free stories, humour, Mrs Cromwell, new books, ponderations, present

Shameless hussydom

I have spent a productive day today tidying up (not toadying up!) my Amazon author pages.

I’m thoroughly sick of the dreadful author photo, in which I appear to be sighting down a pistol and am in fact squinting at a small cheap digital camera held at arms’ length. Regrettably I have burned most of my skin off after an unfortunate interlude with some cheap colloidal silver cream to deal with a rash I often get on my nose when I wear the glasses I need to read by (I know, I know, vanity…) so I refuse to appear on any kind of film until my horrible red peeling skin retains its customary elegant pallor.

I’m also heartily sick of describing myself as food historian and mad cat lady, although I am both and it was funny to start off with.

I wonder if anyone will notice if I replace my photo with that of Elizabeth Cromwell – occupation: Lady Protectress and She Who Must Be Obeyed.

Anyway – here they are for your edification and amusement:

M J Logue’s Amazon UK page

M J Logue’s Amazon US page

PS do feel free to pass unhelpful remarks. It’s ever so lonely here in 164*thinks about it*5, now….

Babbitt, Bristol, Fairfax, history,, new books, ponderations, Rupert, South West campaign, spoiler

A Wilderness of Sin – the Siege of Bristol, 1645

For the full effect, read whilst listening to Bach’s “Cello Sonata No 5”
Some names have been removed to retain a degree of spoiler-dom… but really, it doesn’t matter who. I just say as shouldn’t that it’s a hell of  a good piece of writing. I cried writing it, and I cried reading it again,

Prince Rupert was finally brought to a stand at the end of the siege of Bristol in September 1645, and after a brief and ferocious stand-off, surrendered to Thomas Fairfax.

I dare you not to shed a tear.

Hollie sat on the stairs with his eyes closed, feeling that old familiar gritty sting of too many tears under his eyelids. Watching the sun dropping down below the rooftops, covering the city with a kind rosy blanket, and listening to people being alive in the world. About their business – beginning to stir again, after almost a month under siege, beginning, shyly, hesitantly, to be unafraid. Someone singing in the kitchens below and for the lad’s sake he wanted them to be silent – how could they sing when a man’s wife was dying in his arms? – and then he shook his head, no. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
He hoped the lad was strong in his faith. He hoped the lad would believe most firmly that he would meet her again, in a better world than this, and that it would comfort him in his adversity. Hollie had remained uncomforted in his for the better part of ten years, seeking comfort or extinction by turns. Had lost his hope, his career, his faith, his good name. If it hadn’t been for Het, his bright pole-star, he’d not have come back. The September sunset was warm and mellow now, flooding the landing with a golden tide, and the singer in the kitchens had fallen silent. The city was silent, an odd moment of stillness, almost as if the world were enclosed in a fragile, hollow soap bubble. A blackbird, singing, in an apple tree, the liquid notes falling clear into the dusk.
He could hear the lad, talking to his wife, through the latched door. Couldn’t hear the words. Just the lad’s happy, bright conversational voice, talking to himself. Talking to a dead woman who was still breathing. Saying, God willing, all the things he hadn’t had time to say in six weeks of marriage, and should have had a lifetime to say. The lad was barely twenty-two, he was a boy yet, it was wrong that he should be made to suffer so. It was bloody wrong and any God that thought it was fitting to put a pistol ball in the brain of a living, feeling young woman with so many years of useful life in front of her, and then to leave her husband to lie alongside her on a narrow bed in a strange town and wait for her breath to stop – ah, Christ, no, that kind of God was a vengeful arsehole and Hollie Babbitt would look Him in the eye on Judgment Day and bloody well tell Him so, and the hell with the consequence.
It was nothing to do with the lad. He knew that. It was thinking of himself and Griete, all those years ago, that made the tears come again. Thinking he knew what the lad was feeling, though he didn’t, God knows he couldn’t, they were as unlike as flint and cheese, but – even so. Hollie knew what it was to love and then suddenly to find yourself cut loose and desperate. He’d not let the boy go into that darkness. Not alone.
He put his back up against the door and sat with his head on his knees for a while, listening to his own breathing. Thinking of his own girl. Loving her twice over, loving her for that other girl’s sake, for still being alive to be loved while the other girl was leaving this world. Crying again, silently, for he had no right to mourn another man’s wife, but he mourned the loss of the lad’s first love and the his innocence and, for a while, his joy, and that was a death in itself.
He’d miss the daft, dreamy little bugger. He could only hope the man was one day going to be as full of hope and dreams and cockeyed romanticism as the boy.
The moon was rising. In the room behind him, the lad’s voice was growing hoarse, but still steady, still constant. Worn out with war and grief, Hollie slept, with his naked sword to one hand and one of Het’s faded silk ribbons clutched like a child’s comforter in the other.

