Monday, October 31, 2005

Surrey International Writers' Conference

When I first heard about the Surrey International Writers' Conference, I thought it was held in Surrey, a county in England! It was mentioned on Jack Whyte's website a few years back. Great, I thought, I'll go if I can, as a lot of historical novelists regularly attend. Couldn't work out how I hadn't got wind of it before. Doh! No, it's in Canada. Wynn Bexton was able to attend the conference this year and over on her blog she's written some interesting notes. There's also a write-up from 2002 in the Historical Novel Society's journal Solander, by Claire Morris.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


Last Tuesday I was told that the MRI scan on my foot was negative for Morton's Neuroma, and my blood tests were all clear for things like rheumatoid arthritis. Phew! As a consequence I've been referred to the Orthotics man who will be making an insert for my shoe to pad the foot. The muscles in my foot are stiff and apparently proper cushioning will help. I did try this myself way back (and also visited a private podiatrist who was more concerned with pronation), but the chap reckons I wouldn't have put it in the right place - further back than one would think. Certainly, there's a pair of particular trainers I wear, with good padding under the arch, and which really helps support my foot and causes less pain. So hopefully, comprehensively placed cushioning will do the trick. Appointment is just before Christmas. If it works, it will work straight away apparently, so perhaps I'll have a really fantastic, slightly early, Christmas present!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Lincoln has it nailed!

A very busy week. Went to Lincoln with the dp on Monday. He was visiting due to his work, and we also saw some, in fact a bit too much, of the Lincolnshire countryside later on! Anyhow, I mooched around Lincoln for a couple of hours whilst he hit the archives.

As a York resident, I am very impressed by Lincoln. Most of the tourist venues in Lincoln are up the hill (which I think they call the Cutural Quarter), whilst the rest of the city can get on with real life down the bottom of the hill! Anyone who lives in York, knows that the tourists are both a blessing and a bane; they're the lifeblood of the city, but the locals are also constantly tripping over 'em when they stand and stare art the cities many stunning sights. With Lincoln, the tourists are in a different section of the city (for the most part) so the residents aren't having to actively get round them. Now then, if in York we could just move the museums and Jorvik and all the historic buildings closer to the Minster ...

Meanwhile, my traumatic (cue eyerolling) collision with archaeology continues, though I'm a bit less introspective about it (for the moment ...)

Sunday, October 23, 2005


These days, much of the time, I dislike archaeology as a profession to work in. Don't want to know. Think it's rubbish. Frankly, dislike many of the people in it. And yet, when I get back to working on the finds, it's all consuming. Not being able to sleep properly after doing my three days - a sure sign that something's not right.

This association is very unhealthy, but I have an academic obligation to fulfil, so my contact with it will have to continue for the time being. I guess it's something like an addiction - get too close, let it take control, and it will have you any way it wants. The finds are fine (much as they ever were; they are the light of my eyes), it's the people who are destructive, even when they're relatively benign. At best, we're all hostages to the prevailing climate (i.e. money is extremely tight), at worst we're locked in combat with each other, trying to justify our work. Nasty, very nasty.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

A sort of poison

Three days of working in an archaeological warehouse. And I'm ruined, again :-) When I worked full time in archaeology, I rarely read a novel and certainly didn't think of doing any creative writing. And after three days of working on finds, I have exactly no creative urges what-so-ever. Any thoughts are centred on the archaeology - what I can do to make my reports better, am I recording properly, my trip to the warehouse (involving a small spot walking - currently hazardous on my foot, getting the bus, and getting a lift from the bus stop) etc. Practical, pragmatic concerns. My sleep pattern was also changing by the third day. Namely, I was having difficulty winding down, so that I wasn't sleeping well. I'm still catching up. My verdict: archaeology is bad for me! Wish I'd worked that out in my early 20s, as opposed to my 40s.

Unfortunately, I haven't finished in the warehouse yet, and can anticipate at least three more days out there next week (Weds-Fri) And then I have to write-up my findings. I wish I hadn't taken it on, and the only thing that made me do so was the promise of publication (otherwise known as actually getting to look at the stuff in depth) Hmmm ...

On the bright side, my foot stood (pun intended) up well to the rigours. When recording finds, I find it easier to stand. I'm always reaching over for comparative fabrics, or rummaging in the boxes for my next find. And stand I did, for many hours. I only sat when my legs, not my foot, got tired. The foot is still not keen on uneven and hard surfaces and was giving me jip when I walked around town. But just standing still was fine, and encouraging.

