What a Quiz!

Quiz winnerNicola here. This weekend we took part in our local village charity quiz, fifteen teams trying to answer questions on everything from the names of Disney princesses to Olympic swimming champions. Amazingly, we won – as a team we knew a lot of obscure, random general knowledge! – plus we raised some money and enjoyed an evening out with friends and neighbours. It was all very good humoured, unlike some of the quizzes I've been involved with where professional teams got very irate if they didn't win!

I’ve always liked the word “quiz.” It's got a fun feel to it, and, being a writer, I've often wondered where the word originated from. I remember it featuring in Georgette Heyer, but as a description of a person rather than an activity. So I set out to find out more.

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Reasons to Like January

JanuaryNicola here. Sometimes I’ve been inclined to think of January as a long, dark, cold month without a lot going for it, but I was talking to a friend the other day and she saw the month in quite a different light.  “I love January,” she said. “I don’t spend much money and I get myself organised for the months ahead.” So as we approach Twelfth Night and the end of the traditional Christmastide, I thought I would muse on all the reasons there are to like January.

According to my Chambers Book of Days, the gemstone for January is the garnet and the birth flower is either the Feb 11th 2012 (48) snowdrop or the carnation. At Ashdown Woods the first green shoots of the wild snowdrops are already pushing through the ground. By the end of the month they will be starting to flower. The snowdrop’s Latin name is Galanthus, from the Greek for “milk flower”. In French the snowdrop is known as the “perce-neige” because it pierces the snow, and the Germans call it Schneeglöckchen, little snowbell, which are all such pretty names suiting its delicate beauty. It’s real reminder of spring on the way.

RainbowThis brings me to the weather. You may know the saying: “There’s no bad weather only bad clothing choices.” In my part of Northern Hemisphere it’s a time for scarves, gloves and hats and also waterproof layers. The rain may feel cold and raw but it’s also refreshing. And I love the sound the wind makes blowing through the bare branches of the trees. Darkness still arrives during the afternoon but the light lasts a little longer each day. My morning and evening walks give stormy skies and great views of the weather blowing across the Vale of the White Horse.

An old Celtic name for January was “the dead month” whilst the Anglo Saxons called it “Wolfmonath” which does send a Stencil.facebook-cover (3) shiver down the spine. It’s easy to see how January got its bad reputation. But there is so much pleasure in returning from a cold walk to a hot cup of tea, sitting down with a book whilst darkness falls outside, and enjoying the sense of new beginnings whether they are eagerly-anticipated TV shows or films, or a new course to join or a new interest to pursue.

What do you like – or even love – about January?

What we’re watching!

Mary Jo Killing Eve

We Wenches are creatures of The Book, but we also enjoy stories in other formats.  Here's a selection of what we've been watching and enjoying on TV/streaming/movies lately. 

From Nicola:

I’ve been glomming on Killing Eve, which is a British spy thriller TV series where a female intelligence officer tracks down a female psychopathic assassin. It’s based on the Villanelle books by Luke Jennings which I haven’t read so I’m not sure how close the show mirrors the books, whether the book or the TV series is better, or whether it matters! The series has won multiple awards and been highly praised, not least because all the major characters are women and it’s written by women. It certainly has a different sort of take on the spy genre. It’s quirky and comical at times and the dialogue is funny and sharp. The obsession that both Eve and Villanelle develop for each other is fascinating to watch Apollo 11

I also went to the cinema to see Apollo 11 on the big screen as it’s that sort of film! I thought it was an amazing piece of documentary film making and was completely riveted by it. The way it’s put together with never-before-seen footage and audio is very immediate and the rocket launch quite nerve-wracking! It left me speechless and overwhelmed – stirring stuff.

As a follow up I watched a new documentary series about the solar system, The Planets, with Professor Brian Cox which was also fascinating.  Since they couldn’t go on location to Jupiter and Mars they filmed a lot of it in places like Jordan and Iceland, which I’ve visited, so that was even more fun!


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What We’re Watching in September

Howdy.  Joanna here.

This month I’m doing a little departure from the usual Wenches’ What We’re Reading.  This month it’s What We’re Watching.  What movie, what TV, what paintings, what real life scenes have impressed and moved us recently?

Fair_House_Farm_cropFor me … I love non-fiction. The life of the duckbilled platypus. The Mongol Empire. The genetics of cats.

Recently I’ve been filling my leisure time with BBC and A&E documentaries on British History. One of my exciting finds — I get excited by history — is Tales From the Green Valley.  Five archeologists and historians live for a year on a farm on the Welsh border, wearing the clothing, eating the food, using the farming techniques and following the household customs of 1620. It’s exact, detailed, authentic

(Well … I caught them in one bit of  ‘folk etymology’ error — the origin of the phrase ‘upper crust’ to mean ‘rich folks’. Not 1620. It’s Nineteenth Century.)

This Tales From the Green Valley is a nitty-gritty, hands-on-the-plough, realistic view of a way of life that continued in some aspects till Victorian times. Interesting for its own sake. Interesting as the background upon which our stories are enacted. Fascinating to watch. 


Andrea also recommends a non-fiction TV series. She says:  09-2388M

I very rarely watch television. I know there are really good shows, with fabulous writing, but when I have some down time, I always gravitate toward curling up with a book to relax.
However, a friend of mine recommended that I watch the PBS special seven part series on "The Roosevelts—An Intimate History" (the wonderful thing is you can download and watch all the episodes on your computer!) So I tuned in for the first one—and was absolutely hooked. 


IMG_4294Nicola takes us right to Real Life.

Nicola here. This month I am watching the sea at Bamburgh Castle on the north east coast of England. We've had the most glorious weather and calm seas so far but tomorrow there is a storm promised. I find the sea so soothing and refreshing and walking along the beach has filled me with ideas and inspiration. It's wonderful to be here and see the geese flying overhead on their journey north and the castle silhouetted against the sky.

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Is Costume Drama Coming Back into Fashion?

HatNicola here. Today I’m talking about costume dramas old and new. It seems to me that after a long period with very little historical drama on TV and even less on film, there has been a revival of interest in the genre, at least from some television companies. Hurrah! It’s been a long time coming but to me the new historical series are very welcome and of course they bring with them a modern spin on an old genre.

I have such happy memories of the UK costume dramas of the 1970 and 80s. The Smuggler epic Forsyte Saga had been running for a while when I became old enough to watch “grown up” TV and Upstairs Downstairs was also a feature of our Sunday Night viewing. The ultimate historical drama for me though was Poldark. Based on the novels of Winston Graham, it was for me the epitome of everything that a historical romance should be: the handsome hero, the feisty heroine, the wicked cousin, some smuggling thrown in and lots of passion and angst and intrigue. In those days I didn’t even notice the wobbling film sets and the terrible special effects. It was all about the characters and the story. This was the era of plentiful historical drama. There was Dick Turpin, based on the exploits of the legendary highwayman, and Smuggler, with Oliver
Tobias as a naval officer turned…well, smuggler. There was Arthur of the Britons (Oliver Tobias again, as a young King Arthur) and Robin Hood with Michael Praed, and many more.

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