Monday, March 06, 2006

Living history

People often ask me why, with an Honours degree in history, I'm not writing historicals. Well, I probably will, one day, but in the meantime, I'm not because there's waaayyy to much research to do. My problem is that I'm interested in everyday history, in the practicalities of life for ordinary people in earlier times. I don't want to write about lords and ladies, and I don't want to just go along with the Hollywood notions of historical life.

I'm also a spinner and weaver, and every time I'm reading an historical and a hapless heroine gets stranded in a castle/fort/cottage after being drenched in a thunderstorm, and someone produces a garment, I think - 'oh, yes, and where did that come from, huh?'. While occasionally a book will refer to peasants/villagers/trades people weaving or spinning, I've never yet come across a heroine who picks up a spindle or winds a warp. Nor does anyone much seem to worry about the seasons, the planting, harvesting, grinding, retting, etc, or what produce is available for the table when, or the phases of the moon and whether it's light enough outside at night - all of which were integral to survival in times not so long ago.

Anyway, at Easter I'm going to be getting some real-life practice at medieval life. The local medieval arts society holds a camp every second year at the pine forest outside town, complete with a long house, and people come from all over Australia to camp in authentic Dark Ages/Viking style. I've visited once before to demonstrate spinning with a drop spindle, but this year, a friend and I are making a warp-weighted loom, so I'll be spending a couple of days in the long house weaving on that. Which means I've got only a few weeks to work out how exactly to warp a warp-weighted loom - it's more complicated than the 'modern', 1000 year-old loom types I'm more used to working with.

And I'm sure that spending a couple of days with plenty of young, energetic warriors around will give me a story idea or two... ;-)

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