Book Review – The Lollipop of Influence by Mjke Wood

The Lollipop of Influence 

Following ‘Deep Space Accountant’, this is  the second book in the Sphere of Influence series.


Bob Slicker and his navigation officer, Florence McConnachie, are blamed for the open-ended jump that dropped their battle fleet into deepest, uncharted space. 

They attempt to make amends and are pushed together into an unlikely alliance.
Can they find a way home to the Sphere of Influence? Nobody ever managed it before, so they couldn’t make things worse.

Or could they?

From villain to hero, the adventure continues.

http://mjkewood.blogspot.co.uk/

 

Back in October 2016, I did a review of Deep Space Accountant, Mjke Woods first in the trilogy – The Sphere of Influence.

blogmike

I had been eagerly awaiting this second book in the Sphere of Influence trilogy, and Mjke Wood does not disappoint. Following on from Deep Space Accountant – we have left Elton Philpotts behind – literally – and travel with the erstwhile slimy accountant, Bob Slicker into deep space. When I realised that the story had moved on from Elton, I was momentarily piqued, I liked Elton Philpotts, I had become irrationally attached to him – even though he is an accountant. However, Wood has managed to transfer my loyalties as smoothly as an Eddie Stobart entering a SLOG; smoother.

solar_system_lollipops_1024x1024

And so to Bob Slicker; Bob is a spineless, sweaty appendage to the hideously megalomaniac Martin Levison, can he REALLY be our new hero?
Can Bob find home? Can Bob find a girl? Can Bob find a spine?! Whilst Bob is spineless, Martin Levison is heartless. Bob wants Eccles cake. Martin wants Cognac. Bob wants to go home. Martin wants the world!

Along for the ride with Bob Slicker, is Florence McConnachie, second navigation officer. Florence is quick-witted, independent, dexterous, and no navigator. Like Bob, she has a boss who ensures that the blame is passed onto and firmly held by their subordinates, unlike Bob, she is about to get married. She dislikes Bob Slicker due to his association with Levison, and refers to him as ‘The Slicker’; he is a sweat machine of great magnitude. And alas for Florence, she is going to have to work with the man.

outer-space-lollipops-1
Some of the characters are beautifully awful; Lieutenant Commander Kurasov is an excellent portrayal of an American style military officer; but with a private life back home that is worthy of its own story! Meera, the navigation officer, is a preening, self-promoting egotist who will undoubtedly get what she wants. And although these are characterisations that we recognise, Wood somehow manages to NOT make them feel clichéd.

A couple of characters are who you would want on your side in an emergency; Winker Watson especially fits the bill (I am presuming the name was taken from the schoolboy who played pranks on his teachers and classmates in the popular British comic, Dandy). Watson is a bow-tie wearing, coffee-making, cake-eating Payroll officer, who enjoys tinkering with spacecraft in his spare time. I suspect that Wood is quite attached to this Watson chap, as he is more fully depicted than any other secondary character.

10_piece_planet_taobao_nw_HEATHER_KELLY_grande
Although the story takes part in the vastness of space; where many American movies have been set, and some American language features are use, this is a quintessentially British story; the tone of writing contains no ice or vinegar like so many American novels do, by this I mean sarcasm or nasty wit (not that I don’t like a bit of sarcasm and bite), the reactions to emergencies,  behaviours, idiosyncrasies and flaws strike as ‘terribly English’, small things matter; as Bob discovers when the kestrels power system is drained!!! (Beer anyone?!) – I love that.

There is even a YouTube trailer  –

I haven’t seen one of these for a book before – or maybe I just lead a sheltered life – If you get British humour, you understand that the YouTube trailer has it’s lollipop licking tongue firmly in its cheek; all those big movie trailers, influenced by American film industry, that we have become used to are pastiched here in a short space of time – the dramatic music, the panoramic views of space, and the bold text.

lollipops
Do read Deep Space Accountant first, it gives background to Slicker and Levison – which gives the ‘Lollipop’ story it’s tension.
And what is a lollipop of influence anyway? I hear you ask – well, you’ll just have to read it to find out!

