Visiting a stately home…

We visited Tyntsfield today, a National Trust property near Bristol. There is a wonderful house to visit, and if the weather had been a little less windy and chilly, we might have wandered round the beautiful gardens too!

This is what the Trust say about it:

Tyntesfield, just a stone’s throw away from Bristol, was not built as a bold and extravagant statement of wealth, power or politics. Its purpose was simple; to serve as a family home. Once hidden and inaccessible, the ordinary and extraordinary lives and possessions of four generations of the Gibbs family are ready for discovery. The garden and estate balance faded beauty and function with an abundance of nature; celebrated in ornate Gothic carvings that decorate the house. Flower filled terraces, an empty lake, woodland, champion trees and productive kitchen garden give further opportunities for exploration.

… and this is what Wikipedia says about William Gibbs who bought it in 1843:

In 1843, the property was bought by businessman William Gibbs, who made his fortune in the family business, Antony Gibbs & Sons. From 1847 the firm had an effective monopoly in the import and marketing to Europe and North America of guano from Peru as a fertiliser…  The firm’s profits from this trade were such that William Gibbs became the richest non-noble man in England.

In my latest e-book, Earthquake, there is an old ruined house – not a bit like Tyntesfield I have to say, except for the fact that my fictional owner of the house had also made his fortune from guano. In my story, the old house became a school, until it closed in 1932 and fell into disrepair:

The actual school building in the grounds of a large estate, had been the home of a branch of the family who’d owned the big mansion in rather lovely parklands – well, they looked lovely from the old photographs I found. The mansion, with two wings and no doubt dozens and dozens of rooms, had been the residence of a man who’d made his money out of bird poo… Yes, it’s true! There were other such entrepreneurs apparently, who made millions shipping bird poo from distant rocky places back to England to be used as fertiliser… I mean honestly, who would have thought it? Whoever first thought oh I know I’ll put all this bird shit on the garden and see what happens… oh my goodness what lovely roses I have and how fine my carrots are
It was in 1841 apparently that the first Peruvian guano, about 2,000 tons of the smelly stuff, left on a ship destined for Liverpool, and it was in the 1860’s just as Samuel Oxfleet was starting his school in Strand, that Mr. Bird-Poo built his mansion.
The smaller house which became the school was built for the second son who was not going to inherit the bird poo empire. As happens with such large places, it fell on hard times as the family did, and for a short while, between the 1890’s and 1900’s the mansion was what was then called a lunatic asylum, before it became used as a convalescent home.
The smaller building became a hospital for wounded soldiers in the First World War, for those with ‘shell shock’ as they called it or ‘battle fatigue’ as it was also known.

If you want to fins out more about the old school, as it became, and more about the earthquake in Earthquake, here is a link:

Earthquake… and sprouts

I’ve been really excited – and delighted by the response to my latest novel, Earthquake! It is the fifth story about Thomas Radwinter, and it has been interesting how the character of Thomas has changed over the course of what I guess you could call a quintet – unless that just applies to music!

In the first novel, the eponymous Radwinter (I don’t often get to use the word ‘eponymous’!) Thomas is in quite an unhappy situation, for various reasons, and during the course of the story things only get worse – until they get better! Thomas has what you might call ‘issues’ surrounding his childhood, and over the next novels, gradually he confronts and resolves many of these difficulties. So, his character does change, but many aspects of him remain the same. He’s loving, kind, funny, intelligent, self-deprecating, but suffers from anxiety and a feeling of worthlessness on occasions… As his life changes and becomes happier, he is able to indulge in things he enjoys, one of which is cooking (and food in general!)

In this excerpt he is trying to work out how to make an economical meal for his family with the odds and ends he finds in the cupboard and fridge:

