Sir Patrick Moore CBE FRS FRAS

Writer, Amateur Astronomer and Television personality Sir Patrick Moore CBE FRS FRAS, sadly passed away on 9th December 2012 aged 89. He was Born 4 March 1923, in Pinner, Middlesex, on March 4 1923, and was the son of Captain Charles Caldwell-Moore, MC. Later the family moved to Sussex, where Patrick was to live for the rest of his life. He was educated at home owing to ill health, and wrote his first scientific paper at the age of 13 — his chosen subject was the features in a lunar crater he had seen through a small telescope. At the end of 1941 he joined the RAF to train for aircrew duties during World War II; however his fiancée was killed by a bomb during the war. during 1943 left for Canada for training as a navigator. He was commissioned in June 1944 and completed his training at a bomber conversion unit at Lossiemouth in northern Scotland but, due to epilepsy, was declared medically unfit for further flying duties and He left the Service in 1947.

From 1952 he was a freelance writer until One day in 1957 the BBC broadcast a somewhat sensationalist programme about flying saucers. Producers wanted a counterview by a “thoroughly reactionary and sceptical astronomer who knew some science and could talk”, consequently The Sky at Night was born, and it went on to become the world’s longest-running television series with the same original presenter & attracted millions of viewers. Moore’s Idiosyncrasies such as his rapid diction and monocle made him a popular and instantly recognisable figure on British television, where he became celebrated for the thunderous fervour with which he would utter the words: “We just don’t know!” to emphasise that our comprehension of the universe is incomplete. The secret of the program’s success lay not only in his tremendous learnedness but also in his gusto and humour & he soon attained a prominent status as a writer, researcher, radio commentator and television presenter and did more than anyone, with the possible exception of Arthur C Clarke, to educate the British public about astronomy and space travel.He would also happily appear on chat shows, quiz shows and comedy shows, among them The Goodies; Morecambe and Wise; Blankety Blank, and Have I Got News For You. He even starred in digitised form on the children’s video game show GamesMaster.moore was also a connoisseur of music, and sometimes played a xylophone on television. He also wrote the score for an opera about Theseus and the Minotaur. He was a keen sportsman too – particularly on the cricket pitch, where he proved a demon spin bowler. He also played golf and once at his local course set a club record – of 231, including a 43 on the third hole. Chess was another passion (he often carried with him a pocket chess set) and even dabbled in politics.

In 1982 he wrote a humorous but inflammatory book called Bureaucrats: How to Annoy Them. It advised that imposing a thin layer of candle grease on those parts of a form marked “for official use only” would prevent the recipient from writing anything and probably drive him mad. “Useful when dealing with the Inland Revenue,” said Moore. He was also A keen pipe smoker & was elected Pipeman of the Year in 1983. In addition to his many popular science books, he wrote numerous works of fiction. Moore was an opponent of fox hunting, an outspoken critic of the European Union and served as chairman of the short-lived anti-immigration United Country Party. After his fiancee was killed during World War II, he never married or had children.

Moore was also a former president of the British Astronomical Association, co-founder and former president of the Society for Popular Astronomy (SPA), author of over 70 books most of them about astronomy, As an amateur astronomer, he became known as a specialist on observing the Moon and creating the Caldwell catalogue. In 2002 Moore was appointed honorary vice-president of the Society for the History of Astronomy. He also won a Bafta for his services to television. He also continued to publish books to the end of his life. Recent titles include Patrick Moore on the Moon (2000, new edition 2006); The Data Book of Astronomy (2001); Patrick Moore: the autobiography (2005); Asteroid (with Arthur C Clarke, 2005); Stars of Destiny (2005); Ancient Lights (2008); and Can You Play Cricket on Mars? (2009). This year alone he published Astronomy with a Budget Telescope: An Introduction to Practical Observing; The Sky at Night: Answers to Questions from Across the Universe; Miaow!: Cats really are nicer than people!; and The New Astronomy Guide: Star Gazing in the Digital Age.

During his distinguished career Sir Patrick Moore received many honours. In 1968 he was appointed OBE then CBE in 1988 and finally knighted in 2001 .In 1982 a minor planet was named after him by the International Astronomical Union. He also held the posts of president of the British Astronomical Association and director of the Armagh Planetarium in Northern Ireland. Yet the Royal Society refused to elect him as a Fellow — one of their number declared that he had committed the ultimate sin of “making science popular”. In 2001, however, he was elected to an honorary Fellowship.