The Lollipop of Influence has

Spaceships! Alien Planets! Bad Guys! Good Guys! Cake!

What’s the Word?

Hello again my fair followers, my cute consumers of creative calligraphy; you gluttons for punishment! Nah, not that last one, well maybe, just a little. *gives devilish grin.

So you’ve been coming here for a while now and know that I write; books as well as this blog (some poetry too, but the less said about that the better), and I have covered word origins on a couple of occasions, but then I thought – what about the word ‘word’? I know! You did too didn’t you?! How bizarre that we write and speak these words, but have ever wondered, ‘where did the word ‘word’ come from Alex?’

I’m glad you asked, I did the work for you…

 

Word    

Is a unit of speech and writing, a single distinct meaningful element of speech or writing, used with others (or sometimes alone) to form a sentence and typically shown with a space on either side when written or printed; as in “I don’t like the word ‘anti-climax’ .”

It can also be a command, password, or signal, for example, “Smithers gave me the word to start shooting.”

As a verb it expresses something in particular words. “She words her request in a particularly ironic manner.”

And then there is the fairly current usage that expresses agreement or affirmation. “Word, that’s a good record, man.”

Howlin Wolf I want to have a word with you
Howlin’ Wolf could never have sung                           “I want a word with you.”

Etymology of the word ‘word’

It is Old English; c. 1200, meaning “to utter” of Germanic origin; related to Dutch Woord and German Wort. Originally from the proto-indo-european root Were, which means to speak or say. Makes me wonder what people said before word was part of the language when they needed to have it out with someone – “Oi! I want to speak to you!” doesn’t feel as hard-hitting as “Oi! A word!”

a-world-of-words-3-1024

 

Then it snuck into our language and we thought no more about it, it became a thing in and of itself without us paying much attention, it appended itself to other words to create new words.

 

‘Word’ and ‘Word Up’

Now I thought this had fallen out of use, what a fool. Certain groups of young people and even older generations who may have spun around too much on their heads as teens, or really cool black dudes still use this.  For those not in the know, it means – “I comprehend what you are saying and verify that your statement is true, my good brother.” Both are generally used to mean “I agree.” The terms are from late 1980’s hip-hop slang. Some say popular usage probably originated with the single Word Up! by Cameo. It is definitely of African American tradition; particularly it’s oral tradition and may be rooted in a belief in the power of the Word. The African concept of Nommo, the Word, is believed to be the force of life itself. To speak is to make something come into being.

Ali G Word

 

The Word 

Was a 1990’s Channel 4 television programme in the United Kingdom. Its presenters included Mancunian radio presenter Terry Christian, comedian Mark LamarrDani Behr, and Katie Puckrik. Originally it was broadcast at 6pm Friday evenings; The Word’s main live show was shifted to a late-night time-slot from 9 November 1990. The magazine format allowed for interviews, live music, features and even game shows. The flexible late-night format meant that guests could do just about anything to be controversial. ‘Language’ was never bleeped out, as far as I can remember, and there was some choice language at times. There was also an ‘I’ll do anything to be on television’ section called “The Hopefuls” in which people ate worms, bathed in maggots, licked sweat off fat people, intimately kissed old people, and did generally repulsive things in order to get featured on the programme. It was repulsive and horribly fascinating at the same time.

The Word

 

 

The Word (2)

Britain’s first democratic socialist tabloid newspaper. Begun online in 2015, it is a socialist hub with the involvement of as many people as possible from the socialist movement in Britain. The politics, they say, are broadly in line with those of Jeremy Corbyn and believe in justice, equality, truth, courage and that only by sharing as fairly as possible the resources of this planet will we be able to live in harmony with each other.

the-word-new-design-best-s

 

WordPress

A free software that can be used to create a website or blog. It originated in 2003 simply as code that enhanced typography and has evolved into the largest self-hosted blogging platform in the world.

wordpress

Microsoft Word 

Is a graphical word processing program that users can type with. It is made by the computer company Microsoft. Its purpose is to allow users to type and save documents. Similar to other word processors, it has helpful tools to make documents. The first version of Microsoft Word was developed by Charles Simonyi and Richard Brodie, former Xerox programmers hired by Bill Gates and Paul Allen in 1981. Both programmers worked on Xerox Bravo, the first WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) word processor.

