Monday, July 31, 2006

Home front

Just recovering from another event. It was in York, but we walked there and back. In this heat, it's rather tiring :-) And now I've got plenty of washing and tidying to do. Then I'll start seriously planning for English Heritage's Festival of History. I've already started preparing as the mosaic display requires a lot of forethought, especially as I'm doing it in collaboration with someone else. Who's doing what needed to be sorted, for example - we seem to have worked that out out OK. That's pretty good going seeing as we've never actually met! Finger's crossed we've thought of everything, and will have what we need when we finally meet in a field in Northamptonshire in a couple of week's time ...

Meanwhile, on Friday evening there were people looking over the house next door. Since Alf died in December, the house has been unoccupied. We've been waiting for a For Sale sign to go up. Either the visitors were estate agents, or somehow the house has been sold sans sign. I'll be buying Property Press this Thursday to see if it's been advertised.

Just up the road from us, in a park, a woman was attacked. She's still in hospital, and I hope she has a speedy recovery.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


Finally. Here's a link to the Tuesday event. Took it's time, or should I say I took time to find it. There was no obvious link on The Press's front page, but ironically a search for something else pointed me to it.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A good day

This morning I went to meet the archaeology curator to arrange a date for teaching another workshop. He showed me the new lab that has been fitted out, and which will be a great venue for the the event. In addition, he mentioned that he is seriously reviewing the (out of control) archaeology collections. It seems I am well placed to help out with this. Crikey.

Now this is exactly the sort of thing that generally hasn't happened in my patron-forsaken archaeology career. Call it patronage or luck, or whatever, but my time in archaeology has lacked this aspect big-time. So I'm reeling with delight. The funny thing is, at no time have I had any optimism or expectations of this particular contact. He's a good chap, always upbeat and I feel comfortable talking with him, but I never banked on anything coming of it. In fact, I still feel cautious. He might decide to use someone else perhaps. Until a written agreement is made, I shan't quite believe it. It's just that for once, things are actually looking quite hopeful. [Does a double take, laughs maniacally, and goes to lie down in darkened room]

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hot day

Yesterday's event was extremely hot and I boiled in my helmet. Despite all the cameras at the event, apparently it wasn't particularly well covered on local tv. Ho-hum. Consequently, I can't find any links to pix with re-enactors in, but here's a link that explains the background.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Getting nothing useful done

With an event tomorrow, and one this coming weekend, as well as a big event looming in August, I'm starting to apply my brain in the re-enactment direction. It all takes a lot of planning. For example, tomorrow, we just need our soldier kit, but it needs to be cleaned and repaired (soft and hard kit), and I need to ensure we have other stuff with us (such as suntan lotion, water, any required medication, etc.). Since we won't have a car, or a proper base, we need to have everything with us. Same goes for the weekend, but at least we'll have a base. Unless we want to hire a taxi, hopefully we'll only have kit we can easily carry. I'll be in female kit, and I think Batman will just be doing his antler work, so no shields and spears to hoick about. Any ideas about doing my archaeology article are getting pushed down the list of things to do. But these events are great fun, so I shan't complain :-)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Favourite reference books

I temporarily lost one of my favourite reference books. It wasn't on the chaotic shelves we reserve for our major reference books. The main problem is that there is not enough room on these shelves any more, so that some books are stacked on top of the rest. Bad news. Don't know what to do about it, except buy a bigger house ...

Anyway, I found it eventually, on a shelf across the way - the one I use for useful re-enactment texts. This book is useful for both archaeological and re-enactment purposes, but had got put in the latter category due to the lack of space on main shelves. At least I found it. And the name of the book? Dress in Anglo-Saxon England by Gale Owen-Crocker, 2004, Boydell & Brewer. All you might need, or want to know, about clothing from 4th century up to the 11th. It's the 2nd edition, being first published in the 1980s. It was difficult to find 2nd hand copies, so when the updated edition came out in 2004, there was a sigh of relief all round. But, another one, covering a similar subject is due out September: Cloth and Clothing in Early Anglo-Saxon England, AD450-700 by Penelope Rogers, 2006, CBA. Rogers is an expert in textile analysis and will be exploring this aspect in more depth than Owen-Crocker. Yes, I will have to get it :-)

Another useful text is: The Earliest English: living and dying in Early Anglo-Saxon England by Samantha Glasswell, 2002, Tempus. I found this book remaindered in a local bookshop, and was well worth the £6.00 or so I paid for it. Clothing and artefacts are well covered as one would expect from a Museum Registrar and re-enactor. A search on the Tempus website implies that it may not be in print now.