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Richard Baxter

English Puritan church leader, poet, hymnodist, and theologian, Richard Baxter sadly died 8 December 1691. He was born born12 November 1615 in Rowton, Shropshire, and baptised at High Ercall. In February 1626 he went to his parents’ home (now called Baxter’s House) in Eaton Constantine. Richard’s early education was poor, being mainly in the hands of the local clergy, themselves virtually illiterate. He was helped by John Owen, master of the free school at Wroxeter, where he studied from about 1629 to 1632, and made fair progress in Latin. On Owen’s advice he went to Ludlow Castle to read with Richard Wickstead, chaplain to the Council of Wales and the Marches. He was reluctantly persuaded to go to court, and he went to London under the patronage of Sir Henry Herbert, Master of the Revels, but soon returned home, resolved to study divinity.

After three months spent working for Owen as a teacher at Wroxeter, Baxter read theology with Francis Garbet, the local clergyman, adding to his reading (initially in devotional writings, of Richard Sibbes, William Perkins and Ezekiel Culverwell, as well as the Calvinist Edmund Bunny at age 14, and then in the scholastic philosophers) orthodox Church of England theology in Richard Hooker and George Downham, and arguments from conforming puritans in John Sprint and John Burges. Around 1634, he met Joseph Symonds (assistant to Thomas Gataker) and Walter Cradock, two Nonconformists.

In 1638, Baxter became master of the free grammar school at Dudley, having been ordained and licensed by John Thornborough, Bishop of Worcester. His success as a preacher was at first small; but he was soon transferred to Bridgnorth, in Shropshire, assisting Mr Madstard and remained at Bridgnorth for nearly two years, during which time he took a special interest in the controversy relating to Nonconformity and the Church of England. He disagreed with the Church on several matters; and rejected episcopacy in its English form becoming a moderate Nonconformist. Though regarded as a Presbyterian, he was not exclusively tied to Presbyterianism, and often seemed prepared to accept a modified Episcopalianism. He regarded all forms of church government as subservient to the true purposes of religion.

One of the first measures of the Long Parliament was to reform the clergy; with this view, a committee was appointed to receive complaints against them. Among the complainants were the inhabitants of Kidderminster. The vicar George Dance agreed that he would give £60 a year, out of his income of £200, to a preacher who should be chosen by certain trustees. Baxter was invited to deliver a sermon before the people, and in 1641 was unanimously elected as the minister of St Mary and All Saints’ Church, Kidderminster, Where he stayed for 19 years; accomplishing many reforms in Kidderminster and the neighbourhood. He formed the ministers in the country around him into an association, uniting them irrespective of their differences as Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Independents.

On the outbreak of the First English Civil War in 1642, Baxter blamed both parties and recommended the Protestation; however Kidderminster is in Worcestershire which was a Royalist stronghold, however Baxter’s comments angered many in Kidderminster so He temporarily moved to Gloucester. On 23 October 1642, he was preaching at Alcester, during the Battle of Edgehill and was evicted again and moved to Coventry (a Parliamentary stronghold) and found himself with 30 fugitive ministers, among whom were Richard Vines, Anthony Burges, John Bryan and Obadiah Grew. He became chaplain to the garrison, preaching a sermon each to the soldiery, and the townspeople and strangers. Included among the congregants were Sir Richard Skeffington, Colonel Godfrey Bosvile, George Abbot the layman scholar. Following the Battle of Naseby he became chaplain to Colonel Edward Whalley’s regiment, until 1647, he also wrote the controversial novel Aphorisms of Justification.

Baxter joined the Parliamentary army to maintain a constitutional government rather than a republic. However He regretted rejecting Oliver Cromwell’s offer to become chaplain to the Ironsides. Cromwell avoided Baxter after he argued with Cromwell about liberty of conscience, and even defended the monarchy he had subverted. In 1647, Baxter was staying at the home of Lady Rouse, wife of Sir Thomas Rouse, 1st Baronet, of Rous Lench in Worcestershire. There, though debilitated by illness, he wrote the most of a major work, The Saints’ Everlasting Rest (1650). he was also an energetic campaigner for the establishment of a new University in Shrewsbury. After recovering he returned to Kidderminster, where he became a prominent political leader and his sensitive conscience led him into conflict with almost all the contending parties in state and church.

