Rome-Christanity and the Ending of Worlds (by )

When confronted with a graph on facebook showing the "dark ages" and the ensuing arguments over weather Christianity was the savour/cause of it... I write this:

The two events were entwined - the fall of the Empire was also plagued by natural and human fed disaster which led to desperation which fuelled the new religion which in some cases caused its own disasters but also monotheism in general was on the rise - if we'd have ended up with an Abrahamic religion which ever way we turned - the world was ending and they are doomsday/death cults on the most basic of levels. The loss of information and learning oscillated between the Christians and the Vikings with both also picking up the slack at moving education forward at various points of history as well as being the book burning racists at others ie one good period in England for education was due to Christian Missionaries from Africa (before the Norman conquest). History is a many threaded rug.


This maybe why people get grumpy with me on Facebook. Obviously this is a very very simplified statement and that in general is the issue with history - everyone wants and was taught simple narratives which not only do not paint the full picture but are often twisted to agendas and that's before you look at how biased the original sources were anyway - remember history was written by the battle winners and as writing was often the preserve of priests of one variety or another they are tinged with that element plus of cause the story telling needs and until relatively recently history was seen as something that was given to you by divine inspiration - a little factoid is missing or inconvenient? Pray and get a juicer more interesting thing to put in your script. Many of the older religions ie Judaism have mechanisms to try and prevent these copying errors/mutations but even then you are looking at scripts that spent many generations as oral transitions before they were ever confirmed in script on a page.

So yeah the Roman Empire's falling - but you know it was gradual - it became too big for it's communication network - it tried having multiple leaders which started well until Constantine decided to murder the other Empire and his son - the kid was his nephew - he let his sister live. And yes he was the first Christian Emperor due to a miracle he saw on route to battle (probably a meteor breaking up before it impacted the ground - if there was anything at all - but equally it could have been something else - maybe even the divine). But it was a political move also, a lot of the wealthy in the Empire where playing with the new religion - it was hip and trendy - it had eeking out past it's oppression (just) - it was the religion of the town - pagan comes from the latin for country side as the pantheon of gods got pushed out of the cities and was considered to only be for the unenlightened.

I think it was his mother that was obsessed with the new religion and traveled to the holy lands to find the roads that Jesus trod - she in many respects is the first archaeologists we have on record and her somewhat mythical landscape is still imprinted on the area with many pilgrims still following all that she found and was told - though this was hundreds of years after Christ had actually walked those roads.

But this was only one time in the break up of the Empire - another saw the reclaiming of the Mediterranean sea as an Imperial lake and a rejuvenation of trade and art... only to be struck down by the first virulent plague out break - the Emperor survived - his wife didn't and he was fatigued and in constant pain afterwards - many blamed his wife for being a hoar (she was a dancer when he met her and fell in love).

Yet another ending saw a sop of an Emperor, who fled the city of Rome leaving his sister as a prisoner of the Goth's - yes this was the sacking of Rome by Alaric in 410 AD - there were fires so fierce that they fused gold coin and limestone pavements - it was off course a misunderstanding - climate change and war had left the Goths with no home and little food and they considered themselves to still be part of the Empire that had still been wringing taxes out of anyone and everyone they could reach. So they fled to the capital as refugees hoping for aid - the Emperor panicked and a lot of the damage was done by the Romans themselves.

This is often seen as The End and the Emperor's sister married Alaric's bother (can't remember if it was a half/step or full brother) and it seemed to be a marriage for love and not politics.

But that wasn't The end as there was Holy Roman Empire's and time periods shift and change slowly on human time scales. And things where up and down and up and down.

The end of Roman Britain is the beginning of Anglo-Saxon/Viking Britain - but it wasn't a distinct cut off it was an overlap - and one that was gradual as the Romans pulled out the tribes come and saw no resistance, warred and then settled. The Romans took their time pulling out and didn't even really all go as many of them where intermarried and actually native born by this point.

Because I have an interest in this stuff anyway and because it is relevant to my novel series I have spent my teens and adult life reading and watching and prodding at ruins (well mostly taking photographs) - not full time - not even really part time - I am not an historian or archaeologist though people keep insisting on calling me that at the moment (last night I was referred to as a "proper" medievalist when I went to speak to someone about their talk on medieval humour and art - they were worried that I would pick holes in their talk! O.o ). I have collected a kind of over view - being a geologist I tend to bring things back to the rocks and the earth systems and this is my take on it:

The plagues did a lot of damage - the plagues were caused by over crowded cities with good travel and trade interconnects - a transport networks for the disease vectors to move along. But the plagues could only get a hold of a population if and when they became malnourished as that weakens the immune system - this is the difference between it being an outbreak and it going full blow PLAGUE. Healthy individuals who are cared for have good chances of surviving even the roughest of illnesses. Weak, hungry, over crowded, tired and overworked people with little scope for cleaning, washing or just having contaminated water to begin with - they... will not recover - they will die and it will spread like wild fire.

