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16 June 2021

Wednesday Wanderings - A Line on the Land with Marian L.Thorpe


visiting around and about,
wandering here and there...


For nearly fifty miles across Norfolk the Peddars Way runs, arrow-straight for the most part, to end (or begin, take your choice) at Holme-next-the-Sea. I’ve walked a good deal of it, not all. Parts of it make up almost every one of my favourite loop walks in west Norfolk, my beloved (and sadly pandemic-missed) second home.

Maybe it started life as a Roman road, or maybe the Romans improved part of the Icknield Way, an argument perhaps given more credence by the discovery (or re-discovery, as the locals will tell you) of SeaHenge, a ‘henge’ of wood and stump in the sands near Holme. Now it’s a long-distance footpath, connecting with others: in theory I could start at Holme and walk all the way to Lyme Regis.

Bronze age barrow at Anmer

It’s provided inspiration for many small bits of my books. At its closest point to the West Norfolk villages where generations of my family are buried, it runs between a series of Bronze Age barrows (more family graves?), two exceptionally well preserved. On this stretch, yellowhammers frequent the hedgerows, singing the song usually written as ‘little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese’, but that I hear as ‘see-me-see-me-see-me-please’.  

Nearly two thousand years past, the Roman soldiers stationed nearby had come from Pannonia, in the Hungarian plain – where, too, yellowhammers sing their staccato song. Walking along the road, heading perhaps to or from the fort at Brancaster or the signal station near Thornham, they’d have heard the familiar song, a reminder of home.  And so yellowhammers feature in my books, singing ‘see-me-see-me-see-me-please’.

The Peddars Way has inspired words from writers other than me: Hugh Lupton, Liz McGowan, and Tom Perkins were the creators of the Norfolk Songline project, beginning with temporary installations but eventually establishing a line of permanent sculptures along the Peddars Way.

Surveyors have made their lines on the land
Trapping Albion in a net of roads
A taut web on the edge of empire…

Many of the visual images in Empire’s Legacy come from my many walks along the Peddars Way, whether it’s the sea-pies (oystercatchers) and other waders in the saltmarshes, the heat-baked grain harvest, the wide open space and sky my protagonist Lena needs so much. But the most direct transposition of experience to words is in this passage from Empire’s Hostage, based entirely on the barrows near Anmer:

The call of a curlew drifted over the moor, over our small and silent band, over the burial mounds I could now see on either side of the path, mournful, ancient, eternal.

Buy on Amazon


Read more about Empire's Heir on MONDAY MYSTERIES 

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Helen's latest release 
a cosy mystery set in 1970s 
north London 

The first in a new series of quick-read,
cosy mysteries set in the 1970s.
A Mirror Murde
https://getbook.at/MirrorMurder

Eighteen-year-old library assistant Jan Christopher’s life is to change on a rainy Friday evening in July 1971, when her legal guardian and uncle, DCI Toby Christopher, gives her a lift home after work. Driving the car, is her uncle’s new Detective Constable, Laurie Walker – and it is love at first sight for the young couple.

But romance is soon to take a back seat when a baby boy is taken from his pram,  a naked man is scaring young ladies in nearby Epping Forest, and an elderly lady is found, brutally murdered...

Are the events related? How will they affect the staff and public of the local library where Jan works – and will a blossoming romance survive a police investigation into  murder?

Reviews

“A delightful read about an unexpected murder in North East London.” Richard Ashen (South Chingford Community Library)

“Lots of nostalgic, well-researched, detail about life in the 1970s, which readers of a certain age will lap up; plus some wonderful, and occasionally hilarious, ‘behind the counter’ scenes of working in a public library, which any previous or present-day library assistant will recognise!” Reader Review

and...COMING SOON

A new edition with new additional scenes - launching 21st June - e-book available for pre-order (paperback to follow soon!) https://viewbook.at/WhenMermaidSings

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15 June 2021

Tuesday Talk Guest Spot - with Deborah Swift and the Art of Sericulture

 

where guests can have their say about...
anything they want!






The Art of Sericulture – Silk in Italy

by Deborah Swift

Many thanks to Helen for hosting me! (My pleasure!)

In my new novel The Silkworm Keeper, my main character Giulia Tofana is tasked with breeding silkworms for their thread. The thread comes from the cocoons of the Silk Moth Bombyx Mori.

The breeding of silkworms began in ancient China as far back as the Neolithic period, and until the Silk Route opened up in the 1st millennium BC, China was the only place producing silk.

