Footage collection with Adrian, friends and family – Yorkshire Culture, UWGB, Lucy Spendlow, Egg Drop Soup, Frode Tufte, Njardarheimr, Alda’s Viking Kitchen, Lamb Stew, Steam Tales, Daily Distraction, Skipping Day, Scarborough, Georg and the Rooster, Sigrun Design, Alda on Top of the Pops, Real Good Time, Latvian Vikings, Dan Webster Band, Nisswa Viking Festival, Society For Storytelling, Jamie Cooper, Natcha Dauphin.
An audio only set first. I was commissioned by Professor Rebecca Nesvet, Assistant Professor of English at University of Wisconsin, Green Bay to create a presentation on Yorkshire culture. This was recorded by Kate Farley, Instructional Technologist at the Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning.
Next I am very proud to show you one of the cookery programs from top chef Lucy Spendlow; Egg Drop Soup.
Here is a visit to the sadly missed Njardarheimr Viking Town in Norway to see our CEO Forde Tufte walking the sheep. I hope we can join you soon. https://youtu.be/TGJBjUIpZII
Alda’s Viking Kitchen presents Lamb Stew.
Snippets from my forthcoming book Steam Tales, written in collaboration with my late father Ronald. This was presented as a ‘daily distraction’ via UW-Green Bay College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. I am proud to be assisted on this publication project by the History team of students while working with Professor Heidi Sherman.
Skipping Day in Scarborough.
My chieftain Georg blesses the God statues while accompanied by the Njardarheimr cockerel.
Top displays at London Fashion Week and very much in demand; Sigrun’s Viking fashions are modelled well, but never as well as now. Here is your chance to see me in my Viking Shirt from sigrun.co.uk
This is Alda with her hit from Top of the Pops revisited
Heidi filmed these two wonderful Vikings from Latvia, Līga Reitere and Zane Danoss, singing to the very essence of nature and the power of the light.
The brilliant Dan Webster Band performing Sand.
The Viking Era Was Brought To Life During First Nisswa Viking Festival, (Nisswa is a city in Crow Wing County, Minnesota) – Thank you to Trodin Hegn for this link…
Members can post events in here, so I guess it is worth a look…
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
I did not plan to do a blog which was about recipes, not at all, and I have many aspects of my life and writing bubbling away ready to share as soon as I get them down. But, I am being asked for the recipe for my favourite dish so I must oblige.
It is hardly Viking or life at the festivals or such, but we all gotta eat…
And look at this!!!!
The first thing I’ve got to tell you is that I never cook the same thing the same way twice. There won’t be any measurements in here either. There will be love, and yumminess.
Ingredients; well you are going to need courgettes! (baby marrows for those of you who have heard of marrows, or don’t they call them zucchini in some places?), and cheese and eggs. The rest is mainly to do with what I have in, bear with me, it will work.
Saute onions and garlic, I like a mix of butter and olive oil. Steadily brown them. What else have you got? I’ve added mushrooms, herbs, and last time I thinly sliced parsnip and potato because they needed eating up. It worked great, as long as it is all well browned.
Then tip them into your oven dish leaving the oil to fry the chopped courgettes. I think last time I did the courgettes a little too slow because they are going to go in the oven too. They do need to be browned though. Then pop them on the onion mix.
Pour over something tomatoey, a pasta sauce you like, or chopped tinned toms, maybe add a little chilli and some herbs.
We are going to make the thing work. Crack three or four eggs into a bowl, add a small tub of cream (milk will do), salt and pepper, and loads of grated cheese (enough to make the mix fairly thick). Then fold that over the other stuff carefully.
Pop that in a moderate hot oven for twenty minutes or until it is golden brown.
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).
If you haven’t read the beginning of the Nosegay Blog it is strongly recommended that you tap this link The Nosegay blog
We will begin our journey, not in Barley Hall at all but in Whitby.
The wonder of Barley Hall transported a family there. A love of oak and craftsmanship in wood in general brought recollections of a few places, one of which is the swing bridge in Whitby. Fine old oak props were being admired when a plaque was noted: someone had bequeathed in their will one oak; this tree being for the repair of the bridge as required.
Mention of Whitby brought us the meeting of a man in Whitby who claimed to be the first person born in the town whose parents were from opposite sides of the river. At one time in this coastal town which is split in two by the river Esk the people of the north side of the river would have nothing to do with the folk of the other side and vice versa. So separate were they that at one point the locals of this split in two town were practically two distinct races. Then a young couple dared to meet upon the bridge, and of course, they fell in love. When this was discovered they were chased out of their meeting place on the south side of the river, were not accepted by the other side and for a while were stuck upon the bridge.
From Whitby we return to our topic of wood craft where we are told of Alfred the Great. He saw a man coming out of the forest and stopped and asked him what he was about. He was a house maker and he saw a part of a house in every tree ‘That’s not a forest to me, it is a town’.
A landscaper who manages an arboretum verified this. She worked her eye across the Barley Hall beams seeing how they had been selected for their shape. Tree which are allowed to seed and grow naturally tend to shape more than the closely planted trees of modern woodland.
