Sunday Snippet, Psalm 23

A Formulaic Romance

This is the start of another story Amelia and I are putting together. There’s a pun in the title that will become obvious in time.

The story starts with Rachel, Lady Hayforth, throwing the dice in a desperate try at the marriage mart and coming up short when her carriage breaks down in the middle of nowhere. After a complicated string of happenings, she ends up engaged to Rupert, Lord Hartshorne, an aspiring chemist who did mysterious things for the war office in the recent past. His notebooks have gone missing, and a mysterious Mr Oliver is involved. Last week Rachel and her friends went to look at the stars after an eventful afternoon.  George has left for the village. One might think that Rachel’s life would get simpler without this distraction, but that would be no fun.

Rupert showed he has something that connects his shoulders to his hips. Last week, the start of a new chapter shows that another of his talents is important.  We discovered why it was so important that Rupert come with Sir Roger recently. Rachel awoke below decks in a ship (a channel barge). Despite the sterling reputation of the English as cooks, the crew ask Rachel to cook for them. Her choice of seasonings has their desired effect. This week she gives thanks for her deliverance.

When you’ve finished with this tripe, take a look at the better authors in Snippet Sunday.


The ceremony proceeded, and when it came time to read a verse or psalm, Dr Fowler cleared his voice; then said, “In light of our visitor’s harrowing experience, I thought a different psalm might be appropriate. Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me.”

Now everyone really did turn and look at her. The shuffling noise drowned Dr Fowler’s voice. Rachel smiled back, weakly.

“Yeah though I walk the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for” for I’m the toughest woman in that valley.  “Thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me” Could have used that staff or that rod. Would have been very handy.

“Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:” Like I did, Thank you Lord for the Calomel. “thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over” Rachel smiled, Their bowels certainly did.

“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.”

I was lucky. May not be next time.

“Amen.”

The service over, Dr Fowler waited at the church door, and after talking with all the other parishioners caught Rachel. “I am glad to see you’ve recovered Miss.”

“Mostly.”

“That preventive said you were a heroine, but he didn’t know your name.”

“I’m sorry. Rachel, Lady Hayforth. My fiancé is Lord Hartshorne from Oulten Hall, near Wakefield.”

Dr Fowler bowed, “I’m honoured to have you share my humble vicarage.”

“No, I’m honoured that you found a room and a dress for me. Can we send a letter to my fiancé? He’ll be worried.” I hope so. Charity won’t.

“Yes, but I should tell you that the preventive officer caught the post to Selby. There’s a good chance Lord Hartshorne already knows. The officer said they were tearing up the town to find some gentlewoman.”

“Even better, still I should write.”

“Certainly. We should dine first.” Dr Fowler turned and introduced another young woman to her. “This is my daughter Elizabeth. One brother is at Cambridge and the other.” He paused; then glanced at the churchyard. A sad expression flickered across his face.

“I’m sorry.”

“Yes. The ways of the Lord are mysterious. It’s kept me from seeking preferment, but then I like Hook.” He continued to gaze across the graves.

“Father,” Elizabeth said, “I’m sure Lady Hayforth is famished, and I, for one, would like to hear her story.”

“Oh. Yes, of course.”


There is an echo of more recent experience in Rachel’s interpretation of the 23rd psalm. (not mine I must add, being to young for the pleasure.)

Speaking of sheep and shepherds.
One of the joys of walking in the English countryside is the presence of livestock. Sheep, here ewes and their nearly grown lambs, contribute their own … distinctive ambience to the experience.

I shouldn’t complain, however, as cattle contribute a similar ambience too. At least the sheep won’t chase you. One actually has to be careful around cattle. If they’re not used to human contact they can be surprisingly dangerous. They’ve been known to trample incautious walkers. Still, if you didn’t have farmers, you wouldn’t have footpaths – so it’s a worthwhile bargain. Just be careful around the stock.


Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.  The first book in our series, The Art of Deception is now available for sale with an extract on instafreebie as a teaser.

Dunkery Beacon #UKwalks

I’ve been queuing up a series of walks – mostly about 10 km (6 miles for us colonials), and this is the first.

Dunkery Beacon is the tallest peak in Exmoor. We’d hired a house in Wootton Courtenay which is at the base of the peak, but if you’re driving there are other places to start from.  I would probably park at Webber’s post where there is a large parking lot, but no post.

We managed to arrive just after a heat wave; 32-35 is no fun without aircon. It was typical English summer weather; i.e.raining and cold.

The trail proper starts in a lovely grove of trees and then ascends a moderate slope.

Of course we started in the sun, but that was not to last.

Wootton Courtenay is there, somewhere beneath the clouds

We passed the ponies several times – this shot being on the way up.


These preferred Bracken to handouts, which was a relief.

