Friday, September 19, 2014

Picture Day Friday: The Old Library, Trinity College, Dublin

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

2014 TBR Reading Challenge: From Bath With Love by Bob Croxford

As part of Wendy Crutcher's 2014 TBR Challenge, here are my brief comments on From Bath With Love by bob Croxford.

I picked up this book at The Beau Monde conference silent auction in July 2010. The conference was held in conjunction with the annual conference of the Romance Writers of America. The book subsequently languished on my to-be-read pile for years, until I rescued it from obscurity in July for consultation for my blog for the Risky Regencies on the beauties and histories of Bath. Having enjoyed reading it, I thought it would be perfect for my September TBR Reading Challenge post.

Bob Croxford makes Bath in Somerset, England come alive though his gorgeous photography. He captures the highlights of the features of Bath and includes funny, poignant, and very relevant quotes from people in history who traveled to Bath and enjoyed the experience. The oldest of the quotes is by Tacitus from 80 CE and the newest is by Christopher Lee in 1995. Luminaries included are R.L. Stevenson, Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Samuel Johnson, William Herschel, Christopher Anstey, Mirza Abul Hassan Khan, and many others.

The book is organized with one large picture on one of the pages and a small picture and 2–3 quotes on the facing page. The order of items included can be taken as a visitors' guidebook.

His opening salvo is of the eye-catching Royal Crescent of buildings that is the iconic image of Bath. He encourages a visit to the Number One townhouse to see a typical 18th century home. A visit to the Lansdown Crescent and The Circus crescent is also recommended.

He then features pictures of the Roman Baths, the reason why visitors have poured into the city for seventeen hundred years. The hot bubbling sulfurous mineral waters were said to cure various ailments of all those who bathed in it and drank it. The baths are followed by a visit to the Grand Pump Room (now restaurant) and then the Bath Abbey. A stop for Bath buns at Sally Lunn's House is suggest as a good idea; you can also see a Victorian post box there. To quench your thirst, he recommends a visit to The Roundhouse.

Relax the afternoon away in the Jubilee Gardens or the Victoria Gardens, and visit the theater in the evening at the New Theater Royal. While the Pulteney Bridge doesn't have quite the same cachet as Paris's Pont Neuf, do spend your late summer evening browsing around and sighing over the Pulteney.

In addition to all the architecture marvels, he includes a small series of photographs on what he called Floral Bath. These are pictures of window boxes, hanging baskets, and upright pots displaying a riot of colors of flowers of all shapes and sizes and types.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Commentary: The Songbird's Seduction by Connie Brockway

I'm a huge fan of Connie Brockway's books. I have her entire backlist and eagerly await her newest releases. So imagine my surprise and pleasure when the mail brought me an advance review copy of The Songbird's Seduction sent to me by Connie herself. Not only was I able to read a new book by her, but I had the cachet of being an early reader. The cockles of my heart were thrilled. Ahem.

So I had high expectations riding into the book, and this always makes me apprehensive. What if the book doesn't live up to the pedestal I've placed it upon?

Luckily, for me, The Songbird's Seduction delivered. It delivered on the story, on the historical period of the Downton Abbey Edwardian era, on the characters, and on Connie Brockway's signature witty repartée. Every character—be they main characters like Archie and Lucy or secondary characters like Aunt Lavinia and Margery—is drawn with care. Their complexity makes them interesting, makes them come alive.

London operetta singer Lucy Eastlake was orphaned at an early age and bounced around from relative to relative before she was taken in by these two elderly aunts of hers. They're single ladies living in genteel but constrained circumstances. However, they gave Lucy all the advantages they could give her and all the love her short life had previously lacked. Lucy's joie de vivre confounds and befuddles her aunts, as does her signature "things will work out" attitude.

Lucy doesn't believe in waiting for fate to hand her what she desires—she likes to reach out and grasp her opportunities tightly in her own two hands. And this runs contradictory to the story of her Aunt Lavinia's youth, where she fell in love with a young army officer in India. She felt he loved her, she knew she loved him, but he had an understanding with someone else, which he decided to honor and she respected that. So in the end, these two people who loved each other in their youths were separated forever without having revealed their love to each other, till a legacy came along fifty years later that reconnected them.