And another crucial reference book: Anglo-Saxon Weapons and Warfare by Richard Underwood, 1999, Tempus. Again, a great one-stop source; it does what it says on the cover.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The City of the Sharp Nosed Fish

Earlier this week there was a programme on UK BBC2 (repeated from BBC4, I gather) about the papyri found in the rubbish dumps of Oxyrhynchos. The city was in Egypt and essentially a Greek foundation (after Alexander's conquest) , which continued into the Roman period, up to the 7th century AD. The 19th century excavators found lost texts of poets such as Saphho, and playwrights such as Sophocles, as well as more day-to-day texts concerning the lives of the ordinary people of the city.

Only a small percentage of the finds have actually been translated, and the papyri are still being worked on. This reminded me that I'd once heard some radio programmes about the translations of the texts, and the assocated web pages can be found here. Unfortunately, the programmes, last broadcast in 2002 are not available for re-play. Perhaps they'll be repeated soon. There is also Oxyrhynchus Online, which includes a piece on the recent imaging developments as mentioned in the BBC programme.

PS Just to make those living in the south of England cry in sheer envy: we had rain, along with thunder & lightning at 2am this morning.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Gawn, gawn

Hurrah :-) I've just finished off another report. Hopefully the last of that sort for a while, though I was asked to put a costing in for another one. With a bit of luck that won't appear (ever). Now it's onto my academic article, and a long list of tasks to do before I can even set fingers to keyboard.

It's one of those days when I can hear the railway announcements from the station. Yesterday, in the evening, I heard the chuff chuff of the steam engines - they're on their trips to the coast again for the summer.

Water excitement

Yesterday in parts of York water mains burst due to an electrical fault at a pumping station. The water mains were registering as empty but they weren't so when extra water automatically was pumped in the pressure built up and blew in the early hours of Tuesday morning. The result was water running down streets like a river and back gardens flooded. I actually saw some of this whilst on the Tescos bus, which passes round the parts of Acomb (pronounced the southern softy way of a-cum, not ackom as some Leeds person put it), in particular Gale Lane.Yorkshire Water vans were out in force, as was the local tv station. I didn't know what was going on till I saw the local BBC News. There was also something going on at the top of Hamilton Drive on the way back, which wasn't there when we went out. Despite it being so close to us on the hill, we weren't affected. Hope Martyn was OK too. 500 properties had their water cut off - not funny in this weather. Supplies were being restored by mid-afternoon though.

Standard Life has floated as a company, and we decided to cut and run on the share front. Hence a windfall of over £1000 - which will knock all of £1000 of the £6000 shortfall on our stupid mortage endowment ... Unfortunately, we have two lots of cr*p endowments, so the shortfall is bigger than that. I was very dubious at the time about their claims that it would cover (I tend to be very cautious with money after family money problems in my childhood) but a lot of pressure and reassurances were put our way. However, Batman is now doggedly pursuing them for compensation, so tough.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Oh, not again (re: the growing TBR pile & HF cliches)

Blast. On my weekly trip to Tescos I happened to swing by the book section. Result: there is now another volume on my TBR pile. This time it's William Napier's Attila. Last time out, Mr Napier failed to impress me with Julia (link to Carla's blog, but see my comments). A quick flick through Attila made me take a chance. On settling down to have a closer look at home, the author seems to falling into cliches all over the show. The prologue is written by an old man in a monastery looking back over his long life (this may sound familiar to Carla in particular at present), and the first chapter gives a description of the weather and shows two people on horseback, on a hill, watching it. Give it a rest. Oh please, shoot me now :-) Almost makes me nostalgic for the likes of clever clogs Julian Rathbone. I shan't look further till I have time to read Attila properly.

I think old men reminiscing (in monasteries or not) should be included in the Historical Fiction Rules, along with two soldiers on horseback and bright dawns in the first paras of chapter one ... What do you reckon Sarah and Alan?

Monday, July 17, 2006

Top of the TBR pile

At the top of my to be read pile is Elizabeth Chadwick's The Greatest Knight. I got it the other week, as I'd just started Scarrow's latest Roman Cato and Macro adventure. I wanted something I knew I'd enjoy. According to Elizabeth, the book is doing well in the charts. I must stop getting books and ensure that the TBR pile actually goes down, but ... :-)

Sunday, July 16, 2006


Aargh ... I'm going through one of my discordant phases (arguably I'm never out of it, and it merely varies in intensity). I've just deleted my message to a list because no one thanked me for at least trying to answer the question. And I'm narked over another question someone asked. Again, I tried to answer the question, when apparently - judging by the other replies - all that was a required was for those answering to verbally shrug their shoulders and agree with the questioner. Eh? Why ask the question then? My reply looks naive and stupid. Certainly the person asking the question didn't understand what I was saying, or at least gave no indication that they did. I think I'll not bother for the next week or so and cool my heels.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Library Thing

