Author Archives: Margaret

About Margaret


Where did the term Music Hall come from?

I can remember watching ‘The Good Old Days’ on my grandparents’ back and white TV, later upgraded to colour. This was a programme of popular songs from the nineteenth and early twentieth century, screened in front of a live audience, who arrived dressed up in Edwardian clothes and were encouraged to join in.

Joining in the singing was part of the old music hall tradition, a tradition that started in music hall 2the public houses of the 1850s. Around this time landlords – always on the look-out for ways to sell more drinks – started to notice that on the evenings when certain singers came into the pub more drinkers would choose that evening to come in as well, so that they got a drink and a bit of entertainment at the same time. In time, landlords would set aside the saloon bar for the entertainers and audience, or open up a separate ‘singing room.’ As the entertainment became more and more popular, enterprising landlords built a ‘hall for music’ on the side of their pubs, with the name soon changing to ‘music hall.’ Some of the singers, such as Marie Lloyd, became house-hold names.

The main feature of a music hall was that it was an adjunct to a public house, and that drinking was actively encouraged throughout. In music halls the landlord stopping the singing and shouting ‘Order! order!‘ was not an instruction to behave, but an instruction to go and buy another drink or there’d be no more singing that night. (Other theatres didn’t allow alcohol in the auditorium, which probably explains some of the popularity of the music halls).

The Leeds City Varieties Music Hall, built as an adjunct to the White Swan Inn in 1865, was a typical example of a successful music hall. Like other venues though, its survival was threatened by the arrival of television and the popularity of home entertainment. This particular hall was saved by the decision of the BBC to film ‘The Good Old Days‘ there. The programme was so popular that it ran from 1953 to 1983. Lovingly restored it is still a popular venue for variety acts.Music hall


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Remembering the First World War.

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It’s a hundred years ago today that the First World War ended, and there are memorials taking place around the world to mark this. Many families were affected by the death or serious injuries (mental and physical) of the young men who fought for King and Country. The traditional role of women was also changed by the war as they left their homes to support the war effort, and brought up families single-handed. True, they were expected to meekly return to the kitchen once the men came home, but the genie was out of the bottle, and the vote and greater independence – both socially and in work –  followed.

Language was changed too, and phrases coined by the men at the front came into common usage when they returned home. Though with some, their meaning has changed subtly.

Over the top, for example, which referred to the act of scrambling out of the trench and running towards the enemy lines (quite possibly getting killed or injured in the process), now means anything excessive or a bit too much.

Catwalk was the name for the temporary, narrow wooden pathway over the mud (so named because of a cat’s ability to walk along the tops of thin walls), now refers to the strip of stage a model walks along to display the latest fashions.

Some phrases needed a rapid cleaning up to be used in mixed society. In the pink means being well and happy, but for soldiers at the front it had sexual connotations (use your imagination), whether realised or just hopeful.

Likewise bumf, which came to mean paperwork – quite possibly an excess of it – was a contraction of bum-fodder (again, use your imagination – no doubt they were short of loo rolls at the Front).

The soldiers in the First World War had khaki uniforms, unlike the splendidly attired WW1 soldiersoldiers of previous centuries. It made them less conspicuous and less likely to be picked out by snipers. The word khaki was not a WW1 invention. It comes from the nineteenth century Persian or Urdu word meaning dust.

Many men endured the dreadful conditions bravely, but were no doubt helped by a laconic sense of humour. I will finish today with a marching song from the First World War known as I Don’t Want to Die. I want to go home / I want to go home / I don’t want to go in the trenches no more / Where whizz-bangs and shrapnel they whistle and roar / Take me over the sea / Where the Alleyman can’t get me / Oh my / I don’t want to die / I want to go home. This was sung, of course, whilst marching stoically towards the Front, and in the full knowledge that they, or comrades, might never be going home.




