A Winter’s Tale

Our traditional Ghost Story for Christmastide

In winter’s tedious nights sit by the fire
With good old folks and let them tell thee tales
Of woeful ages long ago betid;
And ere thou bid good night, to quit their griefs,
Tell thou the lamentable tale of me
And send the hearers weeping to their beds.

Richard II – Act V Scene 1
William Shakespeare


Poor Richard of Bordeaux, most of what we know of his sad tale is what we find in William Shakespeare’s play.  For all that it was mostly Tudor propaganda our man Will was a master story teller.  No doubt he had picked up the habit from the good old folk of the Avonshire countryside where he was born.  As a lad he would have sat around a fireside and heard stories of ghostly and unholy goings in the West Midlands. He himself had quite a few good tales of a ghostly nature for a winter’s tedious nights.

On a cold winter’s night – much like tonight – you gather around the warmth of a fire, perhaps you add to the warmth with a glass of something that burns slightly as it goes down.  You listen to the wind howling through the cracks and rattle at the window pane; perhaps you start at the odd crack of a sudden spark from the fire;  you take another swallow to stop the shiver you just felt as you listen to a story from days long past.   A story that makes you move closer to the fire and away from the moving shadows.  A story such as Montaque Rhodes James‘s The Ash Tree.

And so take your candle and now to bed – ignore that shadow on the wall and that creak is only your footstep on a loose floor board.  After all you’ve nothing to be afraid of.

Have you?

On this day in 1953:  En attendant Godot (Waiting for Godot) by Samuel Beckett is first performed in Paris.

Espresso Yourself

receiver-coffeeThough we have our share of the coffee shop franchises here in PEI I’m glad to say that we also have Receiver – a locally owned and operated emporium of the nectar of the coffea arabica seed. And bless Chris and Sean they opened a new shop less than a block from us this past summer – and it includes Breadworks, one of the best bakeries on the Island.

Though there isn’t a barista in North America that could beat sexy Antonio with those bedroom eyes at our favourite spot in Rome at pulling an espresso longo – oh grow up – the lads and lass at Receiver make a mean latte. A latte and monkey bread break earlier this week gave me a twinge of nostalgia – or maybe it was the damp and neuralgia – for Via Alessandria and one of Antonio’s espressos.

So here’s a little bit of throwback Thursday:

Willy Or Won't He

This morning I was walking from the Lion Bookshop and Café (the oldest English bookstore in Roma) down near the Spanish Steps to the Scuderie del Quirinale for the magnificent Roma, La Pittura di un Impero exhibition. I took a short cut and as I walked past a very ordinary side-street cafe these implements caught my eye.

Before sachet packets and stylish George-Clooney-sleek power machines came into play these were the tools required for a perfect cup of caffeinated goodness: a hand grinder for the beans, a boiler, a hand puller and a metal vessel for heating and frothing the milk.

A few facts to assist if you were hand pulling your espresso:

  • The Beans should be ground just before use.
  • A dark roast is preferable though only in Southern Italy is it holy writ.
  • Only the freshest water should be used and I have been assured by my friend…

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Laurent discovered this tidbit of Yuletide history – the first known Christmas tree in Canada.

Larry Muffin At Home

Some great Christmas traditions we enjoyed through the years, not to forget the Xmas markets during Advent on our visits to Munich.

The first Christmas tree in Canada was lit at Sorel, Québec, in 1781, by Baroness Frederika von Riedesel, wife of the commander of the Brunswick and Hessian troops who fought alongside the British against the Americans in the Revolutionary War.


Major General Friedrich Adolf von Riedesel, was born at Lauterbach, Hesse, Germany, in 1738. In 1776 he landed in Canada in charge of a large contingent of soldiers sent by the Duke of Brunswick to defend Canada and help General John Burgoyne put down the American Revolution. The Baroness, known as “Lady Fritz”, followed in 1777, even though she had two small children and was expecting another.


In October of that year, the Americans captured the von Riedesel family at the Battle of Saratoga. They spent two years…

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Ein bisschen Volkskunst – A Baroque Procession

While compiling the little slideshow of the Jubilee Cook Book I came across another slideshow I had created in 2011 after a visit to Innsbruck and it’s wonderful Museum of Folk Art. Innsbruck was a city of many surprises and treasures that it was always a joy to stop in on our way to and from Salzburg.

Willy Or Won't He

Often when I am in a museum I find myself by-passing something that is a “major” attraction to focus on a more obscure work.  Last month’s visit to the Tiroler Volkskunst Museum was no exception.  They have so many wonderful pieces on display but for some reason one relatively small work caught my attention.

In 1772 in the market town of Tefls – about 40 kms from Innsbruck – the Confraternity of the Scapular celebrated the centenary of the society’s founding in the region.   Though the Vision of the Virgin to Saint Simon Stock is reputed to have happened on July 16, 1251 the laity were not granted the wearing of the miraculous garb until the 1500s. Confraternities sprang up throughout Europe as the pious vowed to faithfully pray to the Madonna and received the small pieces of brown cloth with the promise of salvation that the Virgin had pronounced…

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The Hounds from Hell

Who knew there was a word for it?

Lately for some reason our Nicky has been seeing if he can get away with begging at the table – he can’t!  Every so often he tries to push the boundaries just in case: where food is concerned a dachshund is always willing try and push the boundaries.  When it comes to begging Nora lets Nicky make the effort and she just sits by with that look on her face.  It’s a look that both of them have perfected and that anyone who includes a dog in their family is familiar with.  It’s that silent staring at you as you eat, their eyes filled with the hope that you will share.

“Are you planning to eat that all by yourself?”

Now until the daily post on Facebook from Grandiloquent Word of the Day showed up last Wednesday I had no idea that the act of giving someone that look has its very own verb in the English language.


So do you think they’ve got groaking down to a fine art?

On this day in 1912: The frozen bodies of Robert Scott and his men are found on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica.