Nicknamed Bookseller’s Row, Cecil Court is a hidden gem in the heart of central London. by Georgie Hoole

Cecil Court in the snow


Packed with twenty-odd secondhand bookshops and antiquarian booksellers, it truly is a paradise for literature lovers. Just moments away from the hustle and bustle of Leicester Square, you’ll be surprised to stumble across such a peaceful gem. The shop fronts haven’t changed for over a century, so a walk through Cecil Court is like a trip back in time. (Header image: @frankie.andrea)

Cecil Court Bookshop Window
Photo: @amybucklesbookshelf

Inside the stores, you’ll find anything from rare books, collector’s copies and first-editions, to old stamps, maps, posters and banknotes. It’s thought to be the thoroughfare that inspired Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley and, with its eccentric shops—some of which are even associated with magical or psychic literature—it’s easy to believe.

Cecil Court Diagon Alley
Photo: @annathegryffindor

One very fun fact about Cecil Court is that it was the temporary home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart while he was touring Europe at the age of eight. The Mozart family stayed with a barber named John Couzin, and tickets for Mozart’s first London concerts were sold from his shop. There’s even a blue plaque to commemorate his very brief tenancy, because us Londoners love a cheeky claim to fame. Some say that it was while he was staying at Cecil Court that he composed his first symphony, but we’ll never know for sure.

Cecil Court Victoria Alley
Photo: @achilleauris

Importantly, Cecil Court was also the business centre of the early British film industry, and therefore earned itself the second nickname, Flicker Alley. The first film-related company opened in 1897, and Cecil Court quickly became known as the place to buy or hire films. Pioneers of early British cinema Cecil Hepworth and James Williamson had offices on the street, alongside many international companies. During this time, all sorts of businesses opened along the alley; from equipment shops and rental companies, to foreign film dealers and companies specialising in cinema confectionery.

You’ll find Cecil Court just off Charing Cross Road, leading to St Martin’s Lane. Shops tend to open from about 10:30am until about 5:30pm, but this will vary.



Posted: 25 January, 2019


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10 Tips To Help You Write More Effective Emails By Amanda Patterson

10 Tips To Help You Write More Effective Emails


We write emails to:

  1. Provide information.
  2. Answer queries.
  3. Ask for information.
  4. Build relationships.
  5. Deliver reports.
  6. Submit proposals.
  7. Make offers.

If we communicate clearly and simply, we have a better chance of getting the response we want.

Here are 10 tips to help you write effective emails:

1.   Send it to the correct person

Are you sure that the recipient wants or needs to get your correspondence? Is he or she the correct person to contact? If you are certain, make sure that you spell their name correctly.

2.  Dear Sir or Madam

Do not use archaic overly formal language. Use a respectful, cordial greeting and salutation. Make sure your tone is correct for the subject and recipient.

Dear Dan
Kind regards

3.   The subject line must tell us what the email covers

Do not leave this empty. It shows an immaturity in business and spam filters are likely to send it to junk mail. Use the subject line to indicate clearly what you want from the email. Are you advertising an event, sending an update, asking a question, setting a deadline, or requesting information? Whatever it is, make it clear. [Read The 12 Worst Mistakes People Make In Email Subject Lines]

Example: Short Story Course – Take advantage of our discount

4.  Write in your own voice

Write the way you would speak. Use a conversational tone and allow your personality to come through. People will see through your ‘business persona’ and your affectation will alienate them. [Read But How Did The Email Make You Feel?] Do not use big words and complex, convoluted sentence structures.

Do not say: We require your consumer-related data for the course at this point in time.
Do say: We need your registration information now.

5.   Start at the end

Start your email with the reason for writing. Do not build up to it. You are not writing a suspense novel. We don’t have time to wade through your history, your resume and anything else you include. We need to decide if the email is of interest to us. This is vital if you want to craft effective emails.

Example: Writers Write is offering a discount on the course you’re interested in attending.

6.  Ask a question

Before we write the email we should be clear about what we want to achieve. Be specific. Be confident without being arrogant.

Example: Would you like to take advantage of our offer?

