Category: romance & adventure

FROM AUNTY IVY TO AN OPIUM DEN IN FANG

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

My primary school teacher’s name was Mrs Boyne.

classics illustrated, Colin FalconerShe once told my mother at a parent interview: “Your son is a complete dreamer. He’ll never amount to anything in this life.”

I still think that was a pretty harsh judgment on a seven-year-old.

I was, and am, a dreamer. She got that bit right.

It was about second or third grade that I first read Jules Verne’s Michael Strogoff. To get my hands on it, I had to endure a slobbery wet kiss from my Aunty Ivy, but I considered it well worth it.

By the end of that first afternoon, I was hooked on classic literature. Continue reading

SPACE TRAVEL IN THE 17TH CENTURY

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

Imagine you’re on a flight from Amsterdam to Jakarta.

East India, Jakarta, Batavia, shipwreck Dutch, If you took that same journey in 1628, instead of taking less than a day the journey would take eight months.

That’s how long it currently takes for an unmanned space ship to travel to Mars.

But if you were on of the 4,000 intrepid souls who undertook the trip on a Dutch East India ship every year, it would in fact be very much like traveling to a distant manned space station.

After a seemingly endless and extremely hazardous journey you would arrive at your company’s outpost – in Batavia, now Jakarta – to be greeted by a sour and hard-bitten community of singular individuals, in an alien and hostile environment.

That is if you arrive. First, you have to survive the journey, which is so tedious and so uncomfortable that you will wish cryogenics had been invented. Imagine over three hundred people living and sleeping for eight months in a space not much larger than an interstate bus and you have some idea.

As part of my research I went on board a replica of one of those seventeenth century spaceships, the retourschip Batavia.

I couldn’t even stand up straight below decks. And then there are the bathroom arrangements; the best you can say about them is that they were … novel.

The bathroom was a platform extending from the hull below the stern, the toilet paper a long piece of rope with a frayed end.

You pulled it up to use it; you dropped it back down into the ocean to activate the self-cleaning mode.

East India, Jakarta, Batavia, shipwreck Dutch, During that eight months between Amsterdam and the Spice Islands you would travel through a dangerous and uncharted world.

It would be actually more hazardous than going to Mars today: our navigational systems today far exceed Dutch capabilities in 1628.

For example, skippers back then could calculate latitude with the aid of an astrolabe but had no reliable way to calculate longitude – distance east or west – and relied on experience and dead reckoning.

Often, the skipper’s dead reckoning was out by some considerable distance; it was how one East India Company ship came to be shipwrecked on the Houtman Abrolhos, off the western coast of Australia, over 1400 nautical miles to the south of its intended destination.

Now I’ve visited the Houtman Abrolhos. It’s a great place if you’re a sea eagle or a reclusive seal.

But if you had come from the bustling port of Amsterdam in the seventeenth century and then found yourself abandoned there, it must have seemed like being stranded on – well, the moon.

And rescue?

East India, Jakarta, Batavia, shipwreck Dutch,

the Houtman Abrolhos

As unlikely as Matt Damon getting off the space station in The Martian.

But they did survive, somehow.

What was left of them.

You have to hand it to our ancestors, they were a tough bunch.

They had to be, because as they say – in space, no one can hear you scream.

 

 

East India, Batavia, shipwreck, historical romance, historical fiction, adventure, romance

A fine lady and a beautiful one, traveling alone on an eight month voyage to the other side of the world, on a tiny and overcrowded ship at a time when most navigation was done by “dead reckoning” – guesswork. What could go wrong?

 

historical fiction, colin falconer. authors

COLIN FALCONER 

Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and the chance to win copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!

WERE THE VIKINGS REALLY HAIRY AND HORNY?

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

The Vikings: who were they, what were they?

VIKINGS, ICELAND, GREENLAND, SWEDEN,

SOURCE: helgi-halldorsson

No one seems sure any more.

They have arced from slavering thugs brandishing axes and erections to the revisionist view of them as Renaissance men with short tempers and an interest in gardening and travel.

Or there’s the TV series.

So what do we really know?

Well, let’s start with the obvious things: the horned helmets.

No, they never wore them.

They were first worn as props for the performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle at the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876.

They were much a part of Viking wardrobe as Mel Gibson’s kilt was to thirteenth century Scots.

VIKINGS, ICELAND, GREENLAND, SWEDEN,

The Vikings only used horns for drinking beer and blowing into as a means of communication: ‘I’m pissed and now I’m coming home.’

Not only did the Vikings not wear horned helmets, they weren’t called Vikings.

‘Viking’ is not a noun, it’s a verb.

Scandinavian men traditionally took time out of their summers to go “vikingr.” The itinerary for such expeditions varied, but the main aim was to turn a profit, either from trade, working as a mercenary, or raiding monasteries and unprotected town for loot and slaves.

Raid or trade, it was all the same to them.

Going vikingr was a summer job. Most of these men, who lived in rural chiefdoms in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, were villagers first, pillagers second and on their return they would resume their agricultural routine.

So were these Norsemen really that violent?

VIKINGS, ICELAND, GREENLAND, SWEDEN, Oh, you bet they were.

There were no sensitive new age Norsemen.

These men were not just warriors, they were very good ones. The Varangian guard of the Byzantine emperors in the 11th century was made up entirely of Swedish warriors.

But this was a violent age and although they were brutal, they weren’t especially … well, severe.

If history has recorded them as barbarians, it is perhaps because the men writing that history – the Christian monks of Britain – were the Norsemen’s prime targets.

The Christian monasteries of the time were unguarded treasure houses of loot and the Norsemen must have enjoyed taking it. Increasingly subject to Christian persecution and forced baptisms in their own lands, the sight of an unarmed monk must have really got the juices flowing.

Payday and payback all at once.

Vikings, Norway, Sweden, Iceland

SOURCE: viciarg

These men not only knew how to use a sword, they knew how to make one.

They were skilled weapon-smiths and made highly prized pattern-welded swords. They were also brilliant navigators, they sailed along rivers into the far reaches of Russia, as far as the Caspian sea, and may have reached as far east as Baghdad.

In fact, the largest body of written sources on the Vikings in the 9th and 10th Century is in Arabic.

And forget Columbus.

The Norsemen already knew about America. They reached Labrador and Newfoundland in the eleventh century and even set up colonies there – after they had already colonised Iceland and Greenland.

They may have been vicious, but these ‘barbarians’ also pampered themselves like a male model in a Bulgari commercial.

Vikings, Norway, Sweden, Iceland

SOURCE: tone

Archaeological finds have included tweezers, combs, nail cleaners, ear cleaners and toothpicks.

An anonymous Anglo-Saxon letter has a man admonishing his brother for giving in to the ‘Danish fashion with a shaved neck and blinded eyes’. Blinded eyes probably meant a long fringe.

So these savages had plucked eyebrows and reverse mullets.

No surprise the monks of Lindisfarne were running scared.

And despite the drinking, raping and general bad behaviour, it wasn’t all frat week.

The 300-year era of their martial and navigational primacy Vikings, Norway, Sweden, Icelandeventually becomes a story of immigration and assimilation.

The Norsemen started bringing women with them on their travels, instead of taking them away. Conquest became colonisation.

The Normans, who took the throne of England in 1066 were descended from Norsemen who won feudal control over Northern France. Even before that, there had been two Danish kings of England.

Once they settled down, they then gave the west its first long-running action dramas; the Icelandic sagas were the probable forerunners of … well, “The Vikings.”

So there you have it.

They were, as we first thought, violent bastards. But more Don Corleone at the opera than Tony Soprano in a singlet.

Which was why, if you saw them sailing into your bay with their supper-savers and perfectly manicured nails, there only ever was one choice.

Run.

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COLIN FALCONER

Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and the chance to win copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!

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