From York’s Medieval building Barley Hall I bring you – The Nosegay Blog (My first ever blog)

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We are safe here at Barley Hall, my nosegays will stop you turning purple, and my visitors will keep me informed. Fore-armed is fore-warned and I sought to defend my position with knowledge. There was little need, for every visitor had something to impart. lyndsey and bruniYes I did have plenty to say at the start of my summer holiday stint but this was nothing to the array of facts and anecdotes. Soon I was passing along the wisdom of one to another and I will gather here some of the best of this.wizard

Some of my newly gained knowledge is debatable; this does not mean it is necessarily untrue, just that there will be debate. The very room I am in has become a convoluted topic. Refer to the notice boards for what is perhaps the definitive answer even though many in the discussion would disagree. Even the name, “No, it is not a parlour” – A solar; sit in there in the sunlight and treat this place as a retreat. A place to craft for joy, a place to make all which is beautiful: here you can write and some say learn.

jewelsA few have disagreed that the parlour was a place to receive visitors. Although another interjected that one visitor would be invited in here among the family; the tutor – here we would learn our letters and our lessons. Rhetoric, logic and astronomy are among the topics which would be enabled by this. nasaBut nay, this was not the reception say many who contributed to this on-going discussion. The way in was the proving point of this camp of thought. You entered via the stairs; from there you would be in Lord Snawsell’s bed chamber. Here in, it has been read, was his office and softer furnishings.

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Me at Murton Park Viking Village, York (Photo by Andraea)

So therefore this is where he would meet with you. The logic of this is in the access and the fact you would feel you had been welcomed whilst at the same time you would be aware that by being in his realm he retained power. There is logic in the aspect of access too it is argued; from there to get to the parlour one would have to go through Lady Joan’s personal chambers and then get in the way of the busy journeyman all down the long hall.

Not cb 03everything I hear, as I say, is definitely right and some things I hear are definitely wrong.

Barley Hall is loved, many revisit, many discuss, many compliment and recommend, but not all feel this way it seems. A passing hen party definitely didn’t like the look. As I was returning from a visit to DIG my way into the alley was blocked. I stood back to allow the party-wear ladies to leave the alley and they stopped suddenly. Looking up the street, “Oh we’ve been this way” – “We’ve been here before” – “We’ve been up there” – “We’ve been up there” – “We don’t want to go that way again” – “We’ve been this way”. Eventually they turned back and I had a path ahead of me, a slow path.

Barley-Hall window view
The view in the window (minus the peacock)

As they noticed the large window into the hall for the first time there were sounds of disapproval from one of these revellers. “Oh dear, I wouldn’t want to go in there” – “And I wouldn’t want to eat that” – “No, it looks awful in there” – “Ancient!” – “It’s like a museum”

Although most people are entranced by the peacock upon the table, the hen party in search of a meal and another drink were not the only ones to not fancy eating a bird which had been cooked and then repacked in its raw skin. “Never do that” visitors inform me, “Never mix cooked and raw”. “They certainly hadn’t heard of health and safety!”

Nosegays keep us safe, or at least perfumed. Gay meaning ornament back in the day; they were about the smell. Many report on the vast amounts of information on the medicinal, spiritual and nutritional uses of herbs; that is not a major concern when it comes to nasal orientated ornaments. It is all about the smell, the logic I am instructed, is that if the smell carried the disease you didn’t want it up your nose. The miasma must be refused access and to follow logic, if your nose was full of sweet smells then how could the horrid miasma get in! So visitors tell me it was not just about masking the smell, it was about keeping you safe.

If you wanted to be really safe, what better than a plague doctor mask. Fill that with herbs and strap it on. While you were feeling ultra-safe as a result of this constant experience of the sweet and beautiful you might want to go all out and get yourself a job.

plague doc 01 close up
thats me that is

Plague doctors are in demand it seems. An explanation of this which was given to me was that all the doctors were gone – in one way or another. It was a well-paid job I am told – while it lasted.

Not much in the way of skills was needed, according to some, all you needed was a stick, a big stick. With your mask on off you go, and prod people. Then all you had to do was tell them whether they are going to live or die (if in doubt go for the die option). The strange thing is, whatever the answer, they would thank you. I considered these offerings and discussed with other visitors. It is not so strange when you think, as I was asked to do, on the history of medicine. Throughout Europe ‘knowing’ was often more important than helping. ‘How long will they be?’ – ‘Will it be quick?’ – ‘Have you anything to make it easier?’ Another suggested this was still the main focus in many tribal cultures around the world.

