Monthly Archives: January 2014

Reading matter: Medieval underpants and Other Blunders

photo I was half-way through the book when it happened. Up until that point it had been a perfectly enjoyable historical fiction novel: good plot, strong characters, authentic-sounding dialogue, and plenty of research that grounded the novel in the era in which it was set without being overwhelming.

And then it happened. The Thing that pulled me right out of the world the author had created. A simple, trivial little thing. Perhaps, to many readers, it would have gone unnoticed but to a local it was glaring: the hero travelled to Sheffield and spoke admiringly of the flat, open expanses of fields to the west of the city.

The most trivial online research will tell you that Sheffield is a city built on hills, and to the west lies the Peak District/South Pennines. Oops.

Which brings me to Susanne Alleyn’s excellent book, Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders: A Writer’s (& Editor’s) Guide to Keeping Historical Fiction Free of Common Anachronisms, Errors, & Myths. Not only is this highly educational for anyone who likes their history with a side of geekery, I think it’s also a must-read for anyone writing – or thinking of writing – historical fiction.

It won’t tell you how to write, or how to write HF; what it does instead is walk the reader through the most common errors and misunderstandings (and why you really shouldn’t use Hollywood movies as a source) about all kinds of topics. Food and drink, social customs, clothing, modes of address, travel, arms and armour – it’s all here, explained simply and clearly.

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Photo post: Just a reminder of summer

Loxley valley

Loxley valley

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Photo post: You can see the weather rolling in

Agden, January 2014

Agden, January 2014

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Scarborough

 

Luna Park, Scarborough

Luna Park, Scarborough

Scarborough is one of my favourite places in Yorkshire and not just because of childhood nostalgia (my grandparents used to take me on day trips there when I was a child). On a sunny day the beaches are glorious and there’s plenty to see and do in the town itself and surrounding countryside, particularly if you have an interest in history.

South Beach, Scarborough

South Beach, Scarborough

Scarborough has been inhabited for a long time – the rocky headland housed a Bronze Age settlement and the Romans built a signalling station on the same site in 370AD to warn of Saxon raiding parties. The town itself was founded by the Danes in 966AD but in 1066 the army of the Norwegian king Harald Hardrada razed Scarborough and killed many of its inhabitants.

Plaque in the grounds of Scarborough Castle

Plaque in the grounds of Scarborough Castle

Despite the destruction, Scarborough’s position on the coast and the attraction of its easily-defended headland, meant that it was too valuable to be left in ruins. The town was rebuilt, receiving its first charter from Henry I in 1100, and construction of a castle began around 1136. The keep – which still stands – was built in 1158 by Henry II, and the town began to flourish. By the 14th century Scarborough housed around 2,500 people.

The English Civil War saw the castle under siege twice, in 1645 and 1648. After the parliamentary army captured the castle for the second time they partially demolished it to prevent the royalists using it again.

The legacy of the English Civil War

The legacy of the English Civil War

In the 18th and 19th centuries Scarborough became a spa town and a popular seaside resort, especially when it was connected to the then very-new railway network in 1845. Sea air and bathing in sea water were considered healthy by the Victorians and particularly recommended for convalescence. Anne Bronte, like many of those afflicted with TB at that time, came to Scarborough in the hope of curing the disease  but sadly died soon after. She is buried in the churchyard.

Anne Bronte's grave in Scarborough

Anne Bronte’s grave in Scarborough

Scarborough castle is now owned by English Heritage and is well worth a visit. The town is fairly easy to get around but, be warned, it is a steep climb up to the castle and parts of the town!

Scarborough 04

Parking in Scarborough is not particularly easy and the A64 can be one long traffic jam of caravans in holiday weeks and Bank Holidays. The Park and Ride is highly recommended! Alternatively there are trains via York, including – in summer months – the Scarborough Spa Express heritage steam train via Leeds, Wakefield, and York.

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Grand Départ 2014 – Made in Yorkshire

The world’s greatest cycle race – the Tour de France – will start in the world’s greatest county on 5th & 6th July 2014 bringing millions of fans to the Yorkshire roadside to cheer on the champions of the sport. This short film will give you a small idea of what to expect during these two special days.

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A new year in the Peaks

Bradfield, January 2014

Bradfield, January 2014

January is one of my favourite times of year in the Peaks behind early spring, when the heather is blooming and the fields are full of newborn lambs. Late autumn/early winter tends to be wet and windy – turbulent is the word that often comes to mind on those dark mornings where the rain is coming in horizontally! – but January mornings tend towards the crisp and clear and beautiful.

Mam Tor, January 2014

Mam Tor, January 2014

It’s a great time of year to head out into the hills, as long as you wrap up warm! I’m a big fan of Craghoppers fleece-lined winter trousers (men’s and women’s) which have survived both a trek through Glencoe in a Scottish winter gale and a muddy half-slide, half-fall down the summit of Mam Tor, keeping me warm and dry both times.

Strines, January 2014

Strines, January 2014

(I should probably say that I have no connection to Craghoppers whatsoever; I just like their outdoor clothes).

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