After the Restoration in 1660, Baxter, settled in London. He preached there until the Act of Uniformity 1662 took effect, and looked for such terms of comprehension as would have permitted the moderate dissenters with whom he acted to have remained in the Church of England. The goal of comprehension was obstructed by conforming churchmen and dissenters alike. The Savoy Conference resulted in Baxter’s Reformed Liturgy, and although it was rejected Baxter continued to advocate for a comprehensive “national church” until his death.

Baxter reputation grew in London, The power of his preaching was universally felt, and his capacity for business placed him at the head of his party. He had been made a king’s chaplain, and was offered the Position of Bishop of Hereford, but refused after which he was not allowed to be a curate in Kidderminster, and was prohibited from preaching in the Diocese of Worcester by Bishop George Morley. In 1662, Baxter married Margaret Charlton, sadly she died in 1681 whereupon Baxter composed the hymn Ye Holy Angels Bright. In 1687 He retired to Acton in Middlesex, where he was imprisoned for keeping a conventicle. After being freed He went to preach in London after the licences granted in 1672 were recalled by the King.

In 1680, he was taken from his house and books and goods were seized. In 1684, he was carried three times to the sessions house, being scarcely able to stand, and without any apparent cause was made to enter into a bond for £400 in security for his good behaviour. His worst encounter was with the Chief Justice, Sir George Jeffreys, in May 1685 when he was committed to the King’s Bench Prison on the charge of libelling the Church in his Paraphrase on the New Testament. Baxter was sentenced to pay 500 marks, and stay in prison till it was paid, and was bound to his good behaviour for seven years. Baxter was now approaching 70 years old, and remained in prison for 18 months, until the government, remitted the fine and released him.

Sadly Baxter’s health began to deteriorate however he wrote 168 or so separate works, including major treatises such as the Christian Directory, the Methodus Theologiae Christianae, the Catholic Theology and a Breviate of the Life of Mrs Margaret Baxter. He also published A slim devotional work in 1658 entitled Call to the Unconverted to Turn and Live which formed one of the core extra-biblical texts of evangelicalism until the 19th century. Richard Baxter sadly died in London and his funeral was attended by churchmen as well as dissenters

Private Princess by James Patterson and Rees Jones

Private Princess is the fourteenth exciting thriller by James Patterson to feature private investigator Jack Morgan who is head of the world’s foremost investigation agency receives and receives an offer he cannot refuse when he invited to meet Princess Caroline, third in line to the British throne.

After being hurriedly whisked off to her residence, Morgan meets with the royal, who explains that a dear friend of hers has gone missing, a woman with a wild streak and great tabloid fodder. Never one to turn down a challenge, Morgan begins his investigation, sure there is more to the story than the princess is willing to tell. However as he investigates further Morgan begins to suspects that the Princess is hiding something important and that there is more to this case than he is being told.

Meanwhile the head of Private: London, Peter Knight is on another case to explore an apparent suicide of a well-to-do gentleman whose daughter wants to keep scandal from the tabloids. When Knight and Morgan compare notes, they realise that there is more to each of their cases than meets the eye So they decide to Join forces. Then an villainous old foe named Flex, from a past U.K. case resurfaces with deadly intentions, Morgan cannot simply leave. Soon Jack Morgan and the entire Private: London enterprise are on this new mission, refusing to back off until all is right again. Trouble is, Jack Morgan’s luck may have finally run its course.

Alexandre Dumas

Best known for his historical novels of high adventure The French Author Alexandre Dumas sadly passed away on 5 December 1870. He was born 24 July 1802 and raised in poverty, Dumas father tragically died when he was four, and he faced discrimination because of his ethnic African ancestry, although he was more than three-quarters French. Through his father, who was born in Saint-Domingue, he was also the grandson of a French nobleman and a mixed-race slave. His mother was French.As a young man, Dumas’ aristocratic rank helped him acquire work with Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans. He began his career by writing plays, he also wrote numerous magazine articles and travel books; his published works totaled 100,000 pages. In the 1840s, Dumas founded the Théâtre Historique in Paris.