I’ve somehow ended up with a pile of sprouts; this does sometimes happens, what with the allotment and Val the veg shop lady who always seems to have something going cheap for me. I guess when the children are older and all eating proper food then we’ll be glad, maybe we should get another freezer…
So what can we do with sprouts? Kylie doesn’t really like them that much and Kenneil doesn’t like them at all, so it’s really only me… I wondered if there might be a recipe for sprout soup, so had a little investigate on the internet and came across a few interesting things, some of which have a list of very extravagant ingredients… Pancetta, gorgonzola, crème fraiche, chestnuts, Marsala wine and duck fat… none of which I have. It would have to be an extraordinary basket of going cheap items in a supermarket which had all of them!
Pancetta… that’s only bacon really, isn’t it? Posh Italian bacon? And gorgonzola, sometimes when we did a cheese board when we were entertaining… wait a bit, ‘we’? By we I was meaning Rebecca and me! I must kick that thought out of the window! But that’s the trouble; you see I’d not thought of Rebecca for a single second for a very long time, and now she seems back in my mind. I still don’t know what her problem is that she wants me to help her with…
Back to sprouts, much nicer to think about sprouts than my past life… so crème fraiche… we don’t have it but we do have plain yoghurt, would that do? I’ve started making my own, so much cheaper than buying it, 60ml of live yoghurt to a litre of warm milk, twenty-four hours later and there’s the yoghurt. Chestnuts and Marsala wine… no… no we haven’t, not anything like it, and duck fat?
I looked at the method and decided to see what I’ actually did have.
I took as many sprouts as I thought I might eat, and I cut them in half, and found the green end of a leek which had gone a bit soft but was OK. I chopped it up and fried it butter and olive oil, and then instead of pancetta I fried slices of chorizo the end of a black pudding which is one of my little treats!
I didn’t have any chestnuts but I had half a bag of cashews I’d brought back from the pub and they went in with the chorizo and black pudding which was smelling mighty good I can tell you. I threw the sprouts in with the leek, and when they’d gone bright green I found ‘a glug’, as the recipe really does say, of one of Paul’s wines. I discovered some rather elderly crème fraiche right at the back of the fridge, a rather large number of days after its best before date, and a bit of very old, leathery stilton… Geoff and Daph had given it to us and the last little bit got lost in the salad drawer.
By this time Kylie had arrived back with the babies and Daph and Geoff had arrived with the swimmers.
“That smells delish, Daddy!” Kenneil announced and Cassie said ‘delish’ too.
“What is it sweetheart, it smells great!” Kylie exclaimed, and before you could say Brussels sprouts, Kenneil and Cassie were wading into what was going to have been my dinner, and I was hastily chopping sprouts and leeks and chorizo to make some more for my wife and our friends! … and none of my family actually like sprouts!!

If this tempts you to read  ‘Earthquake’ (a real as well as metaphorical earthquake) here is a link to my e-book:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493026172&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

Another little except… Earthquake!

I mentioned yesterday how kind people have been in their response to my latest e-book, ‘Earthquake’, and how readers have been quite excited to find out what happens next to my main character Thomas Radwinter. Thomas is just an ordinary person with an ordinary life, but he has a knack of finding things out and solving problems… it started (for him and my readers) when he began to delve into his own family history, and then discovered he was quite good at finding missing people and solving little mysteries.

Over the five books he has discovered his own family’s secrets, found a woman who disappeared and who the police thought didn’t really exist anyway, worked out the identity of a Tibetan lama who had sinister control over a teacher, found out who laid lilies on the grave of a young Danish resistance fighter who died during the war, and exposed the secrets of a haunted hotel.

The books have followed Thomas’s personal life too, his brothers, and his own little family. His character develops and changes over the five books (and four years of his life) and he is quite a different person in many ways from ‘the bumbling, wittering idiot’ as he describes himself!

In this excerpt he is going to visit a new client, who speaks so quietly Thomas can’t decipher his name when the old gentleman rings him to make an appointment… all Thomas can hear is ‘Shshsher’

Thomas goes to meet his client, but first of all he has to sort out childcare:

 I have learned that small children are exceptionally speedy, in fact they can possibly teleport themselves from place to place and are really adept at pulling things down on top of themselves, specialise in sitting on or in something which does neither it nor them any good, and generally wreak havoc on items left lying about. Children are the greatest motivator for being tidy I can tell you!
Occasionally, very occasionally I have taken one of them with me on business appointments, always asking the client first and only if there is absolutely no other alternative – sometimes I’ve had to rearrange meetings because of childcare difficulties. Kenneil is fine to take anywhere, he can entertain himself without a fuss; it used to be cars, now it’s more likely to be little construction sets or drawing or sums.
My appointment with Mr. Shshsher was not an appointment I could take any babies whatsoever, so Cassie went to spend the morning with our friends Geoff and Daph, the twins went to the nursery and of course, Kenneil is at school.

Mr. Shshsher, I still hadn’t been able to decipher his name, lived over the other side of Strand, not far from where I lived in my former life. Where he lives is in small posh 1900’s development; each detached property is set in its own grounds, not huge, but big enough and has a detached garage and a good sized garden at the back. The developer had wanted to get away from straight lines, much as  modern housing developments, and like the new estates, Gracelands would you believe, was easy to get lost in and difficult to get out of. Judging by the expensive large cars parked on the drives this was a very affluent place.

