In 1346, at the age of sixteen, he won his spurs at Crecy; nine years later he conducted a brutal raid across Languedoc; in 1356 he captured the king of France at Poitiers; as lord of Aquitaine he ruled a vast swathe of southwestern France. He was Edward of Woodstock, eldest son of Edward III, but better known to posterity as ‘the Black Prince‘.The Prince learned the graft of warfare the hard way. At the famous English victory at Crécy in 1346, the 16-year-old Edward was placed in notional command of the vanguard. When he became severely pressed by a French onslaught (the English were outnumbered by almost two to one), his father is reported to have delayed sending his son any reinforcements, saying: ‘Let the boy win his spurs.’ And so the boy did, with a characteristic display of the courage and steadfastness that so impressed his contemporaries. Here and throughout, Jones captures the drama and press of a medieval battle. I normally shy away from the second tier of historians and go only for top league authors. So I was a bit reluctant to buy what I regarded as a ‘chancer’. I’m glad I did. Not only does Michael Jones tell an exciting tale of a chivalrous knight’s life, but he brings to the table his detailed research and telling use of original sources including the letters of the man himself and his friends, as also using contemporary chronicles both French and English ( and others). You get a very rounded picture of a man who was extolled as the greatest warrior of his day but also a man who was extremely religious in this very religious age. Michael Jones doesn’t shy away from discussing his alleged ruthlessness and misdeeds either. It’s a great pity that Edward and his father Edward III had such differences and misunderstandings which led to the eventual loss of all that the Black Prince had gained in France. A pity too that he died so young. Nevertheless his name and aura live on and you can do much worse than enjoy this book as much as I did.
Another great history book ‘Bosworth’ by a well-known historian (and politician) tells in detail the story of how a Queen’s love match with a Welsh servant led eventually to the birth in a following generation of Henry Tudor and the successful if rather surprising overthrow of the Yorkist dynasty. Skidmore is an excellent guide to how all this led to its culmination in the Battle of Bosworth. He describes the background in terrific detail as well as giving us a blow by blow understanding of the battle itself. Well researched and told in a lively manner, the only criticism I would have is the lack of clarity at times as to who we are reading about. I can’t count the number of times I had to peruse the genealogical chart to see which Margaret or which Edward he was talking about. I can only assume all those reviewers who praised its clarity didn’t read it in as much detail and with as much care as I did! Still buying two history books which I didn’t want to put down is a good result……..
This hardback book ‘Bomber Command’ was purchased as a £5 remainder at WHS. I have tried for some time now to research my father’s experience as a Bomb-aimer. No luck in getting his personal details so far and very frustrating considering I have his Forces ID number. However reading the book has given me an excellent idea of how lucky he was to survive, how brave he and the others were, how professional, and I also can appreciate why he didn’t say very much about his experiences and why he had a lifelong antipathy to war and armed struggles of all kinds. The only time we had a short chat he told me how sometimes when a plane returned they would literally have to hose out the remains of the Rear Gunner. I felt I couldn’t really take it any further, but as historian myself I really really should have done! ‘Bomber Command’ is terrific for the details but also covers the overall strategy and the controversies that have arisen since. Max Hastings is willing to be more critical of the key personnel involved than some other historians, but I found the research and output very balanced indeed. £5? A great buy!
Saturday night at the New York’s Met, well Vue cinema Plymouth actually. A surprisingly large attendance, but the average age was let’s say over 60 – as usual. I really think a younger age profile would enjoy Opera so much. I was only introduced to it in my sixties, and am trying to make up for lost time. It’s great. Now I had never heard of Donizetti’s ‘La Fille Du Regiment’ but as soon as the excellent orchestra and conductor played the overtures you wondered why not. A breezy introduction to what followed set just the right mood for this comic opera. The usual corny back-story….here’s the Met’s summary…..
The Tyrolean mountains. On their way to Austria, the terrified Marquise of Berkenfield and her butler, Hortensius, have paused in their journey because they have found the French army blocking their way. When the marquise hears from the villagers that the French troops have at last retreated, she comments on the crude ways of the French people (“Pour une femme de mon nom”). Hortensius asks Sulpice, sergeant of the 21st regiment, to let the marquise continue on. Sulpice is joined by Marie, the mascot, or “daughter,” of the regiment, which adopted her as an orphaned child. When Sulpice questions her about a young man she has been seen with, she explains that he is a local Tyrolean who—though an enemy—once saved her life. Troops of the 21st arrive with a prisoner: this same Tyrolean, Tonio, who says he has been looking for Marie. She steps in to save him, and while he toasts his new friends, Marie sings the regimental song (“Chacun le sait”). Tonio is ordered to follow the soldiers, but he escapes and returns to declare his love to Marie. Sulpice surprises them, and Marie must admit to Tonio that she can only marry a soldier from the 21st.
