Monthly Archives: December 2015

Wassail & Lamb’s Wool

I’d like to depart from my usual, all-about-writing habit, and post something slightly different:  On one of my other blogs, CuppaNatter, I’ve posted the history of,  and the recipes for, Wassail and Lamb’s Wool.  With winter and the Christmas season upon us, curling up with a good book will be an extra special treat with a good cuppa!  The calligram I made for the blog is the text of a typical wassailing song, and was a fun creative writing exercise.

Enjoy!

Source: Wassail & Lamb’s Wool

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December Musings

December means a lot of things to a lot of people:  For some it’s a month for slowing down, or baking, or taking time with family and friends, or cuddling up on the couch with a good book while it snows and blows and freezes outside (for those of us in the northern hemisphere, at least); for others it’s a month of work stress in winding up the year-end’s tasks, or cramming in meetings and project plans that need to take off in the New Year; for others it’s stress due to shopping – either because one has no idea what so-and-so wants/needs yet one must give said person a gift, or because of the crowds that seem to defy population censuses for any given town.

For me, it’s the juxtaposition of wanting to cuddle up with a selection of books on the couch between our three cats, settling in with an Earl Grey tea and a blanket and ignoring the world for a day or two, versus reaching my goal of getting the first draft of my fifth novel done before Christmas.  Said draft goal is only realistic if I keep at it, every day, disciplining myself to ignore the urge to kick up my feet and read, and (I will admit it) even ignoring the urge to write for my blogs, until I’ve written 1,000 words toward the completion of the manuscript.  Once that’s done (or the equivalent in editing and tweaking), other things can be given attention.  Important tasks that come at the right time are “priority”, but when they come up at the wrong time and intrude on my concentration, they are merely distractions.

So here I sit, 2:30 a.m. and finally have time to sit down to write to you.   Whatever your December looks like – whether stressful or relaxed, planned to the gills or with room for the spontaneous – remember that each day we wake up is a fresh opportunity to get it right, and each time we go to bed is an opportunity to take a moment to remember the blessings that came our way that day.

Awkward

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A Page in History

As a writer I’m constantly absorbing information; I never know when something might come in handy!  It may inform my scene with more realism, or infuse a character with a quirk or a background that gives them depth.  History is full of oddities and amazing events that can spark our imaginations; the event below is one such event:  If you ever need to write a scene about an explosion, or the effects of wrong decisions gone awry, look to history to teach you how it’s done (or in this case, how it should not be done).  This story shows the importance of decisions, and begs the question, “What if?”  What if one of those factors had changed?  What if the captain of the SS Imo had given way to the captain of the SS Mont-Blanc?  We’ll never know, but as writers we can use our greatest tool:  Imagination.

This day in history:  The Halifax Explosion

6 December 1917 will live on in infamy in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and in Canada, as one of the worst disasters in history.  On that day, the largest man-made explosion prior to the Nuclear Age occurred, wiping out several communities and reshaping Halifax forever.

The events that led up to the explosion that killed thousands and maimed thousands more reads like a thriller:  The delay of a shipment of coal; the climate of war that complicated the comings and goings from the harbour; an experienced captain now behind schedule who “bent the rules” for once; the captain whose impatience at previous delays pressed him to disregard the harbour speed limits and refuse to give way a third time; the third ship in his path who, because of their cargo (tons of explosives), could not make sudden manoeuvres and was relying on him to give way; a right decision made too late.  Curious onlookers who gathered at their windows to watch the blazing ship in the harbour had little idea that it would be the last thing most of them would ever see; if they were not obliterated in the initial blast, the light from the flash or the window glass shattering [in virtually every window within a 2.6-kilometre (1.6 mile) radius] blinded them; some 5,900 eye injuries were treated, leaving over 40 survivors permanently blind.

Confusion after the initial blast was compounded when people began evacuating thinking that it was a German bomb attack; fires throughout the city (caused by tipped oil lamps and ovens in collapsed homes) added to the confusion and hindrance to rescue efforts,  but within a few hours the true cause had become widely-enough known to calm initial fears.  Rescue teams started arriving from as far away as 200 km (120 miles), their help hampered by damaged roads and fears of secondary explosions from a munitions magazine at the Wellington Barracks.  To make matters worse, the next day blew in a blizzard which dumped 41 cm (16 inches) of heavy snow on the area; this blocked train transport with snowdrifts, and tore down hastily-erected telegraph lines.  Halifax was isolated, though the snow did help to extinguish the fires throughout the city.

Here in Switzerland, the NZZ (Neue Zürcher Zeitung) reported on the 7th of December:

“Zerstörung der Stadt Halifax? New York, 6. Dez. (Havas.)  Aus Halifax wird gemeldet: Die Hälfte der Stadt Halifax sei ein Trummerhaufen infolge einer Explosion.  Die Verluste werden auf mehrere Millionen geschätzt.  Der Nordteil der Stadt steht in Flammen.  Es gibt hunderte von Toten und an die tausend Verwundete.

[“Destruction of the city of Halifax?  New York, 6 December (Havas – a French media group based in Paris.)  From Halifax was reported:  Half of the city of Halifax lies in ruins as a result of an explosion.  The loss has been estimated at several million (unclear whether it means Canadian dollars or Swiss Francs).  The northern part of the city is in flames.  There are hundreds of dead and thousands injured.”]

On the 8th of December, a similar footnote was reported, adding, “Kein Haus der Stadt ist unbeschädigt geblieben…” (“No house in the city has remained undamaged”)

That it even made it into a footnote of the international news section is actually remarkable, considering that Switzerland was surrounded by war at the time and had far more pressing matters on the home front and in neighbouring countries with which to keep abreast.

In the end, it is estimated that over 2,000 people were killed and 9,000 injured (of those injured, it is unclear how many died of the injuries, and how many were permanently disabled in some way).  The blast was so hot that it evaporated water in the harbour, exposing the harbour’s floor momentarily; as water rushed back in to fill the void, the resulting tsunami erased a settlement of  Mi’kmaq First Nations along the shores of Bedford Basin, on the Dartmouth side of the harbour; how many were killed is not known, though around 20 families lived there at the time.

Halifax Explosion, 6 December 1917To read the fascinating history of this event, please click here.

Sources:  Wikipedia; NZZ digital archives

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