Category: Education

Weekly Aethelflaed Twitter Round Up (by )

This year marks the 1100 yr anniversary of the death of Queen Aethelflaed Lady of Mercia and Mother of England - a Warrior Queen lost from much of our visible and accessible history in this country. Finding out that Gloucester is where she was buried and that there was going to be a festival in honour of her in June - I decided to undertake an Aethelflaed Quest and Search for All Things Anglo-Saxon. I have since ended up on board and doing things for the festival - I am having a lot of fun and there is a new puppet - Aethelflaed herself once more resides in Gloucester.

Here is the weekly tweets 🙂

The Festival is all over the city - I am doing family fun drove in stuff actually at the ruins of St Oswolds - you can find out more about the whole thing here.

Anglo-Saxon Music and Poetry (by )

Bryd One Brere - Anglo-Saxon are and Voice

So I have been investigating the oral traditions of the Anglo-Saxons, this includes song, poetry and story telling and really how the three were once one thing - no ones really quiet sure what the music sounded like or how much of the stories where sung or spoken - there were probably variations like we have today - after all they were people just like us.

Replicas of the instruments much such beautiful haunting sounds that I have fallen in love with them and found myself falling down a rabbit whole of music history and theory. I am now reading up on the general history of the lyre or harp which has taken me back into the old testament of the bible and also into listening to Pirate Thrash Metal!

Stories where not just entertainment they were the history and identity of people but they were also the media of the time. You wanted to be remembered then you needed the bards to sing of you! Aethelflaed, her father Alfred the Great and her brother all knew how important stories could be.

We are lucky in that some of these stories still exist today - some even got written down in contemporary times ie more than a millennium ago! But even written stories struggle at being static and alter with the copying and in some cases purging of the words. Aethelflaed herself appears to have been purposefully written out of the Wessex or primary version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle - by her brother for fear that the stories of her would encourage her Kingdom of Mercia to see itself as always distinct from Wessex. But she appears in later stories - romanticised and even turned into a virgin - though potentially that is due to exact meanings of words changing through time.

It is thought that the poem Judith is based on her - and maybe even commissioned by her - it casts parallels of the virtuous biblical female and the Lady of Mercia. I need to investigate it more - here's the [Wikipedia page](Anglo-Saxon poem Judith). I am struggling to find copies or it but I have found this 7 hr etc... video of another poem called The Wanderer - this is the one I have been quoting (in translation) at my poetry afternoons in Waterstones in Gloucester.

Of course the fact that I am having to read out translations is another fascinating warren of knowledge for me to investigate - I was taught in school about Old and Middle English but I kind of forgot about it all except when Alaric starts quoting Chuarcer at me. Due to character develop for my puppet of Aethelflaed I am also investigating the language - I love how languages split and merge and change and how you can trace human interactions along the lines of dialects and word exchange. But that shall be another blog post or two - back to Anglo-Saxon Music.

Youtube is filled with some brilliant pieces.

Anglo-Saxon poem "Deor" with Lyre

One of the reasons I have got myself a lyre is because they appear in the art works of Anglo-Saxon England and remnants have been found both in Britain on in Europe, culturally the Anglo-Saxons where from northern Europe including what is now Germany and those pesky Vikings they were fighting, they had once been themselves. So you can through Danes into the mix not to mention the "Celtic" and Britons who were lurking around since before Roman times, we always tend to think of history in simple A to B narratives but it very much isn't and there are influences from all over the place. The lyre itself is a very ancient instrument and may well have come to Europe from the Middle East - as in the harp that David plays in the bible.

But the lyre is not the only instrument that the Anglo-Saxons used - drums and flutes are featured in their artworks - I simply do not have the budget to explore these other instruments at the moment but it is on the to-do list. It is thought that they would often have been played in conjunction with each other - here is an example.