The Marquise of Berkenfield asks Sulpice for an escort to return her to her castle. When he hears the name Berkenfield, Sulpice remembers a letter he discovered near the young Marie when she was found. The marquise soon admits that she knew the girl’s father and says that Marie is the long-lost daughter of her sister. The child had been left in the care of the marquise, but was lost on a battlefield. Shocked by the girl’s rough manners, the marquise is determined to take her niece to her castle and to give her a proper education. Tonio has enlisted so that he can marry Marie (“Ah, mes amis”), but she has to leave both her regiment and the man she loves (“Il faut partir”).
The marquise has arranged a marriage between Marie and Scipion, nephew of the Duchess of Krakenthorp. Sulpice has joined the marquise at the Berkenfield castle, recovering from an injury and supposed to help her with her plans. The marquise gives Marie a singing lesson, accompanying her at the piano. Encouraged by Sulpice, Marie slips in phrases of the regimental song, and the marquise loses her temper (Trio: “Le jour naissait dans la bocage”). Left alone, Marie thinks about the meaninglessness of money and position (“Par le rang et l’opulence”). She hears soldiers marching in the distance and is delighted when the whole regiment files into the hall. Tonio, Marie, and Sulpice are reunited. Tonio asks for Marie’s hand, declaring that Marie is his whole life (“Pour me rapprocher de Marie”), but the marquise declares her niece engaged to another man and dismisses Tonio. Alone with Sulpice, the marquise confesses the truth: Marie is her own illegitimate daughter whom she abandoned, fearing social disgrace.
Hortensius announces the arrival of the wedding party, headed by the Duchess of Krakenthorp. Marie refuses to leave her room, but when Sulpice tells her that the marquise is her mother, the surprised girl declares that she cannot go against her mother’s wishes and agrees to marry a man that she does not love. As she is about to sign the marriage contract, the soldiers of the 21st regiment, led by Tonio, storm in to rescue their “daughter.” The noble guests are horrified to learn that Marie was a canteen girl, but they change their opinion when she describes her upbringing, telling them that she can never repay the debt she owes the soldiers. The marquise is so moved that she gives her daughter permission to marry Tonio. Everyone joins in a final “Salut à la France.”
As is normal with these live broadcast events there is an opera star to introduce things and talk to set designers, producers, etc and also to the stars taking part – during the interval, in the middle of their performances, which is quite something. All very American and very enjoyable. The other quintessentially American thing was the lavishing of praise on the main sponsors. It does make one think how generous American benefactors are compared to their British equivalents – something I have been reading about recently.
The main leads were terrific, astonishingly good, even though Sulpice had a cold. The South African soprano Pretty Yende was Marie. She could have been the star of the show but wasn’t only because tenor Javier Camarena was so so good.
The opera is renowned for it being a feast of bel canto vocal fireworks—including the show-stopping tenor aria “Ah! Mes amis … Pour mon âme,” with its nine high Cs. This took the real Met audience by storm and they were standing and shouting for more, and so sustained was this and so full of the moment was Javier that the tears started to trickle down his face. No acting there! An encore was called for and given. An amazing feat in opera apparently, and we could see why. In some senses Javier with his short stature and ordinary looks is such an unlikely hero but wow did he steal the show. It was a real privilege to see this performance and massively enjoyable. Apart from the singing it was brilliantly staged and there was even an old big-screen star – Kathleen Turner – to enjoy in her speaking-only part. Her duel with the conductor was memorable. We enjoyed the music, but an Italian composer bulling up the French post-Napoleon? We discovered afterwards that Donizetti left his patron the King of Naples because he was being censored and felt free to do as he wished in Paris. All in all a wonderful evening. And back in time for Match of the Day.
Yet another trip to the tip and another trip to Fowey as a reward. Parking free at this time of year. Great. Some Edwardian houses we hadn’t really noticed before gleaming in the bright sunshine on this February day. Fairly quiet although half-term, and a pleasure to wander around the streets.I thought I would use this trip to take some shots of the typically Cornish surfaces, and doorways. Interesting I think.This time we wandered down through town to the Bodinnick ferry with a view across to Daphne Du Maurier’s house Ferryside.Liveable houses down here too!I liked the idea of having my boat slung under the house ready for action and a quick get-away! Good view of Ferryside on the opposite bank….This shot shows that Fowey and environs isn’t all about pretty houses and views…you can just see the china clay works downriver……The statue at the ferry terminus is rather good…and always interesting to look inside the RNLI station….we donated.You are nearly always guaranteed a good view with a pint in Fowey….here from The King of Prussia……Now for some doors…..and door-knockers….Then on the way back I noticed the old house of Q, or Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch, with its plaque.
Heaving spent a little time as a journalist in London he returned to Cornwall in 1891, and settled in Fowey. In addition to publishing a series of critical articles, he completed Robert Louis Stevenson’s unfinished novel, “St Ives”. He was also known as a writer of excellent verse and a compiler of poetic works, most notably the “Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1900”, which appeared in 1900. This book is often quoted by John Mortimer’s “Rumpole of the Bailey”. Quiller-Couch was an active worker in local politics for the Liberal party. He was also Commodore of the Royal Fowey Yacht Club from 1911 until his death. He was knighted in 1910 and received a professorship of English at Cambridge in 1912. He retained this post for the remainder of his life. He later became Chair of English at the university and oversaw the beginnings of the English Faculty there. Many of Quiller-Couch’s fictional works have been long neglected but contain a wealth of Cornish folk lore. He was a noted literary critic, and published several volumes of criticism. He died in 1944, leaving his autobiography, “Memories and Opinions”, unfinished. This was published the following year. His novel, “Castle Dor” was also unfinished on Quiller-Couch’s death, and his daughter asked her friend Daphne du Maurier to complete this version of Tristan and Isolde, set in 19th century Cornwall.
