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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Puppy starts with K

In the newspaper recently, I read a tip for getting to sleep.  You go through the alphabet, finding an animal for each letter.  A for alligator, B for buffalo and so forth.  By the time you are stuck on X, you should be asleep.  And it is a hit in our household, as it actually works.

Now there is a real life version for you to try.


New Zealand Police have been inundated with suggestions after asking people to help them name their latest recruit - a purebred German shepherd puppy that will join the southern force.
In a Facebook post, Dunedin police have asked for names starting with the letter K.
They have received hundreds of suggestions, not all of which start with K, and will release a shortlist early next week.
The post has 10,890 likes and 982 people have shared it.
"He is so cute if he does not work out can I have him????," one person posted.
Suggestions included Kuddles, Kopper, Kipper, Kamander, Kinko, Koko, Knasher, Kdog, Krypton, Katcha, Kadett and simply K.
K9 was a popular choice and King Kong got a mention.
Kitty seemed to be a long shot.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Barnes & Noble shedding Nook


Digital Book World reports.  And this is my take on the not unexpected news.

Barnes &Noble is to spin off its long-troubled Nook Media device, along with the allied digital media sales business.  The shedding will be accomplished by the start of 2015, according to the company's 2014 financial statement.

There are two possibilities.  Either the Nook Media business (including B&N's college bookstore operation) will become its own publicly traded company, or it will be sold to a private investor.

The first would separate it from B&N's retail operation, which would be in the interest of "optimizing shareholder value."

Shares of Barnes &Noble stock are up almost 10% in early trading on the news.
As separate businesses, Barnes &Noble’s bricks-and-mortars continued to perform well.
Why is the college bookstore operation linked to the Nook business?

It's beyond me to tell. Six hundred college bookstores are surely not worth shedding.

According to the financial report, revenues were $1.6 billion.

That's down by about 1% from last year, but it is still a lot of money. 


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Death of a baby

Once upon a time there was a really pretty whaling wife

 Her name was Elizabeth Brightman, usually known as "Lizzie."

On July 3, 1872, she married George Fox Brightman ... and just one month later he sailed off on a four-year voyage, as first mate of the whaling bark California.

It was a common story with New England wives, but as we know a few did manage to join their husbands at sea. This was a privilege mostly confined to the wives of captains, though, so Lizzie had to wait until George was given his own command -- of the same ship California.

On November 8, 1876, that's exactly what she did -- she left port on board the ship.  It was the start of a remarkable career.


Over the next thirteen years she made three four-year voyages, circling the world three times.


She learned to navigate, and took charge of the ship when George was down in a boat chasing whales, or was too sick to preside on the quarterdeck.

If the steward was sick ... or drunk ... or had run away, she did his job, taking over the cabin housekeeping duties.

She became famous for bringing good luck to the ship. But her own luck ran out when she had a baby on Norfolk Island.  It was April 19, 1882.  Little Georgie died three days later, and the sad parents buried him in the old cemetery.

When Lizzie and George arrived home, they had a gravestone and foot-marker made, and carried them to the island, where they put up the stones, and had a fence erected around the grave, New England fashion. You can see what it was like in this very old picture taken at the time.



 And this is how it looks now.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The new Obama?

Something extraordinary happened at the Harvard Business School last month


A young man stood up at the graduation ceremony and gave a remarkable speech.

Casey Gerald spoke movingly about a near-death experience with armed gunmen in his hometown of Dallas, and how that changed his life forever. “A strange thing happened as I accepted that I was about to die: I stopped being afraid.” He then decided to “give my life to a cause greater than myself.”
With three classmates, Casey founded a non-profit, MBAs Across America, which is a movement of MBAs and entrepreneurs working together to revitalize America. “We saw the signs for hope in entrepreneurs who were on the front lines of change. They showed us that the new ‘bottom line’ in business is the impact you have on your community and the world around you — that no amount of profit could make up for purpose.”
Last summer, Gerald set out on an 8,000-mile journey across the country with three other classmates to talk to people in “nooks and crannies, and the unbeaten paths,” to discover the interconnectedness of people’s lives, dreams, and aspirations.
The conclusion of his speech was a remarkable exhortation to his classmates, leaving little doubt that Gerald has at least the potential to become the next Obama.
“After all the miles and the memories of the last two years, now I see the biggest sign of hope: You, my friends, my fellow graduates, not because of what we have done, but because I know we have more work to do. In your hands as well as mine lies the hope for a new generation of business leaders in which each of us becomes a pioneer, in which each of us commits our time and talent not just to the treasures of today, but to the frontier of tomorrow where new dreams and new hopes and new possibilities are waiting.
“As we leave this place for the last time, some as Baker Scholars and some by the seat of our pants, we take up the work of not just making a living but of making a life. For if all we have learned here are Four Ps, and Five Forces and Six Sigma, we will prove William Faulkner right, that we labor under a curse, that we live not for love but for lust, for defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, for victories without hope, and worst of all without pity or compassion, that our griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars, that we live not from the heart but from the glands.
“No, my friends, we have more work to do, hard work, frightening work, uncertain work and unending work, work that may test us, work that may defeat us, work for which we may not get the credit but work for which the whole world depends. The time is short and the odds are long but I believe that we are ready nonetheless, with the love of those who raised us, with the lessons of those who taught us, with the strength of those who stand beside us as we face what lies ahead. I say let us begin.”
To see Gerald deliver his extraordinary speech, check out Poetsandquants





Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Perpetual Calendar

Want to know on what day of the week your grandfather was born?


Or, as a historian who writes novels or nonfiction, you would like to get your facts absolutely right?


A PERPETUAL CALENDAR is just the thing you need.



It might look complicated at first glance, but it is actually very easy to use.

Perhaps your grandfather was born on June 22, 1911.

Go to the box at the top left corner and run your finger over all the dates, until you find '11. (It's  in the seventh column, close to the top.)

Keep to that column, running your finger down to the lower box. You have a choice of 17, 18, and 19.  Because your grandfather was born in 1911, you opt for the column with 19 at the top. Run down to June, and you will land on the number 4.

Now go to the righthand side of the card.  Go to column number 4, run your finger down to 22 (the day he was born), and lo, you now know he was born on a Thursday.

Now, let's look at your great grandmother, who was born on February 5, 1872.

Back up to the top lefthand box, to find '72. Again, it is in the seventh column, but when you find '72, it is red. This means it was a Leap Year. When you look for February, seventh column, go to the red figures at the bottom. This time, you choose the column with 18 at that top, because your great grandmother was born in that century. And for February, you get the red number 4.

So again, you go for the fourth column in the box on the right.  Run down to 5, and your ancestor was born on a Monday.

This is a very old Perpetual Calendar, as I found it in an ancient desk in a very old house on Long Island.  Accordingly, you won't find the date of the week for anyone born in the 21st century -- but we're all historians, aren't we?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Murder off Norfolk Island


Another seaman's grave -- and another one with a story


Captain Gifford, of the American whaling ship Hope, has furnished the particulars of a fearful assault which was perpetrated onboard his vessel whilst at sea, and which resulted in the death of both the victim and his murderer.
On the 7th [August], at 9 p.m., whilst in latitude 24.7 south and longitude 168.36 east, Captain Gifford heard the alarm of a man being overboard, and, going on deck, he was informed by the man on watch that a lad named F. A. Warren, 18 years of age, and nephew to the captain, had been stabbed whilst lying in his berth.

On going down below, he found the un-fortunate lad in a state of unconsciousness, with a fearful wound completely through from the back to the left breast. A boat had been lowered in the meantime for the purpose of rescuing the man who was in the water; but he appeared to avoid them. They were compelled to return to the vessel; when doing so, the man  called out for help, and they again returned to his assistance; before they could reach  him, however, he sunk, having been seized, as it is supposed, by a shark.

The unfortunate lad lingered for four days, when he died. From his statement it appears that he was stabbed by the man who was drowned and whose name was N. Dourant, by birth a Greek. He was observed to rush from the forecastle, and is supposed to have jumped overboard to avoid the consequences attending the perpetration of the horrible deed. The young lad was greatly respected by all on board, and bore the character of being a quiet inoffensive person
Courier, Brisbane, September 19, 1861

There is a postcript to the sad tale.  Perhaps you can see the words "Alas, my brother" at the bottom of the stone. The fourth mate of the ship Hope was Samuel Warren, Frank's older brother. Evidently it was he who arranged for the stone to be carved and erected.

Evocatively, too, Captain Leonard Gifford's wife, Lucy Ann, was on board. She had experienced tragedy of her own -- two babies had been born to her, over the first three years of the voyage, and both had died. At the same time that Frank was being buried on Norfolk Island, she was on shore, bearing a third, a little girl by the name of Ella. This time, the baby survived, as did a fourth child, a boy who was born on Guam, early in 1863.

Returning to Norfolk Island, Leonard put Lucy Ann, little Ella, and the baby boy on shore for a rest while he sailed to Sydney to provision the ship for the voyage home.  He expected to pick her up before Christmas, 1863. Instead, the ship was wrecked off the north of Australia.  It was October. No man was lost.  Instead, the captain and crew sailed in the ship's boats to Brisbane.  Leonard did not manage to pick up his family until September 1864, when he arrived at Norfolk Island in the leaky old Addison.  Lucy Ann, very understandably, refused to board such an unsafe vessel, and so they went home on the Desdemona, instead.

