Sunday, 27 October 2013

Dylan Thomas born this day in 1914

NB All phrases in GREEN contain a Hyperlink 

 Today is the birthday of Dylan Thomas, born in Swansea, Wales (1914). His father was a failed poet who worked as a schoolmaster, and Dylan grew up terrified of his violent mood swings. The only time he seemed to calm down, and the only time Thomas enjoyed his company, was when he was reading Shakespeare aloud. After graduation, Thomas got a job at a newspaper, but he was an awful reporter. He spent all his time at pool halls and caf├ęs, and when he did turn in stories, the facts were all wrong. One of his co-workers said, "[He was] a bombastic adolescent provincial Bohemian with a thick-knotted artist's tie made out of his sister's scarf ... a gabbing, ambitious, mock-tough, pretentious young man." 

Thomas became known as a rowdy drinker and late-night storyteller, and eventually quit his newspaper job. He lived in friends' apartments, sleeping on mattresses on the floor, surviving day to day by drinking beer and eating cake. He spent much of World War II in London, where he witnessed the bombing raids, and began to feel as though the world of his childhood in rural Wales had been lost forever. After the war was over, he published the collection Deaths and Entrances (1946), which contained one of his first great poems about lost childhood, "Fern Hill."

At the beginning of the 1950s, Thomas gave a series of readings in the United States. He told people, "[I have come to America] to continue my lifelong search for naked women in wet mackintoshes." Despite his notorious reputation as a raving drunk, he won everyone over with his compelling readings of his own poetry and deep sonorous voice. In the last years of his life, Thomas worked on the verse play Under Milk Wood (1954), but he spent most of his time writing letters to ask friends for money and to apologize for being so irresponsible. In one letter, he wrote, "After all sorts of upheavals, evasions, promises, procrastinations, I write, very fondly, and fawning slightly, a short inaccurate summary of those events which caused my never writing a word." From 1946 to 1953, he wrote only nine poems, but he filled his letters to friends with poetry. In one letter, he wrote: "The heat! It comes round corners at you like an animal with windmill arms. As I enter my bedroom, it stuns, thuds, throttles, spins me round by my soaking hair, lays me flat as a mat and bat-blind on my boiled and steaming bed. We keep oozing from the ice-cream counters to the chemist's. Cold beer is bottled God."

In an effort to support his family, he went on a fourth reading tour of the United States in 1953, but he was hospitalized with alcohol poisoning just as the tour began. He told his doctor, "I've had 18 straight whiskeys. I think that's the record." He died a few days later. One of the last poems he wrote before his death was a poem about his dying father, "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" (1952). It begins, "Do not go gentle into that good night, / Old age should burn and rave at close of day, / Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

Monday, 21 October 2013

Samuel Taylor Coleridge born this day in 1772


Today is the birthday of the Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, born in Ottery St. Mary in Devonshire, England (1772). Coleridge is the author of poems such as "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," "Christabel," and "Frost at Midnight." As a small boy, he spent a lot of time reading. His favorite book was The Arabian Nights. His father died when he was 10, and then he had to go off to boarding school at Christ's Hospital in London. It was known as the "blue-coat school," where everyone had to wear a blue gown, a blue cap and yellow stockings. Coleridge hated it there. He would later write that "I was reared / In the great city, pent 'mid cloisters dim, / And saw nought lovely but the sky and stars." But he had one teacher who helped inspire him to become a poet. He said he learned that "in the truly great poets ... there is a reason assignable, not only for every word, but for the position of every word."
Coleridge went to college in Cambridge. Then he dropped out to join the army. He didn't want anyone to know who he was, so he called himself Silas Tomkyn Comberbache. He wasn't a very good soldier, though, and soon he left to rejoin society and talk about the new ideas of the French Revolution. He also spent time with the poet Robert Southey. The two of them dreamed up an idea to start a utopian village along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. They said it would be a place where there was no aristocracy. Southey said, "When Coleridge and I are sawing down a tree, we shall discuss metaphysics; criticise poetry when hunting a buffalo, and write sonnets whilst following the plough."
Coleridge never went to Pennsylvania, and instead he ended up getting married to a woman named Sara Fricker. In 1797, Coleridge and Fricker moved to a small house in the country. There he tended a vegetable garden and doted over his newborn son. That same year he became good friends with the poet William Wordsworth and his sister, Dorothy. One winter evening, the three of them took a long walk in the nearby hills called the Quantocks. They timed their walk so they would be able to watch the sunlight change to moonlight over the sea. It was then that Coleridge came up with the idea for "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," a poem about a sailor who brings a curse upon his ship after he kills an albatross. In 1798, he included the poem in a collection he published with Wordsworth called Lyrical Ballads. The book was the foundation of the Romantic movement in poetry. Wordsworth said they were trying to write poems where "ordinary things should be presented to the mind in an unusual way."
Coleridge was often sick. The doctors prescribed him small doses of opium, and he gradually became addicted to it. By the age of 30, he had become very depressed. He quarreled with his wife and fell in love with Wordsworth's sister-in-law. He wrote a poem called "Dejection: An Ode" and then sailed to the island of Malta to improve his health. He gradually regained his strength and lived to write many more poems.
Coleridge said, "I could inform the dullest author how he might write an interesting book — let him relate the events of his own Life with honesty, not disguising the feelings that accompanied them." 


Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Oscar Wilde born this day in 1854

Today is the birthday of Oscar Wilde, born in Dublin  in 1854, who was already a successful playwright when he fell into a love affair with the young aristocrat Lord Alfred Douglas. Wilde was married with two children at the time, and the affair ruined his reputation in society. He later wrote, "I curse myself night and day for my folly in allowing him to dominate my life." But it was the most creative period of his life. He wrote three plays in two years about people leading double lives, including A Woman of No Importance (1893), An Ideal Husband (1895), and his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), about two men who use an imaginary person named Earnest to get themselves out of all kinds of situations, until their invented stories and identities get so complicated that everything is revealed. 

The actor who played Algernon Moncrieff later said, "In my fifty-three years of acting, I never remember a greater triumph than the first night of The Importance of Being Earnest." But that same year, Wilde was accused of sodomy by the father of his lover. Wilde might have let the accusation pass, but he chose to sue his accuser for libel, because he thought he could win the case by his eloquence alone. Private detectives had dug up so much damning evidence on Wilde that he was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to two years of hard labor. His plays continued to be produced on the stage, but his name was removed from all the programs. He was released from prison in 1897 and died three years later in a cheap Paris hotel.

Oscar Wilde, who said, "All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling." And, "An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all."

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

P. G. Wodehouse born this day in 1881.

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It's the birthday of novelist P.G. Wodehouse, born Pelham Grenville Wodehouse in Guildford, England (1881). His father was a magistrate in Hong Kong. His mother traveled back and forth between England and Hong Kong, so Wodehouse was raised by a series of aunts. He wanted desperately to go to college, but his father went bankrupt and couldn't pay for his education. Wodehouse got a job as a bank clerk instead and started writing humorous stories and poems on the side. It was as a journalist that Wodehouse first came to the United States — to cover a boxing match — and he fell in love with America right away. He said, "Being [in America] was like being in heaven without going to all the bother and expense of dying."

He moved to Greenwich Village in 1909 and started to write stories for the Saturday Evening Post about an imaginary cartoonish England, full of very polite but brain-dead aristocrats such as Bertie Wooster, who was looked after by his butler Jeeves. He said: "I was writing a story, 'The Artistic Career of Corky,' about two young men, Bertie Wooster and his friend Corky, getting into a lot of trouble, and neither of them had brains enough to get out of the trouble. I thought: Well, how can I get them out? And I thought: Suppose one of them had an omniscient valet? I wrote a short story about him, then another short story, then several more short stories and novels. That's how a character grows." 

He wrote more than 100 books, including My Man Jeeves (1919), Summer Lightning (1929), Thank You Jeeves (1934), Young Men in Spats (1936), The Code of the Woosters (1938), and Joy in the Morning (1946). 

For more information here is the relevant
Wikipedia Entry

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Saturday, 21 September 2013

H. G. Wells born this day in 1866

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 Today is birthday of writer H.G. Wells, born Herbert George Wells in Bromley, England (1866). Although popularly known as one of the fathers of modern science fiction, having published classics such as The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and The War of the Worlds within the first few years of his writing career, Wells went on to publish dozens of novels, story collections, and books of nonfiction, most of which were not explicitly sci-fi. Most, however, dealt in some way with Wells' interest in biology, his strong belief in socialism, or his vision for the future of mankind. Indeed, much of what was fantastic and fictional when he conceived it came to pass, like his predictions that airplanes would someday be used to wage war and advanced transportation would lead to an explosion of suburbs. 

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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Samuel Johnson born this day in 1709

I am indebted to The Writer's Almanac for this Post

Today is the birthday of Samuel Johnson, born in Litchfield, England (1709). 