Anglo-Saxon Folk Music - "Wælheall"

Music isn't as clear cut a thing as I was initially taught at school with 8 notes and nothing in-between, musical tuning and what counts as a note has changed quiet drastically. I see this as an amazing diversity and am happy because having grown up with folk and gospel singing I also struggled with the classical definition of music. Rock and pop tend to mix it all up which I think is also fab! But this can mean that people perceive older types of music or say those from India etc... as being out of tune. This isn't the case but it is due to how the instruments are tuned. They are in tune with themselves and not necessarily with other surrounding instruments, you have to work at finding what fits together and as a vocalist adapt to the instruments you are singing along with. In choir I did a lot of singing without instrument backing - sometime the song sound fab - we were all in tune with each other and the music was full and vibrating the rafters but when the piano was dinged at the end to see if we had maintained our tuning - we... hadn't. We were off doing our own thing. I think that this is kind of how older music would have worked - you had natural materials which would affect what sounds the finished instrument would be suited too ie the grain of the wood and the shape in which it carved, the diet of the animal the sinue came from to string it... so many little factors. The classical music that we are taught as Music in schools has very specific parameters and if and instrument can't meet those it is considered defective - I think there is no coincidence that the emergence of such strict musicality came about as technology and science began to be a thing throughout Europe.

This is complete guess work on my part I can't even read music (well not with out looking the notes up and then pinging them on my guitar! I've always worked things out by watching or just playing around with the instrument), I am certainly no music theorist and I'm not even a historian! If I am wrong - tell me how I am wrong - I am investigating this stuff - searching and learning and others input is always appreciated!

What's that? I digressed? Yeah ok you have a point....

I will finish off with this video I found of The Classic - the first piece of European Literature (if you take the Mediterranean as not being Europe) - the Epic Poem of BeoWulf sung and played on the hardy-gurdy (now there's an instrument I would like to get my hands on! But I believe it was a later dated instrument - more high medieval than the low medieval of Saxon England - I could be wrong as I have a hell of a lot more reading to do!).

I think this is this guy - anyway I better get back to trying to work out how to play my lyre - twinkle twinkle little star.... ok so they are the tunes I knew the best ok!

The Quest for Aethelflaed Hots Up!!! (by )

This year is the 1100 yr anniversary of Aethelflaed, the Lady of Mercia and Warrior Queen's death - living in the city she was buried in means that of course I have become involved with the celebrations to mark the occasion!

Here. is a little summary - though it does not yet mention everything that is happening 🙂

There is so much AWESOME going on for this event - I'm taking Cuddly Science's Histories to the event and have been researching and amassing much stuff for workshops including metallurgy, textiles, music, a new puppet, mud squishing, art history, wood work and more!

I have been privileged to work with the people at the Museum of Gloucester and have been pestering historians everywhere - I might also have high jacked the family holiday and various story telling gigs to slip in some extra research. I've reached the stage of trying to track down copies of various Chronicles (in translation) and have revived my interest in Viking/Saxon et al poetry.

Last year I decided it was time to move Cuddly Science onto phase 2 - Cuddly Histories and so found myself at the Archaeology Festival and even at some digs <3 Being a geologist by training this reminded me of my love for archaeology and history - I went on to take part in the History festival with a talk on Cave Art and so on...

I'd already decided to make the Aethelflaed puppet for this year when the chance of being involved in the festival came up and so my Quest for Aethelflaed and Search for All Things Anglo-Saxon started - I have taken photos of rocks and statues and medallions and fallen down rabbit holes of Norse language roots, I am using my science, technology, art, and craft skills, I am researching and learning and this makes me very happy - I am also meeting lots of interesting people on the way.

I am also learning so much about the city I live in - things I just didn't know.

With only about a month or so to go before the festival it's time to turn the heat up on my Quest - can you work out what I am up to with this little piece of kit?

Silicon mould

A Struggle A Head (by )

Last night we had our worst parents evening yet... it was pretty much as we expected. Mary is lovely, bright, mischievous and struggling except in maths. She loves outdoor learning and has brilliant comprehension levels when things are read out to her.

The school have her as a focus kid for reading but due to cut backs and things they no longer have the teaching assistants and can't give her anymore without depriving the other kids. We are reading with her at home though I don't think the school actually believes that. We've had to stop Jean pointing out what books she was reading at the same age - our not so small little bookworm is struggling with just how different her sister is to her.

Mary also throws her books at me and gets in a rage and informs me that she has no homework and hides her spelling sheets.

She is 7 yrs old and the gap between her and her peers is starting to widen - this is where the self confidence drop could happen and it has taken us ages to get her settled in school because she is a high energy bouncy child. Also stupid bloody SATS is coming and the emphasis on exams and results and testing testing testing is there and it makes me so angry (with the system not the school).