There’s a lovely myth about the first time silk was extracted from a cocoon -- the writings of Confucius tell us that a silk worm's cocoon fell into the teacup of the fourteen year old Empress Leizu. When she tried to pull it from her drink, the young girl began to unroll the thread of the cocoon. Afterwards, she decided to experiment by weaving some of the fibres. Seeing the strength of the resultant thread, she and her husband the Yellow Emperor began the art of raising silkworms. Leizu is now known as the goddess of silk in Chinese mythology.


Silkworm Farm in 17th Century (Met Museum) 

The expansion of trade from China brought the production of silk to Europe at the time of the Crusades, and because of climate conditions and the presence of many mulberry trees, the art of sericulture really took off in Italy and Sicily. (At that time Italy was a collection of states, not unified as it is today). The Italians then began exporting silk to the rest of Europe, starting an industry of silk and textiles that continued right through to the 19th century.

The process of breeding the silkworms is complex and labour-intensive, involving the collection of fresh mulberry leaves daily. Silkworms don’t drink but absorb moisture from the leaves of the mulberry, so the leaves have to be really fresh for the silkworms to thrive. Many, many silkworms are needed for each ounce of thread, and unwinding the silk from the cocoons is a delicate process. Various winding devices were invented to help with the un-spooling of the thread. In early times this art was particularly prevalent in convents as it was thought an appropriate task for women, and a good way of boosting the convent’s income.

Portrait by Pollaiuolo of
Young Woman

Improvements in the manufacture of silk, in terms of spinning machines and weaving looms led to silk’s increased popularity in the Middle Ages, but the height of its popularity was in the 15th – 17th Centuries. During the Renaissance, woven silk velvets were worn by noble families to denote their wealth and power. See the stunning example in the portrait above. Regulations were in place to ensure quality, and the movements of skilled weavers were sometimes restricted to prevent the loss of their technical secrets going to other rival cities.

The Industrial Revolution spelled the death knell for most of Europe's silk industry. Cotton production took over from silk as it was much cheaper and less labour intensive to make. However there is still silk made in Italy, and the beautiful designs of silk made in the Renaissance are hard to forget. Read more about Renaissance Italian Velvet here via the Met Museum. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/velv/hd_velv.html

Italian Velvet Design from Met Museum

The Silkworm Keeper starts in a convent at Reggio Calabria, which was an area well-known for silkworm breeding, and is based on the life of Giulia Tofana. It is a sequel to The Poison Keeper, though the story stands alone.

The Poison Keeper is out now, and The Silkworm Keeper will be published on June 29th. Both can be read on Kindle Unlimited.

About Deborah

Deborah Swift is the author of 14 historical novels to date. Find her at her website www.deborahswift.com or on Twitter @swiftstory.


*** *** 

Helen's latest release 
A new edition with new additional scenes
e-book available for pre-order
Paperback released 21st June


When the only choice is to run, where do you run to?
When the only sound is the song of the sea, do you listen?
Or do you drown in the embrace of a mermaid?

Throughout childhood, Jesamiah Mereno has suffered the bullying of his elder half-brother. Then, not quite fifteen years old, and on the day they bury their father, Jesamiah hits back. In consequence, he flees his home, changes his name to Jesamiah Acorne, and joins the crew of his father’s seafaring friend, Captain Malachias Taylor, aboard the privateer, Mermaid.

He makes enemies, sees the ghost of his father, wonders who is the Cornish girl he hears in his mind – and tries to avoid the beguiling lure of a sensuous mermaid...

An early coming-of-age tale of the young Jesamiah Acorne, set in the years before he becomes a pirate and Captain of the Sea Witch.

and a cosy mystery set in 1970s north London 

The first in a new series of quick-read,
cosy mysteries set in the 1970s.
A Mirror Murde
https://getbook.at/MirrorMurder

Eighteen-year-old library assistant Jan Christopher’s life is to change on a rainy Friday evening in July 1971, when her legal guardian and uncle, DCI Toby Christopher, gives her a lift home after work. Driving the car, is her uncle’s new Detective Constable, Laurie Walker – and it is love at first sight for the young couple.

But romance is soon to take a back seat when a baby boy is taken from his pram,  a naked man is scaring young ladies in nearby Epping Forest, and an elderly lady is found, brutally murdered...

Are the events related? How will they affect the staff and public of the local library where Jan works – and will a blossoming romance survive a police investigation into  murder?

Reviews

“A delightful read about an unexpected murder in North East London.” Richard Ashen (South Chingford Community Library)

“Lots of nostalgic, well-researched, detail about life in the 1970s, which readers of a certain age will lap up; plus some wonderful, and occasionally hilarious, ‘behind the counter’ scenes of working in a public library, which any previous or present-day library assistant will recognise!” Reader Review


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