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Monday, July 24, 2023

A Medieval Summer

A Medieval Summer - by Lindsay Townsend



Summer for people in the Middle Ages was both very busy and a time of relaxation and pleasure. After the hard graft of winter and spring, May was a holiday month in early summer, with few tasks in the agricultural calendar. May Day, a blend of Christian and older pagan traditions, was celebrated by everyone, with dancing, revels and drink.

Later summer was a harder task-master: if a peasant worked on the land, later summer was when the sheep were sheared, then the hay and wheat harvests were gathered in. Summer, too, was often the prime time for miltary activity, when knights might be called to fight for their overlord or king on campaign. However, even in these months there was merry-making. Midsummer was marked by bonfires, a pagan ‘left-over’ from the earlier festival of Beltane and celebrated in the Middle Ages as the saint’s day of St John. Young couples would sometimes leap over the midsummer bonfire for luck. Wells could also be dressed with flowers around this time – a relic of earlier water-spirit worship.

July was marked by St Swithin’s day, when the strewings in the churches would be changed from the winter rushes and straw to the summer hay and sedges, and August saw the feast time of Lammas – loaf mass – to give thanks for the hard-won harvest.



I often use the seasons, and the folklore and symbols attached to these, as ways to point out contrasts in my stories. So in “The Snow Bride” I have the harshness of winter set against my heroine and hero’s dreams of summer – a clue to their developing feelings and relationship.


 As part of Christmas in July, here is an excerpt.



They plodded another mile, then Magnus admitted they should stop. Even on the old west road, which they had stumbled onto at midnight, going was onerous. The horses were weary, heads down, stumbling, their hooves covered in snow. When the snow turned to a biting sleet, everyone had endured enough.

          Before him Elfrida was silent, uncomplaining, though God knew she must be chilled and weary. It was she who noticed the forester's hut, set back from the road behind a holly tree. She tapped his arm to alert him and he called orders to the others, his voice cracking in the cold.

          The forester, whoever he had been, had abandoned the hut, but it was just big enough for them all. Magnus knocked out a panel of wattle to enlarge the door and they brought the horses in.

          While he made a fire just inside the doorway Elfrida slipped off into the darkness. When she returned the men had bedded down and were chewing whatever rations they had with them. Magnus patted a lump in the floor beside him, close to the fire, and she lay down without a sound.

          Magnus rose and put what remained of the door back across the threshold as a barrier and wind-break. Checking it was secure, he knocked the snow off his cloak and stretched out again beside Elfrida. As soon as he closed his eyes he slept, and dreamed.


          It was summer and he was in a pleasure garden. Protected by a stout stone wall, it was bordered by fruit trees and ripening vines and filled with small sparkling fountains, the like of which he had not seen since his return from Outremer. One fountain played over a turf seat studded with marigolds and daises. Magnus ran his fingers through the damp flowers and he heard a woman sigh with contentment, a welcome sound.


          Elfrida always knew when she was dreaming and this time was no different. It was midsummer and she strolled in an orchard filled with fragrant apple blossom. She carried a twig of mistletoe, its waxy berries still in impossibly fresh bloom. Above her head finches darted and sang and bees buzzed in lazy contentment, dusky with pollen. There was a hay stack beneath an oak tree and a green man smiling at her though the heavy white-green pomanders of a guelder rose. 


          "You have a gentle, courteous touch, Sir Magnus."

          Elfrida sighed again and stretched out on the turf seat. Where she lay down roses sprouted and burst into flower, their petals as soft and flawless as her skin. She smiled, and in the wonder of the moment Magnus could not tell if she was clothed or not. From a blower of white and pink rose petals, she held out her hands to him and smiled a second time, trusting and warm, her bright eyes filled with admiration. "Come."


          The green man sprang down from the branches of the guelder rose and became Magnus. He bowed to her, a warm breeze ruffling his black hair curls. "My Lady."





Lindsay Townsend


Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Dance Scenes in Historically-Set Movies – July – Dirty Dancing #prairierosepubs #moviedancescenes

Join me here for a year of movie trivia fun as I post dance scenes from movies set in historical time periods. I will give a brief summary of the movie’s plot and an equally brief set-up to the scene.

Each month on the second Wednesday, I will post a movie clip and link back to previous movie scene articles here on the blog.

  This is the criteria by which I’m choosing movie scenes:

•           In a non-musical movie, the dance scene is important to the storyline and not just visual and auditory filler.

