Opening Ceremony 2016 Viking Valley, Gudvangen, Norway
Welcome, welcome, you are all welcome. So good to see you all gathered here for the opening ceremony of this the 14th Viking Market here in Gudvangen Viking Valley.
You are safe here, welcome; you can relax and enjoy yourself, even though you will be spending the day among huge, hairy, heavily armed Vikings.
We are glad to have you here eating our food, drinking our mead, looking at our stalls.
Yes welcome, so relax you will be safe here – it is when we visit you that you need to worry.
“And we won’t be emailing, there will be no polite email asking if it is OK to visit. We will suddenly be there but you will know straight away. You will be well aware we are among you.”
This is a very special place; there is something magical about this valley. Everyone says so. You begin to feel the effect of being here straight away.
These Vikings here, as soon as they step off the ship they calm down, which is unusual I assure you. All the time they are here they are friendly, easy-going and peaceful – well most of the time.
Look at me. When I am at home I am a wild, dangerous, rampaging mad thing.
You will enjoy yourselves! Do you hear what I say, and can you see the shine of sharpness along the edge of my axe. You will enjoy yourselves!
Besides, we have many things on our stalls which we want you to buy. We have been to many lands and learnt many skills; old, well-tried, traditional skills. We will enjoy showing you; try not to be nervous when you generously show your appreciation.
Yes, we have sailed to many nations. We have landed on a wide range of shores, seen people of many types – and robbed them, traded with them, I mean traded with them, yes, traded.
“Can we ask where you are all from?”
“Spain.” “Poland.” “Canada.” “Ireland.”
“Ah, those are the places we robbed.”
That’s where we got all these things we are selling.
“Hey, stall holders, lower your prices.”
Yes visitors we will sell your things back to you quite cheaply.
“And you will be safe here. Adrian remind them how welcome they will be, and how safe.”
Yes, yes, safe, yes. We have sworn an oath, an oath. We wanted to reassure you so we oathed an oath, and when a Viking makes an oath they make an oath and the oath that they oath is an unbreakable oath which we have oathed; an oath is an oath is an oath. Let it be known that we have oathed.
“What is an oath?”
A promise; and a promise is a promise and…
“Don’t start that again.”
No, right, of course, but we did; there is a ritual and a belief. To make that oath the first thing you have to do is – spit in a barrel.
Well we skipped that bit.
“Yes well we are selling lemonade and mead to you. So we thought it best not to spit in the barrels. Or talk about it even…”
No sorry. No spitting. The barrels are fine!
A promise is a promise though, and it has to be kept. We worry about where we will go when we die.
Oath-breakers have to walk through a river of gushing ice. This ice is formed into axes, spears and knives – then, you step out – to be kept in a tower made of living serpents. Bitten and sprayed with burning poison for ever and ever and ever and ever.
Or until Ragnarok; the end of the world.
“So we keep our promises; enjoy.”
If, you enjoy hearing of the old mythos – watch out for the ravens…
A shadow will flicker over you. As you look up, the second raven will fly in from the world waters, by you see the third raven it will be too late. There it will be upon the mast of an incoming ship; a ship so terrible you will quake at the sight of it. The Vikings are coming, and they are no ordinary Vikings. These are Njardar. Njardar Vikingslag.
We are coming to you and charging onto your land. Hear the roar. See the gleam. A huge army of huge warriors are upon you. These are the best (the Mayor of Aurland himself said that we were second in exports and visitors and soon to become first, so it must be true). It is like the sky itself is filled, and they wait, with weapons high, only for a command to charge. Step forward the chieftain; Olafr Reydarsson. When he speaks we listen. He is big! Very big!
Well, his beard is big anyway. He will give the command; the word and we will all, roaring, act upon that word.
The word is…
“Welcome; you are all welcome to come and visit us in Gudvangen. Everyone is welcome, except those who do not make others welcome. Come visit.”
And so they do, in their thousands, from all over the world.
We have had a battle though, a long, hard fought battle – a battle to build.
As you step though those gates into the fourteenth Viking Gathering here at Gudvangen you step back into the past. Now. The long battle is over. Now. As you step through these gates you are stepping into our future.
By the fifteenth Viking Gathering there will be a Viking Town. It is a two year project with the first row of Viking houses ready by May – I have put my name down for one of these already.
Here is the first of the timber being delivered now…
You will be able to take part in the Glima wrestling…
With hardly any risk to yourself….
Hear Galda upon the holy hill…
Learn leathers skills with Hamish, or buy his bags from Anabelle…
Visit Lady Chaga…
Be warned; slavers are in the area and you are at risk…
And it is no use complaining, we know that now.
But no, no, no, do not worry, as we have promised, you are completely safe here, well, until six o’clock. Once the market closes at six all promises are off!
Don’t spit when you speak!
Vikings will become Vikings again.
You will be greatly at risk – unless you buy a tunic and a pair of boots and stay here.
Then you will be welcome.
Before we actually open the market and get on with selling you your treasures back, there is one rather tricky thing which must be dealt with.
