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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Monday, August 29, 2022

OK, as much as I like sleeping, it's NOWHERE as much as this cutie!

Just Finished Reading: God’s Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips (FP: 2007) [277pp] 

The End of the World began with a chance encounter, on London’s Hampsted Heath, with a tree called Kate. Of course, Kate hadn’t always been a tree. She used to work in PR until she too had a chance encounter with Apollo and refused his offer of sex. Artemis wasn’t mostly annoyed about the tree thing or, to be frank, the offer and rejection of sex thing, it was the waste. After so long out of the limelight, so to speak, none of the Gods had that much energy they could waste on petty tree making. What they really needed right now was a cleaner. The house they all lived in was a wreck and it hadn’t had a proper cleaning for far too long – centuries maybe. But Zeus was dead set against having any mortals in the house. Then, as luck would have it, Alice arrived. Alice already knew Apollo, unfortunately, but she had no idea that a trick had been played on her by Aphrodite. What Aphrodite didn’t realise was that her trick had already gone wrong. Apollo was in love with Alice but Alice was already falling in love with Neil who worked in the same building she had previously been contracted to clean. As both Neil’s and Alice’s lives become more entangled with the ex-Gods of Mount Olympus, they slowly begin to realise that such encounters do not generally end well for the mortals in the mix. 

As usual, I picked this up in a bookshop offer because it looked different and interesting. It was certainly both. Because the premise is a little on the strange side (or ‘delightfully original’ as one comment puts it) it did take a little getting into. It reminded me at times of Douglas Adams in its humour and I smiled quite a lot throughout the first third or so. At this point I began thinking of this short novel as a bit of entertaining fluff. What I didn’t realise was just how good it was going to get and, looking back, how good this actually was from the beginning. Not only was it an interesting ‘take’ on the Greek Gods – that oh, so, dysfunctional family – but it was an equally interesting musing on the question of what happens to Gods when people stop believing in them? Another aspect of the novel I really liked was the unlikely relationship between Alice and Neil. Not only was it very well told (and at times painfully sweet) it also had a great binding effect on the overall story and helped to drive the story forward. Both Alice and Neil were honestly great characters and I really felt for their predicament. I was on the edge of my seat a few times when things got a bit rough and cheered Neil on as he struggled to become a hero. The Gods themselves were an interesting bunch. I’m not 100% familiar with all of the Greek myths but it's clear that, generally, the Greek Gods are not nice ‘people’ - except Artemis who I liked quite a lot and Athena who I could sympathise with at times. The only, small, warning is that there is a bit of moderately explicit sex (or sexual conversations) from time to time around Aphrodite, naturally, but that can be easily skimmed over. The book actually gets better as the story progresses and I thought the descriptions of the Underworld were quite fascinating. All in all, this was a read unlike any other in my experience and I can honestly say that I really, really liked it. Highly recommended for all Fantasy, Greek myth and/or offbeat humour fans.   

Sunday, August 28, 2022

Always loved the Flying Wing concept........

OK, now that's a BIG bomb.

This is another thing that has long perplexed me - the fact that US voters are registered Democrat, Republican or Independent (although I now understand there's a 'non-affiliated' choice too). Here, and I suspect in other European countries too, I simply register to Vote - as I did a few weeks ago after a reminder from my local Council. I popped on the website, filled in my details and was done in a minute or so. Simple really (and that's another thing I don't understand about American politics - problems with voter registration. Here it's difficult NOT to register). The only thing I could think of is voting in the Primaries. Presumably Democrats can't vote in a Republican Primary and vice versa - which makes sense (although the idea of Primaries voted on by the average voter seem a 'bit' strange to me). But is there anything to stop a registered Republican re-registering as a Democrat, voting in a Democratic Primary and then re-re-registering as a Republican again? Help from my American readers would be appreciated!

