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Tag Archives: Brunel

First, in the interests of encouraging others to waste time online, you can now find me on Twitter, not that I have anything particularly interesting to say there.

Today is the birthday of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, born 1806, possibly England’s greatest engineer, whose masterpieces like the Great Western Railway, the Thames Tunnel and the Clifton Suspension Bridge are still in use today. He was the inventor of the first propellor-driven ocean going iron ship, the SS Great Britain.

It is also–and I hope Megan wasn’t planning to blog about this exceptionally important date–almost the anniversary of another important date, April 10, when, in 1633, bananas first went on sale in London.

You can imagine–or at least, I can–the bemused discussions that took place regarding the fruit. I think we should throw the squishy part away, it’s probably gone bad…Too bloody expensive–quick, they’re not looking, put one in your codpiece…

The banana was first introduced to North American in the 1870s and an early, helpful publication, A Domestic Cyclopaedia of Practical Information stated: Bananas are eaten raw, either alone or cut in slices with sugar and cream, or wine and orange juice. They are also roasted, fried or boiled, and are made into fritters, preserves, and marmalades.

Banana marmalade? Jam? And it still doesn’t explain if you’re meant to consume the whole thing, the inside, or the outside, which I’d think would be the most helpful hint of all.

And now, I have decided to do an about face. I was wrong, I admit it. Jane Austen is a romance writer. I’ve been thinking about this for some time, and here are the points which made me change my mind:

Secret babies. Willoughby (Sense & Sensibility) has a secret baby.

Cowboys. There are many rural settings. Harriet Smith, in Emma, has a beau who owns at least one cow, (we know because it’s Harriet’s favorite). Therefore, Robert Martin is a cowboy. Yeehah. And Knightley himself, a powerful alpha male landowner, has to be a ranch owner. Pam Rosenthal blogged persuasively over at the History Hoydens that most of Knightley’s land has to be enclosed and is therefore grazing land.

Navy Seals. Close and almost a cigar–Persuasion is rife with manly men in uniforms, the cream of the Royal Navy, muscles rippling beneath their skin tight uniforms.

Sex. Who can forget the torrid sex on page 47 of Mansfield Park?

Alpha males. Yes… the glowering simmer of Mr. Darcy (Pride & Prejudice), the sinuous grace of Edward Ferrars (S&S), the riveting description of Mr. Collins as he masterfully handles the English Book of Common Prayer (P&P), Captain Wentworth’s mainmast, and Knightley, see above.

TSTL Heroines. Catherine Morland (Northanger Abbey, with the added bonus of being a TSTL heroine in her nightgown).

Can you think of any other examples? Let us know!

First off, some news. The Rules of Gentility won the 2008 HOLT Award for Best Romantic Comedy, woohoo! I have a lovely silver wotsit that I think would look cool on the xmas tree.

Next is that I have sold a novella for an anthology tentatively titled Bespelling Jane, paranormal takes on Jane Austen, with the following Big Girls: Mary Balogh, Susan Krinard, and Colleen Gleason! All I know at the moment is that it will be published by Harlequin sometime in the future, and mine is a contemporary take on Emma. Since I haven’t written it yet, I can’t tell you a whole lot more…

Here are some pics of my visit to England a couple of weeks ago, me with my brother Martin, my nephew Tom and his lovely girlfriend Sam, at a pub overlooking the Avon Gorge and Brunel’s famous Clifton suspension bridge.

And I wondered what everyone was reading these days. I’ve just read two superb books. Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin is about a female forensic doctor, set in twelfth century England. Yes, it sounds unlikely but it’s so well done I had very few come on! moments. (Sorry, I still don’t believe that there was a Body Farm in Sicily using pig carcasses when most of the doctors were Jewish.) It’s beautifully written, and the dialogue is amazing–the characters don’t speak in pseudo-medieval talk, but Franklin captures both a believable local dialect and the speech of churchmen and crusaders.

The other one is Saturday by Ian McEwan (who wrote Atonement), about one day–on the eve of the Iraq invasion–in the life of a surgeon and his family. His son is a blues musician and his daughter Daisy a poet, and I liked this passage, which defines the achievement of this wonderful book:

But is there a lifetime’s satisfaction in twelve bars of three obvious chords? Perhaps it’s one of those cases of a microcosm giving you the whole world. Like a Spode dinner plate. Or a single cell. Or, as Daisy says, like a Jane Austen novel.

What have you read and enjoyed recently?

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