Category: Whispers Through Time

All about Sisters

All about Sisters

Recently, I have posted about the Romanov sisters. This proved to be a very popular post so I thought to expand on the subject of sisters. The Romanov sisters were also royalty and suffered a terrible fate because of their status. Read about these beautiful young grand duchesses in my recent posts on the Russian royal family and these tragic sisters. They seemed to get along well but Anastasia the youngest may have been a bit of a brat. She was the naughtiest of the mostly very well behaved and family orientated sisters.

Rivalry between writing sisters

The arts abounds with famous sisters. The Bronte sisters, Anne, Charlotte and Emily shared a love of writing. maybe they shared a sense of rivalry as to who could write the best story? I know it was Agatha Christie’s big sister madge who challenged Agatha to write a crime novel. She did well, didn’t she. Writing over 80 novels and stories as well as plays, Agatha Christie became the most read and published novelist of all time.

I love the fictional sisters of Little Women and how they mostly got along just fine for four sisters with different temperaments. There are hints at jealousy and competitiveness but nothing too savage happens. maybe because it is fiction. But not all sisters have happy relationships. No one can be more annoying than a little sister trying to take the limelight or steal your boyfriend. Jealousy is a big issue that often ignites a lifetime of rivalry.

Movie Star rival sisters

In the case of movie star sisters, Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland, the enmity was fierce. They competed at star level and never softened their fierce jealousy of each other.

The Olsen twins, Mary Kate and Ashley made their acting debut while babies. They share an even more special sister bond, that of twins. Venus and Serena Williams are sisters at a unique competitive level, that of gold medals. They mostly leave their rivalry on the courts. Then there’s the Kardashian sisters competing for the best curves.

Have you heard of Zsa Zsa  and Eva Gabor? They were two sisters out of a trio of Hungarian born sisters. Magda is lesser known though she married actor, George Sanders, her little sister’s cast-off husband. Zsa Zsa, the middle sister competed with Eva for men, money and beauty. Though the sisters married multiple times, Zsa Zsa was the only one to have a child. The Gabor sister act was an act to follow in the 1940’s and 50’s. They were always in the news, a bit like the Kardashians of today.

In the 1930s, The Andrews Sisters, Patty, Maxene and Laverne were another sister trio, a singing group famous for ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ and other swing hits during WWII. They rated as the best-selling of all female vocal groups. Despite singing beautifully together and selling 75 million records, they started a fight in 1937 though they stayed as an act until 1967 when Laverne died.

Birth order and rivalry of sisters

Birth order does seem to have an effect on how sisters get along. The order of birth also is said to determine the personality of a child. First born children are usually more sensible, calm and conservative compared to their younger sisters. This is because their parents often spend more time on the discipline side of parenting. Later children meet laxer parenting as the parents run out of puff with a larger brood to control. Little sisters often get to do things their older sisters could not at the same age. this explains the claim that little sisters are spoilt.

As a a younger sister, I can see this. My sister claims I was spoilt and she had a tougher time. However, I have always looked up to my big sister and listened to her advice. I even wrote her into my first book as a character! Whispers Through Time also tells the story of two sisters, my grandmother and great aunt who emigrated to Australia in 1912. They had a special bond through life though their lives took different directions. One married an itinerant worker and the other a rich doctor, but they stayed connected through their shared ordeals during World War One and Two.

In the third book in this series, Last Time Forever, a sense of rivalry that must always have been there, rises to the fore. The sisters have a falling out later in life. Watch out for this last book in the sister trilogy. It’s at the publishers now. But meanwhile if you like stories of sisters and historical fiction, read the others, Whispers through Time and Time, heal my Heart. 

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through TimeThe Last Hotel Colour Comes to Tangles and her latest historical WWI drama, Time Heal my Heart. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

Fashionable Discomfit

Fashionable Discomfit

 

For many centuries women lived in a state of fashionable discomfit. Restricted physically as well as socially, women wore strangling whalebone corsets (see bunnycorset.com.)

The feminine corset became popular for women in the French court of the 1500s but originated in Italy. Catherine de Medici is credited as the designer. The idea was to fine tune a woman’s attractiveness by making her waist as small as possible and flatten her stomach.

These undergarments choked their waists into tiny unnatural measurements to achieve the desired hourglass figure and fashionable discomfit.

For centuries, a woman walked in beauty but also in pain, just like the Japanese women who for centuries had bound feet so they would look dainty. Never mind that walking was torture. Hence the shuffled gait of traditional Japanese women. Victorian corsets were the Western equivalent of this Eastern fashionable discomfit.

The corset evolves

From the 16th century to the 19th, the corset became firmer in its vice like grip on the female form. Whale bones hardened the original firm fabric sleeve encasing the midriff. Corsets forced ribs down and compressed stomachs. Another word for a corset became ‘stays’ as the middle of a woman’s body was not allowed to move.

Gradually by Edwardian times, the corset became more of a support for the bust and was a shorter version of its predecessors. By then steel as well as whalebone provided the support of the corset fabric.

Layers of Fashionable Discomfit

In the Edwardian years of the early 1900s, a British woman needed time to dress. She had to plan the event and needed a maid to help. First there were layers of undergarments, a petticoat, chemise, and drawers or pantaloons.

Then the dreaded corset that would cinch her middle in its whalebone vice-like grip. Countless whales gave their lives so women worldwide could achieve a 55 cm or 21-inch waist measurement. The corset did not just clamp a woman’s middle section as it was laced but propelled the bust forward to balance the bunched bustle of the dress over the buttocks.

This bustle padded out the derriere to a shapely but large bump, something akin to the present Kardashian penchant for a large bottom.

The health effect of corsets

Long-term wearing of a corset deformed the ribs and misaligned the spine. All in order to have a more ‘civilized form’. The constriction also led women to have breathing issues, causing a woman to feel faint or swoon. Certainly, she could not overexert herself while wearing one as the ribs could not move to inflate her lungs for a deep breath. Such enforced shallow breathing can affect all organs and their supply of oxygen. An imprint of the corset could be found on the liver and kidneys on autopsy of females of that time period.

