People who know me know that for a large percentage of the time my brain is engaged with the early 14th century as I research and speculate on this and that to do with Edward II and Hugh Despenser. This also means that, from time to time, they may get a little impromptu history lesson or that I may suddenly come out with some random comment about chausses or the purpose of the buttery. Those that love me, are kind enough to indulge me and at times, even have the good manners appear to be interested (those that don’t love me disappeared long ago to seek the company of more everyday people).
Anyway, in light of that, I was out for a meal the other night with my daughter and mother (who have no choice other than to put up with me!). Mum and I are interested in researching our family tree and it was mentioned that everybody is probably related to some noble house or other from medieval times. Then it continued:
Me: Well, I hope my ancestor is from the Edward and Despenser supporters. I’d hate it to be Roger Mortimer! (said in jest (!) for all you Mortimer fans!)
Daughter: Why, was he a baddie?
Mum (after a pause – and yes, the surrounding noise was quite high): A Brownie? Did you say a Brownie?
After that, I just couldn’t shake the image from my head of Roger Mortimer dressed as a Brownie, sitting on a big fake toadstool next to Brown Owl. I’m trying to think what badges he could have collected? Any ideas?
Another surreal conversation from being misheard happened only yesterday when me and the usual suspects (above) took a trip to Farleigh Hungerford Castle near Bath. After a bit of walking around we sat on a nice wooden bench in the weak February sunshine to have some hot chocolate out of a flask. We looked at the damaged remains of the castle walls around us.
Mum: Not much left, is there? There was much more at Goodrich.
Me: That’s because Goodrich was built stronger – it was more of a fortress – for defence. Farleigh Hungerford, although fortified, was built more for showing the status of its owner.
Mum: How come it didn’t need such thick walls though?
Me: It’s a bit complicated but basically, during the time it was built, castles were going out of fashion. They couldn’t withstand the new technology of gunpowder and cannonballs being hurled at them.
Daughter: Cannibals? Why did they hurl cannibals into the castle? Was it to eat the people or something?
Cue another indelible image of knights standing in huge steaming cauldrons surrounded by root vegetables. I suppose it could have happened in a parallel universe! Maybe I should write a book of alternative history according to my family…