16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 2 – Guy Fawkes Night

Tasks for Guy Fawkes Night: [… M]ake yourself a nice cup of tea and settle down with a good book to read. Which kind of tea is your favorite? Tell us why.

 

The tea in this mug is Earl Grey, one of the teas I got today during our trip to Frankfurt.  It’s most constantly been one of my favorite teas as long as I can think; I like all things with a citrus taste, so the mix of black tea and bergamotte oil is right up my alley.

Other favorites include certain Darjeeling and Assam teas, Yunnan, Keemun, Oolong, English and Irish Breakfast, Chai, and a large number of the blends marketed by Kusmi, Whittard of Chelsea, Tazo, Taylors of Harrogate, Fortnum & Masons — and of course by that lovely Frankfurt store, which sells a huge variety of blends of their own.  (In the denomination of “blends” I include, for present purposes, “real” / black or green tea blends as well as the non-actual-tea fruit blends that the French call tizanes.)

 The mug pictured above is in almost constant use, too, btw.; it’s a large one that holds 0.5 l (= 17 fl. oz.) of liquid, so I frequently make my tea right in this mug, even if I know I’m going to have several mugs in a row — it’ll always be nice and freshly brewed that way.

I grew up with afternoon tea; it was downright a “thing” in our family, whereas coffee was the stuff that you have for breakfast and drink too much of at the office.  These days, I can’t tolerate large quantities of coffee any longer, but I can drink tea to my heart’s content.  As a result, my kitchen doesn’t even have a coffee maker — but it does contain a water heater, and large quantities of tea:

 

 

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P.D. James: The Lighthouse

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 2 – Bon Om Touk

Murder on a Secret Island

P.D. James’s penultimate Dalgliesh novel, revisited courtesy of the splendid unabridged reading by Michael Jayston (known to fans of John le Carré as Peter Guillam from the adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy starring Alec Guinness as George Smiley).

I am, bit by bit, working my way through the Dalgliesh series, though not in chronological order but in the order I can get hold of the Michel Jayston CDs.  This book is one of my favorite entries in the series, not least because Kate Miskin finally gets to show her mettle when Dalgliesh is temporarily out of commission.

The story takes Dalgliesh and his team to Combe Island on the Cornish coast, a secret retreat for small select groups of government officials and VIPs, to investigate the murder of a an author who is (well, was) as arrogant and egotistical as he was brilliant as a writer — in other words, your textbook classic mystery murder victim.

As I revisit this series, I am becoming downright nostalgic — they just don’t make ’em like P.D. James and Adam Dalgliesh anymore.  Probably Baroness James was wise to bring the series to an end when she did, going out on a high note with The Private Patient (2008), but man …this is so head and shoulders above the vast majority of mystery writing published these days, it’s not even funny.

Since this book fits the theme for Bon Om Toukread a book that takes place on the sea, near the sea, or on a lake or a river, or read a book that has water on the cover — I decided to apply my audio excursion down memory lane to that square.

 

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S.J. Parris: Heresy

16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 16 – Kwanzaa

Headless Chicken Parade Part 1: Giordano Bruno*


Giordano Bruno (1548 – February 17, 1600) was an eminent Italian philosopher, mathematician, poet, and cosmological scientist, whose theories extended the then-novel Copernican model. Bruno proposed that the stars were just distant suns surrounded by their own exoplanets and raised the possibility that these planets could even foster life of their own; and he insisted that the universe is in fact infinite and could have no celestial body at its “center”. Raised in Naples as a Dominican friar from age 13 onwards, his interest in the writings of Copernicus and Desiderius Erasmus attracted the attention of the Holy Inquisition before he had even turned 30, and rather than become a martyr for the sake of his philosophical and scientific beliefs then and there, he fled from his monastery and from Italy and, having made a name for himself as a scholar in France and attained the patronage of French King Henri III himself, he eventually turned up in Britain in 1583, where he was introduced to Francis Walsingham and agreed to become a spy in Walsingham’s network. The Inquisition did eventually catch up with him in 1593, however, and he was tried for heresy and burned at the stake in Rome’s Campo de’ Fiori in 1600.

