Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Hard work :-)

Phew. We've been back two days and we're still knackered. I guess it's our age - mid-forties. Fortunately the dp is off work for the rest of the week, so he can recover at leisure. That said, we've got another show this weekend, but it's only a two-dayer and is just up the road from York.

Lincoln, over the Bank Holiday, was an enjoyable show. The weather was very variable, but the crowds came out and were bright and interested. Even the media turned out, with the local paper and radio invading the castle. At some point on the Sunday afternoon, live on the wireless, I would have been heard to be wittering on about Roman pottery and women in the Roman Army. The radio chap was there the whole afternoon, and interviewed just about everybody. He was very pleasant and an excellent interviewer, so that even shy, retiring souls like myself were able to speak passably.

But this was the weekend when I learnt to use the bow. I was able to practise a goodly amount, though found that my arms became tired after a while. The spirit was willing, but the body was definitely not. Initially, I was told I wouldn't be able to shot in the main display, but was OK for the training display. However, since the group was low on numbers, I was able to take part in the main display without comment later on in the weekend. What seems to happen with virtually every show, is that people say they're coming but drop out at the last minute. This can be due to a variety of reasons, the main one being dying cars. This weekend it reached a chronic level, so that those of us actually there had to work very hard indeed.

And when we started to pack up on Monday, our hired van decided not to start. Already knackered and wanting to go home, our marathon continued. This is the seond time it's happened, and must be due to the fact that the van was just parked for the better part of four days. If the battery is low, it will run right down if left sitting. So next time, we will be taking the van for a run on the last camping evening, just to ensure the battery gets charged up.

This coming weekend should be easier. We're borrowing a car, and will be coming home in the evening. Meanwhile, we're tidying up our kit and I'm looking forward to another weekend shooting arrows :-)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Dancing to the tune

My interview shoes will be worn again June 5th, as I have an interview for a library job. Unfortunately, I don't think this job will suit, as it's for 5 afternoons a week. Not good since I need to work on freelance things, and the train of thought gets interrupted. Not to mention the possibility of needing to visit clients, and last year I spent three days a week recording material for several weeks. If I'm going to have an non-freelance job, I need whole days or blocks. With half days, you're constantly thinking 'is it time for me to get ready to go into town?'

I really only applied to see if they would interview me again. Some years ago I applied for a post at this particular library, which is part of the university where I was working in another post. So I was an internal candidate. I didn't get the job, but they failed to notify me - for weeks. Trouble is, being an internal candidate, I was able to find out from another source that someone else, also an internal candidate had got it. I told the Chief Librarian off for being thoughtless. What was the problem with sending me a quick email? As I said, Awkward Squad membership fully paid up ...

So, it will be a virtual replay of that interview from over 5 years ago, with the same two interviewers, plus the person who got the job I originally went for. Could be interesting. Perhaps they won't remember :-)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Just really started to get together our stuff for Lincoln. Some sewing has already happened, needless to say. My BBC front page is set to Lincoln, so I can easily check the 5-day weather forecast. Oh great, it's due to rain on Friday, which is when we'll be setting up camp. Righto ...

It's certainly chilly here, and even hailed a little earlier on, so I am making sure we've got plenty of Roman clothes to pile on at the weekend. We're at the Castle, so hopefully, hopefully, it will be relatively sheltered. But knowing us, we'll pitch the tent in an area that becomes a windtunnel in the evening :-) In which case, I shall retire to the shelter of the van. Apart from all that, I'm looking forward to a run-around over the Bank Holiday.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Woken by magpies

Don't know what they were up to, but magpies were calling loudly at about 5am this morning. They were also crawling around the window, perhaps perching on the bay to make their crakeing sound. Noisy beggars. And they're still at it now, at 2pm. Not near our windows, but calling up and down the gardens, making the blackbirds sound out warning chatter. Don't know what's going on - perhaps it's to do with the persistent rain at the moment ...

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Some of my favourite animals (next to stoats) are sheep. I've alway thought that they are more intelligent than given credit for. After seeing Skippy at Bede's World muck about and generally run the show, I knew there was more sheep than meets the eye. And now there's scientific evidence, as reported in The Independent on Sunday :

Sheep are not so dumb after all. New research shows that they self-medicate when they are ill. They can also identify and remember faces, both human and ovine, distinguish between happy and depressed expressions, and tell one sheep's bleating from another.

