Travelling Opera

I do love a good story…

Tallis Steelyard

Travelling opera

Between ourselves I’m not sure I’ve got the right term. I know that there’s light opera, so surely the very existence of the term supposes something heavier? Yet I’ve never heard anybody use the term ‘heavy opera’ so I’ve entitled this anecdote ‘travelling opera’ instead. To be fair Madam Fenisque was involved with a very heavy opera (should such a term exist) indeed. She had, for a number of years, staged the opera Theraspus and Iokelei! This is one of the great tragic operas, a five act drama which contains passion, tragedy, farce and ‘six of the greatest arias ever written’.
Now you might well consider this a reasonable pastime for a wealthy and music-loving lady. But firstly she insisted on the opera being performed out of doors. To be fair, with Theraspus and Iokelei you can get away with it. There are plenty of good solid choruses and the…

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My review of Jacques Tati His Life & Art by David Bellos

I’m a lifelong Tati fan…

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Far from producing a well-informed biography of France’s greatest cinematic clown, Jacques Tati, instead Bellos ruthlessly dissects. Despite his clinical approach, there is just enough tantalising information about Tati, the brilliant creator of Monsieur Hulot, to hold my attention.
Do I really want to know about the various colour film processes available in France? Not really. Nor do I want to read yet again about the dire financial straits France found itself in after World War I, as well as what was going on in Europe during the years before and after World War II! Acres of text have already been written concerning these times and events.
When I purchase a book purportedly written about one of my all-time favourite comedic heroes, I fully expect to read about the man – nothing else. But instead it seems to me that Bellos has turned his book into an intellectual diatribe against…

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They’re coming to take us away…

We must be mad!!!

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Vain, selfish and lazy? Speak for yourself Eric. That may have been true in your case, but not mine! Most writers I know are none of those things. These days the only people you will come across like that are certain editors and literary agents as well as most literary critics. The latter category, especially the odd one or two who write for newspapers and literary magazines here in the UK, can definitely be said to be vain and selfish. To those two unsavoury qualities I would add a few others – condescending, snobbish, scathing and vicious, particularly when it comes to one leading newspaper’s literary critic and his deep loathing of Indies. Compared to him, internet trolls are rank amateurs.

As for the rest of what Eric is quoted as saying – writing is a long exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness, he’s…

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Medieval Chess Troubles

Nicholas on my favourite boardgame…

Nicholas C. Rossis

Lewis chess | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books The Lewis Chessmen. Source: The British Museum

Medieval monasteries had a serious problem. Instead of 100% focusing on their spiritual and earthly duties, many monks loved besting each other at chess. The Medieval version of “video games cause violence” was, “playing chess leads to blasphemy.”

Things got so bad that chess was forbidden many times throughout the medieval period. However, monks were so addicted that often they found creative ways to hide their boards and pieces. Lanercost, a monastery in the UK, features gameboards scratched into the stone of the windowsills for bored monks to play. And the foldable chessboard, which could be disguised as a book and held a compartment for pieces, was developed that way. In a sense, portable Chess was the Gameboy of Medieval Times.

If you’re writing any kind of Medieval fiction, throwing in a chapter about the chess controversy may be a great way…

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It’s confession time – well almost

I’m still here…

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To all of you who have yet to retire, take it from me when I say I thoroughly recommend it.

All of my adult life I worked for someone else. Who benefited the most from the relationship? In each case they did. Before you start, yes I know I should consider myself fortunate to have been in constant employment, receiving a weekly wage from my sixteenth until my fifty-fifth year, when I was eventually considered too old for the  labour market, winding up on the scrap heap back in 2003, along with millions of others.

By the bye, I don’t envy anyone looking for full-time employment in these days of below minimum wage zero hours work contracts…

Despite being bitter at the time, eventually I looked upon it as the best thing that happened to me, even though the next ten years were tough financially when I was left with…

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Le Château d’ Aguilar

A lesson in French history from ma chere Lea…


Le Château d’ Aguilar rises in the Cathar country, ensconced in a landscape of aromatic garrigue vegetation. A stark contrast to the  order of the Haut Fitou vineyards. Set on the rock like a crown, the castle looks over the village of Tuchan. The first mention of Puy Aguilar appeared in the testament of the Count of Besalù in 1020.

 Possession of The Château fell under the auspices of vassals of the Trencavel family. The crusade to eradicate the Cathars began in 1209 lasting until 1255. At the conclusion of this inquisition, the castle was property of the King of France. Ownership was bestowed to Olivier de Termes as a reward for services rendered in the Holy Land.

In 1258, the castle was brought into service in defending the French-Aragon border. In 1260 the castle was integrated  info the royal domain by The King of France, Louis IX and became a…

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The First Version Of The Hook

A post from yesteryear about The Hook…

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Ok folks, if you have been keeping up with my blog, you will have already read my previous post on the subject of the Hook. If not here is it’s link –

Now then, all I need from the three hundred and twenty-two people who currently follow my blog is for you all to read through the first version of the Hook shown below.

Don’t just click ‘like’ and move on, or ignore it. Here is your one and only chance to partake in the birth of a new novel. I really need your totally unbiased opinions. Even if science fiction does nothing for you, I still want to know whether or not the Hook works. In other words did it get your attention to the point where you want to know more? One other thing, forget about the character names. At this stage of the…

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For The Love Of Dogs

And now something from Peter…


Ignatius Plotsky was a poet in waiting, a painter in search of a canvas and writer of some obscurity whose insights were sited somewhere beyond the land of meaning.

Following a few drinks at the bar, and spotting a young lady who, as Shakespeare might have said, “Ticked all the boxes” he wandered up to her and, pushing his fringe aside in a practised gesture of world weariness said, “Faze in to the far out” while looking as deeply into her eyes as good manners would allow.

Her mind was filled more with the image of Maserati’s than poetry so we can forgive her, or anyone else to be fair, for failing to understand what he meant. Indeed he didn’t know himself but it had a certain cadence don’t you think? It flowed with obscure confidence, a silent volume possibly, or am I allowing myself to fall into the trap…

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Crawling backwards and other things…

Its a wonder I’m still here…

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A typical priest hole

The following is drawn from what I was told by my grandmothers, my three aunts and my mother at various times…


When I was born on the eighth of March 1948, my parents had a jet black Cocker Spaniel barely out of puppy-hood named Rex.


From what mum told me Rex decided I was his responsibility. I remember seeing a black and white photo taken on dad’s Box Brownie showing me in my pram with Rex laying on top of my legs. Whenever I was on the ground, unlike most babies I crawled backwards everywhere. Better to bump into things with your bottom swathed in nappies than to bump your head. Well that’s my explanation for the way I crawled – so there! 😉

But there were times when even Rex couldn’t keep his eyes on me all the time. Apparently one day I…

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