bunn: (canoeing)
2017-08-24 06:53 pm
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Roman Cornwall Hoard

I'm just noting this hoard of coins discovered near Hayle that date from 253AD to 274AD.

That's a lot of coins a very long way West.  I wonder what they were doing there.  Seems very Cornish that they were in a tin, not in a ceramic pot.  We don't historically do a lot with ceramics down here. 
bunn: (canoeing)
2016-12-17 11:30 pm
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Apparently there is a Dunkirk movie

I am not sure if this is really a good moment for yet another second world war movie... but youtube informs me that there is a Dunkirk movie coming up next year.    And I am a total sucker for the Little Ships of Dunkirk story, so I definitely want to see it.

 Apparently some of the original Little Ships took part in the filming!  So that is a reason to want to see it on its own.  There are probably actors and people in it, but I want to see the little ships. :-D

And while I am blethering, I thought I would link the history of the Tamar Barge Lynher here - she did not go to Dunkirk, being occupied as a barrage balloon platform at the time, but she is still an interesting elderly old boat, dating from 1896.  The photos are worth a glance: - quite a spectacular restoration story because she looks a complete mess having been hulked under the mud.  I will look forward to spotting her on the river next year!

I'd hate to own a wooden sailing boat - soooooo much work - but the sight of them always cheers me up. 
bunn: (dog knotwork)
2016-07-11 03:11 pm
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Confirms all my suspicions about That London

Although my family are from London, I myself have spent most of my life in the West.  Therefore, I, like my adopted people of the West, look upon London with doubtful and suspicious eyes.   I have to admit though, this description of it in 1192 does make it sound almost fun.  More braggarts than in the whole of France, indeed!

(via Dr Caitlin Green on Twitter, but so excellent I wanted to put it here so I can find it again) 
bunn: (dog knotwork)
2016-06-19 12:16 am
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Piles of paperwork & Grandad's souvenirs

I spent several hours today wrestling with piles of paper and the dismal realisation that my younger self was apparently not only thinner and richer than me, but also better organised and nothing like as messy.  Oh well.  That's entropy for you I suppose. Entropy, and spending all the money on vet bills.  But! I have a filing cabinet now, so I am hoping that will go some way towards resetting the 'being organised' drift towards giving up and just  living in a sort of nest inside one enormous drift of paper and cat hair.

Shoved underneath a pile of other things, I found a few much older items: surviving souvenirs of a walking holiday that my grandparents took to Holland and Germany when they were thin and young, in the 1930's.  They had an English-language guidebook.

Read more... )
bunn: (dog knotwork)
2016-06-05 12:26 am
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Early Twelfth century minstrel

The internet gave me this picture of a Norman Minstrel, but I don't know where it came from or how (in)accurate it is.

What do you think?  Do you know of a better picture of a Norman Minstrel, with particular attention to his costume?   I know zero about clothing history, but I thought the Normans preferred shorter hair. 
bunn: (dog knotwork)
2016-04-17 05:52 pm
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Painting = Magic!

I was just reading this interesting blog about possible origins of the place name Teversham, and came across this quote from Eilert Ekwall:

Old English tīefran ['to paint'] corresponds to German zauburn, Dutch tooveren 'to practice sorcery', and Old English tēafor 'red pigment' to Old High German zoubar, Old Frisian tāver, Old Norse taufr, 'sorcery'.

I had come across the idea that pagan Saxon magic involved singing before, but this was the first time I'd come across the idea of sorcerous Saxon painting.  

I was reminded of the magical painting in Over Sea, Under Stone: "He has painted his spells!"    Now I want to use this idea in a story.
bunn: (Car)
2016-01-09 09:58 pm
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Elderly slave disposal services in the late second century

Average lifespan for people who made it to the age of 10 was 47.5 years.   Say you have a slave who is 45, and is therefore, presumably, something of a banger.

Suppose you are a bit of a bastard and also a tightwad, and  would prefer not to keep spending money on food, accommodation etc for a slave who was frankly always a bit of a lemon.

You aren't allowed to kill them, Hadrian outlawed that.   Your slave has no marketable value.

What do you do?
bunn: (dog knotwork)
2015-11-06 09:34 pm

Farthing by Jo Walton: a ramble

This book came with a recommendation by Ursula Le Guin on the cover  "If Le Carré scares you, read Jo Walton"  it said.    So, here is a quote from one of my very favouritist authors, referencing one of my other very favouritist authors?  Ooo!