“Don’t tell them Adrian.”
No, we must.
“There is a rumour.”
A terrible rumour.
“It has been whispered over and over as people come through the gate.”
We are now going to deal with that rumour.
“People have been saying that they have heard that a group of tourists with plastic wrist bands came here to visit and were never seen again.”
“It is true!”
Never seen again!
They bought Viking outfits and became part of this marvellous experience.
“Now we must warn you.”
This may happen to you.
“This valley is such a wonderful, unique place that once you have visited you never wish to leave. Many choose to stay and be here forever.”
This we must warn you of.
“But there is a greater risk, a great and terrible sadness and yearning which may come upon.”
“If you do choose to leave here you will regret it forever.”
You will always feel that you are not where you belong and will feel terribly, terribly sad that you did not choose to stay.
“Terribly, terribly sad.”
“Now, finally, we welcome you with one piece of explanation about what you might expect here, here is the secret – it is all about love.”
“We will be opening the market again tomorrow.”
And this worries me greatly.
“I will be wearing my helmet. It was a wonderful gift to me and is an accurate reconstruction of a Viking age helmet.”
And why does it have a figure of a boar on the top?
“This is to signify that I command a team of specialist warriors.”
What kind of warriors?
And you are wearing it tomorrow? This worries me greatly. I have pledged to always stand by your side. To dress appropriately and be there in the way that you need me whatever you ask of me. What does a Berserker wear?
“A small fur collar.”
And that’s it!
Right I will have to get my outfit ready then.
“It worries me as well, I don’t think I will be standing next to you tomorrow.”
(“And if you blog about it tomorrow Adrian, do not do a drawing.”)
Thinking about it, I will make a great berserker. If you put all the fighters and all the wrestlers in the field ready I will be able to beat the lot of them, I will clear the field.
If I come screaming across to them wearing nothing but my berserker outfit they will scatter. I will see off the lot of them.
They will run.
“So will I!” “Enjoy yourselves today, because tomorrow is berserker day.”
We now declare the Viking Market open!
“This is a marvellous experience, with Vikings and visitors from all around the world, none of the differences you might notice elsewhere matter at all here, all beliefs, all life styles are for elsewhere; here everyone gets along and shares the wonder which is Gudvangen.”
So it is spoken by Olafr (Georg) and this is the world.
More on this below but you may have seen this hamper before, it featured in my (highly entertaining) Christmas blog. I have opened it since. The results are shocking.
We shall also be roaming through Ireland, Finland, Norway and a few other spots via intriguing pictures of the past.
Here first though is me!!!!
Yes this is quite a while back. The inscription on the back states; Adrian on the front steps of Farberry Garth Farm near Warter Priory where Nana and Pop lived.
Yes we lived in Warter.
So did these guys by the looks of things.
The coracle, this old picture from the west of Ireland shows how portable these boats were, although the old text says they were used for fishing in rapid-running rivers, I think perhaps they would be put to much better use in stable waters. It also says that ‘Caesar’ adapted them for his Iberian campaign. They are much older than that, , well into pre-history I would say. These pictured where said to be made of split birch and canvas, I am sure over all leather would have been the most used surface.
The photos here (with the exception of the Bunty pic) were taken between 1890 and 1935. There were no credits with them and some are rather grainy, I felt they would be of interest to reenactors, costume makers, historians etc.
Of interest to folklorists too. This one intrigued me. We are still in Ireland. With some sort of rebel gang, which is now largely forgotten: The Straw Boys…Yes the straw hats were a disguise as well as making them look terrifying, what scares me most is that they would dress in women’s clothing.
I am reminded of the Cat People, much feared in Celtic lands, but not now recalled who – or indeed what, they were.
Now this one, clearly, isn’t from way back then, as I have just painted it…
In fact it is a blatant attempt to get you to read more of my blogs by clicking the link through to my Viking Comics Inc. Graphic Novel written with older school children – Oski and the Amulet.
(Do come back here though! The best is yet to come.)
We are off to the Pyrenees Mountains now, for a folk dance. The rather disparaging text says, that as well as a flute and a violin, the piping chap also played a primitive form of wire piano struck with a piece of metal. Hang on! He is playing both at once. The ‘flute’ is some sort of one-hand pipe and the wired thing looks like a wonderful old traditional instrument. I want to know more! I want to hear theses guys (and I want to hear whoever sang with them!).
We are off to old Esthonia now.Wonderful old costumes. I wonder how much of this is recollected and still worn today in the form it is here from over a hundred years ago.
We are looking here at style of dress from the Petseri district; Unique costumes were popular on the many islands around the coast too.
Come to think, I want to know more about such people’s lifestyles and interests.
Now this feller told stories…Nebulous shapes of a bygone age weave and drift from the telling of this Guernsey teller, who went so far back that all of it was true. All of it was believed in the moment of telling, for there are things to the world which are other than we know. If only we knew now; perhaps if we go to Guernsey there will be someone there who remembers him, and remembers his tales.