Word 2.0
Word 2.0

 

‘What’s The Word?’

This is another phrase with its roots in black culture. Depending on your situation, it could mean a number of things. It can mean – “How are you?” or “What are we doing tonight my good chap?” or “What’s the news?” (about specific or non-specific topic) .

Singer/song-writer, Gil Scott-Heron used the phrase in his 1976 song ‘Johannesburg’; a protest song about South Africa’s apartheid system, and when Scott-Heron asked, “What’s the word? / Tell me brother, have you heard from Johannesburg?” he was begging for an update on what was going on.  Remember young ‘uns, this was before the internet! Yes, there was life before Twitter and Facebook. “We don’t know for sure, because the news we get is unreliable, man,” Scott-Heron continues in the song. ‘The Word’ in this instance is of vital importance.

gil-scott-heron.jpg

 

And finally, with no need for explanation is…drum roll…..

 

The Word of God

Word-of-God

 

Word –  

pretty powerful for text with only 4 letters!!

Thanks for visiting folks, I hope this post was interesting, or at least informative – remember – spread the word!!

 

 

Bibliography

Roc the Mic Right: The Language of Hip Hop Culture’, by H. Samy Alim, 2006

http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=word

https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/the-many-uses-of-the-word-word

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=word%20up

http://thewordmedia.org.uk/

https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Word

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U8z4a86aggU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZjAantupsA&list=RDMZjAantupsA#t=0

I’m In Love With Japan

Japanese-customs

Japan; the one country in the world that I have longed, longed, to visit for decades. I cannot put my finger on the moment when I first wanted to visit Japan; childhood I think.

I was given a set of books by my grandfather, one of which was about Japan; its otherness absolutely fascinated me. My father used to talk of the horrors committed by Japanese soldiers in WW2; they had a fearsome reputation, but I was somehow convinced that they couldn’t have been the only ‘bad guys’. Over the years, I have dipped in and out of my love affair with this distant land; Books, Films, Manga/Anime, Sushi, Textiles, Crafts, Comics etc.

But what of modern-day Japan?

It is a country of contradictions, fascinating customs, beauty and respect. Japan arrived relatively late to the ‘Westernisation party’. They had had connections with the Dutch and English since the 16th century, however, it was the Americans (Commodore Perry), who literally forced Japan to open its doors; to trade; join us, or suffer the consequences was the implicit message from Perry’s massive fleet.( I equally loath and thank the man)

An island nation of 127 million, Japan is notorious for its ultra-strict work culture, and for being so safe even its Yakuza gangsters do not carry guns – much. The murder rate is the third lowest in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), with fewer than one thousand homicides in 2015. In that same time period, the US – a country with a population less than three times the size of Japan’s – recorded fifteen times that many. Japan is one of the safest countries in Asia, and its murder rate of less than one per 100,000 is the lowest among industrial nations (* compare with South Africa – The murder rate since 2011 stayed at around 32 per 100,000 but the number of murders has increased with increases in population. South Africa also has one of the highest rates of rape in the world.)

yakuza
No hiding place…

And it just keeps on getting safer. 2015 saw the lowest rate for every single type of crime since 1945. Tokyo is ranked as the safest city in the world. Osaka is ranked as the 3rd safest. Greater Tokyo is the second largest urban habitation on the planet, so that’s one heck of a verdict.

japan

Street crime is practically non-existent there, and drug use is low. This is largely attributed to the culture of Japan, as being known to use illegal drugs or being sentence to prison would be considered of bad character.

According to the United Nations, in their report called UN Chronicle: The Atlas of Heart Disease & Stroke – Japan has one of the lowest rates of coronary heart disease in the world.

Japan life-expectancy

Japan is well known for its politeness and good manners. Not only that, but Japanese culture is also extremely efficient. Japan is a busy country but is well organised.

