Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Dream Diary 9

I'm in a language classroom, which is also a hairdresser. The hairdresser is also my french teacher from 1st-3rd years at school. As she combs and fiddles with the hair, she chats to you in French.

(Most obvious dream ever. I'm off to Honfleur on Friday; my brother asked me to trim the back of his hair when he finishes using the clippers on Thursday; the Hairdresser's looks like the Hairdresser's Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall was sitting in in one scene of TV Dinners I saw last night.)

Friday, March 23, 2007

Ravenswood Stories: Pig Dog

In Ravenswood, really good sheep dogs are sometimes called "Pig Dogs". When asked to explain this eccentric name, the shepherds tell this story:

The Story of the Pig Dog

Once there was a Shepherd, who had seven daughters; and he also had a dog. One day, when the dog was very young, a caravan of traders came into town. One of the women was pregnant, and the dog, excited by all the strangers, tried to herd her. As might be expected, she went into labour.

The husband was angry and wanted the dog killed. The Shepherd served up a dinner of lamb, and, as the midwife was at hand and both wife and daughter lived, the Trader was mollified and they parted on, if not good terms, at least on speaking terms.

Five years went by, and the dog became the best sheepdog anyone in Ravenswood could remember. The Shepherd was able to convince some of the families of his daughter's sweethearts to let them marry, by offering a litter of puppies in the dowry. His youngest daughter received a litter of seven puppies, one of which was bought by a Prince and taken on a voyage to the Cinnamon Islands. But that's another story.

One day, the traders returned to town, but the daughter of the trader had gone missing in the wood. All the villagers went out searching for her. Eventually the Shepherd's dog found her, treed by a wild pig. The pig was in a rage, but the dog nipped at it's heels and drew it away, so the girl could be rescued.

The Trader was grateful to the Shepherd and the Dog, and, remembering the lamb dinner, paid the hunters to kill the wild pig and held a feast to celebrate. Even the dogs got their share of the lights, ears and brawn. And the Trader said "This dog is famed as a great sheepdog, but I will always remember it as a great Pig Dog."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

An old new word

Some years ago I described a friend of Dave's role in a series of escapades with Dave as "co-rogue". This was because "Partner-in-crime" didn't fit as it wasn't clear that any crime had been committed, and "sidekick" or "assistant" put Dave too much into the spotlight, and seemed to impy some planning had gone into the events.

On the other hand, it's hyphenated. Does that count?

Talking of hyphenation, I've been cat-, bird-, fish-, flat-, and, until last Sunday, house-sitting. This has gone relatively well, but blogging has suffered under this immense stress. Some posts are brewing in the back of my mind, but until then, you might want to know about a special language I've come up with for talking to one of the cats, Mog. Essentially, you replace every syllable with "mog". For example, if you wanted to say "Hello Mog. What are you up to?" you'd say:

"Mog-mog Mog! Mog mog mog mog mog?"

I'm still working on how to communicate with the other cat, Meg.

Thursday, March 08, 2007


I'm cat-, bird- and fish-sitting for a couple of weeks. My friend Jim has sent me the following instructions on how to deal with the cats:

1. Cats mostly subsist on air and sunlight, so the easiest way to feed them is to leave the doors and windows open.

2. Obviously cats also require trace nutrients; simply leave the cat food sack open and they will regulate themselves.

3. The cats are very lazy (being cold-blooded) so must be walked twice a day, on a lead.

4. Cat hair is an excellent coffee filter, so feel free to shave the cats and filter your coffee with their hair.

5. If you have a problem, simply mail the cat back to the manufacturer:

1 Cat Lane,
Cat Ass Trophy,

Monday, March 05, 2007

Ravenswood Stories

A friend of mine is moving out of a place called Ravenswood at the end of the month. Ravenswood is quite an interesting name. On the one hand it's purely descriptive: a wood of ravens. On the other, it's evocative of a dark, mysterious place, something a bit like this:

This sounds like some kind of gothic novel, with maidens in dark towers lamenting over cruel twists of fate, and young men with Destinies riding out of the forest. And don't go into the locked room...

In other words, old-fashioned, unsubtle and manipulative, right? Well, perhaps. Anyway, as my badly phrased introduction above notes, the Ravenswood has a thousand stories. Here's one of them; the story of how the Ravenswood stories came about.

Ravenswood Stories

After the Lord of Ravenswood castle brought home a wife, he left to go to war. His new wife spent her days hawking and hunting with hounds, and in the castle library reading codicies of history and legend. A young, athletic woman, the people of Ravenswood slowly came to respect her, for she always had time to listen, and would gladly pass the time of day with a young mother or an old midwife. She would always send game to the villagers when she was successful in her hunt.

She would always feed the Ravens.

A year and a day after the Lord of Ravenswood left, a messenger rode up the hill to the castle. The Lady met him in the courtyard, and, on one knee, he told her how her husband had been killed. She thanked the messenger and sat alone in her solar for the rest of the day.

A few days later, a distant cousin of the Lord arrived, with his wife, his daughters, a train of friends, servants and guardsmen, and a commission from the King, declaring him Baron of Ravenswood and Master of the Castle. The Lady welcomed him to the castle, and he threw her out, giving her jewels to his daughters.

In the forest, the villagers built the Lady a hut. At her request, it was outside the village. It became common for the villagers to see her in the forest, dressed all in black, the Ravens silently pointing out the game to her.

Now she lives in her hut, hunting deer through the forest. She makes finest vellum from the deer hide, and writes on it with quills made of Raven feathers. She writes letters, testaments and petitions for the villagers. And in the evening she listens to the tales village elders and writes the stories of the Ravenswood.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Local Legends

As we all know from watching Time Team, Eastry used to be a royal capital. Saxon Kings of Kent had a palace there from the 7th Century. But, as often happens on Night of the Hats, there's more.

Egbert, King of Kent, was convinced by a nobleman called Thunor that his cousins Ethelred and Ethelbert were plotting against him to seize his throne. So they were killed and hidden behind Egbert's throne[1]. Unfortunately for Thunor and Egbert, a divine pillar of light pointed out the bodies for all to see.

Without going too much into it, it looks to me as thought this is both kin slaying (bad) and breaking of guest-bond (very bad), both of which were serious crimes for Saxons. Egbert had to make amends in some way. One suggestion is that the palace was turned over to a priory. A more interesting version suggests that Egbert promised to turn over as much land as Ethelred and Ethelbert's sister's pet deer could cover in one day, for use as an Abbey. Thunor objected to this but was interrupted when he was swallowed up by the ground.

Anyway, a cautionary tale for anyone who wishes to be King of Kent.

Update: The Wikipedia page for Eastry includes a legend on Thomas Russell, who lived there in 1556. Russell, it seems, was a prince of North Bohemia and had no penis. You can't make this stuff up (unless someone has and it noone has noticed since it was put there in October).

[1] This may have been some kind of poetic justice, in which case Egbert probably said something like "You want my throne? Well, you can lie behind it and look at it for all eternity" but wittier.