The finality of history, and escapism

I’ve been reading a lot of historical fiction lately, which is something I surprisingly haven’t read too much of in my life. But I’ve been enjoying it, returning to it regularly, with the same urgency I often feel about certain history and biography books I read. I am indeed an adult who deals with her problems, but at the same time, I’m also quite prone to escapism. Lately I’ve been feeling …

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Connected to history

Memorial plaques for three of the family members of Plum Johnson, author of the memoir They Left us Everything (check it out at amazon.ca or amazon.com), which I mentioned in a recent entry. I would hesitate to call this “history,” but seeing these plaques (I had forgotten they were there, so they took me by surprise) brought up the same feelings that visiting actual historical sites or artifacts gives me. That sense …

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Hark, a Vagrant!

My husband bought the Hark, a Vagrant! book recently and insisted I read it too. I’m so glad he did. Not only is it great to read funny things from someone who is also mystified by the “sex sells history” trend (and shares my love of early political cartoons), it’s fun to see Canadian history given the comic treatment. (I also squealed and clapped my hands when I saw this comic …

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Pretty much why I love “everyday” history.

“Well now, history is not just the tale of the victors,” he said, “It’s the tale of the privileged. The men in the mud of the battlefield didn’t leave much of a story behind, and the stories they did tell were mostly ignored or forgotten.” – A Desperate Fortune, Susanna Kearsley. Strangely enough, I never really read historical fiction. This book might just convert me, however.

Turku Castle/Turun Linna

Last month, my husband and I spent a couple of weeks visiting family in Finland and Germany. The historical site we were both most excited to see was Turku Castle, in southwest Finland. Turku was the capital of Finland until 1812, when Alexander I, thinking Turku was a little too close to Sweden and too far from Russia, gave Helsinki capital city status instead. However, the castle itself is much older than …

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I kind of feel sorry for the woodpecker.

Many buildings outside London had thatched roofs of reed or straw, and in January 1784 Woodforde noted: ‘I rejoiced much this morning on shooting an old wood-pecker, which had teised [teased] me a long time in pulling out the reed from my house. He had been often shot at by me and others…For this last 3 years in very cold weather did he use to come here and destroy my …

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“Instantly,” 18th century-style.

We had no such thing as printed newspapers in those days to spread rumours and reports of things . . . but such things as these were gathered from the letters of merchants and others who corresponded abroad, and from them was handed about by word of mouth only; so that things did not spread instantly over the whole nation, as they do now. – A Journal of the Plague Year, …

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A Mrs Beeton recipe: Tomatoes, Stuffed, With Mushrooms

Last year, I found a copy of Mrs Beeton’s Household Management in a secondhand book store, and snapped it up eagerly. It isn’t obvious when it was printed. A previous owner wrote her name and the year 1944, but certain things made me believe this was already a few years old when she got it – for instance, references to “The War,” and nothing written about rationing. Based on dates I found …

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Prized possession

This 1945 penny was in my change from the grocery store in 2010, and it’s one of my most prized possessions. I’m not really a monarchist, but I like to imagine the way the world was when this coin was new. In the grander scheme of history, it’s very recent, but these days the world of 1945 seems so far from our own. Even just to think of all the …

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Another Mrs Beeton recipe: Carrot soup with rice

Since I last cooked from my c.1938 copy of Mrs Beeton’s Household Management, I’ve wanted to try another recipe. I marked out a few contenders that didn’t necessitate sourcing a pheasant or a sheep’s head, and today’s lunch was: Carrot Soup with Rice. Here’s the recipe: Ingredients – 2 pints of white second stock, 1 pint of milk, 5 large carrots, 1 onion, 1 strip of celery, 1 leek (the white part …

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