On Hampton Roads

Yesterday, Jimmy, Justin and I had a fantastic day on Saturday to conclude our trip. I, however, did wear Justin out.

We started at the NASA Visitor’s Center in Hampton. This was a really fun place with all sorts of space and aircraft exhibits. While it does not have the same kinds of artifacts then the Omnisphere in Hutchinson, it did some other things extremely well.

They have a bunch of interactive exhibits that show the physics involved in air and space travel. Justin and Jimmy had a lot of fun (and I as well, though of course I was too cool to tell them that) playing and learning about the physics involved.

One of the highlights was the enclosed flight simulator that moved in all directions. The first time Jimmy and Justin went on it the simulator stopped about 30 seconds in and locked up, but they got it fixed and eventually they went twice. The first time Jimmy was in the pilot seat and decided to try a barrel roll which prompted a loud “Hey” noticeable to the people outside the capsule. Justin’s eyes were huge when the capsule opened. The second time Justin said he’d drive and took the pilot seat. This time was a much wilder ride, partially controlled by Justin, partially controlled by Jimmy, and partially chaotic because Jimmy kept changing who was the pilot. That was hilarious to watch from the outside as the capsule was flipping upside down and rolling and doing all sorts of things. I too took a turn and though I wasn’t as wild as them I had a lot of fun trying to skim the land, eventually crashing of course.

There was also a magic exhibit. This exhibit showed the math and physics behind the illusions of several tricks. Many of these exhibits were interactive and people could participate in them. They both thought this was fun.

Upstairs there’s more space exhibits, including exhibits on what is involved in getting into space and also colonizing the moon and Mars.

After spending nearly 4 hours there, we went down to Norfolk. We went through one of the many tunnels under Hampton Roads to get there. We went to see the USS Wisconsin and we were hoping for a harbor cruise, which fortunately we were able to do as well.

The Wisconsin was great, even though you could only wander around topside. She’s actually still in the Reserve Fleet so technically she could be re-commissioned and they keep the belowdecks in a controlled environment. Nevertheless it was amazing. Justin and I wandered around everything we could. Jimmy couldn’t because of his knees.

Then we lounged and shopped for a bit until 5:30 and the harbor cruise started. The cruise was fantastic. We all loved the cruise and I took a ton of pictures. We got to see a bunch of ships in the harbor and then went past the Norfolk US Navy base to see what was currently in port and there was quite a lot. 2 Nimitz-class carriers, CVN-75 Harry S. Truman and CVN-69 Dwight D. Eisenhower, another carrier CVN-65 Enterprise, and a slew of other ships. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyers included the Burke herself, the Winston Churchill, and the Cole, the same ship damaged in the terrorist attack a while ago. There were several Ticonderoga-class CGs as well. You couldn’t see them very well, but there were also 4 Los Angeles-class attack subs. Finally, there was a slew of support and amphibious ships. It was very very cool. I was in heaven. So were the boys.

After that, we made the drive home and ended the trip. We chatted for a bit but we were all tired and went to bed fairly quickly.

Today I’m at Vels’s house, in preparation for meeting with Dr. Richard Abels tomorrow. More on that later.

On the Road Again…

Well, I turned right around from Lilies and went on the road again. This time I headed east. I got to Ginger and Don’s on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Jimmy, Justin, and I went to the Rush concert in Raleigh, NC. From there we headed north and stayed at a hotel south of Richmond.

Thursday we were in Richmond for most of the day. I went to VCU Hospital to get antibiotics for what I think is Lyme Disease from Lilies while the lads went to the Museum of the Confederacy. They happened to be right next to each other. I went through the fast track check-in, a fortunate thing given that it still took 2 and a half hours to get a prescription for antibiotics. They boys, however, really enjoyed the Museum and the Confederate White House.

From there we looked for food near the Edgar Allen Poe museum. This was sort of an adventure as nearly every place was closed, but we did find a Dominican place. Jimmy and Justin were a little unsure of Dominican food but I really enjoyed it. Justin is more willing than Jimmy to try different stuff πŸ™‚

After that we did go to the Poe museum which I thought was really fun. I think they liked it, but I think Justin will appreciate it more after he reads some Poe. I believe he’ll love Poe given some of his other reading habits, though he might have to grow into some of it.

