Thwarted

As you may know, the Kidwell-e Festival was a disaster, and a big disappointment for me. I imagine that established authors are happy to earn a fee for participating, but newbies like me, prepared to speak for nothing, depend on the opportunity to publicise ourselves.

I spent many hours preparing my talk, especially because the organisers asked me to talk about Kidwelly, which is mentioned once in the book, so I had to do a lot of research. My book, Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth, is about Gower, a few miles down the coast, so they wanted my talk to link to something more local (I should have refused, I know). I worried over how many books to take and prepared publicity materials. And, of course, I got very nervous. All for nothing.

There has been a lot of traffic on my other blog, where I wrote about it here and here, and I even got interviewed by BBC Wales News. But the fuss is all about the non-festival, not about my book. Ah well, back to the drawing board.

Life in a Medieval Castle 2: Food

Most people lived in thatched houses made of mud or clay, in tiny hamlets or small villages.[i] Their diet consisted of dark bread supplemented with vegetables, with meat only on feast days when they could get it.[ii]

Bread was the main staple of the aristocracy’s diet also, but it was of better quality[iii] and supplemented with a far greater variety of foods. The main supplement was meat or fish, with fruit and vegetables[iv], cheese and butter. Eggs were used in great quantities, but only in recipes, not eaten alone.[v] The biggest difference was in the amount of herbs and spices used. Medieval meals were very heavily spiced, and this was another way to show the status and wealth of the household, as spices were very expensive. Along with rice, they were kept under lock and key and every portion documented.[vi]

Of course, the advantage of an estate was that a lot of these provisions came from your own land, either grown by your own labourers or paid as rent by your tenants. The land around Swansea and Oystermouth was fertile, and it had the advantage of being on the coast where fishing was plentiful. The river Tawe would have had fish too. For those familiar with Swansea, Orchard Street is where there was an orchard just outside the town gate, and Brynmill was indeed the site of a mill. The disadvantage of an estate was that the number of mouths to feed varied widely, sometimes from day to day. When the lord was present with his knights, the numbers would be very high, as each knight had his own servants. When other lords would visit, they would bring a whole retinue of people too.

 

[i] Labarge, Margaret Wade, Mistress, Maids and Men: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century (1965), p.71
Briggs, Asa, A Social History of England, p.91,100
[ii] Labarge, Margaret Wade, Mistress, Maids and Men: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century (1965),  p.71
[iii] Mortimer, Ian, The Time Traveller’s Guide To Medieval England,p.184
[iv] Mortimer, Ian, The Time Traveller’s Guide To Medieval England,p.184
[v] Labarge, Margaret Wade, Mistress, Maids and Men: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century (1965), p.71
[vi] Labarge, Margaret Wade, Mistress, Maids and Men: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century (1965), p.88
Briggs, Asa, A Social History of England, p.100

Life in a Medieval Castle 1: Clothes

This is the start of a new series, based on material from my book.

Wealthy men and women wore similar outer clothes[i] – a tunic with long sleeves made of linen, an over-tunic with shorter sleeves made of wool lined with fur, and then a hood and a mantle, usually circular and also fur-lined.[ii] The length, style and decoration of the clothes depended on the sex and status of the wearer, but people loved bright colours.[iii] Men’s tunics reached to the knee or below and were worn with breeches, linen under a long tunic, more substantial fabric when they showed under a shorter tunic.

Women’s tunics were floor length and linen (like a nightgown – indeed, they often slept in it). The tunic was slit at the neck and fastened with a brooch, and a girdle or belt at the waist. These also gave the opportunity for ostentation.[iv]  The men who served in lordly households wore livery to mark out who they served.[v]

Clothes in Britain were of better quality cloth than those on the continent, due to the mechanisation of the fulling process, using local water mills. This process shrank and tightened the cloth and made it stronger.[vi]Later in the fourteenth century, fashion dictated a wide variation of styles.[vii] While unmarried, Alina would have worn her hair loose, but once married she would have worn her hair in plaits wound over her ears in a ‘ramshorn’ and over that a wimple, a cloth headdress that covered the hair. Many also wore a cloth around the neck.[viii]

 


[i] Mortimer, Ian, The Time Traveller’s Guide To Medieval England,p.110
[ii] Mortimer, Ian, The Time Traveller’s Guide To Medieval England,p.106
[iii] Mortimer, Ian, The Time Traveller’s Guide To Medieval England, p.9
[iv] Labarge, Margaret Wade, Mistress, Maids and Men: Baronial Life in the Thirteenth Century (1965),  p.139
[v] Mortimer, Ian, The Time Traveller’s Guide To Medieval England,p.102
[vi] Stark, Rodney, The Victory of Reason, p.152-154
[vii] Mortimer, Ian, The Time Traveller’s Guide To Medieval England,p.101
[viii] Mortimer, Ian, The Time Traveller’s Guide To Medieval England,p.112
Hull, Marvin, Medieval Women © 2001-2008, http://www.castles-of-britain.com/castlezb.htm

Oystermouth Castle Reopening

Well, today was the day we’ve all been waiting for – the Council, the re-enactors, the stallholders, the musicians, the Friends of Oystermouth Castle, and me. It was all arranged. And it rained. It poured. All week.

Today started with a few light showers and dry in between. Until the event got going. Then it poured again.

Having said that, the Friends at the castle entrance reported over 500 visitors, and everyone made sure the visitors that did come had a good time. Typical British people, we were all sheltering in the food tent when a band came on, so we all came out and stood in the rain, and joined in the songs!

I was there to promote my book, Alina, The White Lady of Oystermouth, which is about the woman who built the chapel on Oystermouth Castle. I handed out my postcards advertising the book to everyone I could intercept for about 2 hours. Everyone was happy to take the postcards and several expressed an interest.

I left before the end, so I don’t know how many books were sold. To hedge my bets, the postcard lists all the outlets where the book is available. So hopefully there might be increased sales in other places. I’ll ring the Friends tomorrow to find out. But, although it would have been so much better if it was sunny and crowded, I feel good about today.