Sagas

Dec. 4th, 2016 11:59 am
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Earlier this year, I inherited responsibilities relating to the purchase of adult stock. Instead of just considering hamster fairies and snot monsters, the usual subject matter of my book-purchasing decisions, I have had to learn all about crime and sagas, the two most popular genres. (Crime generates FAR more issues, but there are far more crime books around. In terms of issues per item, sagas are ahead.)

Sagas interest me. Supposedly they're "family sagas," a name that suggests lengthy epics following the same family over generations. Most of them aren't like that, but they are instantly recognisable at a glance. At 20 paces in twilight with your eyes half closed, you could tell a saga and never be wrong.

On sagas and downtrodden women in shawls )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I decided that it would be nice to have a few days in Bath to celebrate my birthday. Unfortunately, what I failed to realise was that Bath has a famous Christmas market, and half the population of the south-west of England would be there. Apparently there was barely a hotel room to be had in the entire place, so travelling there for the weekend is a thing. Had I known, I would have arranged the trip for the previous weekend. Oh well. We still had a nice time. Here are some pictures that - unusually for me - are NOT of comical medieval animals.

A few days in Bath )
ladyofastolat: (Greenman)
Sometimes it seems as if half the photos I take are of comical medieval animals...

A gallery of fanciful animals from Bath Abbey )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I've been meaning for a while to walk to Winchester and back along the Itchen Way and/or the Itchen Navigation, but when deciding where to walk on a day, the extra time and expense of the ferry journey has always led me to reject the idea in favour of a more local walk. Although the lack of daylight hours means that the "and back" part of the plan is not feasible at this time of year, I thought it would be nice to combine the "there" part of it with a nice, leisurely pub lunch, and perhaps a bit of sightseeing in Winchester.

Rolling ones along the Itchen Navigation )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
We were asked to dance at a firework display last night, down on the seafront in Sandown. I don't think I've been to a Bonfire Night firework display since I was... ooh, 9 or 10 years old, when, armed with bags of Bonfire Toffee (which meant black treacle toffee in my house, although to others it's cinder toffee) we headed out to a Field of Mystery. I say Field of Mystery because, chasing down my vague memories the other day, the only conclusion I could come to was that the display had taken place on a recreation ground not far from my parents' current house, where no such rec exists. I asked my parents, who also had a think, and concluded that it had been on a farmer's field not far from their current house, but they had no idea which field, or how on earth any of the audience got in or out.

More on fireworks, including a whole series of absolutely rubbish photographs )

And a few pictures from a death-defying walk )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Apparently there's a new Hearts feature on LJ, by which people can click on a little heart to show their appreciation of a post without having to make an actual comment. I say "apparently" because I can't see any hearts myself, perhaps because I use an old style of journal and have stubbornly resisted all urges to update.

So the question is, if I, who can't see these hearts, post a (heartless) post, can people who DO see hearts still apply one to my post? And if they do, do I get any sort of notification about it, or do I live in ignorance? This needs to be tested. For science.

EDIT: Summary of test results so far: I can see no hearts either on my computer or on my phone, where I use an LJ app. When I received my First Heart, I received a notification (10 minutes later) telling me that someone had liked my post. I have not yet received any notifications about the 2 more hearts that have been left since then. However, if I click follow the link to my post in the notification email (via a Gmail app on my phone) I can see the hearts. I haven't yet been able to test what happens if I click on the email link when on my computer at home. Further tests will follow.

EDIT2: I have now clicked on the link in the notification email on my laptop at home, and there are no visible hearts. I presume it will be the same on my desktop. I have still not received any notifications about any of the hearts apart from the first one. I think this concludes the possible tests. Unless I should do a second post to test whether the "send notification for only the first heart" thing is a rule or just an accident, LJ notifications sometimes being temperamental things.

Jibbidy-F

Oct. 27th, 2016 07:02 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Sorting through some boxes of sheet music today, I came face to face with something that took me instantly back to c. 1977. This was a book called Jibbidy-F and A-C-E, the book that I worked through when I first started piano lessons. Even before I opened it, I could sing the first tune. Granted, the feat of memory required to remember and perform this tune note-perfectly after all these years is not particularly impressive one, since it consists of just one note - your Very First Note. As you play it repeatedly, you sing the immortal lines, "I am C! Middle C! Left hand, right hand, middle C!"