Last night we stayed at a hotel in Williamsburg across from an Ichiban restaurant. Both of them said they really enjoyed such places and we had a very good time, though the poor cook had to adjust for my seafood allergy and their aversion to vegetables.

Today we went to Jamestown. This was fun and I really enjoyed the museum and the movie. There were plenty of archaeological tidbits to ooh and aah over, including textiles. However, the living history part was a little too packaged. I’m also enough of a Calontiri to dislike people in garb wearing mundance shoes, even if they look very close to period. Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun and Justin had a blast running over the reconstructed ships. Jimmy didn’t like it as much because of the steps and ladders with his knee.

Then Justin and I went to the Yorktown Victory Center. This was very impressive and the living history here was significantly better. I tried to take a video of the guy blank-firing his musket a couple of times, we’ll see how it turned out. Rhianwen would have enjoyed looking at the tents, which I’d guess are Panther’s but not sure.

While we went there, Jimmy hung out on the beach looking at the girls. Strangely enough, he preferred that to a museum πŸ™‚

Now we’re at a hotel in Newport News. We’ll try and do the NASA Center at Langley AFB, maybe the Mariners Museum, maybe the USS Wisconsin, and hopefully a harbor cruise. We’ll try and at least swing by Kitty Hawk, which is on the way back to Ginger and Don’s where we’ll end up tomorrow evening.

Sunday it’s up to Maryland and staying at Vels’ for a couple of nights. Monday is a meeting with Dr. Richard Abels. Tuesday is dinner and hanging out with Marty and his wife who I’ve never met yet. More before then.

Lilies

Greetings all

It’s summer so it’s time for me to start posting again πŸ™‚

I got back from Lilies last week and had a great time. I did some different things than I have ever done before. I taught 4 classes plus one of them a second time. I am told by Countess Fionna I taught more people than any other single teacher at Lilies. I did a class on historiographical aspects to research, which I expected to have 0 interest but actually had 6 people attending. On the other hand I thought I would have several people for my Beginning Chess class and no one showed up. I did a class on Wealtheow and Hildeburh from Beowulf, which again I did not expect much interest because it was sort of a dry academic subject but got 9 people. Finally, I did a class on Anglo-Saxon noble women and got 11 people but several people said they were upset that they missed it so I did it again for 6 people under my shade fly after Grand Court. I got good reviews, which I suppose I should expect given that I was talking about my area of specialty and I do teach professionally, nevertheless it was very gratifying to have so many people like Duchess Susanna compliment me on my teaching.

I also competed in the Rose in Any Medium competition. I wrote a poem in the style of Anglo-Saxon poetry in honor of the queens of Calontir. I didn’t win the competition, but came in a close second and both the winner and I got loot. Dammo did an incredible box with roses on it, documented it pretty well, and really showed his craftsmanship. I knew when I saw the box he was going to win because it was amazing. I’m quite pleased to have been in his league.

I did, of course, fight. I fought 4 out of the 7 days, with one of those days being cancelled by rain. I marshalled on 1 of the other days and felt that fighting on the day I taught 4 classes in a row was unwise.

My fighting was pretty good. I did well in the melees, breaking my polearm head on HRM Northshield :). As always, however, my biggest problem in melees is stamina. Hopefully, I will continue to lose weight and this will change.

I only fought 1 tournament, the Fyrd First Spear Tournament. I did very well in this tournament in several fights, and screwed up in the 2 I lost. Had I not screwed those 2 fights up, I might very well have ended up as one of the last fighters remaining. Since I fought the whole tournament with 6ft spear no matter what my opponent used I was pretty pleased. I’m somewhat OK with people not choosing to fight me with 6ft spear, as I’m not shabby with the system, but I was disappointed that no other fyrdmen chose to fight 6ft spear except when Frederick and Lucien fought me with spears. I do believe that the First Spear Tournament should be fought with spear alone, because that is our totem weapon. I also believe that fyrdmen should practice with spear because, again, it’s our totem weapon. I picked up spear when I became a fyrdman because I felt it was my responsibility to know that weapon.