The Origins of English

Where did the English language come from, and why do we mostly  speak English in the UK and the USA? I can’t answer the last question, but here is a brief summary of how English evolved from an unknown group of speakers living somewhere unspecified over 15,000 years ago. Early man

Around 14-15,000 years ago, their language evolved into three: distinct versions: New Guinea; Sino-Tibetan (which gave rise to Chinese), and Nostratic. Nostratic carried on evolving in different regions and, about 10,000 years ago, became what have been termed Afro-Asiatic (Hebrew and Arabic), Dravidian, and Eurasiatic.

Fast (?) forward around another 5,000 years and we have Eurasiatic dividing into Altaic, Uralic (the source of the Hungarian language), and Indo-European.

From the first millennium BC, Indo-European evolved into the prime source of many of the languages we now recognise: Indo-Iranian, Hellenic (Greek), Italic (e.g. French), Celtic (e.g. Welsh), Balto-Slavic, and Germanic.

Still with me?

From Germanic, in around 450 – 1100 AD, we get German, Dutch and Anglo-Saxon. And from Anglo-Saxon (also known as Old English e.g. Beowulf) we gallop (?) through the changes:

Middle English (1100 – 1450), e.g. Chaucer.

Early Modern English (1450 – 1700) e.g. Shakespeare.

Modern English from 1700.

Early man 2Language is still changing and we speak and write differently today from our ‘modern’ eighteenth century ancestors. However, we do not have much problem understanding what they wrote. It might be different the other way round, though. If some of them were tele-ported into 2018, what would they make of our text speak, computer terms used in everyday language, acronyms, office jargon and emoticons? Also our seeming preference to communicate via gadgets rather than directly?

Are we heading into the post-modern English era? Discuss!


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Life in the Margins.

We’re marking Halloween, and things that go bump in the night, in this blog today, albeit Dracula 1in a literary fashion. Whilst the kids are out tricking and treating, grown-ups might prefer to curl up in the warm with a good, scary, book. And none better than Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In the 1890s, Stoker was the manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London. He liked writing in his spare time, but most of his writing was un-researched, spur of the moment, stuff that was regarded as unreadable by any who saw his manuscripts.

It was different with Dracula. For this book he regularly popped round to the London Library and ended up reading about forty books before putting pen to paper. We know this because he acknowledged most of his sources, such as The Book of Were Wolves, when Dracula was first published. What we didn’t know until recently though,Dracula 2 was that he did not just read the books, he was the author of numerous notes in the margins. This was discovered by Philip Spedding, the library’s current development director, when he was leafing through one of the twenty-six books the library has kept in the knowledge that they were used by Stoker. No one had attributed the inky scrawling to him before, but their authenticity has now been confirmed by the University of Essex. Based on identical scribbles in the margins, the library has subsequently identified six more books, in addition to those listed in Dracula, that Stoker probably used for inspiration.

Libraries take a dim view of customers who deface books, but it seems Stoker got away with it at the time. Now the books have been removed from the shelves for aresearch student to go through all the annotations and try to link them with events in the story. Other defacers have not been so lucky – Joe Orton served six months in prison for defacing books. Mind – he did fill the margins with obscenities.

Well-known book defacers include Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, and Pierre de Fermat (him of Fermat’s last theorem fame). In 1637, Fermat wrote a complex theorem, in the margin of a copy of Diophantus’s Arithmetica. Underneath he wrote “Of this thing I have found a truly marvellous proof. The smallness of the margin will not contain it.” Seems he didn’t write it down anywhere else either, and it was nearly 360 years before Andrew Wiles, a British mathematician, came up with a satisfactory proof.

Marmite – Spread the Word!

Everyone has heard of Marmite – everyone in the UK, that is. I’m not sure if it is so popular elsewhere in the world. For those who aren’t in the know, Marmite is a yeastMARMITE-ON-TOAST-602918 and vegetable extract that is used as a spread in sandwiches or on toast. It can also be added to stews etc. for extra flavouring.

What people, including those in the UK, may not realise is that the word comes from marmite – a large cooking pot, or the soup cooked within such a pot. (Marmite is French for casserole, or pot). Presumably – and I’m guessing here – the soup was full of vegetables and very flavoursome. Hence its adoption as the name for the spread.

