Monthly Archives: April 2015

A couple of decades later…

This fabulous young woman and her chap are doing everything that we at Loony Literature sound off about. I am very proud to put this on the website.

Ross Mountney's Notebook

Production shot from Decade 20

When you relinquish your little one to the mayhem of backstage that accompanies any children’s production you wonder whether you’re doing the right thing. It appears to be a mad disorganised crush of costumes, dropped make-up, stressed parents and performers and a half dressed chorus line looking bewildered.

I remember a strong desire to snatch Chelsea back to my suffocating bosom and cry ‘You’re not doing it’!

But I got over it, went out front and watched with amazement this perfect little pro overcome her own shyness to do what she loves; perform on stage. (You can read some of this in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’)

I’ve since found out how many actors are shy. Yet there followed from that day many a production, two or three a year, which we sat through and applauded with dripping cheeks, for the next twenty years –…

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Writing Cosy Crime – Use a Bizarre Club as a Setting

Get Writing

Here at Loony Literature, we have eclectic tastes and one of the genres which we adore is cosy crime. This means that we want more people getting stuck in and writing some wonderful tales. If you need a springboard to get you started, think about setting the crime in a club but not just an everyday club, use something different. We’ve found a few that you may be interested in.

On the 15th January 1904, a newspaper advertisement asked for new members for a club in Fribourg in Switzerland. The club was the Bald Headed Club and its rules were that the members should meet every month to eat ham and listen to music.

Invite the Public Executioner

In April 1928, the Crime Club used to meet in London three times a year to discuss criminology. It was a rule that nothing which was discussed within the club was repeated outside those walls. The club which started off with six eventually increased to forty members. One of the members once suggested that the public executioner should be invited to one of the club’s dinners but he could not get anyone to second him so the idea was dropped.

Apparently, the Thirteen Club gathered so that its members could defy superstitions and would spend the evening walking under ladders and putting up umbrellas whilst indoors.

Some believe that the raven is unlucky.

Some believe that the raven is unlucky.

Meanwhile, The Fatman’s Club in Paris enjoyed its banquets. No one was eligible for membership under seventeen stone. One man proudly polished off half a dozen chickens and a barrel of wine at one sitting and it won him a prize of thousands of francs.

Happy writing.

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Writing Short Stories – Using Gruesome Keepsakes as a Springboard

Here at Loony Literature, we are always looking for springboards to get folks writing. So if you are thinking of writing a short story, you may be interested to know that buying a keepsake when you visited somewhere or experienced something is not a new thing. However, in the 19th century some of the keepsakes which were purchased were rather gruesome to say the least. In essence, they were real short story fodder.

Murder Most Horrid.

Murder Most Horrid.

For instance, when Burke, of the famous Hare and Burke duo of body snatchers, was to be executed, 20,000 people cheered as the scaffold was built. When Burke appeared, the mob went wild screaming what they would personally like to do to him. Every time Burke convulsed as his body was hanged, the crowd raised an even louder roar, a sort of cheer because he was suffering so much.

A wallet was made from his scalp

When Burke’s body was removed from the scaffold, souvenir hunters descended like scavengers grabbing at shavings from the coffin or pieces of the rope. If this seems strange, it was quite normal back then. The rope which hanged Burke would have been sold off in inches because so many people wanted a keepsake of the event. In fact, a wallet was made from Burke’s scalp and is now in the History of Surgery Museum in Edinburgh’s Royal College of Surgeons.

A Grisly Day Out.

A Grisly Day Out.

After he had been cut down, Burke’s body was taken to an anatomy theatre which was ironic as that was where he had taken the bodies of the folks he had murdered so that he could get money for them. A cast was taken of Burke’s head and then a dissection was performed. Outside people fought to get inside to taste a piece of the action. The next day, there was a display of the body and visitors could file past it from ten in the morning until dusk. It is believed that as many as 30,000 people turned up to see Burke’s body.

Come on, this is asking for you to write a horror story.

Happy writing.

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Getting Children Reading – Picture Books – Corduroy by Don Freeman

Picture Book Heaven

If there is one thing in the world that can make the sun shine when it is raining for us at Loony Literature, it is a beautiful picture book. For children up to the age of four, picture books work very well as each page has wonderful illustrations which the child can devour with their eyes while listening to the story.

A truly charming picture book to look out for is ‘Corduroy’ by Don Freeman which was first published in 1968 but children still adore it today. Corduroy is a cute teddy in green dungarees who sits on the shelf of a department store hoping to find a new home. Unfortunately, Corduroy has a dangling shoulder strap because the button has fallen off his dungarees and is lost.

Isn't he cute?

Isn’t he cute?

When a young girl sees him and falls in love with him, Corduroy’s hopes are lifted until her mother says that she has spent enough money and then points out that he has a broken shoulder strap anyway. Corduroy waits until the store closes and then goes in search of a button for his dungarees.