Overall, though, the fighting was nice and smooth. Dirk was Marshal-in-Charge and did very well. Technically according to the book, I was in charge of Authorizations, but really it was Hrothgar who did most of the work. I did my share of marshalling, yes, but I got to fight more than I would have because of Hrothgar’s work.

The singing was great, and the companionship was great, and all the normal things were great. It was also great to see Mahault, Berend, and Adrielle. The only real bad thing from Lilies is I think I got Lyme Disease, but I visited a hospital and have antibiotics so hopefully that will clear that up.

OK, that’s enough about Lilies. Time for another post about the week since πŸ™‚

New Photo Blog

Greetings all, I have just started another blog, one focusing on pictures that I find for whatever reason interesting.

This new blog is at:
http://blog.360.yahoo.com/rhodri2112

And some day I’ll post here on LiveJournal seriously again πŸ™‚

For now, let me just say my life is very busy. I am taking two language classes this semester and that was not the best thing I could have done. They’re fun classes in and of themselves, but taken together they are a ton of work.

In several weeks I will present my first conference paper. In the midst of my languages, my medieval philosophy class, and my sections which I’m teaching, I have to finish that this week.

There’s probably lots more I should add, but hey, I have to get a new photo up in the new blog.

The Beginning of the End

So I ended up in Newcastle. I probably did not do Newcastle justice, but I did get to see some neat things.

Newcastle is an industrial town that is re-inventing itself into more of a tourist town. It has the sites to justify it, too. Within two blocks of my B&B in the suburb of South Shields was the Roman fort of Arbeia. Across the Tyne from South Shields are the ruins of an old Priory. The castle keep in Newcastle is in fantastic shape. There’s the North Sea terminus of Hadrian’s Wall at Segedunum. Oh, and there’s this Bede’s World thing.

I didn’t see all of it. I did go to Arbeia, though I did not have my camera, nor did I either take pictures of the Priory or stop by it. The foundations of the fort are all that remains, and it’s neat, but I have to admit I’ve been a little jaded from my time in Macedonia.

I tried to go to Segedunum, which is off the Metro stop at Wallsend. Interestingly, all of the Metro signs in Wallsend are bilingual, English and Latin. Unfortunately, and this is an example of how Newcastle is transitioning to a tourist town, there are no directions how to get to Segedunum once you get off the Metro. This was the first historical site in England or Wales that wasn’t marked so that I could get there.

It was not, however, the first site that was not marked well. To get to Bede’s World, you get off at the Bede Metro Station, but if you come from the east and South Shields, there are no signs to Bede’s World anywhere. There are plenty of signs for Metro passengers coming from the west, though, and after I crossed under the bridge I found them and was on my way.

Bede’s World is a combination of three basic parts. First is the existing medieval church of St. John and the ruins of the medieval abbey that had been built over the abbey that Bede lived in. They do have the foundations of both abbey’s marked in stone, so you can get a picture of what each looked like. Plus, there’s a lot of signage showing more how things looked, though several had unfortunately been vandalized. Most powerful was a marker stone Ceolfrid had written in the 700s.

After the church you go to the museum, which is a well thought out design. It works for a great number of audiences. It has enough artifacts that it is appealing to the expert. It has lots of recreations that someone who doesn’t know as much can really enjoy it. It also has a lot of neat things for children to do. It’s a bit Disney, but unlike the Jorvik exhibit, the Disney is an attempt to enhance the history, not overshadow it.

Finally there is the Anglo-Saxon farm. They’ve really tried to make a working Anglo-Saxon farm using as few modern tools as possible and to keep the modern world out. It’s a challenge given their location, and modern legal requirements, though, as there are big oil tanks on one side, an industrial area on the other, and lots of hints of modernity put in places for safety such as obvious life savers. Nevertheless, it’s a really neat place to go, but I have to say the pigs were huge, intimidating, and behind very small fences with warnings about how sharp their teeth were.

