I have the Power

Today, for a few hours, we have had no power. Not an unexpected power cut, this was planned. We were sent a letter weeks before – a temporary interruption for regular maintenance. It was to last from 12.00 to 3.00 pm.

I wouldn’t say this caused panic, but we filled vacuum flasks with boiling water for hot drinks and charged our mobile phones. We tried to think of something to do that didn’t involve using the computer. We even considered going out for the duration.

Then it struck me, this is a modern problem. Only a few years ago we would have taken it in our stride – I remember the seventies, with regular power cuts, the Three-Day Week.  But look further back, before the age of reliable electricity, to how life was lived by most people throughout history.

Saxon Hearth – West Stow

There was The Hearth. I mention it all the time in my books. People huddle round it on winter nights, they cook food on it, they use it to dry clothes when they come in from the rain. Why else are a warrior’s friends called his hearth companions. But a fire (usually) means wood. Someone had to collect small twigs for kindling, chop logs. Probably a large part of the population spent most of their time at this job. Of course it was not the rich men who did this. It would have been the servants, the slaves.

Consider the slaves. How had they become slaves? Most people imagine someone beaten in battle, or captured in some raid, sold in some foreign market. Or perhaps you were the child of a slave and therefore a slave yourself. Surely no-one would willing become a slave? What about a poor man in a hut? He has a family, he works hard, growing crops, perhaps he has an animal or two, he collects wood for a fire, because without it he would die. He has an accident, or suffers some illness. What can his family do but ask their lord for help? They become slaves.

Gradually, land was enclosed. The old system of open fields, common land for grazing and woods where fuel could be collected. Of course, this was organised by the rich men of the village. They had their farms or large estates, but it left the poorest without the means of survival. They had a choice – they could work, for wages, on the farms, or in the big house, or they could leave. This was the time when towns began to grow. If you couldn’t find a job, you might turn to crime. If unsuccessful at that, you were caught, and your troubles were over. You would be executed or transported – somewhere warm!

Throughout history there have been Power-Full men (and they were usually men). The rest, the women, the children and the poor were Power-Less. Not because of money, land or status, but for what it provided; the life-giving access to a hearth or its equivalent.

We should be grateful that today, we have heat and light available at the flick of a switch. Without power I could not type out this post and send it to you, across the wires and through the air. In the past, if had wanted to tell this to anyone, I would have gone out and spoken to someone or sent a letter – if I could write. I probably wouldn’t bother. I’d be too busy – collecting wood.

And after all the preparation, the power was only off for half an hour – while we were eating our lunch!

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Jumping Genres.

I quick post because I have missed two weeks, and I don’t want you to forget about me and wander off to look at other blogs.

First, the excuses! I missed blogging two weeks ago, because I was proof reading again. My second attempt after the first turned into a massive re-edit due to “Editor Problems”. It has now gone back for a professional proof read, after which it will be set in stone. I am now completely sick of the book. The ad from Amazon recommending it to me suffered short thrift, I’m afraid. It took several days to recover, with a bit of reading and catching up with the rest of my life. I even managed an afternoon of gardening – that put paid to last weeks post.

I have been trying to catch up with some of the books on my TBR pile, which resulted in some interesting thoughts. Why do I enjoy some books and not others? Some of the books were by local fellow writers, that I “had” to read.

The first was a romantic novel. The author is doing well, this is her third book and it was even on sale in Sainsburys! It had one of those covers with pastel colours and a title in swirly writing It was well written, entertaining, but I was unable to write a review. Not because there was anything wrong with it, but to write a review you need to compare a book with others of its type and I don’t tend to read this sort of book. Why? I like a bit of romance as much as the next (wo)man – I am starting to worry that too much romance is creeping into my own writing – but it has to be accompanied by some history. Not just boy meets girl, boy looses girl due to some innocent misunderstanding, boy finds girl and they live happy ever after. The sun always shines, unless a shower of rain or a blizzard is needed. Perhaps I need blood, violence and a touch of jeopardy to add spice to the mix.

Another book I read recently was set during the Second World War, but on the home front. People die, but far away. It has a local setting, so it is interesting to recognise places. There is a lot of detail about the daily life of the time. Perhaps I would enjoy it more if it was set further back in history. This is that awkward period, before my time, but familiar from my parents memories. I wouldn’t normally read about this period. The First World War, possibly, but for me it has to be set at least three hundred years ago.

I don’t spend all my reading life in the past. I enjoy a bit of horror, Stephen King for example, and some crime/mystery novels. A while ago we were discussing writing in the present tense and someone mentioned Elly Griffiths. I have been working through her Dr Ruth Galloway books. Is it the solving of clues to identify the murder I enjoy, or is it because the sleuth is an archaeologist? I don’t think it’s the second, but it certainly helps.

I think I’d better stop there, or I’ll be here for hours – time when I could be reading something set in the Anglo-Saxon period. Or, to be honest, writing my own.

I am back editing book two, chopping out all that romance, adding a touch of blood and guts.

Class started again in September. Since there are a few new students, we have begun with some basics. Already the exercises we have done has helped crystallise some new characters in book three. It (almost) helps me forget it is still four months to publication day.