7.   Less is more

Be brief. Be courteous. Your email should not be longer than 250 words. Keep it as short as possible without sacrificing important  information. One way to get this right is by using the five Ws and the one H to make sure you cover the facts.


Where: Provide the venue
When: Give the date of the course
How much: Provide details of the discount
Why: Tell the reader why it’s a great deal
Who: Provide (brief) details of who will be facilitating
What: Include what you will we cover on the course

8.   Include a deadline

If we want to write effective emails, we need to be clear about when we need the response.

Example: This offer is valid until 23 February 2019. If you want to take advantage, please book before that date.

9.   Make us care

Show readers why this is of interest to them. Why should they spend time on our request? Know your audience. If you write effective emails, you won’t waste their time with frivolous requests.

Example: We are making this offer because you asked us to alert you about new dates.

10. Do not harass the recipient

Once we’ve sent the email, detailed our reason for sending it, and given a deadline, we have done what we can. If you require an urgent response, send one reminder email to make sure the recipient is aware of the importance. After that, leave them alone.

Learn how to write for business. Join us for The Plain Language Programme

 by Amanda Patterson

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At 200, Marx Is Still Wrong by Russell A. Berman

Two hundred years ago this month, Karl Marx was born in Trier, Germany, a small town in the western part of the country. To celebrate his bicentennial, the People’s Republic of China donated a larger-than-life statue of the founder of Communism to the city of his birth, which the Trier City Council voted to accept. It goes without saying that this memorialization was controversial, not only because of the devastation caused throughout the world during the twentieth century in the name of Marxism, but also because of the still living memory of Communist rule in East Germany. Henceforth when one thinks of Trier, one should remember Tiananmen Square.

As if the China connection were not sufficiently provocative, the Marx commemoration in Trier included a panegyric delivered in the town’s cathedral by none other than Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission and effective head of the European Union. Juncker is hardly known as a deep philosophical thinker and his efforts to present Marx as a “philosopher who thought into the future” were the insipid ramblings of a career Eurocrat. But his very presence at the event became a scandal because he casually dismissed the letters of protest he admitted having received from concerned members of the public in central and eastern Europe—the territories which had suffered most under Communist rule and where the memory of that dictatorship is still very much alive.

In Juncker’s telling, Marx was a mild social democrat. But Juncker failed to explore the implications of what was done in Marx’s name. What was it in Marx’s writings that lent itself to the interpretations—or misinterpretations, according to Juncker—of his Stalinist followers?  There is of course a legitimate tension between judging a work—Marx’s work—on its own merits and judging it based on its impact. But Juncker cannot praise Marx for “thinking into the future” while simultaneously trying to insulate Marx from his own legacy.

As we approach the thirty-year anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union, it is astonishing that Marx continues to be a popular figure, and not just among people like Juncker. Of course, there are the dogmatists in the few remaining Communist countries  such as China andCuba,  who continue to cling onto his sclerotic ideas. But there are also, closer to home, intellectuals and academics who purvey versions of Marxism in the humanities departments of many college campuses. Meanwhile outside of the universities, popularized versions of Marx’s ideas circulate among left-wing populists, like those of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.

All the more reason to review what was rotten about Marx’s ideas—ideas that gave rise to brutal dictatorships and the killing machines of the gulags.

If you read nearly any passage in Marx’s oeuvre, it’s hard not to be struck by his sense of absolute certainty. He pronounces statements in an apodictic manner, laying claim to an unquestionable sense of truth, with no opportunity to doubt. He is therefore always on the attack as he decimates opponents with unyielding polemic—and he was a master of polemical style, to be sure. Meanwhile there is no self-reflection, no interrogation of his own views, and no sense that he might possibly be wrong.

Marx channels a voice of infallibility, making sweeping claims with no margin of error and no exploration of evidence: “All history is the history of class struggle ” begins the Communist Manifesto, which he co-authored with Friedrich Engels. All history? Was there really nothing else than conflicts between different economic groups? For Marx, apparently, there was never any other dimension of human experience worthy of independent consideration: no history of technology, of ideas, of culture, or faith. He comes to this one-dimensional schema by deflating the philosophy of history he had found in his teacher, the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel. In place of Hegelian complexity, he offered simplistic claims to predict the future in the form of “developmental laws of capitalism.”