At this point I tried to go to Segedunum, but failed due to the lack of signage. I did wander around Wallsend some, but never saw any hint of the exhibit. So, after walking around for a while, I gave up and went to the castle keep in downtown Newcastle.

The castle keep is amazing. It’s essentially intact, and you can spend lots of time wandering around it’s three levels with many rooms and corridors. It’s really really cool. The top gives you a great view of Newcastle, and while it’s not the most scenic city in the world, it’s not horrible and they are really working to improve it. In any case, the keep is well worth visiting.

So here I sit on my way back to London and my preparations for coming back to the States. Of course I have mixed feelings. I’ve been out of the US for about 45 days. It will be good to have a cell phone again, though I dread checking my voice mail. I should be at Pennsic at some point this weekend, so that will be fun. I’m looking forward to seeing people.

Yet…, I’ve missed so much. I didn’t get to Caernarvon or Rhuddlan or Chester along the Welsh north coast. I didn’t get to Scotland at all, so no Edinburgh or Glasgow. Durham, where Bede is buried, is a lovely town I saw from the train but did not visit. I didn’t make it to Kent or Cornwall. I didn’t see Canterbury or Westminster Abbey. I didn’t make it across to Ireland.

It’s been long, great, and sometimes strange trip, and I have to admit it will be a relief to get home, if only for a little bit, but I’m already hoping for more opportunities to come to England.

This afternoon, I essentially complete my packing and get ready to go. Tonight I think Eddie, Mia, and some others are going to go to the Black Horse for one final pub night, and then in 26 hours I get on the plane. Sigh.

History will be kind to me for I intend to write it

Yesterday was another very fun and interesting day. Since Clare was not feeling well, it was just Tom and I. We roamed to the south and east of Redditch, getting almost to Oxford. Rather than describe it chronologically like usual I’m going to bounce around a bit, saving what I think is the best for last.

We went by two places which I would have liked to have seen, but did not wish to pay for entry. What little of each we could see was interesting and beautiful, but I tend to shy away from $30 entrance fees. The first place with that sort of fee was Blenheim Palace. This is right off of Woodstock Town Centre, and you go through a cool arched gate to get into the grounds. It’s supposed to be very beautiful, and it is the birthplace of Winston Churchill, which explains much of my interest, but I couldn’t justify the expense. The other interesting place is Warwick Castle, which has been turned into a sort of a medieval theme park. Again, very interesting, but even more expensive than Blenheim. Tom and I contented ourselves with driving around the two places, and I snapped a few pictures, but that’s about it.

It was in Warwick, though, that Tom and I had a proper English carvery for late lunch. Basically, they serve you a place of roast beef, or turkey, or pork, or chicken, or whatever, or all of the above, with Yorkshire pudding and veggies and lots of potatoes. The Irish may be famed for their reliance on the potato, but it’s an English staple as well.

Speaking of the mundane, Tom and I began the day by going to the big Car Boot Sale in Redditch. Basically this is a huge garage sale festival type thing. They have it every week and it’s really neat. It’s so big, we roamed for an hour and a half and probably saw a quarter of it, and Tom said yesterday’s was a small one. Had it been in Columbia, I would have been in trouble, but I didn’t think I’d be able to fit the lovely couch and chair set that would have been perfect in my library into my suitcase. Sigh.

One of the most intriguing places I’ve been was the stone circle at Rollright. There’s a circle which is pretty well preserved of approximately 70 stones here. Why approximately? Apparently no one can ever count them consistently. If you can count the same number of stones three times in a row, you’ve earned a wish. There’s also a set of three stones call the Whispering Knights and another called the King’s stone. The Knights and the King’s Stone are Stone Age gravestones. They also know where the Stone Age village was. It was very eerie to stand on the heath and know that humans have been in that place for 4000 years. Very moving.

The most impressive place we went to was Kenilworth Castle. This was originally a Norman castle built using the local sandstone, so it is a huge red structure. It was added on to by John of Gaunt and then later during Elizabethan times, so it has several different architectural aspects, but because of the sandstone, the anachronisms fade somewhat into an overall redness. Unfortunately, the castle is in ruins because it was destroyed in the Civil War, but a huge chunk remains, including a lot of little rooms.

