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Let's Hear it for St George

16 years ago

23rd April, the feast of the patron saint of England. How do the English celebrate? We don't.

A few Union Flags may fly from public buildings and the Prime Minister (a Scot), in a new move, will fly the Cross of St George from Downing St.

We know little about George, who may have lived in Syria and been martyred in the fourth century. King Edward III, big into Arthurian legends/chivalry replaced St Edward with St George in the mid thirteen hundreds and the tales of fair maidens and dragon-slaying began.

As we are too reticent to celebrate or even be proud of our heritage can you suggest any books that, for you, give the essence of Englishness?

To start the ball rolling, I am reading a light and easy on the brain book Penguins Stopped Play: Eleven Village Cricketers take on the Rest of the World by Harry Thompson.

Oh, I nearly forgot, Happy Birthday Shakespeare.

Comments (69)

  • 16 years ago

    Frieda, of course the books/films of gritty realism depicting shades of grey on run-down Northern/Midlands council estates (we have to call them 'social housing' now) are just as true a picture of England as the green fields and sunny uplands of the travel posters.
    In the '60's I read all those books or saw the films The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, Cathy Come Home, The L-Shaped Room, Kes etc. But today I can watch all that misery every day by switching on the TV news.
    The older I get the less I want to be reminded of the squalor, greed/purposeless/resentful lives of many of the disadvantaged citizens of this country . . . perhaps it is why I tend to read history books. ;-)
    I suppose the up to date literature is, or should be, about the huge and fast growing immigrant population, doesn't Zadie Smith do this? The Road Home by Rose Tremain is an excellent read on the subject. The Truth Commissioner by David Park is another powerful book, about Northern Island; with a glimmer of hope at the end.
    I almost never go to the 'flicks' but will ask around and see what is relevant to ''Life as it is Led' in Modern England.
    I write this looking out across the spring pastures, being cropped by a herd of Frisian dairy cows, towards the Cotswold Hills. Adlestrop is not so far away. Very pastoral until you realise that the cows are fed hormones and milked three times a day. This milk used to be sent to C......'s a well-know firm of choccy makers (don't know if it still is) so darker forces at work below even this bucolic surface.

  • 16 years ago

    Blood Brothers is still running. It's not so much that it's dated - you just have to remember that it was set in the eighties and nineties...! Terrific show.

    I entirely agree (but then I would, wouldn't I?) about Stan Barstow's Englishness.

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  • 16 years ago

    The older I get the less I want to be reminded of the squalor, greed/purposeless/resentful lives of many of the disadvantaged citizens of this country . . . perhaps it is why I tend to read history books.Vee, I suspect that's why a lot of use prefer history, historical fiction, and the pleasant myths and stereotypes. We don't want our bubbles burst that England isn't all quaint, tidy, and charmingly landscaped and the English aren't all civil, highminded, and dulcet -- not that it and they ever were completely, but we non-English have a tendency to coo over the many pleasant things of your land and people. I'm told on good authority that this can be quite maddening to some English and annoying as hell to some Welsh, Scots, and others who still consider the English element interlopers, after some fifteen hundred years. :-)

    Oh yes, Stan Barstow seems to have pegged Englishness -- would that be northern Englishness? -- during the time he was writing about. I really must read the other two parts of his trilogy. I recall reading Alan Sillitoe and others of the post-WWII period and enjoying them, but perhaps the film adaptations of their books were more enlightening to me, simply because I needed the visuals. It's interesting that most of those films were black & white -- I know that was because of economy but I think they are more effective, in a way, than color.

    I have heard of "Blood Brothers" but I've never seen it. What about it, Carolyn, do you think makes it so memorable?

    Yes, the immigrant experience in England seems to be the "latest thing" in English literature. But, except for Andrea Levy's Small Island, I'm afraid that I can't seem to get into this sort of writing and storytelling. It's my loss, I'm sure, but Zadie Smith perplexes me.

    Vee, I bought The Road Home after you mentioned it, but I left it behind without ever reading it. I guess I need to find another copy. The same with the Nab End books. The Truth Commissioner sounds interesting.

  • 16 years ago

    frieda, I also don't care for Zadie Smith. But another immigrant theme novel that probably is as good as Small Island is Sweetness in the Belly by Camilla Gibb. The narrator is an English born Moroccan raised Ethopian who is forced to leave and go back to London, where she works to help other refugees connect with home. Its beautifully written, and really evokes to me what refugees go through.

  • 16 years ago

    To insert a poetical note: some of Rupert Brooke's poems truly are evocative of the England past, for me: e.g. "The Old Vicarage at Granchester" (about a particular corner of England,) as well as "A Soldier".

  • 16 years ago

    Liz and Mary re William Blake's Jerusalem. I read in the news recently that, despite its popularity, in some churches it is no longer sung as the clergy feel it smacks of 'jingoism' ie a belligerent attitude and flag waving that should be discouraged.
    Mary I think it was I Vow to Thee My Country that was sung at Diana's funeral You can still find the whole service at 'You tube'

    Below is Jerusalem music by Parry, arranged by Elgar recorded at the Last Night of the Proms 2006. You will see the flags of many nations being waved without as sign of belligerence.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Jerusalem

  • 16 years ago

    Vee, I enjoyed that and the stirring rendition of 'Rule, Britannia!'
    When Britain first, at Heaven's command
    Arose from out the azure main;
    This was the charter of the land,
    And guardian angels sung this strain:
    "Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
    "Britons never will be slaves."

    The nations, not so blest as thee,
    Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall;
    While thou shalt flourish great and free,
    The dread and envy of them all.
    "Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
    "Britons never will be slaves."

    Still more majestic shalt thou rise,
    More dreadful, from each foreign stroke;
    As the loud blast that tears the skies,
    Serves but to root thy native oak.
    "Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
    "Britons never will be slaves."

    Thee haughty tyrants ne'er shall tame:
    All their attempts to bend thee down,
    Will but arouse thy generous flame;
    But work their woe, and thy renown.
    "Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
    "Britons never will be slaves."

    To thee belongs the rural reign;
    Thy cities shall with commerce shine:
    All thine shall be the subject main,
    And every shore it circles thine.
    "Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
    "Britons never will be slaves."

    The Muses, still with freedom found,
    Shall to thy happy coast repair;
    Blest Isle! With matchless beauty crown'd,
    And manly hearts to guard the fair.
    "Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
    "Britons never will be slaves."
    The above are said to be the original words but I've heard others, often extempore. Which way have you most often heard it, Vee?

  • 16 years ago

    "I Vow to Thee My Country" was also sung at their wedding-supposedly that was the extent of Diana's allowed input on the ceremony.

    Another set of books that "is" England for me is the series of Barsetshire novels written by Angela Thirkell.

  • 16 years ago

    Frieda, Blood Brothers is the story of twins separated at birth but raised in the same town. A childless woman whose husband is away for the appropriate number of months has a "daily" with too many children already who finds she is pregnant with twins. She says she can provide for only one more child. Woman wants a child desperately and offers to take one, telling her husband it is theirs.

    Predictably, the boys meet and like each other. Unfortunately, when they grow up, they both like the same girl, too. They find out their relationship, and one regrets his strict upper class raising while the other feels he was deprived of a good life. It ends very sadly. Also, it is a musical; and when we saw it, the actors were terrific and had great voices.

    It is quite haunting, along the lines of "There but for the grace of God . . ." and the seeming randomness of birth.

  • 16 years ago

    My goodness Frieda, were all those verses of 'Rule Britannia' written from memory?
    I don't think any of us know any of the words except for the chorus. I once watched a 'Last Night of the Proms' on TV in which the soloist dressed as Britannia draped in a flag, with coal-scuttle helmet, trident etc sang 'Rule Britannia'. As the camera panned round you could see that the words were written on the inner side of her shield.
    Re the gritty 'kitchen sink' films of the 60's or the brilliant 'Ealing Comedies' of the late 40's-50's I think they were in black and white mainly because colour was so expensive but it does add a dark and brooding quality to the experience . . . and often even the comedies have a darker, menacing side eg The Lady Killers or Kind Hearts and Coronets
    I am always surprised when I see re-runs of these oldies, how 'dated' everything looks. Not just the bomb-sites, but the elderly cars, fashions etc. And everyone spoke much more 'correctly', none of the sloppy modern speech we hear these days. Is this is the same in the US?

    While on the film thing. I don't know if RP'ers are familiar with a long series of low-budget, bawdy but very 'English' films known as the Carry On's. A regular cast of not-quite top flight actors, cardboard scenery and lots of rude jokes so loved by UK school boys, young and old.

    The clip below is a splendid spoof of stiff upper-lippedness while under enemy fire on the Indian frontier (actually shot on location in North Wales). The 'Ruff-Diamonds' as their name suggests are meant to be 'common' (a word my Grandmother used frequently!)

    Here is a link that might be useful: Carry On Up the Khyber

  • 16 years ago

    I know that many RPers are also public radio and television devotees. Most American public television stations have an evening dedicated to "Brit-Coms...mine happens to be Saturday night. I adore them, watch the ad nauseum reruns, and ask for the dvd sets for gifts when children wail "but what do YOU want for Christmas, mum?" Right now I am addcted to "Last of the Summer Wine."

  • 16 years ago

    Cece, my husband loves Last of the Summer Wine. He says it makes him nostalgic for the hills of northern Ohio where he grew up. We, too, spend our Saturday nights watching it over and over, along with As Time Goes By.

    I saw following My Boy Jack that Judi Dench will be in the Masterpiece Theater production beginning tomorrow night. I would love to see her live.

  • 16 years ago

    cece, carolyn, what other UK TV shows do you get regularly? Do you get any UK radio shows?

    Re TV plays/series I saw in our local paper that 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles' is being made in our nearby Forest of Dean. Had I know they were doing it on the cheap and using actors no-one had heard of I would have auditioned for the part of 'second old hag'. A bit of Method Acting for which I wouldn't need to rehearse.
    Several episodes of 'Dr Who' have also been made locally with local caves standing in for Pompeii. :-)

    Carolyn, we take chimney pots so much for granted we tend to notice when a house is built without them and mutter "What are they going to do when there's a power cut?"
    We have a mere ten on our house although we only light fires in a couple of rooms. They have become favourite nesting places for jackdaws who have to be smoked out before they get too comfortable.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Clearwell Caves

  • 16 years ago

    Vee, here in Virginia, we get Tartan TV through Public Television.

    I've been trying to find those A. Thirkell books for ages. I wonder if they have ever been re-issued?

  • 16 years ago

    Vee-how funny-on Friday I was giving a spelling test and one of the words was "chimney" sentence for the word was "When the jackdaws built their nest on the chimney, we had a problem." I like to make them wake up and think about things! (Yes, I did have to explain jackdaw and chimney pot-it was our "Teacher trivia moment" of the day.

    Other British TV-on public broadcasting, we have gotten a lot of Masterpiece Theater and Mystery that were British-the Austens, Cranford, zillions of the historical dramas and things like Poldark and Nightingale in Barclay(??) Square and UXB and I, Claudius and Flambards and...
    Brit Coms that are favorites-The Good Life, To the Manor Born, Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister, Are you Being Served, As Time Goes By, My Hero (not mine, but it is running now for the third time), The Norman Conquests, Ever Increasing Circles,

    we also have BBC America-I watch Coupling, Dr. Who and Office now and again. On satellite radio we also get BBC America Radio-but it isn't much like what I see (but can no longer get for some reason) on the BBC website. It stopped playing one day and nothing I try can get it up and running again. I suspect iTunes.

  • 16 years ago

    I have cable TV and not satellite, so I don't get regular BBC programming. My daughter does and smirks because she gets to see Rebus and such and I don't. I only see British programs that are on our PBS (Public Broadcasting System) channels. I do get two of those, but mostly they have the same programming on different nights. Daytime programs are mostly educational, GED classes that are equivalency credits for people to take in lieu of a high school diploma, little children's programs, and such.

    The British comedy programs we get presently are Last of the Summer Wine, Keeping up Appearances, May to December, and As Time Goes By. May to December is new for us, but the other three just keep recycling. I know Last of the Summer Wine was on for years in Britain, but we only have a few seasons of it and they keep repeating.

    I was mistaken about getting the new Masterpiece Theater program tonight. Instead, we are having a four-night series called Carrier, apparently about aircraft carriers during WWII. This is Derby Week here, so I imagine the powers that be decided the TV audience would be too small what with all the parties and activities that go along with the races.

    Louisville was founded in 1778, and some of our older housing downtown does have chimney pots but not to the extent you see in London, of course. They were the first thing I noticed riding into London from Heathrow on my first visit. Now, what says London to me, aside from the big landmark buildings, are the beautiful white row houses along the streets and around the squares. I particularly love Eaton Square.

