Because we are, aren’t we, human?

There are some songs which for no definable reason – not the lyric, not the melody, not the performer – strike such a chord and seem so meaningful. One such is ‘Human’ by the Killers… I just love it, and can’t really explain why.

In my first Radwinter novel, Thomas obviously feels the same… he ha just been to a party with his wife and is realising that his life is falling to pieces, and maybe he is too…

In this extract, he is coming home from his brother’s party… Kylie is someone he works with who has become a true friend to him. His wife Rebecca is becoming more distant

I gave Kylie a big hug, wishing I could kiss her; she looked very fierce, but she was just emotional… I didn’t know when or how I would see her again, but I would… She thrust something into my jacket pocket, a Christmas present she said… not much but it was all she could afford.
Sitting in the taxi I felt it, a book… I’d look at it later.
I began to sing… I sang about the platform of surrender… I sang that I was kind
Rebecca poked my arm. “Stop it!” she said crossly.
“It’s the Killers,” I said, “it’s called ‘Human’…. Because we are, aren’t we, human? Only human?”
“You’re drunk!”
I started singing again… singing that I was nervous of an open door, I sang… I sang that I should shut my eyes, and empty my heart and cut the ties… the ties that bind…
“Shut up, Thomas!”
Luckily we arrived at the flat and she got out and slammed the door leaving me to pay the taxi-driver. I apologised for my singing, and he said he didn’t mind, it was a favourite song of his and at least I had a decent voice. I thanked him and he wished me good luck… I’m not sure what he meant by that… but I rather thought I needed some good luck.
Maybe I should shut my eyes, and empty my heart and cut the ties…

If you want to find out what led Thomas to this situation… and what happened, then here is a ink to my book:

While snows the window panes bedim

Snow hasn’t arrived here in the west yet,so our window panes haven’t yet been bedimmed,  but there are plenty of places it has been seen. Nor has it been so consistently cold that it really feels like winter – wintry, but not real winter yet. However, decorations are going up around the village, and as I sit here I can see the village hall decked with twinkling lights, and the Christmas tree outside it is beautifully decorated.

Here is some more verses from John Clare’s December entry in his Shepherd’s Calendar:

The block behind the fire is put
To sanction customs old desires
And many a faggots bands are cut
For the old farmers Christmas fires
Where loud tongd gladness joins the throng
And winter meets the warmth of may
Feeling by times the heat too strong
And rubs his shins and draws away

While snows the window panes bedim
The fire curls up a sunny charm
Where creaming oer the pitchers rim
The flowering ale is set to warm
Mirth full of joy as summer bees
Sits there its pleasures to impart
While childern tween their parents knees
Sing scraps of carrols oer by heart

And some to view the winter weathers
Climb up the window seat wi glee
Likening the snow to falling feathers
In fancys infant extacy
Laughing wi superstitious love
Oer visions wild that youth supplyes
Of people pulling geese above
And keeping christmass in the skyes

As tho the homstead trees were drest
In lieu of snow wi dancing leaves
As. tho the sundryd martins nest
Instead of ides hung the eaves
The childern hail the happy day
As if the snow was april grass
And pleasd as neath the warmth of may
Sport oer the water froze to glass

Cottage hearths are blazing high

I’m diving into the middle part of John Clare’s ‘Shepherd’s Calendar’….

Old winter whipes his ides bye
And warms his fingers till he smiles
Where cottage hearths are blazing high
And labour resteth from his toils
Wi merry mirth beguiling care
Old customs keeping wi the day
Friends meet their christmass cheer to share
And pass it in a harmless way

Old customs O I love the sound
However simple they may be
What ere wi time has sanction found
Is welcome and is dear to me
Pride grows above simplicity
And spurns it from her haughty mind
And soon the poets song will be
The only refuge they can find

The shepherd now no more afraid
Since custom doth the chance bestow
Starts up to kiss the giggling maid
Beneath the branch of mizzletoe
That neath each cottage beam is seen
Wi pearl-like-berrys shining gay
The shadow still of what hath been
Which fashion yearly fades away

A great book… the life and times of Louis Bazalgette…

It’s strange how one thing leads to another… here is a chain of events…

  1. I went to a lecture on local history and learned that a hero of mine, Joseph Bazalgette not only visited Weston-super-Mare where I now live, but had an input into the local drainage and sewerage system which was being constructed at the time of his visit
  2. I was so thrilled by this that I wrote a blog about it
  3. I was further thrilled to be contacted by a direct descendent of Sir Joseph with some interesting links to where I could find out more
  4. the direct descendent of Joseph, Charles Bazalgette, had, I noticed, published a book about his more distant ancestor Louis Bazalgette who was tailor to the Prince Regent, who became George IV
  5. Although I have no particular interest in Regency England, I was intrigued to find out more about Joseph’s ancestor
  6. I bought Prinny’s Taylor: The Life and Times of Louis Bazalgette (1750-1830) by Charles Bazalgette
  7. I have become absolutely engrossed in this book!

Even if like me you have no interest in the period, or in the Prince Regent, or in fashion and tailoring, I really recommend you read this book – it’s a fantastic and all-encompassing exploration of the life of an immigrant from France at a time when fashion and the fashion industry was as big business and as influential as it is today.