•           In a musical drama, the characters in the dance scene don’t sing to each other.

•           In a musical drama, the dance scene is important to the storyline and not just visual and auditory filler.

•           The historical cut-off is 1960, because that date works for me. ;-)

 Side note:  The article “Classic Literature is Not Necessarily Historical Fiction” on the BookRiot website offers an interesting explanation on what constitutes historical fiction and where various historical date lines are drawn.

Movies to this point:

January – Cat Ballou
February – The King and I
March – Easy Virtue
April – Shakespeare in Love
May – Chocolat
June – Beauty and the Beast

Since July is the halfway point in this year-long series, I’m looking at a movie dance scene I really like that doesn’t quite meet my criteria, yet it doesn’t NOT fit my criteria. We will ignore that I arbitrarily set the historical cut-off at 1960, and this movie is set in 1963. ;-)

Name of Movie: Dirty Dancing
Historical Time Period: 1963
Location: Catskills – Upstate New York, USA
Occasion/Purpose: Culminating dance at the summer resort
Type of Dance: several dance types – not one particular dance

Wikipedia: Fair Use License


Dirty Dancing is a 1987 romantic drama dance movie staring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. On a summer vacation in an upscale resort with her affluent family, Frances “Baby” Houseman experiences a different side of life and gets a glimpse of how ‘the other half lives’, when she wanders around the resort one night and stumbles upon a secret ‘dirty dancing’ party for the resort staff. This is when and where she meets Johnny Castle, the emotionally complex, and troubled, dance instructor. Through a series of unfortunate events, Baby assumes the role of Johnny's dance partner. From there, the romance between Baby and Johnny evolves.

Dance Scene

This dance scene is what I call a “Mary Poppins”. It’s practically perfect in every way. Every thread in the movie ties together with this movie-ending dance scene, which gives us a sense of completeness. We can’t help tapping our toes and smiling all the way through it. The song (I’ve had) The Time of My Life and Baby and Johnny’s performance are inseparable. There can’t be one without the other.

During their dance, we smile when Baby doesn’t giggle as Johnny runs his fingers along her ribs. We’re satisfied, delighted, and even a little goosebumpy when Baby and Johnny accomplish the difficult lift move. We see the love they have for each other. We get closure when Baby’s dad apologizes to Johnny for thinking ill of him where Penny was concerned.

Wikipedia: Fair Use License 

This is a feel-good ending to Baby’s coming-of-age story and Johnny’s parallel journey toward his own maturity, which is, in large part, because of Baby’s influence in his life. The scene technically meets my criteria of ‘…important to the storyline and not just visual and auditory filler’.

However, this scene falls just a bit short of moving forward or enhancing Baby and Johnny’s relationship simply because it comes at the end of the movie. In the moments around the actual dance, we do see how far they’ve come in their relationship because of...

1) Johnny’s noble statement to Baby’s father: “Nobody puts Baby in a corner”;

2) Johnny’s speech that that he always does the final number and he almost didn’t this year because someone told him not to and;

3) Johnny referring to Baby by her name, Frances, which is his way of telling everyone (her father) that he respects and admires her, and that she is a grown woman and not the little girl she was when the movie began.

...but it doesn’t show us what becomes of them.

It is left to our imagination if Baby and Johnny go their separate ways or become a couple when the music and dancing stop and the reality of ‘real life’ returns after the summer vacation. That leaves me unsettled, because I have an emotional investment in Baby and Johnny, and I don’t like open-ended endings.


Blogger hasn’t been playing nicely with the comment and reply feature. As such, I am unable to leave comments and/or replies on the Prairie Rose Publications’ blog. Therefore, I am responding now to the commenters on my June article for Beauty and the Beast.

To C.A. Asbrey: Your description of the animated Beauty and the Beast’s dance scene having a shiny innocence and becoming spikey at the hands of Emma Watson is a great way to describe what I was trying to convey about the scene. Thank you for that. ;-)

To Lindsay Townsend: I love both versions, too. I like that the live-action version fills in some gaps from the animated version. Conversely, there were sequences added to the live-action that didn’t strike my fancy, so to speak. Still, both are such wonderful movies.

To Renaissance Women: As you stated, the love and affection between Beast and Belle is illustrated so well in the dance scene. It’s a lovely and touching part of the story.