Perhaps the kindest judgment on Marx is that he was just one more economist who thought he could predict the future. His delusion about his own predictive capacities is what made Marx so distasteful to a thinker like Friedrich von Hayek, who recognized that humans can get things wrong, so best not to endow any single human with too much power, and certainly not the government. Not so Marx, who claimed direct access to incontrovertible insights into the logic of history. For that reason he could conclude his Manifesto with a series of crushing verdicts on competing radical movements, denounced and condemned, without a shadow of doubt. These concluding diatribes against other socialist currents that dared to differ from Marx’s Communism are perhaps the most symptomatic elements of his work, setting up a pattern of defaming one’s opponents, especially those closest to him. Marx’s Bolshevik heirs would transform  that confidence in condemnation into rationale to send political competitors to their deaths. On the long list of victims of Marxism, companions on the left figured prominently.

While we might associate Marx with politics, in fact he lacked any real appreciation for a political sphere in which one would interact productively with advocates of varying programs.  While for others, politics represents a realm of compromise and negotiation, for Marx, it was really the pursuit of power and the obligation to command. He described the state simply as “the executive committee of the bourgeoisie,” meaning that politics was secondary to the economy. Moreover he promised to abolish the state, and therefore politics, once Communism would eliminate class difference—or so the story went, as the ultimate outcome of Communism would be a libertarian utopia of statelessness.

Nothing, however, would be further from the truth. In practice, what Communism provided for was the development of a nomenklatura, a new class elite which talked the egalitarian talk while claiming for itself the privilege of dictators. The Communist cadre always knew better than the unenlightened populace, and therefore the cadre would claim the power to impose their views and programs on the rest of society. The real political legacy of Marxism was not the abolition of the state but, on the contrary, the expansion of the state over society, and the elevation of a Marxist elite over the populace. No wonder the East Germans calling for the end of their Communist government in November 1989 chanted, “We are the people,” a people which the Communists, when all is said and done, simply deplored. Marxism was not about achieving an egalitarian society: it was the vehicle through which party activists and thugs could pursue their own will to power. (For this reason, the young radical Max Eastman described the Communist revolutionaries in Russia as “Nietzschean.”)

The Marxist pursuit of power also meant denouncing all religion, which Marx described as an opiate, a drug intended to lull its consumers into passivity and false consciousness, so as to keep them from the truth (his truth). Because Marxism emphasized labor and the primacy of human experience, it could appeal to various twentieth-century philosophers, existentialists among others, who emphasized the problem of alienation. Yet Marxism, which treated all thought in a reductionist manner as an expression of economy, could never shake its own anti-intellectual legacy, famously expressed in Marx’s Eleventh Thesis on Feuerbach: “Philosophers have only interpreted the world, the point however is to change it.”

Discussion of the meaning of life—interpreting the world—turn out to be of negligible import for Marxists, easily dismissed as only “epiphenomenal.” Marx’s alternative to reflective thought was changing the world, but without any room for the sort of ethical guidance that philosophical thinking might offer: change at all costs, change with no limits. The result was a modernizing fantasy of thorough-going transformation with scant attention to the human costs. As Hannah Arendt showed a century later in her Origins of Totalitarianism, this would lead to systematic violence in “experiments” to fashion a “new man,” no matter how much suffering would ensue. Ultimately, Marx had offered a false alternative: philosophical thinking or changing the world. In fact, what defines the human condition is the ability to engage in both, deep thinking and intentional action, and indeed we should prefer action to be guided by thinking, just as thinking should be informed by the experience of prior action.

The claim of infallibility, the will to political power, and the dismissal of ethical thought: such was the legacy that Karl Marx bequeathed to the Communist movement that once ruled half the world. President Juncker, in his celebration of Marx, recalled none of this, revealing himself to be just one more of Marx’s defenders who still insist on the fantasy of a good Marx motivated by sympathy for the poverty of the workers during the industrial revolution.

