A letter from Lady Alexandra Margaret Quinn, Head Gardener here in the Reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, Empress of India, to Tessa, her botanist friend who is on an extended botanical collecting trip n the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere. She copied her letters into her Journal and her will stated that they should be shared after her death. Alex as she preferred to be called lived to be well over a hundred and indeed outlived her beloved Queen. She is buried beneath her beloved oaks just north of The Nine Standing Stones.
This is the time that I really miss your company here, as we’re fully into the time of year where this Estate is isolated from the outside world with even the neighbouring Estates seem far away and the post is but once a month at best as the nearest rail depot is twenty miles away, a long journey under most Winter conditions.
Because of all that, we’ve long celebrated the Winter season as something that starts with extensive preparations beginning in November and ending on Candlemas. As I write this letter to you, I’ve got work parties gathering spruce boughs and cones, holly, and other material for decorating the Estate Building. This is not a small task given the number of rooms to be decorated!
Likewise there’s work to done in getting the animals ready for Winter. We usually get our first heavy snowfall about the middle of November so but we’ve been lucky this year and only had a few light snows. Before then, I and my workers must make sure that the stock buildings are both tight and able to withstand heavy snows. Oh and our hedgewitch, Catriona, is worried about the owls which means I need to be sure that they can roost in the eaves out of the storms we’ll get. Since the owls keep the rodent populations down, this is a needed task.
The very last of the crops has been harvested — mostly cold crops such as cabbages and brussels sprouts, but also beets and carrots, not to mention cauliflower, celeriac, garlic, herbs of various sorts, horseradish, cauliflower, and garlic! All of which has to harvested, cleaned, and prepared for storage. The root cellars are certainly full this year!
We slaughtered a number of hogs earlier this month and the smoke houses are full of their meat being readied for Winter. I’m looking forward to a hearty ham, lentil, and onion soup with bread just out of the oven thick with butter! We trade some of the pork with other Estates for necessities such as dried beans and lentils.
Oh, I forgot to mention that the Steward thanks you for your wonderful gift of spices and herbs for the kitchen here! Blackie said that they would certainly get well-used here. The Hindustan trader who gave you the makings of masala chai and the recipe for making it is to be blessed as it sounds wonderful for Winter drinking while curled up in a chair near a roaring fire either stitching or reading.
I must run now as there’s a visitor from the Evenmere Estate who I want to talk with regarding sending several of my lads apprenticing over there in their cheesery.
With deepest affection and love, Alex
We have something a little different for you to start off this morning (well, we seem to have something a little different most times, but you know what I mean) — a collection of the fantasy illustrations of Maxine Gadd, titled, appropriately enough, Faeries And Other Fantastical Folk: The Faery Paintings of Maxine Gadd. And if you read the review, there’s even a link to more images.
Now you may not immediately see the connection between fantasy illustration and Clive Barker’s children’s series beginning with Abarat and continuing with Abarat: Days of Magic, Nights of War, but it turns out that Barker is also artistically inclined, the fruits of which grace the books in profusion. So there.
As long as we’ve got all these paintings and drawings floating around, we might as well take a look at a special treat, two stories by Neil Gaiman given graphic novel treatment, illustrated by Michael Zulli, and collected in Creatures of the Night.
It seems to have turned into an “Art Day” here, so it seems only fitting to part with another book about another kind of art — body art. See what we had to say about Rufus C. Camphausen’s Return of the Tribal: A Celebration of Body Adornment.
And that does it for today. See you next time.
This letter was one of many we got on the technical end of a recording. It seems there are historians specializing in just about anything.
From: Erich McMann
Subject: “Carolina In My Mind”
Date: June 21, 2004
Hello, how are you? My name is Erich McMann, I am a musical archivist researching Paul McCartney’s recording sessions as an artist, producer and guest musician. I am trying to identify the recording engineers and date of recording for James Taylor’s Apple records version “Carolina In My Mind,” that Paul McCartney played bass on. Would you have any information concerning the details of the recording session? I know it was produced by Peter Asher at Trident studios sometime in 1968, but details on the date and engineers are vague. Any information would be great.
Thank you, Erich McMann
David Kidney responds:
After a couple of hours of research, I don’t think that I can be really definitive since James Taylor is not definitive about when it was. In an interview with Timothy White, Taylor remembers the dates as “between July and October 1968.” And those dates appear right on the “James Taylor” (Apple) record. Also, along the bottom of the inside sleeve it lists “Balance engineering by Barry Sheffield and Malcolm Toft.” They are the only engineers whose names appear in any documentation.