Until next time,
Kaye Spencer
Lasterday Stories
writing through history one romance upon a time




Thursday, July 6, 2023

New Release -- The Prodigal (Friendly Creek Book 5) by Agnes Alexander


When Ed McPherson returns to Friendly Creek, he isn’t sure what to expect. Running away from Friendly Creek as a young teen, he was forced to live a hand-to-mouth existence on the road. Coming back to this town might be his biggest mistake yet, but it’s the only home he’s ever known. Though he’d never been religious, hearing the story of the Prodigal Son got him thinking. Going back to face the harsh uncle who raised him for many years most likely won’t end well, but there’s only one way to find out, and he plans to get some answers.

Fleeing a family scandal in Baltimore, Daphne Statler runs as far away as she can get along with her friend, Suzette Gleeson. Daphne plans to meet her sister, Clarice, in Friendly Creek, and Suzette is escaping from her overbearing mother and her nefarious plans to marry Suzette off to a man she does not love. But when they arrive in Friendly Creek, they quickly discover that Daphne’s sister has been murdered, her baby daughter, Josie, surviving and rescued by Ed.

Despite this tragedy, Ed and Daphne are attracted to one another, and when an attempt is made on Daphne’s life, Ed vows to protect her and little Josie, no matter what. The killer must be identified and locked up—but where do they begin to look? A letter from Clarice could hold all the answers and allow them to solve the mystery of Clarice’s death and the failed attempt on Daphne’s life.

Will Ed be able to find the happiness he seeks with Daphne in Friendly Creek? How can they begin a life together until Clarice’s murder is solved? Is there a future in Friendly Creek for 


It was only by chance Clarice Statler saw the man get off the train. Her heart sank and she moved to the alley beside the mercantile. Thank goodness, she hadn’t gone inside to get new supplies for her and the baby. She’d have to make do with what she had left before letting anyone see her in this town.

She would continue to hideout in the abandoned house where she hid last night until she was sure he’d given up on finding her and leave town. Her only hope was that she not run into him before her sister arrived.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023


The Colours of the 19th Century

C. A. Asbrey

The synthetic dyes of the 19th century and how they are still helping to save lives today

William Henry Perkin

All of the major elements had been discovered by the time he started experimenting in his lodgings in Cable Street during the Easter holidays as a mere 18 year old. He was working on a hypothesis of his teacher and mentor, August Wilhelm von Hofmann, on how to synthesise quinine, which was a natural product which was used to treat malaria at that time. William Henry Perkin was a prodigy in the new sphere of chemistry when he was inducted into the Royal College of Chemistry at the tender age of only 15. He was born in the East End of London to an English Carpenter father and a Scottish Mother.It was an accidental discovery, that aniline could be partly transformed into a crude mixture which produced a substance with an intense purple colour when when extracted with alcohol.

Perkin also had an interest in painting and photography, carried out further trials with his friend Arthur Church and his brother Thomas. Since these experiments were not part of the work on quinine which had been assigned to Perkins, the trio carried them out in a hut in Perkin's garden to keep them secret from Hofmann.

At the time, all dyes used for colouring cloth were natural substances, many of which were expensive and labour-intensive to extract—and many lacked stability, or fastness. The colour purple, which had been a mark of aristocracy and prestige since ancient times, was especially expensive and difficult to produce, as the dye used, known as Tyrian purple, was made from the glandular mucus of certain molluscs. Its extraction was variable and complicated, and so Perkin and his brother realised that they had discovered a possible substitute whose production could be commercially successful.

Their initial experiments indicated that it dyed silk in a way which was stable when washed or exposed to light. They sent some samples to a dye works in Perth, Scotland, and received a very promising reply from the general manager of the company, Robert Pullar. Perkin filed for a patent in August 1856, when he was still only 18.  They called the substance 'mauveine'. the French word for mallow which bore flowers of a similar colour.


His timing could not have been better. England's Industrial Revolution was in full swing and coal tar, a substance vital to his production, was a by-product of making coal gas and coke.

Having invented the dye, Perkin was still faced with the problems of raising the capital for producing it, manufacturing it cheaply, adapting it for use in dyeing cotton, gaining acceptance for it among commercial dyers, and creating public demand for it. He was active in all of these areas: he persuaded his father to put up the capital, and his brothers to partner with him to build a factory; he invented a mordant for cotton; he gave technical advice to the dyeing industry; and he publicised his invention of the dye. Public demand was increased when a similar colour was adopted by Queen Victoria in Britain and by Empress Eugénie, wife of Napoleon III, in France, and when the crinoline or hooped-skirt, whose manufacture used a large quantity of cloth, became fashionable. Everything fell into place: with hard work and lucky timing, Perkin became rich. After the discovery of mauveine, many new aniline dyes appeared (some discovered by Perkin himself), and factories producing them were constructed across Europe. 