Weather calamities muck up food production - hungry people war over resources which causes even worse resource problems as it cuts down trade - you get a sickness, starvation, war cycle - this of course results in DEATH - the four horse men are ridding out. Religion sometimes precipitated the disaster and ones that were avoidable or had the chances for some serious damage limitation where exploded into carnage (I think it was the 13th century European plague out break that saw families abandoning the sick because it was seen as a judgement from god thus increasing the death toll drastically - sick people need to be fed during the recovery period or they will die of starvation if not relapse of the illness). OF course religion at other junctures was the balm that allowed to people to care for they're stricken neighbours and to rebuild afterwards.

When proper pandemics hit with no modern medical care (possibly even with) - you have a crash in population numbers - civilisation relies on an intricate series of feedback loops that all rely on everyone doing their part of the system. If you loose a chunk of your population - you have a problem. Even 10% is going to have a huge impact - that is 1 in 10 of the farmers, the teachers, the army. You can't produce as much food, education and knowledge transfer falters and you are in a weaker position to those around you who may be having similar food issues.

So actually my conclusion in looking at history as a whole is that these turning points - the collapsing civilisations and transition appear to be connected to the weather - to climate. Whether it is an increase in drought, damp, stupid long winters that catch you expected or rising sea levels. Some of these seem to be linked to volcanic events and others to human activity ie deforestation by the meso-ammerican cultures occurred around the right time to be a factor in the mini-iceage which is thought to have been a big factor in the "dark ages" of Europe - these things are global but we often only look at the localised focal most relevant to us.

I have asked historians at talks and so on if they think this is plausible - most just look at me slightly confused so this really is just my thoughts on the subjects. I even think the witch trials and things can basically be boiled down to... something disrupted the system and people panicked. That something I think is nearly always factors beyond our control - what then happens during the disastors is very much humanities own invention... war, famine, plague loop-la-lopping around each other in diminishing loops until things have settled and are stable again. The "dark ages" is probably the last BIG one of these but it is not the only one and I don't even think it was the biggest it is just most people don't seem to realise what a wealth of very very old and advanced history there is outside of Europe.

Angry with the Universe (by )

My life in general is awesome - I have plenty of work, my kids (bar trying to get Mary to brush her teeth or do her homework) are fab, and we have a lovely kitchen and bathroom about to be finished off. We are not struggling for food or cloths or shelter and I have lots of books and music and films and games....

But there are several things that are killing the joy and which have apparently closed off any emotion in me other than rage.

One is mental health attitudes and and cuts to the nhs which I now believe is costing lives and not just random lives that I can only extrapolate about. But people we know and those shining stars so full of grace and wonder and pain are now gone. They leave the world a dirtier mucker place, and they are multiple and they're suffering was extreme and yes there is anger there as well.

Another is general politics and how I see it already impinging on the world around me in direct and tangible ways - the increase in the homeless and the need for food banks, the street litter and piles of stinking rubbish that build up as the infrastructure is failing due to under funding. Again lives will be lost with both these things and that angers me, they are needlessly thrown away.

Tolerance and understanding are being kicked in the teeth and all that human and equal rights stuff. Once I thought I was being talked down too because I was young, then I thought it was because I was fat and using a walking stick or wheelchair, now I realise it's because I am a woman because it hasn't bloody well gone away regardless of size or fitness or age.

But mostly at the moment my heart is broken and doesn't seem to be at all interested in even trying to heal - because I have just spent weeks in a lot of pain and bleeding and loosing smelly gunk, not knowing if the baby was dead, dying or now rotten within or what order it would decide to do those things in. I was petrified that it would go the same way as before and that I would find myself fighting for my life in A&E.

Friday we got the definitive answer and there was no longer a viable pregnancy - in fact there was no longer a pregnancy at all. At least I didn't have to deliver a placenta the size of a small baby this time and haven't ended up incapacitated. But it does leave me with a worse mental shift - last time I was so ill and it was so sudden and we had been so excited and hopeful that it seemed natural to be devastated and upset and weak and wobbly - I don't know how to react to this one.

It was a lot earlier and I knew I was in the danger zone still and I couldn't bare to hope, and when they did the emergency scan I knew that it was over then - but I still had weeks of trying not to hope of trying not to think of weather it was alive or dead or rotting.

Weeks of it being treated as a viable pregnancy with no options given to call it quits - I will go through high water and hell for a maybe baby but I need to be given the choice because then I am a warrior and not a slave.

I had to call in some friends to help look after me as Alaric was away with Jean that first weekend, they were the only people outside my parents and brother who knew - I couldn't bare to say what was wrong. And some who helped out didn't even know as I just labelled it as medical problems.

