My books and other Gingernuts

Monday, 4 November 2013

The last man to enter Parliament with honest intentions.

Guy Fawkes, probably the most famous traitor in British history, a name and face now linked as much with the modern fight against political corruption as the plot that got him killed. Yet how many people now remember much about the failed gunpowder plot? True we have bonfire night still and in some cases a guy is still burnt as fireworks explode but was guy Fawkes really the freedom fighter he is now painted as, the man who set out to bring down the government?
Well in a word, no he wasn’t. For a start it wasn’t even his plan, he was just the bloke who knew how to make things go bang and got the job of lighting the fuse.
The whole idea was actually Robert Catesby’s, a catholic zealot who wanted England to return to being a catholic state so planned to assassinate the king and entire privy council at the state opening of parliament. Now Catholics in England had not had the best of fortunes since good old King Henry VIII had taken control of the English church and things got worse under Queen Elizabeth I. In the new protestant land being catholic really didn’t go down too well. When King James I took the throne many Catholics hoped things would get easier but that didn’t happen.
So this Catesby began to gather his band of religious fanatics with the aim of placing a nine year old Princess Elizabeth, daughter of the king, on the throne as a catholic head of state. Catesby brought Guy Fawkes in as the explosive expert, a man with a decade of military experience fighting for the Catholics in the Dutch Revolt. Now being a man of strong religious belief it is believed that Catesby realised for his plan to work and the House of Lords to be redesigned by twenty barrels of gunpowder there would be quite a large loss of life. This plot would kill more than just the king and the others placed before his little princess in succession. In the grand tradition of a religious fanatic considering mass murder Catesby did the only thing possible, he went to see a priest. The priest in question was the principle Jesuit in England, Father Henry Garnet. Now the two met on three occasions but at the first meeting Catesby mentioned the morality of ‘killing innocents’ and how god and the pope would view it. Garnet said such actions could be excused but was worried enough to send messages to Rome asking that they forbid rebellion against the crown. At their next meeting Garnet showed this letter and tried to turn Catesby from his course. While Garnet knew of a plot but not the details he could not reveal it as it was protected by the rules of catholic confession. His hands tied Henry Garnet was dragged into the plot and the consequences when it failed. Now I dwell on Henry Garnet for one main reason, he was born close to where I now sit, in my very village in fact.
Henry was one of at least five siblings who started his education in Nottingham before entering Winchester College in Winchester, Hampshire where he excelled. With a place at New College, Oxford guaranteed he chose instead to move to London and worked for a legal publisher. In an ironic twist he also often dined with Sir John Popham who would later preside over the trials of the gunpowder plotters. In 1575 though he set sail to Portugal and entered the Society of Jesus, travelling later to Rome he was eventually sent back to England. The Jesuit order had been banished from England and any priest arrested would be charged with high treason so Garnet lived his life in hiding. A man who preached peace and worked for acceptance he became an unwitting victim of Catesby’s plot.
After things went ‘tits-up’ Garnet was forced to go on the run but it wasn’t long before he was captured and ‘questioned’. His response to being threatened with the rack does stand out, "Minare ista pueris” Threats are for boys.
With the use of forgeries but mainly torture Garnet finally revealed he had heard of the plot from another priest Oswald Tesimond who had heard it in confession from Catesby.
Charged with high treason he was found guilty and sentenced to death, accused of being an instigator of the plot. His execution was to be hung, drawn and quartered although when he was thrown from the ladder to be hung members of the crowd are said to have pulled on his legs so he was dead before he could be cut down alive and serve the rest of his punishment. His head was then displayed on a pole at London Bridge, probably the innocent victim Catesby had asked about.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

HRH the Queen blogs about why America can not return to British rule.

Today we have a guest blog from a very special person, so I would like you to all stand for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Now the Queen doesn’t normally write blogs so this is a great honour for us. So without further delay I give you the Queen.