He began working for Louis-Philippe,where Dumas began writing articles for magazines and plays for the theatre. As an adult, he used his slave grandmother’s surname of Dumas, as his father had done as an adult. His first play, Henry III and His Courts, produced in 1829 when he was 27 years old, met with acclaim. The next year, his second play, Christine, was equally popular. These successes gave him sufficient income to write full-time. In 1830, Dumas participated in the Revolution that ousted Charles X and replaced him with Dumas’ former employer, the Duke of Orléans, who ruled as Louis-Philippe, the Citizen King. Until the mid-1830s, life in France remained unsettled, with sporadic riots by disgruntled Republicans and impoverished urban workers seeking change. As life slowly returned to normal, the nation began to industrialise. An improving economy combined with the end of press censorship made the times rewarding for Alexandre Dumas’ literary skills.

After writing additional successful plays, Dumas switched to writing novels. Although attracted to an extravagant lifestyle and always spending more than he earned, Dumas proved to be an astute marketer. As newspapers were publishing many serial novels, in 1838, Dumas rewrote one of his plays as his first serial novel, Le Capitaine Paul. He founded a production studio, staffed with writers who turned out hundreds of stories, all subject to his personal direction, editing, and additions.

From 1839 to 1841, Dumas, with the assistance of several friends, compiled Celebrated Crimes, an eight-volume collection of essays on famous criminals and crimes from European history. He featured Beatrice Cenci, Martin Guerre, Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia, as well as more recent events and criminals, including the cases of the alleged murderers Karl Ludwig Sand and Antoine François Desrues, who were executed.

Dumas also collaborated with Augustin Grisier, his fencing master, in his 1840 novel, The Fencing Master. The story is written as Grisier’s account of how he came to witness the events of the Decembrist revolt in Russia. The novel was eventually banned in Russia by Czar Nicholas I, and Dumas was prohibited from visiting the country until after the Czar’s death. Dumas refers to Grisier with great respect in The Count of Monte Cristo, The Corsican Brothers, and in his memoirs.

Anotherof Dumas major collaborators, was Auguste Maquet and when Dumas wrote the short novel Georges (1843), which uses ideas and plots later repeated in The Count of Monte Cristo. Maquet took Dumas to court to try to get authorial recognition and a higher rate of payment for his work. He was successful in getting more money, but not a by-line.

In 1851, Dumas left France for Belgium. After several years, he moved on to Russia for a few years, before going to Italy. In 1861 he founded and published the newspaper, L’ Indipendente, which supported the Italian unification effort. In 1864 he returned to Paris. Married, Dumas also had numerous affairs. He was known to have at least four illegitimate children, including a boy named Alexandre Dumas who also became a successful novelist and playwright in his own right, and was known as Alexandre Dumas, fils (son), while the elder Dumas became known as Alexandre Dumas, père (father).

Dumas’ novels became so popular that they were soon translated into English and other languages. His writing earned him a great deal of money, but he was frequently insolvent, as he spent lavishly on women and sumptuous living. In 1846, he had built a country house outside Paris at Le Port-Marly, the large Château de Monte-Cristo, with an additional building for his writing studio. It was often filled with strangers and acquaintances who stayed for lengthy visits and took advantage of his generosity. Two years later, faced with financial difficulties, he sold the entire property.

Dumas wrote in a wide variety of genres and published a total of 100,000 pages in his lifetime. He also made use of his experience, writing travel books after taking journeys, including those motivated by reasons other than pleasure. After King Louis-Philippe was ousted in a revolt, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte was elected president. As Bonaparte disapproved of the author, Dumas fled in 1851 to Brussels, Belgium, which was also an effort to escape his creditors. About 1859, he moved to Russia, where French was the second language of the elite and his writings were enormously popular. Dumas spent two years in Russia before leaving to seek different adventures. He published travel books about Russia.

In March 1861, the kingdom of Italy was proclaimed, with Victor Emmanuel II as its king. Dumas travelled there and for the next three years participated in the movement for Italian unification. He founded and led a newspaper, Indipendente. Returning to Paris in 1864, he published travel books about Italy. Despite Dumas’ aristocratic background and personal success, he had to deal with discrimination related to his mixed-race ancestry. In 1843, he wrote a short novel, Georges, that addressed some of the issues of race and the effects of colonialism.