While the proud declamatory cry of Middle C has stayed with me forever, I had forgotten many of the others. Mentally singing the tunes today, I found them instantly familiar, as if part of me has never forgotten them. There's Doggy D, who, although confined to the treble clef, is occasionally allowed to play with Top Line A and Bumble B, his downstairs neighbours, as well as Middle C. However, on the opposite page, we learn that Doggy D thinks Bumble B looks very very fuun-nee, sitting in a bed of flow'rs and turning them to hunn-ee. Funny behaviour indeed. But Doggy D and Bumble B disappear from the scene after this development. Over the page, we learn a new mark. '"A new mark!" says C sharp. "Look at me, I'm very dark." I'm as happy as can be. I have found my first black key.' What is C sharp dark? Is this an evil note? If so, why am I supposed to be happy at finding it?

And why now, 8 hours later, am I unable to get these incredibly uninteresting tunes out of my head. You've never been truly bothered by an earworm until you've been bothered by an earworm with only one note.

And then there's the little tune based on a theme from Haydn's Surprise Symphony which has ensured that for almost 40 years, I have been unable to hear that symphony without singing along. Or, in other words, it has ruined it forever. (NEVER set words to wordless tunes, that's my advice, because once heard, you will never ever forget them, and never ever hear that tune without mentally filling in the words.) Haydn, it tells us, was a happy man, and all the children loved him. "You will learn to love him soon," it finishes, rather threateningly.

Smitten

Oct. 21st, 2016 12:55 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Shopping for apples today, I saw a shelf label that read "Smitten apples." None of the nearby apples declared themselves smitten on their sticky labels. Could I identify them by behaviour? Were any apples sighing sadly for the nearby pears? Were they saying to a Granny Smith that she was the apple of their eye? Every apple sat resolutely still, none of them showing any sign of pining. The apples nearest to the sign were pre-packed in fours, but the package itself refused to admit what sort of apples they were. I decided to buy them anyway. I heard no sighs as I picked up a pack of 4. No little fruity voices wailed, "Boris! NO!" as I snatched them away from the fruity multitude.

Maybe theirs was a silent love. Or maybe they were smitten with each other, those four nameless apples that shared a pack. If so, it was a doomed love, since my recipe called for 3 apples. I took one and chopped it. No-one wailed. 2 more followed it into the grave of the mixing bowl. Now only one remains, the last of its kind, surrounded by enormous Braeburns and tiny clementines, with a colossal Bramley looming nearby like a bouncer outside a nightclub. I am watching the bowl closely for drama, but nothing has happened thus far.

It reminds me of the time I packed my fridge with what the Co-op was advertising as "territorial cheeses," and sat back and waited for war to result. That never happened, either. It was most disappointing.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Let's see if I can get this reviewing thing back up and running.

A Regency romance and two fantasies )
ladyofastolat: (Vectis)
A walk today through the rural heartland of the island - an area I seldom venture to - then along the coast, past some Geology, before heading inland by way of a Norman church full of bishops, up a big Down, and then along the ridge back to the start.

Pictures, and rambling about rambling )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
- They say the Devil has the best tunes, but it's good to know that he doesn't always have the best dice. Yesterday, playing Neverwinter Nights (the Aielund Saga) we fought our way through a tower of assorted demonic foes right up to the tippiest top of the tower, where a towering creature resided, called just "devil." I drew my Holy Avenger, hit him with it... and he rolled a 1 on his save against the sword's super paladinish awesome powers, and disappeared in a puff of paladinish righteousness. (Or, to be more accurate, disappeared in front of a paladin who stood there, mouth open with bafflement, going, "whu?" since he'd entirely forgotten about that particularly super awesome paladinish power, since he'd been too busy going, "look! My sword is SHINY!" But when the epic picture is drawn of that heroic moment, there will be rather more righteous smiting and less slack-jawed bafflement.)

- I came home on Monday to an answerphone message that said, with slow deliberation, "your trousers have been located." WHich is good.

- This week contains Too Many AGMS, which would be less of a problem if it wasn't for the fact that I have the job of writing the minutes for all of them. (Well, both of them, but they feel like an All.)

- Day off tomorrow! I plan A Walk.

There is no connection between the above points. Devils, as far as I know, do not wear trousers, and do not take minutes of their meeetings.

EDIT: At 7pm, the doorbell rang. A man is ordinary clothes, who had issued from an ordinary card - i.e. not from a delivery van - thrust a parcel at me with barely a word, then turned and hurried off. It turned out to be a router. The router was expected, so this is not some driveby gifting of random routers to random people. It still felt... odd.