My friends all went above and beyond in their help and support - once again I was struck by how truly lucky I am.

I've been assured that I'm not too old and that there is still a good chance to have a baby - due to the ectopic I had before I can now self refer to the hospital without having to faff via the GP about pregnancy but I need blood tests just to check things like my B12/folate levels and blood clotting - both things that have been issues for me in the past. But the policy is that you have to have had 3 miscarriages in a row but I don't want to do it like that if I am loosing them because I just need some B12 injections I just want the blooming B12 injections.

I fear it is my stupid blood group and I'm not sure what they can do about that - I was allergic to Jean but Mary is the same blood group as me.

The baby had implanted very low down. I didn't bleed out like before and I am hoping to avoid another op - the scan suggest that I should be fine.

In fact the scans show that my left ovary and tube etc... look fine - this was news to me as they were mullard but appear to have repaired themselves. That is good news.

I am clinging to such things and my work and my kids - I am a She Wolf defending her cubs at the moment - regardless of the fact that one of them is bigger than me - I am also sure I am hen pecking and trying to look after them too much. I am being snappish and curt with people and yes I am angry - very very angry and it is pretty much the only emotion I can feel at the moment.

Sorrows appear to piling up on my friends and family and so I haven't made this as public as I was going to to highlight issues around miscarriage because I didn't want to pour more sorrow onto them.

I haven't yet cried over this - that is not a good thing - I now it's not a good things but I can't feel it. Bizarrely when I am out and about I appear cheerful and happy - but I am not - I feel like there is a dark whole inside sucking everything in.

I barraged the medical professionals with questions on what could I do differently and there is nothing. I'm looking to see if I can pay to have the bloods done and that makes me angry too because if this had been us when we were having Jean that would not have been an option and it means poorer people are already risking life and womb.

A Bad Mummy Moment – or the Cusp of the Teen Years (by )

Bad Mummy moment - I swore at my eldest because they were refusing to get their bike ready for a Scout cycling event as I was trying to tell the youngest that they couldn't ride their bike to the allotment - youngest took the opportunity of distraction to ride out of the garden on her bike whilst I was trying to get eldest to function and sort her bike out.

Youngest was going to that allotment on that bike regardless of what mummy said, eldest was not going to the biking thing on her embarrassing bike regardless of what mummy said. Both felt aggrieved at allotmenting because they are convinced its my hobby that I am making them help with. I'm like no growing food and knowing how to ride a bike are essential survival skills - after all when the zombs apoc hots you'll need them or iff the aliens win out electricity how else are you going to run away 😉

Youngest obviously heard the swear word because later when I was telling my mum on the phone she asked who I was telling I said "nanny" and she repeated the word - under her breath in a very grown up way :/

My Dad say's this will be a funny story along with child trying to use a shoe horn to get me off the sofa whilst I am on the phone apologiesing for for forgetting his birthday that my mum had phoned me up to remind me not to forget - littlest was doing this because she wants a cat in her bedroom and she's not allowed to pick them up and carry them because she doesn't it properly and it's not fair on the cats.

Not happy that I swore - I am finding things very difficult medically and emotionally at the moment - more on that tomorrow after the hospital appointment,

Feeling a tad frazzled = world is being hard work at the moment pretty sure I am failing at everything - so eggy French bread with caramel latte ice cream - GF whole mill bread dipped in whisked egg and dry friend and then dipped in brown sugar and cinnamon.

Eggy Bread French Style with caramel latte ice cream

Word Fest (by )

So Gloucester is about it have it's first ever Literature Festival in the form of Word Fest organised by the Cathedral. The line up looks amazing (I should probably say at the point that I am now involved with performance and stuff at the festival and I am notorious for getting excited and carried away with events! And am therefore not impartial! But seriously...).

I am hoping that my hospital appointment doesn't clash with a few things I want to go and see on Friday including a talk on Aethelflaed - hence me taking in Puppet Aethelflaed this weekend to tell people about poetry 🙂

Also I am continuing with my Aethelflaed Quest and Search for All Things Anglo-Saxon so really really hoping 🙂

There are lots of ways you can link history to literature - Anglo-Saxon monarchs are excessively easy to do this with as they were still running on the bardic tradition of getting epic poems about themselves published. And that's before you then have like a thousand years pulse of stories being written about them!

