The Real Rianorix

One of the problems with writing about ancient Britons is knowing what to call them. There’s a distinct shortage of names in the surviving record, and some of the ones we have simply don’t work for twenty-first century readers. I’m hoping never to be desperate enough to use ‘Enemnogenus’.*  Maybe they  used abbreviations when they spoke to each other? Or maybe conversation was slower in the Iron Age?

Anyway, it’s a joy to run across a name that’s relatively simple and doesn’t sound ridiculous. Welcome, Rianorix. Anyone who’s read ‘Ruso and the Demented Doctor’ (‘Terra Incognita’) will hopefully remember him as a local with an attitude problem. His name came from a reference book, but last weekend he and I finally met – or at least, we came as close as we ever will.

Rianorix’s tombstone is in the Senhouse Museum at Maryport, on the Cumbrian coast. It nearly wasn’t, having been ‘borrowed’ from the collection while it was in storage, but honesty prevailed and now it sits near a collection of grand Roman altars. It’s a simple and badly battered slab with uneven lettering bearing the words, ‘Rianorix vixit annos…’  Tantalisingly, the rest of the line is illegible.

The tribute was raised by an unknown mourner who evidently spoke Latin. It rests amidst the work of professional stonemasons: a silent reminder of the people who lived in Britain before, and after, the Roman army.

The fort at Maryport was part of a chain the Army built to keep an eye on the dangerous Northerners, lest they decide to sneak around the western edge of Hadrian’s Wall. This, from the museum watchtower, is their view across the Solway Firth to what’s now Scotland:

View from Senhouse Museum watchtower
You'll never spot the marauders if you stand there reading the information panel

*’Taximagulus’ won’t be appearing anywhere soon, either.

Ruso 2 in German…

Book 2 German cover

A note today from the German translators asking when the next book will arrive (soon, really!)  reminded me to check on what had happened to Book 2, and here it is.

The translators are great: they’re very keen to get the details right and we have frequent email exchanges to clarify exactly what I meant by certain things. This has been known to reveal that I’m not sure myself…

Catching breath

Hard to know where to start this post, and even as I type, a little voice is whispering over my shoulder, ‘Deadline! You should be working!’

Dearest editors, should you chance to read this – I WILL be working in just a few minutes.

Meanwhile, it’s a delight to be able to stop and draw breath. It seems to be one of the rules of this game (or maybe I’m just very disorganised) that the fun things you get to do as a writer all happen at a time when you’re supposed to be sitting at home hunched over a hot computer. This is the first day for weeks when there’s been absolutely nothing in the diary apart from ‘deadline -15’. I’m sadly excited by the prospect of a day drinking coffee, chewing gum and tapping out deathless prose only to delete it ten minutes later.

One or two edited highlights of the last few weeks:

New Discovery Number One – Those beautiful timbered buildings in the middle of Chester (see the Photo Gallery) are just as amazing inside. After the chairs were cleared away I snatched a couple of pics inside Bishop Lloyd’s Palace, where Dug and I met a roomful of lovely people as part of the Chester Literature Festival. It’s in Watergate Street – the route Ruso would have taken down to the jetty in search of missing furniture, housekeepers, etc.

Inside Bishop Lloyd's Palace, Chester

I’d like to blame the Bishop for the luggage spoiling the photo, but it’s mine. Here’s one looking the other way:

Fireplace in Bishop Lloyds Palace

New Discovery Number Two – the context that the traditional photos of Chesters bath house (on Hadrian’s Wall) don’t show you. This is the archaeology shot that appears in all the books:

Niches in stonework at Chesters Bath house

Below is the picture you don’t see, showing the scenery. As I’ve said before, those Romans knew how to pick a location.

Chesters bath house showing river alongside

Old haunt number one is below –  the Ilfracombe coastline.

coast path and cliffs at Ilfracombe

Old haunt number two was Housesteads Fort on Hadrian’s Wall. The idea for the Ruso books began to germinate after seeing a caption there which read,

“Roman soldiers were not allowed to marry, but they were allowed to have relationships with local women.”

The caption’s not on display now but the model soldier is still on duty:

Model of soldier at Housesteads museum

Is it just me, or does anyone else wonder why the local women would want to bother?