He was a sickly boy, and had been since the day he was born — "almost dead," he said. He contracted the lymphatic form of tuberculosis, called scrofula, when he was two, and because it was popularly believed that the touch of royalty could cure scrofula, he was taken to the queen. She touched him and gave him a gold medallion, which he kept for the rest of his life. Her touch didn't cure him, and neither did various disfiguring treatments that left him scarred. But he grew up strong and tall, and enjoyed walking, swimming, and riding. He was also very intelligent, proud, and somewhat lazy. 

In 1735, he married a widow who was 20 years his senior. He set out to find an intelligent wife, since he was convinced that his parents' marriage had been unhappy because of his mother's lack of education. Around this time, he also started writing. He published some essays early in the 1730s, and began a play, the historical tragedy Irene. In 1738, he became associated with the first modern magazine — called The Gentleman's Magazine — and contributed poems and prose. 

The 1750s were his most productive period. Not only did he write more than 200 essays for the twice-weekly newspaper The Rambler, but he was also at work on a monumental undertaking: a dictionary of the English language. The dictionary took him nine years to write, and he wrote The Rambler essays because they gave him a steady income; even though money was his chief incentive, he was still quite proud of those essays. He said, "My other works are wine and water; but my Rambler is pure wine."
The dictionary was finally published in two volumes in 1755. Johnson's patron, the Earl of Chesterfield, had pretty much ignored Johnson and his project for several years; as a result, the dictionary entry for "patron" reads: "one who countenances, supports, and protects. Commonly a wretch who supports with insolence and is paid with flattery."

In 1763, Johnson met young James Boswell, who was 22. They didn't get along well at first, but they grew to be friends. Boswell kept remarkably detailed diaries, and he later wrote a comprehensive biography, The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. (1791). Boswell's scrupulous descriptions of Johnson's mannerisms led to a posthumous diagnosis of Tourette syndrome; his transcriptions of Johnson's many aphorisms made Johnson one of the most-quoted authors in the English language. Johnson said, as quoted by Boswell: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." And, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." And, "A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization."

To obtain a free EBook ~ The Works of Samuel Johnson

Sunday, 15 September 2013

James Fenimore Cooper born this day in 1789

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Yes today, 15th September,is the birthday of the first best-selling American novelist, James Fenimore Cooper, born in Burlington, New Jersey (1789). For most of his life he was known as James Cooper, but after his father's death, he tried to have his name legally changed to Fenimore, so as to inherit some property from his mother's family. He didn't get the property, but the name stuck. 

He started out as a Navy man, but after he got married, his wife persuaded him to quit the sea and stay home. He struggled to run the estate he had inherited from his father, and he got into terrible debt. One day, he was reading aloud to his wife from an English novel, and he said he thought he could write a better novel himself. His wife laughed at him, because he didn't even enjoy writing letters much, but he sat down and wrote a book and it was published as Precaution (1820). He wrote six novels in the next six years.

He became best known for his series of five novels called the Leatherstocking Tales, including The Last of the Mohicans (1826), about frontier violence and adventure. At the time, most Americans read English literature about kings and queens, because they thought it was more romantic than their own difficult, colonial lives. James Fenimore Cooper was the first American author to make the wild, untamed life in America seem romantic. 

During his life, he was widely respected as a great novelist, but after his death, Mark Twain wrote an essay called "Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offences" (1895) that helped to destroy his reputation. Twain wrote:"[The rules of literature] require that the personages in a tale shall be alive, except in the case of corpses, and that always the reader shall be able to tell the corpses from the others. But this detail has often been overlooked in [Cooper's books]." But Fenimore Cooper is still remembered for making America a subject for adventure and romance. 

You may obtain an Ebook Edition of the "The Last of the Mohicans" by going to

Friday, 13 September 2013

J. B. Priestley born this day in 1894

Yes it is the birthday of  the British novelist, playwright, and essayist John Boynton — J.B. — Priestley (1894), born in Bradford, Yorkshire. I was reminded of this by

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"Priestley served in the infantry during World War I, and most of his friends were killed in combat. He didn't write about the war, and remained nostalgic for the pre-war years, saying, "I belong at heart to the pre-1914 North Country." After studying English literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, he became a journalist, and then a novelist, and then a dramatist. He was also a popular and talented radio speaker, and produced a series of patriotic broadcasts during World War II. He wrote more than 120 books, most notably the novels The Good Companions (1929), Bright Day (1946), and Lost Empires (1965).

