK, day

‘Koblenz, is a German city situated on both banks of the Rhine at its confluence with the Moselle, where the Deutsches Eck (German Corner) and its monument (Emperor William I on horseback) are situated. As Koblenz was one of the military posts established by Drusus about 8 BC, the city celebrated its 2000th anniversary in 1992. The name Koblenz originates from Latin confluentes, confluence or “(at the) merging of rivers". Subsequently, it was Covelenz and Cobelenz. In the local dialect the name is Kowelenz. After Mainz and Ludwigshafen am Rhein, it is the third largest city in Rhineland-Palatinate.

We docked at dock number 4, and waiting there was a dear friend, Carolin, who I was delighted to say, I could invite aboard. A fabulous couple of hours was spent together in the coffee lounge with non-stop chatter and laughter, sadly, she had to leave Tranquillity II before we sailed. My big regret – Carolin – we forgot to take a photo of us together! 

Tranquillity II

‘Cologne is the largest city in the German federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and the fourth-largest city in Germany (after Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich). Cologne is located on both sides of the Rhine River, near Germany's borders with Belgium and the Netherlands. The city's famous Cologne Cathedral is the seat of the Catholic Archbishop of Cologne. The University of Cologne is one of Europe's oldest and largest universities. Cologne was founded and established in Ubii territory in the 1st century AD as the Roman Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium, from which it gets its name. The city functioned as the capital of the Roman province of Germania Inferior and as the headquarters of the Roman military in the region until occupied by the Franks in 462. During the Middle Ages it flourished on one of the most important major trade routes between east and west in Europe. Cologne was one of the leading members of the Hanseatic League and one of the largest cities north of the Alps in medieval and Renaissance times. Prior to World War II the city had undergone several occupations by the French and also by the British (1918–1926). Cologne was one of the most heavily bombed cities in Germany during World War II, with the Royal Air Force (RAF) dropping 34,711 long tons (35,268 tonnes) of bombs on the city. The bombing reduced the population by 95%, mainly due to evacuation, and destroyed almost the entire city. With the intention of restoring as many historic buildings as possible, the successful post-war rebuilding has resulted in a very mixed and unique cityscape. The Cathedral, however was mostly avoided, where possible, by the bombers – not because of any religious reason, but because it provided a distinctive landmark.’

Personally, I found the Cathedral to be a little O.T.T. with its architecture, but then I’m not a cathedral fan anyway. Lynn and I had a nice, short easy walk while Cathy and Ray went off exploring.

We sailed through the night and woke up to find ourselves docked in the Netherlands. 

Amsterdam's Canals

Amsterdam is the capital of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, although it is not the seat of the government, which is The Hague. Amsterdam's name derives from Amstelredamme, indicative of a dam in the river Amstel. Originating as a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam became one of the most important ports in the world during the Dutch Golden Age (17th century), a result of its innovative developments in trade. During that time, the city was the leading centre for finance and diamonds. The 17th-century canals of Amsterdam and the 19–20th century Defence Line of Amsterdam are on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Famous Amsterdam residents include the diarist Anne Frank, artists Rembrandt van Rijn and Vincent van Gogh. The Amsterdam Stock Exchange, the oldest stock exchange in the world, is located in the city centre.’

some of these houses are a little lop-sided -
the whole of Amsterdam is supported by stilts
(its basically a man-made island) and sometimes the stilts sink... 

Our canal boat trip was most interesting... 
Something like 10,000 bicycles are removed from the Amsterdam canals every year. Because of so many bicycles, there is a rather good joke about them and the canals:
The canals are 9 metres deep. 
3 metres are mud. 
3 metres are water. 
3 metres are bicycles.

 ... the afternoon excursion to see some windmills and how clogs are made was equally so – although very much a ‘tourist trap’.

clog making - alas, by machine, not hand
Mind you, I'm not sure that my friends were impressed by my (bad) singing of I Saw A Mouse... (with clogs on...) an Amsterdam nursery rhyme. 

Day 8
Alas, homeward bound. Have to say, I don’t think much of Schiphol airport. Initial assistance, pre-security was appalling, as was information. I’ll avoid the place in future! Sadly also, because of the poor service I didn’t get to say goodbye to Cathy, Ray and Lynn. Still, goodbyes are never good, so maybe that was just as well…

I heartily recommend river cruising, but pick and choose which rivers and from/where to!