But Marx was hardly the only thinker to write about nineteenth century social conditions, and he was surely not the most interesting. A page of Dickens is worth a volume of Das Kapital.  Wherever Marxism dominated working class movements—by suppressing competing reform movements or manipulating unions—blue collar workers fared worse. Had Marx not been appropriated as the ideological figurehead of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 in order to justify the dictatorship in Russia, he would be barely remembered today. (A Google N-gram search shows that “Marxism” only takes off as a term after Lenin came to power.) Instead, he has become the symbol of decades of terror.

For those who want to talk about Marx, to erect statues in his memory or to defend him as a philosopher, it is high time to discover some intellectual integrity and face up to the crimes committed in his name. It is wrong to say, as one commonly hears in some circles, that his program of Communism was a good idea, but poorly implemented. On the contrary, it was a bad idea from the start and the brutality that always accompanied it was a consequence of its core character.

Posted: May 15, 2018

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3 Reasons to Read Historical Fiction By Michelle Griep

History doesn’t have to be boring, and in fact comes alive in historical fiction.

Believe it or not, some readers snub historical fiction, preferring instead to stick to contemporary reads. Several have good reason to, simply preferring one genre over another. But others have never given historical fiction a try. If you fall into that camp, here are some reasons you should consider reading a tale from the past.

1.     Historical fiction books are not as boring as your high school history class.
Does the thought of endless names and dates make you break out into hives? Good news! Historical fiction is a painless way to glean some historic facts without mindless memorization. You can experience a different era and culture vicariously through heroes and heroines that live on the pages of yesteryear.

2.     Makes for great conversation.
In a world that prides itself on keeping up with the Kardashians, dare to add a little cultural zest to your next dinner conversation. Reading historical fiction arms you with interesting tidbits of things that’ve happened in years gone by.

3.     Because truth is timeless.
Some people yearn to go back to a simpler time. The truth is, though, that the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the historic side of the fence. People have had tough issues to deal with no matter the era. . .but therein lies a great reason to read historical fiction: truth is timeless. Be it ancient, biblical, medieval, Victorian, or anything in between, truth never changes.

In my new release, Ladies of Intrigue, you’ll experience all these things and more. Find out about the smuggling trade in Cornwall in The Gentleman Smuggler’s Lady. Learn about the rough and dangerous life on a military fort during the 1860’s in The Doctor’s Woman. Find out why the gilded age wasn’t as glittery as we often think in A House of Secrets.

Don’t be doomed to repeat history. Grab a cup of tea and master it with a great read. And here’s your chance to painlessly try it. Sign up to win 1 of 5 signed copies of my latest title:


Posted: February 8, 2019

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7 Favorite Keyboard Shortcuts By Bob Hostetler

I’m not as computer savvy as my adult children are (who among us is?), but I spend a lot of time on the computer, writing, editing, emailing, and more. So I rely on keyboard shortcuts to work faster and smarter. Each shortcut may save only a few seconds at a time compared to using the mouse or trackpad and pull-down menu; but when those seconds are multiplied over the course of an 80,000-word document, for example, the time savings add up quickly.

I know these shortcuts are specific to Mac users, but there are close Stone Age equivalents (that is, in the non-Mac world). Of course, everyone knows that Command-C means “copy,” Command-V means “paste,” Command-A means “select all,” and Command-X means “delete.” Beyond those obvious shortcuts, here are the commands I use most frequently (using the US keyboard layout):

  1. Command + Z

I make mistakes. That’s a shock, I know. But it happens every so often. Happily, I have Command + Z, which reverses whatever the heck I just did. Whew! Hallelujah.

  1. Command + B/I/U

Everybody knows this, right? Even so, it’s so much easier to use Command + B to bold text, Command + I to italicize, and Command + U to underline. Unless you prefer the scenic route.

  1. Command + F

This shortcut opens a search window on the computer or in a document or email, allowing me to search (and even count) occurrences of a word, phrase, or symbol.

  1. Command + Shift + 4

This shortcut turns the cursor into a target-like symbol, allowing me to take a screen shot of some or all of my computer screen (Command + Shift + 3 takes a screen shot of the whole screen).

