Archive | November, 2011

The Battle Of Flodden: Fleck Or Fiction?

30 Nov
English: Site of the Battle of Flodden Field. ...
Image via Wikipedia

If you fancy a good read…you should buy a copy of Tom Fleck.  Set at the time of the Battle of Flodden, it is a real page-turner.  I’ve read it three times and loved it each time.

Here are Tudor kings and their nobles – their documented lives are rich material for writers – but now they play a minor part. This is the story of Tom Fleck, a penniless farm labourer, who shares his dwelling with cattle. He is fictional only because he leaves no record – his people live before the keeping of parish registers, so they make no marks on parchment and are lost to history.

We find his rare surname in the register of St. Hilda’s church at Hartlepool:

Baptisms 1596, September 19th : Christofer ye child of Willm. Fleck.

Perhaps William heard tales of how his great-grandfather, Thomas, loved a strange woman and stood with the army on the terrible battlefield of Flodden. This story brings him to life.

The first chapter can be read on the author Harry Nicholson’s blog:

I have a treat for you: Harry kindly agreed to be interviewed for my blog. 

TB:  Hi Harry, thanks for doing this.  First, something banal to ease you in: how did the idea of Tom Fleck come to you?

HN: It is partly a response to what greets me when I walk into bookshops: glossy covers of historical novels that push jewelled Tudor cleavages at the reader – and within, yet more tangled intrigues of royal courts. I wonder what emotional connection I might find with these great lords and their ladies.  Where are the stories of the ancestors of people like me? I don’t see any – so I decided to write the life and adventures of forgotten men and women, people without heraldry, people who left no record except for the blood that, at least poetically, might still flow through our modern veins.

TB:  How difficult was research, given that there are no records of the lower classes?

HN:  It was a matter of combing card indexes of reference libraries and of collections in local history archives; local archives remain vital for detail, the internet is not yet the source of all knowledge (though it is wonderful for making great leaps in general research).   Parish registers, even though they did not begin until 1566, are worth consulting.  They are brief in detail of the common folk but there are entries which hint at human drama and tragedy. Here is one from St Hilda’s at Hartlepool:

Burials  9 Dec. 1596.  Christofer Harte, John Harte ye elder, John Harte ye younger, and Thomas Todd were all of them drowned out of one boat.  There is a tragedy here: four coble fishermen, three of one family – all lost. What will happen now the bread-winners have gone. Three months earlier, five men were lost from another coble.  

I feel an emotional connection with these stark lines, my mother is descended from these same fisher-folk.   Another snippet from a 16th century Yorkshire travelling  Quarter Sessions is rich in facts but also feeds the imagination. I’m sad for Matilda Wilkinson, spinster of Thornton, found guilty of stealing a pair of stockings (threepence), a petticoat (fourpence) and a neckerchief (threepence); she was to be whipped at Malton ‘and from thence conveyed from Constable to Constable, through the parishes, to Thornton, there to be whipped upon a holyday after evening prayer time, from the church stile to the place of her late dwelling there.’  These forgotten people are our fellows, they are silent ones who might sometimes whisper from the pages of historical fiction. That is how I felt when writing Tom Fleck.

TB:  How much time did you spend in research?

HN:  I never logged the days I spent walking the Flodden battlefield or studying the exhibits at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, or sifting through the journals of the Surtees Society, but it must add up to many, many hours. Whilst writing, I would sometimes break off to check something on the internet – like footwear, or what would Tom have on his feet when he kicked a robber in the shins? Would there have been red kites scavenging the streets of Durham City?   What sort of material was Cambric and would that Belgian cloth be for sale on a stall in Alnwick in 1513?  At the close of many days it seemed that I’d spent as much time on research as I did in writing the story – which is probably why it took four years.

TB: Did you have to leave much out?  If so, why?

HN:  In my enthusiasm for historical background, at first the story was overloaded with information.  It was all too much, so I cut and cut and rewrote, until only essentials were left. I gave most of what remained to the ‘actors’. In finding ways of allowing the characters to deliver vital research through their thoughts and speech, people came to life and I improved as a writer.

TB:  Will there be a sequel?

HN:  There will be a sequel, I’ve done a good deal of research for it.  I’m still reflecting on what circumstances might arise for Tom’s people – but I will not truly know until the ink touches the paper.

Writing Tom Fleck brought a rich four years; I had another world, just by my side, that I could step into – wherever I was. Now the book is published I do miss those characters; they had become real and I loved them all – even the bad guys.

‘Sharp as quivering hares are the Flecks. We’ve eyes and ears for things other folk miss.’

Much later, in the aftermath of Flodden, a young man finally understands his father’s words.

The year: 1513. The place: North-East England.

Tom Fleck, a downtrodden farm worker but gifted archer yearns to escape his masters. He unearths two objects that could be keys to freedom: a torque of ancient gold and a Tudor seal ring. He cannot know how these finds will determine his future.

Rachel Coronel craves an end to her Jewish wanderings. When the torque comes to rest around the neck of this mysterious woman, an odyssey begins which draws Tom Fleck into borderlands of belief and race.