•Ä‘哝—Ì—ˆ“ú^—¼•Ã‰º‚É‚ ‚¢‚³‚‚·‚éƒIƒoƒ}•Ä‘哝—Ì

The Japanese take hygiene seriously. You will hardly see any rubbish on the roadsides – even the trains are clean!! In Japan, not only they are clean, everything is in perfect order and neat as well – well trimmed trees, for example.

Temple bells, the stone gardens, the bamboo, and the torii gates instill a sense of peace and serenity. And teenagers can be seen paying tribute at shrines as often as older generations. Respect for tradition and culture runs deep.

 

It has been reported to me many times by family and friends, that Asian countries always have much better hotel service than in the West, but, I read repeatedly, Japan takes it to another level. Bags are brought to your room. Towels brought up just because you might need extra. Hotel owners wave you good-bye. Everything is done with a bow. Everyone is helpful.

r-GIFT-GIVING-large570
Giving gifts is a huge part of Japanese life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dumb; Japan has its down sides, doesn’t everywhere. But  I cannot help but be drawn to this place that is 9,406 km away. And the recent mini-series of TV shows by BBC 4 made me pine for it even more.

samurai sword
They make the curve how?!!

I think in the age of the ‘self’, the individual, me, me, me; we might learn a thing or two from the Japanese.

Sayonara

 

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p054qbtb

https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/may/26/what-is-safest-city-in-the-world-crime-immigration-tokyo-amsterdam-new-york-bogota

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/01/06/national/media-national/even-gangsters-live-in-fear-of-japans-gun-laws/#.WXHYDxXyvIU

https://www.insidejapantours.com/blog/2012/03/12/10-reasons-why-japan-is-so-great/

http://www.thecoolist.com/japanese-anime-for-everyone/

http://www.rmc.edu/docs/default-source/asian-studies/the-opening-closing-and-re-opening-of-japan-japanese-foreign-relations-before-during-and-after-the-tokugawa-shogunate-%281600-1868%29-%28pdf%29.pdf?sfvrsn=0

http://www.slate.com/blogs/quora/2013/12/31/japan_s_19th_century_modernization_why_did_the_country_end_its_isolation.html

 

 

Shame on You?

How many of you want to hide under your desk when your behaviour at the office party is discussed over the following days? (Yeah you have.)

How many times did you hang your head in shame as a child because of your actions?

Shame: noun

1.the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonourable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another: She was overcome with shame.

2. disgrace; ignominy: His actions brought shame upon his parents.

Psychology Today defines shame as – Shame: A Concealed, Contagious, and Dangerous EmotionShame informs you of an internal state of inadequacy, dishonor, or regret . As a self-conscious emotion,shame informs you of an internal state of inadequacy, unworthiness, dishonor, or regret about which others may or may not be aware.

Shame is closely related to Guilt. Many psychologist will argue that shame is harmful to the inner self. Shame is internalised, shame can destroy self-perception. Good old guilt on the other hand, is an external admission to something you have done wrong – or something you perhaps should have done but failed to. Shame is internalized and deeply connected to our sense of who we are. Guilt is often passing. Shame-based comments appear to be accurate statements about our character or lack thereof. Those comments are easily internalized as truth about who we are, haunting us long after the comment was made. Guilt, on the other hand, fades with time or after corrective action is taken.

We love to ‘name and shame’. Even better, we love to ‘name and shame’ publically; social media is a fantastic tool for the ‘shame-r’ to use against the ‘shame-e’ (So they aren’t real words! Yet! Just you wait).

And shame, might I add, is not in the eye of the beholder. Some people are completely shameless; much like Frank Gallagher.

shame 1

Let’s have a look at Guilt V Shame examples:

Donald Trump tried to intimidate his former FBI director into silence by threatening to release secret recordings of their conversations.

Donald Trump baselessly accused President Obama’s national security adviser of committing a crime — after his White House conspired with the head of the House Intelligence Committee to foment a false scandal.

He violated federal law by claiming proceeds from various Trump products would go to charity, although there is no evidence that Trump ever donated the money to charity.