Oh, and one more thing! I've been registered to vote since I was 18, so 44 years now. I voted Tory/Conservative in my first two elections (much to my present distaste). I've voted Labour most of the rest of the time but I've also voted Liberal, Liberal Democrat, Green, and Independent. Thank goodness I didn't have to keep changing my voter registration! [lol]  

Saturday, August 27, 2022

20 More (Random Internet) Questions 

What was the last movie that made you cry? 

It’s not something I do very often. I’m not sure... [muses] 

What language do you like the sound of, even though you don’t know how to speak it? 

Welsh. It’s very musical and poetic sounding, no matter what is being discussed. I used to hear it a lot when I was regularly visiting Cardiff some years ago. 

Would you rather never be able to wear pants or never be able to wear shorts? 

Well, I never wear shorts already, so..... 

Which social media do you use the most often? 


What’s the worst injury you’ve ever gotten? 

A broken heart! [lol] 

Have you had any near-death experiences? 

Possibly. I was ill as a child. I don’t think anyone, including me, knew just HOW ill I was. So, one night I woke up in the pitch black. I could feel the room getting smaller & smaller as I seemed to rise above my bed until I could barely see it (with me in it!) a LONG way below me. I was both fascinated and enthralled by the process. Then I slowly started to return to my bed and (I suppose) my body. I actually remember fighting against it because I was having so much ‘fun’ being free as air. I’m guessing that my temperature was high enough to confuse my brain and I had a classic ‘out of body’ experience. It was interesting, to say the least! 

Where have you traveled? 

Scotland, Wales (many times), France (several times), Amsterdam, Italy, Canary Islands, Spain, Portugal, San Francisco, Australia, New Zealand, Vancouver Island.  

Would you rather be a famous director or a famous actor? 

Director. Seems like a far more interesting job. 

Would you rather be held in high regard by your parents or your friends? 

Friends probably. 

What are five things that you cannot live without? 

Air, Water, Food, Books & Music 

Would you rather be forced to kill one innocent person or five people who committed minor crimes? 

I would point-blank refuse to do either.  

What is your take on climate change? 

I don’t think there’s a ‘take’. You either accept the science or you don’t. I accept it. The planet is definitely warming, the speed of the warming is unprecedented in ‘recent’ history and we humans are (largely) responsible for it. What makes the whole thing worse is that many people know this but no one wants to be mildly inconvenienced whilst we (at least attempt to) sort it out. We need to reduce the amount of Greenhouse gases going INTO the atmosphere, start taking out MORE of those we’ve already put in and put FAR more effort into mitigation efforts to cope with the consequences already baked in. It’s not rocket science people!  

What is the last dream you can remember? 

I don’t always remember my dreams. I do have some common themes though – usually I’ve lost something and can’t find it anywhere or I’m looking for somewhere but can’t find a way to get to it (or, sometimes, back to it). I do, on occasion, have VERY interesting and vivid dreams. Probably my favourite was one where I was in the Underworld literally wading through a river of blood and body parts towards the other shore. I was carrying a short sword in one hand and a round shield in the other and was wearing what looked very much like a short pleated skirt. On the shore was around 8-10 men waiting for me and they were definitely NOT friendly. Me? I was smiling as I approached them.... 

Would you rather be able to teleport anywhere or be able to read minds? 

Teleport, definitely. I mean, how cool would THAT Be? Reading minds? No THANK you! 

What era would you choose to live in if you could? 

Now. Now is ALWAYS best. Who would want to live in a world without anti-biotics or the Internet? Not me! 

Do you have any addiction? 

Probably a few, over and above buying books. Caffeine probably. Redheads, probably too... 

How do you spend a typical Saturday night? 

Gaming online with the Guys and maybe watching a late-night movie. 

How do you treat people who annoy you for no reason? 

I ignore them – pointedly. 

Would you rather lose all your money and valuables or all the pictures you have ever taken? 

All my pictures. I have something called a memory that serves me quite well! 

Would you rather only wear one colour each day or have to wear seven colours each day? 

