Word of Week (WOW) – Aplomb

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Word of the Week (WOW) is a weekly challenge created by Heena Rathore P. It’s a fun way to improve vocabulary by learning new words every week.

To participate, simply do a post with your word and leave the link as a comment on Heena’s WOW post for this week (above link).

I’ve now been through the alphabet once, so I’m starting again with the letter A.

So, here is my WOW for this week: 

aplomb

Word:

aplomb

Meaning: 

  1. Self-confidence or assurance, especially when in a demanding situation:

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2. The perpendicular or vertical position:

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Plum-bob suspended on a string. Author: Jim Thomas. Commons

Pronunciation:  

a·plomb

uh-plom  [uh-pluhm]

Audio: aplomb (Quite a difference between the UK aand US pronunciations with this one.)

Part of Speech: 

Noun

Related Forms:

None

Word Origin:

1828, from the French aplomb (16th century) literally“perpendicularity”,  from the phrase à plomb “poised upright, balanced” –  literally “on the plumb-line,” from the Latin plumbum “(the metal) lead” of which the weight at the end of the line was made (as image above).

Synonyms:

equanamity, calmness, collectedness, composedness, composure, cool, coolness, countenance, equilibrium, imperturbability, placidity, repose, sangfroid, self-composedness, serenity, tranquility, tranquilness

Antonyms:

agitation, discomposure, perturbation, confusion,  doubt, uncertainty.

Use in a Sentence:

  1. Susan passed her driving test with her usual aplomb:

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2. The famous artist showed aplomb when surrounded by so many reporters:

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(Artist Florentijn Hofman surrounded by reporters. Shutterstock photo.)

3. The word aplomb comes from the use of a ‘plumb-line’ (with a metal weight, or ‘plumb-bob’, suspended at the end of it) to determine the verticality or depth of a building undergoing construction:

A plum-square from 'Cassell's Carpentry and Joinery'. Public Domain.
A plum-square from ‘Cassell’s Carpentry and Joinery’. Public Domain.

If you’d like to view more interesting wods, visit Heena’s

Word Treasure

A Treasured Friend – Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

Flash Fiction for for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a piece of fiction from the photo prompt provided in around 100-150 words – give or take 25 words. It encourages us to comment, constructively, on other entries, so supporting each other’s writing. If you’d like to join in with this challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

Here is this week’s prompt, kindly provided by Dawn M. Miller:

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And this is my story, which is a little more ‘outside the box’ than usual this week:

A Treasured Friend

We were born opposites, you and I: you, the cosseted only child of an affluent family, and I, a simple labourer’s son. I often saw you as we grew, though never with friends of your own. I caught the look of longing in your eyes as you passed my happy group on our way to the local comprehensive. You were tucked inside your chauffeur-driven Rolls, en route to that costly private school. On Saturdays, I’d occasionally see you with your fur-clad mother, heading into those expensive boutiques. How glum you looked…

But you smiled at me sometimes, generating a radiance that lit up my world. I often wondered what it was like to be so rich, and yet so alone … cut off from the company and friendship of others. We were miles apart, you and I, with no means of spanning the distance between.

Attending the same university afforded the bridge across which our two worlds could meet. That bridge has been our treasured friend these past fifty years.

Word Count: 170

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If you’d like to view other entries, click the little blue frog below:

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As this week’s prompt has a bridge as one of its prominent features, I thought I’d do something historical about bridges. I decided just to focus on one!

So, for anyone interested, here’s some information about one of the U.K’s most famous bridges: the Iron Bridge. This is a photo we took a few years ago:

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The Iron Bridge crosses the River Severn in Shropshire, England …

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Shropshire, UK, location map. Source: Ordnance Survey OpenData. Author: Nilfanion. Commons

… and was the first arch bridge in the world to be made of cast iron. It has become Britain’s best-known industrial monument, giving its name to the wooded gorge which was once an industrial powerhouse and has become known as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution:

Downstream of the Iron Bridge. Author: Jon M. Commons.
Downstream of the Iron Bridge. Author: Jon M. Commons.
The Iron Bridge (aerial) by James Humphreys - Salopian James. Commons
The Iron Bridge (aerial) by James Humphreys – Salopian James. Commons

Construction on the bridge began in 1779 and it was opened in 1781. In 1934 it was designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument and was closed to all vehicles. Tolls for pedestrians were collected until 1950:

The brick tollhouse at one end of the bridge. Author: John M. geograph.org.uk. Commons
The brick tollhouse at one end of the bridge. Author: John M. geograph.org.uk. Commons
Ironbridge Tolls by Rodhulandemu. Commons
Ironbridge Tolls by Rodhulandemu. Commons

At the beginning of the 18th century, Abraham Darby I pioneered the process of using coke made from local coal to smelt local iron ore. But industrial expansion was hindered by the lack of a bridge across the Severn – which had to be a single span to allow for barge traffic. An iron bridge was first suggested by Thomas Pritchard, who designed a single bridge of 30 metres long, but died just as work began. The project was taken over by Abraham Darby III (grandson of Abraham Darby I) and the bridge was cast in his Coalbrookdale foundry. It used 378 tons of iron and cost £6,000.