Understandably, too, she never went to sea again.  




Saturday, June 21, 2014

The winged death's-head


The winged head on Captain Hales' grave at Norfolk is triply intriguing.


First, there was the mystery of the man and his ship.





Then, there was the carefully and professionally carved Masonic symbol.


The winged death's head looks so very different, as if it was carved by an entirely different hand, and for a different reason.  What is it?  What does it mean? Why is it there?

Thanks to Jacqueline Church Simonds, much of the mystery had been solved.  With a background in the antiques business, she revealed that the winged death's head was a popular symbol with eighteenth century New England Puritans.  According to the Gettysburg website, "Its popularity is rooted in the Puritan loathing of icons, something they associated with Catholicism. The design was meant to be an “earthly and neutral symbol, serving as a graphic reminder of death and resurrection."


So Captain Hales was a Puritan, as well as a Freemason. We are learning more about him all the time. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Was Lord Nelson a Freemason?


GUEST POST FROM MARGARET MUIR

I did quite a bit of research on Freemasonry a few years back which was intriguing. Of course many seamen of all ranks were Masons and many ships used the great cabin for lodge meetings whilst at sea. 


The black and white checkerboard floor found in all Masonic lodges represents the diversity of creation. You can see it here on the floor of the Captain’s cabin in HMS Victory.




  


For many years it had been thought that Lord Nelson was possibly not associated with Freemasonry, but painstaking research by John Hamill of the UGLE, London has revealed that he was. At a meeting held at the original Amphibious Lodge No. 407 in Stonehouse, Plymouth on the 15th August 1787 (a lodge for Royal Navy officers and marines) among the visitors is Bro. Nelson who had arrived back in Portsmouth, England from Nevis, in the Caribbean, on the 4th July 1787 aboard HMS Boreas. The Boreas paid off at Sheerness, West Yorkshire on 30th November 1787. Nevis is important as it was the island on which as a young sea captain, Horatio Nelson met and married his wife, Francis Nisbet, the young widow of a plantation owner.” (http://www.lodgestpatrick.co.nz/lordnelson.php

Margaret adds: Of course the banner of the Knights Templar was also black and white - the Beauseant - The vexillum belli, or war-banner of the ancient Templars, which is also used by the modem Masonic Order. The upper half of the banner was black, and the lower half white: You might remember a scene I described in a children's book where Richard theLionheart saw a passage of black and white between the trees in a Swiss forest and thought it was a band of knights returning from the Holy Land. Unfortunately for him it was only some black and white goats. 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Norfolk Island grave


There can be few graveyards as fascinating as the one on Norfolk Island.  The stones date back to the earliest days of the first settlement, which began in 1788, and include memorials to convicts and their wives and children, as well as to the soldiers who guarded them. The stones testify death of disease, drowning, accidental shooting, murder during mutiny, and by hanging on the scaffold.  Those who tried to seize ships have skulls and crossbones on their stones.

Of particular interest to me are the graves with whaling connections.  One, pictured above, is "Sacred to the Memory of George Hales," captain of the London whaleship General Boyd.  Intriguingly, as well as the odd head with wings (an angel?) on the stone, there is a carefully executed Masonic symbol.

So who was he?  And what was his ship like?

According to LLoyds Register, where the ship-rigged vessel first appears in 1798, she was 302 tons register, and had been built in Philadelphia in 1775. Her draft was 15 feet, her managing owners were Sanson & Co., and her first whaling captain had the good old Nantucket name of Swain.  Evidently he was one of the many whaling Quakers who declined to fight in the Revolutionary War. To avoid involvement, Captain Swain took his family across the Atlantic, probably to Milford Haven in Wales, where the Nantucket Quakers formed a settlement.

And who was the "General Boyd" the ship was named after?  Maybe someone in some American militia who has been lost to history since. And how did the ship get to England?  Presumably as a prize of war.

George Hales first appears in the records as the captain of the South Seaman Greenwich, coming into Gravesend from South Seas in August 1796. Then he had a bout of bad luck. According to LLoyds List for March 3, 1797, when he went out again, in command of the Hercules, he was seized by a privateer, and his ship taken into Bordeaux.  Was he imprisoned while a ransom was arranged?  It is impossible to tell, but it could account for a hiatus, because he does not show up again in the records until September 1800, when he was in command of the General Boyd, outfitting at Gravesend for a voyage to South Seas.

This voyage, as the gravestone testifies, was even more unfortunate. Jane M. Clayton's Ships Employed in the South Sea Whale Fishery from Britain, records that the ship finally left England in November, and called into Rio de Janeiro in January 1801, to meet another English ship with a doctor on board, before heading for Australia. The captain, it seems, was ill.