Not that simple, alas. )
bunn: (Dark Ages)
2015-10-22 11:05 pm
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The Last Kingdom

Well, OK, hurray Saxons, hurray Vikings. But why does it all have to be so *muddy* ?    Here we are at the tragic end as Northumbria's Golden Age finally ends in fire, can we not have some leftover bling? Or at least some nice embroidery?  Silk hangings? The odd fancy woodcarving, or some nice trim around a tunic at least?    Even the box of treasure looked kind of manky, and for some mysterious reason, even though we were clearly around for several years of Uhtred's growing up, everything took place in late autumn, so there wasn't even much colour to the grass or trees. :-(

I suppose fancy objects are expensive.  But I still have my fingers crossed that there will be a bit less mud in Wessex.  At least outside of the Somerset marshes. 
bunn: (Logres)
2015-09-13 02:06 pm

England's Hours of Not Quite Greatest Need

When thinking about England*'s Hour of Greatest Need, I started considering previous Hours of Apparently Insufficient Need.  It must be admitted though, that my knowledge of anything that happened during the period between about 1485 and 1900 is pretty appalling, so I thought I'd ask for suggestions.

I thought of :
- The Viking Invasions
- The Norman Conquest
- Stephen v Matilda
-  The Wars of the Roses
- The Spanish Armada (but then dismissed that as a scary thing that basically just got blown away)
- The English Civil War
- 1916 (although if you argued that this is a lot more than England's, Britain's, or even the UK's Hour, I'd have to concede the point)
- Dunkirk

Then it occurred to me that we actually have a gadget that is supposed to specifically indicate Hours of Need just down the road at Buckland Abbey, so I looked up Drake's Drum to see what times of national emergency it had seen fit to signal.  But it seems to be a most erratic indicator, drumming for things like Lord Nelson being given the Freedom of  Plymouth, which doesn't really seem like an emergency, even in Plymouth.

Incidentally, there's an excellent list on Wikipedia of Sleeping Kings** In Mountains.   I knew there were quite a few of them, but I hadn't previously realised quite what a superb range of sleeping heroes was available in the event of emergency.

* I'm not being too picky about national definitions here, although I think 'Albion's Hour of Greatest Need' definitely has more of a ring to it than 'United Kingdom Maximum Necessity Moment' or similar.

**Although not all of them are kings.
bunn: (dog knotwork)
2015-02-03 09:44 pm
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I've been reading Mary Renault's Alexander series - Fire From Heaven, The Persian Boy and Funeral Games.

Read more... )
bunn: (Hiver)
2014-07-20 04:18 pm

The art of being photographed.

I observe that the children of people that I know, if judged entirely on photography, would appear to be all stunningly attractive. Photographs that I own of people that I know from their own teen and childhood years, and photos of members of my own family suggest that by comparison, humanity up to about 20 years ago was largely composed of odd-looking, grumpy-faced or mad-looking and somewhat furtive trolls.

Either some sort of alien intervention has taken place unnoticed, or nowadays, people get photographed so often, and get to see the results so instantly, they have on the whole, got a lot better at being in photographs.

I expect Future Historians to come up with a complicated theory about nutrition and dentistry. Or to go with the alien intervention thing.
bunn: (Skagos)
2014-06-15 05:52 pm
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Viking Queens & Shieldmaidens

How did I do all that reading about Viking ships just now, and not realise that the beautiful Oseberg ship that you see photos of everywhere when you look for Viking ships, was not just a ship-burial, but a queen-burial? "The skeletons of two women were found in the grave with the ship. One, probably aged 60–70, suffered badly from arthritis and other maladies. The second was initially believed to be aged 25–30, but analysis of tooth-root translucency suggests she was older (aged 50–55)."

And also, here is a little Viking person I've just stumbled upon; the Harby Valkyrie, thought to date to around 800AD.  I love her hairstyle and Big Sword and patterned dress. (I'm not sure why valkyrie rather than shieldmaiden? Maybe it's the hair.).  I may see if I can carve a version of her.

Read more... )
Lots more really good photos of her here : http://www.finefynskefund.dk/valkyrien/
bunn: (Skagos)
2014-06-10 09:34 am

Sutcliff Swap!

The 2014 collection is open! I haven't read all the stories yet...

But I have read my gift, Fiat Justicia by opalmatrix. It's all about Aunt Honoria, a minor character in The Silver Branch who I personally consider to be more interesting than the protagonists, and she really lives up to that billing in this story, being both awesome and ruthless!

[livejournal.com profile] motetus drew me an Aunt Honoria as a treat, and she is a perfect fit with the story.  There is even more Aunt Honoria to look forward to in the other stories too.  She seems to be turning into something of a third century version of Judi Dench's M, which is a move that one can really only applaud delightedly.

With bonus extra Vikings!
I wrote two things for Sutcliff Swap this year, and both of them were kind of Vikingy:

Born in the Purple is ostensibly a Blood Feud story - although to be honest there is a bushel of history in there and not much more than a teaspoon of Sutcliff. My heroine, Anna Porphyrogenita, the princess of Constantinople who was sold to the Viking Rus in 988AD in return for an army, only appears by report in Blood Feud, and was a real person.

I had a lot of fun researching Constantinople and the Rus (although in the end there was less Rus than I'd intended).   It was a difficult story to write though, because it's basically the story about forced marriage that I managed to wangle my way out of writing when I wrote about Flavia.   I don't know why I chose to come back to that theme, given that I'm sure I've complained before that historical fiction has way too much rape in it, and far too few people with hernias or toothache or being trampled by cows.   Maybe next time I should make an effort and have everyone tragically trampled by cows or killed by a randomly collapsing building.

