Thursday, August 31, 2006

Frog in bucket

Just before we went away for the Bank Holiday weekend, I found that we had a frog in the bucket again. The bucket lodges under the water barrel outside the shed. Once before we'd found a frog there, and assumed he'd strayed in by accident. Now we're wondering if he really likes it, since it's the second time he's turned up.

I took some photos, and as you can see, he let me get really close. But once in the bucket, can he get out again by himself? We left him for the day, and when he was still there next morning, Batman rested a wooden rod in the water, reasoning that the frog could use it to get out, if he wanted. It worked, and a couple of hours later, our visitor had disappeared back into the soggy garden. It's a shame really, as we loved his froggie company.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sunburn, rain, hail ...

A Bank Holiday in Britain and it's another show. Yes. Hmmmmm. At least we were able to set up in relatively good weather and had one temperate day. Even then, it rained that second evening. But on the Monday afternoon, it got a bit beyond the pale. Rain is one thing - but hail ... And it happened when we were out in the arena. Not surprisingly, my spear work was actually quite good: You were rather aggressive observed Batman, who was on the receiving end :-) Not sure where I found the energy for it, but the hail falling on our shoulders perhaps acted as a goad. At one point, I was sheltering the commentator under my shield and looking at the 5mm ice peas which had lodged on her head. How on earth some of us got a touch of sunburn as well, I don't rightly know.

Whilst simultaneously wondering why we do it, I have to confess it was a good weekend. We were all knackered by the end, as there were six arena shows per day. Not only do we perform, but there is a lot of setting up and retrieval of missiles afterward. On the Monday, the going got difficult due to the rain and hail as well, so one trudges carefully through the mud. But we had five cavalry horses with us, which the crowd loved. I also enjoyed them, as I was supplying the weaponry for the riders so had to dodge in between them. The ponies all had their own traits, and my favourite was a chestnut ex polo pony who was blind in one eye and was rather a sweet character.

It was not Batman's day either. He got hit by an arrow in the last cavalry show. Fortunately, we only use dummy arrows (ahem). However, they still have a rubber tip and Batman was 'deadlegged' by an arrow which hit the back of his leg. If you've ever hit your funny bone in your elbow, it's a bit like that, only it really numbs the leg and you can't actually walk for a while. Cue the wonderful St John's Ambulance guys. They applied an ice-pack which has cut down the bruising. If only it also cut down the number of times Batman keeps reminding me he's been hit by an arrow :-) But he missed the last line-up of the show, and didn't get kissed on the mouth by the group leader, so I'm calling it quits. Yes, honestly. All us butch soldiers - the ones who could walk, that is - were lined up prior to marching into the arena and the group leader kissed every single of one of us ... The hail was more palatable ;-)

It was the last show of the season, thank goodness. There are a couple of other localish shows for another group that we could attend, but since we packed up the kit in continuing thunder and peevish rain, I suspect we'll give it a miss. It'll take a while before everything's dry and damp kit is spread out all over the house (just like after the previous event a couple of weeks back). It's supposed to be sunny today, so I shall throw lots of stuff outside to dry. Here's hoping Diane hasn't put her washing out as well.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


No, the British weather hasn't taken a really surprising turn for the worst. Blizzard is the name of a programme on BBC2 at the moment. It's subtitled Race to the Pole, which gives some of it away. It is a six part series which shows two teams recreating Scott and Amundsen's race to the pole in 1911/12. Needless to say, the Scott team is British, and the Amundsen team is Norwegian. For the most part, the Scott team are man-hauling their sledges, whereas the Amundsen team are having a really easy time of it on their dog sleds. Whilst there are truly comic moments - mostly provided by the British team being, well, British - much of the time it's heartbreaking. Obviously, the 21st century teams are not going to be left to come to any harm (and that includes the dogs), but they are genuinely trying to re-create the conditions under which the 1911 teams operated. Hence, they use the same equipment, including tent, skis, sledges, rations, etc.