This is what the blurb on Amazon says about the book:

The Prince of Wales, later George IV, is probably the most written-about of all British monarchs, and his excesses, his debts and the huge sums that he expended on his wardrobe are legendary. It is therefore strange that the man who was the Prince’s tailor for over thirty-two years, and his principal tailor for over half of that time, should have been named, and then only in passing, in just two other books.
The reason why Louis Bazalgette has been a shadowy figure until now is that the relationship between the two men was discreet and almost clandestine. This biography presents a detailed picture of an extraordinary man, of humble origins, whose influence on gentlemen’s tailoring, and upon the Prince himself, must have been far-reaching.
This fascinating story presents a new angle on Georgian and Regency life, as seen through the eyes of a little French tailor who by his own efforts became a very wealthy propertied merchant. There is also a great deal of information on gentlemen’s tailoring of the period, a subject sparsely covered in other publications, and we are regaled in detail with the clothes that were made for Prinny, when and where he wore them and how much they cost.

The story starts, as you might imagine with Louis’s life and family in France; what I particularly enjoyed about this background detail was the research which had been done to find exactly who was related to whom in the days when there were only parish church records and several people had the same given name. I am trying to puzzle out to tell my own family history and much of it is unknown so I found Charles reasoned speculations very interesting – and gave me some ideas on how I might approach telling my story.

Although there are many characters, the way the book is written makes it clear who they are – and there are helpful reminders. Some writers mention a name once and then use a nickname or only the forename, and it can become quite confusing – not in this case. Charles slips in extra little details so reading is not interrupted by having to look up footnotes or end notes, it’s all there in the text.

Louis the tailor moved from France to London, and eventually became tailor to the Prince Regent. These days the media is obsessed with fashion, celebrity and patronage; so it was then and Charles includes reports from the newspapers of the clothes worn by the court. However, it is not only what was observed at the receptions and balls in Brighton and London, we are given the background to the actual outfits – how they were made, what from, where the fabrics and accessories were fabricated and how they were accessed, and the eye-watering amount they cost.

I mention ‘how they were made’ – there are whole chapters on the processes of making clothes pre-industrialisation – how the young apprentices learned their different trades, the brutally hard labour they endured, the sometimes crippling effects of doing the work, sitting cross-legged on tables for hours and hours.

The sheer extravagance is as repulsive as it is today – comparing the prince who squandered money on more clothes than he could possibly wear, running up bills of thousands of pounds (in today’s money £1000 from then would be nearly £125000 now) leaving his creditors unpaid, flaunting his extravagance while the ordinary people were often struggling to find work or enough to eat or somewhere to live…

All through the accounts of the clothes Louis made and the business he did, is the story of his life; the death of his first wife, the birth (and sometimes deaths) of his children, his second wife who may not have loved her step-children as much as perhaps she should have, and where he lived, and how he lived…

Here is a link to where you can find out more about Louis:

…and here is a link to the book –

I hope you enjoy it as much as I am!

Here is a link to my books:


The dark shadow of a branchy tree

William Alexander who wrote this poem is not William Alexander, 1st Earl of Stirling  and Viscount of Canada, who was born about 1567 in  Clackmannanshire;   Lord Alexander was a courtier and poet, and an adventurer involved in the Scottish colonisation in Nova Scotia and Long Island. That William Alexander is famous for such works as AuroraThe Monarchick Tragedies  and Doomes-Day . He died in London in 1640.

About this William Alexander, I can at the moment tell you nothing at all!


The morn is cold. A whiteness newly-brought
Lightly and loosely powders every place,
The panes among yon trees that eastward face
Flash rosy fire from the opposite dawning caught,
—As the face flashes with a splendid thought,
As the heart flashes with a touch of grace
When heaven’s light comes on ways we cannot trace,
Unsought, yet lovelier than we ever sought.
In the blue northern sky is a pale moon,
Through whose thin texture something doth appear
Like the dark shadow of a branchy tree.
—Fit morning for the prayers of one like me,
Whose life is in midwinter, and must soon
Come to the shortest day of all my year!

William Alexander 1824 – 1911

Winter’s ragged hand

As wnter approaches, here’s a sonnet by the master: here’s Shakespeare looking back and looking forward.

 Sonnet 6

Then let not winter’s ragged hand deface,
In thee thy summer, ere thou be distilled:
Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place
With beauty’s treasure ere it be self-killed.
That use is not forbidden usury,
Which happies those that pay the willing loan;
That’s for thy self to breed another thee,
Or ten times happier, be it ten for one;
Ten times thy self were happier than thou art,
If ten of thine ten times refigured thee:
Then what could death do if thou shouldst depart,
Leaving thee living in posterity?
Be not self-willed, for thou art much too fair
To be death’s conquest and make worms thine heir

William Shakespeare

The stars are glittering in the frosty sky

From last year… beautiful…

I had never come across Charles Heavysege, the Yorkshire born Canadian poet and dramatist until recently. He was born in Huddersfield, I town I know quite well, in 1816. He and his family emigrated to Canada in the 1850’s and eventually worked as a reporter and then editor. here is his sonnet about the sort of winter night we haven’t had many of, haven’t had enough of of these last few months!

Winter Skies

The stars are glittering in the frosty sky,
Numerous as pebbles on a broad sea-coast;
And o’er the vault the cloud-like galaxy
Has marshalled its innumerable host.
Alive all heaven seems! with wondrous glow
Tenfold refulgent every star appears,
As if some wide, celestial gale did blow,
And thrice illume the ever-kindled spheres.
Orbs, with glad orbs rejoicing, burning, beam
Ray-crowned, with lambent lustre in their zones,
Till o’er the blue, bespangled spaces seem
Angels and great archangels on their thrones;
A host divine, whose eyes are sparkling gems,
And forms more bright than diamond diadems.

 Charles Heavysege  1816 – 1876