My client lived down a little curling road called Solveig… just that, Solveig. I hadn’t believed it when he told, me, and thought it was another of his slurred utterances, but I looked it up and here it was, a little avenue with maybe a dozen houses and it was called Solveig. Then I had a vague memory of having to drop off some papers here when I worked for the solicitor’s firm. All the roads had strange, Scandinavian names, and I confess I diverted to find out more.
The architect and builder, one and the same, was Ingar Bond, an extraordinary citizen of Strand, and quite famous in a small way. He was a bit of a speculator but he had a dream of establishing a community based on some vaguely Viking ideal… which sort of went out of the window with the spread of Nazism. He was fascinated by Ingar Silverskin, the Viking who raided along this coast and he named his estate after him and the warriors who were supposed to have come with him; I read all this on someone’s blog.
The estate was originally called Ingarhjem, apparently, but then it was changed to Norville, then changed to Ingarville and now Gracelands …
I have to confess I did get properly side-tracked into reading about it; there are fourteen roads Arne Gunnarsson, Håkon Geirsson, Trygve, Yngre, Snorresson, Steinar, Torstein, Valdemar and Vidar named after Ingar’s warriors, and another five named after women associated with the stories, according to Ingar Bond (I wonder if his name was really Ian and he changed it to something more in keeping with his obsession).

Solveig was where my client lived, and the other ‘female’ roads were Brynhild, Ragnhild, Swanhild and Yngvild… Imagine saying you lived at number 33 Yngvild, or 27 Arne Gunnarsson… Good grief!!

If you want to find out more about Mr Shshsher and how an earthquake comes into the story, and the mystery of the haunted hotel, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1492680988&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

…and if you want to catch up with the previous books about Thomas Radwinter, or any of my other e-novels, here’s another link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

My name is Thomas Radwinter…

I’ve had lots of positive feedback on my latest novel, Earthquake… it’s the fifth in my series of Radwinter novels, and I guess the best way to tell you more is to share the beginning, where the main character, Thomas fills in the background and introduces himself:

My name is Thomas Marcus Pemberton Radwinter; I was born in 1980, so I’m thirty-six. I’m about five foot nine and I have brown hair and grey-hazel eyes and dark reddish sort of hair and a beard.
I live in Easthope which is a small old-fashioned seaside town, with my wife Kylie who’s half-Tobagan, and our four children, Kenneil, Casimira, and our twins Vitalija and Marko. Kylie works full-time for my sister-in-law to be, Ruthie in her food business, Radwinter@The India Inn and I’m a stay-at-home dad. I don’t just do housework and take Kenneil to school and look after Cassie and the twins; I’m a solicitor and I work independently, doing conveyancing and will-writing and stuff like that.  I also do genealogical research for other people.
Recently, I’ve been asked to do other things … like finding people, a woman who jumped out of a car at a junction and vanished, and the Moroccan friend an elderly lady brought back from a Mediterranean cruise, and the mysterious Lama who had such power over a hard-working teacher and dad…

There are four of us Radwinter boys, Marcus who’s fifty-seven and a vicar, Paul who has a wine business and has just passed the big 5 0, and John who’s forty-three and is manager of a bookshop and about to publish his first book, ‘The Young Duke and the Little Prince in the Bearskin Cloak’. And then there’s me, the youngest.
In 2013, Paul asked me to find out about our family history and I followed the story of the Radwinters, and discovered where we came from… and what an interesting journey that was. I mean journey for me in a non-literal way, but it was an interesting journey for the Radwinters, literally.

I use a genealogical site, MyTimeMachine, and when I looked into us Radwinters, I went about it in a sort of back-to-front way. I guess most people would start with their parents, and find their birth details, and their marriage record, and then move back to their grandparents and so on. It’s not too difficult, especially if you have an unusual name like we have, but even if it isn’t unusual, you can still soon become a real genealogical detective and find your way back into the past.
I did it the other way round; I found my namesake Thomas Radwinter in the 1841 census and worked forward.
John has the middle name of Magick, and that’s our maternal line and in 2014 I followed that side of our family… and it led me to some very dark places I can tell you, but eventually I found the truth about my Magick family.
Later, that year I continued to investigate the people who brought us up, Edward Radwinter and Sylvia Magick, Raddy and Syl… This journey into our recent family history laid bare a shocking, horrific story; I discovered what happened to Raddy and Syl, and what caused us to have such traumatic childhoods.

In my Radwinter story I have discovered some amazing truths about myself. The changes in me have been painful and hard, but with Kylie and my children, I really do feel like a different person, a strong and confident person… even though I am still a bit of a bumbling, wittering idiot sometimes…. Well, a lot of the time to be honest!
So… now our history is closed, we can get on with living our lives today, so fortunate that the Radwinter boys are united again!

Here is a link to Earthquake:

Double elephant and pinched post

I’m fascinated by names, all sort of names, and so is my character, Thomas Radwinter in my genealogical mysteries.