Best moment so far: when Mark (I-know-nothing-about-dogs) Anstice (sp?) had to replace the expert dog man. The expert insisted on using rope harness for the huskies as he thought the wire ones would be cruel. The result was chaos as the dogs chewed them through, got loose and fought one another or bonked the bitches on heat. The Norwegians used wire harnesses; if these were actually cruel to the dogs, it could have been counter-productive to them getting to the Pole quickly. The Norwegians, like Amundsen himself, were pragmatic and savvy throughout. The Brit dog expert got injured (only slightly, but the harsh conditions would have ensured a rapid decline), so Mark, self-confessed Oates of the party, took over. And he started to get tough with the dogs. And guess what? The dogs responded to strong leadership and started to run better. Huh. So much for experts. btw, the dogs were sent back after a certain time, much as Scott dispensed with them back in 1911.

The documentary was actually filmed in Greenland, as dogs have been banned from Antartica. Both teams are being closely monitored for their physical condition. Some of the Norwegians are actually putting on weight as they are being towed by the dogs and the diet is better (the Amundsen team of 1911 ate dog meat at times, but it was a vaulable source of fresh food and protein; the modern day teams are eating beef and no dogs were slaughtered). The Brit team are losing a lot of body weight, and by programme five on Sunday were looking unhealthily thin. One chap who had deliberately eaten huge amounts of food in the months before setting out is now almost unrecognisably skinny. As I said, the modern day teams are in little danger of dying, but of course in in 1911 ...

Someone once said someting along the lines of: 'Give me Scott for heroism and grit, but God give me Shackleton in a crisis' And it's Shackles I admire more because he brought his men back alive against all odds, despite failing his original mission, but I do feel Scott's name has been tarnished in recent years. He did what he felt best, but was spectacularly unlucky, eg. the winter came in early that year and his team were caught in blizzards. Ranulph Fiennes' book on Scott is a recommended read. Fiennes is one of the commentators in Blizzard, as is Roland Huntford. In Fiennes' book, Huntford's trashing of Scott's reputation is roundly rejected. And yes, Fiennes is related to Ralph and Joseph Fiennes.

The BBC Blizzard website has some clips from the programmes, so it's well worth visiting.

Monday, August 21, 2006

One word radio

Picked this up from Michelle Styles' blog. Her book, The Gladiator's Honour, is going to be read on this station soon, so I went to check it out. One Word Radio is a digital radio station, also broadcast on the web. It consists primarily of readings, and there are lots of books of interest, including a lot of British classics, such as Pride & Prejudice, Mill on the Floss, etc and newer works. You need MP3 software, or the Real One Player which is used for the Beeb's radio Listen Again progs, so I'm actually typing to someone reading out an episode from Middlemarch at present :-)

Michelle's book is being started this coming Sunday, which is a shame as I'm out in a doubtless rainy, muddy field in East Yorkshire that day :-( But I'm checking to see if the radio station has a Listen Again facility like the Beeb ...

Gabriele's meme

Gabriele's started a very appropriate meme, which I think I can fill in:

Five historical novels you blame for writing historical fiction

1. Same as Gabriele: Rosemary Sutcliff. Obviously, Sutcliff's Dark Age novels are a particular bane/inspiration :-)

2. Henry Treece: when I recently re-read his Eagles have flown children's novel, I was amazed to realise how influential he has been ...

3. Mary Stewart: her Merlin novels are moderately inspirational. It was good for me to see that a novel about this era did not need to be dominated by King Arthur

4. Fay Sampson: Whereas the previous three authors/novels were read by me at an impressionable age, it was Fay Sampson that started off the writing bug again with her Flight of the Sparrow. Lean and utterly focussed, it reminded me how powerful fiction can be at communicating across history.

5. Mary Gentle: Another more recent inspiration. Her Ash: a secret history has a wonderful visceral style which I admire immensely. Not a 'straight' historical, but gritty and true to human behaviour.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bloomin' broadband

It was funny, whilst away last weekend, I heard more tales about people's problems with Broadband. And now I have joined their uncommon ranks.

The actual Broadland software loaded fine, and I was able to get on line relatively quickly. But then I tried to update my browser so that I could run an Internet Security package. And that's where the trouble started. I have a suspicion that IE6 does not like my operating system, which is Windoze (rudely, sic) ME. I did check, and couldn't find anything on the Windoze pages which said ME wasn't compatible with IE6, though IE7 definitely isn't.

