Historical glossary

It’s been pointed out to me that I tend to use a lot of Elizabethan vocabulary in my novels without translating it – I try not to, honestly, but it just slips in.


This is the place to redress that problem. What words would you like me to explain?


I’ll also cough to it when I’ve made something up… [“cough to it” – confess/admit something. Modern thieves’ slang.]


dag – a 16th century pistol which can be wheel lock or matchlock, but usually has a large heavy ball on the end of the grip to balance the weight of the barrel and also provide you with something to hit people with when it’s been fired/misfired;

hobby – small surefooted Northumbrian pony, very good-doers and extremely tough but not very fast;

Remy the Hero-Cat

I have to be fair to Remy the #cat. He once covered himself in glory by (sort of) saving a #baby and was rewarded with #sardines and much cuddling. He was only about 18 months old at the time as we first got him when I was very pregnant.
After Alex my baby girl was born, I was careful to introduce her to him as a mother cat with new kittens would  to an older kitten: first I hissed at him when he came near her, and then I made sure he could see and smell me breastfeeding her. He definitely understood. He never tried to get in her Moses basket and when I had to leave her even for a moment, I always found Uncle Remy sitting nearby, keeping an eye on her.
We lived in a little house with no central heating, just a gas fire in the living room. So I had the baby there most of the time and I used to change her on a mat in front of the gas fir. Now it so happens that although I\’m very far from being a neat freak, my husband Chris was an outstanding incurable slob. As he came through the door after work he would leave a scatter of stuff behind him, including his tie which he would rip off, roll up and toss down wherever he happened to be. As I was messy too and overwhelmed with looking after the baby, I often didn\’t notice.
One day I was changing Alex in front of the fire in a sitting room that admittedly looked as if a bomb had hit it. Remy came strolling past to supervise the interesting procedure.
Suddenly he froze on the spot. He was staring at something that was obviously frightening him because all his fur was up and his tail bottled to three times its usual size. Oddly, though, he didn\’t run away.
I tried to see what had scared him. Then I realised. Remy was staring at the rolled up tie… Which had a striped pattern and really did look a lot like a poisonous snake, with the diamond head and the coiled body.
I kept quiet to see what Remy would do. And this is when he was a hero.
Very very slowly and carefully, Remy silently moved himself around so that his furry body was between the tie-snake and my baby. Inch by inch he placed himself so that the tie-snake could only get to Alex through him.
And then he pounced. With lightning paws, he batted and clawed the tie-snake\’s head and then he pounced on top of it and broke its neck, shook it, killed it and ripped it up with his claws.
No goddam tie-snake was gonna get HIS little sister!
As soon as the tie-snake was properly dead, I scooped Remy up and hugged him and told him how brave he was. It hadn\’t been a game. His eyes were wild, he was breathing hard, his heart was pounding three times as fast as normal and his tail was still bottled. Obviously I gave him sardines, his favourite food.
It was well-worth having to buy Chris a new tie to know that when push came to shove, Remy the cat was willing to risk his life for our baby!

The Story of Rambo mouse

Unfortunately cats think it\’s loads of fun to torture half-dead mice. I\’ve been conversing with Jayne Reed on my Facebook Author page about arguments with cats over this. She saved a humming bird from a cat once and says it was like holding a throbbing cloud in your hand.
Once upon a time my family moved from south London (pavements, roads) to Devoran village in Cornwall (fields). We took our Sarf Lunnon tabby mog with us, whose name was Remy (short for Remillard – geddit?)
Remy was a cat of character and arrived in Cornwall with a swagger. But the minute we put him down on grass in our back garden, he was horrified and scuttled into the house. \”Yer wot?\” he clearly said, \”Where\’s the concrete? Wot\’s all vis green rubbish?\”
After a few weeks he started getting used to it though there were still a few problems. Once he was chased all the way up the garden by a badger from the sett at the bottom of it. What the badger\’s intentions were he didn\’t say, but Remy clearly wasn\’t going to stick around to find out. After he recovered from that, he started doing some hunting.
One night I woke up at about 3 am to hear a loud yowling and crashing downstairs in the kitchen where there was a catflap. My husband was an immoveable snoring lump, so I went downstairs to see what was going on. Another cat\’s probably got in and Remy\’s fighting it, I thought sleepily, picking up a rolled magazine.
When I opened the kitchen door and switched on the light this is the sight that met my eyes:
The large tabby Remy was backed into a corner, swatting with a paw at…
A mouse, standing in the middle of the floor, squeaking ferociously at him.
I laughed so much I nearly fell over, at which point the mouse chased Remy around the kitchen and then disappeared under the fridge with a final defiant squeak.
Remy galloped upstairs and hid in the airing cupboard. I went back to bed still giggling.