EDIT 2: Doing some quick NWN playing before the latest AGM, Pellinor said, "I've put some breaches on the dragon." So even if devils don't wear trousers, dragons sometimes wear breeches. Or at least they do if you just talk about them out loud, and don't ruin the whole thing with spelling.

Memory

Oct. 8th, 2016 12:54 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I've tried everything. I've tried gripping it tightly in my hand and holding on tight through thick and thin. I've tried muttering its name quietly to myself for minutes on end, a constant silent mantra. I've tried putting it in an entirely obvious place, somewhere where I can't possibly fail to notice it.

All to no avail. I pay for my shopping, leave the shop... and only then remember the voucher that would allow me to recover my parking costs.

Gripping it in the hand can be awkward. I try this on the principle that I will be constantly aware of it as I shop; that I will be unable to get my money out without seeing it. Browsing can be a bit tricky, since I have to do so with a piece of paper in my hand. By the time I get to the checkout, I've grown accustomed to this little complication and have learnt to dismiss it from my mind. Packing my shopping into bags seems a little more fiddly than normal, almost as if something is getting in the way. Getting my money out is a little tricky, since some of my fingers seem inexplicably occupied. But, oh well, I've coped, and I'll take my shopping to the car, where I will struggle a little to get my keys out because there's already something... in... my... ha-- DOH!

Putting it in an entirely obvious place - i.e. my purse, right next to the cash or card that I intend to use to pay, ought to be foolproof. According to the plan, I ought to open my purse, and there is the parking voucher waving at me, saying, "look at me! look at me!" If I fail to pay attention, it will turn nasty, and snarl, "I am blocking your access to your money. You cannot reach it except through me!" Yet somehow it doesn't work like that. It disobeys and sits there silent. I rummage to find my money, which seems to be hiding rather well today, behind some random piece of unimportant paper. I pay and take my shopping to the car. Often the sight of the car reminds me, and we have another DOH! moment against a carpark backdrop. Sometimes I find it three weeks later, having spent 3 weeks completely failing to notice it in its entirely obvious place in my purse.

Silently muttering "parking voucher" to myself in a constant mantra as I go through the shop ought to work. However, few mantras can survive contact with terminal dithering. By the time I've spent half an hour walking to and fro across the shop constantly changing my mind on just what tapas to buy, I have entirely forgotten to keep up the mantra. If I do keep it up, by the time I approach the checkout, it has become an earworm. "Par! King! Par! King! Voucher!" I might be singing to myself, to the tune of "We will rock you." By the time the moment of truth has been reached, I have moved on to Bohemian Rhapsody. Six hours later, as I'm asking myself why I've had Queen songs in my head all day, there it is again, the DOH! moment.

I suspect that they print these things on special camoflage paper with cloaking ink, so they people who glance their way fail to perceive them, and those who see them have forgotten them within minutes. It is the only explanation.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
For the last few weeks, I have been reading The Chronicles of St Mary’s by Jodi Taylor, which has seven novels published so far, with more to come, and around the same number of short stories.

Adventures through time )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Oh dear. I have completely, utterly failed in my attempt to record everything I read for a year. Here I will attempt to recreate the list of Books Read Since I Failed So Utterly.

Many, many, many books )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I saw Christmas sandwiches in the shops today! Part of me wants to say, "Already? In early October! It's barely stopped being summer! I've not started wearing a coat yet!" But the rest of me is too busy capering joyously and shouting, "O frabjous day!" I mean, stuffing and bacon? This is just my two favourite food items in the universe, all presented under one roof* - a roof they're sharing with turkey and sausage, which aint half bad themselves. The only downside is that I'm currently trying to lose a few pounds in between summer overindulgence and the coming overindulgence of birthday and Christmas, and the nicest Christmas sandwiches - one of the M&S ones was my clear favourite last year, but I look forward to comparing and contrasting this year's offerings - provide rather more calories than I want to eat for lunch at the moment. The low calorie alternatives are Right Out, since they are built on the premise that piles of fresh greenery are an acceptable substitute for stuffing. The horror! :-O

* Every year, I have the following conversation with my Mum. Mum: "What do you want for pudding on Christmas dinner?" (I don't like Christmas pudding.) Me: "More stuffing and bacon rolls." Mum: "No, be serious. What do you want for pudding." Me: "I am being serious. More stuffing and bacon rolls with my main course, and no pudding." Mum: "No, be serious. I already serve you a veritable MOUNTAIN of the things, and there's no room on your plate for more. What do you want to eat while we're all eating Christmas pudding?" Me: "Okay, if I've got to have something at pudding time, just keep back some stuffing and bacon rolls and serve them to me, cold, in a bowl." I try this every year. It never works. Last year I ended up with ice cream. It was not stuffing flavoured.