One woman jokingly wrote, “It is important to note, that pregnancy has a similar effect on displacing a woman’s internal organs.” Women loosened their corset during later pregnancy but this apart from sleeping was the only time in a fashionable woman’s lifetime. Even when corsetry went out of fashion during the Roaring Twenties or Jazz Age, most older women retained them as an essential undergarment.

But that was not the end of the fashionable discomfit. There’s more to come.

Garters and Hatpins Complete Fashionable Discomfit

Elastic garters burnt into a woman’s thigh to keep stockings in place. Tight high-heeled boots, often laced, encased her feet making walking painful. Just to add to the long process of dressing. Then ladies added a large wide-brimmed hat with lots of fluffy feathers, flowers or artificial fruit and a deadly hat pin to keep the decorations or accompanying veil and scarf in place.

Now, hat pins were dangerous, a hazard to passing pedestrians. Often people in crowds scored a hatpin when least expecting an aerial attack. A device called an acorn became fashionable to have on the end of the point of the pin to protect other people.

For fashionable ladies, readymade clothes were not available to buy in the shops. Most women ordered their outfits from dressmakers who required 18 personal body measurements, plus height and weight to fashion an outfit.

Handbags and Hankies

And what about handbags you might ask? Where did a woman keep her small change and hanky? Apparently, men kept coins in their watches which popped open at the back and women wore a muff chain that fastened around their neck. This chain extended through a furry sleeve or glove, called a muff into which the wearer could insert both hands. Inside was a small pocket where such items as coins and hankies could lodge. Mystery solved.

But I just have to share this fascinating snippet about the origins of the hanky or handkerchief. Bobby Pin Blog at Vintage Hairstyling.com cites Marie Antoinette as the inventor of the lady’s hanky. Marie, an Austrian princess was so upset on the long trip from her homeland to France to marry Louis XVI, that she tore a strip of lacy petticoat to dab her tears. And oh, poor Marie how, years later, did she stem her tears as she climbed the scaffold of the guillotine in 1793, as a victim of the French Revolution?

However, the vintage style blogger though, as rapt as me in this story, does admit that upon further research the hanky dates to Roman times when it was a multi-functional piece of rag to dab not just tears but sweat and well, whatever. Say no more. But apparently Marie’s royal husband decreed that hankies should be square, as wide as they are long, probably the most useful shape. Can’t imagine round or triangular ones.

Liberation from fashionable discomfit

The change in women’s corsetry reflects the changing status of women in society, so fashion is a part of our history. During WWI metal was in short supply. The steel casing of corsets was part of the drive for metal meltdown to make much needed weapons. The corset of the post WWI era evolved again to cater for the straight form fashion of the Jazz Age flappers. Suddenly a small waist was not desirable, nor a shapely bosom. However, corsets were stiff still to flatten a woman’s natural curves. Then due to women’s involvement in the workforce and fighting of WWII, such garments became less and less a staple of women’s undergarment fashion. Eventually, the corset evolved into the brassiere and a woman’s waist was finally freed.

But according to bunnycorset.com corsets are still fashionable for occasional wear. Brides like to wear one under their wedding gown or later as a tantalizing bedroom outfit. They certainly are sexy and accentuate a woman’s shape. Without the tight lacing at the back, they can even be comfortable.

 

Do you like Victorian or Edwardian history? Stories about real women? Then try my historical novel series about two sisters based on a true story. Whispers Through Time, Time Heal my Heart and Last Time Forever tell the story of the lives and loves of Francesca and Winnie in the era of The Titanic sinking, World War One and Two and beyond to 1950. Set in Sydney, Australia and Europe.

Before a woman could have a voice, she had to free her body. Every woman deserves a voice, and each voice is unique. Find your voice and use it for good. Many women through century have defied a man’s world to add their voice for changes to patriarchal society. I feature some on this blog. See website link below.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels; Whispers through Time, Time Heal my Heart, Colour comes to Tangles and The Last Hotel. See website https://joniscottauthor.com.

 

A railway journey through time

A railway journey through time

From the 19th century on the achievements and inventions of the human race transformed the world. Suddenly there were new ways to communicate and move around. So began a railway journey through time. Up until the age of steam engines, most people lived in the area where they had been born and rarely went further than a day’s journey from home.

The first railway journey

Steam was first used in engines for the emerging factories of the Industrial Revolution. Then later it was used to power boats. But only when the engines became smaller could they be used on wheels and the idea of railways developed. George Stephenson engineered a railway from Liverpool to Manchester using his son, Robert’s engine called The Rocket. It opened in 1830.

The Stephenson’s then built a longer line connecting London and Birmingham. The excitement caught on and soon the pair were helping other countries develop railways. This led the chairman of the modern British Rail to comment that the whole world travels on a branch line of the Liverpool to Manchester original.

No stopping the railway

Once the railways came, there was no stopping their momentum. They carried goods to and from factories and eventually displaced the canal system of transport. They carried people to cities for work and business and the ordinary folk to seaside locations for recreation. The countryside was linked by the networks and huge viaducts built to span gullies and rivers. Railways brought prosperity to isolated towns and scenic coastlines. Everyone wanted to take a railway journey.

An ode to the railways

Another son of a Stephen, Robert Louis Stevenson of Treasure Island book fame penned a poem, an ode to railways. It is called From a railway carriage and starts like this.

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches.
And charging along like troops in a battle
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.

I love the pace and the rhyme. Quite catchy as poems used to be before free verse. I used part of this as a header for one of my chapters in my historical series novel, Time Heal my Heart. It seemed apt for the time of the early 20th century when railways moved to the suburbs. Before people had cars they moved around on bicycle, tram, bus and train.

Railways take priority

Let’s continue our railway journey through time. Once railway networks extended anything in their way had to move. They seemed to have priority. The whole of the St Pancras cemetery had to move and be relocated for the Northern London line. Thomas Hardy before he was a famous novelist worked on this project. he positioned all the gravestones around a giant oak tree that is now known as The Hardy Tree. This story features in my novel Whispers through Time.