Good morning peasants and other riff raff from around the world. I am here to squash any hopes that some of those colonials have of Great Britain taking the United States back under our protection during your time of lacking an operating government. Despite posts on your social media of any interest my nation may have they simply are not true. For us to take back America would be like me having Charles move back into the Palace. Now Charles is not such a bad sort in his own way but his new wife is not so agreeable. Now don’t get me wrong, at social engagements she isn’t such a bad old trout but I wouldn’t be wanting to share the bathroom with her is all.
So I have compiled a list of the main five reasons we will not be sending a rescue force to liberate America.

1. Your sports. Quite simply the sports you have suck and there’s no way I can sugar coat that. This American Football is a total joke to the rest of the sporting world, especially the Rugby playing nations. You dress up in all that padding and safety equipment to play what is essentially a cheap rip off of Rugby. Why you thought it would be a good idea to call a ball game football when they carry the ball is beyond our understanding. The next of your ridicules sports in that Indie car racing, talk about dull. Where are the bends and turns? A monkey could drive a car in a big loop so you should all check out Formula 1 to see some real driving at speed. Finally I will come to Baseball, well what can I say about groups of grown men playing Rounders? It’s a children’s game so just grow up and find an adult sport.

2. You are responsible for some of the worst television ever to come to the small screen. Now I know that a few of your shows are decent but what were you thinking with Honey Boo Boo? You make a show about such total peasants and then inflict it on the world. Wasn’t the Kardashians mind numbing enough? Filming horrible people living their lives is not entertainment and the amount of money they have makes no difference. You keep shows like that on-air yet cancel Firefly, there is no logic in the way you decide what shows to make. One was not happy at losing that eye candy Mal from the screen.

3. Piers Morgan. You have him over there now and we no longer have to put up with the smug little twerp. The whole nation had a party when he left our shores to go and live in America and we don’t want him back or even living in one of our colonies.

4. Your religion just doesn’t fit in with the British way. I am the head of the Church here, not some silly little man in Rome. The Catholic Church and its followers make far too much noise on a Sunday Morning, this doesn’t please me as I do relax on a Saturday night and drink a few large glasses of Pimms. The Church needs to start making less noise and just do the silent praying part so my hangover is not disturbed.
Also even worse than this is those Creationist, I know God gave mankind free will but that doesn’t mean you choose to be so bloody stupid. To even teach that Creationist crap in schools is just stupid, if you want fiction and fantasy then read Lord of the Rings.

5. Your politicians suck even worse than ours. Even the current crop of bland faceless morons who sit in Westminster would never try to cripple and blackmail the country by forcing the civil service to shut down. You have a group of total tossers sitting making your laws and running the country. Even in the light of the total proof of this when they did shut down your government you still have people supporting them and blaming the other side.

So thank you for your time, now sod off the audience is over.


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Lucifer, the dancing Warden.

The Prince of Lies or a victim a smear campaign.
Lucifer is many things to different people but who is the real Prince of Hell? An exclusive interview with the fallen angel as the divine creatures of the world prepare for the release of a warts and all book that reveals their antics when not at work.

You are know to most people as the fallen angel who was thrown out of Heaven for leading a rebellion. What caused you to take such drastic action?

That whole rebellion thing has been blown out of all proportion as to be honest there never was a rebellion in heaven. The truth of what happened was God realised that you humans were rather a nasty bunch and a fair few of you would need to be punished for your actions during your lives. As a result he got together with a bunch of us angels and we decided that we needed a place to send the horrid gits to avoid heaven getting full of scumbags. I was all set to go off and study the expressive arts and dance but Michael pulled a fast one and put me forward to run our new prison. To be honest most of our brothers couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery so there was only the two of us in the running. Michael said to me he was up for taking the job but then went behind my back to God to convince him I should get the it. I was so busy training for my dance classes that I missed what he was up to. Anyway to cut a long story short Michael got to stay up in heaven as the big angel boss and I became the prison warden.

So there really never was a war in heaven?

No, although when we left we did have a bit of a leaving party that ended in a punch up and I made sure Michael finished the night with a black eye. We may have left heaven but we bashed some heads on our way out.

So you’re not actually the lord of evil then?

Oh yes, I’m that as well, you see we take on aspects of what people believe we are. So down in hell between punishing the damned we think up pranks and stuff to play on humanity. Nothing serious like, just a few practical jokes so the angels have to run around and do something. We leave all the real evil stuff for humanity to come up with themselves.