The top is marked by a cairn. We used it to shelter from the wind while eating lunch.

This shows the path up the hill.

We followed a steep descent part way down the hill and made our way through delightfully pretty woods (Rowan and Holly so we were doubly safe from the foul spirits of the undead) to Webber’s post, and back to our house. If I started from Webber’s post I’d go across the hill and up the way we did rather than the other way around.

Of course, then the weather cleared.

The view from the Timberscoombe trail.

Sunday Snippet, Let us give thanks.

A Formulaic Romance

This is the start of another story Amelia and I are putting together. There’s a pun in the title that will become obvious in time.

The story starts with Rachel, Lady Hayforth, throwing the dice in a desperate try at the marriage mart and coming up short when her carriage breaks down in the middle of nowhere. After a complicated string of happenings, she ends up engaged to Rupert, Lord Hartshorne, an aspiring chemist who did mysterious things for the war office in the recent past. His notebooks have gone missing, and a mysterious Mr Oliver is involved. Last week Rachel and her friends went to look at the stars after an eventful afternoon.  George has left for the village. One might think that Rachel’s life would get simpler without this distraction, but that would be no fun.

Rupert showed he has something that connects his shoulders to his hips. Last week, the start of a new chapter shows that another of his talents is important.  We discovered why it was so important that Rupert come with Sir Roger recently. Rachel awoke below decks in a ship (a channel barge). Despite the sterling reputation of the English as cooks, the crew ask Rachel to cook for them. Her choice of seasonings has their desired effect. This week she gives thanks for her deliverance.

When you’ve finished with this tripe, take a look at the better authors in Snippet Sunday.


 

Rachel stirred in bed, woken by the ringing of the none too distant church bells. She sat up, blinked, and fought back the panicked feeling that she was in a strange room. The late afternoon sun flooded in and filled the room with an amber light. She wasn’t in that boat, this was a room. Not her room, but a nice one nonetheless.

A maid, one she didn’t recognize, asked her, “Ma’am, it’s compline. If you hurry, you could still make the prayers.”

Prayers?”

Dr Fowler would appreciate it, and Ma’am.”

Yes?”

You’ve a fair bit to be thankful for, don’t you Ma’am?”

Yes, I do. I’m alive. “Dr Fowler’s the vicar?”

Yes Ma’am. Miss Fowler left a dress for you. Your old one being torn and muddy.”

Then I’d best hurry.”

The bell had finished tolling and the congregation was halfway through the first hymn when Rachel tried to slip unnoticed into the back of St. Mary’s. Even though the singing continued, it felt to her as if everyone in the room turned to stare. I can’t run. Rachel curtsied, and then found a seat in a pew in the back.

The vicar, who Rachel could almost recognize from the night before, addressed the congregation, “Let us confess our sins to God.”

As everyone started to recite, “Almighty God, our heavenly Father.” Rachel thought, I must have been exhausted to sleep this late.

Forgive us our sins,” the prayer continued, “In what I have done,” What I had to do, “and what I failed to do.” They may have survived. Hope not.

Forgive us, O Lord.” Should I ask forgiveness for hoping they didn’t?

The ceremony proceeded, and when it came time to read a verse or psalm, Dr Fowler cleared his voice; then said, “In light of our visitor’s harrowing experience, I thought a different psalm might be appropriate. Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me.”

Now everyone really did turn and look at her. The shuffling noise drowned Dr Fowler’s voice. Rachel smiled back, weakly.


I’m walking.  As my ankle recovers I’m discovering the muscles that haven’t been used as much in the last few months. I’d been warned about back pain and did a fair number of leg lifts. That worked, but the long muscles that connect the thigh to the big toe are letting me know they don’t like the situation. Fortunately stretching makes a big difference. I moved from my Philmont boots to a pair of trail runners, the same type as I used in Wales last summer.  It hasn’t stopped me from field research this summer.

Bits of folk religion show up in the oddest places.  This little statue, at the Devil’s pulpit above Tintern Abbey on Offa’s dyke, seems to represent some forest spirit or old goddess. There’s a large pile of offerings on the stump beside her.


Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.  The first book in our series, The Art of Deception is now available for sale with an extract on instafreebie as a teaser.

Sunday Snippet, Going for a Swim.

A Formulaic Romance

This is the start of another story Amelia and I are putting together. There’s a pun in the title that will become obvious in time.

The story starts with Rachel, Lady Hayforth, throwing the dice in a desperate try at the marriage mart and coming up short when her carriage breaks down in the middle of nowhere. After a complicated string of happenings, she ends up engaged to Rupert, Lord Hartshorne, an aspiring chemist who did mysterious things for the war office in the recent past. His notebooks have gone missing, and a mysterious Mr Oliver is involved. Last week Rachel and her friends went to look at the stars after an eventful afternoon.  George has left for the village. One might think that Rachel’s life would get simpler without this distraction, but that would be no fun.