Likewise, when Sydney some years later had to build a suburban network, the Devonshire Street cemetery had to be moved to allow for the Central Station. Today many bodies still lie below the bustling station. The moving of a cemetery is very disrespectful. Corpses in various stages of decay are hauled from their resting places to a new site of mass burial. Headstones were left behind.

So, as you see there was no progress like rail progress. Today we see a similar process as green energy transmission lines take precedence and crush all in their path as they proceed through farmland and towns. I wonder what history will make of this in years to come.

Railways in America and Europe

The railway journey craze spread to America and Europe.  Following the example of Britain, they forged ahead with steam driven rail networks. The American pioneer Colonel John Stevens (another son of Stephen!) oversaw the first rail carriages pulled by horse and wagon. A faster and wider form of transport was sorely needed in such a vast country as America.

Europe was not far behind. France, by 1832, had a line between St Etienne and Lyon. Originally intended to transport coal it turned to passenger transport as well. Belgium and Germany followed with industry then passenger transport as the rage caught on. Politics and commerce spurred on even greater railway building projects. The vast continents of Africa and Russia benefited like America from this new form of transport. Ports could be linked to cities and one end of an empire connected to another. So developed the Trans-Siberian network and parts of the trans-Africa network. Terrain and colonial acquisitions stopped this latter vast project from succeeding.

The famous Orient Express

Europe being smaller concentrated more on passenger services. The idea of linking Paris to Constantinople (modern Istanbul) resulted in The Orient Express. It was the baby of a Belgian, Georges Nagelmackers who had already launched an international line from Ostend to Brindisi in Italy. But for the orient line the railway had to cross six nations. Not so easy plus the line was nearly 3000km long. It would cross Germany, Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria on the way to where east meets west, Constantinople.

It first left Le Gare de l’Est on October 4, 1883 on its way east. The last part of the journey was by boat though because the line was yet unfinished. Six years later it finally made the whole trip in three and a half days. That was marvellous in itself but what captivated the public was the sheer opulence of the train. Its sleeping compartments panelled with teak had marquetry inlays and water faucets. Guards for each compartment saw to all their passenger’s needs. Hot showers were available in a rear coach. There were also dining cars serving cocktails and fine cuisine, a smoking room and even a library.

The trip was very popular as it was much quicker than the boat alternative. The Orient added other routes to Milan and Venice plus from Constantinople you could connect to transport to Syria and Baghdad. Agatha Christie took this trip in 1928 after her traumatic marrige ending. She ran off and had a fantastic adventure which fuelled a few novels like Death on the Nile and Death in Mesopotamia. She met her second husband, Max Mallowan on a dig on a second trip there.

The Blue Train to the Riviera

Another glamorous train in France was Le Train Bleu which linked the port Calais with Paris then to the Riviera. In the early 1900s this was a favourite with socialites who would disppear to the Riviera for the season. Coco Chanel loved this train. It had blue sleeper cars with gold trim, hence its name. Only during the war years did it stop the night service to Marseilles, Nice and Menton.

Eventually with the desire for fast travel, trains grew out of vogue and air travel was the go.  But some services like The Orient Express are so popular for romance and nostalgia reasons that they are making a comeback. The Orient Express is due to travel again this year.  

Everything old is new again! If you love the Riviera, read my novel, The Last Hotel set there. A modern tale with old fashioned glamour and romance. Trains feature in all my books. I love trains so have my characters moving around on them. In my historical novels they have no choice.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published books. See more on her website.joniscottauthor.com

The Rivalry of Sisters

The Rivalry of Sisters

‘Of all the gifts great and small, a sister is the greatest of them all.’ So, the saying goes and for many of us, this rings true. But history abounds with famous sisters who don’t exactly get along. First up, there are the famous biblical sisters like Rachel and Leah. These two exemplify the problem of sibling rivalry so often part of biblical stories. Rachel and Leah both have to share the man they love, Jacob. He first loved and married Rachel but she was unable to have children, so he took Leah to bed as well to bear his children. Imagine Rachel’s pain at this development. It is an untenable position.

The rivalry of the Boleyn Sisters

Moving forward, there are the beautiful Boleyn sisters who both wanted to marry the same man, Henry VIII. Quite a bad choice really as Anne literally lost her head in 1536 over that man. She lives on as one of Britain’s most famous ghosts while Mary sleeps on peacefully in her grave. Anne’s ghost is reportedly seen in many places around London and beyond including the Tower of London, Hampton Court and Hever castle. She was not ready to die and especially in not such a horrible way, deceived by her love. Her sister was a more reliable support to her despite the jealousy.

The rivalry of the Queen and Princess Margaret

Other royal sisters, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret shared a special sister bond but for Margaret the younger, it was not all plain sailing. Having a big sister who is also the queen of England was not easy. Margaret could not marry the man she wanted because he was divorced. She needed the Church of England’s and Elizabeth’s approval and it was not at first given. But in fact, the Queen and Eden drew up a plan in 1955 under which Princess Margaret could marry Peter Townsend while keeping her royal title and her civil list allowance. She could live in this country and even continue with public duties but she had to renounce succession as a royal princess. Read all about this here. 

Margaret ultimately, after much thought, decided to not marry Peter and married Anthony Armstrong Jones instead.  She did not have a happy marriage or life but kept the close bond to her older sister, Queen Elizabeth.

Though they had issues when Margaret wanted to marry a divorced commoner, they put this aside to maintain their special bond through life. After all it cannot be easy being the younger sister of a queen. So great was the love of Margaret for her big sister that she opted for her own cremation so there would be room in the family vault for Elizabeth and Philip one day and so she could be near her parents. Her ashes lie in the King George VI Memorial Chapel alongside her sister and the Duke of Edinburgh and her parents.

