How I Write of Castles

I realised, after having reviewed castles (and, actually, historic sites of all types: palaces, temples, hills) that I have not said what I look for when I visit these places. While it is not that difficult to get the sense of what I say and don’t say, this might not be too helpful for people looking for some concrete facts or a detailed picture-overview.

Neither of these is in the realm of what I aim to do here. What I aim to do is to offer some snippets of historic curiosities, events which made me laugh or think or cry when I read about these places. That Tantallon’s lords liked going shooting on the nearby granitic outcrop, the Ailsa Craig of the eastern coast, or that James VI heard of his accession at Falklands and made it into a local title, or that a lord Cassilis of Culzean went and shot his umbrella-holder in the rainforests of Gambia…

These are stories which bring these places to life. They illustrate how living people treated each other and themselves in times gone past. What they laughed about and what they might not have enjoyed as much. All of these snippets help me build a better, clearer, window to look into history.

And I visit these places mostly to expand my understanding of history. This understanding takes many shapes. I do not particularly like reading about places and not being able to visualise them in my mind, and yet not many a text would describe Dunnotar Castle as well as the effort of climbing those steps to reach the peak of that peninsula. But this understanding also takes the form of the farmers at Alpsee who have ever lived looking at two or three castles on their nearby peaks. How do they relate to these? Is it a symbol of hope and strength, or does it merely represent wasted fortunes?

Naturally, all of these could be answered by other methods in the modern day. Yet, the feeling of going to somewhere and seeing it in its natural climate — no matter whether the result is a wintery Schloss Linderhof, sunny Mull of Galloway, or a rainy Rothesay — helps put that place into its natural context.

So… what I look for is emotion, a feeling, any feeling, that would relate to this place I am writing about. How this place fits into the world I have seen and into the lives of the people who were involved with it. How a representation of this place can carry the message that was dearest to my heart. How the inhabitants of this place would have looked about in the beginning of their day or at the end of their toils.

How I Review Books

Books can be looked at from many points of view. My one most strenous belief is that when I talk about books, you should not hear the plot in too great a detail (unless the author intends the ending to be known before the book begins). Hence, I rarely comment on plot devices or any story development as I feel I could be shortchanging the reader of the review. Continue reading “How I Review Books”

Abdication of Justin II

One of the strengths of Mr Gibbon (Chapter 45) is his propensity to draw up images from the very moment the original events happened. The abdication of Justin II is exactly one such event.

What makes it so wonderful for me to hear the lamentation of the abdicating monarch is his realisation of all he could have done better in his responsibilities for the people. Hence, the speech with which he greets his successor, Tiberius, is colourful in both wisdom and elegance.

This, I feel, is one of the moments where one realises how fully absolute power corrupts. Justin failed to avoid it and he fell into darkness. He, however, also realised the full extent of the troubles with the people swinging behind a new person, and he managed to extricate himself from that situation. For all that he has experienced, he does not wish Tiberius to go down the same route…

“You behold the ensigns of supreme power. You are about to receive them, not from my hand, but from the hand of God. Honour them, and from them you will derive honour. Respect the empress your mother: you are now her son; before, you were her servant. Delight not in blood; abstain from revenge; avoid those actions by which I have incurred the public hatred; and consult the experience, rather than the example, of your predecessor. As a man, I have sinned; as a sinner, even in this life, I have been severely punished: but these servants, [and he pointed to his ministers,] who have abused my confidence, and inflamed my passions, will appear with me before the tribunal of Christ. I have been dazzled by the splendour of the diadem: be thou wise and modest; remember what you have been, remember what you are. You see around us your slaves, and your children: with the authority, assume the tenderness, of a parent. Love your people like yourself; cultivate the affections, maintain the discipline, of the army; protect the fortunes of the rich, relieve the necessities of the poor.”

On the Quality of E-Books

Whilst I generally prefer to live a peaceful life of which reading is an important everyday piece, I discover every now and then that there are a number of difficulties with this approach. Generally, everything works well or good enough and I do not have to regret the amount of monies spent or effort put into purchasing and reading books but there are also moments when I wish to say something of what is being done under the near-proper term of “digital publishing”. Continue reading “On the Quality of E-Books”

A Few Thoughts

It is interesting (and enjoyable) to see hours (of work) jump from a planned original of 11.5 to 20.5. In one day. I laugh and enjoy the feeling. 🙂

 

 

And, there is a story. There are 1, 2, and 3. 1 is happy. 2 is not contented. 3 notices that. 3 thinks that 2 wishes to be better than 1.