Seeing the specialist on Tuesday ....

Monday, October 17, 2005


After Diane pointed out that my blog looked funny on her browser (it was fine on mine, which is Mozilla), I've swapped the template round. Not sure about the colour, but I guess I'll live :-)

Did some actual house-cleaning today! Having bought a window cleaning set (with telescopic pole!) I gave the outside windows a clean. One thing led to another, and the inside of the windows got cleaned too, then I noticed the net curtains needed washing ... I'd say this was a spring clean, except that it's definitely autumn now.

Was out costing for equipment for the workshop I'm teaching in November. Some of the equipment for measuring finds is proving a little more expensive than I'd anticipated, but an online search found a price for calipers in plastic that pleases my eye. Also need to get some scales; kitchen scales will be fine, but again the price needs to be right.

With three days working in Malton this week, I don't think I'll be at this computer much for the rest of the week.

Friday, October 14, 2005


Last night we went to see Bronte by Polly Teale, performed by the Shared Experience company. Well, it was about the Brontes (sisters, brother and father) and it wasn't a barrel of laffs, as might be expected. But it was well done. With so much incident, the playwright had to choose her path carefully. The narrative was dispersed, with flashbacks to their childhood (played by the actors, who then switched back to their adult selves), so that it could have been complicated. However, for most of the time, I understood where we were supposed to be. There was a woman in white (Cathy from Wuthering Heights) and the same actress also changed into a red dress which represented Mrs Rochester and Charlotte's passionate side. So there was a good deal of commentary on what the books meant, and where they came from.

The dp reckoned Charlotte got a bad rap, as it showed her burning Emily's second novel, and generally she was generally rather prissy. Emily came out as the free spirit, although I note she wasn't shown trying to stop Branwell from drowning his sorrows, which wasn't helpful.

Anyway, I gather that Teale's adaptation of Jane Eyre will be on tour next year, and I hope it comes our way. She's also written a play called After Mrs Rochester, so Bronte is the last in the trilogy. Polly Teale can be heard here, talking about Bronte, and there's an article by her about her three plays here.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Tidying up ...

... is a dirty business. But it's worth it. I found all sorts of things in the front study! Stuff I'd forgotten I'd done (eg. lecture acetates), and that will be of use to me when I teach my archaeology course in January. It was well worth the muck and mither. I've also made a bit more room on the shelves, by chucking out stuff I don't use. No, not books! Mainly bits of redundant paper out of loads of files. Had to keep all those archaeology reports though, just in case :-( Now my lovely archaeology books have room to breath.

However - there's always an however - there's other stuff in there that still needs sorting. I've a veritable mountain of photocopies from journals to sort out; they're currently languishing in a draw. I'll need them for the Mag Op, so I'll have to steal myself to go in there and do the dirty at some point. *Sigh*

That's enough for today, though, as I'm going out to the theatre this evening, and need to iron some clothes to wear!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I've been tagged!

I shouldn't have called round at Beau Bowden's blog; it's obviously a dangerous place to be, where people get tagged if they're not careful. So I'm not careful and I have been tagged

Anyway, this is what I've got to do:

1. Delve into my blog archive.
2. Find my 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in my blog along with these instructions. Ponder it for meaning, subtext or hidden agendas ...
5. Tag five people to do the same.

It was a fiddle finding my 23rd blog, but it emerged eventually. The fifth line said:

The Stag is all made from ceramic tesserae, which would not have been the case.

This is referring to my mosaic making escapades, which are currently in mothballs till the new re-enactment season. I would say that the sentence is pretty typical. I like to get things right, and the fact that the materials aren't correct bugs me (but only a little, otherwise I wouldn't have used it for my display!

Right, now to tag five others. I don't think they've been tagged with this one, so I'll have a go:

Wynn Bexton
Sarah Cuthbertson (I don't think you've done 23 blogs, but it says 'closest' to, so interpret that as being perhaps your last blog?)
Anne Whitfield
Lady Tess

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Wall tiles, York

The other day, very kindly, the manager of a shop in York, let me take some snaps of their tin-glazed wall tiles. The tiles are arranged around an unused fireplace, and date from around the 18th and early 19th century. I've got to do a little more research about the building as yet. The tiles are of the typical blue and white designs, all hand painted. They might be British-made, but could just as easily be imports from the Netherlands. York isn't that far away from one of the major East Coast ports, Hull, which traded heavily with the Low Countries (Netherlands/Belgium) from the Middle Ages onward.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Regency Rustic Hideaway

The other weekend we went to Harlow Carr Gardens, which is just outside Harrogate, North Yorkshire. There was a 'Gardens Through Time' display, but unfortunately (for me and the dp) it didn't go back very far, only starting with the Regency. A Roman Garden would have been nice; for example, there's one at Fishbourne Roman Villa, Sussex. But never mind, I took a few shots of the Regency Garden, being particularly taken with the Rustic Hideaway. The bark of on the wood was deliberately left on. All the plants were in raised beds, and there was a friendly hedge of holly.

Sunday, October 09, 2005


Whilst trawling the Guardian's Review, I came across an article called The Road Less Familiar. In particular, the last paragraph, about academic specialists rings all too true!

Friday, October 07, 2005


Today's been full of editing. In fact, a lot of the week has been like that! I edit an online newsletter, and also compile my re-encactment group's quarterly newsletter - but not for long. I wonder if I have taken on these tasks to displace doing other things? Anyway, I'll be stepping down from the group's newsletter shortly. The online newsletter is to do with writing, so I'll keep that up. But, I shan't be reviewing, unless it's something really juicy - as in something I would strongly think of buying anyway. I've done my bit of reviewing anything that vaguely sounds interesting (and many were really good), but it's just another displacement activity in the long run.

I seem to have become pressure-averse and am having to push myself into doing stuff. I know why it's happened (the long-term illness), but getting back into the habit of taking the risk of actually doing something is rather tough. Failure, whether it be physical or in my head, is uppermost in my thoughts. I'm not yet clear of the foot problems, but there is no reason why I couldn't be doing the mag op. There are currently loads of Christmas jobs being advertised in the local shops. I daren't apply in case the foot goes bad again, and I'm dragging myself miserably around the place, knowing I'm making it worse.

And yet, I know I've got some teaching coming up (one day in November, and a six week evening class in Jan-Feb), and it's going to be difficult to organise and motivate myself. "Inertia roight ahead" to paraphrase Titanic

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Went to see Pride & Prejudice at the cinema today. I really rather liked it. Very different from the Beeb's version (it had to fit into less than two hours for starters), but I felt it did 'interiors' very well indeed. It felt very intimate - from the great frenzy of the dancing where the viewer was taken right into the picture, to the intense exchanges between Darcy and Lizzie. Matthew MacFadyen's Darcy was more sensitive than Firth's. Having seen MacFadyen in several things over the years (Warriors, Perfect Strangers) I find him an interesting actor. Keira Knightly was, for me, one of the best things about the King Arthur film (she did her best with a rather under par story) and in P&P she carries off Lizzie ably.

Also found out that one of my favourite movies, Alexander Nevsky, will be on at the cinema for one day only in November. Yaroo! With a score by Prokofiev, it can't go wrong! Funny enough, like King Arthur, it includes a battle on the ice. However, since Nevsky was released in 1938, I rather think this Soviet film's spiffing idea was swiped by King Arthur ...

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Sucking up

Sucking up - I don't half wish I could do it! Having read Agent 007's piece on sucking up, I reckon it's one of those things which would have enhanced my archaeological career no end. There are also implications for any type of writing I do as well, and I'm getting very strong whiffs of it as I become more familiar with the territory. It's not a case of being to proud to do it, it's just that I don't have a clue (oy, what's new then?)

Some people just don't have the knack, and I am one of them. Just occasionally in my career, I have realised that I could do with cultivating a good relationship with someone who might be able to help me (and that's the major reason for sucking up, of course). However, my efforts haven't had any effect. Probably trying to hard. Must admit, the people I've tried to cultivate have, for various reasons, been people I quite like. Perhaps I should try it with people I detest? However, I normally detest them for good reasons, and am loath to keep their poisonous/stupid/idiotic/pompous company for any longer than is strictly necessary!