The Romanov Sisters

Recently, I have posted about the Romanov sisters. They were also royalty and suffered a terrible fate because of their status. Read about these beautiful young grand duchesses in my recent posts on the Russian royal family and these tragic sisters. They seemed to get along well but Anastasia the youngest may have been a bit of a brat. She was the naughtiest of the mostly very well behaved and family orientated sisters.

Rivalry between writing sisters

The arts abounds with famous sisters. The Bronte sisters, Anne, Charlotte and Emily shared a love of writing. maybe they shared a sense of rivalry as to who could write the best story? I know it was Agatha Christie’s big sister madge who challenged Agatha to write a crime novel. She did well, didn’t she. Writing over 80 novels and stories as well as plays, Agatha Christie became the most read and published novelist of all time.

I love the fictional sisters of Little Women and how they mostly got along just fine for four sisters with different temperaments. There are hints at jealousy and competitiveness but nothing too savage happens. maybe because it is fiction. But not all sisters have happy relationships. No one can be more annoying than a little sister trying to take the limelight or steal your boyfriend. Jealousy is a big issue that often ignites a lifetime of rivalry.

Movie Star rival sisters

In the case of movie star sisters, Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland, the enmity was fierce. They competed at star level and never softened their fierce jealousy of each other.

The Olsen twins, Mary Kate and Ashley made their acting debut while babies. They share an even more special sister bond, that of twins. Venus and Serena Williams are sisters at a unique competitive level, that of gold medals. They mostly leave their rivalry on the courts. Then there’s the Kardashian sisters competing for the best curves.

Have you heard of Zsa Zsa  and Eva Gabor? They were two sisters out of a trio of Hungarian born sisters. Magda is lesser known though she married actor, George Sanders, her little sister’s cast-off husband. Zsa Zsa, the middle sister competed with Eva for men, money and beauty. Though the sisters married multiple times, Zsa Zsa was the only one to have a child. The Gabor sister act was an act to follow in the 1940’s and 50’s. They were always in the news, a bit like the Kardashians of today.

In the 1930s, The Andrews Sisters, Patty, Maxene and Laverne were another sister trio, a singing group famous for ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ and other swing hits during WWII. They rated as the best-selling of all female vocal groups. Despite singing beautifully together and selling 75 million records, they started a fight in 1937 though they stayed as an act until 1967 when Laverne died.

Birth order and rivalry of sisters

Birth order does seem to have an effect on how sisters get along. The order of birth also is said to determine the personality of a child. First born children are usually more sensible, calm and conservative compared to their younger sisters. This is because their parents often spend more time on the discipline side of parenting. Later children meet laxer parenting as the parents run out of puff with a larger brood to control. Little sisters often get to do things their older sisters could not at the same age. this explains the claim that little sisters are spoilt.

As a a younger sister, I can see this. My sister claims I was spoilt and she had a tougher time. However, I have always looked up to my big sister and listened to her advice. I even wrote her into my first book as a character! Whispers Through Time also tells the story of two sisters, my grandmother and great aunt who emigrated to Australia in 1912. They had a special bond through life though their lives took different directions. One married an itinerant worker and the other a rich doctor, but they stayed connected through their shared ordeals during World War One and Two.

In the third book in this series, Last Time Forever, a sense of rivalry that must always have been there, rises to the fore. The sisters have a falling out later in life. Watch out for this last book in the sister trilogy. It’s at the publishers now. But meanwhile if you like stories of sisters and historical fiction, read the others, Whispers through Time and Time, heal my Heart. 

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel Colour Comes to Tangles and her latest historical WWI drama, Time Heal my Heart. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

Photo from Unsplash.

 

 

The Spontaneous Christmas Ceasefire of 1914.

The Spontaneous Christmas Ceasefire of 1914.

A ceasefire is a situation where both sides in a conflict down their weapons and cease hostilities. Ceasefires can be short or long. The recent Gaza/ Israel ceasefire was a short one as was the Christmas ceasefire of the 1914 Great War conflict. However, unlike the Middle Eastern ceasefire, the 1914 one was spontaneous not prearranged. The spontaneous Christmas ceasefire of 1914 was an act of daring but also one of humanity.

Christmas Truce

Christmas Truce Photo from Brittanica.
World War One
 WWI started as a war confined to Europe but later would involve more countries as they took sides and sent troops to the conflict. It lasted from the summer of 1914 to late 1918 when Germany reluctantly admitted defeat. Many millions of civilians and soldiers died and many more would die after the war as The Spanish Flu outbreak spread worldwide with repatriating troops.
But by December 1914, it all was all just a few months into this brutal war that was promised to end all wars. Women had waved goodbye to sons, brothers and husbands in a wave of patriotism. ‘Don’t worry, I will be home for Christmas’ the men and boys had promised. There was no age check. Some lads were only fourteen. They like all the others would be lucky to survive the horrors ahead. Read such a story based on true lives in my historical fiction family saga Time Heal my Heart.
It was not over by Christmas

However, by this December in 1914, the reality of trench warfare had already descended on the troops. Weeks of heavy rain had turned the trenches and the No Man’s Land between them into mud. For the men on the Western Front, daily life was miserable for soldiers of both sides in the war.  Troops and their enemies were separated by only the small distance called No Man’s Land . This was only about 50 metres. It was called No Man’s Land because usually no man would dare go there for fear of his life. Even raising your head above the parapet of the trench could be fatal.The men in the trenches had seen battle, seen their friends die in front of them. It was not what they thought war would be like. It was not going to be over by Christmas as they had been promised. 

The ceasefire on Christmas Eve 1914

It all started five months after war’s outbreak on Christmas Eve 1914 along two thirds of a 30 km stretch of The Western Front. British troops in their trench heard the nearby German troops in their trench singing a Christmas carol in German. But the tune, whatever the language, is often the same so it was recognisable. To add to the spirit of this unexpected event, there were fir trees and lanterns visible along the German trench edge. In a midst of this brutal war how did this happen?

The spirit of Christmas cheer encouraged soldiers from both sides to call out to each other. No one dared raise their heads above the trench parapet for fear of death. Normally, stepping out of the trench was pure suicide. But one German soldier dared to suggest this.

