Tag: adventure (page 1 of 2)

FROM AUNTY IVY TO AN OPIUM DEN IN FANG

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

WERE THE VIKINGS REALLY HAIRY AND HORNY?

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.

 

Atlantis, Vikings, Valhalla,

“We set out looking for a New World, a place where we would finally be safe – how the gods must have been laughing at us that day.”

263

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!

America’s most loved novel

In a 2014 Harris poll, women in the United States voted it their second most favourite book, and their most loved novel.

(Number #1 spot is still held by the Bible.)

The novel was: ‘Gone with the Wind’.

It is the one they give a damn about the most.

But who was the woman who wrote it – and what was her inspiration?

Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell, bestsellerWell, her name was Margaret Mitchell – and she was bored.

She had broken her ankle and it was taking a long time to heal. All she could do was read.

Her husband was fed up with bringing home stacks of book from the library every day.

Why don’t you write your own book? he said and bought her a Remington Portable No. 3 typewriter.

So she did.

Continue reading

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO ANASTASIA?

Anastasia.

ANASTASIA, ROMANOVS, CZAR, RUSSIAN REVOLUTIONThey made a movie about her with Ingrid Bergman in the starring role.

Disney had a huge box office success with a full length animated feature.

She embodied the legend of the lost princess. We all so wanted to believe that she somehow survived.

What really happened?

Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia was born in 1901, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, the last sovereign of Imperial Russia.

She was the youngest of four sisters, Olga, Tatiana and Maria; she had a younger brother, Alexei.

She was not raised as a Disney princess; she and her sisters slept on hard camp cots without pillows, had cold baths every morning, and were expected to tidy their own rooms.

Anastasia, Romanovs, Russian Revolution

Romanov-Collection-General-Collection-Beinecke-Rare-Book-and-Manuscript-Library-Yale-University

Neither was she Ingrid Bergman despite her blue eyes and strawberry-blonde hair.

She was short, and a little chubby, and more than a little mischievous. Anecdotes tell of her deliberately tripping up servants and climbing trees and then refusing to come down.

She once rolled a rock into a snowball and threw it at her older sister Tatiana, knocking her down. Her distant cousin, Nina Georgievna, called her: “nasty to the point of being evil”.

Well not entirely. During World War I she and her sister visited wounded soldiers at a private hospital in the grounds of the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, near Saint Petersburg. Too young to become Red Cross nurses like their mother and elder sisters, played checkers and billiards with the soldiers.

In February 1917, she and her family were placed under house arrest in the Alexander Palace. Her father abdicated the throne soon afterwards. But after the Bolsheviks seized power, they were moved to Yekaterinburg.

She and her sisters sewed jewels into their dresses to hide them from their captors. Locked away in ‘The House of Special Purpose’ Anastasia and her sisters performed plays for her parents.

One of the guards said of her: “She was a very charming devil! She was mischievous and … lively, and was fond of performing comic mimes with the dogs, as though they were performing in a circus.”

She would also stick her tongue out at Yakob Yurovsky, the captain of the guards, behind his back.

The House of Special Purpose

The House of Special Purpose

But the conditions of their captivity, took its toll. On July 14, 1918, local priests conducted a private church service for the family. They said that the girls had become despondent and desperate.

“Something has happened to them in there.”

What did happen to them? That we shall never know. There were rumours that the girls and even their mother were assaulted.

Were they?

By now Russia had descended into civil war. By the time anti-Bolshevik forces captured Yekaterinberg the Romanovs had disappeared.

What happened to them?

Anastasia, Romanovs, Russian revolutionIt was assumed they had been murdered, but how and when was never really certain until the “Yurovsky Note” was found in 1989. The document was Yurovsky’s report to his Bolshevik masters of what had taken place.

On the night of 17 July the family were woken and told they were being moved, because of the fighting. They and their small circle of servants were herded into a basement and a few minutes later Yurovsky came in and told them they were to be shot.

They immediately started firing.

Chaos.

Thick smoke from the ancient revolvers filled the room. And the girls would not die – unknown to their executioners, the jewels hidden in their corsets acted as bullet proof vests. The executioners resorted to bayoneting and clubbing their terrified victims to death.

The bodies were then thrown on trucks. On the way to the proposed burial site the trucks got bogged. The bodies were hastily buried, then reburied again the following night.

With so much bungling, it is clear why stories started to circulate that someone may have survived.

Anna Anderson

Anna Anderson

The Bolsheviks tried to keep the executions secret but stories soon got out but these were complicated by other rumors of trains and houses being searched for an “Anastasia Romanov”, and eight witnesses even reported seeing an injured girl who answered Anastasia’ description at Cheka headquarters in Perm.

Anastasia’s supposed survival became one of the most celebrated mysteries of the last century. At least ten women claimed to be her. Her best known Anastasia impostor, Anna Anderson, appeared in 1922.

She said that she had feigned death among the bodies of her family and servants, and was able to make her escape with the help of a compassionate guard who noticed she was still breathing.

Her legal battle for recognition which was begun in 1938 became the longest running case ever heard by the German courts, where it was officially filed. Her claim was rejected in 1970.

She died in 1984 but it was not until ten years later DNA testing proved that she was an impostor.

The Romanovs’ burial site remained secret until the communists fell from power. It was finally excavated in the woods outside Yekaterinburg in 1991. Incredibly it held just nine of the expected eleven remains.