Mayhap he knows of the elves.
His companion has clearly shifted all that straw in the huge bale behind her. I note she has a hay bailer rather than a pitch fork, if my memories of the days I would sit on that step and watch the Wolds farm workers are correct. For it has two prongs not three.
I am transported now to Russia. I am planning to do a blog on strange and quaint sayings and proverbs from around the world, and my favourite is perhaps the Russian one I read:
‘Beware of pitchforks, for they make three holes’ – Discuss.
(Do please send me ones you know.)
He doesn’t have string round his trouser legs though like Awd Mr Bott.
Off we go now to the Sheep Islands, better known perhaps as the Faroe Isles. It says in the blurb from over a hundred years ago; ‘belonging to Denmark’, is that still the case?Described back then as an optimistic people, I hope they are all feeling as jolly now. I particularly like the feller’s hat – can you still get them?
(The shoe fastening style is of interest too.)
Is it time for a break from the black and white?
Yes!There’s mum all dressed up ready for another adventure. There is the car! They got stopped everywhere they went – by curious coppers.
For those of you who are into the details of such a thing, it is a Mini sub-frame with a boxed steel outer frame welded on and a single wheel axle at the back. They went everywhere in it.
Oh yes and plywood.
Back to black and white. A totally different place to the Faroes, but just as flat – Holland.And yes there are flowers on the whip. It was their wedding day you see.
Northern Holland we are in (perhaps that is a bit steeper). What you do is, you drive around all the local villages with your engarlanded whips and throw out sweetmeats (as we used to call goodies) (as we used to call chows) (as we used to call sweets)… As you might call candy. Phew, we got there in the end.
When we arrived at the end of the Forth Bridge (they still haven’t built the fifth one) Dad still had all the takings from the raffle he had ran the night before. As best man at a wedding he was informed of a similar tradition to above. This was the sixties, so I am not sure if it still goes on. He was told they had been collecting coppers (great big pennies and ha’pennies) and gave him a bag full. He was instructed that as they drove around the villages he had to throw a few out whenever he saw children congregated. So he thought, ‘Well, I’ve sent a cheque (‘check’ in the US, if you still use them), so I might as well add in all this silver’; tanners, bobs, two bob bits and perhaps a two & a sprat or two. IE quite a lot of money.
Gosh what an uproar there was. Never forgotten. They still discuss the generosity of Yorkshiremen up there.
(Between the third and fourth bridges somewhere I think.)
(One of my little geographical jokes there did you see?)
They have even stranger customs in Finland…And I have no more to say about that.
This isn’t an island…
But Stromo is (please add your own two little dots to the top of the last letter O).And these are the Stromo girls.
Apparently Faroe was one big island till Norway went and dropped a bit of it’s coast by mistake. See Geographical joke no. 1.
After that Thorshavn was the central island of 21, 17 of which were inhabited just over a hundred years ago, (Is that still about right for nowadays?).
These girls where described as speaking a dialect version of the Norse (Is that still the case?)
I like the different headress thingies.
It is Bunty time.
I used to steal my sisters Bunty comic as soon as she put it down. mainly because of the cut out dolls – free in every issue.
(Note the little tags – that’s what it was all about.)
But shock horror…
Well, shock horror 01
I opened the hamper.
I opened the comic. There wasn’t a cut-out dressing up section!
I read the comic.
Shock horror 02.
I read it.
Well, I only read the front. It was enough.
How horrendous! How funny it was back in ’84. Oh Bunty chats so. In she comes to the lesson on first aid. Oh how she chats. Nobody can learn a thing. Then Teacher has a great idea. Bandages wrap like this, she ties Bunty’s arms and legs to the chair. Band Aid sticks like this; she clamps shut Bunty’s mouth. Oh how they all laugh. Learning first aid and gagging and tying up the over chatty Bunty all in one lesson., Ho ho. Ha ha. Ho oh my god, have we changed that much! Its only thirty years ago.
Let’s run away to Sweden.These happy Leksand girls were described as well-built and prepossesing. It is a shame we cannot see the multi-coloured nature of their aprons. I also think their hats are really cool.
This one said they were disappearing.The Lapps that is. I don’t think they did disappear, but perhaps the tents did. It is described as a Kota and I want one.
There are plenty more to come in the future, but for now, here is the last picture of this edition. I like this one.It says that the Hardanger people are staunch advocates of the femine orthodox garb. It also decribes them as modern Norwegians. There is a suggestion that this is a farm house; although it is noted that the old log cabin farms are few and far between as they are being replaced by farm houses built of brick and stone – I haven’t seen too many of those either.
More from me soon. I am always glad to receive input.
I thought the next edition of this series might focus on the Americas and Australia.
But my next blog will probably be favourite quotes, so do please send some…
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.
Don’t be slow.
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 (email@example.com). 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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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
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).
If you haven’t read the beginning of the Nosegay Blog it is strongly recommended that you tap this link The Nosegay blog
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…)
a little bit more in this new blog
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