So that's two posts in a week about stuffing. :-D
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I'd intended to do a full day walk in West Wight, but when the day dawned, I decided that I'd rather spend the morning drinking tea and reading, so instead headed off after an early lunch for a walk that started from the front door.

Things seen )
ladyofastolat: (Curly Honey)
I've decided that I ought to post every day (or almost every day), no matter how inconsequential and silly the subject matter. So here goes...

Walking to the corner shop this evening, I saw a gorgeous young cat, a tawny and black tabby, really pretty. "Meow! Meow! Meow!" said the cat, clearly meaning, "Hello, hello! I want to be friends with you!" I slowed down, bent down, and lowered my hand. "Hello, hello!" said the cat. "I really want to meet you!" It ran up, smiling, and touched its nose to my hand... only to recoil, and run away at a rate of knots, with traumatised ears. Baffled, I sniffed my hand... and remembered that barely minutes before, just before leaving the house, I had used my hands to shape balls of sage and onion stuffing. I did wash them afterwards, but the smell remained. Clearly gorgeous tawny tabbies like sage and onion stuffing considerably less than I do. Although, really, I think almost any living being on this planet probably likes sage and onion stuffing less than I do. Posh shop-bought stuffing is all very well, some of it really quite nice. Homemade stuffing can be delicious. But basic Paxo sage and onion stuffing is, for me, one of the best things in existence. I could quite happily eat it with every single meal.

In other news, we have been playing Mage Knight for the last 6 hours, struggling to remember the rules. We played it quite a bit last year, but Christmas brought Mistfall (another co-op fantasy RPG board game) and Pandemic, which led to the utter awesomeness that is Pandemic Legacy (Best. Game. Ever) and many, many Pandemic expansions. Since we were struggling to remember the rules, we're playing the long co-op version, not the shortened one, which we felt demanded a certain amount of competence right from the start, rather than random flailing. The long game is looooong, so we've retired for the night only half way through. Much of the game was done to the soundtrack of 50s rock and roll, which is not perhaps the most obvious soundtrack for assaulting mage towers full of ice golems, but somehow... works.

One day I will post some more about our Venice holiday, but today is not that day.

Now watching Hooten and the Lady, which is incredibly silly, but rather fun. Also drinking some strange, nameless bottles of homemade multi-coloured booze that Pellinor salvaged from a recent LARP weekend. This might not be wise...
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Never has there been a place more committed to its branding than Venice. There must be more winged lions in the city than there are tourists, and that's saying something. Many of them are sensible, noble-looking proud beasts. Naturally, these I spurned, and instead photographed their more comical cousins.

Many winged lions, plus a few assorted other comical Venetian animals )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
It's all Bunn's fault, really. She posted a picture of a boat whose job is to service light-vessels, and the consequences were inevitable. Many Things I should have been doing for the last few hours, but instead I have been doing this. How could I not?

Servicing light-vessels )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I got a new phone this week, prompted by the fact that my old phone's battery was struggling to survive half a day. I would like to say that I approached my purchasing decision with intelligence and sophistication, carefully reading up on all the specifications and making Lists, before dazzling the phone shop staff with my clear and incisive articulation of my conclusions. Well, I still could say that, but it would be a lie. What I actually did was go into the shop and say, "I want a phone that will cost me about the same as I'm paying now, works the same as my current phone and fits into this nifty little pocket in my handbag." The chap brought me two options. One didn't fit into the little pocket. One did, and as an added bonus, was a nice shiny pale gold. "I'll have it," I said.

And so I have a new phone. You are probably interested in all the technological specifications, so here are its key features.

1. It is very fond of skating, or maybe downhill skiing. I could put my old phone on the couch beside me, and it would usually stay where it was put. My new one slowly, inexorably skates towards me, gradually gaining speed until it hits me on my toe. (I always sit with my legs curled beneath me, which is why my toe is beside me on the couch.) I can press down the couch cushion and ensure that it absolutely, inarguably flat, and what happens? Yes, another ski run, terminating on my toe, even as the remote controls that were next to it are still sitting there unmoving. "Right!" I can say to it, as I slightly press down the far side of the couch cushion, so that if the phone decides to go skating, it will skate away from me, to nestle safely in the slight indentation between the un-sat-on cushions. And what happens? Yes, once again, it skates towards me, defying gravity, and hits me on the toe.