The ship dropped anchor in Port Jackson on June 18, 1801, and according to Cumpston's Shipping Arrivals and Departures she  stayed in port until July 25, when - as the gravestone indicates - all sail was made for the whale-ground about Norfolk Island. In August, still ill, George Hales was landed on Norfolk island, and there he died, on the 16th.

A paper on Freemasonry in Australia by Richard Num has more. George Hales had been made a Mason on December 24, 1789, in the Dundee Arms Lodge No. 9, in Wapping, so it seems likely that he attended a meeting while in Sydney - which, because of the restriction on formal gatherings, would have been held on one of the ships. It was his last meeting with his own kind. As the paper goes on to say, "It is moving to see this surviving evidence of the care of local Freemasons for a fellow Mason who died in a tiny isolated settlement among strangers so far from his home."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Five books, four authors

Norfolk Island offers lots of opportunities



There is that gorgeous scenery to admire.

And the locals are interesting.  Most of them are descendants of the mutineers of the Bounty, with names like Quintal, McCoy, Young, and Christian.

There is a terrific lot of fascinating history (more about that later).

And it offers total relaxation, away from the hustle of the modern world. There is no casino, stadium, or theme park, and the shopping, while great, takes up just an hour or so. Internet is slow and patchy, and there is no cellphone coverage unless you have global roaming (hugely expensive) or a local plan. So there's that unrivaled opportunity to catch up on reading.

As the subject line indicates, while on the island I read five books, by four authors. They were all digital editions, being easily carried on my iPad. By sheer coincidence, only one was traditionally published.  All the rest were Indies, though one could be called a sort-of-hybrid, being from a cooperative, Old Salt Press.

The duo were Fin Gall and Dubh-linn, by James L. Nelson, which he has very successfully published under his own imprint, Fore Topsail Press. Mea culpa that I had not read the first, Fin Gall, before, but I suspect that it added to the fun that I read the two in tandem.  These rousing stories of Vikings rampaging about Ireland about the 800's are as much fun as a punch-up at a rugby football game, and with quite a lot in common, being focused on brawn and fury. What retrieves them from ordinary slug-fest fiction is, first, the sharp sense of historic accuracy, and second, the larger than life, truly memorable characters. What could have been a chaotic series of battles was webbed together by the machinations of two devious and ambitious women. Thorgrim the Night Wolf is the main protagonist, and, originally and intriguingly, a shape-shifter. A stand-out character is the attractive maniac who features in the second book, Starri Deathless. I look forward to meeting them all again.  Hugely entertaining.

And then there was another sequel, Britannia's Reach, which is Antoine Vanner's second Dawlish novel. A stand-alone book if ever there was one, it would be very easily read by someone unfamiliar with Nicholas Dawlish, as no knowledge of the previous adventure is needed.  There is a totally different setting, for a start.  Where Dawlish battled the Balkan winter as well as Russian enemies in the first, he is now on a steamy South American river, fighting in the cause of a truly contemptible commercial consortium.  This makes it a very much darker story, with an even stronger message than the first.  While it seems a pity to see an honorable man like Dawlish so humiliated, the reasons for him accepting this commission are easily understood.  And one really does have to admire Vanner's grasp of the setting, both physical and political, and his ability to communicate this with his readers. Where will he stage the next adventure? One can only wait and see.

Catching up with reading meant yet another sequel, in this case V.E. Ulett's second in the Captain Blackwell adventure series, Blackwell's Paradise.

When I read the first, Captain Blackwell's Prize, I was enchanted by her heroine, Mercedes, who had everything going for her - looks, guts, and a marvelous adaptability that meant she never strayed out of the role expected of a woman in the Georgian Era. In this second book, set in the wild Pacific during the early 1800s, she meets and conquers even greater hurdles.

A twist in the plot meant the the author set herself a huge challenge, as it involved a vast change in the personality and psychology of her protagonist, Blackwell. It was one that she met with the same courage as her heroine.

Again, this is a sequel that could be read on its own.


The sole traditionally published book was Sleight of Hand, by Kate Wilhelm.  I have been a fan of Wilhelm for as long as I can remember -- first for her science fiction (The Clewiston Test being particularly outstanding), and then for her Barbara Holloway series. This started with the excellent Death Qualified, A Mystery of Chaos, which was a gripping mixture of science fiction and murder mystery. Then, in the following books, the character of Holloway, a low-key lawyer who operates out of a bistro-cafe, is more deeply explored, and the genre is traditional courtroom drama.

Sleight of Hand is the eighth in the series, and is as smoothly told and compulsively readable as the rest. A convicted pickpocket, who has turned his life around to become a respected entertainer is accused of first, the robbery of a golden boat, and second, the murder of the owner of the boat.  Then the body of the murderee's wife turns up, and Holloway's job is not just to defend the pickpocket, but to prove that the dead man was a killer.