Painting of the bridge by William Williams, artist. Public Domain.
Painting of the bridge by William Williams, artist. Public Domain.

Today, the Iron Bridge is a great place for starting a tour of the Gorge’s many museums and attractions. The area is now far from industrial: the factories have long-since gone and the Gorge has been restored to its natural beauty. It is now a maze of footpaths, bridleways and country lanes. One of my favourite places to visit in this area is Blists Hill Victorian Town – an authentic reproduction of a Victorian town, complete with shops, public houses and a bank.

The Ironbridge Gorge, together with the town of Ironbridge and the Iron Bridge is now a World Heritage Site.

Pedestrians crossing the Iron bridge with Ironbridge in the background. Author: Boerkevitz at nl.wikipedia. Commons.
Pedestrians crossing the Iron bridge with Ironbridge in the background. Author: Boerkevitz at nl.wikipedia. Commons.

References: Wikipedia, English Heritage, Virtual Shropshire.

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John: The Worst Ever King of England?

John_of_England_(John_Lackland)

This is my third post about King John, and I just thought that, having written about the 800th anniversary of his signing of the Magna Carta, it could be useful to have a look at the reasons why the barons decided that such a charter was necessary. Was John really that bad…?

King John has the worst reputation of any English king. Other kings were seen as incompetent (Henry II) some as cruel (Richard III) but to his contemporaries, John was seen as both. It is true that most of the sources that condemn his actions were written by monks -and John was no friend of the Church – but his reign was obviously bad enough to lead to one of the most famous documents in history: the Magna Carta.

‘He feared not God, nor respected men.’ (Gerald of Wales)

‘A pillager of his own people.’ (the Barnwell annalist)

Just how true are these quotes?

John’s problems seem to have started on the day he was born…

John was born in Oxford on Christmas Eve, 1167, the last of the four children of King Henry II and the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine.

John's parents: Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, holding court. Anonymous. Public Domain
John’s parents: Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, holding court. Anonymous. Public Domain

As such, he lived in the shadow of his older brothers: Henry, Geoffrey and Richard. At an early age he was given the nickname of ‘John Lackland’ because, unlike his elder brothers, he received no land rights in the continental provinces and was never expected to become king.

As a young man, Prince John was notorious for events during his role of Lord of Ireland. He squandered his money and offended Irish lords by mocking their unfashionably long beards. Then, in 1189, he broke his father’s heart by siding in a rebellion against him. On Henry’s death, since his two eldest sons had died by this time, Richard became the next king. All of Henry’s lands went to Richard, thus continuing his nickname of ‘Lackland’.

John was forever in Richard’s shadow. Richard was loved and respected by his subjects and his men, and famous for glorious deeds across the known world.

19th century portrait of Richard the Lionheart by Merry-Joseph Blondel (oil on canvas). Nor in the Palace of Versalles. Public Domain.
19th century portrait of Richard the Lionheart by Merry-Joseph Blondel (oil on canvas). Nor in the Palace of Versalles. Public Domain.

John could never compete. Richard even forgave John for rebelling against him and gave him To assure Richard of his newfound loyalty, John went to Évreux in Normandy and took a castle. Unaware of John’s reconciliation with Richard, the garrison thought he was still allied to King Philip of France and accepted him. John massacred them all.

So John already had a reputation for treachery before he became king – a reputation that worsened after Richard I was killed by a crossbow wound in 1199 and John took the throne.

19th century drawing of a scene from 'King John' by Thomas Nast. Folger Shakespearean Library. Commons.
19th century drawing of a scene from ‘King John’ by Thomas Nast. Folger Shakespearean Library. Commons.

His reign started reasonably well, although many incidents soon occurred. War broke out with France again and King Philip supported 16-year-old Arthur of Brittany against John.  As the son of John’s elder brother, Geoffrey, many believed Arthur was the rightful heir.