The seal ring propels Tom on a journey of self-knowledge that can only climax in another borderland, among the ‘flowers of the forest’ on Flodden Field.   

The book is available on Amazon and other online outlets.

ISBN-13:  978-1908147769

Paperback price:  £7.99  ($12.99)

Kindle version:  £2.14   ($2.99)

Harry is happy to send out signed copies.  (£1.50 postage within the UK; overseas please contact Harry direct for postage price.)

The Prompt That Got Away

30 Nov


What skill would you most like to learn in 2012?

How to say ‘no’ to ridiculous WordPress prompts.

Why does corruption exist?

Because it works.

Can it be stopped?

Bung me a fiver and I’ll see what I can do.

What can bloggers do to help?

Lend you a fiver?

If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to?

Lily Bug.  Milly Bub.  Chilly Hood.  Filly Flood.  Dilly Dud.  Billy Budd. 
Silly Good. 

Have you ever protested for anything?

Sensible prompts.

When is it a good time to quit?

When you start repeating yourself.  This is prompt #302.  Prompt #245 was When is it ok to quit something?  Dear WordPress prompter, quit repeating yourself.  I’ll say that again: quit repeating yourself.

Write about the one that got away.

I lost a Malteser in March 1997.  I know this because I found it under my bed in 2006, alongside a copy of a letter typed in the same month.  You’ve gotta love carbon dating.


Joke 251

30 Nov

I’ve been called a rare commodity.  I wonder if that makes me silver or gold?  I guess I could be either ore.


The Ailing Housewife

29 Nov

…to…poorly two…blog…must…find…bed…bee four…brain…dyes do too…awe full…spelling.

Got a bug from rotten youngest child.  Not too sick to watch telly but too yukky to feel like blogging.  Retiring to my couch and ignoring you all.  Sorry.  Thank you for your understanding.  Pitying comments welcome.  Poking fun comments even more welcome.


Image via Wikipedia I feel like this fish

Joke 250

29 Nov

One afternoon a man came home from work to find total mayhem in his house.  His three children were outside, still in their P.J.s, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and wrappers thrown all about the front yard.  The door to his wife’s car was open, as was the front door to the house. Proceeding into the entry, he found an even bigger mess.

A lamp had been knocked over, and a throw rug was wadded against one wall.  In the front room the TV was blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing.  In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, dog food was spilled on the floor, a broken glass lay under the table, and a small pile of sand lay piled up by the back door.

He quickly headed up the stairs, stepping over toys and other piles of clothes, looking for his wife.  He was worried that she might be ill, or worse.

He found her lounging in the bedroom, still in her pajamas, reading a novel.

She smiled, looked up at him and asked how his day went.  He looked at her bewildered and asked, “What happened here today?”

She smiled and answered, “You know every day when you come home from work and ask me what in the world did I do all day?”

“Yes,” he replied reluctantly.

She answered, “Well, today I didn’t do it.”

There Can Be Only One CoWAbunger This Week

28 Nov

Though Pseu deserves a whole herd of them.

This is Pseu as you might know her:

On a joke post about fonts:

These jokes are just your type

On a joke post about owls:

It’s not that I don’t give a hoot, it’s just that I can’t be feathered.

On a post in which my son emulates his mother:

that Spud is a chip!!! hahahaha

(Not sure about the hysterical laughter there, Pseu.)

On a joke post where Garfield and friends fix a cold engine, Viv commented:

20 sleeping cats would keep the engine warm enough to start. Problem: getting 20 cats to move.

And Pseu replied:

you mean when they are catatonic?

And in the same post, àpropos of nothing at all:

Too many spiders in your house can turn it into a no fly zone.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Pseu even wrote a joke for me over in her own comments section:

What do you call a group of shipwrecked Richards? 

Desert Island Dicks

(That might be lost in translation: here in the UK we have a Radio 4 programme called Desert Island Discs.)

Here is your award Pseu; well done!

Check out Pseu’s blog if you like close-up photography, poetry and interesting stories about life.


Joke 249

28 Nov

My friend is moving to Seoul. He thought it would be a good Korea move.

A Prompt Too Far

27 Nov

Would you rather be able to read other people’s minds, or live forever?


I may have to leave WordPress.


Reasons To Be Cheerful

27 Nov

What are you thankful for?

The wonderful prompts supplied by the WordPress prompters.  Bizarre, yes; ridiculous, yes; occasionally stupid, yes.  But they allow me to unleash the mischief in a safe and protected environment, and for that I’m grateful.

Thank you, dear prompters.  I will never leave you; nothing could make me.


Joke 248

27 Nov

The electrician and the air hostess got on really well together.  Sparks flew!

And On The Subject Of Spam…

26 Nov


SPAM (Hot & Spicy)

Image by mike lowe via Flickr

…this one just came in:

what to take to last longer in bed…

premature ejacultaion…

I don’t think these people have quite got the hang of their product, do you? 
Or spelling.

You know what you should take to last longer in bed?

A sleeping pill.