What struck me after reading these five was that how evenly matched they were.  The Indie storytellers were just as good as the experienced traditionally published writer  -- the settings were as evocative, the characters as recognizable, and the writing as expert.  The authors had put just as much thought and effort into their work as the professional -- perhaps even more.  Their jackets were certainly better than the uninspired open window in the traditionally published book.

In a recent interview with James L. Nelson, he commented that there is a lot of rubbish being published independently. But, though he is undoubtedly right, the four Indie books I read on Norfolk Island give good grounds for feeling optimistic about a bright future for independent publishing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Scuttlebutt

Returning from a week on an island that is a mere isolated speck in the Pacific Ocean can be a surreal experience.



A warship is on the way to the Gulf to sort out Iraq, or so I gather.  Who was the admiral with no sense of diplomacy who chose a warship named George-something-Bush, I wonder.

Odd, very odd.

And there is a book design competition going on in New Zealand where two of the four judges are also finalists.

Definitely odd.

The administrators seem happy about it, though.  You can read their response to Stephen Stratford, when he wondered aloud about it on Quote Unquote.

And one would expect to feel cold after a week of sun on a sub-tropical isle, but Wellington is eerily warm.

That's odd, too.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Lobster in the shell


FORCEMEAT OF LOBSTERS IN THE SHELLS

Des ecrevisses de mer farcez dans les coquilles

Two middle-sized lobsters will do for this dish; take the tails with the soft part of the insides, and chop very small, put to it the flesh of a plaice, and pound all together, but only to mix well, grate in a little nutmeg, pepper, a spoonful of oil and vinegar, minced parsley, the soft of a bit of bread soak'd in broth or cream, a couple of eggs, stir all well together, cut the body shells in two pieces longways, trim them neatly, and fill them with your forcemeat, brush them over with a little butter and eggs, strew a few crumbs of bread over, and bake them in a slow oven about half an hour; squeeze on the juice of orange or lemon, and serve them up hot. Taste this before you put it into the shell, for it may not be salt enough. The reason of omitting this ingredient with shellfish is, they are always boiled in salt and water.




Saturday, June 14, 2014

Dinner for six


This time, Mrs. E's table setting does include vegetables, but there is the same strange admixture of sweet and savory dishes. Sweetmeat is fruit pulp with sugar, such as is used at Christmas to make fruit mince pies.  It also includes candied stems, such as angelica. Not good for the diet!

William Verrall's puffs are made with conserve of cherries, but while he sounds strict about this, a colonial wife like Maria could have used any sweetmeat on hand.



CHERRIES IN A FRENCH PASTE

Des bignets de cerises au four

For this you must have a conserve of cherries, and your paste make as follows: take half a pint of water, put to it a morsel of fine sugar, a grain of salt and a bit of lemon-peel, an ounce of butter, and boil it a minute or two, take it from your fire, and work in as much fine flour as it takes to a tender paste, put one egg at a time and mould it well till it comes to such a consistence as to pour with the help of a spoon out of the stewpan upon a tin or cover, covered with flour; scrape it off in lumps upon tin with the handle of a large key, and bake them of a nice colour and crispness, cut a hole in the bottom, and fill up with your conserve, sift some sugar over, and dish up.

If you make this paste according to the rule before you, it will swell very large and hollow, and make a genteel entremets.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Scotch collops


COLLOPS OF RABBITS, WITH CHAMPAGNE WINE

Des escalopes de lapreaux au vin de Champagne

Take the flesh of a couple of rabbits, cut it in slices, and with a knife pat it down so as to make it very thin, rub some butter all over a large stewpan, mixt with a green onion and some parsley minced very fine, stick the meat round, and fry it a minute or two over a brisk stove, giving it a toss or two, let it lie in that till you have prepared your sauce, which must be thus done, put into a small stewpan, a ladle of cullis, a glass of Champagne, pepper, salt and nutmeg, a small quantity of such herbs as you like, and a morsel of shallot, boil it five or six minutes, and put your rabbit in, make it only boiling hot, squeeze in the juice of a lemon or orange, and serve it up.

On board the Friendship, Eleanor Reid is unlikely to have rabbits, so she would have had to buy them on shore.  Alternatively, she could have asked the steward to use chicken meat, which William Verrall assures his readers makes just as "neat" a dish.




