How exciting to playing a part in the growth of a Viking town. There are massive plans for Viking Valley here in the magical Gudvangen. Already world-renowned as a place of Viking life, the long dreamed of project is now launched.
A Viking town. Situated here in this place where visitors already flock; within the valley walls of this fjord between the long falls (I count 14 flowing down to God’s waters as I write this).
Right now at this moment I observe the valley. A wide expanse with different areas; the narrow flowing village of spacious timber dwellings, the far farm houses below the steep goat trail, the central encampment all along the riverside where Vikings have landed and gathered each summer. Nestled quietly beyond the silver birch is a throng of arrival – a ‘landing stage’ from the world. Cruise ships in a trail along the supremely beautiful Sognfjord disembark their eager passengers. Flåm railway has dispatched its host of visitors to their ferries to come here, (you can hear their multi-national voices cheering as they sight their destination), and Aurora, Alexsson, Benevista, Viking Tours etc accompany a hiss of air, a whoosh of door with, ‘We have arrived at our destination.’
There is plenty to experience here in the Viking Valley, especially in a week or so when the Vikings arrive on mass for our annual market, yet we are only at the start of our journey.
Gudvangen is already high up on the list of places to visit in Norway, and within a year or so it will be higher up, it will probably be top of the list of Viking places to visit. For here we stand at the very beginning of our new journey.
I was privileged to be involved in the launch banquet, to see the presentation for the media and for all the tour operators; as plans were unveiled for Njardarhiemr.
I will attempt to present a ‘picture’ of what is in store for us, but first, the food!
It is of course a major part of all life, not just Viking. I am enjoying the simplest of tastes of Norway by buying kaviar and having my favourite snack; Brunost (dark brown cheese) with sliced pear and honey. I expected far more of course, but I didn’t expect to be invited to a banquet. The chef team here have been working hard at bringing us dishes which are authentic and of restaurant quality. As the fire pit is being unearthed we are told how we know of the techniques, such as fermenting, curing, drying etc etc, and that we know of the ingredients, yet we have very little in the way of recipes. It is creativity and imagination from talented chefs which adds the final ingredient. This is authentic, for it was true then as it was now. The three main factors in Viking age food are the techniques, the available foods and the talents of the cook, and Vikings were very good cooks – So are the chefs here!
We had a savoury cream porridge topped with fermented carrots which was delicious and I am planning to have a go myself. Marinated cod with green leaves was wonderfully delicate, although I was a little concerned during the introduction, (There is a lovely tradition here of the chefs introducing the dishes as they appear), when we were told the marinade was made from wee, it turned out to my great relief that this was a mispronunciation of whey. Another dish of the several courses I enjoyed was the smoked mackerel with cheese; the cheese was soft whipped cheese which appeared at first to be whipped cream and I was a little surprised when Janett a hotelier from the region commented that it was liquorice cheese; It was delicious, especially with the rye bread and local butter. The fire pit had contained lamb and celeriac, both tasting excellent.
Viking rice will be a popular staple during the camps, festivals and markets I am sure; a delicacy new to me where barley is served in the way rice would be, often with wild garlic.
This year as always I will be enjoying wandering from tent to tent being offered tastes from the pots upon the fire. I will be cooking that way myself of course. Another highlight will be the new team from within the Njardar Vikings who have been researching and practicing methods from the time, they too will be providing meals of an authentic nature.
Personally I will no doubt be making an offering of Neolithic cave bread, not Viking age exactly but I am sure they would have known of older techniques such as cooking upon stone. In previous years this has proved to be great fun, with me starting cooking around six and still at it at nearly midnight.
I have another plan this year too. An English Viking dish! Well I am sure they would have eaten eels, so why not jellied eels. I am going to have a go. It is with great pleasure that I hear there will be fishermen among us doing presentations of their catch and I am hoping to procure some eels.
If anyone has any idea of how ‘liquer’ is made to go with the eels do let me know.
Another way food ideas will be expanded is by the consideration of vital aspects of Viking life; raiding and trading. We ruled an empire. All sorts of foods will have been brought up this fjord from around our ‘globe’. All sorts of people will be taking part in our camps too, we have had over twenty nationalities living here as Vikings in previous summers, many of them will be bringing their Viking-age knowledge.
We will all be bringing skills and talents too. This new town will be full of drama, real life, entertainment, activities and courses. From horsemanship to Viking weddings.