Could you give us a few examples of these practical jokes you play?

Not really as it’s fun watching you argue about what I’ve done and what I haven’t. I will say that whole ‘The devil told me to do it.’ thing that people use as a defence is rubbish. I don’t tell people to do things that kill people, it’s against the rules and we get you in the end so there’s no rush.

So as you're partly about the sin and the avarice have you ever given out the Euromillions lottery numbers to your followers in return for them doing deeds on your behalf?

You need to remember my main job is to keep the bad guys locked up and to see they are punished. Yes we do like to have a bit of fun now and then, cause a bit of trouble but there is just no way we can compete with the evil stuff you come up with so we don’t even try. As for the lottery numbers I don’t have a clue what they would be, maybe one of the Irish gods could help people with that.

What is your views on bacon?

We love it down in hell, I mean who doesn’t love bacon. New inmates are always surprised when they first arrive as hell doesn’t smell of sulphur but it smells of frying bacon. It’s one of our best punishments really, to spend an eternity being able to smell bacon but never being allowed to eat it. An interesting fact about bacon and pork is the whole religious thing about not eating it came from Michael. He sneaked his own views on vegetarianism in there, god couldn’t give a rats arse if you eat pork.

You’ve been portrayed many times in films so which is your own personal favourite version of you?

Well that’s a hard one, I think De Nero plays me quiet well but my favourite version of me is from a music video by Tenacious D. The guy from Foo fighters was great at being me, I still can’t get over how much he looks like the drummer from Nirvana though.

If you could do it all again, what would you do different?

I regret Jedward, it was just a joke but you lot just kept running with it and voting for them. I do think I would like to change that if I got the chance, they were on reflection just too much.

The book ‘John the Barman’ lifts the lid on a lot of what divine and supernatural people get up to, are you worried about how you may come across?

Not really, John’s bar is a place where we all go to unwind and the book should show how we all work together. I know Thor is grumbling about the book but he always finds something to grumble about so we just let him get on with it. Most of us are looking forward to it actually and even though a few bits had to be removed for legal reasons it does portray how we really are when we’re not working. What people don’t understand is we’re just one big happy family and just because we have different religions it doesn’t mean we don’t get on. I mean it would be really stupid if I didn’t get on with old Jupiter just because his followers called a festival by a different name and sacrificed a cow or something. I mean when we first started doing this we often went to the old gods for tips and advice, we used their experience and wisdom. You’re never going to get very far in our game if you don’t pool resources with the other gods.

You will find more about Lucifer in John the Barman, the new short story eBook by Glenn Scrimshaw and published through Gingernut Books. Available through Amazon and other online shops.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Who really was St. Valentine

Well after a few false starts on this Valentines blog I’ve decided to go with the facts on St. Valentine. So who was he? Simple answer is apart from the fact he was an early Christian priest and martyr nothing is known about him apart from the day on which he was beaten and the beheaded. Saint Valentine ( Or Valentinus to give him his real name.) may be a widely recognized third century Roman saint who died on February 14th but there the truth stops. All the rest is information added centuries later and further muddled by the fact there are three St. Valentines associated with February 14th . It gets better, in all there are eleven other saints having the name Valentine commemorated in the Roman Catholic Church.
So how did St. Valentine become associated with a day for love and romance? Well one reason was Geoffrey Chaucer and a poem he wrote to celebrate the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia, in in particular this line from the poem known as Parlement of Foules.

For this was on seynt Volantynys day
Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
This makes even my spelling look good but here is the translation:
"For this was on Saint Valentine's Day, when every bird cometh there to choose his mate."