  • 16 years ago

    Do any other of you other Americans get Born and Bred and Prime Suspect? These have become Saturday night favorites for me. Here in NW Indiana, we get our public TV stations from Chicago.

  • 16 years ago

    woodnymph-yes! I laboriously built a complete set of secondhand during pre-internet days, which I treasure, but I now have quite a few of the trade paperback reissues for reading purposes.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Thirkell reprints

  • 16 years ago

    discovered the link from Thirkell website doesn't work-try this one and scroll down.

    Here is a link that might be useful: link to the Thirkell page.

  • 16 years ago

    Alright then, Vee, I was deliberately keeping out of this thread but I suppose I'd better say hello to England (Grendal heard that from his lair and is roaring his 'Let me just get at them!' roar).

    Shakespeare captures for me the quintessential, timeless English countryside in plays like Winter's Tale (2nd half with Autolycus and the young lovers). When I lived in the south of England (for 20 years), every year I used to take a busload of teenage schoolchildren on a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon to see a production, in May or early June, when the wild hedge-roses and the honeysuckle is out in the hedgerows - 'the sweet musk roses and the eglantine'; and still, I like to visit the south at the same time of year, it's just so beautiful. Not at all like Yorkshire - Stan Barstow country - which has its own, sterner beauty and where I also lived for some years before moving back to Wales.

    And there are flatter parts of south Wales itself which are not unlike the English south - well, we're not very far away; though my partner (who is, I'm whispering now, an Englishman - sorry Grendal) always says that the architecture in the towns and villages shouts of somewhere other than England - somewhere foreign. 'When I stand here and look at this village', he says, 'I know I'm not in England'.

    But we mustn't ever, ever think that England is synonymous with Britain. Rule Britannia, sung every year at the last night of the proms (jingoistic bit, 2nd half) by a leading singer, one year featured Welsh Gwyneth Price. And each time she came to sing the chorus, she lifted and flung back the huge train to her evening dress to reveal - an embroidered Welsh Dragon! And one year, the international singer Bryn Terfel sang something which everyone thinks of as terribly 'English' (can't remember what) - in Welsh.

    Finally, on flags, I only realised how very reticent the English are about flying their flags when I returned to Wales to live and found that every other shop/house/car is flying the Dragon - Y Ddraig Goch (shut up, Grendal!)


  • 16 years ago

    Stories of England at any point in history have always been a favorite type of read for me. But even so, I can't seem to get a handle on all the kings and queens down through the years. The orders of their reigns and exactly who did what. Are English children required to learn all that?

    Speaking of the PBS programs, no one has mentioned one of my favorites--Doc Martin. The setting is beautiful, Cornwall, I believe.

    A question-- how do the English feel in general about American visitors to their fair land? I mean the average Englishman on the street, not the ones raking in American dollars from the sojourners in their country.

  • 16 years ago

    Well, guess what -- we do, in fact, have chimney pots in my tiny corner of Tidewater, thanks to an English-style village built nearby to house shipyard workers around the time of WW I. It is called "Historic Hilton Village" and the homes are quite charming, although many are duplexes. They have slate roofs, lovely gardens, many of stucco, with lots of fireplaces. It is an architecturally significant area and home owners must comply with certain rules before they make any changes which might not be in keeping with English style cottages. Despite the above, it is quite popular with young families with kids, as there are sidewalks and close-knit neighborhood streets where everyone knows everyone else. Hilton Village even puts out its own little newspaper!

    And by the way,author William Styron grew up in Hilton Village and his novella, "A Tidewater Morning" was set there.

    Cece, thanks for the Thirkell info.

    Dido, I enjoyed your post!

  • 16 years ago

    Smallcoffee, we got Prime Suspect as part of the PBS Mystery Series over maybe a couple of years, but it was a year or so ago. I enjoyed it a lot, as I did Foyle's War which, I understand, is going to have a new run this season.

  • 16 years ago

    Carolyn,That's good news about Foyle's WAr. I saw one episode and really liked it. I love "Born and Bred" about a small village right after WW2. At this point I think I've seen all the shows that were made. It feels like Miss Read for TV to me. Susan

  • 16 years ago

    cece your 'teachers trivia' comes straight from A Winter's Tale where Autolycus is described by Shakespeare as 'a snapper up of unconsidered trifles'. Keep up the good work.