2. Actually, writing up point 1 makes me wonder if it has some sort of magnetic attraction towards me. I did wonder why the phone shop man spent quite so long setting up my phone. I thought he was just registering things and transferring data, but maybe he was also establishing some sort of new-fangled homing magic, so the phone would always find its owner. Or its owner's toe, at least. I can see that this would be quite useful.

3. My old phone had rounded edges, so when I put it down on a hard surface, I could easily pick it up. My new phone is thinner and less grippable, and when it's on the glass surface of the coffee table, it strongly resists any attempt to pick it up. I often end up having to slide it off the edge, and trying to catch it before it decides to do an Eddie the Eagle impression and land on my toe. Sometimes random buttons get pressed as I do this. As is the habit of random buttons pressed by accident (or cats), this will probably result in an awesome feature opening up, one which I will never again discover by design, as long as my phone and I both shall live.

4. It's shiny!
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Musing about the search for the Holy Grail last night, I began to wonder if the introduction of certain aspects of modern technology would have made the whole quest easier or harder. The words are inspired by Malory. The content is... not.

___

At the feast of Pentecost, when all the fellowship of Camelot were comen unto Camelot, right so there entered into the hall a damosel clad in white samite. "Arthur," quoth the damosel, "thou and thy knights must search for the Holy Grail," and as she spoke, there came a light seven times brighter than day, and singing from the empty air.

And all the fellowship did jump unto their feet. "I will search for the Holy Grail!" they cried with great voice, but King Arthur sank his head into his hands and sat a little while apart. "Alas," he said, "for this will be the undoing of our fair fellowship."

Sir Gawain was the first to start upon his search. Many dangers did he face, but at length, after many trices, his speaking device was within his hand. "I will search for the Holy Grail," quoth Sir Gawain, "by the power of Android," and with his fingertips, he traced the words "holy grail," and searched for it.

Searching for the Holy Grail )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Some 15 years ago, we bought a piano. Very soon after we bought it, an blanket of caterpillars appeared on its surface, followed by battalions of moths. We reported this to the piano vendor, who denied ever having seen a caterpillar or moth in his entire life. There was no possibility that the infestation could have originated in his warehouse, and the piano was definitely caterpillar-free when we bought it. To be honest, we doubted this, but what can you do? I hate killing things just because they're inconvenient, but we really didn't want armies of moths in our house, possibly eating clothes, carpet, curtains and cat. We put moth balls inside the piano, and the armies slowly dwindled. No caterpillars or moths were seen for years, and the whole affair was almost forgotten.

But nothing is forgotten. Nothing is ever forgotten. A few weeks ago, I noticed that there were a lot of small dead moths on the carpet underneath the piano. I hoovered them up, but by the next day, they were back again. They are all concentrated in a square foot of visible carpet, next to one end of the piano. A few small moths have been spotted flapping around the house, but most of them are evident only by their corpses.

Are they the same colony? 15 years ago, when we thought we'd beaten them, had we just driven them deep within the piano, where they have spent 15 years digging a vast underground metropolis and perfecting their revenge? Are there whole moth generations reared on tales of the cruelties of the two-legged masters of the plinky-plonk keys? Admittedly, it's not a particularly impressive revenge thus far, since it appears to consist of emerging from beneath the piano and keeling over within a few inches, but it's early days yet. Will their masterminds learn from the failures of the first wave, and tweak their tactics accordingly? What dread fate is being prepared for us?

I know we ought to move the piano and look beneath it, but I'm scared to.
ladyofastolat: (Misty Glastonbury)
Despite the important role that Arthurian legend has played in my life, I haven't actually read all that many Arthurian novels. Does anyone have any recommendations, especially for books that have appeared on the scene after the early 90s, when most of my previous reading took place? (However, feel free to recommend earlier stuff. I've definitely missed many must-reads. I'm currently 50 pages into my first ever reading of Sword at Sunset, for example - a book I really should have read decades ago. I'm not sure why I didn't, given that I read The Lantern Bearers several times. Anyway...)

I'm open to recommendations for pretty much anything with an Arthurian element, from Arthur the Romano-British warlord to Arthur the high king of an medieval romantic castle; from modern-set fantasies that draw on Arthurian legends (like The Dark is Rising), to the Matter of Britain transposed to space; from retellings of the well-known stories, to stories about original characters who live on the fringes of Arthur's world, observing from the outside. (I always love outsider viewpoints.)