On a whim, I decided to put my Dark Age/Arthurian fiction on the Library Thing. I haven't finished yet, but it was fascinating to see the how popular the books were (or weren't) My list is here. A lot of my real favourites didn't have an entry as my editions were so old. Having lurked on Arthurian-type lists, I think I may be well out of touch with King Arthur fiction now. For example, I haven't read any of Stephen Lawheads books; a quick browse in the bookshop convinced me that they were probably too fantasy-based for my taste. I'm just an old-fashioned gal, obviously ;-)

Friday, July 14, 2006

A bit of stoat

Ever since I saw a stoat whilst visiting Sutton Hoo a few years back, I've been fascinated by 'em. The Sutton Hoo stoat was very bold. I was at the tail end of a big group of people being led round the burial mounds. We had just emerged from some trees and were on the path to site. We had stopped, and far ahead the guide was speaking about the river. I wasn't paying too much attention as I couldn't hear properly. But I looked to my right, and there was a stoat. It had come out of the undergrowth and was brazenly staring at the tail-end charlies of the tour. At the time, I wasn't exactly sure whether it was a stoat or a weasel, but later on I found out that the ones with the black tipped tail are stoats.

At the Great Yorkshire Show, I picked up a nice little book called Stoats and Weasels by Robbie McDonald and Stephen Harris, The Mammal Society, 1997. So now I know all about stoats, and realise how lucky I was to see one, especially at such a special a place as Sutton Hoo. Somehow, I must weave a stoat into one of my stories. It's really rather got to be one with Angles and Saxons in, after where I saw the beast. There's a TV lovely programme about the stoats of Mount Grace Priory and it has been repeated a couple of times. Unfortunately, we didn't see any there when we visited the Priory last year :-(

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Great Yorkshire Show

On Wednesday me and Batman went to see the Great Yorkshire Show, which is the major agricultural show up here. It's got animals, it's got all sorts of commercial stalls, it's got entainment, and is well worth going to. It's a chance to walk your feet down to the stumps, which I did, much to my surprise. My injured foot held out wonderfully, so things are looking up on that front. Managed to get sunburn despite using sun-screen - I kept missing a couple of bits, plus the parting in my hair got burnt (only found out when I combed my hair this morning - ouch!)

I've chosen the type of sheep I want to get when we have a large field to put one or two in. It'll be a Shetland. It's the type that has spindly legs, a kind face, but a naughty look in its eye. When we walked round looking at all the different breeds, it was the Shetland and its Hebridean cousin, that showed some interest in its surroundings. I could almost see the Shetlands thinking, whereas virtually all the other sheep breeds just sat or stood in a very bored manner. Admittedly, the sheep were hot and probably tired, but the Shetlands still had a buzz about them despite all that.

And I got a bag of candy floss. They don't seem to have those machines which show it being spun anymore, and where they put a stick in for the stuff to adhere to. On the upside, it's actually easier to eat - a pull from the bag, rather than trying not to shove your face into the floss to get a bite.

Friday, July 07, 2006


A very kind friend of mine has lent me her proof copy of Ruth Downie's debut novel Medicus and the Disappearing Dancing girls. Set in Britain in 117AD, it's billed as a detective story (The First Ruso and Tilla Investigation), but the focus is very much on setting the scene, so that there's lots of human interplay and detail. It also has a wry sense of humour, and is very much a page-turner.

I wonder, if like Simon Scarrow, Downie was encouraged to make it a detective story, because crimes sell (apparently). But never mind. The chapters are short and punchy. The dialogue is easy on the soul (no trying to make it picaresque, hurrah). There is a good sense of difference (religion, different peoples) and familarity - the way people behave, but also admin-heavy parallels are drawn with the NHS, for example. No material culture gaffs either, or anything else that offendeth mine archaeological sensibilities. I could just settle in and read without getting tripped up. Strangely, the very distinctive opening lines from Downie's original short story from which this was developed, have been changed. It was surely what caught an agent's and/or publisher's eye initially. I really enjoyed this novel, and would definitely recommend it, and will read the sequels.

PS An excerpt can be read here.

7th July 2005

My thoughts are with the friends and relatives of those killed in the 7th July bombings in London, and also with the survivors who have to live the memory and consequences of that day.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


Good news - I got the funding for the drawings :-) So now I need to marshal my contributors and go ahead:

i) Got to get permission from the archaeology unit to get the artefacts drawn. Hopefully, this won't be a problem as this particular unit is normally very laid back and helpful.

ii)Then I can pass the artefacts (and the ideas for diagrams) to the illustrator and give her plenty of time to sort things out.

iii)Will also need to contact another, more difficult, unit about using unpublished information from their excavations. However, the reason I have had to do this article off my own bat is due to them not even thinking about publishing this important information in the first place. It's now down to professional honour and obligation, so if there's any trouble from them, I shall be laying it on thick, and going above people's head without any mercy.

iv)And then of course, I have to do my bit (eek!) When I have a good idea of how long, etc., I shall contact the lucky archaeological journal of my choice to check they can take it on.