Tomorrow, we no shoot, you no shoot,’

‘Tomorrow, we no shoot, you no shoot,’ he called out in English. Someone on the British side agreed. Tomorrow was Christmas after all. Why not, we could all be dead the day after. Life was fleeting in times of war and although everyone had promised the war would be over by Christmas, that now seemed a hollow promise.

There had been brief ceasefires before for each side to retrieve their fallen comrades from No-man’s land between the trenches. But this was different and lasted two days not just a few hours. This was a while considering the brutality of this war. On that long ago Christmas morning, the Germans emerged from their squalid muddy trench singing and bearing small gifts such as food and cigarettes. The British trusting this was not trickery, slowly raised their heads and then tentatively crawled from their trench too.

A miracle at Christmas

Hands were outstretched in friendship, gifts exchanged. It was a miracle at Christmas. The enemy were just like us. Human. Then from the German trench someone threw a football, and the game was on. Not a serious one, just a kick around in the thirty-yard space called No-man’s land. This incredible time of comradery was documented by soldiers from both sides and the photos live on as a witness to the event.

The soldiers, a few hundred in total, might have hoped that this was war end. Could this act of humanity end the war and create a permanent ceasefire. Then everyone could go home to their families and celebrate New Year.

But it was not to be. The pause in fighting was not planned nor universally observed. It had been pure spontaneous humanity at work in the hearts of men.  No commanders on either side had sanctioned such an act nor would they. Once the authorities heard of this event, they were furious and ordered a resumption of fighting. Those who refused would be shot. This news was tough to hear. It meant the soldiers had no choice. Shoot or be shot.

What carol did they sing?

Reports identify Silent Night as the carol initially sung by the German soldier in the trench. In his book on the truce, historian Stanley Weintraub identifies the singer as Walter Kirchhoff, a German Officer and sometime member of the Berlin Opera. Kirchhoff’s singing of the carol in both German and English is credited with encouraging the exchange of songs, greetings and gifts between the opposing soldiers.

Other ceasefires of WWI

There were other ceasefires during World War I, but none became famous like the Christmas ceasefire of 1914. In 1915 there was a brief one on the Eastern Front between German and Russian troops.

Ceasefires in wars allow for the retrieval of dead and wounded men. Also, in 1916 there was one on the Macedonian front to allow for the exchange of prisoners. Then again in 1917 a ceasefire was declared on the Italian front for similar reasons of retrieval of dead and wounded. There were also a few attempts at Easter ceasefires as well but they were short lived as not all troops dropped their weapons. Ceasefires have to be bilateral otherwise it is suicide for soldiers. None of these ceasefires however were for as long or as widespread as the Christmas ceasefire of 1914.

If you like real stories of families of this time in history, you may like my historical novels based on the true experiences of my grandfather, great uncle and their families set prior and during these WWI years. Whispers through Time and Time Heal my Heart tell their story. Discover these and others on my website. I also write weekly history blogs which are posted there.

Thank you for reading.

 

 

Stepping into History

Stepping into History

Stepping into history.

Getting immersed in the culture and times of a historical period can involve a lot of exhausting research but also immense fun. The trick is to choose a time that really interests you. Where would you go if you could time travel? Then stepping into history is fun. Otherwise, it’s just plain hard work. For me, I don’t really fancy the history before the Twentieth Century, so I am not really a long-ago history person but a modern history person. Even modern history has a huge scope.

The time period 1900 onwards is my time. Stepping into history and writing historical fiction started with my sister embracing Ancestry.com and finding some stuff about our grandparents. Reluctantly I read this stuff when bored on a rainy week at a seaside holiday resort and found there were gaps and silences about my granny. Why did she do this or that? Like hop on a boat alone to go to Australia from London just a few months after the sinking of the Titanic? I mean there are icebergs in the Indian Ocean too. Why too are there no photos of her?

A dalliance with ideas

This along with the ever-fascinating topic of the Titanic were enough to get me going. But I never planned a book, just a dalliance with ideas about my granny’s motivations on a rainy afternoon. Then the long sinuous arm of history grabbed me and sucked me down along the cob-webbed tunnels into the past, not so distant, but still a century ago. Off I went back to 1905 and my grandmother’s youth. She worked in a bakery in Hampstead Heath, London with an Elsie and a Johnny. This explained my mother’s name, Elsie and my uncle Johnny. Tick, Tick. Clever me.

The family were musical. Great grandfather was a piano journeyman. This term is interesting. I thought it meant travelling men but the journey bit comes from the French word journee meaning a day’s work. But I think my great grandfather still went about the London tuning pianos. At home his musically gifted older children gave lessons in the front parlour. Did they enjoy this, I wondered or was this child abuse? Then once I read more of my sister’s stuff, I discovered that the oldest brother just disappeared and never turned up later anywhere in any of the possible searches. And my sister is thorough. Before the days of digital searches, she used to write to the registries etc. Fifteen years of research and still going.

Lots of kids back then

Stepping into history, I set about creating personalities and motivations for this family. There were ten children, three boys and seven girls! Whoa! in a three-bedroom house. How does that work? Lots of bed sharing, that’s how. Children slept three to a bed.

No privileges back then like your own room or ensuite. No, a chamber pot under the bed was the best you’d get. Long cotton night dresses for boys and girls and twisted rags in your hair for the girls to keep their curls. A lot has changed in a hundred years and not all for the good. Big families were often happy families, sharing what they had not wanting more.

Anyway, the rainy week passed, as Time so quickly does. By then I had quite a few jottings in my notebook. These exploded over five months of secretive feverish writing into 60,000 words. The family blossomed into a family of characters with real personalities and reasons for doing or not doing stuff. I imagined Granny and Grandpa meeting on the ship to Australia in 1912 and falling in love. That seemed possible as they arrived on the same ship and married later that year. Then voila, I had a story based on true events and people. It’s called historical fiction. lol.