Dumas was prolific in several genres and his novels have been Translated into nearly 100 languages, these have made him one of the most widely read French authors in the world. of his novels, including The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Man in the Iron Mask, Twenty Years After and The Vicomte de Bragelonne were originally published as serials and have also been adapted since the early twentieth century for nearly 200 films including The Man in the Iron Mask, the Count of Monte Christo and the Three Musketeers. Dumas’ last novel, The Knight of Sainte-Hermine, remained unfinished at his death, however it was completed by a scholar and published in 2005, becoming a bestseller in France. It was also later published in English in 2008 as The Last Cavalier.


Christina Rossetti

English poet Christina Georgina Rosetti was Born 5 December 1830, She wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children’s poems, including Goblin Market, Remember, and the words of the Christmas carol “In the Bleak Midwinter”. Rossetti was educated at home by her mother, who had her study religious works, classics, fairy tales and novels. Rossetti enjoyed the works of Keats, Scott, Ann Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis. The influence of the work of Dante Alighieri, Petrarch and other Italian writers had a deep impact on Rossetti’s later writing. The family homes in Bloomsbury at 38 and later 50 Charlotte Street were within easy reach of Madam Tussauds, London Zoo and the newly opened Regent’s Park, which she visited regularly, Rossetti was very much a London child, and, it seems, a happy one.

ln the 1840s, her family faced severe financial difficulties due to the deterioration of her father’s physical and mental health. He had Bronchitis, possibly tuberculosis, and faced losing his sight. He gave up his teaching post at King’s College and though he lived another 11 years, he suffered from depression and was never physically well again. So Rossetti’s mother began teaching and Maria became a live-in governess. At this time her brother William was working for the Excise Office and Gabriel was at art school, leading Christina’s life at home to become one of increasing isolation. When she was 14, Rossetti suffered a nervous breakdown and left school. Bouts of depression and related illness followed. She, became deeply interested in theAnglo-Catholic movement that developed in the Church of England. Religious devotion came to play a major role in Rossetti’s life

In her late teens, Rossetti became engaged to the painter James Collinson. like her brothers Dante and William, he was one of the founding members of the avant-garde artistic group, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The engagement was broken in 1850 when he reverted to Catholicism. Later she became involved with the linguist Charles Cayley, but declined to marry him, also for religious reasons. The third offer came from the painter John Brett, whom she also refused. Rossetti sat for several of Dante Rossetti’s most famous paintings. In 1848, she was the model for the Virgin Mary in his first completed oil painting, The Girlhood of Mary Virgin, which was the first work to be inscribed with the initials ‘PRB’, ( Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood).The following year she modelled again for his depiction of the Annunciation, Ecce Ancilla Domini. A line from her poem “Who shall deliver me?” inspired the famous painting by Fernand Khnopff called “I lock my door upon myself”. In 1849 she became seriously ill again, suffering from depression and also had a major religious crisis.

Rossetti began writing down and dating her poems from 1842, and From 1847 she began experimenting with verse forms such as sonnets, hymns and ballads; drawing narratives from the Bible, folk tales and the lives of the saints. Her early pieces often feature meditations on death and loss. She published her first two poems (“Death’s Chill Between” and “Heart’s Chill Between”), which appeared in the Athenaeum, in 1848 when she was 18. Under the pen-name “Ellen Alleyne”, she contributed to the literary magazine, The Germ, published by the Pre-Raphaelites from January – April 1850 and edited by her brother William. Her most famous collection, Goblin Market and Other Poems, appeared in 1862, when she was 31. It received widespread praise, establishing her as the main female poet of the time. Hopkins, Swinburne and Tennyson lauded her work.Rossetti was hailed as a successor to Elizabeth Barrett Browning. one of Rossetti’s best known works Goblin Market Is about the misadventures of two sisters’ when they encounter goblins.

Rossetti was a volunteer worker from 1859 to 1870 at the St. Mary Magdalene “house of charity” in Highgate, a refuge for former prostitutes and it is suggested Goblin Market may have been inspired by the “fallen women” she came to know. There are parallels with Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner given both poems’ religious themes of temptation, sin and redemption by vicarious suffering. Swinburne in 1883 dedicated his collection A Century of Roundels to Rossetti as she had adopted his roundelform in a number of poems, as exampled by her Wife to Husband She was ambivalent about women’s suffrage, but many scholars have identified feminist themes in her poetry. She was opposed to slavery (in the American South), cruelty to animals (in the prevalent practice of animal experimentation), and the exploitation of girls in under-age prostitution.

