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".
Princess Alice of Battenberg
Some people considered the late Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, Consort of Queen Elizabeth II, to be ever so slightly eccentric in his remarks and behaviour, but he was nothing in comparison to his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, who married his father, Prince Andrew of Greece, in 1903. Many would have said that Prince Philip looked remarkably like his late father but got at least some of his personal characteristics from his mother.
The Hay-Wain, by John Constable
John Constable’s paintings of the English landscape, particularly those of his native Suffolk, are so evocative that many visitors to England expect to see nothing but a series of Constable canvases through their car windows. Needless to say, they are often disappointed. However, there are instances when they are not, and it is quite possible to stand today in some of the places where Constable stood 200 years ago and see at least something of what he would have seen. The Hay-Wain is a case in point.
Bleak House, by Charles Dickens
The story of Bleak House by Charles Dickens is told by two narrators, one of them being Esther Summerson, the central character of the book. There are therefore two distinct voices. Esther’s is compassionate and thoughtful, whereas the unnamed other narrator is rhetorical and witty, always speaking in the present tense. There has been a debate ever since the book was first published (1852-3) as to whether the double narrative works as a literary device.
The limits to a Prime Minister's power
A British Prime Minister is not a President, although complaints have been made for many years that the office of Prime Minister is becoming more presidential. To be strictly accurate, the designation “Prime Minister” is a courtesy title, and he (on two occasions to date it has been “she”) should be referred to as “First Lord of the Treasury”, but convention has enshrined the title in Britain’s unwritten constitution for well over a hundred years.
The Knight's Tale, by Geoffrey Chaucer
The knight is one of only three Canterbury pilgrims (the others being the parson and the ploughman) whom Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1340-1400) treats without a hint of irony in his General Prologue. Indeed, these three characters are more like nostalgic idealizations of people whom Chaucer greatly admired, but they are figures of a bygone age, much to the writer’s regret.
Noises Off: a play by Michael Frayn
The device of the “play within a play” has been used many times, from Shakespeare onwards, but in Michael Frayn’s Noises Off the idea becomes central. It is not so much that “the play’s the thing” (to quote Hamlet), as that here the play is the only thing.
Pride's Purge, 1648
What became known as “Pride’s Purge” took place in London on 6th December 1648 and resulted in the formation of the “Rump Parliament” that later agreed to the trial and execution of King Charles I. Members of Parliament who were most likely to be sympathetic to the King were arrested or otherwise persuaded to stay away from Parliament.
Falkirk, Scotland: the town where I was born
“I remember, I remember, the house where I was born”, wrote Thomas Hood in the early 19th century. I can remember neither the house nor the Scottish town in which that house still stands, having left both at a very early age in order to grow up in another town hundreds of miles away.