Be ready to be part of our town as we bring Viking life – to life!
I am spring cleaning and have made a terrible mess.
Nine times today huge piles of things or shelves of ornaments have collapsed on to the already mentioned mess.
Here are some of the bits that survived…
Nine shelves! Does this mean anything?
Does my dream? I dreamed last night that I broke up a load of Jacobs crackers poured them on to a baking tray, covered them in blobs of butter then popped them in the oven with loads of grated cheese. I dreamed that this was very important. Is it? Would it be any good.
Thank God Iv’e got that off my chest.
I will soon be twenty two. Did I type that?! Sixty Two. I have just discovered the difference between its and it’s. I am a writer, or I thought I was. Its It’s simple really.
Oooops, ten (crashes that is).
I better get tidying.
But then again – Personal experience is a lie.
I am not going into details on that one, quote me when I am gone though.
I did once send a text to a guy who was also doing a spot at a festival on the same stage as me, I meant to say, ‘I am looking forward to your bit’ – I glanced as I pressed send, it said, ‘I am looking forward to your obit.’
Phone disaster; I went camping didn’t I. Off I went to join the Vanaheim Vikinglag at the National meet. I am honoured to be invited to be a part of the York University Medieval Society’s Viking team – Vanaheim. We have a beer named after us and everything.
I bought a hat (in the charity auction)
I also made a thousand pounds! Well, they were selling a mystery gift at the end so I threw in two mystery prizes which made a wonderful – £14! What were they? Two Kinder Joy eggs.
That fourteen pounds took the total up to a thousand quid. So I claimed all the credit.
I took the history test. I passed. With a lot of help. Three people stood over me giving me clues. But I made it. Perhaps I should keep quiet about the fact that the Spendlow’s York audio history of the Vikings is available at jelldragon.com ?
The hat. Very useful. It poured. The wind howled and shook tents. I put the hat on, pulled the sleeping bag up to meet it and slept like a storage jar.
I slept in.
I missed the Village Test.
I guess I would have passed.
Seeing as I have lived as a Viking for weeks at a time. Put up loads of Viking tents. And cooked for fifteen to twenty people a night for a week on an open fire. See Neanderthal cave bread.
But then again.
I failed the history test.
I was right about the Viking age starting in 500 AD and lasting till 1250 though I guarentee. I shouldn’t argue should I.
Perhaps I am horrible after all. I just shopped in Savers, bought a few things, like washing powder and stuff. As the counter person lifted them out one by one she said, ‘Can I interest you in razors or razor blades today at all sir?’ I didn’t speak. I leant into the basket, lifted up the packet of razors and pointed them at her face without speaking. Horrid. Thats what I am.
I have learned how to make string though.
And Viking-age buzzer games.
I look forward to Whitby when I shall be taking the acting test, the Skald test, and the appearance test; and then I will be able to tell stories.
And I might even have a go with the Hiberno-Norse sling workshop.
Truth is I am wanting to learn; shoe making, basket making and bone and leather carving.
And I want to buy an axe.
Back to the phone – actually that is the reason I started writing this blog – but I tend to digress.
I awoke – in the tent – after a hurricane.
My phone was in the corner – under a pool of water. It worked. It worked for three days. Then I was ringing my mum and I thought, ‘My hand is wet’. I looked; the back of the phone was soaking and so was my hand. It worked wet. It worked soaked. It dried out. It packed in!
I am not stupid though. I knew the way to do it was to leave it in a bag of rice over night. I didn’t have any.
Hah. You can’t get the better of me. I put it in a box of lasagne.
Oh. It didn’t work. Not to worry, I have a bag of mixed fruit, surely this will work….
I found my pig…
I learnt secret techniques…
Five minutes looking at art with Gramey Smith (gsmithmedia) and I learnt how to illustrate the latest Viking Graphic novel.
I have been publishing online live via video conferencing with the wonderful Aspire group.
I have been practising becoming Cyndi Lauper – no pic here!
Thank you Eric but I am king now…
Right back to the spring cleaning – ooops!
Give feedback or be placed up in the dungeon!
(oh yes dungeons were up not down btw)
I am also in this, and I definitely do not have a walk on part.BTW I dedicate this blog to wonderful work a friend has done in overcoming past obsticals and inspiring me to face my demons of long ago – thank you with my heart 🙂
The many interesting things told to me while I was working at Barley Hall.