Rossetti maintained a very large circle of friends and correspondents and continued to write and publish for the rest of her life, primarily focusing on devotional writing and children’s poetry. In 1892, Rossetti wrote The Face of the Deep, a book of devotional prose, and oversaw the production of a new and enlarged edition ofSing-Song, published in 1893. In the later decades of her life, Rossetti suffered from Graves Disease, diagnosed in 1872 suffering a nearly fatal attack in the early 1870s. ln 1893, she developed breast cancer and though the tumour was removed, she suffered a recurrence in September 1894 and sadly died in Bloomsbury on 29 December 1894. She was buried inHighgate Cemetery and the place where she died, in Torrington Square, is marked with a stone table

Robert Louis Stevenson

Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, sadly died On 3 December 1894 at the age of Forty Four from a suspected cerebral hemorrhage. He was Born on November 13th 1850 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Robert’s grandfather was the famous Scottish civil engineer and builder of lighthouses Robert Stevenson, FRSE, FGS, FRAS, MSA Scot, MWS, MInstCE. As An only child, strange-looking and eccentric, Stevenson found it hard to fit in when he was sent to a nearby school at age six, and when he went on to the Edinburgh Academy at age eleven. His frequent illnesses often kept him away from his first school, and he was taught for long stretches by private tutors. He learnt to read at age seven or eight, but even before this he dictated stories to his mother and nurse. He compulsively wrote stories throughout his childhood. His father was proud of this interest; he had also written stories in his spare time. He paid for the printing of Robert’s first publication at sixteen, an account of the covenanters’ rebellion which was published on its two hundredth anniversary, The Pentland Rising: A Page of History, 1666 (1866). In November 1867 Stevenson entered the University of Edinburgh to study engineering. but showed no enthusiasm for his studies, however he formed many friendships with other students in the Speculative Society (an exclusive debating club), particularly with Charles Baxter, and with a professor, Fleeming Jenkin, whose house staged amateur drama in which Stevenson took part, and whose biography he would later write. He also spent much time with His cousin, Robert Alan Mowbray Stevenson (known as “Bob”), a lively and light-hearted young man who had chosen to study art.

in 1868 Stevenson travelled the Sottish Isles of Lerwick and Wick with his father on his official tour of Orkney and Shetland islands lighthouses in 1869, and spent three weeks on the island of Erraid in 1870. He enjoyed the travels more for the material they gave for his writing than for any engineering interest. The voyage with his father pleased him because a similar journey of Walter Scott with Robert Stevenson had provided the inspiration for Scott’s 1821 novel The Pirate. In April 1871 Stevenson notified his father of his decision to pursue a life of letters. To provide some security, it was agreed that Stevenson should read Law (again at Edinburgh University) and be called to the Scottish bar.

While visiting a cousin in England in 1873, Stevenson met Sidney Colvin and Fanny Sitwell. Colvin became Stevenson’s literary adviser and after his death was the first editor of Stevenson’s letters. Soon after their first meeting, he had placed Stevenson’s first paid contribution, an essay entitled “Roads,” in The Portfolio. Stevenson was soon active in London literary life, becoming acquainted with many of the writers of the time, including Andrew Lang, Edmund Gosse, and Leslie Stephen, the editor of the Cornhill Magazine, who while Visiting Edinburgh in 1875, he took Stevenson with him to visit a patient at the Edinburgh Infirmary, named Ernest Henley, who was an energetic and talkative man with a wooden leg who became a close friend and occasional literary collaborator, and is often seen as the model for Long John Silver in Treasure Island. In November 1873 Stevenson’s health failed, and he was sent to Menton on the French Riviera to recuperate. He returned in better health in April 1874 and settled down to his studies, but he returned to France several times after that and made long and frequent trips to the neighbourhood of the Forest of Fontainebleau, staying at Barbizon, Grez-sur-Loing, and Nemours and becoming a member of the artists’ colonies there, as well as to Paris to visit galleries and the theatres. He did qualify for the Scottish bar in July 1875. But although his law studies would influence his books, he never practised law as All his energies were now spent in travel and writing. One of his journeys, a canoe voyage in Belgium and France with a friend from the Speculative Society and frequent travel companion, was the basis of his first real book, An Inland Voyage (1878).