Taylor mentions hanging out at Beatles’ recording sessions and hearing “early versions of Hey Jude, etc.” “Revolution” was recorded at Abbey Road on July 9, and sessions for The Beatles continued mainly at Abbey Road throughout July. “Hey Jude” was recorded at Abbey Road Studios on July 31 and was released in September, so the month of September found the Beatles busily promoting their single (“Hey Jude” b/w “Revolution”). On August 20th, McCartney recorded “Wild Honey Pie” at Abbey Road, where he continued to record for a couple of days. The earliest mention of his recording at Trident Studios (where Taylor was recording his album) was on August 28th (“Dear Prudence”), so this is one possibility of a date for Paul to play bass on JT’s “Carolina on my Mind”.
Taylor mentions that a lot of his album was recorded “between sessions for The Beatles [The White Album]“. If this is true, then days when Paul appeared at Trident would be logical dates for his bass playing on Taylor’s record. During September (as I said) the Beatles were busy promoting their new 45rpm. October saw McCartney busily wooing Linda Eastman, but he still had time to record. October 1st he was at Trident recording “Honey Pie.” This is another possibility for work on the Taylor tune. On the 3rd they worked on “Savoy Truffle” and on the 4th “Martha My Dear” at Trident. After this it was back to Abbey Road by Oct.8th.
So, although I can’t be sure — and there are a few more places to look — I would guess that the late August date is the likely candidate. Hope this helps.
Thank you very much for your information and insights into the possible recording date of “Carolina In My Mind.” I am very impressed with your research skills and knowledge of The Beatles and James Taylor’s recording activities around the time of the sessions at Trident studio. Are you a writer or researcher yourself?
What I am working on is a 40-year chronicle (1964-2004) of McCartney’s recording sessions. I have his post-Beatle work very well-documented, but the sessions with artists like The Silkie, Alma Cogan, and The Fourmost — that occurred while he was still a Beatle — are very difficult to track down. I really appreciate your help, and would welcome any other information or correspondence with you.
All the best, Erich McMann
This year at Orycon 2013 I chose three fellow attending writers for a little project I’m calling 3 to 3, in which I pose three questions apiece to three authors. The first of these went up last week, wherein I chatted briefly with fantasy author/opera singer Louise Marley.
This week I’m pleased to be able share a bit about award winning author Jay Lake. Jay has written hundreds of short stories and nearly a dozen novels (including both the Green Universe and Clockwork Earth series with Tor), as well as kindly writing the introduction to my own book. With his signature Hawaiian shirts and ready laugh Jay has always stood out in a crowd, and has always been generous in sharing his experiences as a writer, editor, parent, and general all-round dude. He blogs openly and prolifically about every and any topic that strikes his fancy, captures his imagination, weighs on his mind, or sticks in his proverbial craw. Those who follow these detailed, informative, and at times heartrending online chronicles will know that his last few years have at times been eclipsed by Jay’s battle with cancer.
~ ~ ~
Camille Alexa: I’m about to return to Austin for the winter, and while there I’ll be thinking of how you and I didn’t know each other in that city, though we both consider our Austin years formative. You’ve lived in and visited so many exotic places! Did any one place influence your fiction more than others? Does Austin or Texas have any particular draw for you, fictionwise?
Jay Lake: Really, everywhere I go influences my fiction. I’d be hard pressed to name one place as standing out, though Austin would come close to topping such a list. I’ve lived Asia, Africa and Europe as well as the US, visited all fifty states and a number of Canadian provinces and Mexican states, and about 40 countries around the world. I suppose the best way I could describe it is to say that I carry the whole world in my head.
All that being said, I am seventh-generation Texan, though I was born and raised overseas. There’s a big, deep piece of Texas embedded in me, that will always color what I write about and how I write it.
Frankly, I like swimming in a melange of influences. It leaves me feeling so open to possibility.
CA: You’ve accomplished a zillion things — as editor, as writer, both solo and collaborative, in nearly every literary medium and style — it’s easy to get lost in your astoundingly enormous bibliography. What single Jay Lake project we’ve probably never heard of do you think we all should?
JL: My unpublished space opera cycle, SUNSPIN. I’m close to a nontraditional deal on it, but that’s the great unknown work of mine that I wish more people could see.
CA: This year, Orycon held a public screening of the film Lakeside. There’s some gorgeous footage of you with your daughter, and clips of a few of the many, many people who clearly love you deeply. Is there anything about this film or the making of it that you’d like your fans and readers to know?
JL: It was a very hard project to be a part of. I can’t watch the film now. But the story is important. Not because I’m important — I’m not, except to the people who love me — but because the experience of cancer is so widespread and so difficult for people to talk about.