Thursday, June 12, 2014

Great Barrier Reef, Australian icon

Author Iain McCalman must be delighted to get this great review from the Financial Times






WHEN Captain Cook’s ship, the Endeavour, snared on coral in 1770, the Great Barrier Reef became his “labyrinth of shoals”, a life-threatening trap. About 30 years later, Matthew Flinders, a British navigator, saw the reef in a different light. Flinders is best known for circumnavigating Australia, and for giving the continent its name. Less well known is that he was the first European to discover the reef for its beauty. To Flinders, its corals were a “new creation” with shapes “excelling in grandeur the most favourite parterre of the curious florist”. For Charlie Veron, a scientist who has seen more of the corals from underwater than anyone, the legacy after two centuries of human impact casts a more chilling sight. Watching the reef’s disintegration, and perhaps its extinction, is “like seeing a house on fire in slow motion”.

Iain McCalman, a historian at the University of Sydney, has written a masterly biography of the Great Barrier Reef through 12 stories like these. The idea came to him in 2001 when he joined a group of historians, literary scholars, astronomers, botanists and indigenous guides aboard a replica of Cook’s ship to re-enact his 18th-century voyage. Most visitors today see the world’s largest reef as a tourist destination. Mr McCalman found it so vast that no human mind can take it in except, perhaps, “astronauts who’ve seen its full length from outer space”.

The reef extends about 2,400km (1,500 miles) along Australia’s east coast, almost to Papua New Guinea, covering an area half the size of Texas. Like Mr McCalman’s shipmates, and the colourful figures who inhabit his stories, people are still trying to make sense of the reef’s origins and character. Scientists on Lizard Island opened Mr McCalman’s eyes to the most critical chapter of its story: its ailing health. Rising sea temperatures, linked to global warming, have bleached the colour from much of its coral. Over the past 27 years, half its coral has died, thanks to the bleaching, cyclones and the spread of the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish...

... The biggest myth surrounds the story of Eliza Fraser, a shipwrecked castaway who lived among aborigines in 1836, before a white man rescued her. John Curtis, a London journalist, wrote up Mrs Fraser’s story as a sensational Victorian tale that pandered to the racial prejudices of the time: a ravished lady plucked from a world of sexually predatory savages and cannibals. There were other castaways: Barbara Thompson, whom the reef’s Kaurareg people saw as a “ghost maiden” come back from the dead; and James Morrill, a Briton, and Narcisse Pelletier, a Frenchman. All survived with natives for years before re-entering white society. Yet, says Mr McCalman, the toxic myth of Curtis’s version endures still; it has even influenced versions of Eliza Fraser’s story by Sidney Nolan, an artist, and Patrick White, a Nobel prize-winning novelist.

The Great Barrier Reef, “the most impressive marine area in the world”, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981, giving a sense of urgency to the environmental problems that have mounted steadily since Cook’s voyage. Mr McCalman’s sweeping and absorbing history is well timed. UNESCO recently announced that as a result of industrial development and dredging along the Queensland coast, the reef could be put on its “world heritage in danger” list as early as next year. The battle that Wright termed a “finale without an ending” still rages.




Fricasseed eggs


In her letter of advice, "Mrs E" did not send recipes, just hints about the arrangement of the table for guests.  In this case, there are two courses, both set around a stand of flowers or fruit. And it seems that if Maria's fancy stand broke on the voyage to Port Jackson, a tureen of soup would do for the first course, and a trifle for the second.  The lack of vegetables and the mixture of sweet and savory dishes seems strange to our modern eyes, but there you go.

One hopes that Maria (or her servants) knew the recipe for eggs fricasseed, but just maybe she was carrying William Verrall's cookery book.

EGGS A LA TRIPE FRICASEED

Des oeuffs a la tripe en fricasée

Take about seven or eight eggs, and boil hard, but not too hard, for there is nothing has a more offensive smell than eggs boiled too long, ten minutes is enough; put them into cold water, and peel them nicely, cut each into about six slices, melt a bit of butter in a stewpan, put in a little minced onion and parsley, pepper, salt and nutmeg; put your eggs gently in, that the yolk may not separate from the white, put in half a ladle of broth, with a morsel of butter and flour, boil it very softly, prepare a liaison of eggs &c. and a minute or two before your dinner time pour it in, gently moving it over a slow fire, squeeze in some juice, and send it up.

This is a favourite dish among the French and other foreigners, and some times done with a cullis instead of this white sauce, with a little oil and sweet herbs.

"Collops" were escalopes, or in the case of bacon, what we know as rashers.  They could be thin slices of any meat.  In Maria's case, they could well have been the sliced meat of rabbits, which were introduced to Australia with the First Fleet, in 1788. 



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

William Verrall, master chef of Lewes


William Verrall (and note the typo in the title page of his book) was the Julia Child of the eighteenth century.  He introduced French cookery to the aristocracy of England, having learned it from the great Clouet himself.  As he said himself, in the introduction to his book, "The chief end and design of this part of my little volume is to show, both to the experienced and inexperienced in the business, the whole and simple art of the most modern and best French Cookery; to lay down before them such an unerring guide how it may always be well managed, and please the eye as well as the taste of everybody."

