Friday, December 30, 2005

Bottom drawer

Carla and Gabriele have kindly asked if SoD might be brought out of the bottom drawer. Sadly, the answer is no, for the time being. It's a major mess, especially it being a first attempt at writing a novel. Most of the typical problems are there; in particular I just didn't know what it was about! My ideas evolved as I went along, so that there is no longer a coherent narrative.

It was very much a learning piece, and I bravely let it out for critiquing. It got pretty much savaged, but I learnt a huge amount about who I am prepared to listen to (i.e. people who have the requisite critical skills ...), and what was frankly unhelpful (people who don't understand the history and/or don't have any writing skills of their own). I still love the initial idea, and the lead characters, so am doubtless destined to revisit it at some point - perhaps if/when I ever develop the skills to handle the complex story properly!

Real life has got in the way, and I have other fish to fry before returning to it :-( I'm not a multi-tasker, finding one project at a time difficult enough, and I have to stay focussed on the archaeology right now.

Lucky Gabriele who got Cornwell's The Pale Horseman for Christmas! I'm looking out for the paperback.

And Happy New Year!!!!!

Continuing to be British ...

Yep. It's still wintery here in Yorkshire (aka Deira, as Carla rightly points out) However, the 'snow' is now so wet as to nearly be rain here in York. But things are getting very treacherous in East Yorkshire, with the Hull-York road closed and inches of snow falling. People are staying in if they can.

This is the time of year when I often turn to a bit of creative writing - I started writing SoD (yes, the 'D' stands for Deira, btw) during Christmas a few years back. No chance this time round with lots of lecture preparation to do. Come mid-February it will be back to writing an archaeological report. And in March, I will inflict a non-fiction tome on myself. If I get it out of the way, I will have done what my archaeological 'career' has been leading to. After that, I will be more or less free to return to things fiction. Hurrah!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A skid through the slush

Out again today, this time into the snow. I wanted snow a few weeks back, so finally got my wish. Well, for one who has only a limited amount of shoes that can be worn (currently one pair of dainty but supportive trainers ...) the main hazard was getting very wet, and very cold, feet to be endured for several hours whilst we tootled round town then went to the hospital.

It wasn't too bad as the snow wasn't deep to begin with. It was turning into slush though, so I had to watch for puddles. By the time we got home by 6pm, it was beginning to freeze up. All rather like Carla's experience, I suspect! Back home now, my foot is tired, as I had to pick my way round, and step carefully so I didn't slip.

Will try out the new improved insert from the jolly orthotics man whilst trotting round home tomorrow. The support 'bump' was cut right back, so hopefully won't be crucifying my arch but will still be supporting the front of my foot. Fingers crossed, but after one and a half years of this problem, I don't hold my breath any more :-)

A new year soon - have a great one!!!!

Monday, December 26, 2005

A nice brisk walk

Hope the Christmas season is to everyone's liking! I've had a quiet one at home. I know others will be having relatives to stay, or perhaps travelling to see relatives.

It was great to get out for a 'brisk' (for me) walk today. Only it rained! It's a little nippy, and snow is predicted, certainly for down south.

I'll be going out again on Wednesday as I've an appointment with the Orthotics chap. Last week's shoe insert seemed to be good for the front of my foot (as far as I could tell), but hell-on-earth for the old arch (I had to limp in the end). So I got another appointment and hopefully he'll adjust it so that it supports the front, whilst not crippling me as whole!

Funny though, exactly this time last year, I was also gracing the hospital with my presence on behalf of my foot - that time I was having physiotherapy. Hey-ho, I wonder if this time next year I'll still be dancing attendance on the foot, with the poor old health professionals still scratching their heads? I do hope not ... Watching Darcey Bussell dancing in the Royal Ballet's Sylvia yesterday, I was so jealous - she has killer feet and they also functioned properly (ahem!)

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Kunzle's Cakes

Hands up if you remember Kunzle's Cakes! My estimate means you are at least in your 40s (surely?), and British. Every now and then I am reminded of Kunzle's Cakes. Someone mentioned them on Radio 4 the other day, but my thoughts normally stray in the Kunzle direction when I recollect that my father used to be a deliveryman to shops. And he delivered the hallowed cakes.

A quick squizz at the wonderful Web and there's a couple of nostalgic links:

Looks like Kunzles may have been part of Lyons

And here's a blog campaigning to bring the cakes back

Made in Birmingham gives a brief introuduction

Here's a Scottish company which had the rights to sell Kunzle Cakes

Funny enough, I didn't remember that some of them were called Showboats, though as soon as I read it, I recalled the taste quite easily. Very nice and choclatey they were. And, from what I can tell, probably a southern Britain thang, as the dp can't remember them from his harsh northern upbringing - must've been heartlessly cruel, if they didn't have Kunzle's cakes!!!!!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Not Eating dormice

Carla has mentioned the Dormouse test (by Mary Beard) in her comments on the rabbit posting. Yes, dormice-eating is another one bordering on an urban myth, as per the rabbits. If I was writing a Roman novel I'd deliberately leave out anything about dormouse eating. But I'd put rabbits in just to annoy people who insist they came in during the Norman period and not any earlier ;-)

As to edible dormice bones, it seems they might be bigger than normal mouse bones, but the bones would still be small. It's just these types of bones, along with fish, and birds, that might not get picked up on archaeological excavations unless there is routine sieving going on. And, of course, some soil conditions would zap them anyway.