Never Give Up

He makes his way to the furniture department and tries to pull a button off a mattress but knocks a lamp over. The night watchman hears this and when he sees Corduroy he returns him back to his shelf. However, the young girl returns the next day with her own money to buy Corduroy. This is truly a book for little children to learn about determination both on the part of Corduroy as he journeyed for his lost button and the little girl who used her savings to give the little bear a home.

Incidentally, if you are an adult who hasn’t read a picture book for a long time, do try it. The reason for this is that they are uplifting. I find that if I feel a bit grumpy and I spend some time looking at picture books, I emerge in a much better mood.

Happy reading.

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Writing Historical Fiction – Getting to Work in 19th Century London

It Wasn’t Easy

Here at Loony Literature, we love to get folks writing.

Writing historical fiction is a great way to learn something and transport yourself to another time and place. Your springboard for today is to imagine that you have an accident on the way to work. The only difference is that it happens in 19th century London. Think about who your character might be and what are the consequences of the accident are – do you get involved with someone you might never have met before? This could be to do with a romance or a crime.

London Bridge in the 19th century.

London Bridge in the 19th century.

To help you get started, we’ve compiled something for you to think about. For instance, you may be interested to know that if you had to travel across London in the 19th century, it was hard work even back then.

If you had an excellent job, you would navigate your way to work on horseback. However, this was indeed a costly business. We complain about the cost of parking these days but if you lived then and the horse was your mode of transport, you had to feed and stable the horse at home and also at a place which was near to where you worked. City livery rates were so exorbitant that many would ride half way on horseback and then the rest of the journey to work would be conducted by boat.

Getting Across The Thames

Of course, the Thames was a sort of highway for London but at the start of the 19th century there were only actually three fixed points to get across it. There was London Bridge which had been a crossing of some sort since Roman times or there was Blackfriars Bridge which was built in 1769 or Westminster Bridge which first came into being in 1750.

This meant that if you needed to travel across the river to get to work you would probably have used one of the 3,000 wherries or small boats which were available for hire. We can read about characters in books being rowed across the Thames, such as the dastardly Quilp in The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens.

Happy writing.

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Writing Historical Fiction – A Pair of Stockings as a Springboard

Get Writing

Here at Loony Literature, we try to get folks to have a go at something  they might not have done before. As both of us are history bonkers, we want more of you to try writing historical pieces. They don’t have to be massive literary tomes, for instance, you could try a short story or even a play.

Readers of historical pieces love details and enjoy learning something as well as being transported in time. The springboard for this piece is a pair of stockings. So you need to think about who did the stockings belong to? Perhaps they were found in the butler’s pantry or if you are a crime writer they might have been used to strangle someone.

What story does this item of clothing tell you?

What story does this item of clothing tell you?

To help you along, we’ve compiled some working knowledge on stockings. You may be interested to know that during the Victorian period, ladies all wore stockings as tights were a 20th century invention. The Victorian stockings were made of cotton, wool or silk and available in a wide range of colours.

At the start of the 1800s, white was all the rage but after 1850 brightly dyed and patterned stockings were available. These were enjoyed by the young and also anyone who wanted something different. They were available in tartan, spotted and checked amongst others designs. This is surprising as it is easy to presume that they would all have been either white or black for the Victorians.

Black stockings

However, as the century went on, the black stockings became more widespread. This demonstrates how symbolic clothes can be. Black stockings in the Victorian period were viewed as conservative whereas black stockings these days signify sexiness.

Wool stockings were often the choice because they were the warmest and the most reasonably priced option. Silk stockings were basically only for the wealthy as they were so expensive. Furthermore, if they laddered, they were difficult to darn which made it time consuming. Only a woman with a personal maid would really have the time to commit to darning silk stockings. Well, it wouldn’t be her own time which she was committing to the task but her maid’s.

These days, suspenders are considered the heights of sexiness by some and again they are a Victorian invention. Women began to hold their stockings up with suspenders in the 1880s. Up until that time, however, stockings were held up by garters which fastened around the leg just above the knee. There was a health risk with wearing garters like that. Varicose veins could start if the garters were too tight and stopped proper circulation.

Happy writing.

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Writing Historical Fiction – Sizing Your Codpiece

Here at Loony Literature, we hope to inspire you to share our creative passions and interests. For instance, working on historical fiction never fails to cause a gargantuan giggle as the research both delights and shocks us. What is more, if any of us, you included, use these delicious details in our writing they will make it sparkle for the reader. So if you write about the Tudors, make sure that you don’t get caught out by having your hero with a wrongly sized cod piece. Flabby fiction will ruin your flow!

Henry VIII codpiece

Fashion for men, changed drastically from when Henry VIII was on the throne to when his daughter ruled the land. The reason, of course, was all to do with symbolism. When Henry was in power, he had to show everyone that he was not just a man but a great giant god of a man. In those days, manhood meant virility and what better way to signal to the world that you are a sex superman than by wearing a colossal protruding cod piece. In the world of the Virgin Queen, the penis could not equate to power so cod pieces positively shrivelled in size at Elizabeth’s court.