First, was the important apparatus of the kitchen, "without which it is impossible it can be done with the least air of decency." So what did a good housewife in the second half of the eighteenth century need to have on hand? "Two little boilers, one big enough for your broth or boiling a leg of mutton, and the other for the boiling of a couple of fowls or so, a soup-pot, eight small stewpans of different sizes, two very large ones, and covers to them all, a neat handy frying pan that may serve as well for frying any little matter, as an amletter or pancakes, a couple of copper ladles, two or three large copper spoons, a slice, or two, and an egg spoon, all tinn'd; a pewter cullender, three or four sieves (one of lawn); to which you may add half a dozen copper cups that hold about three-fourths of half a pint, and as many of a lesser size, and an etamine or two for the straining your thick soups, cullies or creams."

You can read a lively history of William Verrall from a descendant, here.

M'sieu Clouet with his employer, the Duke of Newcastle



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Woodcocks, with orange sauce


Mrs E, writing her letter of advice to her dear little friend, Maria King Macarthur, recommended this table setting for an intimate dinner with seven or eight friends.  Rather daring, perhaps, to feature Maintenon cutlets, which were named after the mistress of Louis fourteenth, but a nice way of describing mutton chops that had been flattened, sweetened, and fried. What intrigued me was the woodcocks on toast.  Were there really woodcocks in Australia in 1812?

There certainly were in England, and here is M'sieu Verrall's recipe, published in 1759, and therefore quite possibly in Eleanor Reid's chest of books, when she sailed in 1799.

Woodcocks with orange sauce: Des becasses aux oranges


"Two brace of cocks I think is not too much for a dish as is here proposed," the great chef meditates; "draw them without cutting off the heads, preserve the ropes and livers for a forcemeat to put withinside, twist the feet back and truss 'em neatly with the beak thro' the thighs, and the feet upon the vent, spit them upon a lark-spit across upon another, spit and roast them with lards of bacon, when roasted dish 'em up, and cut a gash or two in the breast of each, squeeze upon them the juice of two or three oranges; your sauce must be a clear gravy with a morsel of shallot, pepper, and salt; under each cock put a nice toast well soak'd in a hot cullis, and serve them up."

Don't you love his style?



The "ropes and livers" simply means all the innards, including intestines (and whatever semi-processed grain they contain); lards of bacon are the fat bits under the rind. "Cullis" is a kind of gravy that was the basic sauce for cooks in Eleanor's era, and this is how you make it:

Take a big pot, and saute some bacon in the bottom, then add about two pounds of veal, a piece of ham, three or four carrots, onions and parsley, a head or two of celery, and pour in a pint of stock.  Cover tightly, and simmer for an hour.  As it reduces, keep on adding stock. Make a roux from half a pound of butter and three or four tablespoonsful of flour, add to the cullis. After stirring for about ten minutes, take out the meat, and push it through a sieve.  Skim off the fat. And there you are.

Says Verrall, "Be sure great care is taken of this, for on it the goodness and beauty of all the rest depends."


Monday, June 9, 2014

Advice to a colonial bride



In March 1791, almost immediately after her wedding, Anna Josepha, new wife of Philip Gidley King, boarded HMS Gorgon on the way to Norfolk Island. By the time she arrived there, in November, she was heavily pregnant -- and had a little boy in tow, Norfolk, the first of her husband's two illegitimate sons. And for the next five years she managed, somehow, in a tiny house on a small, remote island, not only looking after both the boys, but bearing children of her own.

One of her babies was Maria, born in 1793. In 1797, when Maria was four, the family returned to England. Two years after that, her father was appointed the next Governor of New South Wales, and gallant Anna Josepha accompanied him again, to become the first resident Governor's Lady.  Maria, however, did not sail.  She stayed in England -- until 1812, when she married Hannibal Macarthur, nephew of the Australian pastoralists (and founders of the Merino wool industry), John and Elizabeth Macarthur. Hannibal and his new wife set sail for New South Wales, where they set up their colonial home, The Vineyard, up the Parramatta River.

A letter written by a lady who was only known as "Mrs. E" either went with them, or followed on another ship. Though Mrs E was quite unfamiliar with the colonial frontier, she reckoned that running a household in Parramatta was pretty much like running a house in England, and so she filled the letter with wise advice.

And apparently it was useful, because the letter was treasured, and eventually handed down to descendants of the Macarthur family.

The book in which it is reproduced (along with recipes of the period)  was published by Greenhouse Publications in 1979. Margaret Barca did the research, and devised the format and general presentation. The design and calligraphy was by John van Loon.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Scam warning for NZ-Aussie flyers

Apparently all Australasian airlines are being targeted, not just Air New Zealand


As a valued Air New Zealand customer we would like to let you know that fraudsters are trying to elicit credit card details from customers of some airlines in Australasia.