I wasn\’t sure why I was watching the Hotel Inspector (Five), starring Alexandra Polizzi. It\’s the kind of car-crash reality TV show that bores the arse off me, so what was I doing watching while this curvacious Italian-descended hotel-royalty Ghastly Woman stomped about in down-at-heel b&bs?
The Hotel Inspector is in a sub-section of orrible reality shows in which a successful upper middle class person with an ego the size of Gibraltar patronises, bullies and browbeats lower middle class failures in whatever business wherein the Ego happens to have made their pile (often helped by substantial backing from family in the same business).
The Lower Middle Class Failures are allowed to argue a bit so that the Upper Middle Class Success can hammer home the point that they got where they are today by hard work and talent (not family influence at all, no no). Then the Upper Middle Class Success pays for the bullying by refurbishing part of the failing business and doing a spot of publicity and the LMCF (or Helped Peasant) says how Alex/Gordon/whoever is wonderful while the UMCS says generously that the LMCF seems to have made progress and might be able to make a go of it.
Divided into four sections by pointless adverts (why, apart from the obvious reason, is the Hotel Inspector sponsored by Playtex?), each section opens with a tedious repetitive five minute recap about the previous section, who Alex Polizzi is, what she\’s doing and why she\’s doing it and how the proprieter will be showing some pointless resistance to whatever it is she\’s ordering him to do.
Last week was, in its way, a minor tragedy. A feckless wide boy with zero experience had set up the First Inn Last Out in Winchester (or F.I.L.O) as a money-spinner and wound up renting rooms to contractors for bugger-all. Even the frightful Polizzi had a point when she commented that she wasn\’t used to being reassured that the sheets were fresh and clean. It didn\’t help that the manager doing the reassuring was a dead spit for any of Paul Whitehouse\’s more hapless creations.
And the place was undeniably filthy. With great drama, La Polizzi reeled back from the mouldy shower and refused to stay the night in the place at all. The wideboy worked his rumpled charm as hard as he could. He put his hands up to it, guv, the place was a bit dirty, his cleaners didn\’t do their jobs (they were conspicuously invisible). No dice.
In the end he bolted in terror from the bar after Polizzi offered to show him how properly to clean a sink that was off-the-scale in filthiness as registered by her handy machine. His hunted little eyes and dopy bewilderment at the levels of cleanliness this terror with tits seemed to think was normal were heart-breaking in the way that even a crushed slug can be heart-breaking.
Under Polizzi\’s eagle eye, the place was steam-cleaned, the shower was replaced, the breakfast room was refurbished, the Paul Whitehouse look-alike returned to his first love of plastering and decorating and previously disgusted guests came and agreed it was a lot better.
I need to put my hands up to something myself here. I\’m quite certain that Polizzi would reel back in horror from my house and refuse even to enter such a hell-hole of disorganisation and dirt. Which means, as far as I\’m concerned, that she has quite serious Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and needs to get help. I\’m just fine, and my immune system is fantastic, thanks.
No, don\’t worry, I have no intention of ever opening a b&b or country house hotel, ever.
So I felt quite sorry for wide boy. The ruthless nuances of English middle-class snobbery had had full play as Polizzi stomped about calling him dahling, and he\’d done what was expected of the Helped Peasant in this kind of show, which was that by the end he was really grateful and agreed that Alex was wonderful and quite right about everything.
This week though… This week, English middle-class snobbery came through in a very different way. This time it was about the Hill House in Ross-on-Wye, a mildly eccentric place, owned and run by a large mild eccentric called Duncan. At once, Polizzi\’s OCD found things to upset it – mess in the garden, dusty higgeldy piggeldy books which she immediately had to sort out and rearrange, a historic spider\’s web behind the bar.
There was quirkiness. A small plastic skeleton in a cupboard was greeted with \”I suppose that\’s some kind of joke,\” in a tone of voice that implied a joke was a species of insect. La Polizzi does not do quirkiness. \”I\’ve heard of shabby chic,\” she said, completely missing the point, \”But this is shabby shit.\”
