Dreams

 

Sit back. My dears, EBL is going to get all reminiscent.

Once upon a time, when the world was young, finding out information was difficult. There was no Google, if toy can believe such a thing and no Ask Jeeves, nor Lycos, nor even Excite. Not so much as a pixel of search engine goodness at the fingertips of even the most advanced computer scientist.

In those days EBL was a keen young thing at school and one day she had a lesson in English where the supply teacher was interesting. This in itself was shocking, with all due respect to Mrs P who was the usual teacher. Mrs P did her best but she was worn down by years of service to the cause of drumming Dickens and Hardy and Shakespeare into adolescent heads more interested in pop music and fashion and dancing. No one could sustain interest in the face of such barbarity.

The young supply teacher was fresh meat though and still had the dewy optimism of the newly qualified, all ready to change the world. So she talked to us about Old English poetry. I suspect my classmates do not recall this at all, but it struck a chord with EBL.  The chord was, however somewhat limited.

I remembered a fragment of verse because it sounded cool. I liked languages, even then, and it sounded interesting – English but not English. I knew it involved a battle. Well of course it did – it was Anglo Saxon poetry after all.

While I was nosing around my local library one day (those were places you could go to find books and borrow them, another feature of life now much reduced) I decided to see if I could find it again. There were no books on Anglo Saxon poetry in our little local library so I moved on and found one on Schiller which was pretty good, along with a copy of Candide by Voltaire. Ah, A-Levels.

So I left it alone.

When I got to university I asked friends who were studying English if they knew what it was. They blinked at me and muttered about The Faerie Queen and drank a few more pints.

So I left it alone.

One day while the Offspringses were older and studying and the Internet had been invented I searched on-line. But there was little to see and most of it was on UseNet which was a wild place not suited to discussing Anglo Saxon poetry.

So I left it alone.

When I was older I spent some time in another library, in a bigger town, while the Offspringses were in the children’s section, looking for Anglo Saxon poetry. But there wasn’t any still.

So I left it alone.

One day a friend mentioned the same poem and asked if I knew what it was, and I had to say I knew of it but not its name or date or even really its subject – beyond a battle, which wasn’t much help.

So I left it alone.

One day much later, when it was a new millennium and I was a little bored and Google had been invented I thought I would try again. The incredible thing is that even after all the years (probably around 35 years had passed by now) I still remembered the phrases and almost the spelling. And the other incredible thing is Google.

Google worked out I meant “hige sceal the heardre, heorte the cenre” when I typed in “hige sceal heorte” – that is one fine algorithm.

Google found the poem.

So I didn’t leave it alone.

I was able to read about it and to read the text in modern and Old English. I fell in love.

I found a study group of like-minded souls and have discovered more about this period of history and had incredible joy from sharing it and learning more about both the history and the language, the culture and the literature. I have met lovely people and been to brilliant events and read amazing books.

Yesterday I went to a course at the University of York on Icelandic and Norse sagas, which inter-relate to the Anglo Saxon period very tightly (Vikings, duh!), and learned how Skaldic Poetry is composed and fell in love again.

This little shoot of happiness has been growing and growing after long years fallow.

Sometimes we have to wait until the time is right.

Never forget your dreams. May the time be right for yours soon.

Namaste.

 

 

Vikings

As I told you last time (pay attention there!), Sigoth and I went to York last weekend for the annual Viking Festival. There were Vikings Galore! We had a fabulous time. I would recommend it to anyone at a loose end in February half term.

One of the reasons for the trip was that I wanted to buy a dress. This was because, my dears, the invasion of Vikings included a generous array of traders in goods and materials vital to the business of re-enactors. I was amazed to discover that many of the stall-holders were themselves of the Scandinavian persuasion and had made the trip to York for the purposes of trade and profit.

Don’t think I can’t see you rolling your eyes. Yes, you. You know who I mean. Stop it at once. Regular readers will be aware that EBL has more than a passing interest in the history and culture of the early medieval period of English history, also known as the Dark Ages or Anglo-Saxon period.  Every now and then I bore you with some Old English texts, or harangue the Vikings at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in September.

