The website of the historical fiction writer.

Weekend of Culchaaaar

While this website is undergoing some redecorating, I thought I’d tell you all how I learned to combine education with exercise without having to go anywhere near a gym.

Last Saturday I took a train to London and went to see the Comics Unmasked exhibition at the British Library. This takes a look at the history of comics and graphic novels on society and how they reflect the times they are made in. Now, I wasn’t really into comics when I was young but, since getting into writing, I have begun to find them to be an interesting way of telling a story. The exhibition shows the earliest forms such as Mr Punch (unless you count cave paintings), who has been shown as either a medieval jester or a Victorian gentleman intent on creating mischief on those who deserve it. As you walk around, watched by hooded dummies in V for Vendetta masks, there are samples from Sandman, Watchmen and Batman along with earlier forms of subversive art that may have inspired them. Have a look for yourself before the 19th August when it finishes.

Later I walked to the National Portrait Gallery where there is a display of The Great War in Portraits. This exhibition shows portraits of the major royals in the build-up to the war, the generals that commanded the armies and those that fought. There are many portraits, both painted and photographed, of both famous and lesser-known figures of the war and their contributions such as soldiers, nurses, journalists, etc. If you want to see this then get there soon as it closes on the 15th!

Walking further on, I went to Apsley House, home of the Duke of Wellington. As I’m nearing the end of the Sharpe series, I thought it would be a good time to go and visit. This has many, many portraits of both Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte and lots of the plate and china that he owned. Again, very interesting.

The following day was a family trip to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. With English Heritage, you can be in some places for about half an hour, others you can spend an entire day there and Osborne House is one of them. First there is the house itself which Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had as a retreat, with the Queen spending much of her later life there. Many of the rooms are still furnished with objects that she owned. There are also portraits of many of the royal families of Europe that her children married into and these are accompanied with family trees that show their descendants and how they are related to our Queen. You can then either walk or take a minibus to the beach where the royal family would go to in the summer before going back up to the Swiss Cottage, which Prince Albert gave as a gift to the children. This house gave an insight into the lives of Victoria and Albert’s children, how they spent their childhoods at the house and what they did when they grew up. All in all very interesting so if you’re on the Isle of Wight, it’s a nice day and you fancy some culture, I can recommend this place for all the family. There’s even a little park for the kids, which kept my little niece happy!

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