Finally, the most powerful place to me was the one that is advertised with the least fanfare. In fact, it’s not really advertised at all, you just have to know that it’s there and have to know how to navigate the town of Bladon. Bladon is immediately to the south of Blenheim Palace, and Winston Churchill, his father, son, wife, and several relatives are buried there. I got some pictures of his tomb, one of them with my fyrd medallion. You know, if there was any person living in the twentieth century who was a fyrdman, I’d have to say good old Winston was probably it.

So today I head off probably to Newcastle or Edinburgh. Kinda depends on the next train from Birmingham. I leave you, however, with a fyrdman-like quote from Churchill:
“Never give in–never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

The Magical Welsh Border

Today was a really fun day. Clare, Tom, and I crawled into their red Peugeot and started driving around the Welsh border.

It started with a trip up to Stokesay Castle. It’s really a fortified manor, but interesting nonetheless. The main hall and tower are in excellent shape, with some really neat rooms. It also has a quaint little church next to it.

From there we went to Knighton, which houses the Offa’s Dyke Museum. We strolled around and identified the Dyke, which is not as easy as you might think. While they have tried to keep it in repair in the last century or so, much of it has disappeared. Also, what is left has been overgrown with trees and bushes. However, there is a 182 mile path along and atop Offa’s Dyke you can hike. We wandered a bit on this, and where we were, which was right next to the River Teme, was beautiful. I have seen and done quite a few wonderful things on this trip, but I’m not sure that any of them top this place. Here, in the shadow of the Dyke, I performed the Wanderer for Clare and Tom. Magical. Plus, I got some cool Anglo-Saxon souveniers and books (sorry Mom).

We then proceeded up from Knighton with the ultimate goal of getting to Shrewsbury. Most of the Welsh border roads we drove today are hedged lanes amidst beautiful scenery with pretty English countryside towns popping up periodically. Plus the road to Shrewsbury leads through some other interesting sites. We stopped at the town of Clun and visited their castle. This castle is mostly in ruins, but what’s left is impressive. It’s also at the top of a hill, and I have to say the Markovi Kuli Exercise Program ™ was very helpful in allowing me to run around much easier.

Also on the road to Shrewsbury was the Mitchell’s Fold Stone Circle. This stone circle is not in tremendous shape, with only a few stones standing above the ferns which surround the circle, but it is neat nonetheless. People aren’t supposed to have fires on this hill, but I have to admit, if I had a chance, I’d love to build a fire at the center where others obviously have and sing until the wee hours. More magic.

And yet more magic and more song to end the excursion. We got to the Shrewsbury battlefield and I roamed around it and to the chapel which honors the dead there. Like the Hastings battlefield, there are purple and gold wildflowers and I sang Hotspur as I walked around. Yes, I’m totally geeky, but singing that song in that place was totally and completely magical to me.

So tomorrow we’re going to do a similar drive. We’re not sure where yet, but there’s lots of magic in the air, and we’re going to find it.

Marching to the Severn

So I didn’t make it to Wales yesterday. I came real close, though, and ended up in Shrewsbury.

The train I was taking stopped at a lot of places, one of which was Oxford. I decided now was my best chance to get to the Ashmolean so I stopped there. I didn’t really explore Oxford, I mostly got off the train and went to the museum and then back, but what I did see was really neat.

The Ashmolean, of course, was awesome. The have a bunch of Anglo-Saxon jewelry, highlighted by the Alfred Jewel. It’s beautiful. I have lots of pictures. Of course, they also have a lot of Egyptian, Greek, and Minoan stuff, but unfortunately, they had the Minoan section closed. I had really wanted to see the fruits of Arthur Evans’ work but it’s going to have to be next time. I did see quite a few interesting things in the gift shop, including some books (sorry Mom).