A fortune in rubies was to be divided up among the remaining four survivors of the siege in India, but Lord John Barton, Lavinia's John, gifted his share to Lavinia. So Lucy and her great aunts Lavinia and Bernice set off for France to collect their fortune.

There were to be aided in their endeavor by Lord Barton's grandson, Professor Ptolemy Archibald Grant, a straitlaced, brilliant cultural anthropologist. Lucy at first rejects his help, but as circumstances have it, she and he end up taking the ferry over to France together. Meanwhile, Lucy's great aunts have already departed for France under the aegis of Lucy's theater friend Margery, impersonating a theatrical woman to ease the great aunts' discomfort.

Missed connections between the two parties, many adventures, and much hilarity ensue, giving Archie and Lucy precious time together. They fall in love, and things are progressing swimmingly until Archie makes a discovery that makes him angry with Lucy. Lucy hies off in tears to meet Lavinia's deadline for divvying up of the fortune.

Whilst there, seeing Lavinia, she's reminded again how she could not make the same error that Lavinia made in not seizing her happiness, of letting her love leave her to live the best years of her life in regret. So Lucy reverses her earlier decision to let Archie alone and decides to try to convince him of her love. Meanwhile serendipitously, Archie's arrived at exactly the same conclusion. Love does indeed triumph all differences.

The Songbird's Seduction is releasing today, and after writing this review, I've been reminded again why I liked this story so much, and I've succumbed to the urge to re-read it.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Picture Day Friday: English Country Cottage

Friday, September 5, 2014

Picture Day Friday: Remains of the Day Setting

Dyrham Park, near Bath, was the setting for the Merchant Ivory film Remains of the Day.

[Photo courtesy of Brendan May @bmay.]

Monday, September 1, 2014

Five Tools for World Building in Historical Fiction

Right around the time of the Romance Writers of America's annual conference in July, I came across a two-part article on world-building for historical fiction novels by author Tim Weed for The Grub Daily.

I read the article over and over again, thought about it a lot, tweeted about it, then thought about blogging about it, then promptly forgot about it. Then suddenly last night, when I was wondering whatever I am going to blog about tomorrow, it flashed in my inward eye (misquoting Wordsworth) and was deemed perfect for today's offering.

I am going to very briefly summarize the article's five main points below. However, I urge you to read the article in its entirety here and here.

Vivid Descriptions of Nature
We instinctively recognize natural landscapes, whether or not we've spent a significant of time communing with nature and whether or not the landscape is deeply familiar or completely foreign. As a result, they always elicits deep emotional responses.

Accurate Portrayal of Recognizable Human Emotions
Evoke plausible and vivid emotional states for your characters that ring true to us and they will come alive for us, and through the characters, hook us into the story.

Incorporating the Exotic
Provide us with a vicarious experience of the unfamiliar. Make us see it, hear it, feel it, smell it, touch it, sense it.

Show a different way to see the same situation or person. Show something that is "familiar, even clich├ęd, in a compelling new light. In the process, it makes us wake up and pay attention."

Use Period Details—But Sparingly
Don't fall into the temptation of an infodump. All your research doesn't have to be unloaded into your story. You want to add it delicately like a strong spice in your dish. The nuances are where the beauty is, not in the actual description. "Remember: period details must make sense given what's happening in the story and the point of view character's emotional state."

"Vivid, concrete, specific detail is the lifeblood, the gods' nectar, of fiction."

Friday, August 29, 2014

Big Fat Book Update

Well, I had hoped to report back on progress. But what I'm actually reporting is lack thereof.

Towards the beginning of the month, I'd written about signing up to do the Big Fat Book read-a-long for the month of August. The readers were tasked with reading complex books of greater than 500 pages in length.

I chose The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett, a 550-page tome which results in 25 hours of unabridged audio recording.

I waited and waited for the books to arrive from the library. I had put holds on the books in July but it was past mid-August by the time the books arrived. I had requested the audiobook on CD as well as a paperback copy. Given that this was to be my first foray in audiobook territory, I thought to back up my listening to the book with my reading the book. I was told that there were dozens of characters in this book—in fact, track two on the first CD goes through the list for minutes on end—and so thought the reading would help me keep track of the characters better as well as the complexities of the plot.

