Congratulations to Roman Tours in Chester (remember them? They popped up earlier under the heading  This Was Deva.) I mentioned that they were trying to raise money to build a full-size Roman marching camp. At the time they were finalists in the Barclays ‘One Small Step’ competition, appealing for votes to help them win £50,000 – and now they have!

You can see them in action and find out more about the project  here.

Thanks to everyone who took the time to vote for them!

Bodies in the Bookshop

…is the annual attempt by the staff of Heffers in Cambridge to see how many crime readers and writers can be crammed into one shop before everyone passes out for lack of oxygen.

Tuesday was the 21st anniversary of this delightful event, so naturally there was cake.  The chap wielding the knife here is Heffers’ criminal mastermind, Richard Reynolds.

Richard Reynolds cutting cake with Crime Scene tape icing

Where else but Kelmarsh…

…could you hear someone telling his colleagues over the radio, ‘I’m just behind World War Two!’ ?

… could you learn in the morning that the mother of the great Doctor Galen used to punish her slaves by biting them, discover at midday what Geisha girls wore, and in the afternoon hear a newly-written Viking Saga?

…could you see sights like this…?

Victorian lady in mauve velvet jacket fancy hat

Okay, I concede that seeing a woman in Victorian costume isn’t all that unusual. She was there with a friend in a rather fine hat:

Lady wearing ribboned purple hat over long curly hair

Here’s a  Knight Hospitaller from about 1170 AD  (many thanks to Neil for clarifying my hazy description of ‘Norman knight’  – the full details are in Neil’s comment below.)

Man in chainmail and silver helmet with nose protector

I wasn’t fast enough with the camera to catch the Spitfire and Messerschmidt in flight, but this vintage war machine was easier to photograph – and this is where things start to get a little weird. Who’s that visible through the windscreen?

Picture of jeep with soldier in red uniform seen through windscreen

Here’s the whole photo.

All characters gathered beside a jeep

What a great way to spend a weekend – made even better by all the people who stopped by in the Writing Festival tent to say hello.  Thank you!

Festival of History

No blogs for a fortnight, then two in two days – but this one’s just a quick reminder.

All over the country, re-enactors are brushing their uniforms, polishing their armour and praying for fine weather  for the English Heritage Festival of History on 16/17 July. Here’s a link to the on-site Festival of Historical Literature , where a great selection of  well-known historical writers and their books will be safely under the cover of a marquee.

The whole thing’s happening at Kelmarsh Hall, which is between Northampton and Market Harborough. I’m told there can be queues for the car park, so if you have a specific event in mind, it’s best to turn up early.

Meanwhile there’s a rather fine introductory video that springs into life when you click on the English Heritage Festival web page. Well it does on my computer, anyway.


Down in the mud

Apologies for the recent silence on the blog. I’ve spent much of the last fortnight on my knees, scraping at a Northamptonshire hillside with an archaeological trowel. The team were – indeed, still are – uncovering  the remains of a Romano-British bath house. When I say ‘remains,’  please do not picture anything on the scale of the Baths of Constantine in Arles:

Baths of Constantine in Arles, with walls still at full height

British archaeologists have to content themselves with more humble fare. While the other bath house on the site (you can see it on the right here) had walls that still looked like walls, this one was probably demolished in Roman times, and they did a pretty thorough job of it.

Remains of walls and underfloor heating for bath house

It may not look much to you, dear reader, but believe me, every inch of that site has been lovingly and painstakingly trowelled out from beneath a field of grass. It’s not as chaotic as it appears in this unofficial end-of-the-working-day snap – in Jeremy Cooper’s excellent high-level photos*,  it’s possible to see the shapes of the rooms.

However, when your nose is close to the ground, it’s hard to see the site as a whole. Instead you concentrate on your own little patch, poking and prodding and scraping. From time to time you stand back and squint at it from different angles, desperately searching for some sort of pattern to reassure you that you aren’t just a sad obsessive who likes playing with mud. There really is – or  was – something there.

*Later  – I’ve just updated this link because the latest (2011) photos are even better.