Perkin's Green

William Perkin continued active research in organic chemistry for the rest of his life: he discovered and marketed other synthetic dyes, including Britannia Violet and Perkin's Green; he discovered ways to make coumarin, one of the first synthetic perfume, raw materials, and cinnamic acid. (The reaction used to make the last became known as the Perkin reaction.) Local lore has it that the colour of the nearby Grand Union Canal changed from week to week depending on the activity at Perkin's Greenford dyeworks. In 1869, Perkin found a method for the commercial production from anthracene of the brilliant red dye alizarin, which had been isolated and identified from madder root some forty years earlier in 1826 by the French chemist Pierre Robiquet, simultaneously with purpurin, another red dye of lesser industrial interest, but the German chemical company BASF patented the same process one day before he did.[5] During the next decade, the new German Empire was rapidly eclipsing Britain as the centre of Europe's chemical industry. By the 1890s, Germany had a near-monopoly on the business and Perkin was compelled to sell off his holdings and retire. He always remained a trailblazer in the world of dyes, even if he did enter it by accident.

Like most of the industries in the Victorian era, the dye industry was hazardous. Workers were prone to bladder cancer, more specifically Transitional cell carcinoma. Ironically it was the chemistry learned from experiments like Perkins' which helped to treat that condition as well as many other advances in medicine.

In the late 19th century, aniline emerged as an analgesic drug, its cardiac-suppressive side effects countered with caffeine. During the first decade of the 20th century, while trying to modify synthetic dyes to treat African sleeping sickness, Paul Ehrlich – who had coined the term chemotherapy for his magic bullet approach to medicine – failed and switched to modifying Béchamp's atoxyl, the first organic arsenical drug, and serendipitously obtained a treatment for syphilis – salvarsan – the first successful chemotherapy agent. Salvarsan's targeted microorganism, not yet recognised as a bacterium, was still thought to be a parasite, and medical bacteriologists, believing that bacteria were not susceptible to the chemotherapeutic approach, overlooked Alexander Fleming's report in 1928 on the effects of penicillin.

In 1932, Bayer sought medical applications of its dyes. Gerhard Domagk identified as an antibacterial a red azo dye, introduced in 1935 as the first antibacterial drug, prontosil, soon found at Pasteur Institute to be a prodrug degraded in vivo into sulfanilamide – a colourless intermediate for many, highly colourfast azo dyes – already with an expired patent, synthesized in 1908 in Vienna by the researcher Paul Gelmo for his doctoral research.[24] By the 1940s, over 500 related sulfa drugs were produced. Medications in high demand during World War II (1939–45), these first miracle drugs, chemotherapy of wide effectiveness, propelled the American pharmaceutics industry. In 1939, at Oxford University, seeking an alternative to sulfa drugs, Howard Florey developed Fleming's penicillin into the first systemic antibiotic drug, penicillin G. (Gramicidin, developed by René Dubos at Rockefeller Institute in 1939, was the first antibiotic, yet its toxicity restricted it to topical use.) After World War II, Cornelius P. Rhoads introduced the chemotherapeutic approach to cancer treatment.

In the 1940s and early 1950s, aniline was used with nitric acid or dinitrogen tetroxide as rocket fuel for small missiles and the Aerobee rocket. The two fuel components are hypergolic, producing a violent reaction on contact. Aniline was later replaced by hydrazine.

Prussian Blue

Perkins' dyes are not the only ones which have contributed to the world of medicine.  Prussian blue, produced by oxidation of ferrous ferrocyanide salts,  was first synthesised by paint maker Diesbach in Berlin around 1706. Because it is easily made, cheap, nontoxic, and intensely coloured, Prussian blue has attracted many applications. It was adopted as a pigment very soon after its invention and was almost immediately widely used in oil, watercolour, and dyeing. Engineer's blue and the pigment formed on cyanotypes were not prone to fading, leading engineers and architects to take it up as a good ink for their plans and drawings, leading to their common name of 'blueprints'. Herschel developed a commercially successful photocopying process in use from 1843 until the early 1940s using this ink too. Certain crayons were once coloured with Prussian blue (later relabelled midnight blue). It is also a popular pigment in paints. Similarly, Prussian blue is the basis for laundry bluing.