While you will be able to glean the above biographical facts (up to 1583) from the beginning of S.J. Parris’s Heresy and the book actually has an engaging beginning, it all goes rapidly downhill (or it did for me, anyway) from the moment when the first of several murders occurs. — Parris’s book uses details from Bruno’s actual stay in England, in sending him to Oxford for a philosophical debate with the then-Rector of Lincoln College, John Underhill (who indeed opposed Bruno’s views). The rest of the story is fictitious, however, and I sincerely hope the personality of this book’s Giordano Bruno has nothing whatsoever in common with that of the real-life philosopher and scientist, because if it had, it would be nothing short of a miracle how he ever managed to evade the Inquisition and find his way all the way to France and, later, England.

Leaving aside that initially there isn’t even a good reason for Bruno to involve himself in the investigation into the dead man’s murder (even the discovery that the man was a clandestine Catholic, and that his death may thus fall into the purview of Bruno’s mission as a spy, follows his death; there is nothing to make Bruno suspect as much while the man is still alive), the murder and its immediate aftermath are described in such a fashion that anybody who has read Arthur Conan Doyle’s Silver Blaze can’t fail to notice one fact pointing very damningly in one particular direction right from the start — and surely the real-life Giordano Bruno’s intellect would have been on par with that of Sherlock Holmes in every respect? And it certainly doesn’t get any better by the fact that the one person who thus draws, if not the fictional Bruno’s attention, then at least that of this book’s reader to themselves in a very conspicous manner, with the same act also eliminates a witness in a manner identical to that used by Ellis Peters in the fourth Chronicle of Brother Cadfael, St. Peter’s Fair … and that in connection with a second murder, a few days later, Parris employs precisely the same slight of hand already used by Agatha Christie in Murder at the Vicarage.

So, I found myself looking in one particular direction from page 95 onwards, and though it turned out I had the dynamics between two of the persons involved the wrong way around, I never wavered in my belief that the solution lay that way — which makes a 474-page book a mighty slog to finish, particularly if the book’s alleged super-sleuth is running around like a headless chicken, missing just about ever vital clue that doesn’t actually explode in his face, and standing by passively and helplessly and / or letting himself be tricked, manhandled and otherwise be manipulated in a way I’d possibly have expected from a rookie investigator, but not from a distinguished intellectual like the real life Giordano Bruno, who after all had, himself, demonstrated considerable cunning in evading the persecution of the Holy Inquisition and make his way, undetected, all the way from southern Italy to France and England.

There is one final twist that I didn’t see coming exactly this way around (although I should have, and just possibly might if I’d still cared enough to engage with the book at that point), and I’ll have to give Parris credit for an engaging beginning and for her knowledge of the period — even though I wondered several times how her version of Giordano Bruno, who had never before been to Oxford in his life, could have the city’s layout down so pat within a day at most that the book reads as if Parris had a map of 16th century Oxford sitting next to her manuscript virtually all the time.

Final ote to those who don’t care for first person present tense narration: There is an excerpt of the series’s second book (Prophecy) included at the end of my edition, and while I didn’t actually read it, I’ve seen enough of it to be able to recognize that it’s written in that particular narrative voice. (Heresy is not — it’s in first person past tense.)

I read this book for Square 2 of the 16 Tasks of the Festive Season – Guy Fawkes Night: Any book about the English monarchy (any genre), political treason, political thrillers, or where fire is a major theme, or fire is on the cover.

__________________

* Note: Headless chicken No. 2 is Albert Campion in Margery Allingham’s Traitor’s Purse.