I like how you can follow the political trends of the day by how figures such as Judith from the bible is depicted in literature and art through out time. Aethelflaed is one of the Queens who was associated with this even more archaic symbol and Judith is very much a symbol - her name means lit. Jewish Lady O.o

I am running a little preview event this weekend at the Quays shopping centre to tell people about the festival, wax lyrical with poetry (and not just mine) and pester people with puppets! I will also have some writing workshop stuff with me and have the first proper outing for the Pandora Prose Story Cubes which I am very excited about and have been working on for months. I have been chugging away at the old WigglyPet Press 🙂

We will be by the Nike shop on Sat 30th of June 11 am to 2 pm and Sun 1st of July 11 am to 1:30 pm followed by the Gloucester Poetry Societies monthly session at the Waterstones in town. This is one of the regular poetry events that I host 🙂

The actual festival is the 6-8th of July - again we have the space in the Quays from 11 am - 2 pm, because bizarrely I am in more demand than I ever thought possible I am then wizzing over to Ledbury Poetry Festival which is also AWESOME and AMAZING and performing there. This means I am missing not only the Gloucester slam but, Poetry, Pie and Pint with one of the Stroud Poets I love - seriously Eley Furrell can send goose bumps down your arms with his word craft and performance. There are workshops and talks and Elvis... got to mention Elvis McGonagall - I have a claim to fame - he once said he liked my poem - can't remember which lit fest it was now or even which poem! (Ok so it's not a big claim to fame but still!).

Sunday I am hoping to get to a story telling workshop and take part in the Story Telling Slam - I love Chloe The Midnight Story Teller's work - when we first moved to the Cotswolds I was struggling to find creativity and inspiration that wasn't bloody water colours of landscapes or slightly more pagany hears :/ But we went to story telling night in the Village of Edge I think and there was Chloe and an American lady and they set my blood on fire again and I started writing again - this was at a point where I had been severely ill with Jean's pregnancy and moved away from all my friends and family - I needed that creativity - but more I needed the determinate fire and that is something Chloe is very good at giving to audiences. A few years later I met her again at a local poetry night in Cheltenham and she encouraged me to be getting up and performing and at that point I needed someone to say that to me.

Since then I have caught her story telling antics for both kids and adults when ever and where ever I can 🙂 Both the kids love her work and Jean even bought her audio book/CD with her own pocket money!

And lo! She is doing story telling for kids on the 7th - a free event so I know where my kids will be 😉 Nightshade's Tales of Tooth and Claw.

Then the Sunday - if I am not too worn out from Ledbury I plan to go to her Storytelling workshop - Hot off the Tongue and take part in the story telling slam.

Last I checked there is still space in both the poetry slam (sadly clashing with Ledbury) and the story telling slam - so knowing other performers and writers out there in the local environs - if you are interested you should email helen.jeffrey@gloucestercathedral.org.uk.

Summer Event AWESOMENESS!!!! (by )

The first half of the summer was pretty EVENT FULL with Women's History Month in London, Pride, The Aethelflaed Festive and general shenanigans but the second half looks to be even more... WOOP!

Sat Jun 30th 11 am - 2 pm - WordFest preview weekend - The Gloucester Poetry Society and WigglyPetPress will be hosting a little performance space in Gloucester Quays by Gap, giving out info and having some little workshop bits for people to join in with. Aethelflaed the Puppet may well be in attendance! Free

Sun July 1st 11 am - 1:30 pm - WordFest Preview Weekend - same as above 🙂 Both events are free! Sunday's is followed by our normal Waterstones Presents event. Free

Sun July 1st 2 - 4 pm - Waterstones Presents The Gloucester Poetry Society - this is our regular monthly poetry event in Gloucester Waterstones Cafe - come and share a poem it can be your own work or something that you just admire. Free

6-8th July - WordFest - some free events and some you have to pay for - lots of stuff to do.... I'll be running the area at the Quays again on the Sat. 11 am - 2 pm. And be in the Story Slam. Currently there are still spaces in both the poetry and the story slam if you want to compete.

Sat 7th July 8-10:30 pm - £9 entrance - Ledbury Poetry Slam part of the Ledbury Poetry Festival.

14th-15th Art In the City - Free Events - I will have a stall for the whole weekend for both WigglyPetPress and Salaric Art and Crafts. I will also be live drawing for the competition on the Saturday and have art work on display in the library. Exact dates and timings of my exhibition to be called.

Sun 5th of Aug - £3.50 entrance kids go free - True Believers Summer Variant Comic Book Festival at Black Friers Priory

Thurs 9th of Aug 11 am - 3 pm - Upcycled Bunting free craft workshop at Gloucester Cathedral

11th - 12th of Aug - Cranham Feast - it's a couple of quid to get in and is full of games, entertainment and there is cricket plus the deer roast, possession on the Sunday.

Thurs 23rd Aug 11 am - 3 pm - Upcycled Crowns - free craft drop in workshops at Gloucester Cathedral.

Plus of course all the normal things like Villanelles, Food For Thoughts, Stroud Out Loud, Buzzwords, Poetry Cafe Cheltenham, Drink and Draw Chelt, Piranha Poetry etc... which I get to as an when I can and are open mics or community gatherings so not me being booked to do a specific thing unlike the stuff above!

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