December 2012


4th December


I can't believe this is the last monthly News page of 2012... but the festive season is upon us again, bringing those time-honoured opportunities for blokes to dress as women! Yes, Rob (left) jumped at the chance to get into his frock to play a rather hirsute Mary in 'The First Shepherd', a mummer's play penned by Des for the Frei Compagnie to perform at the TBS Christmas party last night. There we are below, hamming it up in some curiously apt parts: Chairman Mark as a dastardly King Herod; Mick Weaver as a nasty big Soldier; Chris Murphy, built like the side of a barn, as The Stable; and Hubcap, wearing Henry Wowler's 'love-rug', as Young Ned's Sheep. (He seems strangely gifted at playing animals, having been 'Simon the Shrew' in last year's play. Or maybe that's just how our fellow group members think he's best cast...).


I'm not sure who found it funnier, us or the audience - you can see The Stable cracking up below centre as The Sheep tries to eat Baby Jesus - but I certainly enjoyed playing Camedown, The Angel of the Lord (yes, it was a very Morecambe-and-Wise style production!). The rest of the evening was great fun too, with a splendid pot-luck buffet of medieval-style foods - to which I contributed a personal favourite, Wardonys in Syryp (pears poached in red wine with sugar, cinnamon, cloves and galangal). We also had a fun, if challenging quiz, set by Lance & Longbow Society Secretary David Lanchester - and news of some tremendous Society developments shared by Chairman Mark (continued below pics).

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These developments have important implications not just for Towton, but for the protection of all Britain's historic battlefields - and as soon as I'm able to release the information, I'll report on it here. Suffice to say that it's already a great example of a community pulling together, and shows how a bunch of passionate amateurs (in whatever field) can sometimes achieve more than the professionals! Altogether a high note to end on for our last General Meeting of the year... now I'm looking forward to our Palmsunday Archers festive shoot and carol service at Lead chapel in a couple of weeks.

11th December


Wearing the editor's hat for the Battlefield Society's newsletter, The Towton Herald, brings some pleasant treats my way, including the chance to review books - and I recently read a corker: Folville's Law, the first solo foray into historical fiction by David Pilling. I have mixed feelings about the genre,often preferring non-fiction history because there are some cracking writers, like Antonia Fraser, whose historical biographies are so fluid and gripping that they read like novels anyway; and a poorly-researched historical novel filled with inaccuracies, overly-modern turns of phrase and creaky artificial conversation is one of my least favourite types of book. But Folville's Law isn't like that, I'm pleased to say - and if you'd like to know more about it, follow this link to the review I've just published in the Winter issue of the Herald.


And talking of books: the corrected proofs of Breath of Gaia (see cover pic, right) are now with YPS and EBooks by Design! So the Kindle version will be out by January 2013 at the latest, with the paperback following soon after... watch this space for further details. Meanwhile Book 3, Wolfsbane, is moving on apace - I'm on Chapter 6 now! So that should be out late next year too.

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24th December - Compliments of the season to you all!


The festive season rolls merrily on at Helmickton - so far, so good. Henry Wowler hasn't yet eaten any decorations or pulled down our parlour-palm Christmas tree substitute -so maybe next year we can risk having a real one again. And we've been enjoying some seasonal treats, like the Palmsunday Archers festive shoot and lunch at The Crooked Billet on the 16th, followed by the annual carol sing-song across the field in St Mary's. We were extremely lucky with the weather - one of the rare clear golden days of this miserable wet winter, as the pic below left shows - and interesting to see the ponds and drains of vanished Lead village had reappeared, filled with the endless rain. Indoors, thanks to the Friends of St Mary's, the chapel looked a treat (below centre), and I was honoured to add to the proceedings by reading out a jolly poem in praise of Christmas from Charles Dickens' Pickwick Papers. And thanks to my kind friends in the Frei Compagnie, I got a wonderful surprise that day, too - they presented me with the beautiful chair (below right) to ease my aching back and arthritic hip on events (in between times it folds away neatly for storage). I was delighted and very touched to receive it - a great boon for the 2013 event season.

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The next treat was my birthday: a pleasant day of Christmas preparations and chocolate, rounded off by dinner at The Black Bull on Barr Lane in Midgeley with hubcap and parents-in-law. It began with the shock of discovering I'd be eligible to join the Bull's 'Diamond Club' scheme for the over-50's (2 courses for £6.95)! Despite that, I enjoyed the rest of the evening... a mighty fine meal of pan-fried chicken breasts stuffed with mozarella and tomato, rosemary roast potatoes, and roasted peppers and aubergine in a hot tomato sauce, followed by a huge wedge of double chocolate fudge cake with ice-cream (see below, with Mick's finger inserted for scale!).

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It was the first time I'd eaten there, and I was well impressed (if somewhat out-faced by the size of my dessert). The service is excellent, the prices reasonable (£8.95 for my main and £3.95 for pud); there's also an extensive carvery, and all the ingredients used are locally sourced/environmentally friendly. Attractive surroundings, too... so I hope I won't be waiting until my next birthday to go back again.


And since then we've been having lots more fun playing Santa, making gift drops to family and friends in Pontefract, Conisbrough and Cleethorpes... and now we're done. All presents wrapped and cards sent (I think!), plans all sorted for tomorrow - it only remains to crack open a bottle of festive cheer, raise our glasses and wish a very Merry Christmas 2012 from all at Helmickton to all of you!