My clothing palette is quite small – Black, Blue, Red and Green mostly. If I had to choose one, I’d be more than happy just to wear Black. 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Just Finished Reading: The Blues – A Very Short Introduction by Elijah Wald (FP: 2010) [123pp] 

I’ve always been the kind of person who can enjoy something without know very much about it. I’m certainly not one to ‘fan boy’ on artists, authors or musicians so generally would have no idea who they were if I met them in the street (highly unlikely I know). I only know who actors are – but precious little about their off-screen lives – because I see them in front of me when I watch their movies. Likewise, I know very little about artistic styles, and not much more about literary genres. Mostly I don’t think it’s all that important and that, again mostly, it’s the entertainment value I’m looking for rather that a biography (unless I’m READING a biography). 

So it is with the Blues. I probably developed a liking for it by watching classic Noir films or films from the 40’s in general. Blues and Jazz seemed to be everywhere back then – in films anyway. I started buying Blues CDs over a decade ago and have collected quite a few since then. Most are compilations of various artists from various eras but I do have a few single artist CDs too. But if you asked me which Blues singer/writer influenced who, or which particular ‘school’ of Blues each artist came from, or even which part of American they came from I’d honestly have zero idea. Well, I do now! 

Reading about music is, to be honest, a bit strange (at least for me). What would’ve been great is examples of the music the author was talking about being accessible whilst reading (something for the future no doubt). But despite this I did find this slim volume very interesting. I knew some of the origins of the Blues – in African American slave chants and ‘field hollers’ plus street/bar performances but it was intriguing to see who both white and black performing artists took the music mainstream through both song sheets and early recordings. It’s also interesting how very similar songs were classified for their audiences depending on the race of the singer. Recordings and song sheets also solidified what was, until that point, a very fluid sound but it also allowed other artists to re-interpret songs and evolve new styles. What was also interesting was the intersections between Blues, Jazz and Country music. At first, I was rather sceptical about the last associated style but the author managed to convince me otherwise.  

Overall, although not exactly ‘gripped’ by this book – partially because it’s a little bit outside of my ‘comfort’ zone – I did find it informative and I’ll definitely be listening more closely to both my Blues and Jazz recordings more closely in future (and reading some of the inserts which I rarely do). If, like me, you’re a Blues fan without knowing all that much about the history of the style itself this is definitely the book for you. More music related books to come.  

Monday, August 22, 2022

Just Finished Reading: The 12.30 From Croydon by Freeman Wills Crofts (FP: 1934) [349pp] 

Like many people, Charles Swinburn was struggling with the downturn in business. Despite putting his own money into the firm for some months now, essentially keeping things afloat as he waited for better times ahead, the failure of the recent contract bid was the final straw. He knew that if he didn’t do something, something drastic, then the engineering concern he had inherited from his father would go under. Swallowing his pride, Charles made his way to see his uncle, who was rich, retired and in increasingly ill health. Making his case he asked for something his uncle could hardly refuse – an advance on his inheritance, a few thousand pounds to get him through the year and, possibly, into the next one. On hearing him out, his uncle Andrew Crowther sneered at his failure of a nephew but, reluctantly, handed over a thousand pounds. It was nowhere near enough. It would extend the business lifeline for a month or two, no more. There was, Charles was convinced, only one way forward. A way to save the business and the livelihoods of his workforce – Andrew Crowther would have to die and soon. Of course, Charles wasn’t an idiot. He couldn’t just kill his uncle and hope to get away with it. He would have to plan things carefully, very carefully.... 

I’ve been meaning to read more of the British Library Crime Classic series for a while now. I’m not 100% sure why I decided to start with this one but I certainly wasn’t disappointed with my choice. Told from the murderer’s point of view (almost) throughout, this was a fascinating look at the thought processes and justifications of someone who has decided on a course of action despite its difficulties and despite the fact that murder was involved. I was intrigued at how Charles, repeatedly, either didn’t see less murderous alternatives staring him in the face or dismissed them once he had decided on his original plan. I must admit though, his plan was very good! Unfortunately, the police in the guise of Inspector French of Scotland Yard were very good too (this was his 11th fictional outing). 