Well this one line about birds getting all loved up really started the whole day of love that is the 14th of February. Chaucer wasn’t the only one that was fascinated by the private lives of Mr and Mrs Bird. It was *ahem* ‘fair game’ around this period of time with at least three other authors doing their own versions of fifty shades of feathers. So there you go, the day of love started out as badly spelt poems about ruffled feathers in the late 1300’s.
So a little of the myth, this St. Valentine was an early Christian priest who is reported to have broken Roman law by performing weddings for soldiers and for spreading the teachings of Christ. The story goes that the Roman Emperor at the time, Claudius II supposedly had this great idea that married men did not make good soldiers and so outlawed marriage as he sought to increase his army. Saint Valentine ignored this law and performed weddings and also cut heart shapes from parchment, giving them to the soldiers and other persecuted Christians. These hearts were a gentle reminder to his flock of God's love and to encourage them to remain faithful Christians.
Not surprisingly his action drew the attention of the authorities and he was dragged before the Roman Emperor Claudius II. (mental images of Monty Python’s life of Brian and Pilate shouting: Thwow him to the floor spring to mind.) Claudius was impressed by Valentine and made an offer that if he converted to Roman paganism he could live. Valentine refused to be swayed and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. This wasn’t the smartest move he ever made and he was condemned to be executed. While awaiting his execution he performed a miracle by healing Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer Asterius. This act resulted in the jailer and his family converting to Christianity and they were all baptized. On the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he wrote a note to Julia, the first ever ‘valentine’ card, signing it as "Your Valentine."
Saint Valentine was buried in the Church of Praxedes in Rome, located near the cemetery of St Hippolytus. According to legend, Julia herself planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave. The almond tree remains a symbol of abiding love and friendship to this day.

So why would the Romans not like and persecute this small religious cult and kill so many of its followers? Well look at things from the Roman point of view. These Christians were a sect from the Jewish faith and the Jews were not really in favour in Rome at the time. Added to this they refused to acknowledge the Roman religions and ways so were also seen as traitors. But here is the clincher, the actions that kept the arena lions fed. These Christians had secret rites but details were known, they met in secret and drank the blood of Jesus and ate his flesh. This Jesus, who was a criminal who had been executed but then rose from the dead. In the very heart of the Empire was a secret cult that was spreading its vile practices. The Roman people came to the only conclusion that fitted the known facts, the Empire was under attack from Vampires.

Well with so few facts know about this St’ Valentine I’m running with this idea as it fits the rumours of the day. The patron saint of love was a blood sucker and the Emperor Claudius II had his head chopped off to prevent him rising from his grave.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Why the Vampire heart throbs?

Why the Vampire heart throbs?

I have a personal dislike to Vampires, and the little acquaintance I have with them would by no means induce me to reveal their secrets
Lord Byron.

I begin with a quote from Lord Byron, why Byron and not Bram Stoker you ask? Well the start of English literature’s fascination with Vampires did not begin with Dracula. In 1819 John Polidori's wrote a novella, “The Vampyre”, this story established the archetype of a charismatic and sophisticated vampire into the western consciousness. Many believe that this was the most influential vampire work of the early 19th century, it inspired such works as “Varney the Vampire” and eventually the epic that is “Dracula”. Yet “The Vampyre” was not itself a starting point of Vampire literature but based on Lord Byron's unfinished story "Fragment of a Novel" that was published in 1819 without Byron’s permission. Byron started the story as part of a ghost writing contest in 1816 with Percy Bysshe Shelley. (This little contest would have a major impact on horror writing as it also led to the creation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.)

So why was there this interest in these ancient creatures of folklore? Well in the early 18th century there was an influx of vampire folklore into Western Europe from the Balkans and Eastern Europe as the grand tours began in Europe. The arrival of this vampire superstition into Western Europe led to some cases of mass hysteria resulting in corpses being staked and people being accused of being vampires. As the stories were told to a new audience fear and distrust took root, the stage was set for the story tellers to write their tales of terror and the vampire horror genre was born. But how did this terrifying creature that caused panic in 18th century Europe become the romantic heroes and the high school heart throbs of today’s stories?
A quick look at the history of Vampires will show the terror they invoked. In the middle ages the church classed them as minions of Satan and used this allegory to describe them.

"Just as a vampire takes a sinner's very spirit into itself by drinking his blood, so also can a righteous Christian by drinking Christ's blood take the divine spirit into himself."

The fear of these creatures was already set by the teaching of the church so when new stories arrived people listened just that bit harder.