    Mary is Tartan TV full of Scottish programmes?

    Froniga, as you have noticed the kings and queens of England are many and varied. In my now long ago school days our history teacher was absent one day and her 'stand-in' made us list and learn plus their dates all the kings and queens from William 1 (1066-1087) and I can still remember them. :-)
    A few generations earlier and we would have had to know all the Saxon rulers as well.
    These days it seems very little history is taught 'in sequence', probably because the teachers themselves don't have a good grasp of the subject.
    I believe history and geography are no longer required as 'core' subjects . . . Maths English, a foreign language etc that pupils are 'examined' in at age 15/16 years. (these are national exams known as GCSE's with questions set by Examination Boards, further Advanced Level exams follow at 18 years).
    I know my children studied WWI and WWII in great detail but knew little or nothing about The Wars of the Roses, the Industrial Revolution or Nelson and the Duke of Wellington for eg.

    How do English people feel about American visitors?
    I was asked that question many years ago (early'70's) by a local newspaper reporter when I was visiting an Aunt in VA . I must have been the first/only UK visitor in town that year.
    She had talked about this and that, taken a photo (!) and as she went through the front door and having found out I came from the tourist honey-pot of Stratford, asked the question. I replied 'off-the-cuff' "We love them because they are our bread and butter."
    I don't think the average English person will meet many Americans off the beaten track, they mainly follow the tourist trail of London, Stratford, Edinburgh, maybe Bath, York, Oxford etc.
    I think the old 'wartime' view of American service-men as "Over paid, over sexed and over here" are no longer with us.
    Perhaps I should put that question to you and ask how do Americans find the English Joe Public? :-)

  • 16 years ago

    Vee, the Tartan TV progs are purely Scots. Last episode was a tour of an enormous museum in Edinburgh about Scottish history. Very strange architecture, I must say, but interesting ancient items on display. There are 3 sponsors, one of which is McKay marmalade, another of which is Walker's Shortbreads (very popular in the US), and last but not least, of course, a Golf sponsor.

    As for the quote re American service men in WW II, I found the exact opposite attitude when I visited in the Sixties. Indeed, I found the Brits extremely warm and welcoming towards me, and they inevitably explained their gratitude towards the "yanks" as having its origin in WW II aid. (Noticed the friendliness not only in London, but in the countryside, as well).

  • 16 years ago

    Carolyn, thanks for your description of "Blood Brothers." It sounds to be right up my alley, as plays go, and the next time I'm in London, and if it's still running, I will demand to see it The last production I saw was "Wicked." I didn't choose it but went along with a group. I wound up enjoying it, though it's really not the sort of thing I'm usually avid about. Mostly I thought: I could see "Wicked" in New York; when I'm in London, I want to see something more typically English or British.

    Vee, I'm not surprised that most folk only know the chorus of "Rule, Britannia!" Many Americans don't know more than the first verse of "The Star-Spangled Banner," if that. Only a few Americans really have the octave range to sing it, and that's why there are so many godawful performances at functions. We are always waiting for the soloist's voice to break after a screeching crescendo -- the few who manage not to always beam triumphantly and the audience sighs in relief and gives appreciative applause. That's what we get for having a national anthem with a tune from a British drinking song, "The Anacreontic Song (To Anacreon in Heaven)."

    I can still name all the kings and queens back to William the Conqueror. We weren't required to learn them in school, but I did because I was enamored from an early age of all things English and British.

    Vee, either you or KateFW, related the progress of the English from east to west, and told how there's still a definite line of demarcation in place names and the origins of family names. Was there a particular book you recommended on this subject? It took me quite a while to grasp that it was the inhabitants (tribes, including the Scotti) of Ireland that infiltrated from the west into Wales and Scotland at the same time the Angles, Saxons and Jutes were doing the same from the east, with the Britons getting squeezed between them. I love to read about the historical aspects of this time, but I'm not fond of the mythological and romantic embellishments.

    My perceptions of the English in England: The famous reserve and politeness seems to be the outward reflection of inherent shyness. I've asked English friends if they think this is true and most of them agree. Do you, Vee? English travelers, expats, and immigrants seem to be much less shy -- perhaps by nature but probably more from necessity.

