30.1.16

Niebla and it's castle






The village of Niebla (which means fog or mist in Spanish) is about 30k from Huelva, west of Seville, situated on the shores of the river Tinto.









It’s a beautiful walled village of great historic interest, dating back to Medieval times, and quite prosperous.







Originating before the Roman period it is packed with narrow streets, lovely houses, restaurants, a church, originally a Mosque, and squares, gates, monuments and turrets. Beyond the confines of the wall, there is a Roman bridge and aqueduct.



The most interesting place to visit within the enclosed town is the castle. This was the alcázar or fortress of the Count of Niebla.





It is large and rectangular set on two levels with rooms that include the Countess’s Chamber, a kitchen and Armoury, and Dungeons complete with equipment of torture set in and around the courtyard. There’s even a floor below this if you wish to go down the ladder into the deep and dark interior.




You can also climb up a long flight of steps to walk around the upper walls of castle where there are yet more rooms to investigate. There are wonderful views from here of the surrounding area.

It’s a most quiet and charming village.





You can find out more here:

http://www.discoverhuelva.com/town/niebla

Related posts on my blog:
http://fredalightfoot.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/christopher-columbus.html

http://fredalightfoot.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/donana-national-park.html

29.1.16

Christopher Columbus

Muelle de las Carabelas is a fascinating museum close to Huelva, just west of Seville, in Spain. Its main exhibits are replicas of Christopher Columbus’s three ships, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María.

Pinta, Santa Maria and Niña

In 1992 to celebrate 500 years since the discovery of America, these three replica ships sailed the route of Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas. They’d taken two years to build.


I loved exploring these quite small ships, even if climbing up and down the ladders had to be done with caution. Below deck there are replicas of food stores and work areas with statues of sailors working and climbing the ropes up the masts. There was also a display of cottages around this dock with statues replicating the natives. There is also a small area depicting the homes of ordinary English folk, food, and an imitation market of that time. It’s quite inexpensive to visit, and there’s a little shop, of course.


Columbus’s plan to explore the world was rejected by his home country of Italy, the Portuguese and initially by Isabella of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon, as they were focused upon a war with the Muslims. He continued to work hard to persuade them and once the war was over in January of 1492, the Spanish monarchy agreed to finance his expedition.



He set out on his first Voyage to the New World in August of 1492, sailing from Spain in the Santa Maria, together with the Pinta and the Niña. His aim was to reach Asia (the Indies) via the western route, where he hoped to find gold and other riches. After over a month at sea they finally spotted land, not Asia but the Bahamas.


You can find out more about Columbus here:

http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/columbus.htmhttp://www.biography.com/people/christopher-columbus-9254209#mixed-legacy

Related links:

http://fredalightfoot.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/niebla.html
 




27.1.16

Doñana National Park

This is a magnificent area that stretches for miles. It’s situated west of Seville, quite close to El Rocio, which is also worth visiting.




We went on a bus tour that started quite early in the morning, fortunately they have a cafeteria so we were able to have breakfast before the tour started at 8.30. The bus was for about 20 people and had huge tyres to cope with the natural domain of sand and woodlands.





The beach is one of the longest in Europe, set between Matalascanas and the Guadalquivir river. The tour lasted for four hours, taking in the beaches, Dunes and Pine woods and marshlands.

Wild boar (jabilí)




As the bus travelled we spotted various animals and birds: fallow deer, stags, wild boar, linx, imperial eagles, kites, buzzards, stork and many more creatures. Absolutely fascinating. What I need is a better camera that zooms in closer.





A Stork

 


















The bus stopped occasionally for us to take a walk around, including visiting a replica of an ancient village with thatched cottages.







Fishing very much a sport here.



I loved visiting this beautiful area. Absolutely amazing. Can highly recommend a visit. We stayed in the local Parador at Mazagon. This is the view from our room. An easy walk down to the beach.



You can find out more here:

http://www.discoveringdonana.com/?gclid=CNefoZz3ycoCFcfgGwod0vkFSA

Related links:
 


6.1.16

January 6th, Three Kings Day

Traditionally, Spanish children do not get their presents on Christmas Day from Santa Claus, or Papa Noel, as he is called. They have to wait until the Fiesta de Los Reyes. What we would call Epiphany. By now we’re packing our Christmas decorations away, but the Spanish are still partying.

In the run up to the 6th of January, children can meet the wise men at some department stores and tell them what they would like for Christmas, just as our children tell Santa Claus. On the 5th, the excitement starts in the late afternoon or early evening when there is often a parade through the streets of camels, yes, real ones, carrying the three kings, Melchor, Gazpar and Baltasar, who throw sweets into the watching crowds. A custom that no doubt started in Moorish times. A whole procession of dancers and musicians, trailers and even floats, will follow. Children run around with their little bags catching their gifts. It is truly a sight to see. The little girls dress up in their flamenco dresses, little boys as kings or drummer boys. And the shops remain open until after midnight.