After the books arrived, I had to jigger a listening setup. I commandeered an ancient, barely alive laptop to be the CD player and loaded up the first CD. I installed an updated Windows Media Player, which didn't work. So I found an HP CD-playing software to run on my HP machine. That worked. Then I had to hunt around for a proper headset, one which didn't fall out of my ears or slip on the hair when that hair's sweaty from exercise. I ended up with my daughter's hot pink ones. As it is, I wasn't aiming to look chic while exercising while half asleep at six o'clock, so cushioned hot pink ear muffs were it. I then had to figure out a way to hide this whole setup from inquisitive little sticky fingers, but still accessible from the exercise bike.

In the meantime, family had arrived for an extended visit, which involved lots of cooking and going places. I also had multiple book editing projects land on my desk. You can tell where this is going right? Right.

By the end of the month, I have ended up listening to three hours of the book. Twenty-two more to go. I'm going to keep up the BFB project till I'm all done. However, it's not going to be a month-long project as originally envisioned by Sunita.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New RITA & Golden Heart Contest Guidelines by Romance Writers of America

The Romance Writers of America has published their new 2015 RITA & Golden Heart contest rules for published authors and unpublished writers, respectively. Some of the highlights for the RITAs, include:

1. Entrants are required to judge. Entrants will not judge in a category in which they are entered. Judges will be allowed to opt out of two categories.

2. Only the first 2000 entries are accepted.

3. A book may not be entered in more than one category, but there's is no limit to the number of eligible books that may be entered for an author in the same category.

4. Categories with fewer than 50 entries will not be judged.
[Given the currently defined categories, this is not something that will come to pass.]

5. Preliminary-round scores will be determined using a trimmed mean: the highest and lowest scores will be discarded and the remaining three scores will be averaged.

6. The top scoring 4% of each category’s entries will advance to the final round, excepting that no category will have fewer than 4 finalists or more than 10 finalists.
[Finally, a sensible solution to this year's comical situation wherein there were 17 finalists in the Historical category.]

7. The Contemporary category has books set from 1950 to present date and is to be subdivided thusly: short (40,000–56,000 words), mid-length (56,000–84,000 words), long (more than 84,000 words).

8. The Historical category has books set in time periods prior to 1950 and is to be subdivided thusly: short(40,000–89,000 words) and long (more than 89,000 words).
[While size works well to demarcate groups in the Contemporary category, time periods would work better in Historicals. There are far more books set in the extended Regency period (1800–1837) than are set in other time periods. Expecting those other books to compete with the Regencies is not feasible.]

9. There are no New Adult or Stories with Romantic Elements categories.
[I don't know enough about New Adult to judge—I'd put them in contemporaries—but the SwRE is a serious loss to the contest; some of Romance's best books are written in this category.]

Friday, August 22, 2014

Picture Day Friday: Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

2014 TBR Reading Challenge: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

As part of Wendy Crutcher's 2014 TBR Challenge, here are my comments on The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.

This is a true memoir as opposed to an autobiography of whine. Some people write their memoirs as a reporting on what happened to their lives: usually sad, humiliating, and/or disgusting. They do not enter into their own feelings about these events so much. A true memoir, on the other hand, is all about the intensely intimate, the person's feelings in reaction to or in anticipation of events. And in Joan Didion's hands, the memoir is elevated to an art form in the sparseness of her prose, her unflinching honesty in her thoughts and actions, and an in-depth examination of her feelings then and now to events preceding and succeeding The Event.

The inciting event: "At approximately nine o'clock on the evening of December 30, 2003, my husband, John Gregory Dunne, appeared to (or did) experience, at the table where he and I had just sat down to dinner in the living of our apartment in New York, a sudden massive coronary event that caused his death."

The secondary inciting event: "Our only child, Quintana, had been for the previous five night unconscious in an intensive care unit at Beth Israel Medical Center's singer Division, [...] where what had seemed a case of December flue sufficiently severe to take her to an emergency room on Christmas morning had exploded into pneumonia and septic shock."

Quintana, after a long illness with relapses, eventually recovered and came home. Dunne never did.

In the days following Dunne's death, while Didion had to maintain a strong front, "I remember thinking as I did this that he would see that I was handling things," she suffered from a sense of unreality and tacit denials. "I found myself wondering [in New York City], with no sense of illogic, if it [John's death] has also happened in Los Angeles. (Was there time to go back? Could we have a different ending on Pacific time?)" and "How could he come back if they took his organs [at the autopsy], how could he come back if he had no shoes?"