Whispering through time

Publishing? never occurred to me. I am a math and science teacher, not an arty type. But my sister once presented with my story, thought otherwise. She sent my story off to four publishers. She was secretive about it. All four liked it and so we chose one in London. Austin Macauley. Maybe not the best choice in retrospect but we knew nothing about publishing back then in 2018. Whatever, they made me a lovely book and called it a debut novel. Sounds posh, heh. It had a title too. Whispers through Time.

The publisher saw potential whereas I thought been there done that. Why not keep writing? Do a sequel? Really? You want more of my crazy imaginings? You’re a natural, they said. Without such encouragement from them and my sister, Granny and Grandpa would have been left on the Sydney pier on arrival. But now they have marched through history to this present day almost.

Covid was history in the making

The story continued through World War One and up to The Spanish Flu. I was researching this when ominously Covid 19 erupted. This event delayed the sequel Time Heal my Heart as I became seriously sick. Not with Covid or The Spanish Flu but with CRPS. This is a weird unfortunate disease that attacks your nervous system in a debilitating and super painful way. I lost the use of the right side of my body, moving my arm was excruciating. The prognosis was poor. Dire in fact.

There was no writing happening. I couldn’t even brush my hair or get dressed. Only hope (after much left-hand googling) was a clinic in Italy. Off I go, a week before Covid hits Europe. Bad timing but at least I get there. I have the two-week treatment of infusions and emerge from the hospital in Genova into lockdown. The suggested rehab and physio is not going to happen. Arm in a splint, I move from one hotel to another as they close in response to Covid restrictions. Fortunately, I have my husband to help. Italy asks all tourists to leave. We get to France. It goes into lockdown. The rest is history. We were part of history in the making. Stepping into history.

Shit is meant to happen

In lockdown in France in a hotel, I write another book. The Last Hotel. How, did you write it if you had no useful right hand? Good question. Answer is; with my left. Tippy tapping around my old battered IPad keyboard, I somehow wrote this contemporary romance set on The French Riviera. Think it was some type of weird channeling. Just poured out of me, figuratively speaking. It is my best seller at every book signing.  See shit is meant to happen. Good things come from bad. Just have faith. All bad things pass in time. Rainbows follow the rain.

So the historical sequel to Whispers through Time had a two-year setback. The Last Hotel took its place as my second novel and another novel, Colour Comes to Tangles took third place. Eventually, Time heal my Heart hit the bookshops in August this year. It’s a heart-rending story of love and loss during World War One era. Stepping into history once more it is a true story set in true and troubling times. It can be read as a stand-alone or sequel novel.

Last Time Forever

The last instalment of this family saga is also complete but yet unpublished. Last Time Forever will emerge at some future time and transport my family through the interwar and World War Two years up to 1950. What a turbulent life they had. Two world wars and a Great Depression. They were tough. But this last one has a surprise ending which I won’t tell you about because it’s a surprise!

Enough chatter. Thanks for reading my rant if you got this far.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels; Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel, Colour comes to Tangles and Time heal my Heart. Read about her books on https://joniscottauthor.com.

 

 

‘Whispers through Time’ Sequel

‘Whispers through Time’ Sequel

Today was publication day and the birth of a new book into the vast global library. It’s the release of Whispers through Time Sequel entitled Time Heal my Heart by Joni Scott. This one has it all; love, loss, tragedy, war, peace, The Spanish Flu and best of all it is based on a true story! You can buy it on all the popular platforms like Amazon or through the publisher, Austin Macauley, London. 

It is the second historical fiction in my ‘Time’ series and can be read as it is or read after the first one, Whispers through Time. This historical novel continues the story of three young people who migrate to Australia from London in 1912 just after the sinking of the doomed liner, The Titanic. Soon war breaks out and their young lives are shattered by the consequences. This is the focus of the story in Time heal My Heart.

Time Heal my Heart is the sequel to Whispers through Time

Husbands, brothers and sons set off for the grand adventure of war, not realising its savagery. It was the war promised to be over by Christmas. Yet five years later it has involved the world and killed millions. Even in its swansong, the global conflict kills more as the deadly Spanish Flu spreads around the world with returning soldiers.

But the clock cannot be wound back. Time marches on taking the survivors with it into a brave new world of energy and promise. The Jazz age. But not everyone can forget, heal and move on. My protagonist, Winnie cannot. She has seen too much, lost too much. She cries, ‘Time heal my Heart!’ Hence the title.

A poignant Story of another time

War orphans, lovers, soldiers .. so many cannot move forward easily and forget or forgive the horrors of war. Read this poignant story and relive their lives with them. Step into the past and count your blessings perhaps that you were born in another time. Or do you want to recapture the romance, the urgency yet slower pace of the early Twentieth century? Life was ephemeral. Scarlet fever and infection could easily kill. There were no antibiotics, no safety nets in life.

And another place

Storm lashed monastery, Mont Saint Michel, is the scene of one of the sub plots in France. It is a place of mystery, violence and passion. Cut off from the war, it is also a place of refuge. The battle fields of France also feature as brother Gustave is sucked into a war of mud and danger. Then in Sydney, Australia, so far from the battlefronts, wives and families wait for news of the Gallipoli campaign. They knit socks, tend the returned soldiers and pray for their loved ones.

There’s more Time to come

I know this novel will tear at your heart. The story is of my own grandparents. But I must admit to adding sub plots and embellishing parts with fiction. However, it is based on true lives and war records. I hope you enjoy, Time Heal my Heart. If you do, you can go back and read Whispers through Time and look forward to part three, Last Time Forever, due out next year.

Stay tuned via my blog at joniscottauthor.com.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel Colour Comes to Tangles and her latest historical WWI drama, Time Heal my Heart. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

 

The Titanic sails on through history

The Titanic sails on through history

The shadow of the Titanic casts a long shadow though history. Even today it has been in the news with the loss of the Titan submersible. It is another notch added to its sad toll of casualties. The Titan submersible with five rich adventurers sank irretrievably to the cold dark depths of the Atlantic beside the rusted wreck of the fated White Star liner of 1912 fame. Now those passengers lie too forever nearby to the rusted tangled wreck. The Titanic sails on through history. Its tragic sinking continues to fascinate.