Before going to bed the children leave their shoes on the door step so that the Kings will know who to leave presents for. Some Spanish families are starting to put presents under a Christmas tree, perhaps because there are too many to put in a shoe. And just as British children leave a mince pie and a drink for Santa and his reindeer, Spanish children also put out something to eat and drink for Melchor, Gaspar, and Baltazar, and water and grass for their camels. Well they do have a lot of work to do that night.

The children wake in great excitement the next morning to find their presents. For breakfast or after lunch, families eat the typical dessert of the day, the ‘Roscón de los Reyes’. This is a large ring shaped cake or sweet bread that is decorated with candied fruits, symbolic of the emeralds and rubies that adorned the robes of the three kings, sometimes a gold paper crown is often provided to decorate the cake. Hidden inside it are surprises ‘sorpresas’.


The one who finds the lucky prize is King or Queen for the day while he who ends up with the unlucky bean is expected to pay for next years Kings’ Cake – and they are not cheap!

We usually attend a wonderful day out watching a drama take place in the village square where King Herod is ordering his men to search for baby Jesus. There's a fair and market and lots of activities going on, people in fancy dress, very medieval and great fun.


11.12.15

Inspiration for Post War sagas

I’m always on the look out for ideas, finding inspiration from many sources: family memories, history of the places I’ve lived in such as the beautiful English Lake District and Cornwall. I’ve dipped into the more interesting parts of my own life, such as when we had a smallholding and tried the ‘good life’. Having fully exploited those ideas, I moved on to interviewing people for other fascinating stories.

 I begin by talking to people who either can recall such times themselves, or retell that of their own parents or siblings. I’ve met some fascinating people over the years, and what a joy it is to listen to these stories, so real and personal, vividly recalled and rarely recorded anywhere. Memories are fallible, of course, and facts need to be checked against whatever documentary evidence I can find such as newspaper reports, letters, diaries, biographies, as well as history books. The walls of my office are packed with books covering all the topics I love.

Writing sagas also demands a need to investigate natural history, geography, geology and topography. My farm or village might be fictional but the mountains, forests and lakes have to be entirely accurate; the walks my heroine takes actually trodden by me. The flowers must be in season, the birds on their migratory flights south from Scandinavia, carefully checked. The agricultural law of the period must be studied as well as weather reports. I cannot say 1945 was a beautiful summer if it rained all through July and the harvest was ruined. Nothing can be fudged, because unlike Medieval times, someone will remember.

Blackburn Road, Accrington


The gritty northern street saga has its own requirements, format and boundaries and usually concerns a strong woman fighting against the poverty of her surroundings, as well as the trials and tribulations of the times in which she lives. My family have been weavers (or websters as they were once called) for generations on both sides of the Pennines. My mother wove parachutes during the war, and lived with her widowed mother while her husband was away fighting. I have vivid memories of my grandmother black-leading her range and donkey-stoning her doorstep. You could have eaten your dinner off her stone flag floors for although she was poor, she was clean. Therein lay her dignity.

When the war ended, new problems arose. Some men were less than impressed with their welcome home in a society gone to pieces. Relationships had changed, jobs and homes hard to find, shortages and austerity still prevalent. Mothers often still treated their sons as boys, instead of grown men. Husbands were unprepared for a more tough and independent wife, or could be suffering injuries, nightmares or depression. The effects of war are extremely traumatic and it’s fascinating to learn how such problems were dealt with.

1945: Christmas is approaching and Cathie Morgan is awaiting the return of her beloved fiancé, Alexander Ramsay. But she has a secret that she’s anxious to share with him. One that could change everything between them. Her sister has died and she wants to adopt her son. When the truth is finally revealed, Alex immediately calls off the wedding, claiming that the baby is actually Cathie’s, causing all of Cathie’s fears to be realised. As Cathie battles to reassure Alex of her fidelity, she must also juggle the care of the baby and their home. 

But then Alex crosses the line with a deceit that is unforgivable, leaving Cathie to muster the courage to forge a life for her and her nephew alone. Will Cathie ever be able to trust another man again and as peace begins to settle will she ever be able to call a house a home… 



Available from W H Smiths and all good bookshops.



12.11.15

The Black Market in Wartime Britain

The black market became very much a part of wartime life. With rationing, and rising prices, it held a certain appeal. This was even the case by the end of the war when people were sick of austerity and shortages. ‘Wide boys’, ‘Spivs’, or ‘Wheelers and Dealers’, as they were known, were very clever at flaunting authority and ignored the fact what they were involved in was illegal. They were making money, so why would they not be prepared to take the risk? These fellows had a certain style about them, often quite flashily dressed in a wide-lapelled suit and brightly coloured tie, sporting a trilby hat tilted rakishly over his forehead.

