February 2012

bird feeding

6th February


Brr! A chilly - and very busy - start to February... yesterday Hubcap and I treated ourselves to a lovely snowy walk to Newmillerdam, where I snapped this pic of a family feeding the birds (and wished we'd brought some bread with us ourselves!).


Then it was back to business, proof-reading and making final corrections to the text of Walk Towton 1461 - which has duly gone off to YPS, so it's all systems go for our launch at the Towton event on Palm Sunday.


Plans are also in train for a revised 2nd edition of Gondarlan, the first instalment of my fantasy saga The Lay of Angor - which I'll also be self-publishing with YPS. So I've cancelled my contract with Chipmunka, and have been frantically proof-reading the

'new improved' version (complete with frontispiece map, pronunciation guide/glossary of foreign words and list of principal characters); it should be available fairly soon in paperback and e-book - watch this space for further details!

13th February


Another successful outing for Towton Battlefield Society and the Frei Compagnie! Our first success on Saturday 11th was actually getting a team to Doncaster Museum for the Local History Fair - the snow and ice had been so severe that we weren't sure until almost the last minute if we'd be able to travel at all. But we (that is, Tall Mike, Alex, Dave and Lynne Skillen and TBS Chairman Mark Taylor) managed it, as you can see from the pic on the right. And we had a great day, alongside a host of other local historical organisations including Thorne Historical Society and the Friends of St Oswald's at Kirk Sandall - plenty of visitors, and plenty of interest in our information, merchandise and living history display. And lots of folk (including the photographer from the Doncaster Star) wanted to take our photos - another illustration of living history's power to engage an audience, and of how well TBS and the Frei

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Compagnie work together.


I particularly enjoyed myself because I used to live in Doncaster and work as the Museum's conservator - so it was great to go back and catch up with some old chums. Coincidentally, I'd just been looking out some photos from those bygone days, for a lecture I'm giving to Overton Ladies' Circle on the 'History of Chocolate'... that's a much younger me on the left, working on one of the most unusual objects that ever came through our conservation laboratory: a box of Victorian chocolate novelties shaped like carpentry tools! It's amazing how many museums have historical chocolate in their collections... people often save novelties and 'special occasion' chocolates (like the Edwardian coronation bar in the left foreground of the picture) because they're 'too special to eat'... and before too long they go off, become impossible to eat, and are fit for nothing but donating to the local museum! And yes, in case you're curious, I did nibble a wee tiny morsel of the bar of 1950's Cadbury's Whole Nut (with the lender's permission!) for experimental purposes - it still looked perfectly fine but the fats in it had gone rancid, and it tasted Totally Disgusting. But it was a very interesting project to research, and I learned a lot about chocolate as I tried to work out how on earth to treat these historical 'artefacts' - so I hope the subject will make for an interesting lecture!

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23rd February


Yum yum... fancy a bite? Here's a pic of a chocolate bar issued by the City of Sheffield to commemorate the coronation of King George V in 1911... one of the goodies featured in the 'History of Chocolate' lecture I gave to Overton Ladies' Circle last week. It all seemed to go down pretty well (at least, they've invited me back to speak again), although what went down best were the samples... especially the Green & Black's Organic Milk Chocolate with 35% cocoa solids (my personal favourite)! So it was a fun, and very different, way for Mick and I to celebrate Valentine's Day... and I'm looking forward to giving the lecture again to Horbury Historical Society in April.


In the meantime I'm on tenterhooks... all the proofs have been checked, the go-ahead given, and I'm waiting eagerly to see Gondarlan and Walk Towton 1461 in print - getting very excited!

Towton Poster 2012a

Getting excited about Towton, too... it's only another 5 weeks to our annual Palm Sunday shindig! So, with my Frei Compagnie hat on, I've been working up the public programme and the event 'warning orders' to go out to all the guest re-enactors and traders. And it's shaping up to be another excellent year... our favourite 'Wise Woman', Jayne Milner, will be coming again with her array of medieval medicines; plus the renowned artist Graham Turner, selling signed prints of his wonderful Wars of the Roses artwork; 'Jim the Pot' of Trinity Court Potteries, who makes all our replica medieval vessels; the authors George Goodwin and Simon Anderson, selling signed copies of their books; and lots more besides, including us TBS authors George Peter Algar, Su Harrison, Alan Stringer and myself, with our wares!


So if you're looking for something interesting to do on Palm Sunday, why not come along... for a measly £2 you'll get a full day's entertainment with guided battlefield walks, medieval combat displays, a memorial service, a living history camp of re-enactors showing their weaponry and craftworks, rounded off by our rendition of the Battle of Ferrybridge... one of the best days out in Yorkshire!