Deja Vu, the other ship called The Titan

Didn’t the CEO and founder of the submersible company, Ocean Gate know that the name Titan was that of the liner in Morgan Robertson’s eerily predictive 1898 novel, Futility? The liner featuring in this pre 1912 novel was so similar in dimensions, weight, number of funnels and load of glamorous passengers to the Titanic liner that would set sail on its maiden voyage some years later. Its fate was exactly the same. The Titan of the book hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic at similar co-ordinates to the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic. But it seems the owner of White Star Lines, Bruce Ismay did not read that book nor did Captain Smith or the builder, Thomas Andrews. Because of this, the Titanic sails on through history.

Ignoring the ice warnings, they sailed their beautiful ship full steam ahead in an attempt to break the Transatlantic Crossing record and arrive in a fete of glory one day early in New York. But instead, due to their vanity and disregard for other people’s lives, they did not arrive at all. The 2223 passengers would have preferred a late arrival than none at all. The women widowed that night would live in the shadow of the Titanic for the rest of their lives as mere ghosts of their former selves. For 1517 passengers, mostly male, that night was the last one of their life.

Staring Death in the Face

Imagine waiting on the cold sinking deck, knowing there was now no hope of rescue, watching your wives and children fading into the distance in rowboats on the icy calm sea. This surely was worse than the five Titan passengers who, just a week ago, voluntarily descended to the same icy depths over a century later. Though these five men, one just a teen, did have to contemplate the dangers of the Atlantic as they signed a declaration that they were aware they may not return to the bright light of the surface as planned. Staring death in the face is never easy. Would you sign this waver? “This is an experimental submersible vessel, that has not been approved or certified by any regulatory body, and could result in physical injury, disability, emotional trauma, or death.” Quote taken from The Titan Submersible Journey

A Bold Adventure for the rich?

In both cases, the trip was meant to be a bold adventure. The first in 1912 boasted a trip of a lifetime on the biggest ship afloat with everything of luxury you could ever want (except lifeboats and binoculars to spot icebergs). John Jacob Astor was onboard, the richest man alive. The others in first class were also fabulously rich. Likewise for the Titan sub trip, there was a billionaire, SEO Stockton Rush, onboard and indeed any of the other four were obscenely rich, paying 250,000 for the planned 8-hour adventure to the bottom of the Atlantic and back.

Build me a better boat!

In both cases, the hull of the vessel played a major role in the tragedies. The steel and pop rivets of the original liner were not strong enough to survive an iceberg scoring down its starboard side. A 300-foot gash opened the luxury liner to the ocean and compartment after compartment flooded, sealing the massive ship’s fate. For this recent tragedy, the carbon fiber and titanium hull would again prove the vessel’s downfall. There had been warnings but for the sake of innovation, the designer ignored these with disregard to his own and other passengers’ safety. The lights of the sub were reportedly off the shelf from a camper store and the steering operated by a game controller. Despite his fascination with the mysteries of the deep, was Mr Rush cutting corners or just in a rush for foolhardy adventures?

Withstanding pressure

AS any vessel or diver descends into the depths of the ocean, the pressure increases dramatically because of the water above. At the almost 4000 m depth of the Titanic wreck the pressure is almost 400 times that of the surface. this places a huge load on a submarine vessel and is incompatible for a human diver. It’s like having the New York, Empire State Building sitting on the hull. What sort of hulls can continually withstand this pressure? Not it seems carbon fiber ones. They may tolerate this stress a few times but not continually. Cracks could develop and then the vessel is history as are its passengers. It and the Titanic sail on through history.

What a terrible fate for anyone, even those who ride the depths of their own free will. The young Pakistani youth did not want to go but was coerced by his adventurous and very wealthy father. Did teenager, Sulemon have a premonition? Or was he just more sensible than the older men.

What was it like for the original survivors and their families after the 1912 tragedy? Read about the 706 survivors ordeal and ongoing lives in my post, Surviving the Shadow of the Titanic. And was it strictly women and children first as the lifeboats were loaded? Read my post, Was it women and children first? about that tragic night in April 1912.

If you find maritime disasters and shipping stories fascinating as I do then check out my post on the Italian liner Andria Doria. Like the Titanic disaster, the Andrea Doria’s fate was compounded by human error. Another boat was going the wrong way in the shipping channel and there was a head-on collision in a fog. Again, nature was involved. Not an iceberg but a pea-souper fog that led to zero visibility. It’s an interesting read.

There are lots more either here on my joniscottauthor.com blog or on whisperingencouragement.com where I used to blog. In either site you can read posts about history, amazing women, books and writers and even a few science ones. I am a scientist, a biochemist who took up writing historical fiction at a later age. Now history is my new obsession. It is fascinating and so instructive for us. We can learn about things that went wrong and correct our moves. I don’t think we should just cancel the uncomfortable parts but learn from them.

If you like good stories based on true historical events, check out my two published novels in the Time trilogy, Whispers through Time and the newly released, Time Heal my Heart.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel Colour Comes to Tangles and her latest historical WWI drama, Time Heal my Heart. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

Time, Heal my Heart.

Time, Heal my Heart.

Though invisible and intangible, time is a constant immutable factor of life. Our lives run on this key factor. Rushing around we can’t outrun it. We can’t wind it back nor slow it down. It proceeds ever onward regardless of our wishes. I find this so intriguing, more so as I grow older. When we are young, we barely think of it running out for us one day. In fact, as a child, we want it to go faster so we can be a grown up. But by twenty or thirty years of age it dawns on us that getting older may not be so much fun. When our own parents age, we start looking time in the face. So time is the thing in life. My latest novel encompasses this theme. It is titled Time, Heal my Heart.