The day after the funeral in March, which was as public a declaration of death as any, she took herself in hand and allowed herself to think about what she needed to do to start the next phase of her life. "Cleaning up my office could be a step toward the first day of the rest of my life." Despite this decision, in the quotidian, her sense of reality remained fluid. "I was myself in no way prepared to accept this news as final: there was a level on which I believe that what had happened remained reversible." Episcopalians say at the graveside: "In the midst of life we are in death," and this was so true for Didion.

There are refrains that like ostinatos in music come up again and again throughout the narrative.
"Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant."
"You sit down to dinner. And then—gone."
"You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends."

Posthumously, she recognizes that there were conversations with and actions on Dunne's part that revealed that perhaps on some deep subconscious level he had some knowledge of his impending death. Gawain of the medieval prose-poem Chanson de Roland when asked, "Ah, good my lord, think you then so soon to die?" replies, "I tell you that I shall not live two days." Didion keeps discovering bits and pieces of their recent past where she should've listened closely and understood what Dunne was trying to tell her. She doesn't beat herself up about it, but it is with a sense of regret that she acknowledges her lack of attentiveness.

Her meditation on grief is aching in its sense of catching her by surprise by its intensity and its longevity. "We do not expect to be literally crazy, [...believing] that their husband is about to return. We imagine initially that we will eventually recover, that grief will lessen. What can never be anticipated is the unending loss, the space that is always empty beside you," the unending succession of memories...

Didion talks a lot about what she calls a "vortex effect," where a memory is triggered by a glance at a place or a song or a smell. She starts avoiding places in order to prevent disappearing down rabbit holes and the painful return to reality.

Her husband features in these trips down memory lane far, far more than her daughter, and it's mostly when her daughter was a little girl, not other ages. This struck me as very curious. Did she feel detachment towards her daughter because she was so attached to her husband? She comes across as an unemotional person on the whole, which is not to say that she doesn't feel things intensely. On the contrary. This book goes to show that what is not apparent on the surface is very deeply felt, and it is profoundly private. This is what makes this book so powerful: In her most difficult time of grieving, she volunteers this look into her most private self to a society that considers mourning as wallowing in self-pity. That took tremendous courage.

Towards the end of the book, she writes that she does not want to finish this account, because she's afraid that she'll then have to face up to her sense of John alive as becoming "more remote, softened, transmuted into whatever best serves" her future life without him. "I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us. When we mourn our losses, we also mourn ourselves. I also know that if we are to live ourselves there comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead."

Monday, August 18, 2014

Medievalism: Tales After Tolkien Society

The Tales After Tolkien Society promotes short-form medieval scholarship in popular cultural genres, including but not limited to: fantasy, science fiction, westerns, romance, horror, crime, historical, children’s and young adult fiction, and cross-genre writing. "The Tales After Tolkien Society recognizes the foundational place J. R. R. Tolkien’s work has not only for the fantasy genre, but for popular medievalisms far more widely."

The blog also offers brief comments on recent medievalist scholarship, book and article reviews, and other popular cultural uses of medievalist themes.

The motivation for the blog came about from the 2011 issue of the Modern Language Association of America's publication Profession. "In it is a cluster of articles discussing the evaluation of digital scholarship, and in the introduction to that cluster is the suggestion that digital scholarship needs to be encouraged among junior scholars—those who have not yet been awarded tenure and those who find themselves off the tenure track but not secure in identities as independent scholars."

Other advantages that digital scholarship offers are an "ability to track emergent trends in research and scholarship," a reading and an evaluation of the pieces by peers via comments and page analytics, and a space for detailed discussion of current articles.

They are currently seeking new contributors to the blog. Please contact Helen Young for more information at

Friday, August 15, 2014

Picture Day Friday: Reply to Fan Letter by Harper Lee

On June 7, 2006, Harper Lee wrote this extraordinary letter to her young admirer in response to a request for a photograph.

[Click on the image to read better.]

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When Is a Book Not A Book?