  1. Command + Q

Sure, you can use your mouse and pointer to pull down a menu and quit an application. Or Command + Q. Easy peasy.

  1. Command + up, Command + down

No need to scroll all the way to the top or bottom of a long document. Command-plus-the-up-key sends you to the top of whatever document, email, or box you’re in. Command-plus-the-down-key sends you to the bottom.

  1. Command + Option + ESC.

Sometimes an app freezes or stops functioning properly, at which time it’s helpful (and quick) to Command + Option + ESC to open the “Force Quit” window.

  1. Command + P

To print whatever document or window you’re in, press Command + P to open the printer connection.

These are my go-to shortcuts. I use them many times every day, saving myself a lot of clicking and dragging.

But you probably have others. What shortcuts do you use most in the course of your writing, editing, emailing, etc.?


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A Life Not Wasted: Adoniram Judson By Nathan Busenitz

I have been profoundly impressed with the sacrifices made by Christian men and women throughout the centuries of church history. From martyrs to missionaries, these individuals have served their King with greatest intensity and courage, valiantly standing as examples for those who come behind them.

Adoniram_JudsonThey are individuals of whom “this world was not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38) because their eyes were not set on the worth of this world, but rather on the values of heaven.

One of those individuals is Adoniram Judson.

Though he grew up in a pastor’s home, Judson walked away from the truth as a young man, only to be recovered in a dramatic fashion. John Piper details this part of Judson’s life in his book Don’t Waste Your Life:

What his godly parents did not know was that Adoniram was being lured away from the faith by a fellow student named Jacob Eames who was a Deist. By the time Judson’s college career was finished, he had no Christian faith. He kept this concealed from his parents until his twentieth birthday, August 9, 1808, when he broke their hearts with his announcement that he had no faith and that he wanted to write for the theater and intended to go to New York, which he did six days later on a horse his father gave him as part of his inheritance. . . .

[Some time later, Judson] stayed in a small village inn where he had never been before. The innkeeper apologized that his sleep might be interrupted because there was a man critically ill in the next room. Through the night Judson heard comings and goings and low voices and groans and gasps. It bothered him to think that the man next to him may not be prepared to die. He wondered about himself and had terrible thoughts of his own dying. He felt foolish because good Deists weren’t supposed to have these struggles.

When he was leaving in the morning he asked if the man next door was better. “He is dead,” said the innkeeper. Judson was struck with the finality of it all. On his way out he asked, “Do you know who he was?” “Oh yes. Young man from the college in Providence. Name was Eames, Jacob Eames.”

Judson was stunned. Though he had tried to run away, it was obvious that God was pursuing him. The Lord providentially used the death of the antagonistic Jacob Eames to bring Adoniram Judson back to Himself.

In 1808, Judson entered Andover Seminary and dedicated himself to full-time missionary service. Four years later, in 1812, he would become one of the first foreign missionaries to set out from North America. Significantly, he married his wife Ann on February 5, 1812. Just two weeks later, the newlyweds set sail for India.

In a moving letter to his future father-in-law, Adoniram Judson spelled out the sacrifice he was asking his future bride to make. Here is part of that letter:

I have now to ask whether you can consent to part with your daughter early next spring, to see her no more in this world; whether you can consent to her departure for a heathen land, and her subjection to the hardships and sufferings of a missionary life; whether you can consent to her exposure to the dangers of the ocean; to the fatal influence of the southern climate of India; to every kind of want and distress; to degradation, insult, persecution, and perhaps a violent death?

Can you consent to all this for the sake of Him who left his heavenly home, and died for her and for you; for the sake of perishing immortal souls; for the sake of Zion and the glory of God? Can you consent to all this in hope of soon meeting your daughter in the world of glory, with a crown of righteousness brightened by the acclamations of praise which shall redound to her Savior from heathens saved, through her means, from eternal woe and despair?”

That letter would prove to be prophetic. The couple’s missionary endeavors, taking them first to India and later to Burma (present-day Myanmar), were fraught with suffering and tragedy. They underwent economic challenges, losing the financial backing of their supporters only a few months after leaving the United States. Their plans unexpectedly changed when problems with their visas in India forced them to settle in Burma.