The Nosegay Blog Too
The nosegay experience continues, and as promised in the first instalment, we will be visiting alternative realities, plus jumping hoops and drinking mud (participation is optional)
This is one:-
So let me guide you through a marrow recipe. I used this:-
It isn’t a marrow.
I couldn’t find one anywhere. I had promised myself I would take one with me to Norway as a surprise.
There wasn’t one left in the whole of the allotments.
There was a marrow plant still growing there.
And I knew of one marrow plant in Norway. One. Just one. Big statement coming; the only marrow plant in the whole of Norway. Here I was, on my way over to visit it.
I am rushing ahead here however, because nobody knows what a marrow is or what to do with it. These two facts become true when you put them together. Well, not many know what to do with a marrow – the vegetable which has the potential to be the food of the gods – stay with me to find out how.
People might stuff one, but that is about it.
No one in Norway has heard of a marrow – extensive searches have been done by chief amateur researcher Tove.
Following the success of my recipe she just had to have some at home, but no. Norwegians (and possibly those of other nations) aren’t even that good at knowing what a squash is.
(I stole this pic)
There are squashes everywhere, (over here).
Squash is the generic name for these type of things, but if you ask for a courgette in Norway you get two in a bag labelled ‘Squash’. No. That’s not true, you would have to point, ‘There, those!’ ‘Those are them.’
So, no butternut, no harlequin, no patty pan, barely a pumpkin and nary a marrow.
The wonder of the marrow must be introduced to the world! I took some seeds over, with detailed instructions on how to grow such a delicate plant; start early in a warm protected place, plant a few at a time, so you aren’t putting them all out at the same time, and wait till they are robust before they have to brave the elements.
But no, they all got planted at once.
Rule number one – only ever leave them outside after the last chance of frost, (in Bergen that’s around early July, just before the rainy season properly kicks in). Out they went. A post frost plant is a sorry sorry sight.
There was one seed left.
I popped it covertly in a pot, (in a tub with the pepper root which is a plant which requires a future expose in Britain), it quietly secretly grew.
Now is the time to roll in the big cameras and for the lights to flash – “Here, Ladies and Gentlemen, is the only marrow plant in the whole of Norway…”
As much excitement as there was about this blooming monster plant I had a private worry. As the only one there it wouldn’t be pollinated. I had another secret, an illicit import. Two flowers donated by an allotmenter in a disposable coffee cup. Ooooo the excitement – I unpacked; I unpacked a cup fill of slop, brown slop. We fed it to the Bergenesque flower by droplet.
Despite the hope there might be a miracle and it stays sunny right through October most of our hopes are for the future.
The plan is to plant them in stages and introduce them to the veranda gradually. The home plan.
The rest of the plan is to fill the whole of Norway with big beautiful marrows.
We shall start with two magical places. Organic seeds will be donated to Otternes Farm and to organic garden centre Sogn Jord – og Hagebruksskule (www.sjh.no).
Let’s get cooking.
I have two recipes for you. The glorious (afore mentioned food of the gods) marrow pancakes. Plus my famed dish from Gudvangen Viking Valley, and from even further back in time, Neolithic Cave Bread.
Pancakes – Start with your squash – I couldn’t get a marrow.
So I got a harlequin squash.
I said I got a harlequin squash.
Yes, I said I got a harlequin.
I chopped it.
I saved the seeds.
Right: Littleish lumps, (the ones in the frying pan picture below are a touch too big), drop them in boiling (possibly salted) water. Make sure they are well cooked.
No, really well.
(That pic is actually marrow btw)
Now make the batter.
Here is the gung-ho method…
[Again this is actually marrow and just the right size btw btw]
Big bowl, bit of salt, bit of pepper, chuck in flour (my mum says self-raising flour is lighter but I say it is for wimps), bang in a bit more, a couple of eggs and a tiny bit of baking powder if you have it.
Mix with a splosh of water (mum says some people add a bit of milk too). It needs to be thick, creamy and able to run.
Alright, you want to add finely chopped onion? Well, OK, but not very much…
Right have you got your pan hot yet!
Just a little oil, well swirled.
Mix the cooked marrow with the batter and drop in small amounts. Remember to turn them!
Stop, you have cooked them at the wrong time. They are not a meal. They are a surprise. Sneak off, cook a batch. Pop them on little plates. Now then I strongly recommend; heavy on the salt.
No, a bit more than that.
Go through and stick a plate on each lap. They will look horrified.