The only things I'm not that keen on are:
- Macho military battle stories, with endless battles waged by paper-thin characters. A few battles are fine, but I want emotions and characters, too.
- Books full of New Age mysticism, although some magic is fine.

I'm also dubious about books that try to convince us that Mordred was just misunderstood. I read one once, and it was okay. I could grudgingly accept it for the duration of the book, but that was all. Having recently had my heart broken all over again by Gillian Bradshaw, I am not currently receptive to this idea.
ladyofastolat: (Misty Glastonbury)
The stated justification for the Round Table is that no knight takes precendence. However, most medieval depictions of said table show King Arthur sitting at it. This is a clear contradiction of the stated aim, since precedence will be defined by proximity to Arthur. Yes, you could randomise this, perhaps by holding a daily raffle (proceeds to go to distressed damsels), but you could do this just as easily with a plain old rectangular board. I think the most likely solution is that King Arthur sat in the middle, either in a hole cut in the exact centre, or sitting on an elevated platform that dangles from the rafters. No knight should suffer the ignominy of having the king's back turned to him, so the King would have to rotate. It would be easy to devise a mechanism for this, like a turnspit or a donkey-powered well, powered by dogs or small servant boys (but probably not hamsters.)

However, other problems present themselves. Some sources put the number of Knights of the Round Table as high as 150. That is a VERY large table, and likely to need a veritable forest of legs beneath it. However, medieval carpenters who can build cathedral roofs can cope with such a table. But what about the poor king, stuck in the centre of a circle large enough to hold 150 round its circumference? Think of the noise, and the constant shouting of "what? What?"

And then there's the problem of serving. Service a la Russe hadn't come along yet, so all dishes need to be put on the table at once. With a rectangular board, you can fill up from both sides. High Table, sitting on only one side, can be served from the opposite side, and regular people can ask the person opposite to pass them the buttered parsnips. With the guests sitting around the rim of a vast circle, only a tiny part of that table can be used for serving food, and the rest is wasted, and impossible to clean without clambering on it. The King, stuck in the middle, would need food parcels thrown at him - a skill, perhaps, practiced by pages in the tilting yard?

But there are other ways to denote precedence at the dining table. Take the whole "above the salt" thing. Clearly it would be out of the question to have a single, elaborate Salt on the table. Thus we see the origin of the small salt shaker that we see now on every cafe table - or maybe even tiny sachets, that survived into the present century only in Salt 'n' Shake crisps. And what about boars' heads and such like, and the honour of carving such things? If Knight A has a boar's head put in front of him, and Knight B only has some boiled cabbage, then Knight A is clearly more favoured! Instead of this divisive practice, we would need a vast array of small plates of mixed food stuffs, none of them an obvious centrepiece. Did the dining needs of Camelot lead to the invention of tapas?

Or did the Round Table itself rotate along with the King, thus bringing boar's head to each knight in turn? Was the Round Table the origin of the Lazy Susan?
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Today I have mostly been ranting about the way that trousers (for which read trousers or hose or braies or braccae or leg wrappings or any other leg covering of choice) have been airbrushed out of Yore and Fantasyland. It is well-known that people don't wear socks in Fantasyland, even though they jolly well should. In a recent episode of Game of Thrones, SPOILER, recently returned from an absence of a considerable number of episodes, killed someone, took his boots, and put them on over entirely bare feet. I had to try a few million pairs of boots on before I found some that were comfortable for long walks, and even then, I wear two pairs of socks. I warned SPOILER about blisters. He didn't listen.

But trousers (hose, braies, breeches, whatever) appear to have been excised, too. I've been reading a very silly vaguely Arthurian novel in which a feisty warrior woman goes round wearing a jerkin over entirely bare legs. Now, the internet offers up a dazzling array of images of jerkin, but none of them would be remotely decent when worn over bare legs. I've also been watching Arthur of the Britons, in which the costume department clearly added an accidental few extra noughts to their order of white sheepskins, and, forced to cover up their mistake, have shrouded every single Saxon extra in at least four sheep. Some are positively spherical in their sheepskin cardigans, some of whom wear them over bare, spindly little legs, with bare, spindly little arms and shoulders struggling to emerge from the white globe of sheep.*

These are the two examples that have troubled me today, but it is an ongoing rant, prompted by numerous historic and fantasy films, and by the sight of chilly Roman re-enactors shivering bare-legged in the British cold.