We are aware that some of our customers have been targeted by these people in phone calls where they claim to be representing Air New Zealand. In some cases these callers offer prizes or ticket refunds and request credit card information.

These calls are not from Air New Zealand and we strongly advise anyone who receives one of these calls not to hand over any information and to hang up immediately. If you have passed over any information to one of these callers, we advise you to contact your credit card company.

Please be assured that these fraudsters are calling members of the public at random and do not have access to Air New Zealand systems.

Kind regards,

Air New Zealand

Dining in the Napoleonic Era

I was probably brainwashed, as a child.




A battered family treasure was handed down to me.  It was a copy of the Girls Own Annual for 1885. I believe it was originally given to an ancestress who was a maid in some colonial house, and that it was common for the book to be imported for just that reason -- for mistresses to give to maids, presumably because they were supposed to be "improving."  Nonetheless, I read it from cover to cover, and it could be a reason for my passion for history.

There was only one colored picture -- the one above.  (Many of the rest had been colored in by generations of small girls, but they didn't count.)  Perhaps because of that, it fascinated me.  It was part of a series of various bits of advice for young brides, including how to manage servants, and how to entertain a party on a budget, all with the title "How I keep House on £250 per annum." 

Economist Brian Easton tells me that that is equivalent to $44,000 per year.  That's rather a lot of housekeeping money, but it seems that that long-dead housekeeper had to scrimp rather a lot to manage on it. When you look at the table above, there is not terribly much food for sixteen people.

The reason I remembered this set of strange hints is that I recently came across a couple of books in my shelves that were acquired because of the interest in old recipes ("receipts") that the Annual inspired.  One is a beautifully presented little volume called "Advice to a Young Lady in the Colonies."  It reproduces a letter written in 1812 for a young lady who was setting up house in New South Wales, and has very much the same advice as the lady in the Annual who managed on £250 per year. The designer, Margaret Barca, enhanced the letter by hunting out recipes for the recommended dishes that dated from 1812.  This is interesting to me, because Eleanor, wife of Captain Hugh Reid of the ship Friendship, entertained 38 to dinner on board, in the port of Sydney in 1800.  Did she serve the same things?  Perhaps not.  Sydney in 1800 was very different in many ways from Sydney twelve years later.

The other book is William Verrall's Cookery Book, first published in 1759. That's closer to the kind of housekeeping Eleanor's mother would have taught her  . . . so over the next few days I am going to emulate Margaret Barca, but use William Verrall's receipts and methods.  Just for fun.

Bon appetit!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Unusual historicals

Authors who dare to be different



Unusual Historicals


Recently on Facebook authors have been rueful about publishers' blind spot re maritime historical novels.  Editors are fixated on the Napoleonic era, because the followers of Hornblower and Jack Aubrey Sell.  Other eras don't Sell -- or so the bean counters in publishing houses believe.

The statistics are undoubtedly with them. Readers like to pick up maritime historicals that are set in Horatio Nelson's time because they know the background, and know what to expect. But how can the reading public ever learn that there are other exciting eras, if the books are not put out?

There is a very interesting site called Unusual Historicals that strives to fix this situation, or so it seems.  Worth exploring?


Friday, June 6, 2014

Shopping at the SuperForum

Stephen Stratford, in Quote Unquote, shares a hilarious story from a literary festival in New Zealand.

So my American and British readers can get the joke, I'd better say ahead of the story that "New World" is a local supermarket chain.



It seems a writer told him about a recent experience with a Certain Major Publisher. In a chapter on Roman food, i.e. from Rome 2000 years ago, she wrote that they couldn’t use ingredients from the new world such as tomatoes, potatoes and corn (the Americas not having been discovered by the Romans). The editor corrected this to “from New World”.

The author changed it back to “from the new world” on the page proofs.

The editor corrected this again to “from New World”.

The author changed it back again to “from the new world” on the second set of page proofs .

So the editor changed it to “from the supermarket”.

Comics millionarie



A Kentucky man's comic book collection with first issues of Superman, Batman and the Flash fetched $1.5 million in an online auction this week.
John Wise had collected the valuable super hero comics over three decades.
A comic from 1940 with the first appearance of Flash claimed the top individual price of $182,000. First issues of Superman and Batman from the same era sold for $172,000 and $137,000 in the offerings that ended Tuesday. His issue of the first-ever comic from Marvel sold for $95,000.
Wise says the exploding popularity of super heroes in movies and TV made it a good time to sell. He plans to buy a house and send his grandchildren to college with the profits.
The comic books were sold on Comicconnect.com, an online auction house.