Once there, they faced a severe language barrier — studying the language for 12 hours a day for over three years in order to learn it. When they finally could communicate, their message met with relative indifference from the Burmese citizens — due in part to the prevalent Buddhism and also to the imperial death-sentence that awaited anyone convicted of changing religion. After 12 years of work, Judson and his fellow missionaries saw only 18 conversions.

Beyond the constant threat of sickness and disease, Judson also faced serious dangers from the government. Suspected of being a spy during Burma’s civil war, he was sent to a death prison where he was tortured and forced on a death march that nearly killed him. In all, he spent 17 months behind bars while his wife Ann did everything she could to secure his release.

More painful than that, Judson endured the pain of loss some two dozen times. His wife Ann died just a few months after he was released from prison. She would not be the only family member who died during his tenure. From 1812 to 1850, twenty-four of Judson’s relatives or close associates went home to heaven, including several of his children.

As a husband, father, missionary, and friend, Judson truly knew what it was to sacrifice and suffer. Nevertheless, enduring all of this, he steadfastly pursued his goal of evangelizing the Burmese people and translating the Bible into their language. When he died, the translation work had been completed, 100 churches had been planted, and 8,000 Burmese professed faith in Jesus Christ.

Adoniram Judson and his family made enormous sacrifices for the sake of the gospel. From a worldly perspective, some might argue that they wasted their lives. They moved far away from the comforts of their North American roots; endured the pain of rejection, hunger, torture, and loss; and did all of this to bring good news to a largely antagonistic and indifferent audience.

Looking back, of course, we see that Judson’s efforts were not in vain. His translation of the Bible is still used in Myanmar today, and his spiritual legacy continues to bear fruit. In 1993, the head of the Myanmar Evangelical Fellowship stated, “Today, there are 6 million Christians in Myanmar, and every one of us traces our spiritual heritage to one man—the Reverend Adoniram Judson.”


Nathan Busenitz avatar

Nathan Busenitz is the dean of faculty and associate professor of theology at The Master’s Seminary. He is also one of the pastors of Cornerstone, a fellowship group at Grace Community Church.

Posted:  April 17, 2015

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New England Patriots RB Rex Burkhead to cap rollercoaster season in Super Bowl John Ackerman


The 2018-19 season has not gone as planned for New England Patriots running back Rex Burkhead. He slightly tore a knee ligament during the preseason and had to miss games, and then three games into the regular season he suffered a neck injury that put him on injured reserve.

Thankfully, that took place early enough in the season that Burkhead was able to rejoin the Pats before the year ended, and he appeared in all five games in December. But in limited playing time, he managed just one touchdown.

In New England’s first playoff game against the Los Angeles Chargers, Burkhead received just five touches, though one of them was a six-yard rushing score.

He was much more involved Sunday night in the AFC Championship Game against Kansas City. Burkhead took 12 carries for 41 yards, and four receptions for 23 yards. But it was his two late rushing touchdowns that helped New England into its third straight Super Bowl.

Burkhead’s first TD came with 39 seconds remaining and put the Pats up 31-28

All the while, Burkhead, who was a sixth-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2013 out of Nebraska, says he is “playing for Him.” He has referenced an “audience of One” and “for His glory” on social media, and he once told the Fellowship of Christian Athletes how his perspective changed once he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior.

“Once I was saved and born again, Jesus worked in me and through me on changing my motivations when I played,” Burkhead said in a 2012 FCA video. “It was no longer for myself, for those worldly, I guess, desires and goals, but it was to play for the glory of Him. To give everything to Him. To play the way Jesus Christ would have played if He played the game of football or basketball, or whatever I was playing at the time and to be motivated by Him. To be motivated by using the blessings and gifts He’s given me as a football player, whatever I was doing at my time to glorify Him. In my actions, in my thoughts and try my best to do that.”

Burkhead’s next chance to glorify God with his play will be Feb. 3 against the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta for Super Bowl LIII.


Rex Burkhead


“Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”


Posted: January 21, 2019

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