It was shortly after dawn the next morning when the lad opened the door. Pale, but neat and dry-eyed and calm “She’s gone,” he said softly. “Would you be so kind, sir, as to fetch – fetch your father?” .

Babbitt, new books, ponderations, present

Good lord above…. #2

“Red Horse” is currently at #42 in the Amazon Kindle historicals.

Rosie Babbitt is holding his own (and that won’t be the first time, dear, will it?) against the Regency romances.
I can see it now – “The Earl’s Excitement”…. “The Torn Bodice”….

“The Rampant Roundhead” – …. er, perhaps not, then.
The Irascible Ironside, more like it.


(Team Russell already went. Home.)

Babbitt, Gray, humour, Lucey, poetry, ponderations

Pettitt’s Poetry Corner: A Young Officer Looks Back on a Singularly Undistinguished Career

 – with annotations by Col. Hollie Babbitt, literary critic of no renown whatever
When first my wond’ring eyes did turn
On SOMERSET‘s streams and rills
On Bristol’s many marvels
On GLASTONB’RY‘s famed hill
The flat wolds of LINCOLNSHIRE
The busy town of Leeds

The barren wastes of LANCASHIRE  (watch itt, Pettyt, I am stille yr commandeing officer – HTB)
Which yet gives us good cheese           


Twas then I first did comprehend
The beauty of this isle
For having come from ESSEX
A march of many a mile
I have seen many wonders
And many varied scenes
Of inns and streets and lovely fields

In many a different green


For now I am come home again
And by the LORD’s grace whole
‘Tis not, I find, a palace
That yet exalts my soul
But ’tis a humble cottage
With a welcome at the gate
With loving and with friendship

Where my dear MIST’RESS waits.  (thatt must bee a diffrent maistress than the one I mett – HTB)           

 For near or far where’er I roam
Where my love lies, is my home.