As a whole, both rabbits and dormice go under the cute animal archaeology category, along with animal (and human) prints on tile.

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Yes, the lurgy is still with me, and has now been passed to the dp! Yes, I know, I'm so kind. I share everything :-) It's low-level with him too - the odd sneeze, sniffing, and rather a lot of lassitude (no that's not to do with Lassie). So the pair of us are rather doddery and apt to slouch on the couch watching tv (trying not to fall asleep) at every given opportunity.

But, we are managing to put the Christmas decos up, albeit slowly. Progress in writing my lectures for January is rather snail-like. It requires a lot of concentration, and I'm only fit for short periods of brain-flexing at present. I'll get there though. I've heavily planned two lectures already, with four to go.

Worst is getting the slides together. Worst because this is where you realise you don't have a slide of that crucial find, so you have to screech round to its location ASAP to take a snap, and get the slides done. I don't really screech anywhere at the moment (another hospital appointment on Tuesday, btw). Still, I've started early enough to more or less ensure I've got time to faff around in time honoured fashion.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Rabbit mystery solved

It's the great debate of our age! Well, perhaps not, but it comes up in conversation enough to be one of those subjects bordering on an urban myth. Were there rabbits in Roman Britain? But the question's been solved. It must have, since it's been reported in British Archaeology January-February 2006, page 7.

There were certainly rabbits in the Roman World (see this lovely Samian pot) but did they make the leap across the Channel? Common knowledge says that rabbits were a Norman introduction after the Conquest in 1066. But various rumblings over the years, reported site-ings (sic) and now the evidence looks to be more substantial. Discounted: the rabbit bones from Thatcham, apparently sealed in an early Mesolithic context. So rabbits could easily have have been around in Roman times. No - radiocarbon dating proved otherwise, and the bones were of the size of a modern rabbit. The main problem is that bunnies burrow, so that their bones can be found in Roman contexts as they've excavate their way into Roman dirt levels.

Cue excavations in Lynford, Norfolk. This time they were found in a pit with only sherds of late Iron Age or early Roman pottery. What's more the bones showed signs of butchery. And at Beddingham Roman Villa in East Sussex, rabbit bones were found in a late 3rd century context. At both sites the bones were of smaller, Mediterranean size which supports a Roman date. Sorted!

So if you're writing a novel set in Roman Britain and want to include rabbits, go ahead. It might be wise to hint that they're unusual though, as the number of identified bones is a little low to suggest that they were freely skipping across the landscape! And no, there is still no evidence whatsoever that the Romans had potatoes ...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

All hail the special effects prop-makers

My favourite tv reviewer writes in The Guardian, and today she turned her attention to two programmes I watch. She has wry humour, and both Rome and Lost delightfully got the brunt of it. Vorenus and Pullo are indeed the Laurel & Hardy of Rome :-)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Author's Dilemma: To Blog or Not to Blog

Saw this rather interesting link about author blogging, courtesy of the GOB:

The Author's Dilemma: to blog or not to bog by Claire E White

Not that I'm thinking I'm an author or owt ...!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Related reads and oil burning

Got a couple of related books on the tbr pile at present:

Britain AD: a quest for Arthur, England and the Anglo-Saxons by Francis Pryor
In which the Brian Blessed of archaeology gives his view of 5th-6th century Britain. It's not quite the book of his tv programme, but near enough so far. The main upshot in his programme is that he seemed to think that the Anglo-Saxon invasion/migration/whatever didn't happened. Which begs the question as to why England speaks an essentially Germanic language and not something like Welsh. That idea is not computing so far. Like many archaeologists, he doesn't really believe in 'Celts' either! Good man. He's certainly having some interesting ruminations on what is British, that's for sure.

Bloody Foreigners: the story of immigration to Britain by Rober Winder
An exploration of those who have migrated to the island from around 25,000 years ago onwards, though it's soon onto the Norman era! I reckon we're all mongrels on this island - and thought so long before I found out that at least one of my recent ancestors was Italian. This book explores the various waves of immigrants, right up to the modern era. I'm looking forward to reading about the many nationalities contributing to the variety of the island.

Meanwhile, in my home county, there's a lot of oil burning and the fire service down there is doing a wonderful job. Funny thing: I went out of my door this morning and thought I could smell burning oil - fine, except I'm in Yorkshire. My nose was coming out in sympathy. The dp reckons it's the smell of coal fires, as it's chilly up here and people are lighting up.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Since Thursday I've been feeling rather grotty. Now I'm a bit gastric and it's sounding familiar! Think I may have a bug; I know there's one with the gastric element that going round. However, since I get the flu jab (being asthmatic) I've not had the full blown thing. Nice, but it catches me off guard, and I think I'm slacking, or some such. Since last week, I've started to prepare my lectures for next year, and am finding it tough. Thought it was just me trying evade hard work, but now I'm prepared to admit, it's probably the bug. I've been coughing stuff up, my arm's hurting (I've noticed that if I'm fighting a bug off it tends hurts where the jab was!) and I've been slightly feverish. So, I'll give myself a break and decide it's not my fault (for once!)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, by the sound of Gabriele's blog ...) my plotbunnies are few and far between! I do not get much of a choice, and am stuck with my stories (all two of them) once they're here. It's just as well I actually like them :-) I wasn't quite sure what Gabriele meant by plotbunnies until I saw her recent blog. It's a great description, and story ideas will be called plotbunnies from now on - except that I'll doubtless have trouble finding them ...