  • 16 years ago

    I often wonder what they all saw in these islands, all those years ago, which caused them all to invade from all points of the compass. There were also the Romans, of course, before those cited above; and lastly there were the Normans (1066, Willie the Conk). They all wanted this place so very much. Yet here I sit now, nearly May, freezing cold with rain hammering at my window yet again or even still..... it's dull and dark... There's a lovely poem by Auden - the musings of a Roman soldier stationed at Hadrian's Wall (the wall separating what is now Scotland from what is now England):

    Over the heather the wet wind blows,
    I've lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose.

    The rain comes pattering out of the sky,
    I'm a Wall soldier, I don't know why.

    The mist creeps over the hard grey stone,
    My girl's in Tungria; I sleep alone.

    Aulus goes hanging around her place,
    I don't llike his manners, I don't lilke his face.

    Piso's a Christian, he worships a fish;
    There's be no kissing if he had his wish.

    She gave me a ring but I diced it away;
    I want my girl and I want my pay.

    When I'm a veteran with only one eye
    I shall do nothing but look at the sky.

    Frieda, Rule Britannia isn't the British National Anthem, of course, and it would be frowned upon if anyone were to sing it in public in any manner other than the sort of tongue-in-cheek attitude they have towards it at the Promenade concerts. It's arrogant, jingoistic, insulting to others and so on. And few people know more than verse 1 to God Save the Queen - if they did, there would be even more of a fuss from the Scots who have recently protested vehemently agains one verse which prays for protection against their people.......! Ouch! They have their own anthem, of course, and probably, like us, the Welsh (ours is called Mae Hen Wlad fy Nghadae), wouldn't be heard dead singing God Save the Queen. I think the English are trying to get Jerusalem as a purely English one.


  • 16 years ago

    Vee, I have found the English to be very courteous and friendly. I did meet Anyanka and Martin once, if you remember, and we talked half the afternoon.

    I have one fond memory of a woman in line behind me at a London Post Office who asked me where I got my hair done. When I said Louisville, Kentucky, she said, "Oh, I had hoped it was local." I replied, "But as soon as I opened my mouth, you knew that wasn't so, didn't you?" She laughed.

    We were in England on 9/11 and after, and people were so kind whenever they heard our accent to come over and very quietly voice their sympathy. I'm sure I embarrassed them because it invariably brought tears to my eyes.

  • 16 years ago

    Mary, Frieda, Carolyn, thank you for the positive feedback, although I think you would find a less quiet side to the younger members of our population if you were to visit any city/town on a Friday or Saturday night when many of them seem to go mad and whole areas become 'no-go' with drunk/drug fuelled fights and unpleasant bad behaviour.

    Frieda, the generally held belief that after the Roman occupation, incoming hoards of hairy Saxons, Angles, Jutes etc rowed over the North Sea and colonised Britain is gradually being overturned. Through more accurate archaeological investigation it is now speculated that, although some Anglo-Saxons appeared on the East coast and inter-bred, the population stayed much as it had but gradually assimilated 'Continental' ideas/habits/customs.
    It is a theory held by historian and archaeologist Francis Pryor and dealt with in his book Britain AD A Quest for Arthur England and the Anglo Saxons.
    I think the 'Arthur' bit is to add appeal to those who are convinced King A was a real person and to spice up the TV series that went with the book.
    The site below gives his other books and something about F P himself, a jolly avuncular figure with the ability to make his interests and enthusiasms come alive.
    'Time Team' is a surprisingly popular hands-on archaeological TV prog. in which teams of specialists spend three days digging-up anything from a possible Roman fort to a WWII plane crash site. Excellent computer graphics help to make sense of the mounds of earth and 'finds'.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Britain AD

  • 16 years ago

    To those who wonder why the Jutes, Angles, Saxons, et al. invaded "the kingdom by the sea", bear in mind two things: in good times, there were populations expansions and folks wanted land, as all the land where they were was taken over. The second factor was that there have been "warming periods" in Northern Europe in the 1st millenium A.D. (I read this in several sources). Thus, the climate was considerably milder in England intermittently, and thus various crops were able to be grown then which cannot be today. I seem to recall reading something re hops being more plentiful and even a sort of rudimentary wine, as well....