I quite like the taste of Marmite, but I don’t have very strong feelings about it. It doesn’t spoil my day if I have marmalade on my morning toast instead. But some people love the spread. And some loathe it. Feelings are so polarised that the term Marmite is often used these days about anything people feel strongly about one way or the other. Or anybody; I can think of a few politicians, actors, and comedians who can elicit a ‘marmite response’ whenever they appear on TV.

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Meet author – Debbie De Louise

Debbie De Louise is an award-winning author and a reference librarian at a public debbielibrary on Long Island. She is a member of International Thriller Writers, Sisters-in-Crime, the Long Island Authors Group, and the Cat Writer’s Association. She has a BA in English and an MLS in Library Science from Long Island University. Her novels include the three books of the Cobble Cove cozy mystery series published by Solstice Publishing: A Stone’s Throw, Between a Rock and a Hard Place ***, and Written in Stone. Debbie has also published a romantic comedy novella featuring a jewel heist caper, When Jack Trumps Ace, a paranormal romance, Cloudy Rainbow, and has written articles and short stories for several anthologies of various genres. She lives on Long Island with her husband Anthony, daughter Holly, and Cat Stripey. (*** scroll to the end of this blog for a chance to download this book for free)

Debbie is proud to announce the release of the 4th book of her Cobble Cove Mystery series, Love on the Rocks. eBook & Kindle Unlimited: Debbie - teaserPaperback:

Here’s what it’s all about …

When Alicia helps plan a Valentine’s Day Party at the Cobble Cove library that also includes a surprise for her newlywed friend, Gilly, things go wrong when a mysterious box of chocolates addressed to the director turns out laced with poison.

Clues Lead to A Dead Suspect

Although Alicia promised John she’ll no longer meddle in crime investigations, she and Gilly set out to find the person threatening Sheila who murdered the courier of the Debbie Love on the rocks-001 (1) (2)deadly candy. The three people they suspect include the professor from California who’s been romancing Sheila while she assists him with research for his book; the obnoxious patron Rhonda Kleisman who threw coffee at the director after refusing to pay for a damaged book; and a visiting widow staying at Gilly’s inn who’s unnaturally curious about Sheila and earns the nickname of Madame DeFarge for her interest in knitting.

 While Alicia and Gilly are trying to solve this new Cobble Cove mystery, Sneaky is introduced to Gilly’s new kitten, Kittykai, a calico she brought home from her honeymoon in Hawaii. It’s not like at first sight, but the two cats eventually become friends. They also both play a part in foiling the killer’s murder attempts, but will Alicia and Sheila survive unscathed?

Excerpt: “Alicia, come with me to the Reference Desk. I left a few more decorations there and can use a hand putting them up.”

Alicia followed Sheila back to the desk admiring the paper hearts and flowers hanging from the library’s ceilings and the red streamers that lay across the stacks. Two huge red hearts graced a banner strung across the entranceway over the turnstiles. In the center of each, handwritten in glittery purple script were the names of her best friend and new husband – Gilly and Ron. She knew Gilly would be glad they used her nickname but wasn’t sure the sheriff would approve of the use of his first name. Most of the town resident’s knew him as Ramsay.

Sheila ran around the desk pulling out drawers. She reminded Alicia of a hen tending her chickens. “Gilly and Ramsay are going to be so surprised.”

Alicia agreed. The idea for a combination wedding and Valentine’s Day party was hatched up by Sheila, and it was a great thought. The rest of the staff was busy upstairs where the party would be held arranging more decorations there and putting out all the home-cooked dishes they’d prepared along with the red, pink, and white sheet cake that would be served for dessert.

“What’s this?” Sheila paused in her tossing of decorations atop the desk.

Alicia came over to see what had grabbed the director’s attention. A velvet shaped heart box sat by one of the computer stations. As Alicia came closer, she could see a post-it attached to it with the words, “To Sheila from your secret admirer.”

Sheila smiled. “That Ryan. He knows I have a sweet tooth and am particularly fond of chocolates.” She opened the lid. “My favorites. I know I should wait for the party, but these are just too appealing.”