Chateau de Falaise, where Arthur was imprisoned by John. Uploaded by Ollamh. Commons
Chateau de Falaise, where Arthur was imprisoned by John. Uploaded by Ollamh. Commons

There are sources that suggest that John was responsible for Arthur’s death. Some maintain that John killed him in a drunken rage and dumped his body in the River Seine; others say that Arthur died after being castrated. However the boy died, it is believed to have been at John’s hands.

The Murder of Pronce Arthur by Thomas Welly, 1754. Source: Hulton Archive. Public domain.
The Murder of Prince Arthur by Thomas Welly, 1754. Source: Hulton Archive. Public domain.

John was always at loggerheads with the Church, one incident being particularly noteworthy. This was over John’s protest at Pope Innocent III’s choice of Cardinal Stephen Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1208, the pope placed the whole of England under papal interdict. Church services and sacraments were suspended across England (except for baptism and extreme unction). Bodies were buried in woods, ditches, and by the side of the road. Only two bishops remained in England. The following year, the pope excommunicated John from the church.

John raked in money during the interdict, exploiting the weakened Church and amassing the huge sum of over £65,000 (£30 million in modern money). But the interdict also encouraged John’s enemies. King Philip of France planned an invasion in 1213 with papal blessing. As John wanted Rome on his side, he dramatically submitted to Rome and accepted Langton as Archbishop of Canterbury. And a surprise attack by English naval forces in May, 1213, ended Philip’s threat.

Coronation of Philip Auguste in the presence of Henry II of England. Uploaded by Jan Arkensteijn. Public Domain
Coronation of Philippe Auguste in the presence of Henry II of England. Uploaded by Jan Arkensteijn. Public Domain

During the interdict, John had been free to impose his dominance over the British Isles. He made the old Scottish king accept costly and humiliating terms. In 1210, he led a force of 800 men to Ireland to quell an open rebellion against him led by powerful lords such as William Marshal, William de Braose and the de Lacy Brothers – who were protesting at John’s financial and political demands for funds in his campaigning in France. The barons submitted or fled. In Wales, Llywellyn the Great also rebelled, but faced with John, he retreated into the hills of Snowdonia and agreed to harsh terms.

Statue of Llywellyn the Great in Conwy. Uploaded by Rhion. Public Domain
Statue of Llywellyn the Great in Conwy. Uploaded by Rhion. Public Domain

The act that one historian described as ‘the greatest mistake John made during his reign’ involved John’s heinous treatment of the family of William de Braose.

The rebellion in Ireland gave John the excuse he needed to go after a personal enemy. De Braose had been John’s right hand man for years. In 1201, John offered him the honour of Limerick in Ireland for 5,000 marks. Six years later, de Braose still owed most of the money.  After the rebellion in 1210, de Braose fled to France, but his lands and his wife, Matilda, and his son were still in Windsor Castle. John moved them to Corfe Castle in Dorset and threw them in the dungeon, where he let them starve to death … perhaps his most notorious and malicious act. One chronicler reports that the bodies were found with the mother slumped across her son, with her head lying on his chest. She had been gnawing at his cheeks for food. Rumours circulated that John had killed them because they knew the truth about Arthur of Brittany’s death. William de Braose had been with John at the time of the boy’s disappearance.

Many of the barons did not feel safe after the de Braose affair. They also had many, accumulated grievances regarding financial burdens, the nature of John’s rule and penalty system and personal grievances about his notorious womanising and taking mistresses – even the wives and daughters of powerful men. The final straw came after John’s long-awaited attack on France ended in defeat and John returned, demanding even more scutage from them…

In 1215 the barons broke homage to John and formed the Army of God and the Holy Church – a declaration of war on the king. They offered the crown of England to Prince Louis of France, King Philip’s son and heir, if they would cross the Channel with an army to help them. On the 17th May, the barons seized the capital of London and drew up their demands in a document originally called the Articles of the Barons.  It was the first draft of what later became known as the Great Charter – the Magna Carta.

John,_Magna_Carta
19th century wood engraving of King John signing the Magna Carta. Public Domain.

By October 1215, after the signing/sealing of the Magna Carta at Runneymede in June – a treaty that John had no intention of keeping – war with the barons resumed. In May 1216, Prince Louis of France invaded with a powerful force in support of the English barons who had wanted him crowned king in place of John. John spent the rest of his reign trying to regain control of his kingdom. At Lynn (now King’s Lynn) in October he fell ill, possibly of dysentery. On October 11th he led his army on a short cut across The Wash at low tide – a disastrous move. Whether due to the returning tide or the quicksand there, his baggage train and treasure were lost beneath the waves. This was the last disaster of a disastrous reign.