Get in that kitchen and cook another batch.
Be assured, they will want them.
And will come back for even more.
We go hurtling back in time – for – Neolithic Cave Bread.
Here are ones I made at home (in Bergen).
Really they should be done on an open fire. On a hot stone or slate.
Whenever I start cooking them in Gudvangen I am dishing them up all night.
Once you have learnt farming techniques, harvested grain and milled it, (here’s my attempt), you will want to make this.
(or just pop to a shop)
Here’s the secret – Bang it all in; veg, berries, meats, dairy products and an ostrich egg.
Here is the Bergen kitchen version.
This is some of what I used.
(It would be better with Elk and Fenalår.)
Chop that veg n stuff (and any cooked meat).
Simmer the bacon and garlic in bits.
Mix the lot.
Get it in your batter (this time feel free to be heavy on the eggs and cream and experiment with flour types).
(At Gudvangen I used 44 different ingredients and people at around twenty tents tried a bit)
(Not sure who took this pic btw)
But before you go rushing off to cook by a cave…
Those Sparkling Words
Tove Gulbrandsen says of Adrian Spendlow: Your trademark: Constantly flowing river of interesting, important ideas. Funny, silly, crazy. And delicious overwhelming deep thoughts about the most important stuff in our lives. Always from a surprising angle. That is you. Your gift. Your ideas will never stop. You lift them out; serve them – to let everyone receive your gifts. That is why I want so many to be a part of these treasures you are giving us.
A great and handy tip for improving your life with a slow cooker which is really simple is to go through all your cupboards looking for anything you don’t really like and your fridge and freezer too (No really, this really works and you will be totally surprised at how much better things are for you once you do this). Tip them in and mix them all together, take the slow cooker and throw the whole lot in the bin!
To really really improve life from the inside out take a dozen gadgets from the hidden depths of your kitchen and throw them as well.
I could write you a list, but basically, if it feels tacky at all – it goes.
I am looking for contributors to a Viking comic book project. I have the text and the storyline and thought it would be exciting to ask artists to take part. The original mini adventure was created for the Jorvik Viking Festival for the Jorvik Group and I would like for it to gain a wider audience. Initially it will be just for fun as a blog. Although there is the possibility of future publications as a profit share. If you would like to hear more please do message me (firstname.lastname@example.org). Working title; The Hammer Flies.
(Art by Gramey Smith)
Friends all over the World
But you get those friend requests, and go over for a look. (Ever done this?) You are not so sure. They don’t look that genuine. I will just have a look at their pictures and see if they look real and active and genuine and things. I click, I’ve clicked confirm by mistake. Ever done this? I have.
You Are Guilty
Yes, you are one of them. Have a look. Your social networking sites. You don’t look genuine. If you are one of those who hardly have any pictures of yourself. You haven’t put anything up but emotive mottos and wisdoms with rainbows and waves. Impersonal stuff. You don’t look real. You are a cat. Even worse, I clicked through to a friend request’s page and they are a sheep. A sheep! Turns out I have met them loads of times, but I didn’t say yes cos they were a sheep.
Well the rant on that one.
The World and I
You may have read my prose poem blog (World) where I decided that the world as it is just will not do. I thought you might like an update. You are still not doing very well; the place is a right mess. Can’t you all just get along or something” I am totally fed of you all. I am giving you a last chance. If you don’t sort it all out or at least make some progress towards being ok with each other I am off. Off. I am going to find somewhere else to live. This is your last warning World. If you want me around start doing things a lot better. I am packing as we speak.
Swan Girl and Other Fortean Stuffs Forts
I am a Charles Fort fan… “I conceive of nothing, in religion, science, or philosophy that is more than the proper thing to wear for a while”.
Convinced, or want more… “I believe nothing. I have shut myself away from the rocks and wisdoms of ages, and from the so-called great teachers of all time, and perhaps because of that isolation I am given to bizarre hospitalities. I shut the front door upon Christ and Einstein, and at the back door hold out a welcoming hand to little frogs and periwinkles.” – that’s got yer.