Alicia watched as Sheila took a few pieces and bit into them. Only a few seconds after she swallowed, her smile faded. She began to choke and clutched her throat.

“Sheila, are you okay?” Alicia rushed over afraid she wouldn’t recall how to do the Heimlich maneuver, but Sheila had already passed out on the floor. “Help!” Alicia called racing to the stairs. The romantic music playing above her drowned out her voice. Just as she grabbed her cell phone to dial 911, Ryan Anderson walked through the door, a huge bouquet of roses in his arms. He stopped short seeing Sheila on the ground. “What happened. Oh, My God!”

“I’m dialing 911 right now,” Alicia said. “She ate some of your chocolates and then passed out. I’m not sure if she choked on a piece.”

“My chocolates? I didn’t get her any chocolates. I was bringing her these flowers.” He dropped them on the desk and then knelt down and started administering CPR to Sheila’s unmoving body.



The second book of my Cobble Cove cozy mystery series is free on Thursday, October 25 and Friday, October 26. You can get it here on those Debbie - betweenarockandahardplacefreeteaserdays:

If you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, all my eBooks are free. Check them out on my author page:

Synopsis: Librarian Alicia McKinney has put the past behind her…

Two years ago, Alicia discovered both a terrible truth and lasting love with John McKinney in the small town of Cobble Cove, New York. Now a busy mother of twin babies and co-author of a mystery series, Alicia couldn’t be happier.

Alicia’s contentment and safety are challenged…

Walking home alone from the library, Alicia senses someone following her, and on more than one occasion, she believes she is being watched. Does she have a stalker? When the local gift shop is burgled, the troubling event causes unrest among Alicia and the residents of the quiet town.

John and Alicia receive an offer they can’t refuse…

When John’s sister offers to babysit while she and John take a much-needed vacation in New York City, Alicia is reluctant to leave her children because of the disturbances in Cobble Cove. John assures her the town is safe in the hands of Sheriff-elect Ramsay. Although Alicia’s experience with and dislike of the former Long Island detective don’t alleviate her concern, she and John take their trip.

Alicia faces her worst nightmare…

The McKinneys’ vacation is cut short when they learn their babies have been kidnapped and John’s sister shot. Alicia and John’s situation puts them between a rock and a hard place when the main suspect is found dead before the ransom is paid. In order to save their children, the McKinneys race against the clock to solve a mystery more puzzling than those found in their own books. Can they do it before time runs out?

Download for free to find out!!

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One up for the apostrophe!

We have discussed the use and misuse of the apostrophe before on this blog. In brief, is should generally be used to show possession or a missing letter, and it should not be used to show that a word is plural or between a date and an ‘s’ – as (not) in ‘during the 1980’s, mobile phone’s were almost unheard of.’)

The use and misuse of apostrophes keeps grammarians in a constant state of alert, if not agitation – see Simon Griffin’s book F***ing Apostrophes. But they don’t usually attract Cornwallthe attention of local politicians, going about their official business. Unless that is, they are hoping to represent one of the newly formed districts in Cornwall UK. Ninety minutes were put aside for councillors to debate the names proposed for all the new districts, with the one likely to cause the most problems being Lands End. Or should that be Land’s End? One of the Liberal party councillors tentatively put forward the opinion of Craig Weatherhill, a local historian who has published books on West Cornwall and who said the name should include an apostrophe.

Cue, normally, a debate divided by party political differences as well as some legitimate or far-fetched alternative suggestions. After all, the humble apostrophe would not be compatible with any web address chosen for the district, and you might have expected there to be advocates for simplifying the grammar for all the new signposts, headed notepaper etc, that would soon be needed. apostrophe

Not so. A councillor for the national party stood up and said if the apostrophe was good enough for Mr Weatherhill, it was good enough for him. This seemed to stifle all further debate and the amendment was carried unanimously. Land’s End will be the name of the new district.

Links to my books – where you will find each apostrophe perfectly placed.