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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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. 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 (, 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!


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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