Monday, 8 March 2021

One Day Blog Blitz and Author Guest Post: A Prescription For Madness by Linda Fawke

Madeira - Have some, M’Dear!

Linda Fawke

My grandmother loved it. A little nip after dinner just hit the spot, she said. As she poured out the deep-golden liquid, always into the same crystal glass, she sang a song. Flanders and Swann, she said. I learned the words and joined in. Once, when no-one was looking, she gave me a sip. It was a shock and made me cough. I didn’t understand why she liked it so much. Just as well at the age of eight.

Years later, I visited Madeira, a pleasant island full of folk who had been there many times. The climate pulls them back. I was a beginner, a tourist, doing the tastings, learning about the wine and its history. Did you know Madeira matures in heat, not in a cold cellar like most wine? It is gradually moved up into the warm attics. People buy it as an investment. Blandy’s, the famous producer, will store it for you, even changing the corks every twenty years. Apparently it’s necessary. I learned that Shakespeare spoke of ‘a cup of Madeira’ and that Winston Churchill, Goethe and Napoleon enjoyed it. I put my eight-year old opinion behind me and joined their ranks. I even bought a few bottles. When I got home, I looked up the famous song, ‘Have some Madeira, M’dear’, the one I’d sung with my grandmother and whose words I’d mostly forgotten. The tune had been floating around in my head the whole time I was on the island.

I was horrified. I’d half-remembered an amusing ditty with a catchy title. As an eight year old, I was amused. But I had neither learned it all nor understood it. It’s a shameful story of the seduction of a young girl by an old, vile man, a rouĂ©, presented as entertainment. Although it initially seems the young girl escapes the clutches of her predator, running away from his flat, the last line implies she wakes up in bed with him. She may well have had ‘a smile on her lips’ but the story is not comfortable. Not today. The warm feeling that a glass of Madeira gave me went cold. How could anyone have enjoyed such a story?

The song is clever. It has witty wordplay. It introduced me to the device of ‘syllepsis’*, which is repeatedly used. It lends itself to performance. If you play a You-tube version, there is much laughter in the background. It’s been described as a ‘novelty’ and ‘darkly comic’. The journalist Sam Leith described it as a ‘hilarious song about date rape’. Can date rape be hilarious? Really? Our ideas of acceptability have changed since the song was released in 1959. Hilarity implies approval. It is an historical example of the humour of its time. It isn’t funny now.

It’s not the fault of the wine, of course. I still enjoy it.

*Syllepis is defined as ‘A figure of speech in which a word is applied to two others in different senses’. Best understood in an example: ‘She caught the train and a bad cold’.

In the Flanders and Swann song, there are many uses, eg

‘…raising her glass, her courage, her eyes and his hopes…’

‘…she made no reply, up her mind, and a dash for the door…’


A Prescription for Madness by Linda Fawke

When successful business-owner Kate Shaw realises she is pregnant, after a fling with a previous lover, she has life-changing decisions to make. She needs to be in control of her life. Pregnancy in her fifties was never part of the plan. It becomes her secret.
The risks of having a baby at her age are clear but she struggles with the idea of an abortion. No-one understands her increasingly erratic behaviour as the preoccupation takes over her life.
Her marriage is precarious; the relationship with her former lover uncertain.
Is this the way to madness?

This is a gripping story about dark choices, gnawing discontent and the uncertainties of love.

Amazon UK                Amazon US 

Linda Fawke is an arts person who studied science but always wanted to write. Now retired, she indulges this passion, writing fiction and non-fiction, even occasional poetry, preferably late at night. She has now written two novels, 'A Taste of his own Medicine' and its sequel, 'A Prescription for Madness' using her background in pharmacy as the setting of both. These are easy books to read, suitable for Book Club discussions. ' A Prescription for Madness' is more serious than the first book, dealing with such issues as pregnancy in later life and Down's Syndrome.

She has been a winner of the Daily Telegraph 'Just Back' travel-writing competition and has published in various magazines including 'Mslexia', 'Litro' online, 'Scribble', 'The Oldie', 'Berkshire Life' and 'Living France'. She was a finalist in the 'Hysteria' short story competition.

Linda blogs at where her 'Random Writings' include a range of topics from travel to 'Things that pop into my head'.

Twitter: @LindaFawke

Facebook: Linda Fawke