#Interestingliterature – She by H. Rider Haggard

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I remember watching She as a television serial when I was a young girl of eight years old. My Mother had recently given birth to my sister, Hayley, and I was sharing a room with her and “helping” her look after this difficult and finicky baby. I have never forgotten the scene at the end when She steps into the fire and starts to age. I remember her getting older and older and finally disintegrating into dust. I had nightmares about that scene for months afterwards. I think my Mom was a bit to distracted with her howling baby girl to actually realise what I was watching.

As an adult I really wanted to read the book and revisit the scene that scared me so much as a child. I got hold of a second edition copy about three years ago in an antique shop in Knysna in the Western Cape, South Africa. The proprietor of the shop was rather horrified when I told him I was going to actually read this book but that is exactly what I did.

While the story is very Victorian in its content and writing style and presents some very old fashioned attitudes to racial and gender issues (the views of the author on women leaders becomes more apparent at the end), if you accept this as a characteristic of colonial writing, it is an amazing tale of a woman who learns the secret of immortality and uses her power to gain control of the local people in an African country, whom she treats with great cruelty. The descriptions of an African dawn and the countryside and caverns are detailed and delightful, as are the depictions of the preservation of bodies and the history of She’s realm. The book provides some interesting insights into the thoughts of the Victorians about woman in leadership positions and their overarching inability to control their love lives. She is not portrayed as a weak woman, other than in her love interest.

Aside from the beautiful, heartless and immortal She, the other two main characters are equally interesting. Extremely ugly Horace Holly, a man of great intelligence and a professor at Cambridge and his protegee, Leo, the son of Holly’s dead colleague, Vincey. Vincey visited Holly on the night of his death and tells him the story of his fantastic lineage and leaves him with a box to be given to his son, Leo, on his 25th birthday. When the box is opened, Holly and Leo learn more of Leo’s ancestry and decide to set off on a voyage to East Africa to investigate his heritage further. They are shipwrecked, together with their Arab captain, off the coast and embark on a great adventure together.

There are some fairly barbaric scenes in the book such as the ritual of the hotpot, where a savage native tribe attempt to eat the Arab captain and the murder of many of her subjects by She but the intriguing story line and beautiful descriptions make this book a worthy read.

She is considered to be one of the best selling novels ever written. By 1965, approximately 83 million copies of this fantasy novel first published in 1887 had been sold.

Maybe I am interested in Rider Haggard as his family home was in Ditchingham, a village very near to the town of Bungay where my mother grew up. My mother mentioned Rider Haggard, and his daughter Lilias Haggard, several time during my childhood. The Haggard family was of great interest to the local community. The house in Ditchingham and Lilias Haggard’s involvement in the publication of The Rabbit Skin Cap, a book about a boy’s life in Bungay and the surrounding areas, feature in my Mom and my forthcoming book, While the Buzz Bombs Fell.

Have you read Rider Haggard’s books? What do you think of them?


#Flashfiction – The feathers of the indwe (blue crane)


This week I am last with my piece of flash fiction. Charli asked us to write about the charisma of the crane. Better late than never so here is my piece.

The stern countenance of the old warrior looked peaceful despite the wails and lamentations of the women of the village. The feathers of the blue crane, or indwe, stuck out of his hair; a startling contrast to his lined and worn features.

During his life, he had been proud of this illustrious decoration. The feathers had been bestowed on him by the Chief of his Xhosa tribe at the ceremony called ukundzabela. The great battle at which he had distinguished himself would always be remembered by his descendants. He had been one of the men of ugaba or trouble.

I don’t have a fondant crane to share so you got to enjoy an ostrich. You can read the other entries for this challenge here:

If you are interested in reading about potato pastry and the Dig for Victory campaign during WWII in England, you can read my post here:

Raw Literature: Writing with Mother

My Mom and I are visiting Charli at Carrot Ranch today to talk about our writing experience together for While the Buzz Bombs Fell. Thank you, Charli for hosting us.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

By Robbie Cheadle

About mid last year, my Mother and I decided we should write the story of her growing up during the Second World War in the small town of Bungay in East Anglia, Britain.

I had listened to my Mother’s childhood stories for my whole life. I thought her tales of chamber pots and an outhouse, food, coal and clothing rationing, icicles inside the scullery windows, washing using a copper tub and a mangle and children being sewn into their vests called stays, were very interesting. The additional overlay of war conditions only added to the excitement as she spoke of buzz bombs that suddenly dropped out of the sky, wreaking devastation on the area below, American soldiers billeted in canvas tents on the common, and the family hiding in bomb shelters during air raids.

I thought my Mother’s story was interesting enough to warrant writing down and…

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#Poetrychallenge – Belong and Dream

Thank you, Colleen, for this weeks challenge words for which we must use synonyms. I wrote the following two tanka poems:

Silken lies

Vengeful forces

You can join in the challenge here:

Preparations for Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day in South Africa and we celebrated by having the two grannies, one great-grannie, one great-auntie, four aunties and uncles and their children over to our house for a braai (method of cooking meat over an open fire). Although it is mid-May, the weather during the day is still hot and sunny so it was a great day for a family gathering.

Of course, a family gathering involving twenty one people is a fair bit of work so we started preparing on Saturday morning. My Mother didn’t want any of my sisters to bring anything so my contribution to the meal was as follows:

  1. green salad;
  2. one home-made loaf of white milk bread;
  3. one New York cheesecake; and
  4. one cake

Me being me, and an opportunity having presented itself, I decided to make a handbag cake.

It was a lot of work. I ended up having to make four cake mixtures to make a chocolate vanilla marble cake and a blueberry vanilla marble cake. I also had to make a batch of butter icing and a batch of royal icing.

These are the steps to make the cake:

Making a handbag cake 1

Once the two cakes were completely cool, I carved them to create the correct shape for the handbag. I cut the bottom of each cake flat so that the bag could stand and I carved one side of each cake, tapering upwards, so that they were both fatter at the bottom and narrower the top. I did this on the opposite sides for the two cakes. I then used butter icing to glue the two cakes together and then to the board with the cake standing on the flat bottom. Once the handbag shape was achieved, I covered the whole cake with a layer of butter icing.

I rolled out a [huge] piece of violet coloured fondant and placed it over the cake, using my hands to smooth it into place.

Making a handbag 2

I had made the two handles the prior week by rolling out two long, slim tubes of darker violet fondant. I shaped the two rolls into two curved horseshoe shapes and left them to dry out for the whole week. I attached the handles to the bag using royal icing.

I made the zip from a strip of white fondant with a dressmakers wheel run down the middle to make the little dash marks. I cut the flowers out of blue fondant and attached them with edible glue.

The last step was to cover the cake board with royal icing and cover it in pink vermicelli. I was pleased at how this cake turned out.

Michael helped me tremendously by making the New York cheesecake with only a little bit of supervision and guidance. I thought he did a great job.

Michael's cheesecake

I hope you all had a lovely Mother’s Day too.