John’s health rapidly deteriorated and he headed for Newark Castle on a litter, reportedly ‘moaning and groaning’ that the journey was killing him.

 

On arrival he confessed his sins and received Communion for the last time. He died on the night of 18/19 October in the middle of a great storm.

Drawing of the effigy of King John in Worcester athedral from 'History of England'Gy Samuel R. Gardiner. Public Domain
Drawing of the effigy of King John in Worcester Cathedral from ‘History of England’ by Samuel R. Gardiner. Public Domain

*Note: The header image shows John of England (John Lackland) by Matthew Paris from his Historia Anglorum, 1250-59. British Library royals MS. Public Domain.

King John is at Newark!

 

008 Newark Castle (Header)

I intended to write this post before I headed off to Hadrian’s Wall a couple of weeks ago but, as usual, I didn’t manage to fit it in. I particularly wanted the post at that time, as it was to be a ‘follow up’ to the one on the Magna Carta I’d done the week before (here). Still, the Magna Carta celebrations in Lincoln will continue into October, and I suppose any information about King John could be shared at any time. So here it is now…

Over the weekend of July 22, about forty members of the re-enactment society, Regia Anglorum, presented a living history ‘encampment’ in the grounds of Newark Castle to demonstrate  to visitors how people would have fed and clothed themselves at the time of King John and demonstrate use of their weaponry skills. The society was invited to Newark by the castle warden as part of the region’s celebrations to mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta.

Newark is about 18 miles away from Lincoln, and the castle at that time belonged to the Bishop of  Lincoln, who was also present. Here are a few photos of what is left of the castle today. Some are of the outside from across the River Trent and others are views of the inside of the curtain walls and gates:

And here are is a photo of King John as he looked on this occasion. John is the one in the decorative blue tunic, enjoying a snack:

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And this is the Bishop of Loncoln, inside his tent:

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Medieval characters were milling about enjoying the day or gossiping around the camp:

Throughout the day, display tents were set up to demonstrate the different roles in 13th century society – from shoemakers, leatherworkers, metalworkers, chainmail and jewellery makers to those carving a variety of everyday goods from deer antler, such as combs, needles and gaming dice. Other stalls displayed common foods eaten and demonstrated cooking methods:

The highlight of the day was a tournament put on by twenty members of Regia Anglorum. Warriors came from all ranks of society – peasants, sergeants and knights – to entertain King John and the Bishop of Lincoln, the Right Rev Hugh de Wells, with their skills – some of them hopeful of being selected as future knights. The king and bishop put on jovial faces for the tournament, when in reality (according to the actor who played the bishop) relations between the two were never easy. At one time he had been banished by John.

Here are some pictures of the tourney and preparations made by the combatants beforehand. Squires were on hand to assist the knights into their gambesons (padded jerkins) and heavy chain mail. King John certainly seemed to be enjoying himself:

King John has often been linked with the Nottingham-Newark-Lincoln area through the many legendary tales about Robin Hood and Sherwood Forest, which once covered much of this area. But perhaps an even greater link with Newark is that he died inside its castle:

By October 1215, after the signing of the Magna Carta at Runneymede in June – a treaty that John had no intention of keeping – war with the barons resumed. In May 1216, Prince Louis of France invaded with a powerful force in support of the English barons who had wanted him crowned king in place of John. John spent the rest of his reign trying to regain control of his kingdom. At Lynn (now King’s Lynn) in October he fell ill, possibly of dysentery. On October 11th he led his army on a short cut across The Wash at low tide – a disastrous move. Whether due to the returning tide or the quicksand there, his baggage train and treasure were lost beneath the waves. This was the last disaster of a disastrous reign.

John’s health rapidly deteriorated and he headed for Newark Castle on a litter, reportedly ‘moaning and groaning’ that the journey was killing him. On arrival he confessed his sins and received Communion for the last time. He died on the night of 18/19 October in the middle of a great storm.

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Come to the Fair!

Goose_Fair_Roundabout 2

I’ve written this post as my piece of ‘extra information’ to accompany a flash fiction story inspired by this prompt, which is courtesy of Pixabay:

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The story can be read here.

A Look at the History of  Fairs

A fair, or the older version of the word, faire or fayre, is a gathering of people for various entertainments and activities. Many fairs are temporary, some lasting for a mere afternoon, others for lasting for several weeks. Types of fairs include trade fairs, street fairs, agricultural shows, fêtes, festival and travelling carnivals or funfairs.