Scientists have discovered that sick sheep can accurately self-medicate for stomach problems. When sheep were given food than made them unwell, they were able to select and eat the right cures for constipation and heartburn. "People learn to take aspirin for headaches and antacids for stomach aches... Is it also possible that herbivores write their own prescriptions?" ask the researchers ... (Roger Dobson, Independent on Sunday, 21 May 2006)

What's more, the Independent has offered an apology to sheep in general. And not before time ;-) :

Leading article: Sheep - an apology
Published: 21 May 2006
There will be some readers, we fear, who will not take seriously our report today about the intelligence of sheep. There are still far too many people in this country who use sheep analogies in a thoughtless, hurtful and derogatory way. The word is used to imply someone who possesses no independence of thought, who is a passive follower of trends. Such lazy stereotypes, and the infantile sniggering and insensitive sniping that often accompany them, do a considerable disservice to a proud species ...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Devil's Dance

Saddam Hussein's novel Devil's Dance has gone on sale in Japan:

It depicts a tribe living along the Euphrates River 1,500 years ago that ousts an invading force.
(From BBC website)

So that makes it a historical novel. Oh great, does that mean the Historical Novel Society will be reviewing it any time soon? Since it's in Japanese at present, probably not ...

Edit: 4pm on Friday, and I had to ring the owner to find out the result of the interview, so it was finished and not on my mind for the whole weekend. I already knew what the outcome was, of course, but the sheer carelessness of her not bothering to call would have eaten away at me. It was time to take the initiative.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Reference books for writers

Next week York Writers will be discussing reference books for writers. Unfortunately, I didn't go to the previous meeting, so couldn't check out the exact definition. I'm presuming its to do with books on writing, including 'how to' guides, as well as anything to do with general research, grammar, or other mechanics.

The funniest one I can think of is How Not to Write a Novel by David Armstrong. He goes through from A-Z with comments on such important topics as Agents, Courses, Luck and Unpleasantness. It's not particularly practical, but it is amusing and insightful. If I want to find out anything about the buzz words in writing (such as pov, characterisation, etc), I generally turn to The Novelist's Guide by Margret Geraghty. I read this when I was starting out, so it made a big impression on me. There are lots of others on the market, and it's just a case of finding one that suits.

Robert McKee
's Story on scriptwriting is much admired, even by those not writing scripts. It's been passed to me by a good friend, but I haven't read it yet. And of course I own a copy of agent Carole Blake's From Pitch to Publication. Blake is quite a champion of historical fiction, so it's doubly required in my library.

On the specific historical fiction front, I own a couple of 'how to' guides, some of which I've found a bit self-evident. I think it's due to the chapters on research, which I don't really need help on. They sometimes comment on finding an acceptable form of language, creating characters in tune with their times, and so on, which is useful; Marina Oliver in Writing Historical Fiction published by How To Books. This isn't in print any more, but recently Oliver has published something with the same title but another publisher. Unintentionally amusing is Persia Woolley's How to Write and Sell Historical Fiction. She seems to think that the British have a thing called a 'brawly' which they carry should it rain. That'll be a 'brolly' ...

Martyn, if you'd like someone to go to the meeting with and show you the ropes (getting in the building can be a fiddle), I'll meet you somewhere on H*****e Road. On the other hand, you might like to take the opportunity to avoid this meeting ;-)

Edit: It's 6pm and I haven't heard from the bookshop, so can only assume I didn't get the job; she said she'd ring today

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Burning fuel

We've got a gas bottle with what we think is a small amount of fuel left. Since we use the gas for the camping stove, and we don't want to run out whilst actually camping (I have to have a cup of tea, or I will expire, or combust in a bad temper). So it's in the kitchen and we're boiling kettles on it. Here's hoping we don't burn the house down ... We have fire extinguishers at the ready :-) May Bank Holiday weekend we're off to jolly Lincoln, travelling on the Friday. So we're starting our preparations now. As Stores Manager, I will be going into overdrive next week, checking out that everything is in good order. Food is always difficult since I can eat meat and the dp won't, plus I now have dietary restrictions courtesy of the pulmonary embolism medication fall-out. Aargh! I've just got to get into the swing of things again, is all. On the bright side, I will get to use my bow for the first time.

Yesterday's blog was predictable. I always need to decide I haven't got the job, as thinking that I might have it is too frightening by half. But I genuinely don't think I've got it, as it wasn't a good interview; I didn't get the vibe.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Hello: it's not in the script ...