Surplus goods would fall into their hands out of clever conniving and trickery, which they’d sell on at a price. One of the characters in this book: Home is Where the Heart Is gets involved. On one occasion he arranges for a driver to leave his cab door open so that he can help himself to some goods left on the passenger seat. Did he get away with it? You’ll have to read the book to find out more.

Shopkeepers would hide stuff under the counter for registered customers who were special to them. Salmon and peaches were often supplied in that way. Where they got these products from was never asked about. This was considered to be a good way of holding on to their best customers.

Black market goods were often more expensive, although their quality not always reliable. As well as food these might include petrol, spare parts for a car, cigarettes and alcohol. Cosmetics, perfume and nylons were also hard to come by during the war, even though women were encouraged to look their best for purposes of morale. This created sales of the kind of cosmetics that were not necessarily safe.

The Ministry of Food would investigate any complaints brought by the public of those suspected of being black marketers. They could be fined, or even imprisoned. But more often than not they got away with it because people would avoid informing the authorities. The believed it was not their concern and they’d lose out if the black market disappeared. The government fought something of a losing battle with those involved in the black market, despite employing hundreds of inspectors to enforce the law.

But how would you feel if the man you loved got himself involved in this crime?

1945
Christmas is approaching and Cathie Morgan is awaiting the return of her beloved fiancé, Alexander Ramsay. But she has a secret that she’s anxious to share with him. One that could change everything between them. Her sister has died and she wants to adopt her son. When the truth is finally revealed, Alex immediately calls off the wedding, claiming that the baby is actually Cathie’s, causing all of Cathie’s fears to be realised. As Cathie battles to reassure Alex of her fidelity, she must also juggle the care of the baby and their home. 

But then Alex crosses the line with a deceit that is unforgivable, leaving Cathie to muster the courage to forge a life for her and her nephew alone. Will Cathie ever be able to trust another man again and as peace begins to settle will she ever be able to call a house a home…

Published by Mira Books 17 November.

Buy from your local bookshop, Smiths, or Amazon.

 

Home Is Where The Heart Is by Freda Lightfoot

Home Is Where The Heart Is

by Freda Lightfoot

Giveaway ends November 29, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

5.11.15

Women suffered many Post-War Issues

When World War II ended there was a feeling of anti-climax, as if the bright blue, sun-filled sky had clouded over, leaving a feeling of uncertainty about the future. A grey chill seemed to hang over everything. But then the country was in a mess, near bankrupt. There were bombed areas and rubble everywhere, homes lost or wrecked, many empty shops and huge bomb craters everywhere.

Women had become much more hardened and independent, having worked hard jobs usually occupied by men, spending endless sleepless nights in shelters fearing they could be killed. And had suffered years of anguish worrying over the fate of their loved ones in the war.

When the fighting men returned, these problems were not always taken into account, the husband too beset by his own problems. Women lost their jobs, expected to concentrate on being a wife and mother again by creating a family and home. Housework did take much more time in those days, of course. Even so, many of them resented this change in their lives. They were also urged to no longer wear plain looking suits, trousers or overalls, but to be bright and pretty females again.

She might also have to cope with a shell-shocked or injured husband, outbursts of violence, depression or infidelity. A soldier, having been trained to kill, was not always the same civilised a person he’d once been. He could be far too accustomed to giving orders and inflicting punishment in order to achieve his aim, for him to show much patience for her. Or he might feel in desperate need for peace and quiet and hardly move or speak.

Many men suffered from sleepwalking, nightmares, or shouting in their sleep. Settling back into Civvy street was not easy, nor was finding a home and employment. He might be missing his pals, decide she’s grown old and become bored with her. Lives had changed and relationships were often badly affected, not least because couples had seen little of each other as leave generally were quite short, and many men had gone overseas. Even letters were often late and much of them blacked out. Whatever his reaction to the traumas he’d suffered, she would largely be the one left to cope. There was little in the way of counselling or assistance.

Cathie is remarkably patient with her fiancé, perhaps a little too kind and vulnerable. She does her best to help by listening to the advice given out over the radio and from the WVS. But then finds there is a price to pay.

1945: 
Christmas is approaching and Cathie Morgan is awaiting the return of her beloved fiancé, Alexander Ramsay. But she has a secret that she’s anxious to share with him. One that could change everything between them. Her sister has died and she wants to adopt her son. 

When the truth is finally revealed, Alex immediately calls off the wedding, claiming that the baby is actually Cathie’s, causing all of Cathie’s fears to be realised. As Cathie battles to reassure Alex of her fidelity, she must also juggle the care of the baby and their home. 

But then Alex crosses the line with a deceit that is unforgivable, leaving Cathie to muster the courage to forge a life for her and her nephew alone. Will Cathie ever be able to trust another man again and as peace begins to settle will she ever be able to call a house a home… 


Published by Mira books.

Read an extract:

Buy from your local bookshop or at:

Amazon