It was a palace of eco-correctness. Everything was locally sourced, there were characterful, sexually ambiguous pigs, chickens laying actual eggs in the kitchen garden. Was there perhaps a trace of annoyance when Polizzi announced that the enormous dinner Duncan cooked her was absolutely delicious? Then she wanted to know what it had cost him to put on a plate.
Duncan reacted with touching horror. The idea of costing his meals per portion was hideous, mad, he wouldn\’t do it. All through the program he fought this outlandish notion of finding out what it cost him to make dinner for his guests – which simply didn\’t compute for La Polizzi. \”Dahling,\” she said, crushingly, \”You\’re not doing it for love, it\’s a business.\” Something crossed Duncan\’s face then, a look of guilt. Actually, dahling, I think he is doing it for love. But he couldn\’t quite bring himself to say so.
Still, the man is clearly a helluva worker, as his wife said. Left for four weeks to do something about the mess, he did something about the mess. Thoroughly and quite cheerfully, he cleaned, dusted, polished, rearranged, put away. Even La Polizzi agreed it looked much better – although there was still that historic cobweb behind the bar. \”Dahling, it\’s not Listed,\” she hissed. The cobweb went but it was an important cultural clue: there is a wild tribe of English Upper Middles who regard too much tidiness and cleanliness as an infallible marker of Lower Middle Classness in anyone. They are the Intelligentsia. And they also have a horror of thinking about money. Worse, they make rotten Helped Peasants.
And no, Duncan still hadn\’t found out the cost of his breakfast – a huge platter full of goodness, very unlike the pallid stuff normally called a full English in b&bs. Polizzi had got his faithful clientele to write and tell him they would be happy to pay more to keep him in business. Tentatively he put his prices up. Part of the deal was that she would refurbish one of the suites, the one with Indian brass pots and a garish Indian print on the wall. Reeling back from that quirk, Polizzi sent in her minions.
This was where the nuances of the English middle class truly started to show. In the red corner, we had La Polizzi, scion of the Fortes, hotelier extraordinaire, MA Oxon, a member of the Upper Middles, certainly, but also In Trade. And in the blue corner we had Duncan, eccentric, bookish, probably originally from some profession and also very much a member of the Upper Middles. Only he had obviously strayed in from the Intelligentsia. Why they insist on going into business is a mystery but it\’s never a happy thing: the essence of the catering trade is to know precisely what each portion costs you and then charge at least three times that to your customers. Duncan would not, could not do it. Well he did it eventually, but in a joky quirky way using pictures on a blackboard. And I bet he left things out.
La Polizzi returned for a nice shot of gratitude from the Helped Peasant after her lovely refurbishment of one of the suites. She had conducted a complete quirk-ectomy and done a lot of blue.
But Duncan wasn\’t happy and not at all grateful. The suite was a nightmare, he said. La P was surprised: \”everyone thinks they have good taste,\” she had remarked earlier. Did he not know that she was the only one who was supposed to really have good taste?
They had a stand-up row about it in the middle of all the blue. Alex Polizzi is pretty free with her opinions (which are, of course, matters of fact). Duncan gave her one of his opinions. \”Two star Spanish beach hotel style,\” he said.
I cheered. I punched the air. It was magnificent, a carefully chosen, lovingly crafted insult, right between the third and fourth ribs. It went home with an audible chunk. La Polizzi threw a tantrum. \”He\’s so RUDE!\” she spat, as if she never was. Beautiful.
No doubt producers and suchlike stepped in and smoothed over. In a chilly climax, various eco-journos turned up and tried Duncan\’s excellent food, agreed with La P that sometimes a conventional bedroom was better and put carefully neutral comments on their blogs. Duncan went along with all of it. He knew his poisoned blade was still in there and he knew he had won the battle of the Upper Middles.
So that\’s why I was watching the bloody show. I wanted somebody to bite back. Thank God I don\’t have to watch it any more. That Ghastly Woman will have me worrying about the antique spider\’s webs and piles of books all over my house too. Which would never do. I\’m Intelligentsia, not Trade, dahling.