Was sort of hoping I'd hear one way or another today. But I found out that the owner is interviewing a couple of other people - on Thursday. So I gotta wait. The job is certainly worth having. The books are well within my area of interest, the work is a fair mixture of tasks, and the pay and conditions are way better than I anticipated. There's even a choice of days, and I could easily fit it around my freelance work and re-enactment. In short, it's not the sort of job I'm likely to be offered. My referees can sleep sound in the knowledge that they will not be troubled. Thursday will confirm (grit teeth and KBO)

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Venus in Copper

Hu-jolly-ra. Lindsey Davis' Roman sleuth is back on the radio next week. Marcus Didius Falco will be appearing in Venus in Copper on Radio 4 this Friday. And if any of us miss it, it will be available on the Listen Again facility for a while. The recording will also be out on CD in July. Heaven.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Flood chaos

Today's local Press reports on yesterday's heavy downpour. I know all about it, as I was out in it. Though showers, and perhaps thunder, had been forecast, it was lovely and sunny. So I went without my umbrella (well forgot, it actually), and even left my hoody with the dp whom I met for lunch. On the way back, as I walked over Lendal Bridge, it began to rain, then it poured. Then it hailed - yes hailed. I was caught in the open, along with many other unprepared people. I tried sheltering under the narrow arch through the walls. It wasn't too good, especially as several other drowned rats had beat me to it. When the hail abated a little I dashed for the bus shelter opposite the War Memorial Park. More hailstones, and I was there for 20 minutes or so.

Finally the rain stopped and I made for the Marble Arch tunnel, which leads to the Railway Musuem, and the Cinder Path to get back home. Bad mistake. The Marble Arch was flooded at both ends. But I waded through. The water an icky grey. I did my bit for York tourism and advised a couple of tourists to get out via the newish station back entrance. 'Phew,' I thought as I started to trot down the Cinder Path. The sun was starting to come back out, and things didn't seem so bad. Then I rounded the corner and found that the path was flooded. I waded through that too. The thing is, I had just bought a brand new pair of sandals and had changed into them straightaway as my feet were hot in my 'interview' shoes. They are the only decent shoes I've got that are OK for my bad foot; I was going to try sandals on, so didn't want to offend with my smelly trainers. The new sandals rubbed the skin off my heels, and I only hope I haven't caught anything from soupy water I trotted through. When I got home I stripped off quickly, throwing the clothes straight into the machine, then I showered, washing the bloody heels carefully.

I'm now trying to to dry the sandals out, but am very glad I wasn't wearing my decent 'interview' shoes which may well have been ruined by the water foray. I will need them on Tuesday. Yes, I have an interview for an actual job. It's at a rare book place, and looks very interesting. A couple of days back, I only saw the advert in the shop window, as I happened to be visiting someone in an area of the city I don't often go to now. So fingers crossed :-)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

More on the bunker

I only realised there was an article in The Guardian on May 8th when I was putting the papers out to be recycled this morning, and the headline York Bunker caught my eye. It gives a fair amount of detail. There's also this in The Press, which I actually managed to notice yesterday.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A new York tourist attraction

Ha . The Yorkshire Doo-da is now old hat. Next week sees the opening of Acomb's Nuclear Bunker. Only decommissioned in 1991, this bunker was run by the Royal Observer Corps to monitor nuclear fall-out if the bomb was dropped. It was the hub for a number of smaller stations which would have sent the information back to Acomb for collation. They were only supposed to survive for about two weeks.

I worked for a short time in the now demolished Shelley House, and the bunker was in the car park. My colleagues weren't impressed by the bunker as it leaked; this was only 4 years after its decommission, mind. But the thing was really in a state due to the fact that British Telecom had ripped out all the telecommunications - they did much the same to Bletchley Park, btw. There were wires all over the place, plaster gouged out, and it looked gutted.

But last year, I went on a tour round the bunker with YAYAS, a local history group, and the place had substantially been restored. It was a joy to look round it. It wasn't completely finished, as they were still getting maps and old equipment together, but it gave a good idea of how it would have looked. There's now even disabled access, which I think is great. The original way is down a steep flight of stairs.

I'm glad some these Cold War buildings are being preserved; they belong to a particular, and very fascinating, era.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006


Just found out that the BBC are showing Hannibal at the weekend. Typcially, I didn't find out till I got the Radio Times today. I knew there were a couple of Hannibals in the pipeline (including one starring Vin Diesel - zounds) but didn't know about this one, starring Alexander Siddig. Doh! Tony Keen mentions Siddig being interviewed on BBC 1. He also mentions some very interesting history programmes on BBC Freeview. I really must get one of them Freeview boxes.

But never mind all that, I just want to see the elephants :-) So would Wenlock, I suspect ... And the Cybermen are returning to Dr Who as well. Too, too much excitement for me to handle, Monica (brownie points to those who know about Monica)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Same ideas

Tears of the Sun did have a broadly similar set up to King Arthur. A small bunch of soldiers send on a mission into bandit country to extract someone. They get too involved and heroically help out the locals ( like The Magnificent Seven). Oh yeah, and the bandits are intent on ethnic cleansing. The last concept is entirely appropriate for the modern story that is Tears, but I would take issue in sloppily translating it to 5th century Britain.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Tears of the Sun

Tears of the Sun is on tv this evening. When the dp watched King Arthur on DVD, he blurted out that he thought that it was very similar to Tears of the Sun. The story is a very similar set up. The films also share the same director Antoine Fuqua. So I'm going to have a look for myself.