The vampire myths, as we know them today originated in the folklore of Eastern Europe in the late 17th and 18th centuries. One of the earliest recorded vampire activities happened way back in 1672 in the region of Istria, in what is now Croatia. Reports at the time spoke of the village of Khring and the panic among the villagers there. A former peasant, Guire Grando who had died in 1656 was claimed by local villagers to have returned from the dead and begun to drink blood from people as well as sexually harassing his widow. The villages drove a stake through his heart, but that failed to stop him, so his body was beheaded and then the attacks stopped.

During the 18th century government officials were even engaged in hunting vampires and staking those bodies found. This ‘Age of Enlightenment’, when most folklore legends were dismissed saw the belief in vampires explode into the public consciousness. Mass hysteria took hold throughout most of Europe as people cowered in fear of the blood sucking creatures that stalked the night. Incidents involving vampires were well-documented as government officials examined the bodies and wrote case reports. The hysteria, commonly referred to as the "18th-Century Vampire Controversy", raged for a generation as books were published recording these official reports. Rural epidemics of these alleged vampire attacks saw locals digging up bodies to stake them as the terror continued. This ‘vampire controversy’ only ended after the Empress Maria Theresa of Austria dispatched her personal physician, Gerard van Swieten, to investigate the claims of vampires praying on the living. After carrying out his investigation he concluded that vampires did not exist. The Empress then passed laws that prohibited the opening of graves and desecration of bodies and the panic finally passed.

So how did vampires change from the creatures that terrified the whole of Europe to some teenage high school student that sparkles in the sun? Is it all down to recent Hollywood movies and American T.V. shows that changed the myths of vampires and brought them into the daylight?

Well if we start with the gothic horror masterpiece that is ‘Dracula’ we can see the start of the humanisation of Vampires was even present there. Published in 1897 the story is based around a love triangle between Dracula, Mina and Jonathan. Dracula is a man condemned to become a vampire because of his reaction to a lost love. His aim in the story is to win the heart of a woman he recognises as his lost love but she is engaged to another. Even at this early stage at the beginning of the vampire journey into literature we have the introduction of romance and vampires seeing people as more than just food.
So is it any wonder that the modern vampire has evolved into what many see as fangless veggie vampires, teenage immortals getting crushes on their class mates? They have left the shadows of night behind and walk in the daylight losing their power to scare us. They are now moody emo-vampires that appeal to a new audience that don’t want to be terrified but to fall in love. We are drawn to their immortality and freedom but then we fill it with morals, only feeding on bottled blood or killing only the bad guys. We seek to tame the killer and make them acceptable. We may love our vampires but only if they have a very human set of morals so they are not heartless killers who see us as their next snack.
Vampires today have become pale shadows of their beginings and unless they are cast as a villainous monsters (30 days of night, a rare return to the folklore vampire.) they need a love interest and to show their brooding human sides with smouldering looks and the odd bit of action to show their strength. Even the action hero Vampire (Blade, Underworld) are not true blood suckers and do not kill to feed, the vampire world has become safe for humans to enter.

An exception to these new rules are the books of Anne Rice, seen by many as the greatest living author of vampire horror. With her vampires we still have vampires battling and searching out their personal ‘humanity’, questioning who and what they are but the essence of their past remains. In ‘Interview with the Vampire’ Louis is the new vampire, still remembering his human side, battling his instincts and morality while Lestat is the monster unleashed, totally amoral and enjoying his life. The two represent different sides of the creature evolution, the humanised Vampire of modern literature and what vampires once were, a terrifying amoral monster that killed without thought. In Lestat we have a vampire that is in essence what he should be, a killer that enjoys being what he is.

So where does that leave a would be story teller with a vampire story, does he go for the modern safe version of a vampire and write a glorified love story or delve back into the time when a vampire had no use for people beyond dinner? Is there a market for a killer vampire that is cast in the lead role and doesn’t fall in love?
Maybe my idea of a vampire comedy about a cross dressing teenage vampire that kills without remorse is no dafter than a vampire who lives in the woods and sparkles. After all how many years could you take the same classes and not have the teacher notice you are there again and not looking any different to when the teacher was fresh out of training collage thirty years before. My vampire Eloim may be a daft series of short stories but he knows what his fangs are for and would see high school as just an all you can eat restaurant.