Rupert showed he has something that connects his shoulders to his hips. Last week, the start of a new chapter shows that another of his talents is important.  We discovered why it was so important that Rupert come with Sir Roger recently. Rachel awoke below decks in a ship (a channel barge). Despite the sterling reputation of the English as cooks, the crew ask Rachel to cook for them. Her choice of seasonings has their desired effect this week.

When you’ve finished with this tripe, take a look at the better authors in Snippet Sunday.


The preventive officer lay there, staring at her. She put her hand to her lips, signalling silence, and then cut his bonds. “Quiet.”

What about the crew?”

Sick.” She smiled, “They didn’t like my cooking. Can you move?”

The man rubbed his hands and stretched his legs, “I think so.”

Good, we have to get off of this boat.”

Ship.” The officer paused for a moment, “Where are the crew?”

Hanging over the side of the boat. I laced their dinner with calomel, the wine with tartar emetic.”

Good lass.” The officer stifled a laugh.

****

Henri heard something behind him and looked up from the dark black water below. The water that carried what was left of his dinner downstream. The moonlight, while bright enough to tow the ship, didn’t give enough light to see the brown colour and floating debris that he knew was there. “What did you put in that food, Woman?”

Moments later, he joined the debris in the river, followed shortly by his compatriots. The boy, who led this stage of horses, didn’t bother to look back at the splashing. He’d been warned and well paid to ignore anything the ship dropped over the side. Besides, ships always dumped their slops overboard. It wasn’t until he reached Hook and stopped to change teams that he noticed anything amiss.

Where’s that Frenchie?”

The preventive officer shouted back, “Gone bathing, for his health. We’ll tie up here.” Then he turned to Rachel, “Ma’am, I think it best we find the local militia.”


I’m walking. Not without pain, and not without a little bit of a limp, but I’m walking. It turns out, if you’re ever in this situation, that it’s important to restore flexibility.  You can walk through the pain. I moved from my Philmont boots to a pair of trail runners, the same type as I used in Wales last summer.  It hasn’t stopped me from field research this summer.


A sunken path in Exmoor. I expect Exmoor will feature in one or the other of our next works.


Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.  The first book in our series, The Art of Deception is now available for sale with an extract on instafreebie as a teaser.

Selworthy Beacon

This is a good short walk for a rainy and overcast day. Selworthy is a short distance past Minehead on the A39.   Leaving from the church parking lot, we went up hill and worked our way to the Beacon. The church is worth taking a look at with original features dating back to the 1500’s. One highlight for me was a 1609 copy of “An Apology for the Church of England” by John Jewel. It laid out the case for the Church of England being more Catholic than the Church of Rome and every parish was required to have a copy. Unlike many villages, Selworthy lost nearly as many men in WW2 as WW1.  However, like many small villages, Selworthy has sadly lost much of its population since then.

Selworthy Parish Church

It’s a surprisingly steep climb, steeper than Dunkery Beacon. There’s a side trail to the castle – a neolithic settlement – that we didn’t take. The wooded parts of the path are well covered and somewhat close – even at 13C. However, when it opens up, it is windy and exposed. I valued my windshirt.


The top of Dunkery Beacon is hidden by the clouds in the distance.

Porlock Weir is in the distance (There will be another post about that). There is a herd of belted galloway cattle that grazes the heath.

This shows the trail down.

The village itself is mostly national trust property. We stopped for an excellent cream tea at the Periwinkle Tea room.

The National Trust Property

The Tearoom is left of centre in this picture.
Selworthy Village

Hunting a Lion on Exmoor.

Not the semi-mythical Exmoor beast, but a pub called “the Lion” in Timberscoombe. We thought we’d have a relaxed day with a short pub walk for lunch. Good pub food, a few pints, and an easy walk home.

Unfortunately the pub – which looks a decent place – was closed for renovation. Looking in the windows suggested it needed the work. So we had a few handfuls of trail mix (hint: buy the components and mix them yourself. It’s a whole heck of a lot cheaper.) and headed back.

Rather than simply backtrack, we tried a loop with short stretches on the A396. These weren’t too bad, there being pavement for most of it. (Sidewalks for yanks.) We did have a digression because some landowner had blocked off the public footpath. You’re not supposed to do that, but they did nonetheless.

Most of the paths on the way back were sunken roadways which tends to make for ‘close’ air and hot walking.

Dunkery Beacon – where we walked the day before, braving wind and rain, is somewhere in the back of this image.

We went through the pretty little hamlet of Ford and headed home for a beer and Stilton lunch.

Wootton Courtenay from the distance.

Sunday Snippet, Sometimes I take a calomel for my headache.

A Formulaic Romance

This is the start of another story Amelia and I are putting together. There’s a pun in the title that will become obvious in time.