Women had to be careful what they displayed during Elizabeth’s reign. Unless you were a vulgar washerwoman at the bottom of the social pile you would never reveal your bare arms or legs in public. However, as long as you were not married you could parade your breasts like Farage does his pint of beer. Apparently, age did not come into it either. If you were unmarried and elderly, you could still wear a dress which let it all hang out. In fact, we know that Elizabeth liked to display her breasts a lot. This was so much so that it was documented when different ambassadors visited and described the royal boobs.

Happy writing.

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Cheer Yourself Up With A Children’s Book – Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Here at Loony Literature, we believe that if you need help smiling, you might consider reading a children’s book. Many grown ups do not realize that throwing adultness to one side and losing themselves in a children’s story is as good as taking medicine. It liberates your soul and makes you feel as if anything is possible. Remember how you felt before you grew up and life got you down?

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

A wonderful one to try is ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ by Ian Fleming. It was actually written as three separate adventures. The first two were originally published in 1964 and the third one came out in 1965. What is really interesting is that Ian Fleming found his inspiration from a car really called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which was built in 1920 by Fleming’s chum, Count Zoborowski.

The main character of the story is the magical car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Her owners are the Pott family but their name was changed to Potts for the film. The father of the family, Caractacus Pott is an explorer and an inventor who lives with his wife and their twins.

One day, Caractacus invents a new type of candy which has holes in it that makes a whistling noise as it is being sucked. The owner of a sweet factory buys it for lots of money and that is how Caractacus buys Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Delight yourself by reading about this car which has a mind of her own as she flies and turns herself into a hovercraft. You may not get rid of all your worries but you will certainly forget about them for a time.

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Story Ideas To Get You Writing – Getting Married in the Buff!

Stuck for something to write about? Here at Loony Literature, we are pure suckers for history so when we come across something which we think might be a good springboard to get you folks writing, we will shout about it. Even if this doesn’t make you start writing frantically, it will inform and entertain you – hopefully.

To write or not to write.

To write or not to write.

In the 18th century ‘smock weddings’ were a type of ceremony. A ‘smock wedding’ would see a bride getting married in the nude or barefoot and wearing only a chemise or underskirt, as we call them these days. The idea was that if she brought no clothes or property to the marriage, her new husband to be was not liable for any of the debts of her past life.

The smock wedding was particularly useful for a widowed woman whose husband had died leaving a lot of debts. We know because of a newspaper report in September 1775 that a Mr Richard Elcock who was bricklayer married Mrs Judith Redding. It seems that so Mr Elcock would not be liable for any of the debts that Mrs Redding might have been left with from an earlier marriage, she went into one of the pews in the church and stripped off everything except her slip.

A few years earlier, at Saint Michael’s Church in Ashton under Lyne, Nathaniel Eller married the widow Hibbert. Both of them were around fifty years of age. The widow went through the ceremony with her hair tied behind with horse hair and wearing only a shift so that her new husband would not have to pay off any of her former husband’s debts.

In December 1797, several newspapers reported from St Philips parish church in Birmingham that the bride wore nothing. She was a woman of wealth and property but she was marrying a debt ridden husband and she believed that getting married in the nude would prevent her new husband’s creditors from seizing her property. She was not the only lady to be married in that fashion. It seems that some women would turn up to church in a cloak and nothing else. With a flourish they would remove the cloak and the ceremony would begin.

Happy writing.

 

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Getting Kids to Read – Lotta’s Bike

If we are to get little ones reading, we have to keep them interested. This means sharing a wide range of books with them. A wonderful book called ‘Lotta’s Bike’ by Astrid Lindgren will most certainly make them want to turn the pages and find out what happens to Lotta. It is aimed at children over the age of three.

Lotta's Bike

The book was published in 1971 and Lotta is one of the most popular characters in Swedish children’s literature. She is little girl who gets into also sorts of scrapes alongside her older siblings, Jonas and Maria. Some parents might view the antics of the children as being a bit too much but children love them and it is a great way of discussing behaviour with kids.

In ‘Lotta’s Bike’, Lotta is hoping to get a bike for her birthday. However, her parents get her something else instead and so she decides to borrow her neighbour’s bike and takes her toy pig Barnsie for a ride. Unfortunately, the bike is too big for Lotta and she loses control of it on a steep hill. As per usual, she has to face the consequences; think rose bush and bicycle owner here.

All the Lotta stories explore everyday events which small children can understand either through personal experience or by it happening to someone close to them. For instance, in ‘Lotta Leaves Home’, Lotta is not happy with her family and decides to run away from home. As you can guess, Lotta soon appreciates the value of her family and her home when she is away from them. All the stories are told with gentle humour which will make your child smile while thinking about the deeper meaning of the story. If you can get your hands on a copy of any of the Lotta books, you will probably enjoy it as much as your little ones.

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