Meanwhile, The 13th Warrior was shown last night. I didn't watch it, having seen it before; we have it on DVD. It's loosely based on Beowulf, and an account of the contact the Arabs had with the Vikings. It fails a bit in the second half, but it's one of those films which nearly everyone gives the thumbs up (if with some caveats). Rather unlike King Arthur, where it's the reverse - 9 out of 10 people groan in disbelief.

Another film with a lot of ideas is the weird Russian film The Nightwatch. Brimming with creativity, again, it just doesn't quite follow through. Some great set-pieces though. I would be game to watch the sequel, which I believe is called The Daywatch.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Missing Boudica

Er, no, I haven't gone into mourning because the last of Manda Scott's Boudica books have been published; far from it. But I rather wanted to read J. Roesch's Boudica book. A friend has just got hold of it via her local library, plus Carla has reviewed it on her blog. So I checked out York's online catalogue to see if they had a copy. Nope. Well, not yet.

But in the same Boudica search, I came across Boudica by Vanessa Collingridge, which is not fiction. I'm glad they've got it, as though I wouldn't buy it, I'd certainly like to read it. And there was also another Boudica fiction title: Boudica and the Lost Roman by Mike Ripley. Unfortunately, both copies of the book are out at present, but I shall pursue the matter.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Bombus lapidarius

Otherwise known as the red-tailed bumblebee. One of them was in the house. Well, I had the temerity to open a window, and that's how it must have got in. It seemed to me to be the biggest bumblebee in the world and I hastened to get a box to catch it in. When I got back, the bee had gone. Where it went, is a mystery, but it reappeared the next morning, and the dp caught it and chucked it out before I got up. I'm pretty sure it was a red-tailed bumblebee, as it had a reddish-yellow bum!

So it contributes to my Springwatch observations. Already seen a 7-spot ladybird. Now need to see some frog spawn, but may be it's too late now. Certainly seen a frog ...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

That Yorkshire doo-da

Still not been on it. It's still a source of great fascination. Trouble is, the way we get into town is over the railway footbridge bridge and down a cinder lane. And the Yorkshire Wheel dominates the sky line for most of the time. In fact, I only have to go out my front door, down the steps onto the street, and I can see a quarter slice of it. I reckon I should sue the Railway Museum and/or Norwich Union for obscuring my view of, er, the sky ;-)

I'm trying to work out a good time to go on this wheel. Probably first thing in the morning (well it's only a 5 minute stagger for us from here, so that's no problem), but not, for example during any type of school holiday. I don't want to be trapped in one of the gondolas with a hoard of screaming kids - only I'm allowed to scream when confined 'miles' in the air, thank you. I'm sure we'll suss it out before it goes. I suspect apart from getting a good view of the Minster (well we get that anyway, if we run up to the top of the road, so neeeerrrrr), we'll also get a lovely view of our street. Just got to pick the moment, is all.

Actually, we've already got a lovely pic of our street, as it was included in a stunning aerial shot of the ABB Carriage Works. Well, it was called ABB when we first moved here. Then it changed its name to the very sinister sounding Thrall Europa. Thrall being another word for slave ... It was owned by a US company. And now the major part of it has closed down. I can remember when the road was jammed with cyclists come 4pm as the shift workers came out. Not like that now. But here's a view of the area in 1956 from Imagine York.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Embarrassing Sarah ...

I think it's time to thoroughly embarrass Sarah. Why? Because she deserves a bit of publicity. I don't know how long she's been in the Historical Novel Society, but she may have been there since it started in 1997. Anyway, she's always seems to have been involved, one way or another. If it's not been as a Reviews Editor, it's been as the editor of Solander, and sometimes both at the same time! Lending her great wisdom and editing skills to make both publications a fantastic read. She ran the very first HNS Conference in London, proving it could be done; there was an audience and Sarah ensured that there was a programme which appealed. Latterly, she's been involved in the HNS Online, working hard, gathering the relevant links to historical fiction from the broadsheets. Throughout, she's written articles and reviews of great elegance and perception. Sarah's blog, is, of course, beautifully well written and thoughtful, her finger on the pulse. All this, and she has a family to care for too. How does she fit it all in? She excels at everything she does. I'm insanely jealous :-) I believe Mary Sharratt is correct - Sarah is a goddess.