Book of Dimma is a shrine from 11th century A book is not a book when it's a book containing parts of one book or multiple books. This medieval book reliquary was called a cumdach or a book shrine. For example, the cumdach of Dimma's Book was produced in the twelfth century to encase the eighth century Gospel Book copied by the scribe Dimma.

Another example is the cumdach of Columba's Psalter. It was a copper and silver-plated book shrine that was made in the second half of the 11th century to hold the psalter of St. Columba, a manuscript that was created in the 6th or 7th century.

These shrines were fancy dust jackets, if you will. The cases were meant to directly resemble a book, symbolizing the important manuscripts found inside, and to protect the manuscripts from damage.

The shrines rival the books for super bling. This here on the left is the Gospel book known as the Codex Aureus or the Golden Book. It was made in the 9th century for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles II. The cover of the book is covered with gold, gems, sapphires, emeralds, and pearls.

[Both the images in this post are used with permission. They are copyrighted by Jenny Weston of Leiden University, The Netherlands and taken from]

Monday, August 11, 2014

When Did Romances Start to Get Such a Bad Rap?

"Stock characters, repetitive structures, contrived endings, formulaic words and phrases, simplistic emotions, commonplace sentiments"... Sounds familiar? How many times have modern romances been accused of this by the literary fiction stalwarts and even the science fiction and fantasy genre enthusiasts? Romances cannot be taken seriously pooh-poohs the Earnest Literature Reader; they're too pedestrian.

And yet, those quoted words above were not used to describe modern romances, but rather Middle English romances. Like modern romances, they were part of an enduring genre, ragingly popular in their heyday (over five centuries). Again like modern romances, popularity didn't mean that they didn't come under fire from the literary greats. And also like modern romances, they were commissioned by and read by people (well, men) who were well-educated, important, and successful.

Those Middle English romances and today's modern romances have been successfully popular across all demographics and yet are unpalatable to a notable few. It is as if something that is widely-read cannot have literary merit. Modern-day publishers think that reading comprehension and attention spans have declined these days—whether this is true or not, the market has bought this assessment and made the pronouncement that if something can be comprehended by many and is accessible to many, then perforce, it lacks rigor and complexity of language and thought.

And why stop at Middle English romances. Go further back to Old English tales, Nordic fairytales, and the grand sagas from Ireland and Iceland. All throughout history, you will find that stirring romantic stories of derring-do, love, the vanquishing of evil, the triumph of the noble (I don't mean aristocratic) hero (and heroine), the advancement of the underdog, and other such themes have been disparaged as the purview of the dim.

The philosophers of the ancient period and early Middle Ages are the Chaucers of the later medieval periods are the Austen contemporaries are the modern-day New Yorkers. Behind every romantic tale in history is a line of its detractors.

So modern romance novelists and readers who advocate for mainstream acceptance and respect towards the genre have an uphill battle ahead of them. But they're fighting the good fight.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Picture Day Friday: Lay vs. Lie, a grammar graphic

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Summer Reading: Big Fat Book Edition

Some of my acquaintances who're readers and bloggers have been talking about desiring to read long instead of quick shorts. When I mean long, I mean more than 500 pages versus the usual 80,000 to 100,000 word stories. When I mean, quick, I mean stories with fast pacing and easy characterizations and subject material. Thus, the BFB or Big Fat Book project was born.

What qualifies as a BFB is not merely size, i.e., the hefty doorstopper, but also complex story lines, intricate plotting, and not obvious character motivations and thoughts and actions.

Back in March, Sunita blogged about initiating a BFB read-a-long among her blog readers. I thought long and hard about it, and decided, nope, I did not have the bandwidth to do it. I had BFB envy, but it wasn't a sufficient motivator. However, I kept up with Sunita's BFB posts in March to see how she did.

Then in June, I was alerted by her that another BFB read-a-long was coming up in July. I still thought that it was going to be a tough sell for me. Likewise, I was tempted by Kay's post, but resisted.

Then yet another person, Liz McCausland, decided to join in and posted about it. What was different about this one was the possibility of listening to an audiobook as part of the BFB read-a-long. I went, "Hmmm..." even though I am not a fan of audiobooks. Liz tried to encourage me in the comments section. But then a comment from Kaetrin finally clicked, and I was like, "YES! Count me in."