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These ‘sticks’ are actually hand-made tent pegs found in the woodpile at Gudvangen, (Photo by Tove Gulbrandsen), put you could prod with them

I decided there and then, that once all my visitors had made a nosegay I was off to get a stick; the income would be most welcome – while it lasted.As not everyone wants a nosegay I will be here a while yet. Not that they are to be sniffed at, if you see what I mean. Much a sniffing and a pondering has there been.

me quirky
Thats me sniffing that is, honest

Deciding of what aroma, of what herb one is holding a bowl of. Lavender is spotted by most, thyme only by a few and lemon balm by only one chap. Rosemary is spotted on sight by most, although one or two, including a rosemary grower, thought it was pine. The one which is most evocative is actually a flower rather than a herb as such. Some love it, most are reminded, reminded of something. A Greek flower which is gathered as a healing tea, camomile, just flowers, childhood memories, the bottom cupboard next to the pans; we were taken places. I was put off this bowl for quite a while when a girl said it smelt of hamster bedding. This smell was removed for me a little later by the power of suggestion; a lady said it made her think of her grandfather’s pipe tobacco. Now, whenever I hold the marigold bowlMarigold_AAS_1989_Golden_Gate in front of me I am transported back to my childhood and the hint of sweetness within a heady aroma which would erupt into the room when granddad opened his pouch to stock up his pipe with baccie.

So far there are no reports of the plague coming to me from my visitors. No one has been spotted to be turning purple, well except for Mr Purple himself, but he is upon his bicycle platform out of the way anyway. bike theif 08 14The next edition will feature live frogs, alternative universes and elephants tusks among many other oddities of conversation. Remember when recalling this blog so far, it is all absolutely true – that people have told me these things.

Your tales and opinions can be added into the mix for discussion too. Be in touch.

Adrian

Here is the link to the exciting second half…. Nosegay Blog Too

For bookings and enquiries please visit www.adrianspendlow.co.uk

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OldMan Comics 07

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Slightly silly and I hope funny whilst being endearing, feel free to laugh at my ignorance. I’ve tried this one out on a few friends from around the world (including from Poland). I’ve think I’ve got it all a bit wrong but everyone found it entertaining.

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Click here to view OldMan 01

Click here to view OldMan 02

Click here to view the Indoctrination poem

Click here to view Lives of Creatives

Click here to view OldMan 04 – Star Trek

Click here to view OldMan 06 – Back When I Was Abducted

Click here to view OldMan 08 – Socks and Slippers

Click here to view OldMan 09 –  Fame At Last It Beckons

Click here to view OldMan 10 – Battle of Hastings revisited

Click to view OldMan 11 – This Time It’s Personal

Click to view OldMan 12 – Bob’s Life

Click to view OldMan 13 – Guadeloupe

Click to view OldMan 14 – Magazine Feature

Click to view Hobb and the Normans at Cliffords Tower

Click to buy The Guy Fawkes Audio Book

Click here for Viking Comics Inc.’s latest project – The Horned God

Click here for the completed Viking Comics Inc. graphic novel The Hammer Flies

Click here for Viking Comics Inc. graphic novel for older children Oski and the Amulet

Visit Fortean Times

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“This is all somehow Lovecraftian and bizarrely hilarious at the same time. What a fabulous life you are living!” Henry Partridge

The Birth of a Viking Town

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The Birth of a Viking Town

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!

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map
Official plan -see link below

http://www.gudvangenutvikling.no/

https://www.facebook.com/vikingvalley

My guide to getting to Gudvangen

Squash in a Recipe Adrian, Add a Dash of Mystery, then Feed Vikings

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At Last; The Marrow Mystery Revealed

This is one:-
a marrow
So let me guide you through a marrow recipe. I used this:-
harl side label
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.
mum picmum
There was a marrow plant still growing there.
tendrils
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.
me marrow
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.
stuffed
No one in Norway has heard of a marrow – extensive searches have been done by chief amateur researcher Tove.
tove with header
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.
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(I stole this pic)
There are squashes everywhere, (over here).
yellow squashpump
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.’
‘Ah Squash!’
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.
tendrills
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.

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There was one seed left.
seed by tove
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…”marrow

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.
slop

dying

Despite the hope there might be a miracle and it stays sunny right through October most of our hopes are for the future.

drying

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.

norway

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).