Het, history,, ponderations

Mistress Babbitt’s Closet Unlock’d – The Scent of Fresh Linen

I have a habit of referring to Het Babbitt as “the fragrant Het” – and I’m not sure that I’m joking.
Now Hollie, as anyone who has followed his fortunes from Edgehill onwards will be aware, is probably not a young man whose linen bears too close investigation. It is possible to identify eau de cavalry officer as a combination of hot horse and well-worn leather, woodsmoke, black powder, with a slight overlay of warm metal and sweat. (It must be said in his defence that Hollie probably wouldn’t care less if you did put your nose in his armpit and give him a good sniffing, as I imagine with two young daughters, several affectionate horses and a wife who’s a good foot shorter than he is, he’s used to it.)
No, Het is a very cleanly little body. 
For all but the poorest women in the seventeenth century, a household possessed sufficient linen for shirts, or shifts, to be changed regularly, and washed, without the necessity of a weekly wash. Most clothes worn next to the skin were plain linen and perfectly capable of withstanding what was effectively a soak in lye bleach followed by a good batting or trampling. Soaking in lye was normally done in a piece of kit called a bucking-tub, as per Gervase Markham’s instructions for bleaching yarn:
…..cover the uppermost yarn with a bucking cloth, and lay therein a peck [about 16 pints] or two (according to the bigness of the tub) of ashes more; then pour into all through the uppermost cloth so much warm water, till the tub can receive no more; and so let it stand all night: the next morning you shall pull out the spigot [peg used to stop hole] of the bucking tub, and let the water therein run into another clean vessel, and as the bucking tub wasteth, so shall you fill it up again with the lye which cometh from the bucking tub, ever observing to make the lye hotter and hotter till it seethe[boil]…..
Gervase Markham, The English Housewife, 1615 
“Chamber lye” is pretty much what you would expect…. wee. Anyone who has ever had the joy of potty-training will probably be nodding in remembrance of that very distinctive ammoniac smell… and, also, possibly of the bleaching effect of wee on little pants after undisclosed “accidents”! (And yes, stale urine does smell. I wish there was some way of romanticising that but no, it smells undeniably of stale wee, I have had the misfortune of collecting a pot for bleaching, and you can understand why they might not have done the “buck wash” very often.)  The elegant collars and falling-bands were intentionally detachable so that they didn’t have to go in with the heavy-duty everyday wash, but could be carefully washed and then starched separately. 
Finally, your body-linen would be dried, not on a washing-line, but by spreading over bushes to dry – Het uses the rosemary bushes in the herb garden at White Notley, like many other country women,  but lavender bushes were equally popular, being both sturdy and fragrant. It’s still believed quite widely that both frost and moonlight will bleach white linen if you leave your laundry out overnight!
This, of course, is an aside. Het would not be in the business of doing her own laundry – although if I know Mistress B she wouldn’t entirely trust the household staff to do it unsupervised, either. Markham gives assorted recipes for distilled, perfumed waters to be added to the rinsing water for the laundry – something like our own scented ironing water – although perfumed smocks, like those referred to in John Marston’s revenge play “The Malcontent”, were a definite sign of a loose woman. It was acceptable to put sachets in your linen press, because that served the perfectly respectable purpose of keeping malignant bugs and beasties from nibbling on your underclothes, but they tended to be made from good sensible English lavender or medicinal orris.
Sweet-bags like these ( were also popular amongst the nobility, often given as gifts at New Year because they were small and quick to embroider. A little sachet like this would be filled with fragrant powder or a sachet mixture, and would then be worn hanging amongst your skirts on a cord or a chain as part of a chatelaine, fragrancing your steps. 
Should you care to have your laundry smell like a seventeenth-century lady’s, ‘Take half a pound of Cypress Roots, a pound of Orris, 3 quarter of a pound of Calamus, 3 Orange stick with Cloves, 2 ounces of Benjamin, 3 quarters of a pound of Rhodium, a pound of Coriander seed, and an ounce of Storax and 4 pecks of Damask Rose leaves, a peck of dryed sweet Marjerum, a pretty stick of Juniper shaved very thin, some lemon pele dryed and a stick of Brasill; let all these be powdered very grosely for ye first year and immediately put into your baggs; the next year pound and work it and it will be very good again.’
(- from Mary Doggett’s Book of Receipts, 1682)
However. You know, and I know, Het Babbitt’s rather plain country-housewife linen would be nowhere near as exotic as to smell of rosewood and balsam. Should you choose to smell like the distaff side of the Babbitt household, here are one or two recipes with which to do it:
An Herball Wash-ball  – melt the ingredients together over a double boiler, stir in herbs, and pour into a mould
2 bars unscented soap
25g/ 1oz finely chopped herbs (rosemary was recommended as a complexion herb, to make the face fair and shining)
A few drops of essential oil
A tablespoon of fine oatmeal or bran
Spicy sachet mixture
Six parts dried red rose petals
Four parts dried crushed thyme
Two parts dried lavender
Two parts crushed coriander seed
Two parts powdered calamus root (sweet flag)
One part powdered cinnamon
One part powdered cloves
One part powdered mace.