 

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16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Square 2 – Bon Om Touk

Tasks for Bon Om Touk: Post a picture from your most recent or favorite vacation on the sea (or a lake, river, or any other body of water larger than a puddle), or if you’re living on the sea or on a lake or a river, post a picture of your favorite spot on the shore / banks / beach / at the nearest harbour.

I spent the last couple of days of my trip to England back in July on the Norfolk coast, so here are a few impressions from that part of the trip:

 


Snettisham Beach


Wells next the Sea


Cromer Hall (inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s Baskerville Hall)


Norfolk Broads — cruise in a historic steam boat


Horsey Windpump & Horsey Mew


Happisburgh beach & church (inspiration for the setting of P.D. James’s Devices and Desires, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Dancing Men)


King’s Lynn (town center, purfleet, and guild hall)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And since I am blessed to live (and have grown up) in a beautiful part of the Rhine Valley, here are a few of my favorite spots on the Rhine in and near my home city:


Views of Bonn’s city center from “our” (= the opposite) river front


Historic flood marker on the river front, and a replica of “the Bridge Manniquin”, which used to be on a pillar on our side the main bridge connecting both sides of the Rhine, pointing its backside in the direction of Bonn.  Other places have city rivalry — we have river bank rivalry!


Sunset on the Rhine, looking towards Bonn


Looking towards the “Seven Mountains” (“Siebengebirge”), south of Bonn


Drachenfels, the best-known of the “Seven Mountains”


Arp Museum, a modern arts museum south of Bonn (designed by Richard Meier, the architect who designed the L.A. Getty Center) — and looking back towards the “Seven Mountains” from the patio of the museum restaurant (the lower of the two buildings in the left picture; a former train station)


Remagen and the ruins of the bridge (now a peace museum)

 

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The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season: Second Square: Guy Fawkes Night and Bon Om Touk

Guy Fawkes Night

Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Bonfire Night, is an annual commemoration observed on November 5, primarily in Great Britain. Its history begins with the events of November 5, 1605, when Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators of the so-called Gunpowder Plot were arrested for planning to blow up explsives placed beneath the House of Lords.  Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London, and several months later an Act of Parliament enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot’s failure.  Traditionally, Guy Fawkes Night bonfires are kindled by a supersized straw effigy.

The Reading Tasks:

Read a book about the English monarchy (any genre) –OR– about political treason –OR– a political thriller –OR– a book where fire is a major theme –OR– which has an image of a fire on the cover.

–OR–

Other Tasks:

Post pictures of past or present bonfires, fireworks (IF THEY’RE LEGAL) or sparklers. –OR– Host a traditional English tea party, or make yourself a nice cup of tea and settle down with a good book to read.  Which kind of tea is your favorite? Tell us why.

 

Bon Om Touk

The Cambodian Water Festival Bon Om Touk is celebrated in early November and commemorates the end of the country’s rainy season, as well as the annual reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River, the central part of a hydrological system in the Lower Mekong Basin which the Mekong River replenishes with water and sediments annually.  The Water Festival was first celebrated in the 12th century, around the time of Angkorian King Jayavarman VII, when the King’s Navy helped usher in the Cambodian fishing season. The festivities made the gods happy and secured good harvests of rice and fish in the upcoming year.  Another interpretation is that Bon Om Touk was a way for the King to prepare his navy for battle. — The biggest celebrations take place in Phnom Penh, lasting night and day for three days, with boat racing along the Sisowath Quay and concerts.

The Reading Tasks:

Read a book that takes place on the sea, near the sea, or on a lake or a river –OR– read a book that has water on the cover.

–OR–

Other Tasks:

Post a picture from your most recent or favorite vacation on the sea (or a lake, river, or any other body of water larger than a puddle) –OR– if you’re living on the sea or on a lake or a river, post a picture of your favorite spot on the shore / banks / beach / at the nearest harbour.

 

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The Festive Tasks in Calendar Form – November

Reblogged from: Murder by Death

 

I’m a visual person, and after all the planning, writing up and editing, I’ve long lost track of which book themes and which tasks are associated with which holidays, so I made this up for myself.  I’m posting it here in case anyone else might find it useful.