In a 1978 interview with the International Herald Tribune, he said, "Most writers enjoy two periods of happiness — when a glorious idea comes to mind and, secondly, when a last page has been written and you haven't had time to know how much better it ought to be." And, "Much of writing might be described as mental pregnancy with successive difficult deliveries."

Monday, 9 September 2013

Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy born this day in 1828

Today is the birthday of novelist Leo Tolstoy born into nobility near Tula, Russia  in1828. 

This brief summary of his life was sent to me by The Writer's Almanac - why not join the Group and give them a hand by joining up with Garrison Keillor. You will receive a wealth of information of which this is a very small part.

"Apart from the pain of losing his mother as a young boy, his childhood was one of relative ease: He read books from his father's extensive library, went swimming and sledding, listened to stories, and played in the fields and woods on his family's large estate. After his father died, he lived with relatives and then enrolled at the University of Kazan. His teachers thought he wasn't very bright, and although he managed to teach himself about 12 languages, he was less interested in academics than he was in gambling, drinking, and women. He dropped out of college and spent years visiting brothels, binge drinking, and racking up such huge gambling debts that he had to sell off part of his estate. Finally, Tolstoy's brother suggested that he needed a change and encouraged him to sign up for the army. He agreed, joining his brother's artillery unit in the Caucasus in the spring of 1851. The following winter, 23-year-old Tolstoy wrote his first novel, Childhood (1852). It was praised by Turgenev and established Tolstoy's reputation as a writer. Over the next few years, he published two more novels in the same vein, Boyhood (1854) and Youth (1856).

In 1854, he was promoted and sent to the front to fight in the Crimean War. He was horrified by the violence of war, and in 1857, he witnessed a public execution in Paris, which affected him deeply as well. He wrote: "During my stay in Paris, the sight of an execution revealed to me the instability of my superstitious belief in progress. When I saw the head part from the body and how they thumped separately into the box, I understood, not with my mind but with my whole being, that no theory of the reasonableness of our present progress could justify this deed; and that though everybody from the creation of the world had held it to be necessary, on whatever theory, I knew it to be unnecessary and bad; and therefore the arbiter of what is good and evil is not what people say and do, nor is it progress, but it is my heart and I."

By 1863, he had finished a draft of what would become the first part of a novel he was calling 1805. It was set during the Napoleonic Wars and the French invasion of Russia, but he channeled his experiences in the Crimean War. A version of 1805 was published in 1865, but Tolstoy did not like it, so he went to work rewriting and expanding the novel. He gave it a new name: War and Peace.

In 1867, the first three sections of War and Peace were published, and sold out in a matter of days. Tolstoy began writing furiously, publishing the sections as he wrote them, and finally, in December of 1869, he published the sixth and final volume. He said, "What I have written there was not simply imagined by me, but torn out of my cringing entrails."

Tolstoy did not think of his new book as a novel. He published an article in 1868, even before the final parts of book had come out, called "A Few Words Apropos of the Book War and Peace." In the article, he wrote: "What is War and Peace? It is not a novel, still less an epic poem, still less a historical chronicle. War and Peace is what the author wanted and was able to express, in the form in which it is expressed." Tolstoy published Anna Karenina between 1873 and 1877, and he declared that it was his first true novel."
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Friday, 30 August 2013

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley born this day 1n 1797

Photograph from the book jacket ~ Mary Shelley by Miranda Seymour

Today is the birthday of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, born Mary Godwin in London, England (1797). She is the author of Frankenstein (1818), which is considered the first science fiction novel ever written.

After her marriage to the poet Percy Shelley, the couple went to stay in a lakeside cottage in Switzerland with the poet Lord Byron in the summer of 1816. One rainy night, after reading a German book of ghost stories, Byron suggested that they all write their own horror stories.

Everyone else wrote a story within the next day, but Mary took almost a week. Finally, she wrote an early version of a story about a scientist who brings a dead body to life. She turned the story into a novel, and Frankenstein was published in 1818. She was 21 years old.

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Thursday, 29 August 2013

John Locke born this day in 1632

Today is the birthday of British philosopher John Locke, born in Wrington, Somerset, England (1632). 

He believed in Natural Law and that people have Natural Rights, under which the right of property is most important. He wrote: "... every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has any right to but himself." He believed government exists to protect those rights and he argued in favour of revolt against tyranny. His ideas were a foundation for much of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.

John Locke said, "The actions of men are the best interpreters of their thoughts."