As always with classic novels, or indeed any work of fiction from past times, you are presented with (most probably unintentional) insights into the world them came from – in this case Britain in the early 1930’s. Not only do we see the hardships of the Depression and the anxieties caused by it, but we also see aspects of the British class system, how its transport infrastructure worked, the way things were financed, how information was disseminated nationally, legal codes and much else – all in all fascinating stuff (at least for me). Although ‘slow’ by more modern standards, this was an absolute delight to read. I found myself absorbed into Charles’ world almost as if I was sitting on his shoulder watching him make poor decision after poor decision on the way to becoming a murderer. Quite brilliant and highly recommended for all fans of British classic crime fiction.  

I did though, being the pedant that I am well known to be, have a (very) minor issue with the cover. The design is from a travel poster for flights from London to the Isle of Wight in a small light aircraft. The murder itself takes place on a flight from London (Croydon [GRASS!] airfield) in a NAMED aircraft [back in those days international flights were still so rare that airliners had individual names!]. Being ME, I looked it up. The name of the airliner was Hengist (as in Hengist and Horsa of Saxon fame) and is pictured below – yes, that’s the actual aircraft the victim boarded in the book and is very clearly nothing like the aircraft on the cover. LOL.  

Saturday, August 20, 2022

I think I need this door in my life...!

20 (random Internet) Questions 

If you were a girl for a day, what is the first thing you’d do? 

No comment. 

Would you rather be an amazing painter or a brilliant mathematician? 

Mathematician. They’re discovering the foundations of EVERYTHING. I mean, how cool is that? 

Who is your dream woman, dead or alive? 

Lizzie Bennet - Fictional 

What do you think of hairy legs? 

Depends how hairy 

What would you do if a guy asked for your number? 

Say No. 

Would you rather eat a half-cooked meal or eat a half-burnt meal? 

Half burnt. The risk of food poisoning is WAY lower. 

What’s the worst and best thing about being male? 

Shaving and not really caring what you look like. 

Who are you closest to in your family? 

Probably my younger sister. 

Are women equal to men? 

Yes, at least. 

Would you rather be beautiful/handsome but stupid or intelligent but ugly? 

Intelligent. Always intelligent. 

Which Disney Prince are you? 

Yeah, right.... 

Would you still like a girl if she was way taller than you? 

Well, I LIKE tall women but anything over 2 meters might be a struggle for my neck. 

What’s the biggest lie that someone told you? 

That there’s someone somewhere for everyone. 

What is the first thing you notice about a woman? 

Her eyes. Then probably a coin toss between cheekbones and nose. 

What’s the most useless thing you’ve ever learned in school? 

Learning to obey authority. It didn’t ‘take’ believe me! 

How attractive do you think you are on a scale from 1 to 10 

5, maybe. 

What’s your definition of a “real man”? 

I don’t subscribe to temporary cultural gender stereotypes especially from a misogynistic patriarchy 

Would you rather not shave your beard or cut your hair for a month? 

Well, if I don’t shave for a week I look like a homeless Father Christmas so... hair. Then I just look like that weird picture of Einstein. 

What is the real story behind your last post on Instagram? 

LOL – Like I post on Instagram 

What makes you special and unique? 


Thursday, August 18, 2022

Anyone got a Time Machine I could borrow, I really need to be in 1967 for a few weeks. I'll bring it right back, you'll hardly miss it....

Just Finished Reading: North American Indians – A Very Short Introduction by Theda Perdue and Michael D Green (FP: 2010) [130pp] 

As with some of the previous VSI books I’ve been reading recently, this starts American history LONG before Columbus or Plymouth Rock. The millions of indigenous peoples ‘discovered’ by Europeans in the New World had crossed over the now submerged land-bridge across the Bering Strait millennia before Columbus misinterpreted his landing zone as the ‘Indies’ although the name he gave to the local inhabitants stuck through the centuries (obviously the local tribes did not see themselves as or call themselves ‘Indians’). Being scattered across North America in a vast array of different environments with different cultures, different languages and different histories the thousands of tribes were a very diverse bunch. Some farmed, some fished, some hunted bison. Some were hierarchical patriarchies or matriarchies; others were split between male hunters and female gatherers where the female was venerated as the ultimate life giver. So, when the Europeans arrived the resulting first contacts were equally varied in their response. 