December is in a separate post.

 

 

Square #1

Book themes for Día de Muertos and All Saint’s Day:
A book that has a primarily black and white cover, or
A book that has all the colours (ROYGBIV) together on the cover.

Tasks for Día de Muertos and All Saint’s Day: create a short poem, or an epitaph for your most hated book ever.

Tasks for Calan Gaeaf: If you’re superstition-proof, inscribe your name on a rock, toss it in a fire and take a picture to post –OR–
Make a cozy wintertime dish involving leeks (the national plant of Wales) and post the recipe and pictures with your thoughts about how it turned out.

Book themes for Calan Gaeaf:
Read any of your planned Halloween Bingo books that you didn’t end up reading after all, involving witches, hags, or various types of witchcraft –OR–
Read a book with ivy or roses on the cover, or a character’s name/title of book is/has Rose or Ivy in it.

 

Square #2

Book themes for Guy Fawkes Night: Any book about the English monarchy (any genre), political treason, political thrillers, or where fire is a major theme, or fire is on the cover.

Tasks for Guy Fawkes Night: Post pictures of past or present bonfires, fireworks (IF THEY’RE LEGAL) or sparklers. –OR–
Host a traditional English tea party, or make yourself a nice cup of tea and settle down with a good book to read.  Which kind of tea is your favorite? Tell us why.

Book themes for Bon Om Touk:  Read a book that takes place on the sea, near the sea, or on a lake or a river, or read a book that has water on the cover.

Tasks for Bon Om Touk:  Post a picture from your most recent or favorite vacation on the sea (or a lake, river, or any other body of water larger than a puddle), or if you’re living on the sea or on a lake or a river, post a picture of your favorite spot on the shore / banks / beach / at the nearest harbour.

 

Square #3

Book themes for St. Martin’s Day: Read a book set on a vineyard, or in a rural setting, –OR–
A story where the MC searches for/gets a new job.  –OR–
A book with a lantern on the cover, or books set before the age of electricity. –OR–
A story dealing with an act of selfless generosity (like St. Martin sharing his cloak with a beggar).

Book themes for Veteran’s Day/Armistice Day: Read a book involving veterans of any war, books about WWI or WWII (fiction or non-fiction).  –OR–
Read a book with poppies on the cover.

Tasks for St. Martin’s Day: Write a Mother Goose-style rhyme or a limerick; the funnier the better.  –OR–
Take a picture of the book you’re currently reading, next to a glass of wine, or the drink of your choice, with or without a fire in the background.  –OR–
Bake Weckmann; if you’re not a dab hand with yeast baking, make a batch of gingerbread men, or something else that’s typical of this time of the year where you live.  Post pics of the results and the recipe if you’d like to share it.

Tasks for Verteran’s Day/Armistice Day: Make, or draw a red poppy and show us a pic of your red poppy or other symbol of remembrance –OR–
Post a quote or a piece of poetry about the ravages of war.

 

Square #4

Book themes for Penance Day: Read a book that has a monk, nun, pastor / preacher or priest as a protagonist, or where someone is struggling with feelings of guilt or with their conscience (regardless over what).

Book themes for Thanksgiving Day: Books with a theme of coming together to help a community or family in need.  –OR–
Books with a turkey or pumpkin on the cover.

Tasks for Penance Day: Tell us – what has recently made you stop in your tracks and think?  What was a big turning point in your life?  –OR–
Compile a catalogue of theses (it needn’t be 95) about book blogging!  What suggestions or ideas would you propose to improve the experience of book blogging?

Tasks for Thanksgiving Day: List of 5 things you’re grateful for –OR–
Post a picture of your thanksgiving feast; or your favourite turkey-day recipe.  –OR–
Be thankful for yourself and treat yourself to a new book and post a picture of it.

Bonus task:  share your most hilarious turkey-day memory.

 

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