This is the simple announcement that was sent to me by The Writer's Almanac this morning.

Locke passed away in 1704 yet his influence was such that he helped the drafters of the American Constitution to do their work 70 years later.  

It is of interest to read what Wikipedia has to say about him

The Gutenberg Project has one of John Locke's books available as a free download in a variety of formats.  What not have a look at his work to find out why he influenced what is arguably as being the greatest Constitution even written. And one that seems to be under attack today.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe born this day in 1749.

Goethe once said ~

"One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem. see a fine picture, and if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words."

Goethe was born in Frankfurt and at age 27 moved to Italy. He is remembered mainly as being the author of the drama Faust.
Two years after moving to Italy he returned to Germany and fell in love with a woman from Weimer, Christiane Vulpius, a 23-year-old who was 16 years his junior. That year, he wrote her an epithalamium, a wedding poem, but he didn't actually marry her; instead, the couple lived together for 18 years unwed. That is, until one night, Christiane saved Goethe's life by driving off a band of Napoleon's soldiers who had broken in their home. Goethe went down to a church the very next day and married her, his live-in girlfriend of 18 years.

In 1806, the same year of the home invasion and marriage, Goethe published a preliminary version of Part I of his great work, Faust, the story of a brilliant scholar named Heinrich Faust, who makes a deal with the devil. The great epic has it all: seduction, murder, sleeping potions, an illegitimate love child, a stray poodle that transforms into the devil, contracts signed with blood, imprisonment in dungeons, heavenly voices, and even redemption. Faust is often called a "closet drama" because it's intended to be read, not performed. Goethe spent 50 years working on this two-volume masterpiece, finishing it in 1832, the year of his death.

Christiane survived for only a decade after her and Goethe's wedding. In later life, after recovering from a heart disease that nearly killed him, the 73-year-old Goethe fell passionately in love with an 18-year-old woman, Ulrike von Levetzow, and was devastated when she turned down his proposals of marriage.

Monday, 26 August 2013

My Second Photographic Journey

In late 2006 I decided that the time was right for me to Emigrate again from Britain. The weather had finally "done me in" and in addition I was no longer unable to walk easily.  In fact, without my walking stick I was pretty insecure.

Whilst searching the Net I came across a country in Central America that suited me perfectly.  The climate, the tax laws, the building laws and so on seemed to me to be very favourable.  So I booked a tour with a local organisation and in February flew via New Jersey and Miami to Belize City.

What a trip that was.  I am still friends with several people I met on that tour and we correspond regularly.

The main benefit that I brought back to Blighty was the easing of pain in my left leg.  This was caused by lesions in my lower abdomen following the operation that forced my retirement.  During the Tour I swam twice, overdoing it somewhat, in the warm waters of the Caribbean and this caused the easement.

Why not visit my Picasa Album and enjoy the tour with me?

A Tour of Belize in Central America

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

My first Photographic Journey

This took place in December 2006 and January 2007.  I had just retired from the Great Western Railways and went to Burlington in Ontario, Canada to visit my son and daughter-in-law and her family. 

What a wonderful trip that was and what a friendly and clean place Canada is.  The wide open spaces and the beauty of the country was inspiring. 

I had just bought my first Digital Camera - a Sony W30 - a little gem of a camera.  What Fun we had. This Slideshow is the record of that visit with a few photos added which I took in England upon my return.  I hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

New Site to Showcase all my books available

I have now completed a new web site to make it easier to see all my books that are available now.

Please visit it.  I hope you see something you fancy!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

My latest book published for open purchase

After 4 months on inaction I have at last published my latest novel A Rhodesian in London.

"A Rhodesian in London" is a 'Tongue in Cheek' look at a typical Rhodesian youngster in those halcyon days before the Bush War took its toll and changed the country and her people forever. In a series of anecdotes it takes the reader back to an era that is now only a fond memory of times gone by. Here you will catch a glimpse of holidays in Portuguese East Africa, cheap flights to Europe and what the youngsters got up to whilst away from their parents. You will also learn how the Hero, whose name is Randolph, acquired the nick name 'Rabid Randy' on his last holiday in Beira before flying to London. Here you will learn of his attempts to lose his virginity. Did he succeed? Read on to find out." So says the publicity Blurb for both the Paperback and Kindle Editions. Currently the Paperback is only available on Lulu ~ but it will soon be available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble etc. The Kindle Edition will, of course, only be available via Amazon's Kindle Store. Further EBook editions should become available soon, including from Waterstones.