So.
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.

viking broth

Pancakes – Start with your squash – I couldn’t get a marrow.

marrow kiss 01

So I got a harlequin squash.

harliquin squash top

I said I got a harlequin squash.

harliquin

Yes, I said I got a harlequin.

harliquin squash bottom

I chopped it.

harliquin squash half

I saved the seeds.

haliquin squash 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.
Drain well.

harliquin squash cooked

No, really well.

kitchen roll

(That pic is actually marrow btw)
Now make the batter.
Here is the gung-ho method…

seive to bowl

[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…

m2

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!

harliquin squash pancakes cooking

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.
Leave immediately!
Get in that kitchen and cook another batch.
Be assured, they will want them.
And more.
And will come back for even more.

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Now.
We go hurtling back in time – for – Neolithic Cave Bread.
Here are ones I made at home (in Bergen).

tove cave cakes

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.)

cave bread bits 02

Chop that veg n stuff (and any cooked meat).

cave bread bits

Simmer the bacon and garlic in bits.

garlic and bacon

Mix the lot.

cave bread filling

Get it in your batter (this time feel free to be heavy on the eggs and cream and experiment with flour types).

cave bread batter

Serve.
(At Gudvangen I used 44 different ingredients and people at around twenty tents tried a bit)

fire

(Not sure who took this pic btw)
But before you go rushing off to cook by a cave…

This is a marrow.

-marrow

And this is the food of the Gods.

marrow fry

cooked
Remember that salt!

See also my other food related blogs – onetwo

For for chat and interest – Sparkling Words

(read the blog from the very beginning)

Memory of Otternes

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Memory of Otternes

Otternes Farm, Flåm Valley, Sognefjord, Aurland, Norway

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When I sit here, I have sat here before. I am hobbit-like and living. In my sense of belonging, I know: I know this place.

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Families are thin, thin on the ground, of the mountain. Long line of families in the mountains, dug in, right into its rock and earth and grass. There are long deep roots which hold us in place. Some say if you chop too many the whole mountainside will slide with us into the brakk below.

Yes here I belong, and feel I always have and if it is so and I have visited before it would have been in ancestral time a momentous occasion.

I still feel, when I stand there now, the haunting presence of one unallowed to love, ghostly appearance in the corner of story. Even with a broken heart one can still be of use up on the farm, never allowed to leave, no matter how the visitor requested. The corners of this history are cluttered with such figures. Then look upon the well. The well so deep and wide it speaks. Its dangers are voiced within its memory, “Do not throw yourself down here, as I did.” “As I did.” “As I did.” “As I did.”

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For there is beauty here and love and light…

…and even in the dark-times-long there is the promise; the promise of moisture, the recollections of growth which knows it will return.

Others will come, for such is the way of a mountain farm. Love can be found in such a meeting. Small farm memories of seasons with only each other to survive and flourish for. Yet there will be gatherings and visitation where young hearts can view across the clans-collecting and see eyes; eyes which sparkle only for you.

This is why we bury the salmon. As a promise and a way of surviving. They will leap again, as will hearts.

We shall go down from our steep sides as will everyone among the wide spread hill families.

The leap. The leap will come. Nets will spread and one of us will leave one steep farm to join another. Here and there love will flourish among the catching.

The bounty is there in the grave. The grave of the fish, saving us throughout the winter.

So came the sheep. The flourishing is here too, with care. They also visit. New faces, growing adults, turning from teens, turn their flock this way.

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The drove is long and this is a place where we can rest; to replenish. Fish is brought from grave, berry from jar, and water from the well is hung above the fire.

Some of these creatures have journeyed far, as have I. An instinct inside me sees the path. It twinkles elusively in my mind. I believe it is ancient. As the brown sheep belong here I am of a different wool.

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Other drovers journeyed over the more flowing lands where I am from. Just as rugged, these moors were traversed to sea-going vessels which sailed up this very fjord I see flowing below to bring the trade.

As these pathways arrive here. I see them glittering as timeless memory moving in upon this land to spread and trade, spread and grow. My path stops here.

As soon as I sat upon this stoop, as my eyes twinkled, my long past had led me here and settled.

A part of me will always be here and always has. My path stops here.

For more on Otternes and Gudvangen including Adrian the Lamb and Johnny Chicken see here Farmer (Adrian) Giles

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http://www.otternes.no/en/

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My full blog selection

My opening speech at Gudvangen

Now try my Haunted House blog