The story starts with Rachel, Lady Hayforth, throwing the dice in a desperate try at the marriage mart and coming up short when her carriage breaks down in the middle of nowhere. After a complicated string of happenings, she ends up engaged to Rupert, Lord Hartshorne, an aspiring chemist who did mysterious things for the war office in the recent past. His notebooks have gone missing, and a mysterious Mr Oliver is involved. Last week Rachel and her friends went to look at the stars after an eventful afternoon.  George has left for the village. One might think that Rachel’s life would get simpler without this distraction, but that would be no fun.

Rupert showed he has something that connects his shoulders to his hips. Last week, the start of a new chapter shows that another of his talents is important.  We discovered why it was so important that Rupert come with Sir Roger recently. Last week, Rachel awoke below decks in a ship (a channel barge).

When you’ve finished with this tripe, take a look at the better authors in Snippet Sunday.


“Vive L’Emporer.” Lars and the other hand snapped to attention.

“Is that why you want Rupert’s notes, his help?”

The man smiled. “Précisément. We must equalize the odds.”

Rachel said, “Untie me. I’ll behave.” Until I get a chance. Something tells me I’m due for a swim soon enough in any case.

“Bon.  See to it Lars. I’ll arrange for the tow. She should stay below until we’re away.”

The preventive officer groaned as his consciousness returned. “And see that he’s bound, No need to be gentle.”

****

Rachel, as directed, stayed below until the ship was cast loose from the harbour. She felt it gently sway as a team of horses pulled the bow around, and then along the bank.

She called, “Can I come up?”

“Nichts, not yet.”

The barge stopped, tied to the side of the first lock on the Ouse. Rachel felt it slowly sink. A sinking feeling that matched her worries. Then she heard the gates open, the boy on the horse team call, and they were off. Down the twisty Ouse river and toward the North Sea.

By the time they allowed Rachel on deck, the sky had darkened into night. Not that it stopped the tow.

She scanned the countryside, the low flat farmland that was so different from her home. “Where are we?”

Lars laughed, “I shouldn’t tell you, but sweetie, you won’t get away. The Ouse, downstream from Selby.”

“Selby?”

“Several kilometres east of Wakefield.”

It might as well have been on the moon.

Lars continued, “Komm. Mit mir. Time to earn your keep.” He led her to the galley. “You can cook, can’t you?”

“A little.”

“Wir have some fresh braut, sausage. Can you cook that?”

“Yes.”

“Gut.” He tossed some coal onto the stove and stirred it. “When that heats. The pans – behind you.”

“I see.” Rachel studied the contents of the galley. “You don’t believe in cleaning them, do you?”

“Nein. Adds flavour.”

“I see. I prefer clean pans. Do you mind if I see what you have, find my way around your galley?”

“Just cook something good for us to eat.” He turned and left her alone.

Don’t worry, I will.

****

Henri spat out his mouthful, then swore, “Mon Dieu woman, Can’t you cook?”

“Yes I can. What’s wrong with it?”

“You English. This is execrable. Mais what can you expect from an Englishwoman?”

“I don’t know. Looks good to me, and what’s wrong with boiled sausage? I put the peas in it too. Mashed nicely, good mushy peas.”

Lars growled, “Henri, this is worse than mine. Are you sure you want this minou to cook for us?”

The Frenchman stood. “This is disgusting. Alors madam. Je vais teach you the art of preparing the food.”

“If you insist. What’s wrong with it?”

“It’s foul.” Henri took a swig of wine to wash the taste from his mouth. “Even this execrable sweet English wine can’t hide the taste.”

He took a couple of steps towards the galley, “Follow me.” Then he grabbed his stomach. “After I return from the head.”

Moments later Lars and the other hand joined him. They hung over the edge of the gunnel, alternately squirting from both ends of their digestive tracks.

Rachel smiled to herself. So that bottle really was calomel, good. Then she grabbed a knife from the table and ran, unnoticed, to the front of the hold.


I’m walking. Not without pain, and not without a little bit of a limp, but I’m walking. It turns out, if you’re ever in this situation, that it’s important to restore flexibility.  You can walk through the pain. I moved from my Philmont boots to a pair of trail runners, the same type as I used in Wales last summer.

English food is something of a running joke to the French. It’s not that bad. Actually, it’s excellent when properly prepared. The thing is, the Brits do not complain. Well, they do, but very moderately. “I’m not exactly keen on this,” means “I loath and detest it.” So you can survive cooking awful food in a British restaurant – at least for a while.

I’ve had both some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in the UK and some of the worst (Boiled sausages at the University of Reading.)


Amelia reminded me to put a link to our book page.  The first book in our series, The Art of Deception is now available for preorder with an extract on instafreebie as a teaser.