His vow to use torture on suspected terrorists would violate the Geneva conventions. He would be committing war crimes.

He suggested that women should be “punished” for having abortions and “joked” that he’d date his daughter!!!!! (WTF!)

Seeing a pattern here folks? Mr. T has perhaps the longest list of actions and activities that come under the label ‘guilty’, and yet, the man evidently feels no shame whatsoever. (And not only guilty, but libelous. Seriously, how is this man still President?!)

He believes not only, that he is the law, but that he is above the law. He has been sued over 3,500 times in his career, including 70 times during his campaign. He blithely tweets comments and opinions that seem to have been dredged up from a recent dream. He has absolutely no understanding of world politics and how the historical interference of America and the UK have brought us to where we are today.

The man is a buffoon, without the charm (and I use that term loosely folks) of Boris Johnson. And the irony is, he bandies the word ‘shame’ about like a fat cudgel made of Bratwurst. He truly does not know the emotion of shame. I bet he shits bullets; his insides must be as cast-iron as his skin and brains.

Choose your shameful buffoon

 

Now let’s just enjoy some moments that the man should be ashamed of –

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

http://www.pajiba.com/politics/a-complete-list-of-all-the-times-donald-trump-has-broken-the-law.php

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2017/06/every-terrifying-thing-that-donald-trump-has-done.html

http://sticktrump.com/

 

 

 

 

Do You Speak ‘Proper’ English?!

Good morning, Bonjour, Guten Morgen, Buenos Dias, Buongiorno, Shubh Prabhaat, Sabāḥul kẖayr.

Aren’t words brilliant!

English words I find especially so – as I am British ( I say British as I do not consider myself English; I have Irish parentage, with Scottish and Cornish ancestry) and we are an extraordinarily mixed race that has absorbed, from countries across the world, words that have become embedded so deeply that we have almost forgotten the origins. I love the etymology of words, names, nouns, things, stuff, anything! I think I may have mentioned in a previous post the origin of the word orange – it is from the Persian, narange.

677px-Origins_of_English_PieChart.svg

Language changes can denote when a country was historically invaded, when merchants brought more home than products and coin, when integration was necessary. Language is a living, ever evolving, and fascinating marker to our connections worldwide.

My previous snob of a self used to scoff at ‘Americanisms’ – i.e. garbage, diaper, aluminum. These words travelled from Holland and England to the New World and remained in use alongside those from farther afield. Now I understand the use of garbage, as compared to rubbish; it makes sense.

Today’s post is a collection of words that have entered our, English, language from the wider world community, so here is a small, very small, collation to whet your appetite –

Plant, wine, cat, candle, anchor, chest, fork, rose – Roman, circa AD 410.

english language romans

Birth, cake, call, egg, freckle, happy, law, leg, sister, smile, trust – Old Norse, circa AD 900.

english language 3

Army, archer, soldier, Crown, throne, duke, nobility, peasant, servant, obedience, traitor, felony, arrest, justice, judge, jury, accuse, condemn, prison, gaol, ballet, café, genre, garage – French, circa 1066 to present.

english language MP
Peasant!

Boss, coleslaw, landscape, cruise, frolic, rucksack, roster, wagon, onslaught – Dutch, various.

Abseil, angst, cobalt, delicatessen, doppelganger, dachshund, fest, haversack, kitsch, kaput – German, various.

DmGCH6.gif
The German v Greek Philosophers Football Match (Monty Python)

Veranda, jungle, bandana, chit, dinghy, pyjama, juggernaut, cashmere, thug, shampoo – Hindi, circa 18th and 19th c.

Banjo, chimpanzee, zebra, zombie, banana, jazz, cola, bozo, boogie, okay – Africa, circa 18th and 18th c.

english language 5

Alcohol, algebra, chemistry, elixir, cipher, zero, zenith, alcove, amber, assassin, candy, coffee, cotton, mummy, racquet, sash, crimson, ghoul, giraffe, lemon, orange – Arabic, various.

english language arabic

Flannel, corgi, penguin, pendragon, bard, balderdash, druid, crag – Welsh, various.

