Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Weekends away

Weekends away should involve as many historic sites as possible, even when the real reason for the jaunt is to catch up with friends and, sadly, attend some meetings. We did manage a few minutes (scarcely more) in my favourite building in the world, aka Durham cathedral. It spoils you for all other cathedrals, trust me. Tynemouth priory was also on our list, but in the end we looked at it from across the street, under some awning, watching the flag-pole wave worringly in time with the lamp-posts on what was a particularly gusty Saturday. A new-to-us site also made it briefly into our weekend: Fountains Abbey. We liked this. The boy has a date to take me for a weekend to Ripon at some point in the rest of our lives so we can "do" this properly, and Ripon cathedral too. In addition, in keeping with the season of Lent, we attended a showing of Into Great Silence, discussed here.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Days out, grand and otherwise

Last Friday the boy and I skipped off work for the day and had a "Grand Day Out". This comprised:
  1. getting up a bit later than usual
  2. going to the Tower of London
  3. eating copious amounts of apple crumble and custard at St. Martin's
  4. watching Avenue Q

Sounds grand, but I felt a bit otherwise about the Tower. I'd been there once before (scarily over twenty years before) on a truly grand day trip from Birmingham to London with my sister. That day had been glorious sunshine, and we had caught the boat up the Thames and arrived at the Tower by that means, if not literally through 'Traitor's Gate'. It was probably about the time that the film Lady Jane came out, so the historical romance of the place would have been pumping through the youthful veins. The highlight then, indeed, was locating the graffiti 'Jane' in one of the Towers. I remember this, the sunshine, and the fact that we decided we weren't going to pay to go and see the Crown Jewels. Last week wasn't so exciting. I blame various things. For one, it has been very much done over for tourists in the intervening 23 years, and I don't make a good tourist at historical sites. For two, there wasn't much medieval going on, and these days that's more 'my bag' - a downside of specialization. On the plus side, the boy enjoyed it, and it was his day out.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Lose yourself in history

Amongst the piles of pap that I have skimmed for light relief in the past year, I do read the occasional good novel. Those based in historical events this year have included:
  1. Under A Blood Rey Sky by Kate Furnivall - a book I have lost the last few days to, and consequenly top of my list. Set in the Russia of Five Year Plans and labour camps this book has it all. Here is another blogger talking about it.
  2. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche - which I found grimly educational.
  3. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsover - some more African history.
  4. And, an old classic, Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens - as if you need me to tell you that.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Queens, queens and more queens

No, not a discussion of any particular gender topic. This is medieval history. Traditionally written by men, it doesn't do gender really, even if there is now literature out there on queering the Vikings. Instead, today we discussed real queens from AElfthryth to Anne of Bohemia. I myself, whilst far from a copy of the Queen of Heaven, am an intercessory centre. 'Can I have an extension?' The student approaches the friendly face. The friendly face refers to the inner grumpy core. The inner grumpy core mutters and splutters and the friendly face smiles munificence. Nothing queenly for you artefact wise, but queens must have had treasure so you could look at this website instead.