In Praise of Pies

Reminiscing about the good old days with a former shipmate recently I recalled returning to our ship in the wee hours and stopping to grab a meat pie from “Harry’s Cafe de Wheels”, not far from the Woolloomooloo dockyard, Sydney. He told me that so popular with the navy did this eatery become that in 1978 Rear Admiral David Martin – over a pie and a glass of champagne – commissioned it “HMAS Harry’s”!

Pies have a long history, going back to 9500 BC! In the days of sail, a sea pie was a dish much favoured. Depending on what ingredients were available, it consisted of meat or fish and vegetables between layers of pastry representing decks of a ship. Thus you’d have a two-decker sea pie, a three-decker and so on.

Stargazy  pie

Stargazy pie

To this day I’m rather partial to pies and would loved to have sampled a great battalia pie, which Disraeli described as a masterpiece of the culinary art of the time! Apparently the ingredients were chicken, pigeon, rabbit, spices, cock’s combs and other delights, in a rich claret sauce. Not sure about the cock’s combs, though…
And to my shame I haven’t yet tasted a stargazy pie, the famous Cornish dish with the heads of sardines protruding through the crust.

When William Pitt the Younger died in 1806 his last words were widely reported to have been, “I think I could manage one of Bellamy’s veal pies.”


Copyright notices
Pie: ByStar Krista (baked stargazy pie Uploaded by Diádoco) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Every effort is made to honour copyright but if we have inadvertently published an image with missing or incorrect attribution, on being informed of this, we undertake to delete the image or add a correct credit notice

Stockwin Goodie Bag Draw!

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The KYDD cap

The KYDD cap

The first BigJules contest is a draw of all those who’ve sign up to ‘follow’ my new blog – with the prize of a special Stockwin Giveaway with books, a Kydd Cap and a few mystery items! Entry is automatic once you’ve signed up.

The draw will be at the end of August and the winner will be contacted by email.

BookPick: Conquest of the Ocean

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Cover LAVERY ConquestBrian Lavery certainly brings impeccable credentials to this work having held posts at Chatham Historic Dockyard and the National Maritime Museum, where he is currently a Curator Emeritus.
He has the ability to both focus in tightly on a subject and also tackle subjects with a very broad canvas. It’s the latter that his latest book The Conquest of the Ocean deals with. It’s no mean feat to take 5000 years of seafaring history and do it justice in some 400 pages but this is just what Lavery has accomplished.
Lavery brings the book to life with excerpts from first person narratives, diaries and logbooks. The illustrations in this book are also first-rate – paintings, early maps, sketches and modern photography.
The Conquest of the Ocean is a fascinating narrative of a subject dear to my heart.

The Kydd ships brought to life

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seaflower

Seaflower – by Robert Squarebriggs

The renowned maritime artist Geoff Hunt RSMA was commissioned to paint original artwork for the covers of the first nine books in the Kydd series. Each featured one of Kydd’s ships, superbly represented. These paintings are available as limited edition prints at http://www.artmarine.co.uk/kydd.aspx

From INVASION onwards, my publisher decided to design the covers using the latest computer generated imaging techniques, bringing what I think is a very contemporary – yet still historical – look to the books.

But how many authors have the great privilege of seeing the ships in their books portrayed across the whole spectrum of model making? There have been representations of the Kydd ships as physical models ranging from 1:1200 to 1:64 in scale, half models, and even a virtual L’Aurore, a computer-generated image!
In future posts I’ll feature individual modellers.

Captivating Cape Town!

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Kathy

Kathy on top of the world

Thanks to Tom Kydd, Kathy and I have travelled all over the world on location research, reconstructing in our minds the world of the Georgians and the eighteenth and early nineteenth century Royal Navy.

For CONQUEST, our destination was South Africa. Cape Town is a city in a truly memorable setting – Table Mountain in the background, the Atlantic Ocean on one side of the peninsula, the Indian on the other. Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town was originally developed by the Dutch East India Company as a victualling station for Dutch ships sailing to Eastern Africa, India, and the Far East. Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival on 6 April 1652 established the first permanent European settlement in South Africa there.

Castle of Good Hope

Castle of Good Hope

In the distance is the battlefield of Blaauwberg featured in the book. The view of Table Mountain from there is breathtaking.

Many of the historical buildings of the city were there in Kydd’ s day. Foremost of these is the Castle of Good Hope, built in the seventeenth century by the Dutch East India Company.

