A good time was had by all last night: here's Peter Algar addressing a full house at the Towton Battlefield Society general meeting on 'Hot Coals of Vengeance', his riveting account of the ancient and warlike Clifford family. Naturally, the Frei Co's very own 'Clifford', aka Stu (far left), had to attend... as you can see, he bears quite an uncanny resemblance to the portrait of the real John Clifford that Peter's showing on his slide! And it was an excellent talk, Peter having done masses of research on
the Cliffords for his two historical novels: The Shepherd Lord, based on the incredible true story of young Henry Clifford, who was spirited off after his father John's death at Towton and raised, for his own safety, as an obscure shepherd; and Dead Man's Hill, the somewhat darker sequel scheduled for publication in summer 2012. If you'd like to find out more about Peter and his work, check out his website www.theshepherdlord.com... meanwhile I'm looking forward to his next venture, a collaboration with another chum and TBS author David Cooke, provisionally titled Battlefield Legends and Mysteries. It's going to feature all kinds of Towton tales, including the many supernatural encounters folk have experienced around the battlefield - I can't wait to read it!
What a difference a day makes... bang has gone my usual routine of getting up long before crack of dawn to quietly while away the small hours with coffee and keyboard. Now I'm up for feeding time, emptying the litter tray, then entertaining this little morsel until he finally passes out and I can work without constant wowling and attention-seeking naughtiness. And no, I'm not referring to my husband, but the small ginger-and-white scrap you can see there on his knee, who we've tentatively christened Henry Wowler.
Yup - attempts to find his owners having yet borne no fruit, we've unexpectedly become 'foster-cat-parents' - and after decades passed without keeping pets, it's quite an adjustment to make! I'd forgotten how much vitality and sheer force of personality (or felinity) kittens cram into their tiny fragile bodies... young Henry is certainly having an impact on our
lifestyle (especially mine!) out of all proportion to his size. And unless we find out who he really belongs to, or one of our friends is desperate to take on a nice cat, we'll end up keeping him... he is lots of fun to have around, and sooooo sweetly cuddlesome with his soft baby fur, huge bat-ears and paws he hasn't properly grown into, and delicate little whiskers like strands of fine silver wire. A rewarding companion... cuter than the cutest soft toy ever invented, but alive and responsive - and with a quite deafening purr for such a little chap! So at the moment he's One Lucky Kitten... warm, well-fed and very indulged - instead of being a pile of fox-scat or owl-pellets, as he would almost certainly have been by now if hubcap hadn't found him on Tuesday night...
Forgive me for another 'catty' entry... young Master Wowler is still dominating our lives! And he's led me to discover a sad thing: apparently animal rescue centres are being swamped with kittens - and pregnant female cats - cast out because their owners can no longer afford to feed them in these straitened times. (I guess the same goes for dogs, too - and it's likely to get worse in the New Year, after the usual rash of hapless animals ill-advisedly given for Christmas). Yes, sad... but at least taking an unwanted pet to the RSPCA or Cats Protection League is responsible, and much kinder than what we're starting to think may have happened to Henry - that rather than escaping and getting lost, he was deliberately dumped in the woods to fend for himself...
It's a horrible idea - but having just found out how many poor animals are currently being abandoned, all too easy to believe. Needless to say, if he hasn't got a caring owner out there searching desperately for him, we won't be burdening the animal welfare services with yet another unwanted pet. To put it into perspective, I've found he costs about 60p a day... less for his week's food than the price of 20 fags, a bottle of wine, or a handful of those moronic pointless texts so many people are addicted to sending. Of course, there's a few more pence on top of that for cat litter... and there'll be vet bills at some point... but it's still a modest enough outlay for the amount of laughs and sheer entertainment value we get from his kittenish antics (although I could wish he was more ground-based, like a puppy... his wall-of-death routine round the living room does get a trifle wearing, both on us and the soft furnishings).
However, we are now settling into a more workable modus vivendi... and while Henry gets down to some serious sleeping (and growing), I'm getting on with the text for Walk Towton 1461 - which is shaping up to be ready for a launch at Towton on Palm Sunday, April 1st 2012!
It's a happy anniversary for us today - seven years since we met at the Crooked Billet, Mick taught me how to shoot a longbow - and I slipped on a frozen puddle and literally fell at his feet on the battlefield walk he was leading! A truly life-changing occasion, celebrated yesterday in suitable style: a shoot with our TBS chums (including Tall Mike Wilson, who took the pic on the right), a slap-up Sunday lunch in the Billet, then a somewhat damp and squelchy walk through the fog across the field path to Saxton (a bit of research for the 'Walk Towton' book). We were heading for All Saints Church, another site with Towton connections -
some of the battle dead, including Ranulph, Lord Dacre of Gilsland, are buried there. And although All Saints is well worth a visit, I can't say as much for the walk - a mile over featureless fields of sticky clay, which wouldn't have looked terribly interesting even in sunshine - about the best I can say for it is that it burned off some of the roast pork with all the trimmings we'd just put away. Still, it's all grist for the mill... my book sections on Mortimer's Cross and Towton should be complete by the end of this week, and Alan's chapters on St Albans, Ferrybridge and Dintingdale are also coming on well. So I reckon we should have our finished text with York Publishing Services by Christmas... and in January, Alan will be lecturing to TBS on the encounters that took place at Ferrybridge and Dintingdale immediately prior to Towton. Having a military background, he's come up with some interesting new insights on the action... and in a great piece of research, has established the size and appearance of the medieval bridge at Ferrybridge (long since demolished, of course). So if you'd like to hear a new view on this phase of the campaign, come along to Saxton Village Hall on 9th January - it should be a good night.
Brr! Winter draws on... and we certainly blew away the cobwebs yesterday with a very blustery hike around the Towton Battlefield Trail! This was our merry band of walkers - left to right Fran Perry, hubcap, Mark Taylor, David Lanchester, Mick Weaver, Clare Kelly Blazeby, Peter Hague (a TBS member up all the way from High Wycombe) and Clare's chum Martin. Chairman Mark, an excellent and very well-informed guide, led the walk... and even though Mick and I have been round it many times, we still gained new and different perspectives - as we're often doing the guiding ourselves, it was a rare treat to simply enjoy someone else's presentation. But blimey, the wind was strong up on that plateau - almost blow-you-off-your-feet gusts at times - so by the time we'd been out in it for 2 hours, I was very glad to get indoors and tuck into a good lunch at the Rockingham Arms!
Anyhow, if you're up Towton way, I can heartily recommend both the walk and the pub. The
route is now fully signposted and the Battlefield Trail boards are excellent, making the landscape and the action that took place there understandable even if you're going round without benefit of a guide. The Rockingham Arms is also excellent, doing a range of meals from snacks and sandwiches to full Sunday lunch; I had fishcakes and chips with tartare sauce (all home-made), garnished with watercress, for £8.95, while hubcap opted for a chicken dinner with extra Yorkshire pud for £9.75 - and we both came out well satisfied! We also sampled a very fine new bitter, named by Towton Battlefield Society members as 'Towton Belter' - very smooth, and with (to my palate at least) a hint of honey or mead... and we're looking forward to the New Year, when TBS will start creating another visitor centre in rooms on the Rock's first floor (although we'll still maintain a presence in our Portacabin at the Crooked Billet) - watch this space for details.