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A trade fair for the travel industry. Author: JATAWTF. Commons

It was once believed that the Romans introduced fairs into Britain, and the word fair is derived from the Lain word, feria. But the tradition is more deeply rooted, having its origin in pagan customs. Their seasonal gatherings, thought to be for festivity and trade, contained the elements of the fair.

Following the Norman Conquest, trade became the more important part of holding a fair, when they were restructured along French lines. Charters were granted by the king, giving fairs legal status, and they became increasingly important to the economic life of the country. Fairs were often tied to Christian occasions, such as Saints’ Days at the local church, and became important landmarks in the calendar, socially and culturally. As well as drawing in traders and farmers, they were venues for a variety of entertainments, including jugglers, tumblers and musicians. Dancing bears were sometimes a crowd-drawing feature.

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Medieval Jugglers and Minstrels. Author: Daniel Villafruele. Commons

Close to 5,000 fairs were granted royal charters during the Middle Ages. An example of one such fair is the Nottingham Goose Fair, granted a charter by King Edward I in 1284, (Edward was the king responsible for the building of the Welsh castles I did posts about a few weeks ago.)

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‘Village Fair’, a painting by Flemish artist, Gillis Mostaert in 1590. Photographer: anagoria. Painting now in Gemäldegalerie art museum in Berlin.

By the 18th century the trading side of fairs had waned, and some fairs, like the famous Bartholomew Fair in London, were devoted entirely to pleasure and amusement. It was around this time that the first fairground rides appeared – simple, hand-turned roundabouts and swingboats. Shows were still the main attraction and were until the 1860s when engineer, Frederick Savage devised a method of driving roundabouts by steam power. Since they didn’t depend upon muscle power, roundabouts were soon made larger, more heavily ornamented and more spacious:

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Picture of ‘Sea-and-Land’ a fairground amusement ride from the 1880s. Author unknown. Public Domain

Fairs of all types are still very popular today. In Nottingham, Goose Fair is an annual attraction and people return to it year after year. It is held on 1st October. Here are some pictures of it:

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View of Nottingham Goose Fair from the ferris wheel in 2007. Author: Klickingart. Commons.
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Evening ride at Goose Fair in 2012. Author: Will Robson. Commons

In India, the Kumbh Mela, held every 12 years at Allahabad, Haridivas, Nashik and Ujjain, is one of the largest fairs in the country. Sixty million people gathered in 2001, making it the largest gathering in the world.  In the U.S. fairs draw 150 million people each summer. Children’s camps range from breeding small animals to robotics, whilst the organization 4-H (a youth development programme) has become a traditional association.

A Nice Pair of Coconuts – Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

Flash Fiction for for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a piece of fiction from the photo prompt provided in around 100-150 words – give or take 25 words. It encourages us to comment, constructively, on other entries, so supporting each other’s writing. If you’d like to join in with this challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Tuesday to Tuesday every week.

Here is this week’s prompt, courtesy of Pixabay:

wpid-photo-20150816175959521

And this is my story, for which I’ve resurrected the pair of incorrigible rogues, Fred and Harry, who haven’t made an appearance in my flash fiction for a while now. I’ve added a note about the Yorkshire dailect below:

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Harry Hobson squinted at the many colourful stalls and gave a loud belch.

‘Grand fair,’ he said, glancing at his equally inebriated drinking buddy. ‘I think I’ll get one of them there balloons t’ tek home ter missus. Might stop ’er rantin’ about me bein’ in pub too long.’

Fred pulled a face. ‘Yer’ve tried that tactic afore, mate. An’ look where it got yer … sleepin’ on sofa for a week.’

‘Can’t blame me fer tryin’, Fred. Anyways, I like balloons meself. Might buy a couple … yer know: ‘His an’ Hers’. Women go all gooey over that kind o’ stuff.’

‘Your Nora goes ‘gooey’ ’bout nowt, Harry, except mebbe Bingo on Wednesday nights wi’ my Doreen.’

‘A man’s got t’ try ter be a good ’usband,’ Harry replied, fishing his wallet out of his pocket and scowling at its meagre contents. ‘P’raps I’ll leave the balloon buyin’ ’til next week, Fred. I need me last few quid ter have a go on that coconut shy yonder…

‘Nora’d like a nice pair o’ coconuts…’

Word Count: 175

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For anyone not familiar with the Yorkshire dialect, here’s a note about it:

1. Many words have either the first or last letter missing – a form of lazy speech:

Her has the first letter dropped (e.g. ‘look at ’er’) as does the word about (e.g. ‘It’s ’bout time, too!’) Sleeping has the last letter dropped (e.g. sleepin’) as do the words being (e.g. bein’) and ranting (rantin’.)