Make things easier, don’t think for another person.

Sometimes, they surprise you…

Indeed, they do. “They,” you ask now? What “they”?

I am speaking of days : no two are alike, and certainly some of them turn out in most unexpected ways. As an example of this claim, I would gladly bring today.

I’ve heard of people saying that how a day begins can be indicative of how it will continue. Nothing could be further from the truth, I dare say. This morning I woke up around five different times : starting at 3:30 AM (alarm clock), then 5:53 AM (no alarm clock), sometime past seven (again, accidental, more due to a bad song than anything else), and finally two times that were between 8 AM and the time just a minute before my next alarm would have rung (at 8:52). Now, it would be reasonable to say that all of this waking-and-sleeping should have killed any day in its infancy, but not so this time round.

Firstly, the dream. The dream was exceptional. I do not use words of this magnitude (exceptional) very often (indeed, I use them less than rarely), but of this dream I can say nothing less (and yet I will not describe it). Suffice to say, it was a form of peace.

Then, the morning continued in one way or another, but given I don’t remember much of it I deduce I likely read mail, checked the news, possibly even ate something — all those usual morning activities most people don’t really take an interest in, but which enhance the day and bring one up to date on what is going on : not only in the world and country, but also in one’s mind and house (or the other way round, if that be more aesthetically pleasing).

Some time after, I managed to get my bicycle out and get to work — which was somewhat better than last time, and yet there is room for improvement. Never mind that, had some fun conversations there and learned a few new tricks — and got back as well.

While coming back, a fortunate incident (named “planned cycle route”) took me past Eaton Park where people were playing classical music so I decided to listen to them for a while, and that’s what I did. Possibly not the finest melodies played (suffice to say, Johann Strauss was severely lacking) but it enhanced the day.

And now, the evening : in quiet it has passed, and that is for the better. It is good that Sundays can end quietly; for I believe that Sunday will forever be the end of a week, and not the beginning of one.

But the better a terms one ends it on, the easier and more pleasurable to start a new one… So, on we go !

A Moonlight…

 Oh, I wish this could be a common sight in the future. To wake up and see a clear-cast sky and birds flying; to listen to music that calms the spirit. It is such a perfect continuation from the yesterday I knew and the week before that.

Yesterday, I went for a walk. It was far colder than March should be (though it might be something similar than last march) but the Moon illuminated everything. Again a clear sky and a full moon, and the cold weather meant that there was a fog on the lake and the river. I kind of remember a similar day from years ago but then the grounds were covered in white snow and the trees were different. And yet, the Moon’s light was enough to see clearly what was going on — almost as bright as a day, I could say.

Likewise, I went for a first 3.2 km run yesterday. Might have been a bad idea, but I should at least be able to do it in a reasonable time. Yesterday, it was a bit short from reasonable…

As a less reasonable sidenote, it is worth to mention that I managed to intertwine two languages into one sentence so that no one understood what I was going on about ("Shall I go and fill up these ämber’s?"). 😛

Oh well, back to this wonderful morning. For it is wonderful.

And to yesterday…

The night deepends
and moonlight spreads
a coolness to the edges
of the pond, with fronds on
its surface and a frog’s voice.


To that person
wanting recall of events past
in this world below:
"Why not ask the moon above?"
may be the most fit response.

Both by Saigyo.

“Blood and Oil”

Today I walked in the dark cold forest. I went to one of the finest places I know here. I regret that it is a cloudy day. The moon could have made it an amazing sight. It was still great, but it could have been better.

It can always be better? Perhaps. Perhaps. And no. There will be something that is the apex of greatness. I do not know when, I do not know what it will be. I do know that it will be magnificent.

I have looked into the eyes of Muammar Qaddafi. If the people succeed against him, he has indeed lost the Mandate of Heaven.

Individualism.

I gave out good advice today. I wish I followed the advice that I so readily share. I know it’s correct, I know it’s the way I should do things. Yet, I find it easier to say so to others than to do it myself. A pity it is that single topic which always fails me.

I have imagined I’ll reread this all again someday. I do not know when. I do know it will be a great read, an interesting read. I hope I’ll be able to listen to all of the music pieces while I read it to make it even better.

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