Gabriele makes the point that modern day people assume homoerotic tendencies in medieval stories when the warriors swear undying friendship or loyalty to one another. There's a lot of swearing loyalty unto death in my first story; it's part of the plot. The chaps involved are not sexually involved. However, there is some ambiguity going on, which is deliberate and I suspect I shouldn't be doing that to the (potential) readers! I like books where I'm tripped up by assumptions or somehow mis-directed, so it stands to reason I might have a go at writing one!

Well, one day, when I get back to writing some fiction. Which will be 2007 at the earliest. Hrumph!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


It's my birthday soon, so I took the What does your Birthdate Mean test at blogthings:

You are an island. You don't need anyone else to make you happy. And though you see yourself as a loner, people are drawn to you. Deep and sensitive, you tend to impress others with your insights. You also tend to be psychic - so listen to that inner voice!

Your strength: Your self sufficiency
Your weakness: You despise authority
Your power color: Maroon
Your power month: July

Not sure how much of this is accurate. Island, yes! Loner, yes! People drawn to me - er nope (well, except for one, and he's arguably certifiable)! Deep and sensitive - I have untapped shallows, but doesn't everyone like to think of themselves being deep and sensitive? Impress others - errrr nope! Psychic - on occasion, with regards to my partner. Wouldn't say I despise authority, though some people in what they perceive to be high places do bring out the worst in me. I'm not aware of any month being a power month! As for Moron - I mean Maroon - blue is my favourite colour (colour with a 'u' I hasten to point out)

The one for my partner is entirely incorrect. Wild child he aint. He's too old for all that, and so am I :-)

Awkward squad - over and out

Monday, December 05, 2005

Peter and the Wolf

I'm kicking myself! Somehow I managed to miss a programme on radio about Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. Well, I heard the last ten minutes, and it ended with the statement Clever man, that Prokofiev - not half! His Peter and the Wolf was written to introduce children to the orchestra. It really does serve as a primer for understanding the language of classical music. For me, the main thing is that all of Prokofiev's signatures are there - the way he uses the instruments, the lyricism, the sharpness, the wit. Divine. It was written in the 1930s, which was (for me) his golden period. During this time he produced my favourites: Romeo & Juliet and Alexander Nevsky. But, to be honest, virtually anything by him catches me. Unfortunately, his music is so distracting, that I can't use it to write to!

Anyway, no need to beat myself up about missing the Peter and the Wolf programme - it's on the Beeb's Listen Again facility here!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Reckoning

Somehow this film slipped under my radar. Set in 14th century and following a group of players as they discover and dramatise a murder, it has one or two rather interesting cast members. Paul Bettany is the lead, a priest who has commited adultery, and perhaps something more. Again, Bettany is one of those actors who caught my eye earlier on in his career and I've been following him ever since. Very much at home in the medieval era, I can't help but see him in another, earlier-set role ... Is he any good with a sword and on a horse, I wonder? Also, present but in a secondary role, is Matthew MacFadyean, most recently seen in Pride & Predjudice. His role is rather ineffective, but it's good to see him all the same. But there are loads of familiar names in this film. I wonder how I missed it!

The setting is generally good. Sometimes designers think medieval, then think completely filthy and it gets rather overdone. But here, the clothing looks worn in, a bit mucky, but not over the top. Same goes for the people. The script is naturalistic, helping to establish that these people are real. I'm sure I've said before, that for me, stylised speaking just bars the way to really identifying with the characters. It should be the way they behave that's the marker to a different era. And there's a fair amount of that. For example, Gina Mckee's character, doesn't get a vote when the Players decide on big issues. She doesn't get a vote because she's female! Bettany gets a vote despite being a newcomer. And then, of course, the local lord is all-powerful, as it's a feudal society.

One or two things did jar, or at least mildly worry. For example, though this is made clear it's an unusual concept, I'm not sure if the Players would have been allowed to do a play that wasn't religious in nature. It's the 14th century and there were a lot of restrictions. A couple of centuries later, there's no problem. I'm just not sure for this era. Also much is made of the local lord being Norman. Would this still matter by then, or were they more integrated by this time? All this just undoubtedly shows my ignorance about the medieval era! French actor, Vincent Cassel, whom I always like seeing, just gets a walk-on baddie part. I'm not keen characters with such limitations. Cassel was under-used to say the least. With the haunting L'Appartement and the off-beat The Messenger: the Story of Joan of Arc, I want to see more of him, please :-)

Still, the film is well worth a look; I got my copy from the local library.