Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Caravaca de la Cruz

I love horses and enjoy equestrian events. I was delighted to spend a day in the town of Caravaca de la Cruz during the annual Caballos del Vino Fiesta. The horses were proudly paraded around town in all their splendour, the streets teamed with local families wearing black, white and red outfits, Knights Templar, Moors and Christians mingled and various bands played. The air was filled with excitement.

Moors
Christians
Knights Templar
All ages take part in the festivities. This little caballero is so cute.
One of the many bands

At one point I became stuck in the middle of a parade on a narrow side street. I had no choice but to join in and dance along with everyone else as we followed the band. So much fun.

The main event is held later in the day when the wine horses race up the side of the mountain accompanied by four horsemen on foot. The horse with horsemen that arrives at the top in the fastest time, is declared the winner. Should one of the horsemen let go before reaching the top, the horse is disqualified.

Why do they do this? Like most things in Spain, it is based on a legend. Legend has it that during the time the Castle of Caravaca was besieged by Muslim troops, the Knights Templar went in search of water for the starving citizens. They only found wine. Dodging the enemy, they raced up the mountain beside their horses loaded with filled wineskins. They were considered heroes and their horses were decorated in appreciation. This tradition is now carried on as a competition once a year at the beginning of May.

The horses and their elaborate silk mantles, embroidered with fine gold thread, are the central focus of the festival. Each mantle can take a whole year to make and cost thousands of euros. There are prizes for the best-decorated horses as well. It was hard to pick which one was my favourite.

Decorated from head to tail
Pretty in pink
Interesting mantle with pictures of famous people.
The castle that had been under siege
The path the horses have to run up. There are many more spectators at the time of the race.

We did not stay to watch the race as it can be dangerous for spectators, but I did watch part of it on a big screen TV at the restaurant where we enjoyed a paella lunch.

What an amazing event. One I was glad to have attended and will not forget.

There are some great YouTube videos of the event. Here’s one:

A few years ago I visited Valencia and loved it. I realized I hadn’t written a blog post about this marvellous city located halfway between Alicante and Barcelona. It is often overlooked in favour of places like Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Toledo and Granada. All great cities, but I would also highly recommend a visit to this, the third-largest city in Spain. It’s a wonderful example of the old and the new blended together perfectly. Valencia is rich in history, amazing architecture, an oasis of art, culture and leisure, and the home of paella! It’s also one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the world.

After a few devasting floods, the city planners diverted the river Turia three kilometres south of downtown and turned the former river bed into a pleasant ten-kilometre green space enjoyed by all. Parks, gardens, sports facilities, children’s play areas and walking paths fill this fifteen-hectare space.

Turia Gardens in the old riverbed
Turia Gardens
Sporting events held in the former riverbed

I took a hop-on hop-off bus tour which enabled me to see most of the city. The architecture is amazing. Here are a few samples. Some of my pictures were taken from the bus so are not as good as could be, but you’ll get the idea.

At each end of the bridge called, Puente del Real, stand religious statues.
The Tower of Santa Catalina
The Bank of Valencia building
The Micalet belltower, part of the Valencia Cathedral built on the site of a former mosque, and before that a Roman temple.
The Serranos Towers once guarded an important entrance to the city.

I remember enjoying the 1961 film, El Cid, starring Charlton Heston and Sophie Loren. (Yes, I loved historic movies way back then already) I was excited to find a statue of the popular 11th-century warrior who fought to free Spain from invaders. He is a popular Spanish folk hero and has been called The Prince of Valencia.

The famous Spanish warrior, El Cid
Plaza de la Virgin with a fountain representing the river Turia
Front of the Church of Los Santos Juanes

There are so many wonderful museums to visit, but I didn’t have much time so chose the Ceramics Museum housed in the Palace of Marquis de Don Aguas. The splendid facade of the building is worth the visit alone. Inside are fabulous pieces of ceramics dating from pre-historic times to the present day as well as tapestries, jewellery and furniture. This visit requires a post of its own.

Palace of the Marquis de Don Aguas, home of the Ceramics Museum

In my previous post, I mentioned the troupe of traditional dancers I came across. I love when this happens! They were so delighted with my interest in them, that they gave me a front-row seat to watch their performance. The children were adorable.

The men’s traditional Valencian costume
The dancing was terrific. It made my day!

Valencia also has Art Nouveau buildings as well as modern structures including a world-class music hall, an art centre, a group of buildings that make up the futuristic City of Arts and Science and a Science Museum. Something to check out on another visit.