 2. Some words have more than one letter missing:

‘Come with me’ becomes ‘Come wi’ me’. Perhaps becomes ‘p’raps’.

To is often written just as a t (e.g. ‘Fish ‘n’ chips t’ tek away, please.’ In that sentence the and is also reduced to just the middle letter n.

3. Completely missed out words are often open to guesswork:

‘Lets’ go fer a walk in woods’ – instead of ‘a walk in the woods’.  And ‘I’m off to the pub’ becomes ‘Im off t’ pub.’

4. Some words are simply down to Northern pronunciation:

For becomes fer. (e.g. ‘It’s a present fer Nora.’) To becomes ter (e.g. ‘I’ll give the balloon ter Nora.’) Nothing becomes nowt. ( e.g. ‘It’s nowt to do wi’ me!’) Take becomes tek. Before becomes afore. Maybe becomes mebbe.

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My ‘extra information’ was again too long to attach to this post, so I’ve made it into a post of its own. For anyone interested, it can be found here.

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If you’d like to view other entries, click the little blue frog below:

 

Word of Week (WOW) – Zoomorphic

wow (1)

Word of the Week (WOW) is a weekly challenge created by Heena Rathore P. It’s a fun way to improve vocabulary by learning new words every week.

To participate, simply do a post with your word and leave the link as a comment on Heena’s WOW post for this week (above link).

I’m up to the letter Z this week another letter with limited choice, so I’ll be happy to get back to starting the alphabet again.

So, here is my WOW for this week: 

zoomorphic

Word:

Zoomorphic

Pronunciation:    

zoo-morphic (UK)  

zo-o-mor-phic  [zoh-uhmawr-fik]  (U.S)

Part of Speech: 

Adjective

Related Forms:

Noun: zoomorph; zoomorphism

Meaning:

  1. of or relating to a deity or other being conceived of as having the form of an animal:
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Pavement mosaic with the head of Pan. Roman artwork, Antonine period (138-192 CE). Public Domain

Pavement mosaic with the head of Pan. Roman artwork, Antonine period (138-192 CE). Public Domain

2. characterised by a highly stylised or conventionalised representation of animal forms:

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Zoomorphic decoration from the Book of Kells. Uploaded by Soerfin. Public Domain

3. representing, or using, animal forms:

cowha 2
In Hinduism, the cow is the symbol of wealth, strength, abundance, selfless giving and a full Earthly life. Attribution: copyrighted to Himalayan Academy Publications, Kapaa Kauai, Hawaii. Commons

 

Synonyms:

None

Word Origin:

Late 19th century: from  zoo ‘of animals’ + Greek morphē ‘form’ + -ic

Use in a Sentence:

1. The Egyptian gods were often depicted as zoomorphic.

2. It was a very warm day when we visited the street fair, and one young man had taken off his shirt, revealing a zoomorphic tattoo on his left shoulder:

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Vincent Gallo tattoo at the Urban Bear strees Fair. Author: istolethetv. Commons

3. The White Horse at Uffington is thought to be a zoomorphic representation of some symbol or belief of a tribe of Ancient Britons, possibly the Artrebates:

uffington-white-horse-sat 4
The White Horse at Uffington, Oxfordshire, UK. Author: USGS. Public Domain

The White Horse at Uffington, Oxfordshire, UK. Author: USGS. Public Domain

If you’d like to see more interesting words visit Heena’s page:

Word Treasure

Medieval Siege Warfare

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This post and the flash fiction post that accompanies it (which can be found here) are the first posts I’ve done for almost two weeks. I was away from home for eight days, and since being back we’ve been invaded by family and had several outings. So I must apologise to all those people whose posts I’ve missed. I hope to catch up on at least some of them.

So, this is a brief summary of some of the methods of besieging a castle.

By the 12th and 13th centuries, castles had evolved into powerful fortresses, able to withstand great assaults. Once the portcullis was down, the gates closed and drawbridge raised, they were very difficult to attack:

Bodiam Castle throughthe trees (Sussex UK) Author Pilgrimsoldier. Wikimedia Commons
Bodiam Castle throughthe trees (Sussex UK) Author Pilgrimsoldier. Wikimedia Commons

Medieval soldiers used a variety of methods to breach the castle defences and sieges were common. Siege tactics became very complex and did not just involve attackers rushing at the castle – which would risk the loss of too many men.