Le Spam

26 Nov

I shouldn’t have written all those posts about France – the French spammers are after me now.  Fortunately, I can’t read French, so I don’t know if I’m Superbe! or if they want to sell me French Viagra (Le Up!).

If I do want to buy the little blue pill (so they say; I haven’t seen it, I swear), spammers to my inbox are offering a Christmas discount of 20%.  You couldn’t make it up.

Spammers: I’d like to deck their halls with boughs of holly.

Joke 247

26 Nov

How do you save a drowning rodent?

Use mouse to mouse resuscitation.


101/1001 (35)

25 Nov

Forgive me, dear readers; it has been five weeks since my last 101 session.  I ask your forgiveness because it is entirely possible, nay, dead certain, that this post will be a long one, covering as it will five whole weeks of tasking.

The challenge to type up and print out for folder and notebook over 100 poems I’ve written has gone up to over 150.  I have not left one poem in one location, never mind 101.

I read one new book (don’t judge me: I spend all my time talking to you lot; when do I get the time to read?), sent to me by the lovely Earlybird: True Grit.  Truly unputdownable.  I loved it.  I even got a rhyme out of it, which I can’t share because it has a spoiler in it and I want you to read it.    Read it.  But come back to me.

Expose myself to twenty new experiences (5/20)

I managed two of these on my recent trip to France (three, if you count my recent trip to France as a new experience, which it was, but I won’t): I met a blogging friend, my dearest Viv.  Have I told you about my recent trip to France?  I can bore for Africa on it.

The other new experience was to ask for a dessert in a foreign language.  I told you about it, the ice cream.  It is possible I have done this once before, in Afrikaans, but I don’t think so: South Africa had two official languages at that point, one of which was English, so there would have been no need.  South Africa now has eleven official languages; imagine the size of the menus.

Another new experience which I’m not including as a new experience because, although it was a new experience, I don’t think it counts as a new experience, was to say ‘yes’ to all the new foods that were offered to me instead of toddlerising myself by saying ‘no’ while thinking, I don’t fancy that.  I made up my mind to try everything that was offered to me while I was away, and a lot was, and I did.

I must just stress that it was easy to do because all of Viv’s food looks wonderful, and if I ignored dislike-trigger words such as ‘coffee’ and ‘walnuts’ and focused on like-trigger words such as ‘cake’, I didn’t even have to close my eyes to try anything new.

I managed to complete a task while I was away:

Try three new foods (7/3)

Foods I tried which I had never previously eaten (and before you throw up your hands in horror, remember I’m a plain northern girl brought up on plain northern food who had never even seen a watermelon until the age of fifteen):

  • Jam on bread.  Okay, this somewhat belies the plain northern girl theory, given that plain northerners, girls and otherwise, have always eaten jam on bread.  I never have.  I don’t know why.  My Mum liked jam but I don’t remember seeing it in the house when I was growing up.  We must have had it in; perhaps I had a dreadful jam experience and blocked it out.  I could have got a stain on a favourite dress as a child, or bunged it in my brother’s ear and been unjustly punished for my (entirely natural) behaviour.  We will never know now because my mother took the secret to her grave.  I don’t regret it, because discovering a new and delicious food at my age was such fun!  Viv’s jam was home made apple and plum and yum yum yum is all I can say.  Yum!
  • Coffee and Walnut Cake.  I don’t didn’t do like coffee and walnuts now, in a big fat cake, at least.  Yummy yum yum.
  • Stuffing.  I have never eaten it.  Never fancied it.  Mum and Dad ate it.  I didn’t.  Bought a packet every Christmas for them as did; never did myself.  What a waste of Christmases.  Did I mention?  Yum!
  • Raspberry Cake.  I have never eaten raspberries.  Never fancied them.  The Hub eats them.  I didn’t.  Bought packets for him in season; never ate them myself.  What a waste of seasons.  Did I mention?  Yum!
  • Jock’s Walnut Coleslaw.  I think it was walnuts; I was too busy stuffing in second, third and fourth helpings to listen to the conversation.  Yummy!
  • Real champagne.  It has to be made in Champagne to be called ‘champagne’.  I have drunk the ersatz stuff, of course, but I have to say I’m now in favour of that rule.  Yum!
  • Amuse Bouche.  You know all about them: an excuse to eat tasty morsels before the main meal.  I’m in favour of that, too.  Yum.

Five weeks – seven foods – one happy housewife.

Joke 246

25 Nov

A young man moved away from his parents to become a student. Proudly showing off his new apartment to a couple of his friends late one night, he led the way to his bedroom, where there was a big brass gong.

“What’s that big brass gong?” one of the guests asked.

“It’s not a gong. It’s a talking clock,” the student replied.

“A talking clock? Seriously?” asked his astonished friend.

“Yup,” replied the student.

“How’s it work?” the second guest asked, squinting at it.

“Watch,” the student replied. He picked up a hammer, gave it an ear-shattering pound and stepped back.

The three stood looking at one another for a moment. Suddenly, someone on the other side of the wall screamed: “You idiot, it’s one o’clock in the morning!”

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