I had such a wonderful time and certainly plan to return to this incredible city.

It is the stuff of legends. There are many tales written abut the Holy Grail, the cup believed to have been used by Jesus at the Last Supper, and a number of places claim to have it in their possession. When I visited the Spanish city of Valencia, I happened to stop in at the Cathedral of Valencia. And there it was, in its own side chapel, the Holy Grail! At least that is what was claimed. I took a picture at the time but didn´t think much about it. It was hard to believe that this goblet or chalice could indeed be the original Holy Grail. Scholars are not even sure one existed.

The Holy Chalice in the Cathedral of Valencia

The chalice in Valencia is a finely polished agate cup that archaeologists consider to be of Eastern origin from the years 100 to 50 BC. The finely engraved gold handles and foot, as well as the jewels that decorate the base, were added in medieval times. More about this Holy Chalice can be found here

The story is that Saint Peter entrusted it to Saint Lawrence who eventually sent it to his parents in Huesca, in the north of Spain for safekeeping before he was martyred during religious persecution. The Holy Grail was subsequently hidden in different places around Spain for the next 450 years before its final arrival at Valencia Cathedral in the 15th century as a gift to the king. And it has been there ever since.

Recently I saw this short video that provides some facts indicating it could be the original chalice. I would like to think it is and that I was lucky enough to see it. Who knows after two thousand years? What do you think?

https://www.bbc.com/reel/playlist/ancient-mysteries?vpid=p0bt6xl9

Valencia is an amazing city and worth a visit should you be in Spain. I will write more about it and the troupe of dancers I was lucky to meet outside the cathedral, in another post.

Dancers in traditional Valencian dress.

I was gifted a set of special postage stamps from a long-time friend. The stamps feature members of her family who immigrated to Amber Valley, Alberta over one hundred years ago. How special to have your family featured on a postage stamp. I am delighted to own a set.

I will let my friend´s daughter, Gillian White, tell you about the history of her forefathers.

Last year my Great, Great Grandfather Jordan Murphy (he’s the handsome one in the middle) and his two grandchildren were featured on a Canadian stamp for black history month! Such an honour!

I’ll share with you a little bit of the history of Black Canadians and my Great Great Grandfathers Journey.

In the early 1900s about 1000, African American’s moved from the United States to Western Canada in hopes of finding a better life…..Canada was offering small sections of land for a very little amount of $10! This applied to many African Americans looking for freedom.

My Grandfather was one of the few looking to escape racism, prejudice, Jim Crow (forced segregation between blacks and whites). It was a very dangerous time for Black people, especially where he was from in Oklahoma.

My Great, Great Grandfather Jordan Murphy made the long trek to Amber Valley, North of Edmonton and this settlement is believed to be the most Northerly all-black community that has ever existed in the world. It was a long journey, by train, horse and buggy and then lots of hardship breaking ground and building a new life – while still facing adversity, discrimination and marginalization.

I’m so darn grateful for my grandfather’s bravery and perseverance because of him, we live in a country with so many opportunities and freedom.

written by Gillian White

Check out Gillian´s website, podcasts, and newsletters which are full of inspiration, music and recipes. I look forward to them every month.

https://www.gillian-white.com/newsletter

https://www.gillian-white.com/

https://www.buzzsprout.com/

I also found this wonderful video, narrated by descendants of the original homesteaders.

Winner of the 2018 Canadian Screen Award for Excellence in Digital Storytelling; About 100 km North of Edmonton is Amber Valley, one of the first all-Black settlements in Canada. Arriving in 1909, the pioneers of this community battled the elements and racism to not only survive but thrive.

I am so pleased to know this family and learn more about their rich heritage, an integral part of Canada´s history.

Emily Carr, The Indian Church, 1929

I have long admired the work of Canadian artist and writer, Emily Carr. She was known for her expressive paintings of British Columbia’s coastal forests and the First Nation tribes that lived there. Emily Carr herself was an interesting character and is considered a Canadian icon. I have been to her house in Victoria a few times and have always felt her spirit. I was delighted to see that blogger friend, Rebecca Budd, posted a video of Emily Carr’s garden, which I just had to share. Enjoy.

Emily Carr House, Victoria, B.C.

“Real art is religion, a search for the beauty of God deep in all things.” ~ Emily Carr

Check out some of Emily Carr’s artwork here

I posted this last year and feel it is worth running again. A sad day that affected many of us.