To begin with, leaders would search the realm in order to employ the best archers, carpenters, blacksmiths, sappers and engineers … and once they were all in place at the castle, the procedure followed a general pattern:

First, the castle would be surrounded, thus cutting off any means of escape and all supplies to the inhabitants. At the same time, besiegers would ensure that their own encampment was fortified, sometimes even constructing an earthen embankment around it and organising a constant night watch. Then they would simply wait for the lord of the castle to surrender – which could take many months. If the lord still refused to surrender, assault on the castle would commence.

By this time, attackers would have located the castles weakest points, such as the weakest doorways and lowest curtain walls – preferably with no outer river or moat, which entailed using barges to cross them.

The River Avon acts as a natural moat along the curtain wall of Warwick Castle
The River Avon acts as a natural moat along the curtain wall at the eastern side of Warwick Castle.

It stands to reason that gateways are likely to be the weakest points, and they would be attacked first. To do this, a battering ram came in useful (of which there were many sizes and designs):

Medieval battering ram at Chateau des Baux, France. Photo: ChrisO. Commons
Medieval battering ram at Chateau des Baux, France. Photo: ChrisO. Commons

Many castle gateways, particularly the main ones, were heavily fortified by a series of structures and mechanisms (like drawbridges, portcullises and thick wooden doors, as well as ‘murder holes’ above the inner passageway, should attackers get that far). A fortified outpost or gateway, like this one at Warwick, was called a barbican:

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At the same time as the gateways were being attacked, ladders would be carried up to scale the walls, often to be met by defenders who simply pushed the ladders away, or greeted rising besiegers with boiling oil. For scaling the walls, lofty siege towers (or belfries) were wheeled up. At the top of these was a drawbridge which would be lowered to allow men to stream out and attack defending guards. Sometimes, belfries were used from a distance to fire arrows down into the castle.

Medieval English siege tower. Author: Grose-Francis. Public Domain
Medieval English siege tower. Author: Grose-Francis. Public Domain

Other machines (effectively different versions of catapults) were designed to breach the castle walls and towers by hurling large rocks and missiles at them. Dead animals were also hurled over the walls in the hope of spreading disease amongst the inhabitants.

Trebuchets were built in all shapes and sizes, some with wheels so they could be moved around the castle. They were massive, gravity-powered catapults, consisting of a lever and sling and capable of hurling rocks of up to 200lbs for 300 yards. They could also be disassembled in order to transport them from place to place. This is one we saw at Warwick Castle:

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The mangonel also hurled boulders, and had a throwing arm like the trebuchet, but it was less accurate than the trebuchet, with a shorter throwing range, and aimed directly at the castle walls rather than over the top of them.It worked by torsion:

English mangonel. Author: Rpanjwani. Commons
English mangonel. Author: Rpanjwani. Commons
Medieval Mangonel. From "Dictionary of French Architecture fron 11th-16th Century" by Eugene Viollet in 1856. Public Domain,
Medieval Mangonel. From “Dictionary of French Architecture fron 11th-16th Century” by Eugene Viollet in 1856. Public
Domain,
Mangonel shot used in the siege of Bedford Castle in 1284. Author Simon Speed. Public Domain
Mangonel shot used in the siege of Bedford Castle in 1224. Author Simon Speed. Public Domain.

A ballista was built like a huge crossbow and designed to shoot bolts (huge,metal-covered arrows) into the castle. It was manoeuvrable and played an important part in sieges for over a thousand years, originating in ancient Greece. This weapon utilized two torsion springs and two throwing arms to launch its load along a central track.

Some ballistas also hurled rocks, like this one we saw at Warwick Castle:

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While all this was going on at the top of the castle, miners/sappers would be busy tunnelling up to the castle and tower walls in order to collapse them. To do this they would remove the foundation stones and replace them with wooden props. A fire would then be lit and the miners got out quick! Once the props burnt through, there would be nothing to hold up the wall, so it simply collapsed. The corners of square castles were the weakest parts and miners would often aim for those. Inside the castle, guards would place pots of water near the towers and walls. When the water rippled, they would know that enemy miners were at work.

Needless to say, a great variety of hand weapons were used during attacks, amongst others a variety of swords, knives, axes, spears, clubs, maces, flails, halberds, crossbows and longbows. And all soldiers would be heavily weighted down with necessary armour. It’s always mind-boggling to think of the enormous weight medieval soldiers had to carry whilst fighting for their lives.

Naturally, defenders had many techniques for countering attacks on their castles, a few of which I’ve mentioned above, and not every siege was successful …

 

Besieged – Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers

Flash Fiction for for Aspiring Writers is a writing challenge hosted by Priceless Joy. It asks us to write a piece of fiction from the photo prompt provided in around 100-150 words – give or take 25 words. It encourages us to comment, constructively, on other entries, so supporting each other’s writing. If you’d like to join in with this challenge, follow the above link to see what to do. The challenge runs from Wednesday to Wednesday every week.