I belong to a society which studies the period and we have a stall. We attend the Stamford Bridge event, which is rather strangely organised by the local Viking re-enactment group. I say “strangely” because of course the Vikings lost that battle horribly. Harold Godwineson, aka King Harold II, the one with the arrow in the eye (if you can believe those who embroider history), chased them off in September 1066 before dashing south to confront William of Normandy.  The Vikings were more than decimated, needing only about 24 ships to take home the survivors who had arrived in an army carried by around 300 ships.

Here is our stall from a couple of years ago

Here is our stall from a couple of years ago

Anyway, we have a stall at the event and last year we all agreed it would be worth getting some costumes too, as it seems to draw in the punters. We have a couple of men’s outfits but no women’s so I agreed, along with another woman, to get some gender-appropriate gear. To do this, we needed to find suppliers, and who better than the traders at the Viking Festival?

Thus it was arranged. A group of us met at the Minster, ogled the stained glass on display in the Orb (again, if you can – go see this!), then repaired to a nearby pub for a lengthy lunch. We needed the lunch because we were planning activities for another event we shall be attending in May, when we shall demonstrate a number of Anglo-Saxon crafts and generally attempt to brainwash the public into understanding that the period was one of significant interest and importance. We are not overly optimistic; the Vikings seem to generate better PR.

AS DressIn short – here is the outfit. Sigoth has woven me a belt to go with it. It’s a late period costume; earlier dresses would have been in the style known as “tube-dress”, basically a tube of material held up by shoulder straps pinned in place. They were not especially stylish or flattering. As my friend said, everyone looked like a potato back then.

Of course, Sigoth and I also spent time at some of the special events over the weekend.

First up was the Beowulf by Candlelight in St Helen’s Church. Peter Carrington-Porter performed, without the aid of a safety net, a translated version of the poem. He recited for about 1 ½ hours the tale of Beowulf, Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and Beowulf’s death.  Epic tales, epic times!

The next morning, before meeting the group for lunch, we attended the Strongest Viking Competition. Much hilarity ensued although the lads worked pretty hard. There were six events: log carrying; shield wrestling; Dane Axe holding; sword fighting; tug of war; and boasting. The logs were large and heavy. The wrestling was fast and furious (it basically entailed standing on a “shield” or plastic mat, and shoving each other hard with open palms). The axes held had to be extended with the arms at 90 degrees to the body, for as long as possible (the winner was in the region of 120 seconds) and I can tell you the upper body strength required for that was pretty impressive. Sword fighting and tug of war need little introduction. The boasting contest was scored by audience volume. As the boasts for more extreme the cheers got louder. The winner amazed us all by reciting some poetry! The gods love a man who can fight, who is string and who can recite it seems. During the intervals Thor and Loki performed a double act to keep the crowd happy. We were honoured by the presence of the gods among us.

To prove it here are some blurry pictures.

Viking log carrying

Speedy Viking with heavy tree

Viking shield wrestling

That last push saw our man fall off his plastic-mat-shield

Viking Axe holding

This was really hard!

Loki teaches sword fighting

The gods walked among us and taught young people how to disembowel

In the evening we attended the Grand Finale: the creation of the earth and then an attack by the Vanir on Asgard. There were lots of people dressed up in costumes running about in a field pretending to kill one another. Given that it was a February evening in Yorkshire it was freezing and my feet and hands were numb, but it was worth it for the fireworks from Clifford’s Tower at the end.

We missed lots of other events of course: the best beard contest (with categories for men, women and children), Dragon Boats, Viking Bake-Off and the march through town. Maybe next year.

It’s interesting how the Vikings these days are viewed so sympathetically. Of course, England has had its Viking king – Cnut. Just the one though. Perhaps if Harold Godwineson had lost at Stamford Bridge, Harald Hardrada, his opponent, would have seen off the pesky Normans and who knows where we would be now (well, it would be Greater Norway obviously). Or, if Harald had not invaded, HG would not have been so weakened in Hastings.

History turns on a pin and the gods laugh.

Namaste.