    And there is a school of thought which maintains while there was not a King Arthur per se as the romantic figure of myth, there was nevertheless a strong leader who arose in the Dark Ages and unified the people enough to make a gallant stand against the invading hordes. It was this figure around whom all the legends got embroidered. (I've read so much about this for so many years now that I cannot recall the sources).

  • 16 years ago

    >the generally held belief that after the Roman occupation, incoming hoards of hairy Saxons, Angles, Jutes etc rowed over the North Sea and colonised Britain is gradually being overturned. Through more accurate archaeological investigation it is now speculated that, although some Anglo-Saxons appeared on the East coast and inter-bred, the population stayed much as it had but gradually assimilated 'Continental' ideas/habits/customs.

    Genetic testing is bearing this out, too. Bryan Sykes has written a few books on the subject, if you aren't already familiar with them.

  • 16 years ago

    And here's link to a Nature article about some of the latest books on the subject...

    Here is a link that might be useful: Nature Article

  • 16 years ago

    Vee - interesting link re: Britain AD which then led to a link about Seahenge that I had not heard of. Fascinating and thank you for the info. I can always count on you for something interesting.


  • 16 years ago

    georgia thanks for the information, very interesting and from such an impeccable scholarly source, giving Frieda plenty more reading.

    Liz I saw a TV prog on 'Seahenge' sometime ago. Can't remember all the details but due to very low tides this wide 'circle' of tree trunks was found quite far below the low-tide mark on the Norfolk North Sea coast. Lots of pumps, heavy diggers etc were brought in to excavate the site in as short a time as possible and take out the timber.
    A great clamour arose from many New Age types who suddenly arrived on the scene (they could have doubled as Jutes, Angles, Ancient British) saying that it must be preserved as it was. I think it added much important information to a period of which we have little concrete knowledge.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Seahenge

  • 16 years ago

    Re grape and hop growing.
    Yes certainly grapes have been grown in southern England since Roman times and today white wine making is big business (though not on the scale of Germany, Australia, Chile etc) though I suppose competitors might still consider them rudimentary ;-)
    Hops grow wild among the hedgerows in England and up until 30-40 years ago their use in the production of 'bitter' beer covered acres of land in Kent and Herefordshire.
    The history of brewing in England goes way back into the dim past and after the recent growth of cheap and fizzy lagers and factory produced inferior beers, it is good to see a revival of small independent breweries.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Hop Production

  • 16 years ago

    What an interesting thread this has turned out to be! We Anglophiles should try perhaps to keep it going all year long....

  • 16 years ago

    A little known fact is that it took the Norsemen only 24 hours to go from southern Norway to the Hebrides in spring. The shallowbottomed ships sort of floated on top of the waves. The trip back in autumn took much longer with different winds.

  • 16 years ago

    Bringing up the Hebrides reminded of a series of books I read many years ago. It was about a woman who retired there and the local life and characters. It was a really great series and I loved it and would like to read them again but I don't remember the author's name or the name of the books. I have always wanted to make a trip there because them. Does anyone know about these books?

  • 16 years ago

    Deborah, are you thinking of the Lillian Beckwith books, The Hills Is Lonely, The Sea for Breakfast, etc.? The Amazon link is below:

    Here is a link that might be useful: The Hills Is Lonely

  • 16 years ago

    I think the writer you are thinking of is the late Lilian Beckwith who wrote The Hills is Lonely and several other humorous books about the Hebrides.

    mariannese, the Norsemen/Vikings landed first on the Shetland and Orkney Isles, to the North of Scotland (the Hebrides are on the West coast) they were remarkable sea-men. Even to this day the Shetlanders see themselves as quite distinct from the Scots . . . no pipes, reels, tartans etc although they became part of Scotland in about 1450 as they made up part of the dowry of a Norwegian Princess when she was bethrothed to the King of Scotland.
    As children we used to stay on Unst, the most northerly of the islands in the days before oil was discovered in the North Sea. A fascinating, remote area, really wild Shetland ponies, almost as wild sheep, sea-birds that would attack humans at nesting times, very laid-back but independent people and the most incredible clear air free of nearly all pollution.
    Sorry I sound like a 'travelogue' :-) "And so as the sun sets on the Holm of Vatsland, we say farewell to Shetland"

    Here is a link that might be useful: Lilian Beckwuth

  • 16 years ago

    Thanks Vee and Sheri- that is the author

  • 16 years ago

    Sorry vee, I made a silly mistake mixing up these islands. I shouldn't because I am in Uppsala on the same parallel as the Orkneyar, the 59th. The light at this time of the year must be the same as here with sunrise at 4.30 am and sunset at 9 pm.