Personally, I never wear shorts on a walk, because walks often involve wading through brambles and bracken and other scratchy things, and I want the protection of a layer of fabric, thank you very much. It would tend to ruin the impact of a surprise ambush if all your bare-leggety warriors were constantly going "ow! ooh!" as they knelt in thistles and squelched in slimy cow pats. Warriors who charge naked into battle, clad only in woad and bravado, are presumably hard enough to cope with the string and prickles of outrageous flora, but why would those who've bothered to clothe their top half forget to bother with clothing anything under the waist?

* Bagpuss )

June books

Jul. 8th, 2016 12:56 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I've failed badly in my resolution to write reviews of everything I read in 2016. Blame holidays, which got me out of the habit.

For several weeks, from late May to the middle of June, I was reading through Dorothy L Sayers' Peter Wimsey novels. I did so in a fairly random order, the first book (Murder Must Advertise) being chosen for me out of thousands of possibles by a series of die rolls. From a random beginning, it seemed fitting to carry on in a random order, so I went to Strong Poison, which I liked, and Gaudy Night, which I liked a lot. I'd read one or two of the series some years ago, but I found them too lacking in emotion for my taste at the time. I don't know why I reacted better to them this time. Perhaps I was just in a different mood. Perhaps it was because Gaudy Night gave me an emotional way in, being a lot more focused on such things than some of the other books. I do often struggle to warm to a main character until I've seen them through other people's eyes, which is why I often find first person narration unengaging. But, anyway, whatever the reason, I read my way - in a fairly eccentric order - through most of the novels, and then went on holiday to Wales, where I got waylaid by King Arthur, so moved on without quite completing my reading of the series.

At some point during my reading of that series, I paused to read The Monstrous Child by Francesca Simon - a brief YA retelling of Norse mythology, from before the building of Asgard all the way through the Ragnarok and beyond, all told in the first person by Hel. The voice is that of a modern teenage girl, informal, colloquial and very angry. It's had some rave reviews, but I just found it grim, depressing and unengaging.

I also read Ferguson's Gang: The Remarkable Story of the National Trust Gangsters, by Polly Bagnall and Sally Beck. Ferguson's Gang were a mysterious group of people who raised money for the National Trust in the 1930s, and presented it masked, in a variety of dramatic and headline-grabbing ways. This was in the early days of the National Trust's involvement in preserving buildings, and Ferguson's Gang arranged and funded their purchase of several small buildings across the country, including Newtown Town Hall on the Isle of Wight. I spent ages one day in Newtown Town Hall reading the facsimile of "The Boo," their minute book. All the members took on assumed names and personas, and The Boo is full of jokes, jollity and japes; it reminded me quite a lot of the minute book of various student societies I was involved in, full of digressions and in-jokes. All the members were women graduates in their 20s, from a variety of backgrounds, so it fitted in quite nicely with my reading of Gaudy Night. One of the authors of the book is the granddaughter of "The Arthichoke," the gang's tame architect, who raised his family in one of the buildings the Gang preserved. The book tells the story of the Gang and of the real people behind the pseudonyms, many of whom had colourful lives, and I found it extremely interesting and readable.

While in Wales, I read the Four Branches of the Mabinogion (Penguin Classics edition) and meant to carry on, but reached the bit when Culhwch spends 6 pages listing every single one of Arthur's warriors, and laid it down for a while, weary. I misaimed on picking it up again, so ended up dipping in and out of Gerald of Wales instead, both his tour of Wales and his description of Wales. I do like Gerald, with his shameless bias towards his own birthplace and family's lands, his ability to go off on long tangents about the habits of beavers, and the way he misses no opportunity to plug his latest book or have a dig at Geoffrey of Monmouth. (Must reread him, too.)

I tried to read the Maginogion sequence of novels by Evangeline Walton, but really didn't take to them at all, so gave up very early.

Since getting back from Wales, I've been obsessing on Arthurian legend, but I did take a brief break from it to read Binny Bewitched by Hilary McKay - one of the few children's book authors who gets me to read out of my usual favourite genres. I particularly love her Exiles series - humorous mini-misadventures of a family of four book-obsessed sisters - but I'm enjoying this current series, too, of which this is the third. Set in a small Cornish village, it deals with 12 year old Binnie, her family and her various nemeses - she always seems to have a nemesis. There are no massive dramas and no heavy-handed Issues. It's just the small dramas of daily life, with nice characters, lots of humour and some lovely turns of phrase.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
We got back yesterday evening from a week's holiday in South Wales, where most of our time was spent in castle or in tea shops, with occasional diversions up tea-less mountains and nostalgia-fuelled trips to random Arthurian themed stones in the middle of nowhere.