Here is this week’s prompt, a beautiful picture, kindly provided by Sonya:

wpid-photo-20150808193532549

. . . and this is my story:

Sir Robert de Baux peered over the battlements, wary of revealing himself to the archers below. Fires of the enemy encampment encircled the castle – as they had done every night for the past six months.

Today, a determined assault on the castle had begun. Mangonels had hurled rocks at his outer walls and rams pounded the eastern and western gateways. None had met with success – but the trebuchets were almost constructed and the assault could go on for weeks. And food supplies were already dangerously low.

In the welcomed silence of the nightfall, he headed for the Eagle Tower, where his young wife would be waiting for news of earlier negotiations.

‘What says Sir Hugh, my lord?’ Alys asked eagerly as he entered their quarters.

‘My elder brother still claims the castle is rightfully his and that Father unlawfully disinherited him for siding with King John. The assault will continue until we surrender.’

Alys gave a wan smile. ‘The pigeon I sent out returned today. My father’s forces should be here within the week.’

Word Count: 174

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My ‘extra information’ was too long on this occasion to attach to this post, so I’ve made it into a post of its own. For anyone interested, it can be found here.

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If you’d like to view other entries, click the little blue frog below:

 

Lincoln and the Magna Carta

023 Barons' ShieldsOn June 15, 1215 – or 19th according to some sources – at a place called Runneymede (near Windsor) on the River Thames, King John of England reluctantly signed a treaty with the powerful barons of the realm. The document was a series of written promises that John would govern the country and deal with its people according to the customs of feudal law. In other words, the charter was an attempt by the barons to stop John from abusing his power and the people of England suffering as a consequence. The charter became known as the Magna Carta: Latin for the Great Charter. Here are a couple of artistic interpretations of the signing:

John,_Magna_Carta
19th century coloured wood engraving of king John signing the Magna Carta. Public Domain
800px-Link_John_Magna_Charta_by_Ernest_Normand
Link John Magna Charta by Ernest Normand, 1900. Uploaded by william Avery. Public domain

By 1215, John had been king for 16 years, and had a series of mistakes, misdemeanours, and cruel or treacherous acts behind him and at last the barons had snapped. I intend to look at some of these in another post, but today, I want to think about the Magna Carta.

2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. Several copies were originally made and delivered to religious establishments all over the country. Only four of these copies are still in existence today: two in the British Library, one in Salisbury Cathedral and one belongs to Lincoln Cathedral but is on display in Lincoln Castle. Lincoln’s copy has been in the city since it was sealed by King John – it even has instructions to deliver to ‘Lincolnia’ written on the back.

Lincoln is also the only place in the world where you can find an original copy of Magna Carta together with the Charter of the Forest, issued in 1217 to amplify the document, and is one of only two surviving copies.

Throughout the summer, Lincoln has been celebrating this momentous signing, along with several other places around the country. And since Lincoln is only 7 miles away from where we live, Husband and I decided to pop along and have a look.

Lincoln Castle is worth a post on its own – another one I have planned for later on. It’s a fine old Norman structure, unusual in having two keeps. The County Law Courts are still located inside the castle, as is the old prison – well worth a visit in itself. It is in the subterranean vault inside the prison building that the Magna Carta is on display. It’s the red brick building in the photo (bottom left) below.

Unfortunately, the controlled lighting in the vaults makes taking photographs impossible. Flash photography is a no-no. So I have no photos of the documents to show. But there are some online that can be seen.

As part of the anniversary celebrations in Lincoln, the organisers have created the Barons’ Charter Trail for children to follow. Twenty five fun ‘barons’ have been created, all painted in bright colours and given amusing names like ‘Truck Driver Baron’, ‘Wild Flower Baron’ and ‘Lincolnshire Waterways Baron’. They are spread out across the cultural and commercial areas of Central Lincoln. On finding all 25, and copied down the code for each, children collect a bag of King John’s gold – in other words, chocolate money.

We found all of these ‘barons’ and here is a selection of them:

The barons’ shields, used as the header image above, are on display on the wall outside the vault where the documents are housed.

A week after this visit to Lincoln Castle, we had a visit to nearby Newark Castle, where a  re-enactment group were putting on a display about John and medieval life in general. We have some good photos of that event, too. Needless to say, John is featured a lot this summer. He was an interesting character, and one of the most memorable kings in English history.