What a glorious day... bright blue sky, little puffy clouds, cool gentle breeze, and the trees round Helmickton full of cooing doves and cheeping new wrenlets (they're probably complaining about the periodic row of Mick's chainsaw as he processes our treasure-trove of wood ready for next winter!).
And it was just as beautiful yesterday at one of our favourite events, Kirkby Wharfe Village Gala - Mike Wilson's lovely shot of our little camp is on the left. People have known for millennia what a gem this part of Yorkshire is; there was prehistoric occupation all round the Towton area, and a Roman villa at Kirkby Wharfe itself - you'll find some Roman masonry fragments, and a baby's coffin and gravestone, in the village church of St John the Baptist. St John's is worth visiting for other reasons too, as you can see in the pictures below: its oldest parts are Norman, and as well as some lovely modern stained glass, it has some fine 14th and 16th century examples. So the Frei Co felt honoured to appear at the gala which helps supports its upkeep - and very pleased we could donate some £40 of have-a-go archery proceeds to the restoration fund.
Detail of C14 stained/painted glass window The view from our campsite: St John the Baptist & gala gazebos 'Collage' windows made up of C16 glass
Another thing that makes Kirkby Wharfe special for us is our 'pitch': not only do we have this glorious prospect to look at, we're actually sitting among the lumps, bumps and hollows of the vanished medieval village (no wonder we feel so comfortable there!). Then there's the event itself - a quintessentially English country affair with stalls selling handicrafts, fresh local produce, home-made cakes and bric-a-brac, tombolas and games, clay pigeon shooting, a dog show, 'Guess the Weight of the Sheep', Pimms on the lawn... it really is like stepping back in time to a gentler, more civilised age in these marvellously tranquil and unspoilt surroundings. H'm, perhaps I'd best stop raving - if too many people find out about it, it may not stay like that!
So to change the subject, we rounded off our wonderful day with a wonderful evening at the Crooked Billet. Thanks to the new landlords Richard and Joanne, aided by their amazing chef Mark, the Billet's now more 'Masterchef' than 'pub grub'. What a meal: fried sea-bass and scallops for hubcap, and for me, oven-baked salmon with zingy chilli salsa on a bed of gorgeously buttery crushed new potatoes and salad. Absolutely delicious... so if you're in the vicinity of the B1217 between Saxton and Towton, you really MUST try it (01937 557389 for bookings)!
Oh lumme, now it's the season of tax assessments, the 'phishermen' are out in force again... so do beware of messages landing in your in-box purporting to be from HMRC, with the good news that you're due a tax rebate! There's a form attached for you to fill in your details to claim it... and the message says that due to high call volumes, HMRC won't be able to process the claim over the phone. Pah! The spammers just don't want you ringing up and finding out it's a bogus attempt to pinch your identity and hard-earned cash... the Revenue will never email you like this, asking for personal details (they already have them - though they may not have your email address!!). If you're really due a rebate, they'll either send you a notification and cheque through the post; or (if you've set up the facility) transfer it directly into your bank account and send a letter telling you they've done so. So if you're afflicted by such tedious nuisance (like I was this week), pass it straight on to email@example.com .
And there's more rubbish currently doing the rounds: phoney messages from financial institutions like Santander and LLoyds TSB. 'There's a serious problem with your account - please click on the link below to rectify it'. 'We need to update your personal details, please complete the attached form' blah blah blah. It's easy enough to spot the scam if you don't hold an account with the institution concerned - but if you do, the message just might jolt you into replying. But once again, they're attempts to nick your personal data or infect your computer... if you do internet banking, your bank will always email you asking you to log on for a secure message, rather than compromising your (and their) security in such ways.
Me, I'm getting totally sick of the spammers and their ruddy phishing attempts... I hope their computers all crash and burn.
We've just had our long-awaited trip with Towton Battlefield Society to the prestigious International Medieval Congress at the University of Leeds... Here we are in the Mezzanine Gallery at Bodington Hall on Wednesday, doing our thing for the Historical Societies Fair: myself, David and Lynne Skillen and Peter Algar.
A pleasant afternoon we had, too - caught up with lots of chums from other societies including the Richard III Society and Richard III Foundation, Wakefield Historical Society and Yorkshire Archaeological Society. I also had a fascinating conversation with a delegate working on a doctorate in early textiles, who has taught herself the entire fabrication process from yarn-spinning to dyeing and hand-weaving. I was staggered to learn that it had taken her 1200 hours to create a piece of cloth about the size of one of my kirtle panels... so even allowing for the greater working speed of medieval specialists, making an entire garment completely from scratch must, altogether, have taken months of labour. Apparently my outfit, for all that it's quite plain and simple, is much higher status than I'd realised - especially the black henin, for which the fabric would have been dyed three times to achieve such
depth of colour. It was also good to talk to David Rushworth on the stall next to TBS - that's him, wearing the black shirt, in the centre of the photo above. Dave's a costume expert, the trader who originally sold me the burgundy wool my kirtle's made from, and a veritable mine of information on the subject. He also has a great stock of anecdotes from his travels round Europe trading and re-enacting - so if you'd like to know more, or to book him as a speaker, check out his website.
Aside from that, it's been business as usual for Herstory: a very enjoyable walk round Sandal Castle, the Duke of York's monument and Wakefield Green on Saturday, with a typically enthusiastic group of Ricardians from Beverley and Hull - their chairperson makes a point of walking in Richard III's footsteps wherever she can! Then it was back to beavering away in the garden, getting scratched to bits as I harvested pounds of gooseberries (however did the old tale of leaving babies under gooseberry bushes come about? They're the prickliest things imaginable... a currant bush would be a far more sympathetic place to stash an infant!!). We've got a freezer full of soft fruit now - the makings of a good jamming session, and plenty of hot fruity crumbles come the autumn when I feel like baking again - and just waiting for our grapes and figs to ripen. It's amazing how productive even a garden as small as ours can be... what with the salad greens, herbs, courgettes, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes (not to mention the onions, spuds, cabbage and beetroot we get from the allotment), it saves pounds every week on my housekeeping bill. Definitely not to be sneezed at in these days of scarily-rising food prices... and the produce is much more fresh and tender than anything you can buy in the shops, so I can recommend 'grow your own' - it's well worth the effort.
Ever wondered how slugs and snails unerringly find their way to your precious plants? Well, Herstory can now reveal their secret - we woke up this morning to find the word 'Doog' written (in slime) on our greenhouse (see left) - only visible to the human eye because of the condensation. So plainly they leave each other 'thief signs' - we construed 'Doog' to mean 'Tender Tomatoes Within.' Or of course it could just be the snaily equivalent of 'Kilroy Woz 'Ere'...
And talking of pests, the dreaded Indian call centre 'Your computer has a deadly
virus' scammers are at it again Big Time - I've had literally dozens of these calls in the past couple of weeks, and got so sick of them I rang the BT Nuisance Calls helpline for advice. Although, sadly, there's nothing the phone providers can do to block them, I was told that the best way to respond is simply not to pick up any call that shows up as 'unknown' on caller ID. Apparently the scammers target dialling code areas (it's obviously West Yorks' turn at the moment) with random dialling - so no point changing your phone number, as we'd thought of doing - and if they don't get a human voice on the other end of the phone they eventually get bored and go away... oh, I DO hope they get bored with me soon!!