    Gamla (Old) Uppsala was the center of the Aesir cult and the modern city makes the most of this heritage to attract visitors. A guide at the local Viking museum described the funniest question he'd had from an American tourist. "Do you have the same problems with the Vikings as we do with the Indians?"

    But my point was that it was a remarkably short journey for the vikings, almost a day trip.

  • 16 years ago

    mariannese, in Shetland they call the long days of summer when the sun never really sets the 'simmer dim'.
    I recently saw a TV programme in which a group of rowers tried to follow the Viking route from Norway to Shetland using a primitive compass the original of which had been found in excavations. I don't know how long the journey took (probably more than 24 hours) but when they made land-fall the TV crew admitted the boat had been fitted with modern 'Satnav' just in case . . .which rather detracted from the purpose of the experiment!
    I had an English great grandmother who in 1912 asked my US grandfather-to-be if they still had much trouble with Indians in Virginia. I think she had worries that her youngest daughter was being dragged to pioneer territory.
    In the same family, but back in the 1850-60's I had 'Southern Belle' GGG Aunt, who went 'out West' to California but soon came back "because she didn't care for it" . . rather as though she had chosen the wrong hat.

  • 15 years ago

    A wet, cold and very windy holiday weekend in Southern England and this is how the mad folk of Gloucestershire choose to spend their time . . . at the ancient and VERY dangerous sport of Cheese Rolling.
    All you need is a seriously steep hill, lots of mud, groups of fool-hardy young people, a round of cheese . . . and a fleet of ambulances.
    Do you have any customs/traditions where you live?

    Here is a link that might be useful: Cheese-Rolling video

  • 15 years ago

    Good heavens, Vee! What a video :) Do you have to actually catch the cheese or just be first over the finish line to win?

    I'm afraid my neighborhood is very boring, I can't think of anything local that could begin to compare -- though it would be fun to have something similar!

  • 15 years ago

    We do have this little 133-year-old horse race called the Kentucky Derby where you have to be fairly rich to afford a ticket or else go to the infield where there are a zillion wild people partying hearty and from which you are unable to catch a glimpse of a horse.

  • 15 years ago

    carolyn, it is very similar here. Prices for the best part of the fashionable race-courses (Ascot/Goodwood etc) are extremely expensive. 'Corporate Hospitality' very much to the fore, women dressed to the nines, champagne flowing like water. Who's watching the racing? Wot racing?

    Sheri, I don't think the contestants are meant to catch the cheese it would probably knock their teeth/head off. It used to be given as the prize to the various winners; there are a number of races.
    We are plagued by a Govt agency know as 'Health and Safety'
    which is fast taking over the simple pleasures of life and is part of the growing Nanny State trend. So it is surprising that this ancient tradition has been allowed to continue . . . only 30 people were injured this year. ;-)
    A recent diktat has banned the use of bunting (ie strands of small flags) being hung from lamp posts/between buildings during local celebrations, in case someone is injured.

  • 15 years ago

    Vee, it sounds like the U.S. We've become horribly risk-adverse and should anything go wrong at any event, there will be a phalanx of lawyers waiting to pounce. For example, we're no longer allowed to ice skate on town-owned ponds (mind you, these are 3 feet deep at best) or sled down town-owned hills for fear of injury and lawsuits.

    And while I certainly appreciate things like children's car seats, bicycle helmets, and heavily mulched playgrounds (much less blood when you fall off the swings *w*), it seems as though every public activity today has to be structured, inspected, sanitized, organized and then like as not, paid for. *sigh*

    Chasing a round of cheese down a steep hill is looking better and better, LOL.

  • 15 years ago

    ..."customs/traditions where we live...."

    Hmm. Apart from the annual Turkey Trot at Thanksgiving?

    We do have a large ethnic Greek population in my area, which has for many years, now, been hosting an annual Hellenic Festival of 4 days, the first weekend of June. This is a not to be missed celebration, with the finest and freshest Greek foods, authentic music and costumed dancers. Moreover, it is also a bazaar, bake-sale, with tour of the exquisite Orthodox church. Most of us wish it were held twice a year....

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