Holiday, part one )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Last year, I made a Morris man doll for the Museum of British Folklore's Morris doll project. (I posted pictures of the results here.) For the last 6 weeks, the dolls have been on display at the Weald and Downland outdoor museum near Chichester. This prompted us to have a short weekend break in Chichester, taking in the museum - always well worth a visit - and anything else we felt like doing.

Dolls, dancers, a long-awaited stile, and piglits! )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Oops. I've got very behind with my write-up of the books of 2016. I finished Farthing, the first book in the Small Change trilogy by Jo Walton, exactly 4 weeks ago, while waiting for Pellinor to pick me up from the ferry terminal in Southampton before heading off to Cornwall. I read the next two during the first half of our roleplaying week. Since so long has gone by, I don't feel like writing a proper review, but I want to at least record the fact that I read them, for future reference.

Small Change series )

Escalation

Jun. 8th, 2016 06:25 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Well, that wasn't quite how I intended to spend my day off. There I was, reading Dorothy L Sayers in bed, and wondering if I should get to the end before going down to get some more tea, or pause with a few chapters to go, get the tea, and return to bed to read the rest of book while drinking said tea. I decided on the latter, so got out of bed...

"Might as well take some washing down when I go, and get a wash started," I thought.

The scene moves to the utility room. "Hmm," thought I, after the wash was in, "there must be a better way to store all those spare hangers that we keep here for hanging up wet washing. They've expanded to fill the entire surface. Hmm..." A solution was found. However, it required finding a new home for two pairs of welly boots.

The scene moves to the cupboard under the stairs. In order to house the boots, the entire cupboard ended up being emptied, sorted and reorganised. It also needed hoovering, so I hoovered it. "Might as well hoover the rest of the house while I'm at it," thought I...

Well, to cut a long story short, I ended up cleaning All The Things. I spent 8 hours cleaning All The Things, only stopping to walk down the hill to buy some more kitchen towel and limescale remover. So thorough was I about cleaning All The Things that I have cleaned some things that had never been cleaned in their life; things that had resigned themselves to an uncleaned existence, quietly gathering dust in hidden places.

And I've still not finished the book. I've had lots of tea, though, most of it belated, almost forgotten and tepid. It only tasted a tiny bit like limescale remover.

(And the house doesn't actually look all that different.)
ladyofastolat: (Vectis)
I started my coastal path walk at 16.10 last Saturday, having managed to leave work a little early. I finished on Monday at 15.06 and 30 seconds. Yes, the 30 seconds is important, since I'd spent the last two miles walking as fast as I could, desperately clock-watching as I aimed the 15.08 bus.

A rather long walk, with pictures )
ladyofastolat: (Vectis)
People in Fantasyland who want to journey into remote haunted wildernesses are very lucky to have reliable, uncomplaining horses, who go wherever them want them to go, and conveniently wait for them while they save the world. People in historical novels who want to elope with a roguish soldier or confront a nemesis in a remote moorland inn or deliver an urgent warning to a secret agent can usually rely on finding a stage coach or a friendly farmer with a wagon who is going exactly the right way at the right time.

How different would such stories be if they involved trying to use a rural bus service on a Bank Holiday! Rings would go undestroyed, and the lanes would be littered with hobbits stranded at isolated bus stops for hours on end. Eloping couples would be tracked down half a mile from home, waiting for a bus. Upon being told, "You must leave your farm and save the world!" the young farm boy would say, "Sorry, there's no bus until next Tuesday."

Since Pellinor's away again this weekend, I thought I'd walk to Coastal Path again, using buses to return home each day. The trouble is, there's a stretch of about 25 miles that is a bus wilderness. There are only a few stops in this stretch, and only a handful of buses each day, with several hours between them. Using the bus this weekend, the earliest I can start a walk from this stretch of the coast is after 11 a.m. - far too late when I've got 25 to 30 miles to walk that day. The last bus is c. 5pm, and after that, nothing. When I did the path in three full days, I've managed to start day 2 at the last well-served bus stop before the wilderness begins, and walk right through the wilderness to the place where buses begin again. But I'm working tomorrow, so can only do a few hours in the evening. The bulk of the walk must be done in just 2 days, and I just can't find a way to do it that doesn't require catching a bus from somewhere in the Land That Buses Forgot.

Many plans have bitten the dust. I am now on something like Plan 23, and have sheets of notes about bus times, back-up plan bus times, back up back up bus times.

Planning an assault on a Dark Lord's fortress might be easier. As long as I didn't have to do it by bus.

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