So now, I've got a half loaded IE6, which keeps telling me to finish installing, When I do as it tells me, it then says all components are loaded, and then doesn't work. Right, I thought, I'll delete the IE6 software and start again. Great, except that now I'm not allowed to remove any programmes. Or rather use the correct way to uninstall. In the interim, I have downloaded a free package, but it seems to stop Broadband from functioning properly. And so it goes on. Windoze (snore, snore) indeed. Looks like I need to get a techie doctor out to see my wee computer.

On the bright side, I've downloaded Firefox, which makes it easier for me to include photos in Blogger, for example. And I can upload and download files much quicker in general. For example, I can watch this fine example of Brit-humour and chortle. Bloody Hell, says me and the Dalek both :-)

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Muck and mither

Four days in a muddy field in the middle of England can do things to a sensitive soul. But it just ticked off the likes of me. And tired me out. It's my age, I know. I wasn't quite right till yesterday (Friday). The best day of the event was actually the first one. Thankfully, we were able to set up whilst it was dry. And we were also able to watch the the 1st World War airplanes practice their stunts. They looked fabulous, chasing around the grey sky over the field. It was a shame the crowd was not treated to the full show on Saturday due to the gusting wind. However, the planes were out and about on Sunday after the rain had stopped, and they wowed the crowd.

The weather was predicted to be 'variable' - yeah, only variable between being overcast, windy, and/or rainy. Very little in the way of sun was seen the whole four days. Much like last year, to be honest. There were tent casualties, but when someone's tent falls over, all the group mucks in to put it back up again swiftly. Suprisingly, our two tents held out for once - we had guy ropes and big killer tent pegs. Verdict on the weather: cruel. It kept on being nasty right up until we packed on Monday. There was rain in the wind, and an actual downpour as we pulled out.

I commuted between camps, as I was pursuing my mosaicing (pix when I swap USB cables around; another Broadband problem) and also doing two shows a day in the arena. My previous link to the event will give you an idea of the groups represented, except for the earlier ones. The Romans were out in force, with the first century Ermines lining up formidably, and the late Roman groups ignored each other magnificently; re-enactment politics, don't ask, but I don't indulge in that, and will talk to anyone from any group.

There's always a good market at this event, and I was able to purchase a 15th century kirtle and undergown - museum, for the use of. I've just got to get shoes, belt and coif now, and then I'm ready to be a costumed guide :-)

Despite what I've said, overall, I did enjoy it. There are always great sights to be seen at these multi-period events. And lots of interesting people and cherished friends to meet (in the other groups and amongst the public who visit). But it does seem to be getting rather predictable that this event is being linked with bad weather ...

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A quick post

Just to give a link to these photos of the event courtesy of Historic UK Com. Absolutely no Romans whatsoever though :-(

Will be back when I've caught up with some sleep and had a chance to battle with the Broadband and Internet Security software ...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Askrigg, North Yorkshire

In the absence of Our York Correspondent, aka Martyn, I guess I will have to step into the breach. My photos aren't as nice as his, but I'll have to do. On Monday Batman and I went on a jaunt to Askrigg in the Yorkshire Dales. The church there, St Oswald's, is medieval in date. The village itself had only a few shops, a couple of pubs, public toilets in the Temperance Hall, and fortunately for me, a tea room. Many of the houses in the village seem to be either B&Bs or Holiday Homes. It's very much farming and walking country up there. Loads of raggedy sheep in the fields. People of all ages in shorts, heavy boots, and often a dog at foot.

The Dales are a tad rocky for this softy southerner. I much prefer the Yorkshire Wolds, where the gently rolling landscape reminds me of the Home Counties, where I was brought up. But it was a lovely day out, with the weather far warmer than we thought it would be.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Great day (s)

Looking forward to next weekend. Going to the Festival of History. Praying it won't tiddle down like last year. Don't want it too hot either, as those in armour will be dropping like flies, and the rest of us won't be far behind. It's a field in the middle of Northants and there are no nice facilities such as showers. A few yers back, the Festival was at an agricultural showground. Although soul-less, the big advantage was easy access to cooling showers, plus there were loads of water points. When it was hot, I just used to throw myself under a cold shower after arena shows, and I'm sure those in heavy armour did the same. Can't to that in the Northants field.