Cape Town is located at latitude 33.55° S coincidentally almost the same as Buenos Aires, where the succeeding book BETRAYAL is set.

Pass the port, shipmate!

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wardroom toast

A wardroom toast

I’ve been to a goodly number of formal navy dinners in my time. But why are the port and madeira decanters always passed to the left at the end of the meal? There’s yet to be a consensus as to why…

If the decanter remains too long in one spot someone invariably asks the person hogging it: ‘Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?’ Apparently a certain Henry Bathurst was Bishop of Norwich from 1805 to 1837.  He lived to the ripe old age of 93 by which time his eyesight was deteriorating and he’d developed a tendency to fall asleep at the table towards the end of the meal. As a result the port decanter would stay by his right elbow to the consternation of those seated further up the table.  A bon vivant even in his later years, the bishop was said to possess a prodigious capacity for wine consumption and he was sometimes suspected of using these frailties to his advantage.   But this may be just a tall tale…

Some have suggested the origin of passing the port left comes from the port side of the boat being on your left if you are facing the bows. Others have told me it came about to allow the majority of people (who are right-handed) to keep their sword-hand free. I think it’s a question of you take your pick…

I do like port and a wee bit of Stilton myself. William Pitt the Younger was a famous port drinker. Ironically, he was prescribed it for gout as a boy and he continued to enjoy the drink throughout his life. Henry Addington, who himself went on to serve as prime minister, commented: ‘Mr Pitt liked a glass of port very well, and a bottle better.’ In fact, Pitt was often referred to as a ‘three-bottle man’. Not sure I can match up to that!

BookPick: Jane Austen’s England

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eavesdropping

The Adkins’ book

A revealing and spirited account of life ashore in Kydd’s day.

Following on from their fascinating accounts of Jack Tar at sea, Roy and Lesley Adkins vividly portray fascinating aspects of the daily lives of ordinary people in Georgian England.

The book is eminently readable from cover to cover, or can be dipped into from time to time.

To confess, I couldn’t leave it behind and took it on my location research trip to France!

Penguins rule okay!

Rockhopper penguin

Rockhopper penguin

A hopeless cat lover, I also have a weakness for penguins. Why so?

1.  To me, no other creature looks so at home in Neptune’s Realm, virtually flying through the water with such grace

2.  Tux the penguin is the symbol of LINUX, of which I’m a dedicated fan

3.  A famous book publishing house adopted an image of the penguin as its logo. Great taste!

4.  The Penguin Parade at the Edinburgh Zoo would melt the hardest heart.

5.  “Happy Feet” was fun.

6.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tcx6YyXvvRI will make you smile.

And as an aside, the rockhopper penguin, pictured, is my favourite – such a don’t-mess-with-me attitude!


Copyright notices
Penguin: By Arjan Haverkamp [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Every effort is made to honour copyright but if we have inadvertently published an image with missing or incorrect attribution, on being informed of this, we undertake to delete the image or add a correct credit notice

Bravo, Brest!

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Brest: maritime museum

Brest: maritime museum

A recent visit to Brittany on location research led us to Brest – and its superb harbour. Although much of old Brest was lost during the Second World War, there are many reasons for the lover of all things salty to visit this second largest town in Brittany.

Top of the list has to be the Musee National de la Marine, housed in a 15th century fortress on the estuary. The view from the Keep out to the Gullet (where the British maintained blockade throughout the Napoleonic wars) is amazing.
And what a splendid celebration of ships and the sea the museum is! Kathy and I spent the best part of a whole day there. Of particular interest were the scale models of ship building and refit, which once belonged to the King of France.

Shipbuilding model

Shipbuilding model

I’d also recommend checking out Oceanopolis, a huge complex with over 1000 species of sea creatures showcased in three pavilions – polar, temperate and tropical.

And by the way, the staff in the Brest tourism office are particularly helpful!

Welcome!

BigJules himself

Anchors Aweigh!

Hi there and welcome to my blog!

I’ll be regularly posting about my writing life, books, things I enjoy, places Kathy and I visit on location research, events, people we meet – and more…

I hope it gives you an insight into both me and my fictional hero Thomas Kydd. As well, I think I can promise some fun with special contests and a regular ‘Ask BigJules’ post where I’m put on the spot by you! Fire away with your questions and I’ll answer as many as I can…

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