Her comment was that instead of sitting around twiddling my thumbs while listening to audiobooks and letting my attention wander then scrambling around trying to find the spot where I had stopped listening, I should do something that is not too engrossing while listening, i.e., something mindless, so I can keep my mind on the book and let my body have something to do, too. Her brilliant suggestion was to exercise while listening to the book.

I now have The Game of Kings, the first book in the Lymond Chronicles, by Dorothy Dunnett from the library. It's a book I have always wanted to read ever since author Jo Beverley recommended it highly, but have been daunted by the size. The paperback version tops 550 pages and the audio version has 25 hours worth of unabridged recording on CD. *GULP*

I am hoping that this will be synergistic for me: the exercise will help the listening and the listening in turn will help the exercising. Thus, I will be trying my first audiobook and my first BFB this summer. Hoping to post updates here so you can follow along with my progress (or lack thereof).

Monday, August 4, 2014

Book Benches of London

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame When I first came across this concept of book benches, titled Books About Town, I was thrilled as all get out. Imagine sprinkling the entire map of London with scenes from books that are in a permanent, functional sculptural form. Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Here was another way to get literature to people by making it accessible and fun. You could take a tour of London by following various trails of book benches. Here's a detailed list of all the benches.

1984 by George Orwell When you read the bios of the artists, you notice that they have a love of reading, interpreting the books, and bringing the messages contained within to the masses. For example, Thomas Dowdeswell chose 1984 by George Orwell, "because of its rallying cry against the corrupting powers of the mass media, boundless corporate greed, sinister or misguided government policy and the constant threat of war and terror."

In order to draw more attention to the benches, different events have been scheduled on different days at different benches. For example, on Sunday, July 6, a person dressed as Mary Poppins was giving away books at specific times at the Mary Poppins book bench.

The book benches will be on view in open public spaces for the months of July through September. Then on October 7, 2014, they will be sold in an auction with proceeds going to "the National Literacy Trust, a charity dedicated to raising the literacy levels of disadvantaged children and young people across the UK."

[All images in this post are copyrighted by]

Friday, August 1, 2014

Read-a-Romance Month

Katharine Ashe kicked off 2014 Read-a-Romance Month today. Every day three authors post blogs and book recommendations, and short interviews are included. All commenters are eligible for a giveaway of the authors' books.

While the main post is free-form, the interview has these three questions:

1. Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.

2. Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer (or a reader). (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)

3. Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)

Here's Day One's Kristan Higgins who blogged about the qualities she loves best in a hero. She writes laugh-out-loud contemporary romance, and you get a feel for her writing in her blog presence. She recommends Laura Moore and Huntley Fitzpatrick.

So follow along every day of the month of August for great blogs, interviews, recommendations, and giveaways.

Picture Day Friday: The Churchill Arms in London

The Churchill Arms is one of the most famous pubs in London. Built in 1750, this place was known to be frequented by Winston Churchill's grandparents.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Shambles of York

[Click on the images for a bigger, better view.]

Have you heard of The Shambles? It's the Yorkshire version of ambling, twisting, turning, narrow, cobbled streets of medieval York.

However, there's also an actual lane called The Shambles, which is considered to be one of the best preserved medieval streets in Europe. It even has a mention in the Doomsday Book (commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1086). The street that you can visit now has been modernized since then with buildings from the 14th and 15th centuries. (Modern is as modern does, eh?)

The name, Shambles, is Anglo-Saxon in origin; shammel meaning shelves, and stands for the shelves that were commonly found in most open-front shops.

The street had many butcher's shops, their homes, and also slaughterhouses. The meat was hung up on meat-hooks for sale on the outside of the shops with smaller pieces set out in shop window shelves for display. Lacking a sanitation system, the pavements of the street were raised on either side of the street to provide a channel for washing off the blood and offal that naturally ended up on the street.

The winding lanes, which surround The Shambles, are so narrow in spots that if you walk down the lane with your arms outstretched, you can touch the buildings on either side of the lane. This is not a design by a drunk architect, a resettling of buildings over time, or the building McMansions in tiny spaces. Medieval towns were deliberately built like this.

In The Shambles, the overhanging timbered fronts of houses were close-set on purpose to protect the wattle-n-daub walls below and also to prevent the meat from spoiling due to inclement weather.

So there you have it. The next time you visit York, be sure to include this spot in your itinerary of places to see.