This film is a way to perhaps open doors for those who need it most.
~ ~ ~
A heartfelt thanks to Jay for sharing himself with us now and always.
Official Trailer, LAKESIDE:
Tis the season for most of us to think fondly of hot chocolate and cocoa. So the Several Annies, my Library Apprentices, decided to ask their favourite authors and musicians some questions, to wit:
If you have a favorite recipe for either of these drinks, may we know what it is? If you’ve got a favorite shop where you go to drink it, please tell us? And finally, do you have a childhood memory of drinking it that’s special?
Our recipe this outing comes from Jennifer Stevenson, who is an author, gardener, and fancier of crows. She wrote ‘Solstice’, our favourite Winter story, and did a reading of it here.
My favorite recipe for hot chocolate is excessive…I’m a “more is more” gal.
Jennifer’s Hot Chocolate
Place in your large mug (12 oz. to 16 oz. capacity)
up to 1/4 cup heavy cream
two or three Tbsp cocoa powder – I use Ghirardelli unsweetened
one or two Tbsp brown sugar
two Tbsp bourbon
one tsp vanilla extract
Add about 8 oz. boiling water. Stir to dissolve cocoa and salt.
Pour in 2 to 4 Tbsp heavy cream. Stir.
Top with whipped cream. If you whip it yourself instead of spraying it out of a can, you can add vanilla or Cointreau or Framboise to the whipped cream!
Sometimes if I’m feeling saucy I’ll use 60% dark chocolate chips or a chunk of a Lindt bar instead of, or in addition to, the cocoa powder. Sometimes if I’m lazy it’ll be 1/4 cake of Abuelita Mexican hot chocolate.
Hot chocolate was never rich enough at my mom’s house. My grandmother would, at least, put marshmallows in it, but plain sugar wasn’t enough. I wanted the high-fat richness of heavy cream. This explains why we go through two pounds of butter a month at my house. Also, my hips.
If it’s early morning and I can’t face life without *all* the drugs, I’ll use coffee instead of hot water.
More is more!
Love & seasons greetings,
Steeleye without Maddy? Can it possibly go well?
This is first UK gig of Steeleye Span since Maddy Prior left a year ago.
Well, having given the new album a good airing I knew that the band had some good material, so how would they perform without the person who in some peoples’ eyes ‘is’ Steeleye Span?
Now, first and foremost there is no one who is a bigger fan of Maddy than me, well … maybe most of the subscribers to Prior engagements, but I probably spend more money and time than is sensible or sane traveling round the country seeing the queen of British folk music.
So it was with some surprise that I can honestly say, with hand on heart, that I did not miss Maddy at all during the concert! The band did not seem incomplete in any way, They were composed, self-assured and if you had not seen them before, you would have been forgiven for thinking that they had played with this line-up for years!
His full review is here.
Horkstow Grange, released before this tour, would be the only album to feature only Gay. She would depart the band before Maddy returned.
As for the morning after what, I’ll leave that up to you.
We have something out of the ordinary today — well, out of the ordinary for us, if we ever figure out what that is. It’s a CD featuring some old songs, some new songs, some traditional songs and some not so traditional, as performed by The Two Sisters, Hilary James and Janet Giraudo, titled Songs & Chansons.
Another combination of old and new, somewhat more focused in theme, is brought to you by one of our favorite groups, Various Artists. Titled John Barleycorn Reborn, it’s a little darker than you might expect, we’re told.
From music of various times and places, we go to a very specific time and place, namely Florida, U.S.A., in the early 1960s, courtesy of Will Shetterly’s Dogland, in which the mundane isn’t, really.
And, to continue with what’s becoming quite an eclectic selection, even for us, we bring you next a book, but not just any book: take a look at Kevin McDermott’s Elephant House, or, the Home of Edward Gorey.
And finally, in keeping with our motto, “Eclectic ‘R’ Us,” we bring you a look at a collection of comics, but not just any comics: it’s a collection by Actus, a group of Israeli comics artists, titled Dead Herring Comics. Yes, there is a reason for the title. Sort of.
That’s it for today. See you next time with more of whatever we have.
G’Day My Dear,
We don’t do Thanksgiving here except in those years when one of the Several Annies, Iain’s Library apprentices, is from America and that’s an interesting circumstance as we don’t raise turkeys here so we barter for one from the Evenmere Estate in exchange for something they want, usually a few kegs of one of our October German-style beers. All in all, though I prefer a slowly roasted roast goose to a turkey cooked in the same manner as I find the latter too dry.
