Welcome to my accidentally revamped website... somehow I've managed to press a button and alter its whole appearance, and now I can't revert to my original design! Oh dear, the pitfalls of being computer-illiterate - still, at least it looks tidy, if not quite what I'm used to.
Otherwise, May (May? I can't believe it - where's the year going?!) has got off to a good start - last night we went out to do our 'Doggett Double-Act' on 'Life & Times of Towton' for the ladies of Tadcaster Methodist Church Wednesday Group. We gave them a potted history of the battle and its impact on 15th century England, plus 'Arming the Archer', which caused quite a stir when Mick started disrobing to put on his padded jack! Someone asked how much more he was going to take off, and seemed quite disappointed that it was only his livery coat and doublet... nonetheless, the audience was very appreciative - and bought some copies of
Walk Towton, which I hope means they'll be going off to enjoy the Battlefield Trail!
So a good night all round, and very pleasant to be back in Tadcaster. It's a beautiful town with an incredible history... and I couldn't help remembering the time I spent there back in 2009 with some other TBS members, helping out on a little excavation in a local back garden. We'd all got very excited, because a number of historic burials had turned up - and of course, we were hoping that they might be associated with the Battle of Towton, since there are references to the routing Lancastrians being chased as far as Tadcaster:
Phew! Now that something resembling summer has finally arrived, we've been out harvesting nature's bounty. Meet 'Jack-by-the-hedge' (left), also known as hedge or mustard garlic - a common hedgerow and garden 'weed' that makes a wonderfully scrumptious addition to sandwiches and salads. It looks a bit like honesty, with heart-shaped leaves and a cluster of tiny white flowers at the top. The topmost young, tender leaves have a lovely, bitter garlic flavour - and now is the time to pick and enjoy. Beware, though - it's quite powerful, and a little goes a long way!
It's also nettle time, so hubcap's got another batch of his famous nettle ale brewing away in the spare room. He got the recipe from a brilliant book called Wild Food by Roger Philips - a real bible for anyone who wants to make the most of all kinds of wild plants, fungi and seaweeds. And it's very simple, as you can see from the pictures below: first pick your young fresh nettles; rinse well, and boil them up in a big pan of water for 15 minutes; add sugar and cream of tartar, and stir till dissolved; leave to go tepid, then add brewer's yeast and stir well. Cover it up in a bucket, leave to ferment for 4 days or so, then decant into bottles without disturbing the sediment. It makes a fine, refreshing summer beer - a little sweet for some people's taste, but a good (and perfectly authentic) drink for our forthcoming Frei Compagnie events!
Human remains: one of the grave pits Clearing the site - slash and burn! A Towton casualty?
But now that results of the dating and analysis have started coming through, this seems not to be the case... some of the burials are elderly women, the bones considerably pre-date 1461 - and the big hole on that skull above right is recent damage, not a battle injury! So these people weren't victims of Yorkist revenge after Towton... although I'm sure their history will prove to be just as interesting, and maybe just as tragic. Watch this space!
A nice big bucket of nettles... Boiling nettles, plus other ale ingredients... Hubcap adding the yeast...
Hey ho - the 'summer' didn't last! Saturday 19th saw us at the coldest Sherburn Gala I can remember... although luckily the forecast rain held off, so we didn't have to cart home a load of sopping wet tents. And we still got a good (if well wrapped-up!) crowd visiting our armoury (see right, with Des, Hannah and Alan) and kitchen, and enjoying the firepower shows. In fact we had a record number of takers for have-a-go archery (I expect people were glad of something to help them keep warm!). Our squad of archery tutors took £110 - that's 110 'goes' at £1 for 3 arrows - which certainly kept them busy all afternoon. So it was a pleasant outing, but there were times when I still felt chilly even in two woollen kirtles, a hood and a cloak... so I sincerely hope it'll be a bit warmer for our next outing. That'll be the Open Day at St Oswald's Church in Kirk Sandall on 16th July... but at least there we'll have an indoor display space if it's still freezing cold and pouring with rain!
Some good news to end the month: Gondarlan should be getting a mention, maybe a review, in the June issue of the Fantastic Literature newsletter. Fantastic Literature is a book supply company specialising in science fiction and fantasy literature, including rare and out-of-print publications, so I'm very thrilled that they're going to feature Lay of Angor... a signed copy of which is on offer as a prize in their monthly competition, if you fancy trying your luck! Meanwhile, if you're a Facebook follower, Lay of Angor has its own page now where you can keep up to date on developments and view reader comments about Gondarlan.
Speaking of Facebook, our Henry (there he is, looking cute on the left) is starting to attract quite a following on my personal page... to the extent that several people have suggested I should write a book about him! So I am giving some thought to a 'Tails of Henry Wowler' - I can see it in my mind's eye, illustrated with Gray Joliffe-style cartoons - about the trials and tribulations of being 'cat-parents' (or 'slaves'), and a selection of Henry's more outrageous exploits. Many of these involve other creatures, one way or another (usually dead and in pieces on the kitchen floor)... ever since we gave him a cat-flap, he's been honing his hunting skills and bringing home 'presents' - starting with easy stuff (earthworms and slugs), but now, at the age of 10 months, he's turned into a fully fledged mouser. So I never know quite what I'm going to find when I go downstairs to make that first morning coffee - but often it's pretty unpleasant!