Between 1880 and 1887, Stevenson spent his summers at various places in Scotland and England, including Westbourne, Dorset, and It was during his time he wrote the story Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, naming one of the characters Mr.Poole after the town of Poole. He also named his house Skerryvore after the tallest lighthouse in Scotland, which his uncle Alan had built. Despite his ill health, he produced the bulk of his best-known work during these years, including Treasure Island, Kidnapped; Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Black Arrow and two volumes of verse, A Child’s Garden of Verses and Underwoods. When his father died in 1887, Stevenson felt free to follow the advice of his physician to try a complete change of climate, and started with his mother and family for Colorado. But after landing in New York, they decided to spend the winter at Saranac Lake, New York, in the Adirondacks & it was here that he wrote some of his best essays, including The Master of Ballantrae

In June 1888 Stevenson chartered the yacht Casco and set sail with his family from San Francisco. The sea air and thrill of adventure restored his health, and for nearly three years he wandered the eastern and central Pacific, stopping for extended stays at the Hawaiian Islands, where he became a good friend of King Kalākaua and his niece, Princess Victoria Kaiulani, who also had a link to Scottish heritage, also spending time at the Gilbert Islands, Tahiti, New Zealand and the Samoan Islands. During this period he completed The Master of Ballantrae, composed two ballads based on the legends of the islanders, and wrote The Bottle Imp. He also intended to write another book of travel writing to follow his earlier book In the South Seas, but it was his wife who eventually published her journal of their third voyage in her account of the 1890 voyage The Cruise of the Janet Nichol.

In 1890 Stevenson purchased a tract of about 400 acres (1.6 km²) in Upolu, an island in Samoa. Here, he established himself in the village of Vailima. He took the native name Tusitala (Samoan for “Teller of Tales”. His influence spread to the Samoans, who consulted him for advice, and he soon became involved in local politics.In addition to building his house and helping the Samoans in many ways, he found time to work at his writing & wrote The Beach of Falesa, Catriona (titled David Balfour in the USA), The Ebb-Tide, and the Vailima Letters during this period and also began work on Weir of Hermiston, which He felt was the best work he had done. Upon his death the Samoans insisted on surrounding his body with a watch-guard during the night and on bearing their Tusitala upon their shoulders to nearby Mount Vaea, where they buried him on a spot overlooking the sea.

The Martian

I have recently rewatched the exciting science fiction film The Martian again. It is Based on the 2011 novel by Andy Wier and directed by Ridley Scott. It stars Matt Damon and, Jessica Chastain. It takes place during the 2030s, and features the crew of Ares III, a manned mission to Mars, who have established a temporary artificial habitat, called the Hab, on Mars, where they intend to stay for two months before departing back to Earth in their spacecraft The Hermes. However Eighteen days into the Mars mission, a massive and ferocious Martian storm hits the base and the crew find themselves in mortal peril so they decide to abandon the planet or face being permanently stranded on Mars. Unfortunately While evacuating, Charismatic astronaut Mark Watney (Damon) is lost and presumed dead when his biomonitor is damaged. With the lives of her crew at stake, mission commander Melissa Lewis (Jessica Chastain) makes a drastic decision and decides to leave the planet, leaving Watney behind.

However unbeknownst to the rest of the crew Watney survives the storm and makes it back to the Hab. However he is unable to contact NASA and with the odds against him, He Faces a fight for survival on Mars until he can be rescued. Luckily he is a resourceful fellow, and uses his knowledge as a Botanist to construct a makeshift farm and Habitat for himself which will allow him to grow crops that will sustain him until he can be rescued by The next Mission to Mars “Ares IV”. Watney then locates the Pathfinder probe, defunct since 1997, and uses it to regain contact with Earth and also modifies the Mars Rover in order to send and receive text messages from NASA under guidance from NASA director Teddy Sanders. However he faces many other problems in the Hab which threaten to blow him to smitherines at any given moment and he must be constantly vigilant.

Back at Mission Control Flight Director Mitch Henderson and JPL director Bruce Ng find out that Watney is still alive on Mars and face a tough decision whether to tell the other crew members who are en-route back to Earth that Watney is still alive. So Henderson comes up with an audacious plan to send a space probe to Mars and resupply Watney until Ares IV can reach him. Elsewhere The China National Space Administration (CNSA) also offers NASA a a classified booster that can carry a payload to Mars. Meanwhile Rich Purnell, a NASA astrodynamicist, tries to work out a way for the crew to return to Mars and rescue Watney…