Conversely, I have helped people whether they suck up to me or not. For example, there is a person, now well established in English Heritage who wouldn't have his job if he hadn't met me by chance. I mentioned that EH was looking for someone in a minor post. Of course, he won't remember that 'chance' that I gave him (of course, it was up to him what he did with it), and I doubt he remembers me. If I was canny, I would have cultivated a continuing acquaintance with him, and he may have been able to help me in some way.

For a long time, I never expected any pay-back for this sort of thing. In fact, I had no idea I was being so generous. When, after fifteen years (!) I realised things were going pear-shaped for me, that people ignored me if I had nothing to give them, I started to understand. Now I know I'm naive and, frankly, clamp down on helping people in this manner. It's a shame it's come to that, but I'm the one left to pick up the pieces of my career in ruins (pun intended). It's a shame I'm not more savvy. It's just the way I am :-)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Strung bow

Hey, for the first time ever, I've managed to string my ash bow! I didn't manage it at the Re-enactment Fayre, and had a go when we got home but still failed, even though the dp managed it. Finally, when on my own, I've managed to do it! It takes more wellie than I'd like to put on it. As Helen (the lady who sold me the bow) said, I am worried about breaking my new toy. Well, I've managed to string it now, and unstring it, and haven't broken it, so feel a little more confident.

I've now got to make a nice cover for it, and also for the self-nocked arrows I bought. The latter are sharps, and I'm wondering if I should've bothered to invest in them. Should have gone for red-heads - rubber tipped, and therefore less perilous to the population at large. I could always change the heads, I guess.

The best thing about this bow is that I shall get some exercise to the upper body. Certainly, when I was having some taster shots back at the group training session in March, I felt the muscles having to work and was sore afterward. But this is when a bit of pain is good for you!

Monday, October 03, 2005


I think I don't yet have a 'voice' to my writing. When I go back to writing stories, I shall be thinking about this carefully. In the mean time, I'm keeping my eyes open for useful articles on the subject. Via Lady Tess's Blog, I found a really good one by Julie Leto called Ditching the Book of My Heart for the Book of My Voice. It really nails it for me.

To clear the decks for my archaeological Magnum Opus, I am looking at the stuff I currently do in my spare time, and considering ditching things that aren't contributing very much. For example, I don't have any HNS novels to review, instead devoting the time to my huge to-be-read pile, and catching up (there are some Dark Age goodies in there, which I'll let myself read as a treat rather than mag-opping). There are one or two fixed points, like I won't give up the re-enactment next year, but I won't be trying to turn out to every show, or doing any extras. Writing of any kind is hugely time-consuming, and doing my mag op will require a lot of research, writing, and finding of pictures. I had a look at what is required for a book proposal (there's a great guide at Alan Sutton Publishers - scroll down the page for link to download), and I need to get myself well sorted out! I've got to do it, and to make it just a tad easier, I need to prepare the ground carefully.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Ash bow

We went to the Re-enactors Fayre (sic) in Pudsey today and bought a few things ... I've been thinking about doing more archery at shows, so had a bow on the shopping list. In particular, I wanted an ash bow, and Eagle Classic Archery does one. I knew they'd be at Pudsey, but would they have any in stock? At Kelmarsh, they didn't, so I left it. After all, there might be other archery traders at Pudsey, so I might get what I wanted then. We got there early and I got my self ash bow from Eagle. The lady in charge (Helen) was very helpful and talked be through how to string it up, etc; a good sale-person will take the time to do this, and she's one of them. So I'm very happy with my new toy, except that the garden isn't big enough for me to practice in :-( I shall have to wait till the group's next training event to practice!

Also on the list was some silk. Again, no joy at Kelmarsh, but this time Herts Fabrics, aka the lovely Ali, had some in at Pudsey, at the right price and a fair amount of choice on the colour. I was tempted by a nice rose-pink, but went for green in the end.

I also fell for a chafing dish. I'm afraid it's late medieval in date. However, I like them, so I got one from Jim the Potter, aka Trinity Court Potteries. John Hudson used them for his 17th century cooking the other weekend, but didn't bring any for sale. It's not for use at shows, though I might using it in the evenings. It can carry lighted charcoal which can either keep food warm, or be used to keep you warm, like a little brazier. Romans did have these ceramic braziers, but there is scant evidence for them in Roman Britain, though they appear in North Africa. Anyway, the one I've bought is light-brown glazed, so there's no way I can use it, as the Romans didn't generally go in for such glazes.