Writing Historical fiction

It was coming across my grandparent’s story that led me to writing historical fiction. Pretty weird for a math/ science teacher to write a historical fiction novel but we get weirder as we age. Once started on this imaginative adventure of creative writing and I was hooked. Whispers Through Time was my debut novel. It’s set in the early 1900s and is the story of two sisters, Winifred and Francesca who travel from London to the other side of the world a few months after the sinking of the Titanic. It’s Winifred, my grandmother’s story embellished with the magic brush of fiction. But it is also my great-aunt Francesca’s story.

Onboard SS Rangatira bound for Sydney, she meets my grandfather, Walter and they start a new life in Sydney, Australia in 1913, just before the outbreak of The Great War.

Time, Heal my Heart

The sequel to Whispers through Time is Time, Heal my Heart.

It continues the story of the two sisters as The Great War of 1914-1918 erupts shortly after their marriages. Like millions worldwide, their lives are disrupted. For Winifred, her life will change forever. 

Romance, war, loss and mystery

Now I think you will enjoy the historical sequel, Time Heal my Heart. There’s a lot on offer; romance, war, loss, mystery and tragedy and even a couple of war orphans. You will travel from Sydney to London to France and the battlefields of the Somme plus the mysterious abbey of Mont Saint Michel. It’s a story that will pull on your heart strings especially as it is true.

Follow my history blog here on this website as well as read about my books. There are four now. Two historical and two contemporary romances.

Take time to read. It’s a great escape from the reality of life. It enriches your experience and knowledge. It’s relaxing, nourishing and once you have the book, free!

Stay tuned if you enjoy the historical books for number three, the conclusion of the sisters’ story, Last Time Forever, due out next year.

 

Joni Scott is an Australian author with four published novels: Whispers through Time, The Last Hotel, Colour Comes to Tangles and her latest WW I drama Time, heal my Heart. Joni has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

 

 

Origins Of the Novel

Origins Of the Novel

The Origin of the Novel

The origin of the word ‘novel’ is a contraction of the Italian word, ‘novella’ (meaning ‘new, innovative’), The novella was a short story of light and entertaining nature. It was perhaps invented as an antidote to the epic poems of earlier days. It is interesting that the novel is a larger serving of prose than the original novella.

Early novels usually took a narrative form and proceeded to tell the tale in chronological order. Literary scholars date the novel in its earliest form to Samuel Johnson’s Pamela of 1740. Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory in 1485 is considered an experimental form. Such early work did not concentrate on the individual but employed stereotypical characters.

The novel focused more on driving the narrative with accompanying moral lessons for the reader than entertaining the reader. These ‘novels’ were long winded, lacked humor and preached moral rectitude to their audience. They are hard for the modern reader to digest. But the novel shows development within the nineteenth century. We can follow its progress by reference to famous writers, both male and female.

Frankenstein, the First Science Fiction

In 1818, Mary Shelley, a young woman of amazing talent and possessing a vivid imagination, wrote the Gothic novel, Frankenstein. The tale started out as a short story prompted by a late-night dare by fireside companions to each write ghost stories. Her companions were her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron, both influential Romantic poets.

But Mary’s story aced theirs and its character Frankenstein became legendary. Many do not realize that Frankenstein was the doctor who created the manufactured monster not the name of the monster himself. Apart from its unique character and plot, Frankenstein has a deep message about life, death and man versus Nature. The work is seen as the precursor to science fiction, an unknown genre at the time but one French author, Jules Verne would later embrace in his fantastical stories. This is a significant development of the novel namely the creation of a new genre.

Jane Austen and Real Characters

Jumping forward to a familiar name and a change in the style of the novel genre we come to the works of Jane Austen (1775-1817). Her six novels, many now adapted to film, are refreshing in their strong female characters and depiction of real life on the home front. Elizabeth Bennett and Darcy are well known characters even to non-Austen fans. Though the stories lack rollicking adventure and Gothic tragedy, really nothing more than elopements and love triangles, they excel in irony, humour and accurate observation of real people. Austen’s character driven novels paved the way for The Bronte sisters who emerged as a brilliant trio of writers some thirty years later. The break away from stereotypes towards real characters is a development in the novel as an art form.

The Bronte Sisters and Romantic Passion

These young women who all died young, Anne at 29, Emily at 30 and Charlotte at 39, never travelled beyond Yorkshire yet penned sweeping passionate novels that startled the reading public at the time. Even today, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and Wuthering Heights by Emily, rate in the top romance novels of all time. These works challenge all the previous overly polite fiction populated by swooning virgins and swashbuckling heroes.

Dickens and Social Commentary

Enter Dickens in the 19th century who creates great characters but again tends towards long winded narration. I recall still the ordeal of reading Bleak House for my final year of school. Nevertheless, Dickens works served as social commentary akin to the Romanticism writings of poets like William Blake and Wordsworth. Additionally, no one had to read the whole Dickens book at one sitting as like many books of the time it emerged as a periodical.

Mary Ann Evans and Moral Conflict

Another notable female author, Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880) wrote under the pen name of George Eliot and created extraordinary moral conflicts for her characters in the novels, Mill on the Floss and Silas Marner. Her work shows great intellect and a mastery of the tragic element and represents another development in the novel.

Thomas Hardy and Tragedy

This paved the way for Thomas Hardy and his tragic novels of which he wrote many. He concentrated his stories in Wessex, a place term he invented. His tragedies are all set in the countryside and mostly focus on the poor and hard done by people of the working class. They present a strong discourse of man battling Fate and are almost reminiscent of the great tragedies of Shakespeare. The Return of the Native, The Mayor of Casterbridge and especially Tess of the D’Urbervilles leave a lasting impact. The latter affected me so much as a teenager that I named my daughter Tess! She is not overly impressed that her bookworm mother named her after a tragic heroine but concedes it is a lovely name.

Next week, Novels of the early 20th century. My blogs are now available as audible minipodcasts on Podbean in the History section under Whispers through Time, the same title as my historical fiction novel.

Joni Scott is an Australian author with two published novels: Whispers through Time and The Last Hotel. Joni also co-hosts a women’s blog; https://whisperingencouragement.com/ and has her own website; https://joniscottauthor.com.

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