Some tribes initially welcomed the newcomers and attempted to integrate them into the existing cross-tribal structure of trade and mutual co-operation. Others quickly took offence at the Europeans crude ways and conflicts ensued. Other tribes simply ignored the feeble immigrants thinking they would either starve or leave. No response worked well, at least from the native populations point of view. Over time, at least except from the few colonies that failed spectacularly, more and still more colonists arrived and proceed to cut down trees, plant crops and expand ever outwards into ‘virgin’ land. Initial co-operation with the local Indian tribes fractured despite treaties and payments. Diseases brought across the Atlantic spread amongst the natives and, weakened greatly, they could no longer resist the seemingly unstoppable expansion into the interior. 

The story of the (almost) collapse of Native Americans post-colonisation is a well-known one and one that is repeated here. What makes it interesting is the attention to detail (impressive in such a short book) as well as the emphasis on the fact that the European invaders did not always get their way – despite their often technological and epidemiological advantages. From the very start, Native Americans used the skills they had – simple savages they were most definitely not – to gain what they could in the face of things few of them could have imagined even years before first contact. Deals were made that actually benefited both sides, battles were fought where the Indians won and won handily. But, as we know, it wasn’t enough to stem the tide. The resultant, often precipitous, decline in Native American fortunes is again well know and wasn’t really stemmed until the 1960’s.  

Told with a deep knowledge and deep understanding of the subject this is an interesting look at how the natives of a land, indeed a whole continent, responded (and still respond) to the cataclysm of European expansionism. It’s often a tragic story but one worth knowing. Recommended and more to come on this subject.    

Monday, August 15, 2022

VERY neat........!

Just Finished Reading: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M Harris (FP: 2014) [296pp] 

He certainly had hopes when Odin pulled him from the void that was Chaos. Loki saw becoming corporeal, real, with its pains (that he would’ve liked to do without) as well as its pleasures (which he rather enjoyed) as an opportunity. He was also promised something he had never had and, because of that, wondered if he was missing out – family, well kind of family if you could call a dysfunctional bunch of wannabee gods family. But, he thought, there’s no harm in giving it a ‘go’ for a while, a few centuries maybe, just to see. Leaving Chaos without permission (not something Chaos really considered much) he had burnt his boats anyway. Binding himself by oath to Odin didn’t seem so bad, at least at first. But he felt it as soon as he arrived in the fabled (and surprisingly run down) Asgard - the suspicion, the sideways glances, the mistrust. He would, Loki realised, never be ‘one of them’. He would always be an outsider, an ‘other’. But he could live with that. What he couldn’t live with was being blamed for everything that went wrong. OK, he was responsible for *some* of it but that wasn’t really his fault. But it wasn’t long before Loki decided that he had had enough of the ‘gods’ and their petty ways. It was time to teach them a thing or two, to bring them down a peg, to make them, in the end, ask for his help to save them. Then he could look them in the eye, smile sadly, and say: No. He would be there to watch Asgard fall. Luckily, there was a prophesy for that.... OK. Work to do.... 