Darlene Foster's Blog

One question often asked of those of us who were around at the time is, “Where were you when you heard that President John F Kennedy had been shot?” I remember the day clearly even though it happened fifty-seven years ago.

I’d like to share with you a poem a poet friend of mine wrote.

22/11/63

A shot rang out across the years

embedded itself in a nation’s fears.

November the month with stains on its soul

history stilled near a green grassy knoll.

The New Camelot was shattered

and everyhing that mattered

suddenly not an issue

as fragile as brain tissue.

poem by John McGilvary

John F. Kennedy May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963

It was a sad day indeed. I remember it was recess time at school and one of the boys said that Kennedy had been shot. I said that it wasn’t funny and he shouldn’t…

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Happy Halloween! Here is a great post about the origins of the jack-o’-lantern you will find interesting. Thanks to Aurora Alexander. Enjoy the occasion and stay safe.

Writer's Treasure Chest

Picture courtesy of Google.com

Pumpkins with ghoulish faces and illuminated by candles are a sure sign of the Halloween season. The practice of decorating jack-o’-lanterns originated in Ireland, where large turnips and potatoes served as early canvasses. In fact, the name, jack-o’-lantern, comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. Irish immigrants brought the tradition to America, home of the pumpkin, and it became an integral part of Halloween festivities.

The Legend of “Stingy Jack”

People have been making jack-o’-lanterns at Halloween for centuries. The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed “Stingy Jack.” According to the story, Stingy Jack invited theDevilto have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn’t want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack…

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I finally got away for a few days! I was fortunate to visit the Isle of Arran, in Scotland. The island is a magical place with lovely beaches, manor houses, castles, old churches, standing stones, charming coffee shops, art galleries and lots of sheep. There is a story around every corner. I went to meet writer friends, do some writing and chill. I did all of that and more. I expected rain and got sunshine. Here are a few pictures to give you an idea of how wonderful Arran Island is.

The fabulous view every morning
The two hundred year old manor house I stayed in.
With many perfect places to write
Early morning beach walk
Castle Lochranza. Note the heather on the hills.
So many sheep. I love them!
So cuddly. I just wanted to hug them.
Old farm house on the moor
Machrie stone circle, the site of an ancient burial
You can’t be in Scotland and not search out some standing stones.
I was astounded when I came across these ancient standing stones
You know I had to touch them. Alas, I did not find myself in another century being rescued by a dashing Scot in a kilt.
Holy Isle in the background. An ancient spiritual heritage as far back as the 6th century. It is now a Buddist retreat.
There was cake, lots of cake!
And a very special dog. ❤

It was a wonderful getaway, just what I needed. I returned home inspired.

Now I’m getting ready to go back to Canada, to see my family after two long years.

Note: Most of the pictures are mine but a couple may or may not have been taken by a writer friend who knows I like sheep.

The title and the cover of this book caught my attention immediately. I love books set in another country, especially if the story contains part of the history of that country. A Ghost and His Gold by prolific author, Roberta Eaton Cheadle takes place in her home country of South Africa during the Second Anglo Boer War between 1899 and 1902. But this isn’t just a historical novel, it also takes place in modern times with a paranormal twist. How the two time periods connect makes this a thrilling story.

Here is the blurb.

After Tom and Michelle Cleveland move into their recently built, modern townhouse, their housewarming party is disrupted when a drunken game with an Ouija board goes wrong and summonses a sinister poltergeist, Estelle, who died in 1904.

Estelle makes her presence known in a series of terrifying events, culminating in her attacking Tom in his sleep with a knife. But, Estelle isn’t alone. Who are the shadows lurking in the background – one in an old-fashioned slouch hat and the other, a soldier, carrying a rifle?

After discovering their house has been built on the site of one of the original farms in Irene, Michelle becomes convinced that the answer to her horrifying visions lie in the past. She must unravel the stories of the three phantoms’ lives, and the circumstances surrounding their untimely deaths during the Second Anglo Boer War, in order to understand how they are tied together and why they are trapped in the world of ghosts between life and death. As the reasons behind Estelle’s malevolent behaviour towards Tom unfold, Michelle’s marriage comes under severe pressure and both their lives are threatened.

I enjoyed this book for many reasons. This is my review on Amazon and Goodreads

A well-written blend of historical and paranormal fiction by Darlene Foster

I have had this book on my TBR list ever since I heard about it. Then, as luck would have it, I won a print copy in a giveaway! I was overjoyed and not disappointed. I tend to be a slow reader, especially if there is a lot of detail and characters, as this story has, but I could not put it down.