When you saw a light ahead of you it was to be sure you were about to be safe, safe in the centre of the great vale, safe within the walls of the great cathedral city itself. For there were risks along the way. If asked, your list of concerns would be a jumble of the real and the mystical; creatures, vagabonds, spirits – all looked upon equally. There were other worlds and one could step through to them, or fall through or possibly be lured. Scarborough Fair sings of the herbs I have here. The older version of the song advised stuffing your pockets or pouches with them as a protection, a way to avoid being lured away. Small wonder that one upon arriving at the great city was willing to step through the hoop.
It is all well and good saying the walls kept you safe but on arriving you would be fore warned of the dangers by the leak! The stream flowing out from the walls was a sewer and a rubbish dump; a hint of the stink and the suffering within.
Rumour would also warn you of the plague-ridden nature of the world within the stone. At the city gate you would be offered an alternative. No, two alternatives. Many believed in the power of the nosegay but for others the way to keep well was to experience the bad smells. You might not want to join then, as every morning, so I am told, they gather by the stream of leakage and take a good deep breath.
The second alternative by the gates is much sweeter, cute almost. There by the King’s Way stands a girl, who for a small fee, offers a cure which is quite entrancing. She holds a large hoop all gaily decorated with garlands. If you were to choose to step through it would be to a better world, an alternative world where there is no plague. A perfect way to keep safe.
Once you are through the gates you might benefit from the guided tour that I have been on; one provided for me in the comfort of Barley Hall parlour. My guides are my visitors who tell me favourite places; one of these being Duttons for Buttons, the top floor is medieval with beautiful beams, others strongly recommend the House of Trembling Madness, up in the bar above the beer shop you are transported back in time. I cannot say which is the better experience, but I do recommend that if you visit you buy something, so from one you may buy a button and from the other a glass of ale – you choose.
Barley Hall is of course by far the favourite, yet a visit to the pearl of York is also a high priority. St Margaret is said by some to be still present in her shrine on Shambles and may well whisper sage advice.
Others tell us of the Castle Museum, one lady who knew a great deal about medieval cookery volunteers there doing demonstrations so she knew a lot of the herbs. Gingerbread was her current activity, although not exactly bread: ginger, rosewater and marzipan – very good for sculpting edible roses.
Looking at the area of medieval gardens brought reports of enormous orders of seeds; twenty pound weight per seed type. When one visited a royal palace a huge travelling retinue was needed, around three hundred. They all needed to be fed and many such groups would visit. There was postulation that the idea that the rich did not eat vegetable was brought into question. If they were growing that many then it seemed logical that they were eating them too. That would be a lot more healthy than a cooked peacock put back in its raw skin!
One of the things they would not be eating at that palace was Morne bread. You could only get that in York, we were famous for it. Kings would return especially for the bread, or write to say they would not come unless there was some on offer. What was this bread? What was the recipe? I think we should bring it back. Let us have a campaign to discover the recipe.
It was not, as described at Barley Hall at one time, a spice bread we are informed. There was a council proclamation that bakers of the city must start baking it again and it had gone into decline since the in-coming of more modern spice breads. So it must have been a plain bread, and presumably the wonder of it was in the baking technique.
That would be nice with your live frog or your elephant’s horn, well maybe not. Both I am informed are cures for pestilence. There is talk of people swallowing frogs in old wives tales, and claims that this is where the expression having a frog in your throat came from. A visitor tells us they were not for eating in medieval times, they were for wearing in a gay (Gay meaning ornament). A live frog in a container on a chain round your neck would keep the plague away, so if you are afeared of turning purple or developing buboes in the lymph you might want to give it a try.
As for the elephant’s trunk, don’t try it. It’s a trick. As you come through the King’s Way there will be an apothecary and they will call you in. They will desperately seek to sell you a cure for the plague; ground elephant’s tusk in honey wine. Don’t drink it. Not because it is bad to eat their tusks. Don’t buy it. It is a fake. This is just mud in beer! That won’t do the trick surely.
Besides drinking beer might qualify you to visit the hound of hell. There he is right above us in the parlour. Up high is the Madonna and child but at the bottom of the lamp is that hound. He is baying for your soul.
The underworld is guarded by a hound of some sorts in a few cultures. In medieval times he was the gateway to hell. Theatre of the time was very often in the round. So round in fact there was hardly room for the audience. As well as a space in the middle to step forward to there was a circle of scenarios. Here was heaven, here a tavern, here an orchestra, here the hound, They were stationed all around looking inwards, so presumably you moved around to look across at the action. There was also the Jongler with his cane; like a baton and he would read from the script and point. When the cane pointed at you it was time to take action; play music or scream in a hellish way.
The screams came from the hound’s mouth. Deep inside were the lost souls and they would scream and wail in an eerie way. There are reports of many demons too. Often known by name. One, who made an appearance and who has been reconstructed as a costume was terrifying indeed. As well as being a demon with the horns and redness etc etc he also had demons all over him, his whole body was angry nasty fierce faces all screaming at you to follow him into the pit of vanities. There you would burn for sure.
All a jolly good show.
(On a lighter note in Nosegay Blog Three there will be a gift of flowering herbs from Uther Pendragon himself, the Lancelot of gardening will also make an appearance, Iranian and Native American history will join with Viking sagas and you will be warned about leaping into bed with your lover…)
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. Yes 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.
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.
A 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. But nay, this was not the reception say many who contributed to this on-going discussion. The way in was the proving point if 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.
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 everything 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.
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 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.
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.
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 bowl 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. The 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.