Blackmail, clan, glamour, golf, scone, wraith, tweed – Scottish, various.

 

Looking into the origins of some words provides us with, not only origins and meaning, but the circumstances under which such words have entered the English language.

I think we should be proud have having such connections and ability to borrow, adapt and absorb words into our everyday use. It makes me feel I belong to a greater community.

english language

 

For some excellent reading on this subject, take a look at:

english MB

The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg.

 

 

Self – Obsession

Warning: you may not like what you read today. And if it piques, ask yourself why.

Self-Obsession

What strange times we live in.

Imagine you are not from the country that you live in. Take a moment.

Now look at it with as objective a view as you can.

Do the people in your country care for each other? Do they work together in harmony? Do they strive to make it a better place to live in? Or, are efforts made just for the few?

Now let us step away from that country, pull back as though you were a camera lens, a film shot pans out, and we see the Earth. Ask the same questions.

Are you satisfied with what you see?

Are there people in this world who do not have what you have? Are there people in this world who do not even have the basics for sustainable life? Are there people dying needlessly? Are children dying needlessly?

self obsession 4

We think we are being a good person when we make a donation to a charity. We think we are a good person when we drop coins into a ‘begging bowl’. We think we are good when we buy a poppy, a copy of The Big Issue, use a charity shop, recycle.

But we need to seriously ask ourselves the question – Who am I doing it for? For many, this is actually a self-serving activity. We tell ourselves, ‘I’m a good person because I ….fill in the gap…’

But are we doing this to make ourselves feel better? To alleviate a little guilt? To be able to proclaim to others that, yes, I am a giving kind of person.

We live in an age of self-obsession like never before. Of course there have been cultures in the past, in which people have been worshipped and adored; the ancient Greeks, Gladiators and Romans. But because they did it, does that mean it is alright now? Are we not a progressive being; do we not strive to improve?

self obsession 2

We all know how easy it can be to get attention via social media, and the biggest item used by regular folk today is the selfie; the ultimate tool in the self-obsessives kit.

self obsession 3

Now that we have the front-facing camera on our smartphones, the way we take pictures and share them has changed. So convenient, so ‘trendy’, so self-obsessed; we never to stop to ask – is it good for us, good for others? What a bizarre question, you may say, but if you step back and apply the ‘imagine you’re from another planet’ test, you begin to see how truly strange this activity is.

self obsession 5

Why do we think anyone wants to see our every move? Why do we think the rest of the community wants to see our pouting lips, thrusting hips, girlfriend’s arse, boyfriend’s pecs, a new hairstyle, lipstick, every inch of the human body has been photographed to within an inch of its life.  We all have one, so why do we feel the need to show ours to everyone else?

self obsession 6

We are so self-obsessed, that when someone ‘famous’ dies, or an horrific incident kills many, there is a public outpouring of grief, a gross display of ‘how I feel’. People don’t want to hear this or be honest about it, but there is a strange reaction to the victim(s) and the event: around the inner circle of family and friends, a second layer begins, the people who did not know those involved, but ‘want to express their love’. Outside of this, complete strangers arrive to ‘show solidarity’ at this sad time.

self obsession 7

But, we must ask ourselves, who are we doing this for?

Really.

Are we actually empathising, feeling the sadness of loss that the family feel, or are we pandering to our own, selfish need to feel like we are a part of it? Can we not feel something without a public display? Why the need to be seen placing flowers at a site that has absolutely no relevance to us, other than, the true answer – I need to be seen to grieve, I need to be seen to be a feeling/thoughtful person. I need to be seen to do something.

I need to be seen.