It is a well-written blend of historical and paranormal fiction. I love history but am not as keen on paranormal. But in this case, it works well. The author has skillfully used the ghosts of the past to tell their story, which give history a personal and more honest viewpoint. The attention to detail shows the huge amount of research Ms Cheadle has done to ensure the story rings true. In any war, there are always two or more sides and I like how all sides of the Second Boer War are represented in this story. The good, the bad and the ugly, from the point of view of both the men and women involved.

This is not simply a war story, it is about family dynamics, friendships, hardships and heartbreak, and ultimately forgiveness and redemption. A lot is packed into this novel and it is well worth a read.

As an extra treat, here is the author reading an excerpt from the book on Tea Toast and Trivia She also discusses an overview of her writing process for this novel which includes both the British and the Boers point of view.

https://teatoasttrivia.com/2021/06/21/season-3-episode-25-roberta-eaton-cheadle-reading-a-ghost-and-his-gold/?fbclid=IwAR3N9fO22DDB07TWRpAvXkOSPRwWzUmvOq2O4XCi7nxLPV514DgHO0NWxl8

You can purchase a copy of this excellent book on Amazon in paperback or for Kindle

Follow Roberta Eaton Cheadle

Website: https://www.robbiecheadle.co.za/

Blog: https://wordpress.com/view/robertawrites235681907.wordpress.com

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19631306.Roberta_Eaton_Cheadle

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobertaEaton17

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/robertawrites/?modal=admin_todo_tour

I am pleased to feature Mike Biles from A Bit About Britain (ABAB). Since we can’t travel right now, and who knows will we will be able to again, it’s good to read travel blogs. ABAB features great articles about fascinating places in Britian, a small island with an immense history and fabulous places to visit.

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

Firstly, thank you so much for inviting me onto Darlene Foster’s Blog, Darlene. I will try to behave.

A bit about myself? Well, I was born, at a very young age, atop a remote, windswept, tower one dark night in a thunderstorm.  The lights flickered at the appropriate moment. A surprisingly uneventful childhood was then spent in the deep South of England, followed by a slightly more exciting spell at university in the Midlands (history and a post-grad teaching certificate) with more than two fairly serious decades thereafter in and around London.  I am now exiled in the frozen north, surrounded by moss and flat vowels.  It’s a cliché to say that I always enjoyed writing, though for many years, whilst running my own business, this was mostly limited to tedious documents like project plans, specifications and contracts.  Along the way, I conspicuously failed to become world tiddly-winks champion; but I have maintained a life-long love of Britain, history, idle scribbling, beer and conversation.  I also enjoy a good movie and would be lost without music.

  • You have such an interesting blog. How long have you been blogging and what inspired you to start your blog?

Thank you! A Bit About Britain was conceived some time ago and trundled along quite happily for a year or three as a kind of hobby, but the current website https://bitaboutbritain.com/ was launched in 2016. In some ways, the inspiration had always been there, because a love of heritage attractions and good stories had been drip-fed into me.  But, staying at various places around the country for work, I often found myself falling into conversation with people about local places of interest and began thinking about creating some kind of independent online database for visitors.  Much of the information out there at the time seemed rather partisan, often with pompous articles at one extreme, sometimes vacuous ones at the other and occasionally written by people who didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.  I had no idea to start a blog, but perceived a gap for an unbiased, accurate, resource that didn’t always take itself too seriously, and arrogantly thought I may be able to fill it – somehow.  Of course, it’s not that easy, it is a hopelessly ambitious aspiration – and I’m also lousy at the technical stuff; but we try.

  • Tell us about your books and how they came about.

Ah, well. The first one, A Bit About Britain’s History, pretty much had to be written in some form before the website was launched.  If you’re banging on about places to visit, particularly castles, stately homes and what-not, a little context is helpful. So I created a potted history of Britain and the book ripened from there.  It is not a tough read; I like to think of it as accessible history, from prehistoric to modern times, neatly pitched somewhere between arcane academia and dumb drivel.  It could probably do with more illustrations, but it does contain three maps and offers a respectable introduction to Britain’s story if you don’t know the subject, a refresher if you weren’t paying attention at school – and the context that visitors need.  Some very kind people (let’s hope the cheques don’t bounce) have even said it should be in school libraries, to give an idea how the topics studied as part of a curriculum fit into the bigger picture.

