June 2011

garden

Enjoying the fruits of Helmickton: goosegogs, red and black currants, strawberries, sorrel, chives - and plenty of flowers for the bees!

25th June

It's been another all-round busy week for Herstory... on the writing front, I've made a start on the sequel to Walk Wakefield 1460, the second of what I hope will build into a full 'Walk the Wars of the Roses' series: Walk Towton 1461. This one will be co-authored with one of our TBS chums, Alan Stringer, who's been studying the battles that took place at Ferrybridge and Dintingdale just before Towton... and I'm looking forward to going with him next month to Mortimer's Cross, where the first engagement in the campaign occurred, to suss out the lie of the land, photograph the battlefield and make some notes for the text.

I'm also plugging away on Book 2 of Lay of Angor, to try and satisfy my (so far small but enthusiastic!) group of fans - I'm now on Chapter 12, but the trouble is, they can read it a lot quicker than I can write it! And in-between-times, we're trying to keep on top of our burgeoning garden... it's a terrific year for salad greens and soft fruit, and we gorge ourselves daily on lovely fresh berries. I find the mixtures of raspberries (red & golden), currants (red & black), and strawbs (cultivated & the

gorgeous tiny wild ones) are especially good steeped in hubcap's beech-leaf noyau, a stunning liqueur and very simple to make: just dump a bottle of gin onto half a kilner jar of fresh young beech leaves, and leave for 3 weeks. Then strain off the liquor, add 8 ounces of sugar boiled in a half-pint of water, a glass of brandy, and lo! You have the most delicate and unusually flavoured liqueur, vaguely reminiscent of the old 'Beech Nut' chewing gum, and perfect for drinking after a summer dinner.

Anyhow, at the end of our week of labour, we felt we deserved a pint at the Three Houses on the A61 Barnsley Road near Sandal Castle - well worth checking out if you're in the area, the beer and food are both cracking. So we met our pal Dave Cooke (whose review of Gondarlan should be appearing on this site soon) there for a quiet bevy... though we were soon driven out by the arrival of the 'Orange Shriekers', a species of bird with gaudy summer plumage, a non-stop chattering voice and a deafening raucous cackle, which flocks around public houses in large numbers, particularly of a weekend! Seriously though, it was great to see a local pub doing such a (literally) roaring trade... even though us oldies couldn't hack it for too long.

21st June

This week's big news for Herstory is that Wakefield Libraries have just bought two copies of Gondarlan - and ten of Walk Wakefield 1460! So they should be appearing on the shelves any time for local readers to borrow - or for readers further afield to get through inter-library loan. I'm delighted - and about to apply for my Public Lending Rights on both titles. Plus I've just had a royalties cheque for my chapter in the 2nd edition of Blood Red Roses, the Towton mass graves excavation report published by Oxbow - their all-time biggest seller, which continues to sell several hundred copies a year (pretty impressive for an academic publication, and good news for everyone involved with it).

Meanwhile I'm coming down from an intense, and very enjoyable weekend. Friday saw me chained to the kitchen in a massive medieval 'cookathon', preparing our food display-cum-lunch for the Open Day at St Oswald's Church: to go with Alex's pork-and-raisin rolls, I made frumenty, salat, gingerbread, stuffed dates and the sumptuous elderflower cheese tart called sambocade, and brewed a batch of hypocras (sweetened spiced wine). And it all went down a storm on the 18th with the Frei Co and public alike... we got a lot more visitors than last year, took £20 from have-a-go archery which we donated to chuch funds - and made a whopping £135 for TBS on the Society stall!

It's elderflower time again ...

elder

Since it was a hot day, something else that went down well was hubcap's famous elderflower champagne. Elderflowers were widely used in the 15th century to flavour sambocade, rice puddings and a sauce to serve with fish; and although we're not sure this recipe is medieval, it's such a fantastic, refreshing summer drink I thought I'd share it with you:

For 1 Gallon of Elderflower Champagne: Pick at least 4 big heads of elderflower (or 8 small ones); shake off large insects; then put in a bucket covered with a dark cloth, with just one little chink left clear, for a couple of hours. (Any remaining insects will vacate the flowers and migrate to the light). Don't wash the heads afterwards, or you'll wash all the natural yeasts off. Dissolve 1lb sugar in warm water in a sterilised brewer's bucket. Add the juice of a lemon, its peel cut in quarters, and 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Put in the de-bugged elderflowers, top up with water to 1 gallon, and give a quick stir. Cover with a cloth (to let air in but keep dust and critters out) and leave for at least 3 days without peeping. (If you bottle at 3 - 4 days, it'll be sweet and very fizzy; we prefer to leave for 5 - 7 days so that it's drier and less effervescent).

ra conference
ra delegates

Tim Sutherland (left) & Dr. Jonathan Riley, Master of the Armouries Some TBS delegates: L - R: me, hubcap, Dave Cooke, Mick Weaver,
(right) during Tim's presentation 'Conflicts & Allies' Judy Thomas, Des Thomas

slug