I will give you one more shot and if you aren’t a fan by then I abandon you… “If there is an underlying oneness of all things, it does not matter where we begin, whether with stars, or laws of supply and demand, or frogs, or Napoleon Bonaparte. One measures a circle, beginning anywhere.” Anywhere! Crikey Moses I am a fan (am I alone in this?). Just What I Fort
‘You’ll need a sense of adventure, curiosity, natural scepticism and a good sense of humour.’ Fortean Times
Back to the Present
I have had a bit of back trouble lately, a rare thing for me, but I have done some heavy lifting lately and yet I leapt out of bed this morning. It was agony. I trunched down the stairs and as I did my phone alarm went. It was on the table downstairs, and it was going like mad. I went to it, turned it off and went back up to bed. As I went up the stairs I thought to myself, that’s why I went downstairs, but, it hadn’t started till I was halfway down. In Norway this is part of the culture of Vardoger (English spelling) according to a harbinger feature in Fortean Times. You and the Yew
There is a conspiracy. There has just been a new way of looking at the ancient yews. Some of them may well be up to five thousand years old. They are effectively immortal. Some have been proved to have been alive when ancient sacred tree groves were referred to (“Remove the idols but do not destroy the ancient trees as believers will come to see them and you can seek to convert them”) so if they were alive then, they were possibly ancient even then. There has been a sudden appearance in Welsh churches (where the most clearly defined ancient yews are visited very often by visitors from around the world) of official looking certificates stating, ‘The yew tree in this church yard has been proved to be 500 years old.’ IE there seems to be a conspiracy to prove that the trees were planted after the churches were built. Are these certificates a holy lie?
Just reads a great story of an actual young woman who disappeared in strange circumstances; not in Fortean times this time, but in an exciting looking blog MacCreig – The Encyclopedia of Fantastical Anomalies. Go have a look. I am looking into this story further and plan to tell a version of it at gatherings, with thanks to MacCreig. Great story.
Just passed a dentists and they had a huge hoarding outside: Buy our invisible braces – well what a waste of time and money, I’ve never seen any, have you!?
Uther Pendragon at Barley Hall
As a follow up to my Nose Gay Blogs I thought I ought to give Uther a mention. It was great fun working on the Nose Gay project and I met some amazing people. This older guy in particular; a slight even frail looking chap who came to visit turned out to be not frail at all and very active.
He saw my selection of herbs and said he would return with a bunch from his garden for me to display in a vase. So I asked him his name, he bowed and proclaimed, ‘I sir am Uther Pendragon’ He bid me farewell after telling me of his life as a Viking and then saluted; he did first world war stuff too and all sorts of eras.
When I returned to work a couple of days later there was a vase of herbs on my table.
Loony Old Witch
Talk of being medieval reminded me of the wonderful times I had as part of Robin Hood as the Loony Old Witch; here’s some fun footage.
I am a fan of i before e. I reckon it works fine, on words what I use anyway. There is a move against it however; it seems there are far more words that it doesn’t apply to than it does. Then I realised, we don’t need such a thing anymore, it is from a bygone age. Now I go for
Red line underneath – Let your software be believed.
Write any old rubbish it’ll put it right. Anything else is simply nuggets! (Ah sorry that was predictive text.)
Exciting times as I hear from a production company who want to make a pilot for a forthcoming television series – Spendlow TV!!!!!
They have received interest in the project and are making the pilot for presentation. Part of the series will be live shows coupled with interviews and we will be presenting a double bill with a different act each time. In the first show Legendary (myself and Celtic-Folk artist Olivia Jayne Newton) will be teaming with another act to put on an evening in a cosy York venue.
Tales from Older People
The Read All About It project for York Stars was a joy to experience and I was honoured to be Project Manager and to work with such a great team.. There are still some of the books left and I would be happy to send you a copy for free (Message me on email@example.com although I will charge you £2 for postage) or ask me at forthcoming performances.
Or read on line – The Stories – The Images
Here is one of the stories:
One of the people with connections with Norway is a lady by the name of Haldenby, who tells us that of the places she knows in the land of fjords there is a town to which she felt an affinity; Halden. Intrigued by this link, this link to the Vikings, the origins of this surname brought interesting results. There is a small Lincolnshire town called Haldenby, which suggests her family may well have come from there as surnames were often descriptions of origins.
The ending ‘by’ or ‘bi’ was used by the Norse settlers to mean settlement and Halden originally meant half-Dane. Given that all Vikings were often referred to as Danes it seems that descendants of Haldenby, such as this lady, were from a group made up of Vikings and local people who had mixed, worked and live together as a harmonious community, perhaps even with links from before that with the Norwegian town of Halden. A presentation was made to Miss Haldenby for her to display and share with others.
See also Gudvangen Viking Valley or Viking Heaven