On being sold financial products by the financially clueless

It makes you want to cry, it really does. Not only have banks learned nothing about blatantly paying themselves gazillions after buggering up the world\’s financial system, they have learned nothing about anything else, particularly about the importance of training their retail staff.
OK, so, Santander charged me £32 for telling me my account was (briefly) overdrawn. Naturally I closed the account. Then they \”forgot\” to tell me that the lovely ISA I opened a few years ago with Abbey National was now paying a spectacular 0.1% interest per year. So I\’ve just closed that. No, I did not want to transfer the money to another one of their accounts, thank you very much.
I\’m looking for a place to put my money so I can hand it to the taxman if necessary. That\’s all. Nothing fancy. I only ask that the interest roughly keeps pace with inflation and the bank not go bankrupt. I have another small savings account known as the Christmas Fund which I started doing a couple of years ago when it dawned on me that Christmas often seemed to turn up annually around the same time and therefore needn\’t be such a surprise.
I made an appointment to speak with a Financial Advisor of a Well-Known High Street Bank (oh all right, it was Barclays) and arrived to find a pretty child aged about 12 in a business suit.
She took me into their interview room, made the computer give her details of my little Christmas fund and was obviously on a mission to get me to open the super spiffy new ISA they have at 3.25%. Only it isn\’t, of course. That 3.25% includes a 1% bonus which disappears after the first year, taking it down to a spiffier (for Barclays) 2.25%, or a little over half the inflation rate.
I said something ironic about this and Bob Diamond\’s £8.5 million bonus and the child wrinkled her pure brow and said, \”Oh but, Barclays are a making a loss on this.\”
\”Eh?\” I said.
\”Yes, look, they\’re paying out 3.25% and the base rate is 0.5% so they\’re making a loss.\”
For just a second, I honestly didn\’t know what to say. I restrained my immediate impulse which was to roar \”You bloody idiot, what do you think you\’re talking about?\” There\’s no need to bully children, even if they clearly are utterly clueless in every way about the job they\’re supposed to do. Instead (and I\’m proud of this) I asked her why she thought that. She repeated herself as if it was self-evident.
\”Do you,\” I asked, catching my breath at the enormity of her ignorance, \”actually know what it is that bankers do?\”
Well no, she didn\’t as she finally admitted. She was supposed, I presume, to sell the investment products, not understand them. Whatever training she\’d had must have gone straight over her head and nobody had bothered to check if she knew what a bank was. All she needed to be was pretty and obedient, which she was. She certainly didn\’t need to know anything. And indeed, it really wasn\’t her fault. Her ignorance was so profound that she didn\’t know she didn\’t know (pace Donald Rumsfeld) which is the second most dangerous kind of ignorance.
So the rest of the meeting turned into an impromptu tutorial by me, complete with diagrams, about how banks (unwillingly) lend money to businesses at 12% and then borrow money from people like me at 3.25% and then take the bit in the middle to pay out bonuses to Bob Diamond of £8.5 million or bang the whole lot down on Red in the giant casino of the financial markets. And possibly even pay her, though I bet she\’s on commission, poor lass.
Then I left, advising her to read a splendid book called \”Pillaged\” by David Craig (Gibson Square, 2011) which lays out all the cunning thieveries of modern retail finance with horrible clarity. You should read it too.


Most Recent Work

Right. Updating this is a little more complicated than I fancy doing at this time of night, so this is just a rough list.

The second James Enys book will soon be out in Kindle – PRICED ABOVE RUBIES.

The eighth Sir Robert Carey novel is coming out in the USA in April – with the lovely Poisoned Pen Press. Its title: A CLASH OF SPHERES

Very excitingly, it will also be coming out in the UK in April with the equally lovely Head of Zeus and the same title.

In July Head of Zeus will be publishing the first three Carey books (A FAMINE OF HORSES, A SEASON OF KNIVES and A SURFEIT OF GUNS) in a physical omnibus edition with the title GUNS IN THE NORTH.

