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Category: History


It’s ANZAC day here, which is a big day in Australia and New Zealand — commemorating soldiers fallen in all wars, though the ANZAC tradition began after WW1. ANZAC stands for the Australia New Zealand Army Corps which fought in WW1 and were used by the British Army more or less as cannon fodder. These were untested troops from far flung colonies and the British had no good opinion of them.

The result was utterly tragic. The campaign (the real purpose of which was to draw enemy fire, allowing British troops to land elsewhere) was a success in tactical terms, but a defeat in real terms. The ANZACs held their position under constant fire for long after they were expected to. The casualties were appalling but the bravery, individually and collectively, of the ANZAC troops was outstanding. (This photo is of my grandparents. He was not one of those original ANZACs. He fought in Flanders, was badly gassed and died while my 19 year old father was off at war.

There are few (if any) of those original WW1 soldiers left, but the wastage of life and the courage of these boys under impossible conditions made such an impact on two young countries (Australia, like most of these soldiers, was not yet 20 years old) that it became a national day of mourning.

In the cities and country towns there’s a march to the local war memorial and a dawn service. And instead of the significance of the day fading over time, it seems to have grown.
Now it’s a day of commemoration of all people fallen in war. It’s a public holiday on Monday in most states, though not Victoria, where we stick to the actual date of 25th April.


Last year, with CoVid hitting and much of the country in Lockdown, a “Light up the Dawn” campaign was begun, and the dawn service was held all over the country, in small country towns and in the streets of suburbia. 

In the hour before the dawn, people gathered outside their homes, in driveways or on balconies, lighting the night with candles and lanterns, waiting for the breaking of dawn. The ANZAC service was streamed live on ipads and mobiles. There was even a lone young woman playing the last post on her violin in a cow paddock in Queensland.

It was very moving, people in small family groups, some with kids in slippers and dressing gowns, some former soldiers wearing their medals, others wearing their father’s/grandfather’s/husband’s medals, all standing outside, separately-but-together,  in the chilly, silent streets, holding candles , waiting as the sun slowly rose.

There was an underlying symbolism, too, to this event happening across the country — we might be unable to leave our homes, we might be waging this silent war against CoVid, but we will still remember the fallen. And in a strange way, this street-side scattered, very personal ceremony that was happening all over the country brought us all closer.

Now it’s back to sort-of-normal  with CoVid more or less undercontrol in some areas, but not in others — for instance  Western Australis is currently under Lockdown, and so “Light up the Dawn” will continue there — and, I suspect, at many other places, simply because it felt so special out in the street, commemorating the day with your neighbors.

I will be baking ANZAC biscuits (cookies if you’re American)  which, apart from being traditional, were the biscuits women sent to their men at war, as they were:
a) delicious
b) kept really well (important as it often took months for the care packages to arrive)
and c) were made of ingredients most people had in their pantries anyway.

They’re very easy and yummy. I make the mix in one pot, melting the butter and golden syrup in a large saucepan then mixing the dry ingredients in. (Anything to lessen the washing up) Recipe here.

Some like them crispy and some prefer them softer and chewier. Either way is fine by me. And if you bake them crispy then leave them out, they’ll soften anyway, so it’s not hard to get whatever  biscuit  style you prefer.
Do you prefer your biscuits crispy or chewy?


Giving up on the news

A while ago I stopped reading or watching the news every day. It used to be my habit to start the day with a cup of coffee and the news, but gradually I started to realize that all it did was leave me depressed and frustrated about things I couldn’t change. 

So I did what to my family and friends was the unthinkable, and went cold turkey on the news.

And it made such a difference to my day.  I still had my morning habit to appease, so I’ve been finding blogs to read instead that are interesting and relevant and yet don’t bring me down.

I’m not saying I’ve stuck my head in the sand — I still end up keeping abreast of current affairs — things filter through anyway, and my friends like to talk about the state of the world, and sometimes I hear something and will look up more about it — but it’s no longer part of my morning ritual, and I feel happier for it.

This is one of the blogs I subscribe to. It has articles from all over the world, often quirky and interesting little stories. Here, for instance is one about the “floating gardens” of Amiens in France.  It’s a lovely article about how for hundreds of years, the marshy land near Amiens has been turned into agricultural land surrounded by canals. Here’s a photo (by VASSILCC-BY-3.0)

Now I’ve heard of the town of Amiens, but only because there was a short-lived Peace of Amiens in the middle of the Napoleonic wars. 

When the Peace was signed (1802) people in the UK thought the war was all over, and would-be travelers, starved of foreign travel, first because of The French Revolution and then the rise of Napoleon, headed for Paris and the Continent to begin their Grand Tour. But it soon became clear that the treaty was not being honored by either side — Britain insisted Napoleon was using the peace to reorganize his control of Europe and prepare for war, but they were also breaking the agreement. By 1803 the war was on again. Some tourists were trapped, some fled and escaped, others were interned or required to give their parole.

I used this situation as the background for my second novel — Tallie’s Knight. In it, Tallie, who was more or less ‘annexed’ by Magnus, the Earl of D’Arenville in a convenient marriage, ends up agreeing to the marriage, but only if she can go on the Grand Tour for their honeymoon. So off they go — but when they reached Italy, they heard that Napoleon’s troops had invaded the Piedmont, and so they had to flee. . . 

So now, thanks to this blog I know two things about Amiens, and one day I hope to visit their beautiful floating gardens. And isn’t that thought so much better than dwelling on depressing news?


Since I sent out my newsletter the other day, with the cover for MARRY IN SCARLET, I’ve had a number of emails from readers who weren’t sure about George having short hair on the cover.

She had short hair in the previous stories, but they thought it wasn’t a very Regency look.

But short hair was fashionable in the Regency.

On the right is a photo of Lady Caroline Lamb, notorious for her scandalous affair with Lord Byron. 

But Lady Caroline wasn’t the only fashionable lady who cropped her hair.
(Not that George cropped hers to be fashionable—she wasn’t particularly interested in trying to be fashionable.)

Here are some portraits of several other fashionable short-haired regency ladies.

Finally, here’s an image I would have loved for George’s cover, but alas, French actress Audrey Tatou wasn’t available.<g>