Back in inevitable reality, my face is a warground of allergies. Don't know why, but it's gone off on one again. Not as bad as last time (no anxiety) but blotches keep appearing and one of my eyes is puffy. Cripes, I dunno. It seems to be a food allergy, but anything I eat seems to be causing a reaction. I've decided to go from a one a day anti-histamine which clearly isn't hacking it, back to the heavy duty every four hours Piriton. Just taken the first one, and things already seem to be improving. The only thing is, when the Piriton's really built up in my system, I'll be hard put to keep awake. I don't drive, so that's not a worry, but I do have a life to lead ... I daresay I really shall have to drag my sorry a**e to the Docs, only to be put on another long waiting list.

What the heck, at least I got the funding :-)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

History Matters - pass it on

OK, enough of the Azzurri. Though I can't guarantee they won't resurface on Saturday ... Back to the matter in hand.

The History Matters - pass it on campaign has just been launched. It aims to raise awareness of things historical. Tristram Hunt, writing in The Guardian says a recent poll claimed that 73% of the population claimed to have an interest in history. However, the government increased its funding for sport by 91% in the past five years, whilst museums, libraries and archives only got 26%. Ouch. No wonder I can't find an appropriate job ;-)

The trouble is that history can be seen as politically incorrect (eh?), and therefore not inclusive. So it's currently at the point where people are grappling with some very unsavoury history (slavery, imperialism, colonialism etc.), trying to work out its effects on modern Britain. I think you need to understand where you've been (personally and more broadly speaking) to know how to proceed.

I hope the campaign is successful, though it sort of crept up on me, for starters. On the website, there's a lot more information, including an events calendar.

You beauties :-)

The boys done good. Batman says it was a good game all round, with both teams attacking and the game flowing well. Even I could tell it was a well-tempered game. But at the end of 90 minutes, I thought it was going to run to penalties, couldn't watch, and turned over to watch Lost instead. But on a break, I flicked over to see how things were doing in extra time (before inevitably going to penalty shot outs ...) And what did I see? In the dying moments, one Italian goal, followed by another so quickly, that the coverage of the first goal had hardly finished. Amazing. Forza Italia! All the way now, lads, all the way ;-)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Forza Italia!

This blog has been largely free of the Football World Cup, but now England is out, who can I support? It's a no-brainer really, it's got to be Italy since I'm all of 1/16th Italian (ahem). What is galling is that it's now down to four European teams. There's not even Brazil to liven up proceedings :-( Hey-ho.

Italy's got to do to get to the final is beat Germany. Oh dear. I've just heard someone saying that it's not Forza Italia! (Italy Forward), but Fortress Italia! as they're very good at defending. Batman says that Italy does something called cateenaccio: if they score a leading goal they'll settle back and defend like crazy, rather than going for more. Now I know where I get my conservative outlook from. If it comes to a penalty shot-out, Italy will be stuffed as Germany has penalties down to a fine art. Batman reckons that Squadra Azzurra are the better team, it's just that they settle for defending. But I guess it would be good if the host team got to the final (she said reluctantly)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Drawing costs

Just came across Susan Hill's comment on the blog where I mentioned drawing costs. Just to explain: for this article there will be eight artefact or diagram drawings of a specialised (i.e. archaeological) nature. I've included a scan of an example of archaeological artefact drawing on the left.

They need to be a consistent scale and style for an academic publication. It'll work out at c. £37.50 per drawing, which will pay for the illustrator's time and expertise, as well as any materials used, plus liaising with the client (aka me). £300 squid sounds like a bargain to me, given that I know the illustrator is extremely professional, and in York as well - very helpful should there be queries on either side. Unfortunately, I haven't got the skills to draw them myself. My expertise (such as it is) lies elsewhere ;-)

And whilst I was trying to find an example of the sort of illustration I need to get done, I found these paintings, which I think Carla might like (though she's probably seen them before, at somewhere rather famous ...)

Saturday, July 01, 2006


We awoke to the sounds of a hot air balloon trying to climb high after taking off from the Knavesmire (aka York's racecourse). We're often woken by balloons on a Saturday morning; it's one of the joys of living here. I would miss it greatly should we move. Anyhow, these days it's a red KitKat balloon. It used to have a Jorvik livery, but that was some time ago now. But our fascination with the hot air balloon always reminds me of Ted Hughes' Poem The Full Moon and Little Frieda:

'Moon!' you cry suddenly, 'Moon! Moon!'

I heard a recording of Hughes reading this, and he conjured her childish amazement so well. I cried out out 'Balloon! Balloon!' as I tumbled out of bed and staggered to the window, trying to see where it was.

The poem is very apt anyway as the moon's a balloon. Gone all poetic today, well, about as poetic as I ever get :-)