We were trying to find the beach we had visited when first in Cornwall that has a small boardwalk and freshwater pond in the dunes. We thought it might be Perranporth so that is where we headed. We were wrong. Perranporth is the beach with a good bar/restaurant right on the beach and ‘unofficial’ nude bathing at the far end. What a lovely February day, and no Photoshop here!At the far end, having encountered no nudes unfortunately, we climbed up the Coast Path to a viewing point. The bench was obviously constructed for Giants as you can see!Next to Trevaunce Cove….never been here before and a quaint harbour and beach (mostly covered when we were there). A fascinating place indeed. Most of the Cove is designated as an SSI because of the interesting geology and exposed lodes, and the village of St Agnes just above here was famous for its high quality tin….the last mine closing in 1941. There were outcrops of pure tin on the beach itself which were worked at low tide, others running under the sea, and more in the cliff face. Some of the spoil is still visible on the cliff top…….This little cove in its time was a real hive of industrial activity with hammer mills, loading of ships and much else apart from the mines themselves. However over a period of almost 400 years five attempts were made at constructing a harbour…all failed due to the rough seas. Huge granite slabs just washed away. On of the attempts was by Winstanley of Eddystone lighthouse fame.Trevaunce was also a fishery and the odd fishing boat remains as a reminder of the past…We climbed the cliffs and sat on the lowest bench I have come across (Guinness Book of Records?) to watch the surfers at play.We then adjourned to the Driftwood Spars pub and brewery for a pint. The name stems from the huge beams (or spars) that comprise its structure, salvaged from shipwrecks along the coast and utilised for the building in the 1650s. The pub began life as a tin mining warehouse and has since been a chandlery, sail making loft and fish cellar, before it was eventually converted into a hotel and bar in the early 1900s.Suitably refreshed off we went to have one more try at finding the elusive beach of memory. Success at last, it was Holywell Bay, just as charming as we remembered!…..with its freshwater pool and river…nice little boardwalk….and beautiful dunes…..The beach was pretty fantastic too…..A lovely day by the seaside full of interest, and only 50 minutes away by car. Marvellous.
Having raved about the Truro and Penwith College restaurant in Penzance – Senara – we thought we would try their sister operation in Truro. “It’s run entirely by our Professional Cookery and Professional Food and Beverage students, who gain valuable experience whilst working towards their qualifications.” Three courses for £10…..you can’t go wrong. Here’s their sample lunch menu…
Example lunch menu
Spicy roast pumpkin and sweet potato soup.
Smoked mackerel tian with pickled cucumber and crostini.
Mozzarella with broad beans, mint, lemon, olive oil and pea shoots.
Slow roasted belly of pork on puy lentil and chorizo broth with curly kale.
Battered pollock with hand-cooked chips, crushed peas, pea puree and deconstructed tartar sauce.
Gnocchi with roasted vegetables, tomato sauce & pesto.
Autumn Eton Mess.
Lemon tart with clotted cream.
Cornish cheeses with chutney and oatcakes.
What I have to say is that although we would definitely recommend Spires- it is incredible value, and we would go there again, – it didn’t come anywhere near to the standard of Senara. Strange in one way as they are part of the same organisation, but then again the staff are different so I wonder whether that is where the difference lies. Do they sample each other’s fare? Perhaps not. At Senara it started with the bread beautifully made, tasty and a choice on offer. At Spires we were given white bread which wasn’t fully cooked through. And the different courses each had their small failings….salad not picked through, no dressing etc etc. Still we enjoyed ourselves. We then tootled off to Truro on the Park and Ride to spend my book token in Waterstone’s. Walking through Truro is always a pleasure with plenty of fine buildings and the streetscape is great. City Hall we noticed had closed – it is being converted into flats I believe. This was where the TI was located where we wanted to get some bus timetables, but right opposite is the new TI which is really really good. here is a little seating area just as you enter…..very jolly!Just to the left is the old ‘Coinage Hall’ so-called because of Truro’s past status as a Stannery. The current building is Victorian. Granite cobbles and kerbstones impart a lot of character as does the leat system for water thought to be a system the Victorians used as for street cleansing and drinking water for horses.Truro’s cathedral is obviously prominent in the town but on a day with cloudless skies it is magnificent.Truro is less than an hour by car for us so a great place to visit. The weather hasn’t all been blue skies as these recent pics of our garden show….but we like our walk along the local lanes whatever the weather, particularly just now when the wildflowers are starting to appear in the Cornish hedges….