So we slide into our usual extended season of celebrating the Winter Holidays starting in November as a way of adjusting to rapidly colder weather in this part of Scotland. We start off trimming the evergreens to use in decorating the Estate Building with spruce branches and cones, along with gathering holly and mistletoe. It makes for good excuse to be out and generally one of the musos even comes along to play a bit of fiddle music which is magical. Not Jack though — he’s at the age now where the cold bothers his bones so he stays where it’s warm when he can.
The Several Annies this year have added a series of Carol Slams to our usual activities. What is a carol slam, you ask? It’s like a round robin telling of stories, but for carols. Each participant will either offer up a traditional carol or will write a new one for the Estate choir to sing. Everyone one in the Pub gets to decide who wins each round. Eventually the two best carols will be performed and the audience decides what the best carol is. Iain has noted to me that the carol writers are discovering how hard it is to write a new carol that ‘feels’ right!
Other annual occurrence is the production of seasonal plays. ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’, ‘A Christmas Carol’, and ‘A Lion in The Winter’ are all popular but the selection group’s looking for something new so they’ve been asking for suggestions. I suggested ‘The Snow Queen’ and, if they’re feeling adventurous,’The Boar’s Head Madrigal Dinner’ which is a play as feast. They decided on dramatizing Jane Yolen’s The Wild Hunt, which should be interesting as it’s definitely a story that could be done in that manner.
We have reading groups here year-round but the Winter brings out the best in them. A favourite reading is Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, as it appeals to both the Arthurian fans and those deep into the Welsh mythos; Tolkien’s The Hobbit is one that gets read aloud in the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room every year in the evenings with just a roaring fire for light. I hear that one of The Several Annies is pushing for a reading of Charles de Lint’s The Cats of Tanglewood Forest as she likes the way it depicts both cats and the Appalachian folklore it’s riffing off of.
And much to my delight, there are outdoor activities when the weather’s not too bad — curling, of course, and skiing in groups across this vast Estate, but also work parties which I’m very grateful for as there’s always something needing doing. As you may know, we expect all the Estate residents to help with the work here but expecting and getting are two different things. Admittedly those who don’t understand why we expect them to help aren’t going to be here very long as the social compact is strong here!
I must run now as there’s a pig to be slaughtered and I’m teaching a new lad how to do it properly. If I’m lucky, he won’t vomit, but most do when encountering Death this way for the first time. They’re fine with chickens and even rabbits, but they’re first pig is ‘nother matter!
Until next time, Gus
For those in the States, and if you’re traveling on the East Coast (or trying to), you have my sympathies.
We’re starting off today with a bit from the other coast, a recent concert by Howe Gelb at Mississippi Studios in Portland, Oregon. “Casual virtuosity” it says here.
A dip into the Archives for another piece of real Americana — The Rough Guide to the Music of Louisiana. It’s a real eye-opener, but just the tip of the iceberg.
If your taste for music from the bayous has been whetted a bit, take a look at this one: from the Boogaloo Swamis (and our Archives), Have Some Fun Tonight.
Another American icon just popped up in the Archives — remember Danny O’Keefe? Well, you must remember “Goodtime Charlie’s Got the Blues,” which O’Keefe wrote and first performed, and which is the subtitle of Danny’s Best 1970-2000.
We finish off today with a review that brings us almost full circle: a disc from another iconic American band, called simply The Red Clay Ramblers: Live. It’s almost like being there. Truly.
Have a good one. We’ll be back soon with more goodies.
If a reader tells us that we made a mistake, we correct it.
From: Jon Hall
Subject: King Arthur review
Date: August 5, 2004
Interesting … but:
…what became knighthood started evolving in France in the fifteenth century…
Knighthood was on its way out by then. And it certainly would have greatly startled the authors of the twelfth- and thirteenth-century Arthurian romances (to say nothing of the actual knights) to learn that knighthood wouldn’t exist for a few centuries.
Deborah Brannon replies:
Yes, there was a mistake in my review, and I am correcting my review to read that knighthood evolved about the 11th century.
From the way I understand things, knights evolved around the 1000s (they definitely existed then since William the Conquerer has knights in his army at Hastings in 1066). There is no doubt that the roots of knighthood extend before that, as I understand knighthood came about due to a combination of things, such as: the development of a true stirrup, the fall of the Roman empire in the West, the death of the professional army, and the rise of early concepts of chivalry in France via Germania in the absence of the Roman Empire. However, in spite of this historical fuzziness, I still, for the purposes of my review, believe the 11th century is a good focal point to attach to knighthood.