I am a retired librarian, having spent most of my career in academic and industrial libraries.
I write on a number of subjects and also write stories as a member of the "Hinckley Scribblers".
How can terrorism be defined?
When President G W Bush, in the wake of the outrages of 11th September 2001, declared his “war on terror” I remember thinking at the time that there was something unsatisfactory about this terminology. How can you fight a war against a concept? On the other hand, I suppose that it is no stranger than fighting a “war on poverty” or a “war on waste”.
"The Fighting Temeraire", by J M W Turner
“The Fighting Temeraire” (the full title includes the words “tugged to her last berth to be broken up”) is possibly the best-known painting by JMW Turner (1775-1851) and is one of the major attractions of the National Gallery, London. It is a masterpiece of light and colour, and one of the most atmospheric works of art ever committed to canvas.
Caligula, Emperor of Rome
When people think of evil Roman Emperors, Caligula tends to come pretty high up the list. He was only the third that they had had, so the prospects for what was to come did not look all that promising!
Subutai, Mongol "dog of war"
Although there can be few people who have not heard of Genghis Khan, the Mongol emperor who swept all before him as he built a vast Asian empire in the 13th century, the same cannot be said of Subutai, who was one of the Khan’s feared “dogs of war”. However, without Subutai’s leadership and tactical genius it is quite possible that Genghis Khan would have achieved very little. The story of Subutai, who was arguably one of the greatest generals of all time, therefore deserves to be better known.
The Manciple's Tale, by Geoffrey Chaucer
A medieval manciple was in effect the quartermaster of an Inn of Court, responsible for buying and looking after the food supplies for the lawyers who lived and worked there. Chaucer’s Manciple looks after the needs of more than thirty men “that weren of lawe expert and curious”, but when it comes to doing deals over the price of food, he “sette hir aller cappe”; in other words, he was the real brains of the place.
The Man of Law's Tale, by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Man of Law’s Tale (from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales), with its introduction and epilogue, has been preserved on a fragment of manuscript separate from any other tale. It cannot therefore be certain that Chaucer intended this to be the fifth tale, which is where many modern editions place it. Indeed, it would appear from its epilogue that the Shipman is about to tell the next tale, whereas what we usually get next is the amazing prologue of the Wife of Bath, followed by her tale. This is simply evidence that Chaucer was never able to edit the work as a whole, but it is unfortunate that we cannot relate this tale to its neighbours with any certainty.
The Magic Flute, by W A Mozart
This was Mozart's final opera, receiving its premiere only three months before his death in December 1791. It is an allegorical fantasy, full of fairy story elements and also references to Freemasonry. Mozart and the librettist, Emanuel Schickaneder, were members of the same Masonic lodge.
Maximinus Thrax, Emperor of Rome
It would be difficult to imagine a greater contrast between successive emperors than when Maximinus Thrax (meaning Thracian) seized the imperial throne from Alexander Severus. The “mummy’s boy”, killed along with his mother on the orders of Maximinus, was succeeded by a former shepherd from Thrace (modern northern Greece and southern Bulgaria) who was a giant of a man reputed to have been eight feet tall and extremely sweaty.