I’ve been a fan of the Norse myths for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest heroes was Thor (WAY before Hollywood got hold of him) and one of my long-time heroes is Odin (ditto). So naturally, on seeing this in my local franchise shop, I snapped it up. Essentially this is a modern retelling (complete with numerous modern anachronisms in speech/comments which Loki knowingly scatters throughout the narrative – very ‘meta’) of the Norse myths but from the point of view of Loki. He is the narrator throughout and it’s no real surprise that I ‘heard’ the voice of Tom Hiddleston (who plays Loki in the Marvel series of movies and TV shows) in my head the whole time I was reading this. Likewise, I ‘saw’ the other gods played by their movie counterparts – I really couldn't help it. Rather dark in places – as you might imagine from Norse culture – these are stories full of intrigue, lying, sex (how Sleipnir, Odin’s 6-legged horse, came into existence is HILARIOUS), violence and death (not always permanent). There is a rather convoluted plot – based around the prophesy of Ragnarök - which binds the whole thing together which is interesting to see play out. The ‘feel’ is very cinematic and there’s plenty of laugh-out-loud moments (of course!) including the teenage werewolf Fenris hanging out with his pack looking tough! Needless to say, I thought this was a delight from beginning to end. It’s prompted me to read up more about the actual myths/stories themselves and I have a few (rather old) tomes I can dive into when I can slot them in. So, if you’re a fan of Norse myths, Loki or Tom then this will be the book for you. Definitely recommended – although I do feel it might annoy Norse purists a bit! [..and I’ve just discovered there’s a sequel! Yeah!]  

Saturday, August 13, 2022

OK..... Weird..... But, oh my............ AMAZING.

Random Internet Book Meme Thing...... (Part 2)   

26. Do you like to write reviews on Amazon or Goodreads? 

No. I write reviews once – for here. 

27. In general, do you think books are better or worse now than they used to be? 

They’re different. It’s possible to think that they’re ‘better’, however you want to define that, but it’d be a difficult case to make. Modern books tend to reflect modern sensibilities. Give a modern book to someone even 30-40 years ago, never mind 50-100 years ago, and I’m guessing that, once they got over the shock, they’d find a lot of the text incomprehensible. Modern books do tend to be faster paced, generally have more violence, more sex and more profanity than older books, but ‘better’? I’ll leave that for future generations to decide! 

28. Where do you usually discover new books? Physical bookstores? Online? Social media? 

Everywhere. I’m *always* on the look-out for more books. 

29. Have you ever joined a book club? 

No. I like to read what I like/want to read. I think I’d struggle regularly reading books that I ‘had’ to read. 

30. Where do you like to read? At home on the couch? On the train? In bed? 

I taught myself to read on the train (I used to get travel sick so essentially read until I started feeling ill then stopped. Eventually I can read all the time on a train now. Reading on the bus or in a car is still problematic. At home I read on the couch. I only read in bed if I’m ill. 

31. What deceased author would you have liked to meet? 

Iain M Banks so I can chat to him about his Culture novels. 

32. Think about your favorite genre. To you, which author is the master of that genre? 

Favourite genre is still SF (although Crime & Historical are close). No such thing as *the* master of any of them.  

33. Do you judge a book by its cover? Would a shoddy cover put you off? 

Covers are there to attract attention and they work. A ‘bad’ cover would probably reduce my chances of picking it up, but I go more off the blurb and the author/subject matter than the cover. 

34. Do certain tropes attract you? For example, orphans, love triangles, anti-heroes? 

Of that list it’d be anti-heroes. I don’t really ‘do’ tropes. 

35. Are there any books you haven't been able to finish? Why not? 

Yes, BAD ones! 

36. What are some of your favorite quotes or scenes from a book? 

Too diverse and numerous to list. 

37. Did you read books in school? Can you remember which ones? 

I didn’t really start reading voraciously until around 14. But one of the earliest books I read in school, loaned to me by my English teacher, was 1984 by George Orwell. 

38. Are there any books you could read over and over again and never get bored of? 

It’s VERY rare for me to re-read anything. I don’t think that I could read anything over and over but there are a (very) few books I’ve read 3 times, but I’m unlikely to ever read them again, again. 

39. What's the last book you read? 

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips 

40. What's the last book you bought? Did you buy it online or at a store? Ebook or paperback? 

Sunset Swing by Ray Celestin. Paperback from my local supermarket. 

41. Do you like to display your books on a bookshelf or keep them in a virtual library? 

I’d say over half of my books are on shelves, though not all of them are on ‘display’. 

42. Do you prefer flash fiction, short stories, novellas, or novels? 

I don’t even know what ‘flash fiction’ IS! But novels – I like meat on my bones (even if I am a veggie). 