Mary is often giving up her playtime to read - she gets distressed when I tell her at home that she should play in the garden why it is light before homework because she feels the pressure of it but again she is miss bounce so she needs to get ride of all that physical fizz in order to sit and focus. Neither me nor the teacher think giving up playtime is good as it's soul destroying - I was that child sat inside yearning to play.

I look at some of her work and I can't work out what is needed - I don't know what an imperative is... I have a degree from one of the best universities in THE WORLD. Does she really need to know that now? Wouldn't just getting her writing clearly and coherently be best? The curriculum is stifling.

Again the teacher suggested we do bedtime reading with her were we read to her but we already do that - or rather Al does that - due to the head injury I couldn't and so I tend to tell her stories. It's not every night because sometimes it gets too late but it is most nights.

I don't know how to help - she won't sit down to do the booklets like Jean did, she is not a bookworm though she is thirsty for knowledge though she has come to like books in a way that she hasn't before recently - I set up the indoor "fire circle" for stories and had some spoken/improvised and some read out stories over Christmas and we go to the library once a month to fortnightly where she spends ages with the picture books (yes the ones for toddlers). Sometimes she reads them to us, sometimes she makes stories up from the pictures - I was still doing this at 10 yrs of age - I couldn't read properly until I was 12 and already in secondary school and the social implications of that are... not nice.

But I am at a loss as to what to do? Teacher friends and family - suggests are appreciated.

Her teacher suggested that we get up earlier and doo reading then - but we are a) not morning people any of us and b) we already get up at 6 and Al is often struggling with tiredness so to be honest I think earlier mornings would probably make it unsafe for him to drive - Mary often has to have a run around before school and goes to breakfast club not for breakfast but so she can be brighter and more with it at school.

She has never been able to drink or eat cow milk so it's not like I can cut that out and I know that is something that often improves things for kids in her situation.

In her written work both numerical and letter based there are reversals and transportations and not just in one axis - there are Ps where there should be ds and her numbers are often mirror images.

I've asked the school to look into dyslexia - I have dyslexia, ADHD and dyspraxia where the dyslexia is extremely bad. She is still considered a bit young for the tests and things as dyslexic tendencies are thought to only become properly differentiated from general childhood learning mistakes etc... after 8 years of age - I am worried that the damage will already be done if we wait until 8. The school are being very supportive including Mary's odd take on clothing she will and will not wear :/

I debated about blogging this - but part of the problem with these situations is that they get hidden - I know people worry that it could harm a Childs future employability if this sort of thing is shared but really that comes down to something that needs to be drastically changed in our society. If just the suggestion that someone might have had learning difficulties is enough to stop them getting a job then this country really needs to look at itself. And if she does have dyslexia then hopefully she can be supported through the education system - though with the current government I am doubtful of how long there will be support for.

The biggest problem for kids with learning difficulties like this is the confidence crash - this is something I really really hope to avoid but she is in many ways a very shy child anyway. Being dyslexic myself I find it really hard to help her - I can't tell her how to spell a lot of things and we end up looking things up in the dictionary. I have already introduced Scrabble which was a big thing for me with spelling and we are still using the board that my nan gave me. She loves the game - I think she might actually have won the last family game - destroying Al's theory that I always win it. I've given her my little spell check machine that my cousin Ivan gave me when I was doing my GCSE's to help - it has some spelling games and things on it too. But again these are things I have already done - what else is there?

On the plus side she spent her last round of pocket money on an actual chapter book which she has been "reading" in bed - it's a sparkly kitten type book and is actually quiet thick - there are some pictures in it at the beginnings of chapters and things. I hope that the love and want of books will work the same magic on her as it did for me - she is a very clever little engineer and loves puzzles and designing and drawing and is always winning things for her ballet.

SmashFest Photos (by )

Back in the autumn we took part in SmashFest Earth and Sky Tour when it came to Gloucester Library. It was an amazing day with lots and lots of people - so many that I we began to run out of our Space Craft supplies so that was more than I typically get through at a whole weekend of music festival!

As Cuddly Science we had a fantastic time and my new asteroid impact simulator went down very well as did the paper mâché volcanoes!

Here is the SmashFest Flickr account with some cute pics of Mary etc... hidden in and amongst it all and maybe the rest of us as well 🙂 Mary had her rainbow coat.

WordPress Themes

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 UK: England & Wales