The second book, A Bit about Britain’s High Days and Holidays, has a similar pedigree. The website features articles about Christmas, Easter and other occasions. The book explores a baker’s dozen of these notable annual celebrations, or commemorations, their origins and the traditions associated with them. For good measure, it includes a couple of recipes, an A-Z of Christmas and a list of Britain’s Big Days – the events that normally form part of our calendar, some mainstream, some obscure, through Spring to Winter. It’s the kind of book I hope people might like to have on their bookshelves; I know I would.

Available on all Amazon sites
https://www.amazon.com/Mike-Biles/e/B07W928W23/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mike-Biles/e/B07W928W23/

In your opinion, what is the most fascinating place in the UK and what makes it so?

That is a very good question, but almost impossible to answer.  I can get fascinated among a pile of stones, imagining children playing thereabouts thousands of years ago.  I find multi-layered places, where the stories almost pile one on top of the other, absorbing. At Wallsend (literally, at the end of Hadrian’s Wall), for example, is the site of the Roman fort of Segedunum. After the Romans, the area reverted to agriculture; later, coal mining arrived; then shipbuilding – and a whole community around that. They built some of the biggest ships in the world there.  Now that community has vanished too and we’re left with the outline of the Roman fort.  Or Fotheringhay – tumble-down deserted birthplace of Richard III and the site of Mary, Queen of Scots’ execution.  Places where big history-changing events took place and your imagination can run riot, such as Hastings and Bosworth, are fascinating and it takes no effort to get captivated by the atmosphere of sites like prehistoric Avebury and the Anglo-Saxon burials at Sutton Hoo – both of those places fit my ‘multi-layered’ description, actually. Come to think of it, I also got extremely excited on the trail of The Beatles in Liverpool; like a kid in a chocolate factory. So – tough question.

But I guess, if forced to choose just one fascinating place in the UK, it would – reluctantly – be London.  ‘Reluctant’, because everybody goes to London, there is so much to see beyond its boundaries that visitors miss and London is so untypical of the rest of the UK.  However, there really is so much in and about our capital; and not only the obvious must-see attractions and museums, excellent though many of them are. The place has a two-thousand-year history with intriguing tales and obscure facts lurking everywhere you go, round every corner, behind the street names, plaques on walls, statues, memorials, churches, pubs, wonderful parks, squares and traditions. If you’re of a curious mind, it’s a hard place to be bored in, that’s for sure.

  • Is there some place you have not yet visited that you would love to see?

Er – how long have you got?!  I will never finish exploring Britain; there simply isn’t time.  I need to visit the west more: the lovely border country between England and Wales, Wales itself (did you know it has a designated path all the way round its coast?) and the West Country. I have been to them all – just not enough. One thing I have never done, but have long-wanted to do, is island-hop off the west coast of Scotland – and I’d also love to visit Orkney and Shetland too. Rumour has it that some of my ancestors came from Caithness, so it would be great to go there as well; perhaps drive the North Coast 500 route, the circuit around Scotland’s North Highlands; fabulous! Think dodgy single-track roads, wild scenery, stunning beaches, remote castles, legends and malt whisky. This is all subject to Head Office approval, of course; much depends on the incredibly tolerant, long-suffering, Mrs Britain.

  • Do you feel that reading about travel destinations will help us get through this time of pandemic, when we can no longer travel freely?

Yes, I think so.  Frankly, pretty much any reading is helpful, and a gift – as is the Internet, for all its faults and dangers. The pandemic forced western society to change its priorities and it’s certainly been an opportunity for many to take stock and learn, to ease the path through odd, and awful, times, without going anywhere.  So, there is the chance for those that can to look around, get some background, soak up the stories behind places, and plan.  But we do need to be phlegmatic and remember that the world waits beyond the boundaries of our personal lockdowns, that it’s been there for a very long time indeed and it’s not going anywhere.  It doesn’t help to get all emotional about what you cannot do, how terrible you believe the restrictions are, and so on.  It is not only pointless, but some people don’t have that luxury.  And don’t get me started on the flat-earth conspiracy theorists!

  • What is your next writing project?

There are big plans for the website, but I’m painfully slow.  Book-wise, it is hoped to bring out at least one further volume of ‘A Bit about Britain’s something or other’ before I shuffle off this mortal coil. My follower will be the second (or maybe the third) to know!

Thanks so much, Mike, for this informative and entertaining interview. If you want to do some armchair travel or start planning that next trip for when we can travel:

check out Mike’s Blog https://bitaboutbritain.com/

his books https://www.amazon.com/Mike-Biles/e/B07W928W23/

follow him on Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/19553725.Mike_Biles


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