After DNA testing, it was found that Alexei and Anastasia’s bodies were missing.

anastasia, romanovs, russian revolutionFinally, on August 23, 2007, a Russian archaeologist announced the discovery of two burned, partial skeletons at another site nearby. Further DNA testing confirmed they belonged to the Tsarevich Alexei and one of his sisters.

Like the solving of all mysteries, it was of itself bittersweet.

The lost princess had finally been found, but not in the way that we had all hoped. Yet Anastasia is yet to be united with her family.

Last October she and her brother were supposed to be buried in the Romanov tomb in Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg but the ceremony was blocked by the Russian Orthodox church.

And so our lost princess will have to wait a while longer before she finally comes home.

anastasia, romanovs, russian revolution, historical romance, historical fiction, romance, adventure

‘Falconer weaves a pacy story of obsession, love, greed and corruption … Really well done.’ – Sydney Morning Herald

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!

WAS THERE REALLY A JACK AND ROSE ON THE TITANIC?

And did they have gorgeous sweaty sex in the backseat of a 1912 Renault?

The answers to these questions are: yes, yes and probably not.

titanic, jack and rose, renault, jack dawson, James Cameron, the writer and director of ‘Titanic’ actually based Kate Winslet’s character, Rose du Witt Bukater, on American artist Beatrice Wood.

Like Rose, Beatrice was the daughter of wealthy socialites and defied her parents to pursue a career as an artist. She lived an extraordinary life, earning accolades as an actress as well as pioneering the Dada art movement (she was called the ‘Mama of Dada’).

She also gained a great reputation as a sculptor and potter and her private affairs – she was reputed to have had a love triangle with artist Henry Duchamp and his friend Henri-Pierre Roché – scandalised America.

Then, when she was 90, she took up writing. Her 1985 autobiography was called ‘I Shock Myself.’

She was 105 when she died – when asked the secret of her longevity she said:

‘I owe it all to chocolate and young men.’

But Beatrice was never on the Titanic.

titanic, jack and rose, renault, jack dawson,

Beatrice Wood photo: Sheryl Reiter

There were two Roses who were and who survived the sinking: one was Rosa Abbott, a third class passenger, who jumped into the water with her two sons. She the only woman and the only passenger to be pulled from the water and survive – the rest were crew.

Sadly, her two sons died in the water.

The other Rose was Miss Rose Amélie Icard, who was a maid to Mrs George Nelson Stone. She and Mrs Stone were rescued by the Carpathia in lifeboat 6.

But what about Jack Dawson?

There was a J Dawson on the Titanic, but the ‘J’ stood for Joseph, not Jack and he was a member of the Titanic crew.

He had grown up in the notorious Monto tenements slums of Dublin and when he was twenty he escaped by joining the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was posted to Netley, one of the largest military hospitals in England – just three miles from Southampton.

It was there that he met a man called John Priest, a coal trimmer on the White Star liner, Majestic.

Through him he met Priest’s sister, Nellie, and the two fell in love.

titanic, jack and rose, renault, jack dawson, After leaving the Army, Dawson joined Priest in the boiler room of the Majestic, before they both signed on for the maiden voyage of the Titanic.

When they hit the iceberg, Dawson had the foresight to put his National Sailors and Firemen’s Union card – his card number was 35638  – into his dungarees before going topside. The card was found on his body the next day.

His friend John Priest survived; but tragically his sister Nellie lost her sweetheart.

Did her heart go on? We will never know.

Dawson was buried in Nova Scotia where he rested in relative obscurity before finding world fame 85 years later after the release of the film.

His grave is number 227 in Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia and has since become a shrine to many of the movie’s fans, who leave photographs, cinema stubs and pictures of themselves on the grave.

graves from the Titanic at Fairview Lawn (Photo: Archer10 (Dennis)

those who died on the Titanic are buried here (Photo: Archer10 (Dennis)

Some even leave hotel keys – though I wonder what they’d do if they heard the key turning in the lock at night, as Jack has now been dead a hundred and four years?

Now the question you’ve all been dying to know

Would getting on the door have saved Jack?

the iceberg that sunk the Titanic - but its fame has since melted away

the iceberg that sunk the Titanic – but its fame has since melted away

On the night of the sinking, the sea temperature was around 28° F.

Our bodies lose heat about thirty times faster in water than in the air and when our core temperature falls under 89° F, we start to lose consciousness. Under 86° F and heart failure can occur, which is the most common cause of hypothermia-related deaths.

So Jack could have survived for up to an hour, as he was young and fit and not trying to swim – people who move around in the water lose heat much faster.

However several people died from cold that night even in the lifeboats, so even if Rose had helped him up onto the door – and I still think, after all he’d done for her, she could have had a better go – there were no guarantees.

Now, more importantly – could they have had sex in the back seat of Jackie’s car?

from Titanic (1997) - copyright 20th Century Fox/Paramount - claimed under fair use

from Titanic (1997) – copyright 20th Century Fox/Paramount – claimed under fair use

It is believed there were about thirty cars in the Titanic’s hold, all but five belonging to first class passengers returning from touring holidays in Europe – but only one is actually listed on the manifest.

It belonged to Titanic survivor William Earnest Carter, and it was a 1912 35 HP Renault Coupe de Ville.

Cameron looked for Carter’s original documents for the vehicle so that the car could be recreated almost exactly in the film. But what Cameron didn’t show us is that it was almost certainly packed in a wooden crate so unless Jack had a claw-hammer with him, the answer to the question above is – ‘probably not.’.

Besides, even if the car wasn’t in a box – I don’t believe our Jack would ever have cheated on Nellie.

His heart would have just gone on.

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

Cornelia Noorstrandt is 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?

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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