 

self obsession Tilda

I’m in love with…

 

 

…Sir Richard Burton, no not that one –

richard burton

This one –

Richard_Francis_Burton_by_Rischgitz,_1864

 

Born in 1821, Richard Francis Burton was something of a celebrity in his own time. Think of the typical idea of the Victorian male:

  • Manliness was a virtue, a form of control over maleness, which was considered brutish.
  • The Victorian man liked to form secret societies, such as the Masons.
  • He was not only the head of the household; his duty was not only to rule, but also to protect his wife and children.
  • Working was manly; whether working-class males in heavy industry, or middle-class males, upper class males could become involved in philanthropic works or other enterprising actions.
  • Sport! They watched it, read about it, did it. Sports and cold showers; to keep the ‘little man’s’ desires in check and to prove his worth – to be ready for attack.  E. M. Forster, apparently said that this “then led to “well-developed bodies, fairly developed minds, and undeveloped hearts”.
  • And most of all, Victorian man was British. And proud of it! The expansion of the Empire became entangled in what it meant to be a man, and so he served the Queen, he hunted creatures to near extinction; he pioneered and subordinated non British peoples. He was top man, the dog’s bollocks, king of the world (with little k.)

RFB

Burton fits some of this characterisation; however, his views on the rest of the world and in particular Islam and women were light years ahead of his fellows. He  was ‘sent down’ from Oxford (meaning he was kicked out), after a series of mischievous events. He took it well, bid his tutors farewell and headed cheerily off to become more than they could ever imagine.

RFB was not only an explorer, he was a geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat. He seemed to excel at everything he did. I cannot think of anyone else alive or historical who was so accomplished. He was extraordinarily open-minded for a man of his time:

Letchford, Albert, 1866-1905; Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890), KCMG, FRGS, Maitre d'Armes, France

Burton did not think of women as inferior to men.  He was very much interested in sexuality and erotic literature – his accurate translation of ‘The Book of a Thousand and One Nights’, is full of steamy sex scenes. He translated the ‘Kama Sutra’, the most famous book in the world on sexual techniques to this day.

kama sutra

He slept with woman of all race, colour and creed (males too some reports say), he smoked opium, drank cannabis drinks with holy men, he hung about with prostitutes with no particular judgement on their profession. He took a spear to the face, when his and Speke’s encampment was attacked one night in Africa, and survived. He was spy in India. An Afghan pilgrim in the Middle East; he had himself circumcised so he could pass as native, one of the few white men to have entered Mecca in disguise. He spoke a fair number of languages too – fluent in 29!!! I can barely speak my native one right. And on and on his adventures go.

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I first heard about RFB in my teens I think. Then later on a friend who was interested in him lent me a book, ‘Sir Richard Burton’s Travels in Arabia and Africa.’ I read and studied it, sort of. But what really enticed me to discover more about the great man was a work of literary fiction.

The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi’, by Mark Hodder. The first of four books in Hodder’s Burton and Swinburne Adventures. In this alternative 19th century, Hodder really brought Burton to life for me – the outrageous behaviour, that British stoicism partnered with emotional passion, a huge, physical, Brainiac of a fist-fighter paired with the slight, red-headed, waif-like Algernon Swinburne; poet.

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Two real persons from history partnered up for some beautifully written and roistering, boisterous adventures. And so I began my love affair with Ruffian Dick; I even wrote him into one of my own short, Steampunk stories, in which my protagonist, Lucy Lockhart encounters more of Ruffian Dick than the average English woman did!

Burton was adventurous of mind as well as body. He seemed to fear nothing. He did not judge other cultures as his fellow Victorians did (and some of us still do today), he was bold, brave, liked a laugh and a drink, and he was devoted to the love of his life, his wife; Isabel. His energy, enthusiasm, his curiosity for the people and world around him should be held as an ideal to work for today I think.

Sir Richard Francis Burton died, 20 October 1890.

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This August, I hope to make my own mini pilgrimage from the North, to London to visit his tomb at Saint Mary Magdalen Church, Mortlake.

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The same superficial view of holding woman to be lesser (and very inferior) man is taken generally by the classics; and Euripides distinguished himself by misogyny, although he drew the beautiful character of Alcestis.’ RFB. On Arab womanhood in 1001 Nights.

Women, all the world over, are what men make them; and the main charm of Amazonian fiction is to see how they live and move and have their being without any masculine guidance.’ RFB. On Arab womanhood in 1001 Nights.