Prussian blue also has its medical uses. It is used in pathology tests for bone marrow. It can also be administered orally to people who have become internally contaminated with thallium or radioactive caesium. It acts by trapping the thallium or caesium in the gut, thereby increasing its faecal secretion. It was used with varying levels of success in treating victims of radioactive contamination and is still licensed for use in the USA and Germany today.

Vincent van Gogh's Starry Night uses Prussian and Cerulean blue pigments


“She hasn’t got the combination to the safe,” said the manager. “You can scare her as much as you want. We all know you’re not gonna use that gun on us.”

Rebecca’s breath halted as she felt a careless arm drape around her shoulder.

“I don’t need a gun to hurt someone. Give us the combination.” The manager remained mute and turned his face away. “Your call, sir.” He pulled Rebecca around to face him as she gasped in alarm. “Just remember who you’ve got to thank for this, ma’am.”

He pointed over at the manager, who refused to meet her eyes. “That man right there.”

“Anything that happens to her is down to you. Not me,” said the manager.

Rebecca felt herself dragged from the room by one arm. She was pulled into the office next door and pushed against the wall. The man walked over and pulled down the blind before returning to her. Her breath came in ragged pants of fear. “Please, no. Don’t.”

He leaned on the wall, a hand on either side of her head, and pressed his face close. “You were gonna hold this place up. Are you some kind of idiot?”

She blinked in confusion. “Huh?”

The man pulled down his mask, revealing the face of the fair man who had walked into her office looking for Fernsby. “Don’t lie to me, honey. You had the same idea as we did— look at Meagher’s bank account to see where he gets his money. We’ve watched you march up and down outside this place all day, like you were on sentry duty, while you built up your courage. You even got in the way of us doin’ it. What the hell is goin’ on in your head? How dumb can a woman get?”

“You? Here?” She couldn’t quite decide whether to stop being scared or not.

“Yeah. Me.” He indicated with his head. “Now, Nat’s in there, and he needs the combination of the safe. It’s too new and sophisticated for him to crack the combination. You and me need to put on a bit of a show to make sure the manager gives it up.”

“You’re not robbing the bank?”

Jake huffed in irritation. “Try to keep up, Becky. I need you to scream for help so the manager gives Nat the combination to the vault. We want Meagher’s records too.”

She shook her head. “Me? I can’t scream.”

“What do you mean you can’t scream? All women can scream.”

“I can’t. I’m just not made that way.”

He frowned. “Look, Becky. If you won’t scream, I’m gonna have to make you. Let’s do this the easy way, huh?”

“Please, help! Noooo.”

Jake frowned. “You call that screamin’? That’s useless.”

“I told you. I can’t.”

Jake flicked up an eyebrow. “Last chance, Becky.”


“Nope.” A gloved hand reached up to her hat as his eyes glittered with mischief. “Don’t say you weren’t warned, sweetheart.” 



Sunday, July 2, 2023


Post by Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

Photo property of the author

Saddle up as we join Fred and flip as they travel through the old west of the TV show "Overland Trail", on my journey through the lesser-known early television shows the short live show starred William Bendix as Fred Kelly, the superintendent of the Overland stage company, and Doug McClure as Flip Flippin, his sidekick.

The show had only 17 one-hour-long episodes, but boy are they fun. The show began on February 6, 1960, on NBC. Its competition: "Lassie" on CBS, and "Walt Disney Presents" on ABC. It ended its short run on June 6, 1960.

This was the show that brought Doug McClure to the notice of the television-watching public. His chemistry with Bendix is something to behold and there is just something about his smile.

The background for the television show has a Bendix character, Fred Kelly, as the person who raised McClure's character, Flip Flippin. Due to that relationship, the young Flip worked with Fred on the Overland stage line. Although I'm not sure the McClure character's name would go over with the television-watching public today there is no denying the joy in watching the two try to outsmart each other. Yet, one can tell the mutual affection of a father-son relationship underneath.

If you would like to catch up on the other television shows in this series they are linked below after the show in this post.

"Overland Trail" - YouTube

For the earlier posts in the series, see below:

Trackdown - Self-Defense

Cimarron City

Whispering Smith

Until Next Time: Stay safe, Stay happy, and Stay healthy.