43. What book can you recommend to me? 

None. I don’t know you well enough for that. 

44. When did you last visit a library? 

Well over 5 years ago probably. Maybe longer. 

45. Have you ever had a crush on a book character? 

Elizabeth Bennett from Pride & Prejudice. 

46. Has a book ever made you laugh out loud? 

Yes, especially the funny ones. 

47. Has a book ever made you cry? 

No, I don’t think so. A few have made me sad though – mostly for what was happening to some of the characters. 

48. Are you generally good at guessing twists or being able to see what's coming? Have any stories genuinely shocked you? 

Part of the fun of reading is trying to ‘guess’ what’s coming next. Sometimes I get things right which is fun. I enjoy getting things wrong though. Books, especially novels, should surprise you – hopefully in a GOOD way. 

49. What's your favorite drink, snack, or beverage to have beside you while you're reading? 

Pepsi Max or Orange soda. 

50. What book will you read next? 

I started ‘Kill Chain – Drones and the Rise of High-Tech Assassins’ by Andrew Cockburn last night. It’s really good – if you’re into that sort of thing. 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

I'm guessing he's happy...........

Just Finished Reading: Colonial America – A Very Short Introduction by Alan Taylor (FP: 2013) [123pp] 

Countries, it seems, are born in much the same way as most things – during a time of prolonged suffering, pain and a fair amount of blood. America is no exception to this rule. Far from being an empty and virgin land when Columbus ‘discovered’ the West Indies, the Americas – both North and South – had long been populated by diverse cultures who had crossed the Bering Straits land bridge during the last Ice Age and have been estimated to be in the multiple millions when the Spanish arrived. With talk of ‘golden cities’ to the south other Spaniards soon followed looking to make their fortunes and, with the aid of primitive firearms as well as the far more devastating diseases especially smallpox, spread death and destruction wherever they went. Not to outdone – at least not for long – other European nations, notably the French, British and Dutch set about developing colonies and trading posts further north trading in furs and other easily transportable goods. Here, as in the south, disease and conflict eased the path to European domination. Eventually, after many decades, two nations were left standing – Spain in the South and Britain in the North. 

Colonisation of the ‘New World’ was far from easy and far from a done thing. Early settlements failed for numerous reasons. Empires fought each other on American soil – all sides using the local populations as auxiliaries and mercenaries in their wars - for eventual domination and the right to exploit the rich resources found there. Predictably, the natives did not fare well not matter whose side they chose in the conflicts. When they were necessary, they were used. When they were no longer required, they were either abandoned, ‘relocated’ or eliminated in a number of ways. The natives, as they found to their cost, were simply ‘in the way’ of the ever-Westward expansion. Apart from the exploitation and expulsion of native peoples the other foundation of both South and North America from the very earliest days was slavery. Columbus himself arranged for the enslavement if the island natives in the West Indies whose eventual demise led to the importation of African slaves to fill the shortfall in natural replacement. Some of the Northern territories depended on their very existence on the slave economy to produce the valuable cash crops, such as tobacco and rice (required to feed slaves in the West Indies). Overall, except for a very few, the birth pains of both America’s were neither short nor mild. 

This filled in quite a few gaps in my knowledge of early American history. I knew something of the early colonial efforts in the North as well as the Spanish depredations in the South but it was interesting to see how early trading with Native Americans led, eventually, to war between Britain and France and how this conflict shaped the futures of both what became the United States and Canada. Likewise, it was interesting to see the gradual moves of the original British colonies towards independence (more of which later). It was also interesting to get some general context for some of my family history. I was surprised when I started digging into my families past that I had a number of ancestors who had migrated to America in previous centuries. One relative died in Richmond, Georgia in 1784, while another died in Isle of Wight County, Virginia in 1720. Even further back my ancestors were dying in Charles City, Virginia in 1653 and Boston in 1652 presumably as refugees from the English Civil Wars. An interesting and informative read on many levels. Recommended and, as always, more to come.