Mead and Poetry

I’m sure you have been wondering how my mead making is getting on, thanks for asking. Here is a quick update.

It had stopped bubbling and started to settle. It’s not completely clear, it may clear in time or it may not, but it was time to rack it. This means I had to siphon off the liquid from the dregs.

This is one of the best parts of the process. To get the wine flowing from one container to another, I had to suck it through. I’m sure there are other ways to do it, but this gives me my first opportunity to taste it. A good rule of thumb is: if I don’t immediately spit it out, its OK.

I can report that I didn’t spit it out! It tasted quite dry, which is a good sign. It means that the sugar from the pears and all that honey has turned to alcohol – the main purpose of the exercise. The taste will improve with age and it might need racking again.

Mead ready for racking

Mead ready for racking

 

It has turned a beautiful colour, a pinkish gold. It is similar to the yellow of the autumn leaves that are everywhere at the moment.

The Anglo-Saxons had a word for his special colour. It is fealo or fallow, the shade of autumn leaves, gold weapons and turbulent winter waves. It also gives its name to the Fallow Deer.

For more about the word see this wonderful post by Eleanor Parker ( @ClerkofOxford ). It includes translations of texts about Anglo-Saxon Autumns, including one of my favourite lines:

Beam sceal on eorðan
leafum liþan; leomu gnornian.

A tree on the earth must
lose its leaves; the branches mourn.

It says everything there is to say about Autumn.

While writing this, a memory nagged at me. I went and checked the original text of the Battle of Maldon (together with a translation – I wish I could read Old English, but I think I am too old to learn it now.)

Here is the original:

Feoll þa to foldan fealohilte swurd
ne mihte he gehealdan heardne mece,
wæpnes wealdan.

It comes in the final moments of Byrhtnoth’s life. He draws his sword, but is injured and:

Fell then to earth the fallow-hilted sword,
Nor could he hold the hard brand
Or wield his weapon.

It is the same word, fealo.

The colour of my mead, the colour of the autumn leaves that have been so spectacular this year, and the colour of Byrjtnoth’s sword hilt, at the moment that he fell.

Never let anyone tell you that this was the Dark Ages. It was full of Colour and Poetry.

And mourning for the end of life.

The Garden in Autumn.

The Garden in Autumn.

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The Battle of Maldon – Millennium

I was there, at the Battle of Maldon. Obviously Byrhtnoth was there – it couldn’t have happened without him. But the writer of this blog was there as well, almost exactly a thousand years later.

The Battle of Maldon Re-enactment Spectacular took place on the 10th and 11th August 1991. I took photos and I still have the Souvenir Programme, which I dug out when I started writing about Byrhtnoth. It’s very informative.

Recently I was clearing out the old family home in Chelmsford. The first things I went for were the photographs. Box after box of slides and prints – a whole life in pictures (not much in the way of old ancestors unfortunately, but that’s another story, or blog). I had scanned in my own pictures of the re-enactment and soon found some more in my father’s collection. When we moved on to sorting out books I found on a shelf, tucked away amongst cookery books and books about gardening, my parents copy of the programme, complete with, tickets etc.

So here, in pictures, is the story of a visit to the Battle of Maldon.

Flyer advertising the event

Flyer advertising the event

My father must have decided that this would be a family event. You can see his notes of the ticket prices:
4 adults – me, my sister and our husbands, 4 children – 2 each, 2 OAPs – my parents.

 

Ticket including map of site.

Ticket including map of site.

Mustn’t miss Maldon’s excellent shops and leisure opportunities – was that what the Vikings came for?

In the Burgh

In the Burh

Think this must be taken in the Maldon Burh – the encampment for the re-enactors. All the children wanted to do was to get their hands on the weapons.
(Don’t know who the Saxon is, but he looks very bored – must have spent most of the day posing for photos.)

Causeway to Northey Island

Causeway to Northey Island

Not sure if they are pretending to be attacking Vikings or defending Anglo-Saxons.

Viking Ship?

Viking Ship?

At 12.30 the Viking Longships arrive – was this it? The programme did say they are smaller replicas!

Now that's a Viking Longship!

Now that’s a Viking Longship!

The Saxon fyrd arrives

The Saxon fyrd arrives.

The Vikings appear.

The Vikings appear.

The Vikings taunt the Saxons?

The Vikings taunt the Saxons?

The attack

The Attack

Hold the Shieldwall!

Hold the Shieldwall!

Someone's on the ground - Must be the Death of Byrhtnoth.

Someone’s on the ground – Must be the Death of Byrhtnoth.

I don’t remember what we did during the evening (jazz band?) but I do remember the finale. According to the programme there was a performance of Tolkein’s “Homecoming of Beortnoth, Beorthelm’s son” followed by a Torchlight precession. All I can say is that the sound system was very bad and that we sat for what seemed hours, as a lot of people, a long way away, wandered around in the dark with torches. I have a video of this somewhere, but I don’t think you’d want to see it!

Finally, there was the Grand Firework Display, accompanied by music – The Ride of the Valkyries. I was a bit disappointed that we were at the Saturday performance, not the Sunday – that was when they burnt the Viking ship!

It was a long day, but worth it. I wish I’d paid more attention at the time, but I never thought that, twenty-five years later, I’d be writing a book about Byrhtnoth.

View of Maldon from Northey Island

View of Maldon from Northey Island