And at the moment I’m in the middle of writing another Jack book – JACK AND THE PUPPIES.


Read them, enjoy – and please post your review on Amazon if you like or even persuade two of your friends to buy them as well!

Elizabethan crime series written as P F Chisholm






















Starring the dashing Sir Robert Carey and dour Sergeant Henry Dodd with cameos by scum like William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.

Available online from Amazon and direct from Poisoned Pen Press.


Lady Grace series





















Tales of a girl-detective who\’s a maid of honour to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I, commissioned by Random House (age group 8yrs +)

Available online from Amazon.

Jack books








The puppydog\’s tale, told in Doglish by Jack the Labrador (or the Big Yellow Stupid as the Cats call him). Published by HarperCollins and Transworld. Available online from Amazon and direct from Random House.


Elizabethan spy thrillers















Starring ex-soldier David Beckett and quiet Jewish codebreaker Simon Ames.

Firedrake\’s Eye – a plot to kill the Queen at her Accession Day tournament

Unicorn\’s Blood – a hunt for a mysterious book that could destroy the Queen\’s reputation

Gloriana\’s Torch – battling the Spanish Armada and treason at the Queen\’s court.

Available online from Amazon and direct from Macmillan.

Early books
















About Lugh the Harper in 2nd Century Ireland. Out of print, but occasionally available from Amazon.

The Crow Goddess is now newly available in French translation.




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About Patricia Finney

Patricia Finney’s latest news is that she is now a director of Climbing Tree Books and so a publisher in her own right (in partnership with a man who must be known only as The Publisher because he does most of the work).

“Do We Not Bleed”, her latest Elizabethan crime novel has just been published by them on Kindle – a new series starring the ambiguous Elizabethan lawyer and pursuivant, James Enys. Two of her non-fiction books have already come out as ebooks “Writeritis – the novel-writing bug” and “How to Beat Your Son at Computer Games.” Three more ebooks are on the way, including a third Jack book – “Jack and the Ghosts” due out in August!


Patricia Finney has been writing stories since she was seven and a published novelist since she was eighteen. Her first novel “A Shadow of Gulls” – telling the story of an Irish bard involved in the Irish equivalent of the Iliad – had already been published when she went up to Oxford to study History. While she was still in her first year, her book won the David Higham Award for Best First Novel of the year and some fantastic reviews. By then she was also a radio dramatist with the BBC Radio 3’s production of her play The Flood. The play was a bit obscure: it retold the story of the Flood from the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh – in blank verse.

Patricia’s second novel, The Crow Goddess, followed within a year to further acclaim, continuing the story of her Irish bard.

As well as another award-winning radio play (“A Room Full of Mirrors”), she has published fifteen other novels, including three Elizabethan spy thrillers and five Elizabethan crime novels, four childrens’ books set in Elizabethan times and the two earlier Jack books – hilarious stories about Jack the daffy (present-day) Labrador dog and his Pack, written in Doglish.

Her sixteenth book is the first useful poetry book in history – The Poetry Diet (or Why Don\’t We All Just Wear Corsets?) about her disastrous relationship with chocolate – plus some really good chocolate recipes. You can buy The Poetry Diet direct from this website while stocks last.

Her day-job career to date has included stints as a newspaper columnist, medical magazine editor, property empress, hospital administrator, film scriptwriter and entrepreneur. She spent two and a half wonderful years in the south of Spain where she learnt Spanish, a little flamenco dancing and how to drink coffee and cognac at 8.00 in the morning.

Patricia would like you to know that coffee-cognac at 8 am is not always a good idea.

Since then she has been, among several other things, a coffee shop entrepreneur, a chairman of a local Chamber of Commerce and spent one delightful run-up to Christmas in her ideal day-job – selling books at Waterstones,Truro, where she learnt some remarkable things about book sales.

Throughout all this time people have come up to her and asked her if she\’s still writing. To save time, she would like you all to know that if she\’s still breathing and able to move, she\’s still writing. Her most recent book in the Elizabethan crime series starring Sir Robert Carey (under the name of P F Chisholm) is due to come out soon – \”An Air of Treason\”.



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