Matthew Hopkins, Witch-Hunter

In the 1640s, a self-designated witch-finder named Matthew Hopkins “toured the counties of Norfolk, Essex, Hants, and Sussex, in quest of witches.”

In one year he brought no fewer than sixty to the stake.

Method of detection: “swimming”

  • The right thumb of the suspected person was tied to the toe of the left foot, and vice versa. She was then wrapped in a blanket and placed on her back in a pond. If she floated — which we are told was generally the case when placed carefully upon the water — she was guilty, and was burned forthwith; if she sank, she was innocent.

— Sax Rohmer, The Romance of Sorcery

Only the preposition “she” is used, throughout this section. Self can only assume this means: No male witches, ever.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

BATH: Magnificent Order

And self does mean magnificent.

The Royal Crescent in Bath takes her breath away. Even after seeing it for the third or fourth time.

The shape is an ellipsis cut in half. Who thought of this curved shape? So perfect. It’s almost mystical.

The architect (whose name self immediately forgot) was inspired, according to the guide on the walking tour, by the Roman Coliseum (which is itself elliptical. Really? Self never knew!)

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Royal Crescent

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Royal Crescent No. 1 (Royal Crescent Museum): Self is so happy that this woman came out of the entrance just as self was getting ready to take this shot.

Self had been on the Grand Parade, many times. But she never looked over the bridge to the river below. She finally did, yesterday, and — GAH! Rapids! Who would have thought?

Only after looking at the river for several moments did she realize that the gulls were walking on the edge of the top rapids. Grand illusion! And there are kayaks over there!

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The River Avon from the Grand Parade

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Still More Evanescent: Paris Day Trip

Today self and her niece Irene went on a one-day tour to Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte and Chateau de Fontainebleau. The guide’s name was Laurence: she was great.

Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte came first. OMG, that estate is just fabulous. It’s privately owned. The main buildings are open to the public; no sign of the family that owns the place, but hey, imagine giving birthday parties there! Must be soooo fun!

At some time in its fabulous past, the estate was in the hands of the same family for eight generations. The last heir murdered his wife so he could be with his mistress, was convicted and imprisoned, and committed suicide in his cell, a year later. Payback’s a bitch!

His chef invented the praline.

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A Photo Shoot Was Happening at the 17th Century Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte! Self was so woke!

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Windows, Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte

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More Windows at Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte: Self took so many pictures there that by the time the tour arrived at Fontainebleau, her camera battery was exhausted. Ugh!!!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

FAMILY: by Anna Moi for Air France Magazine

Early 1960s. The “war” was the Vietnam War, which pitted the North, where Moi’s parents were from, against the South, to where they fled:

How long does it take for a mother to read Alone in the World and The Story of Perrine to her child? My mother read to me almost every evening, because my parents went out only three or four times a year, and never had guests. It was wartime, but that doesn’t explain it — war had only just begun and nobody imagined at the time that it would last some 15 years and that we’d face shortages of everything, especially freedom, the basic freedom to move around as we chose.

This sense of frugality was something my parents were born with, just as others live with a heart murmur or an irregular heartbeat. It was the region of their birth, the North, that had triggered this simmering anxiety.

At bedtime, my mother would decide on a number of pages, but I would beg her to carry on, and she was always happy to continue the story of Rémi the abandoned child or of Perrine Paindavoine, an orphan searching for her family . . .  From one episode to the next, in those days before TV series, I traveled from one family to another, and from town to town, in the comfort of knowing I would fall asleep sated with emotions.

Back In the Day: Rinker Buck

Apparently the Native Americans and the western settlers moving along the Oregon Trail in the mid-19th century got along quite well.

The amicable relations came to an abrupt end in 1855:

  • In 1855, a detachment of six hundred U.S. Army soldiers commanded by General William S. Harney surrounded a band of Brule Sioux led by Chief Little Thunder near Blue Water Creek, six miles north of Ash Hollow, slaughtering eighty-six braves and capturing most of their women and children. Harney’s expedition was launched in retaliation for an incident the year before, when an inexperienced Army lieutenant, John Grattan, had brashly marched his soldiers into a large Brule Sioux camp outside Fort Laramie, Wyoming, demanding that the chiefs produce the Indian who had shot a Mormon pioneer’s cow, even though the Brules had already offered restitution for the cow by giving the pioneer his pick of their sixty-horse herd. The usual army bumbling was involved. Grattan was a recent West Point graduate, unfamiliar with Sioux ways, and his French-Canadian “interpreter” could not speak the Brule dialect and was drunk.

The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, p. 213

Danger!: The Daily Post Photo Challenge, 3 May 2017

Signage, Cork:

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How will Brexit impact Ireland? No one knows for sure.

What’s next for America?

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Reading The Guardian, March 2017

As luck would have it, self began reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon:

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Self’s reading of THE DECLINE AND FALL gave self all sorts of premonitions.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

George Washington: First POTUS

This spring, self began reading a series of histories, starting with Francis Parkman’s Montcalm and Wolfe: The Decline and Fall of the French Empire in North America.

She really enjoyed that book, which gave reader’s glimpses of the very young George Washington (21 years old) in his first combat experience. Throughout the book, there were other glimpses. Finally, by the end of the book, self could not believe how much this young man had grown and flourished. Even though he wasn’t the main subject of the book, and was still only in his 20s by the time the events the book narrated were over, he showed himself to be a natural leader.