In my latest novel, Thomas remarks, “What is a madcap I wonder… A fool’s cap maybe… Like a jester’s headgear the thing with bells on and is that anything to do with the old way of measuring paper, foolscap and I deviate to find other old paper sizes, octavo quarto, and would you believe it duchess, duke and Albert!

I only had him look up a few examples of paper size, but later I went back and found out some of the sizes we used before it all became uniformly A – A1 – A5 – how dull.

I’ve missed out some, but just compare ‘A’ to:

  • Emperor
  • Quad demy
  • Antiquarian
  • Grand eagle
  • Double elephant
  • Atlas
  • Colombier
  • Double demy
  • Imperial
  • Double large post
  • Elephant
  • Princess
  • Cartridge
  • Royal
  • Double post
  • Super royal
  • Broadsheet
  • Demy
  • Crown
  • Pinched post
  • Foolscap
  • Brief
  • Pott

If you look just on Wikipedia, not on a site which is to do with paper, there is a huge index on size:

International paper sizes

  • A series
  • B series
  • C series

Overview: ISO paper sizes

  • German extensions
  • Swedish extensions
  • Japanese B-series variant

North American paper sizes

  • Loose sizes
  • Common loose sizes
  • Usage and adoption
  • Variant loose sizes
  • Standardized American paper sizes
  • Architectural sizes
  • Other sizes
  • Notebook sizes
  • Office sizes
  • Photography sizes
  • Postage sizes
  • Grain

… Maybe you’re not so interested… I was… and Thomas was! Here is a link to my ebooks about Thomas, and my other books too:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Alois+elsden

A sneaky little peep

Yesterday I shared an excerpt from my latest e-novel, Earthquake; four years ago I began to write a genealogical mystery “starring” Thomas Radwinter, and somehow, Thomas hasn’t let go and I have followed his story. ‘Earthquake’, which I published earlier this week, follows his adventures, and his life.

Here, just for you, is another excerpt:

I have to be very strict with myself, which is much more difficult than you might think, because particularly when I’m doing someone’s family tree I get terribly side-tracked by interesting names and strange occupations. I have such a busy life, housework, cooking, washing, shopping, John’s allotment, looking after our garden, taking Cassie and Kenneil swimming, seeing my brothers and their families…
So I was concentrating completely on the ins and outs of some legal papers for a client and didn’t register my phone was ringing. I answered it rather more loudly than I meant to and there was silence then the sound of laboured breathing…
Good grief, don’t say I’ve got a heavy-breather… Hello? I said rather firmly and sternly ready to finish the call and block the number.
“Good morning… is that Mr. Radwinter….” And the voice, man or woman I couldn’t tell, faded away, then started again. “My name is Shsh Shshsher…”
“I’m sorry, you are?”
“Shsh Shshsher… A friend at the golf club suggested you might be able to help me…”
When I was working as a proper solicitor in a practice in Strand, I had a dear old gentleman who always asked for me to assist in his matters and business, usually changing his will which was a bit of a hobby of his. When our firm amalgamated with another and moved their head office to Castair, I was effectively given the sack; however my kindly old gentleman insisted I continue to handle his affairs and more than that, recommended me to a lot of his friends at the golf club. The golf club gang, as I call them, are my best clients, and are nearly all nice people and also quite wealthy.
As well as the usual conveyancing, enduring powers of attorney, wills and even a couple of divorces, they have asked me to help them on several intriguing ‘investigations’ as I mentioned above, the missing woman, the Moroccan and the Tibetan Lama.
“I will try my best Mr. Shshsher…” I couldn’t ask him again for his name, having tried to work it out three times. “Perhaps we could arrange a time where we could meet, or maybe I could call on you… what sort of business do you wish to conduct?”
There was another yawning pause before Mr. Shshsher replied that he would have to discuss that with me…  He wasn’t sure I could help, he wasn’t sure anyone could help, but his friends had recommended me highly…

If you want to find out what Thomas gets up to in Earthquake, and find out about that seismic event, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/EARTHQUAKE-RADWINTER-Book-LOIS-ELSDEN-ebook/dp/B06Y18H8JR/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491552516&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

and to Thomas’s other adventures, and my other novels:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_rsis_1_0?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden&sprefix=%2Caps%2C227

Uphill floods remembered, Hamwick flood imagined!

What a coincidence! Just when I included references to a flood/storm surge maybe caused by an earthquake, look what is featured in our village magazine!

http://www.burnham-on-sea.com/1607-flood.shtml

… and if you want to read about my imagined flood of the small port of Hamwick in 1931, here’s a link to my ebook: