On My Bookshelf – The Domesday Book

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Quite why my eyes should rest on The Domesday Book out of all my history books this morning I can’t quite say. But perhaps it had something to do with the fact that yesterday I inadvertently ended up watching the Press Conference/Reality Show of our Dear Leader. Perhaps it was his casual reference to nuclear holocaust and joking threat to “shoot that (Russian) ship that’s 30 miles offshore right out of the water.” Perhaps it was the fact that The Domesday Book records a civilization at the moment of its demise. In the years after 1066 the Anglo-Saxons mounted a heroic resistance to their Norman conquerors but in Continue reading

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Trump Hall

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Literary and historical analogies to the new administration in Washington have been flying as fast and indiscriminately as the hastily scribbled Executive Orders fly from the Oval Office desk. 1984, Brave New World, The Plot Against America, the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany (you know, the ones who perpetrated a Holocaust against everybody), a banana republic, a tin-pot dictatorship, the Fall of Rome. Pick your favorite dystopia. All have had their moment as the metaphor du jour. But since the shocking events of this past week and the rise of Stephen Bannon as the power behind the Throne I can’t help thinking of the Tudors. Henry VIII and his henchman Thomas Cromwell, the protagonists of Hilary Mantel’s brilliant novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, Continue reading

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Coping

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My Happy New Year greetings have been somewhat muted this year. It’s hard to envisage future happiness when the entire fabric of the space/time continuum is about to unravel. And that’s just the winter weather forecast. What is happening in the nation’s capital today is on quite another level of awfulness. Like a driver passing a traffic accident I don’t know whether to stare at the carnage or avert my eyes.

So I do what I always seem to do in moments of crisis. Retreat into history. I find Continue reading

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What is Boxing Day?

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As an immigrant to the U.S. from England, one of the most perplexing questions I’ve had to answer is “What is Boxing Day?” Growing up in England I never questioned why the day after Christmas, December 26th, is another holiday. It just is, in the way we take for granted the traditions we grow up with. I had some vague notion that it had to do with putting the empty boxes from Christmas gifts away in the attic, though we never actually did this ourselves. Probably because we didn’t have an attic. I also associated it with Continue reading

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A Very Amerrygun Christmas

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To celebrate Christmas Eve in a suitably American manner I reprise my rewrite of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” first published by The Dabbler last year. I made a few changes in acknowledgement of our dire present circumstances. Continue reading

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How St. Nicholas Became Santa

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Russian Orthodox Icon

When I was a small child growing up in England we didn’t have Santa Claus and we didn’t hang up stockings or set out cookies on Christmas Eve. Instead, following the tradition of my mother’s Flemish homeland, my sister and I put a pair of wooden clogs by the fireside with carrots in them for St. Nicholas’s donkey. In later years as my mother absorbed English culture we abandoned St. Nicholas in favor of the very English Father Christmas. Our celebrations were complete with Continue reading

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Alternate History

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Can history make a mistake? Can it veer off track from what was meant to be? That is what it felt like late on the night of November 8th 2016. The inevitable future foretold by prognosticators of every persuasion, the inexorable progress towards a society of more fairness and inclusion, the final shattering of that glass ceiling empowering women everywhere. But it was not the crack of broken glass we heard. It was the sound of history cracking apart, suddenly lurching off those gleaming rails and plunging into an unknown darkness. Continue reading

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