Monday, July 5, 2010

ancient lights

is a doctrine of English Common Law, that a window 'glazed or unglazed' through which light has shone uninterrupted for at least 20 years cannot be obscured by buildings or structures on adjoining land. The law came about in the 1660s, and has one of the cooler names going.
I also find it a useful reminder, for writing pre-industrial settings, that the dominant (and free) light is sunlight. Other kinds of light, candles, fire, oil-lamps and rushlights, require money and materials to maintain, and provide less trustworthy illumination. There was solid reason for most guilds forbidding work to be done after nightfall, and calling it 'false work'.

I try to be aware (a habit picked up from painting) of the light source and direction within any scene I'm writing. Overall, I think I have the hang of it, and I've been quite pleased with the effects in some night scenes I've written.
Which is why I was more than a little embarrassed recently, reading over a scene from Cost of Silver. The scene involves Tom/Griffin, by night and rain, cutting the hand off a hanged woman. At first I found it quite satisfactory, jus needing a little polish. Then I realised that I'd written it leaning heavily on the visual, as if the gibbet in a small English village would have been lit by streetlights. Aaarrrgghh.
So. Must rewrite, swapping out all visual detail for tactile.

Last week was our annual Living History Week at Fort Rodd Hill historic site. Not as big a group of us as a couple of years ago, but livened by the addition of a party of Vikings up the hill, who joined us for dinner most nights.
The stone maze was set up just below the dining tent, and that proved an excellent position, visible and accessible for visitors, but discouraging people from wandering straight up into the dining tent. The pathway was very thoroughly trodden down over Thursday, and even easier to follow post-takedown. A few photos were taken of our ceremonial post-labyrinth walk-through, and if I can get hold of one I'll post it.

This is me trying out a different head-wrap, with a rather 15th c. look, and the stylish addition of a huge smear of ink on my face. Amazingly, I didn't get any of the ink on my veil--everything I own eventually does get ink on it, though.
By the end of the week I had cut all but 4 of the feathers into quills, and given several away. My theory--that lefties would find a quill and a writing slope easier than joined writing with a modern pen--was confirmed by experiment by two left-handed youngsters and one adult. I was quite chuffed.

I do rather wish that there was less ambient light on the site, and most especially that the horrid bright sodium light on the washroom building was either turned off or dimmed. You can see so many more stars then. Still, the site remains beautiful with deer grazing fearlessly nearby, and the company unmatched.

This year we had the diversion of repeatedly escaping chickens, including one roosting in a tree. It's surprisingly difficult to catch hold of a chicken that's flying straight at your face.
Partway through the week, the rowdy hens were replaced by a sedate and dutiful hen with three half-grown chicks. She was tethered by the leg, as per the illustration in the Luttrell Psalter, and the chicks stayed nearby.
One meal was enlivened by the sudden stoop of a hawk onto something small and furry (odds say gray squirrel) followed by the hawk flying away with the small thing going squeaksqueaksqueaksqueaksqueak in its talons. The chickens, who had been talking amongst themselves up to that point, were abruptly entirely quiet and still for quite some time.

This is Elisa weaving, always a great attraction. A little trouble with the loom this year because of the ground not being quite level, but eventual success, and an opportunity for many visitors to try weaving a few rows.
The Fort Rodd Hill group was this year so female that the guys were joking it should be renamed from Medieval Village to Medieval Convent, with Mark and Paul to be the priest and the gardener (there's a Boccaccio story being referenced there, but I can't remember which one).
There are several children running about, so it would have to be a convent that took in orphans, but that doesn't seem like an insurmountable obstacle.

Meals were fairly low-key, with breakfast and mid-day being a matter of foraging through what was laid out on the table: smoked meat and sausage, hard and soft cheese, apples, cherries, dried apples, plums and raisins, bread, honey, dripping, pear butter, mustard, boiled eggs, and suchlike. Supper was usually a pottage (barley, lentils or rice) with vegetables and a little meat (beef, rabbit, bacon or lamb) mixed in. One roast of lamb and one roast rabbit, which led to many entertaining discussions about the ethics of eating meat--beef never seems to provoke the reaction that rabbit did from visitors.
This photo is of me and Alicia making sure that the last of the barley pottage didn't have any bits of bacon in it before it went to the hens.

The oddest names I was asked to write this year (Your Name Written With a Feather!) were brothers named Rylan and Shaunison. Rylan sounds like a blend of Ryan and Dylan, but I wonder if Shaunison will be calling himself Shaun once he's on his own? His mother even said it was easier to spell than pronounce, which seems a bit counterproductive.
Olivia is still popular, and Kayleigh/Ceilidh/Kaylee/etc. holding its own. One pair of sibs named Kayley and Kaydon, and a charming group of ladies from Trinidad or Jamaica whose names included Edith , Lauren and Theda.
Luthien and Elanor were very pleased that I not only knew how to spell their names but recognised the source (how should I not?) and their sister revealed that her middle name was Galadriel so I added it to the page.

Silliest thing said by visitor
That Paul heard:
Young boy (pointing at rabbit): What's that?
Paul: It's a rabbit. I'm roasting it for supper.
Mother (pulling young boy away): He didn't need to know that!
That I heard: On the last full day, an older lady with (I would guess) her granddaughter, about 7 or 8, the lady being of the sort who lectures rather than converses, and the little girl being carefully kept from engaging with any of the activities. Four or five of our kids, ranging in age from 12 to 6, were running through the labyrinth, shrieking.
Lady: The children had very short childhoods, and were put to work at an early age ....
(Kids reach the middle of the labyrinth and collapse onto each other in a giggling heap)
Lady: Their clothing was a miniature version of their parents' dress ....
(Kids get up and start racing back out.)
The kids are, indeed, dressed in clothing similar to the adults, but simpler and cut shorter.
The little girl is wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt and black stretch trousers. The older lady is wearing a long-sleeved t-shirt and black stretch trousers, plus short vinyl jacket.
So I guess the great emancipating advance of today is that adults' clothing is an expanded version of their children's dress?


Terri-Lynne said...

"So. Must rewrite, swapping out all visual detail for tactile."

And this is why your writing is so ridiculously engrossing. Yay, B!

Light source and shadow is playing heavily into the cover art being done for Finder. It's really cool to see what the artist is doing, as he's doing it.

LOVE the pics!!! That looks like such fun.

batgirl said...

Aw! You make me blush!

There are lots more pictures I should post, though none taken by me, this year.