The second thing I wrote was:
Audrsaga, for [livejournal.com profile] osprey_archer. It's a Sword Song story, based on Sutcliff's last and posthumously published novel about a hot-tempered Viking boy who is given a five-year sentence of exile for murder in around 890AD, and spends the time wandering around Dublin and the Western isles as a sword-for-hire.   He ends up in the Hebrides and Caithness, working for first Thorstein the Red, and then his mother, Aud the Deep-minded.  Like Anna, Aud and Thorstein were real people.  Aud is one of the founder-figures of Iceland, so she appears in a number of the Icelandic sagas, as well as being one of the more memorable characters in Sword Song.    The prompt asked what Aud did after she sailed out of the book to settle on Iceland.

This was much easier to write!  According to both the sagas and Sutcliff, Aud was a portly lady in her early sixties, a Christian in a period when most Vikings weren't, and very definitely a personality.   If I hadn't been struggling to write about Anna at the same time it could easily have been much longer, and I think I may try to take it up to at least the point where Aud sets up her own settlement at Hvamm. 
bunn: (dog knotwork)
2014-05-24 04:24 pm

Thorstein Codbiter

Is a very fine name, but personally I think the name Thorolf Mostbeard may be the finest of all Viking names.  I hope he really did have Mostbeard, and it wasn't one of those Little John style names, making fun of his weedy and inadequate chinfungus. 
bunn: (dog knotwork)
2014-05-01 12:25 am

The White Hare: Notes

Notes for The White Hare

The Eagle of the Ninth was published in 1953 - Rosemary Sutcliff's first Roman Britain book. She hadn't realised that there was no archaeology at the time that supported the idea that Exeter had a Roman occupation, and was delighted to find out, later on, that 'traces of the Second Legion were being dug up all over the city'.

Snag is, it turns out now that a lot more excavating has been done that the Second Legion occupation of Exeter was in the first century, not the second, when Eagle of the Ninth is set. It looks like the Second Legion campaigned successfully in the Southwest, then left. By the time Marcus was supposed to be posted to Isca, they had moved elsewhere, leaving their huge legionary fortress on the Red Mount largely empty, and Isca Dumnoniorum was a city served by an aqueduct (although exactly how developed it was is not entirely clear, because of medieval ground clearances which have removed a lot of the Roman bits).

Read more...and more... and more! To the point of mild monomania, possibly. )
bunn: (George Smiley)
2013-12-13 10:47 pm
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Finding the exact publication date for a children's book from 1915 and when it was written.

I recently read "The Lost Prince" by Frances Hodgson Burnett (yes, the 'Secret Garden' lady) at the recommendation of [livejournal.com profile] sineala.  It's a flawed book in some ways (let us just say that the Lost Prince takes a ridiculously long time to figure out that he is, in fact, in a book called 'the Lost Prince') but it also has a lot of charm.  One of its great points is its setting in a sort of alternative early twentieth century Europe, in which there are political tensions, and an extra country called Samavia - but no First World War.

The book was published in 1915, but I would really love to know *when* in 1915, and whether it was written before the declaration of war, or during the early months, or...  what.

I have this great desire to find out: is FHB deliberately writing the War out of her version of history, or did she think it was a minor scuffle that would be over by Christmas, or did she just not see it coming?

Anyone with any ideas where to look to discover this?

(If anyone wants to read it, it's free on Gutenberg but the Gutenberg record doesn't contain the covers or endpapers and things that might give a hint in a paper copy, so no clues there.)

Edited because this absolutely has to have my George Smiley icon, because Smiley taught me about Estonia and Latvia and Lithuania, back in the days of the Cold War, when those little lands were lost, as far as we knew then, forever disappeared, along with so many of their population, into the Soviet Union.  Even now, those names have a strange magic for me, because I met them first as Lost Lands of desperate memory, and now they are real again. 
bunn: (upside down)
2013-12-08 07:48 pm

It's the little things.

For some reason I am howling with laughter at the 'haunted house' in this week's Sleepy Hollow.  Supposedly this house was overtaken by fearful Eldrich Forces in the eighteenth century, and nobody has spent more than a few days in it since, because it is inhabited by a Scary. ( I don't think this is a spoiler.  Or, only a tiddler, anyway.)

Here it is: http://www.entertainmentoutlook.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Sleepy-Hollow-Sanctuary-02.jpg

It's so CLEAN!  Those bricks!  I could cheerfully eat a meal off those bricks! And that paint!  It GLOWS!

Clearly the Scary has spent most of its time since 1781 scrubbing like mad.  I wonder if I can get one to move in with me...?

Of course the whole series is riddled with anachronisms of all kinds, but (perhaps because I live in a place so damp that all surfaces turn green in weeks)  this one really spoke to me. :-D