The rest of the day was spent getting on to Shrewsbury. I decided to stop here for a variety of reasons, not least of which were the Cadfael mysteries. I ended up staying at a room in a pub called the Vaults, which was fun, and had dinner at a place called the Traitor’s Gate Brasserie. The food was a little expensive, but the pub had Fuller’s London Pride on sale for a pound a pint. It was a nice relaxing night. I did roam around a little bit, though not much, and got to see the big statue of Darwin outside the library.

This morning I did a lot more. The Vaults is literally in the shade of Shrewsbury Castle so I went there first. It was a lovely morning and the castle grounds are extremely well kept up with flowers and gardens. It was very pretty. Interestingly, there was a wedding there this morning. Hmmm, a wedding in a castle and being marched out not by organ music but a bagpiper. That, I have to say, does not suck.

So from the castle I marched to the Severn. No, I wasn’t with Douglas of Scotland nor did we join with Glendower, but then again I lived. That, by the way, is a reference to a song Calontir often sings called Hotspur which is about the Battle of Shrewsbury in 1403 when Henry IV defeated Henry Hotspur. Not surprisingly, I sang or thought about this song a lot this morning.

What I marching to the Severn for was to go to the Shrewsbury Abbey church. It is this Abbey which is the setting for the Cadfael mysteries set in the twelfth century. The church is very lovely, and the effigy of Roger de Montgomery, one of William the Conqueror’s leading knights at Hastings, is in great shape. Going back to the Battle of Shrewsbury, Edith Pargeter who as Ellis Peters wrote the Cadfael mysteries, also has a historical fiction of that battle which of course I bought.

After that I marched back up the hill giving great thanks to my Macedonian experience with hills to eat at a place called Cromwell’s. Yes, that Cromwell. The pub happens to be right next to a church originally built in Anglo-Saxon times, and while there’s not much that survives of the church from that time, there’s still something. So my day included an Anglo-Saxon church, a Norman knight, a Crusader monk, one of the greatest knights in history, and one of the greatest rebels in history. Not a bad day.

I am now at Clare and Tom’s in Redditch for a few days. Tonight we’re relaxing and going to see Pirates of the Caribbean. I had hoped to see it in Macedonia, which just would have been so weird to see in English with Macedonian subtitles, but Macedonian movie theatres are a few months behind. They had MI3 instead, and that just wasn’t good enough to take me away from my wanderings.

Speaking of wanderings, tomorrow we’re going westward to some places they like. We’re then going to wander north, maybe as far as Rhuddlan castle, and hopefully back to Shrewsbury so I can see the battlefield itself.

Sunday the plan is to basically go west and south. Either tomorrow or Sunday I’ll be walking on top of Offa’s Dyke. I’m very excited about that. Now, it’s about dinner time.

Windsor

Today has been sort of a light day. I did get laundry done and did get started on the packing of the big suitcase for the trip home. I also went to Windsor for a bit.

Windsor is only about a half hour from where I’m staying and as you’re arriving you get quite a nice view of the Thames which you cross and the castle on the hill. In fact, the castle dominates the town. The train station puts you only a couple of hundred yards from the entrance, so it’s real easy to get to.

Since I got a late start because of laundry and puttering around, I just barely made it into the castle before they closed. Not surprisingly, since the royals stay there periodically, the security is very tight. It’s also extremely well renovated and kept up, so it’s beautiful. I have a bunch of pictures wandering around the open air portions of the castle which will go up when I get home.

However, because I got in late, I barely got to see the chapel and I didn’t get to see the armor and weapons at all. I’m thinking I’ll go back if I get a chance. I did, however, get to the gift shops and there were actually quite a few interesting things there.

After that, I had a very good meal at a very American style restaurant with table service and everything. It was literally right down the road from the lower gate, and sitting at my table on the street the gate was framed by shops down a very medieval street.

So, all in all, a basically lazy day. Tomorrow will be much more. I’m going to head out to Wales. I don’t quite know where yet, but we’ll see. As a guess, probably Caernarvon, but I may go to Cardiff, see the castle there, and then ride the train north through Wales. Should be lots of fun.

For now, though, it’s to the pub to see Eddie and a bunch of Viking mates off to a big event in Denmark.

Opinions and fiction of person misplaced in time.