Will be meeting one of my best friends. She's coming round the show, and then we're going out for dinner in the evening. Don't know what we'll do with our respective partners - suggest they prop up the bar together, whilst we natter for England, I suspect :-)

Had an interesting day Thursday. I volunteer at a small museum. There's a tiny core staff, and they rely heavily on volunteeers. So there were four of us volies in, and three of us staffed the entrance desk. But I'm thinking I should do something else. There's another chap there, who's on the staff, but also comes in and works on making authentic shoes for re-enactors. A couple of times I've asked him if he's got anything I could do, like sewing up shoes, or some such. It can be very quiet on the desk, so I might as well be doing something. One week he showed me how to do tunnel-stitching, and I tried it out on a couple of scrap pieces of leather. But nothing happened after that. This week I asked him again and suddenly he said he'd really like me to help out. He'll teach me how to do shoemaking and may pay me! The Museum Boss said that the Leather Chap has been after an apprentice for a while. Cripes.

Due to preparing for the Festival of History next I'm not at the museum week. So whilst I'm away, the Leather Chap has said he'll prepare some stuff for me to do. Here's hoping he keeps to his threat ... At the very least, I may be able to repair my own shoes, and perhaps even make myself a new pair when the time comes.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Arthur, King of the Britons

There's a theatre production of Arthur, King of the Britons on a Heaton Park, Manchester. Widely reported in the press, it sounds intriguing. This is from The Guardian:

Peter Clifford's script is a serviceable digest of the best-known episodes recounted by Malory, Geoffrey of Monmouth and Chr├ętien de Troyes; though as medieval romances they invariably work better intoned by firelight than bellowed across a field. The complex schisms of pre-Arthurian England [sic] are neatly illustrated, however, by assigning spectators to different clans, thereby creating the interesting spectacle of an audience at war with itself.

Apart from the reviewer's England mistake, dividing the audience into clans sounds a good device to illustrate conflict. Hopefully, the production will do a tour at some point.


Got to do my tax return soon. It's already making me nervous. A couple of years ago I was sent a warning letter that I wasn't making enough profit. After that, I entered into an interesting correspondence with the Tax Office regarding the nature of my pitiful earnings. They were unrepentent, even when I pointed out that my earnings were low due to being rather ill. I wasn't happy with their attitude toward me before that. They made an extraordinary fuss about this here low earner, taking off huge amounts every time I had a new contract, which was frequently. Presumably just in case I might go into the high tax bracket (yeah, right). I guess they can't believe my lack of dosh, so perhaps I should take it as a compliment - they obviously think I'm capable of earning a packet. But I get freaked out big-time now.

If they don't launch and investigation into my financial affairs sometime in the next decade, and charge me for the privilege, I shall be really surprised. But they will probably find that they actually owe me, particularly when I was changing jobs frequently. I am pretty sure that I didn't get all that emergency tax refunded, fro example. And as for the self-employment ... Pitiful and laughable - and that goes for the Tax Office too.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Taking the plunge

I've signed up for Broadband. After finding out that Orange's Broadband price was the same as Dial-up, I thought what-the-heck and went for it. Just hope the ol' computer can cope. My re-enactment group keeps circulating photos that are over 2mb in size and I can't download. Well, I can, but it would take hours. I can't view movie clips without a lot of hiccups and waiting. I can't download the newer web browsers such as Firefox or Internet Explorer 6. So now's the time to go Broadband

Once again I tried to download the messages from my old email address. Dial-up closed before it had even downloaded half. The email address basically died of spam. I'd have literally hundreds of trash emails per day, so I abandoned it. It currently has over 9,000 (yes 9,000) messages, and 99% of them will be rubbish. Presumably with Broadband, I could download the trash, apply anti-spam software and reactivate it. Hu-jolly-rah!