Now, months later, self has just begun reading The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, by Rinker Buck. On p. 30, she reads Buck’s opinion of Parkman: “a notoriously snobbish Boston Brahmin.” Okaaaay. He also says George Washington “worked the same day job as Donald Trump” — he was a “land developer . . .  described as the richest of his generation.” (p. 32)

But, one interesting fact about Washington was that he was so practical, he saw right away the usefulness of mules as farm and/or pack animals, and he immediately began to breed them, and he even “advertised in the Pennsylvania and Virginia newspapers . . . the services of his jacks, who made long breeding tours throughout the . . .  colonies and the new frontier states every year . . . The early descendants of the Mount Vernon stock — tall, drafty, and weighing between a thousand and 1,200 pounds . . . ” (which is 10 x what self weighs, and she can’t imagine having to deal with anything that weighs 10 x as much as her — it would be so devastating an encounter, probably as bad as an encounter with a grizzly) were initially called American Mammoth mules . . .

So there’s our first President for you — a natural leader, a practical man, one who propagated the west with American mammoth mules, and self would never have known if she hadn’t read Rinker Buck.

That is why reading is so important, etc etc

Wonder what SCROTUS reads? Sorry, but self cannot help comparing # 1 and # 45 and feeling that there is a yawning gulf . . .

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Battle in Robert Harris: p. 248 of Conspirata (Or, If You’re in the UK, Lustrum)

Cicero’s great enemy is Catilina. Catilina is dispatched, as self knew he would be (She’s read about Catilina’s dispatching in both SPQR and Tom Holland’s Rubicon). But, as Harris writes a few pages earlier, No victories in politics are permanent (This is a paraphrase; self has little time to be hunting up the exact page, as the day is almost done and she hasn’t met her day’s writing quota).

Still, Harris manages to make Catilina’s defeat exciting:

  • It was a terrible carnage and Catilina was in the thick of it all day. Not one of his lieutenants surrendered. They fought with the ferocious abandon of men with nothing to lose. Only when Petreius sent in a crack praetorian cohort did the rebel army finally collapse. Every one of Catilina’s followers, including Manlius, died where he stood; afterwards their wounds were found to be entirely in the front and none in the back.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Pugnacious Fulvia: RUBICON, pp. 365 – 366

TRIGGER WARNING: PHYSICAL BRUTALITY, MAIMING OF CORPSES

At this point in Tom Holland’s Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic, Julius Caesar has been murdered and Rome is descending into anarchy. The murder of the great man was a tad anti-climactic, mebbe because self read that section on the same night that the United States dropped its most powerful (non-nuclear) bomb on Afghanistan? #SMH

In one of those super-ironic, stranger-than-fiction developments, the 18-year-old boy who showed up unannounced at Cicero’s villa, a few pages earlier, the one who turned out to be the designated heir of the murdered Caesar, exhibits great stores of determination. He manages to raise his own army (selling his own property in order to do so) and marches on Rome to assert his rights as Caesar’s heir. Just a month earlier, the kid was on the border with Parthia, fighting in one of those expeditionary Roman legions. Now, he has Rome on its knees? Go figure.

The murder of Caesar is as nothing compared to the execution of Cicero. Cicero had sided with the plotters. He had a chance to flee and join the forces of Brutus and Cassio, but his ship was delayed by a storm. And while waiting out the storm, Cicero then made what Holland calls the most courageous decision of his life, which was NOT TO FLEE.

His executioners caught up with him while he was heading to one of his villas, whereupon Cicero stuck his head out of his palanquin and offered his own throat up.

When the head and hands of Cicero were brought to the Capitol, the widow of one of Cicero’s enemies, one Fulvia, hurried to inspect the grisly souvenirs. Whereupon she spat on Cicero’s head, and pulled his tongue out with a hairpin.

Now married to Marc Antony (who was off dawdling with Cleopatra in the East), the “ever pugnacious Fulvia” attempted to stir up a rebellion in Italy. Her opponent, the boy Caesar, was able to quell the rebellion (but just barely). His revenge on Fulvia was to pen “abusive verses on the subject of her nymphomania.”

Let’s get this straight: the woman pulled out Cicero’s tongue with a hairpin (granted, the man was already dead); she tried to start a rebellion against Caesar’s heir; and on top of all that, she was a nymphomaniac? What next?

You can see why the murder of Julius Caesar, his stabbing by senators in the Forum, is really small potatoes compared to what happens after.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Nearing the End of RUBICON

The next book in her reading list is a novel, which is a change from the history she’s been reading most of 2017. But it’s a novel of ancient Rome, and the lead character is Cicero, who’s been a major player in SPQR and Rubicon. She’ll probably move faster through that book. In the US it’s Conspirata but in Ireland it has a different name — ? She ordered it from Dublin bookstore Chapters.

After that, she’ll be reading Rinker Buck’s The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey, and then William Finnegan’s surfing memoir, Barbarian Days. Those are the last books she brought with her from the States. After that, everything she reads will be what she can find here.

Rubicon was great. Five stars.

In the final pages, a young man appears at the home of Cicero, introducing himself as the heir of the murdered Julius Caesar. The stranger is blonde, bright-eyed, all of 18. A month earlier, he’d been with an expeditionary force on the Roman frontier of Parthia. Next thing you know, Julius Caesar is murdered, the will is read, and the eighteen-year-old becomes Julius Caesar’s designated heir.

You couldn’t make stuff like this up.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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