November is a real anniversary month for the Helmick: on the 21st, we celebrate the tenth anniversary of our meeting at The Crooked Billet, and our first walk together on Towton Battlefield - Mick was guiding that day back in 2004, it was freezing cold, I slipped on an icy puddle and literally fell at his feet! The rest, as they say, is history - but naturally we've been doing a good deal of celebrating. On the left you can see us enjoying an Indian buffet with me sporting the new jet jewellery we'd just acquired in Whitby (see October 2014); and on the right, doing our double act as guides for one of the TBS regular battlefield walks.
That seemed a perfect way to mark a sunny Remembrance Sunday, because if the contemporary figures (which speak of 20,000 to 28,000 men killed on Palm Sunday 1461) are correct, it means that the battle of Towton was as bloody as the first day of the Somme - a sobering thought to bear in mind as we hiked round the Battlefield Trail. As you can see from the photograph, we were extremely lucky with the weather - in fact it was so warm that I was gasping for a pint by the time we finished, and very glad to repair to The Rockingham Arms for a drink and a slap-up Sunday lunch (right)!
Last but not least, November 8th marked the third anniversary of the finding of Henry Wowler, the 'accidental kitten' who has matured into a thumping great tom-cat, scourge of all small furry creatures and to date, my most durable pet. He's a lot easier to look after now that he doesn't demand six hours of play every day - like a proper grown-up, he's forsaken catnip mice in favour of the real thing, and discovered the sensuous delights of having his whiskers scratched on The Lap. But he's still as persistent as a kitten or small child when it comes to having his demands met - and woe betide me if I ignore him!
Welcome to the revamped Herstory site! Regular visitors will notice some changes - an updated Home page and a couple of additions: Interpretation, which contains details of my presentations, guided walks and a new section on services for schools; and Text/Editing, which tells you about the writing services I can provide including the generation of text for publications and websites, and editing/proof-reading services - I hope you'll find them useful. You will also find a new addition on the Articles page: a review of the King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester, which I've just written for the Winter edition of the TBS newsletter The Towton Herald - a slightly different account to the one that appears on the October news page, and featuring several more photographs.
I've also been busy with a completely different type of writing - my first venture into the contemporary crime/mystery genre! Yes, the manuscript of Love Hunter is now complete - unlike the Lay of Angor novels, I've managed to do this in less than a year - and it's the story of a man who finds himself the subject of a novel (the Love Hunter of the title) about an obsessive stalker, at the same time as life in his new dream home takes an unexpected and sinister turn! Having just finished editing and polishing it up, I'm getting ready to submit it to some publishers... and keeping my fingers crossed that I'll find someone to take it. Wish me luck!
Our next TBS Palm Sunday commemoration will be a special one, because in 2015 it falls on the actual date of the battle, March 29th - and this weekend, we got off to an early start with the preparations! We always need lots of firewood for cooking fires on the living history camp, and because the weather has been so wet, we decided to gather it early to give it four months to dry out before the event. So on Saturday, our merry band of gleaners (below left, left to right: Steve, me, Bill, Mick, Alex and Shirley) headed off to the copse on Old London Road at Towton to collect fallen branches for Mick to cut up with his chainsaw (below right). Luckily the dreary rain had stopped and it was surprisingly mild and pleasant (if still very squishy underfoot) there among the trees; and since many hands made light work, in little more than an hour we'd gathered about a ton of wood - you can see the fruits of our labours below centre. Normally we would have trucked it down to the barn for storage and drying, but the track was too muddy for Mick to get his van up - so the bulk is currently in a hole under the white cover with smaller kindling on top, waiting until we can get a tractor or 4x4 to move it - or until the ground dries or freezes sufficiently for Mick to drive up!
Our reward was to repair to The Rockingham Arms for a drink - just in time to catch the switching on of the village Christmas lights - after which we went on the The Castle Inn at Cawood for a slap-up meal courtesy of the Frei Compagnie! Because we cap our bank account at £500, after a good season of earning we had some surplus cash to spend... which meant that any members able to attend got a free meal to say 'thanks' for all their efforts over the past year. The Castle has changed hands since we last ate there in August, but the quality (and quantity!) of the food is still the same. Mick and I shared a starter of deep-fried breaded camembert with cranberry relish, which I followed with goats-cheese stuffed chicken breast, wrapped in ham, in one of the best tomato sauces I've ever tasted - absolutely delicious - while he waded through a generous portion of the famous Castle Pie. To my surprise, he then ordered jam roly-poly and custard - and was not surprised when he couldn't finish it (I was far too full for pud)! The menu is excellent and varied, with vegetarians catered for, and all our meals were good, averaging £10 - £15 per head for our party of 17... so I can well recommend The Castle if you're feeling hungry near Cawood. What a great way to round off the season!