Saturday, 21 August 2010

Marriage of Medieval and Modern...

Making Bread with wholemeal flour ground at the Lurgashall Mill
The first attempt  worked, the loaf rose well and tasted lovely.    (I am using modern technology - ie a bread machine.)   However when we bought the flour, we were advised not to use 100% wholemeal, but to blend it with strong white flour.    So the second loaf was made using two thirds wholemeal and one third strong white flour.   This was not quite such a success.   The dough rose, but fell back, and it has a big dint in the top!!   Perhaps I should have put a Vitamin C tablet in; perhaps there wasn't enough salt.     Since I am 'cheating' by using a bread machine, I am well aware that I am not really a loaf-kneader in the Anglo-Saxon sense!    Will have another try at a loaf using blended flours, and if it doesn't come right, will revert to the 100% wholemeal.  If anyone has any suggestions as to improve the blended loaf, please say...

Monday, 16 August 2010

Medieval Cottage

This cottage can be seen at the Weald and Downland Museum in Singleton.    It's a reconstruction of the remains of two cottages excavated in Hangleton.   The cottages were probably built in the 13th Century and abandoned in the 15th.    Inside, there is a main room with an open hearth, the smoke would wind up through the roof.  There is also an inner room with an oven.    It is a reminder that for most people, life in the early medieval period would be pretty basic.  The cottage is made from flint; and the hearth in the main room consisted simply of clay tiles, laid on their sides and set into the centre of the floor.    The cottagers would probably have sat round the fire on wooden stools.

The roof of this medieval cottage has been thatched with straw, but wooden shingles or turf might have been used.  Or even broom or furze.
Below is the oven in the inner room, the whole room was little wider than the oven.   I imagine that using an oven like this one must have taken some skill!  Burning the cakes must have been all too easy...

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Medieval Horseshoes and Her Banished Lord - the US Cover...

This picture is of some of the oldest horseshoes in England. It was taken at the Weald & Downland Museum and I wish I had used something to show the scale. The oldest of the horseshoes, the one on the top left is thought to be 10th or 11th century and it is tiny. In fact all of the horseshoes in the medieval display looked very small in comparison to modern ones.

Below is the cover for the US Harlequin Direct edition of Her Banished Lord which will be available from the eHarlequin website. The official publication date is November 2010.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Weald & Downland Open Air Museum

The buildings at the Weald & Downland are real historic buildings that have been rescued, taken to pieces and lovingly reconstructed.  It's a wonderful museum, very evocative, with a thirteenth century cottage and a medieval hall.   But it's not all medieval, there are Tudor kitchens where copper bowls are bubbling ready for laundry and gardens growing herbs and vegetables.   One of my favourites is Lurgashall Watermill.   The oldest part is probably 17th century, and it was a working mill until the 1930's.    It still works!   We bought some flour ground there to try out in my bread machine.  As you stand in the mill watching the grindstones turn, the whole mill rattles and clacks.   There were HUNDREDS of ducks outside, hoping for grain.  This picture was taken when  picnickers had lured most of the ducks up to the mill pond...

Here is the inside, this shows some of the workings on the spout floor where the finished grain pours into sacks:

And this one is from the next floor up - the stone floor.  You can see the hopper where the grain goes into the grindstones.  there's a bell which rings when it needs filling, because if the stones were to run dry, there's the risk of sparks which might cause a fire.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Mid-Write Crisis

It's happened before and it will no doubt happen again, but that doesn't make it any easier.   Had got the first half of the novel down (only early draft stage) and suddenly everything ground to a halt.   Every time it knocks me for six.     The rest of the novel is planned, but NO! it simply isn't going to work.   Early drafts are very rough, and in order to continue I have to remind myself it is OK to write rubbish.   The problem starts on the read-through.   What is this mess I have spent months over?  What am I doing?   One solution is to go back to the beginning and polish the earlier parts.   But I also know that before I do this I must have some idea of where the characters are going.   It was all sketched out, but some characters have minds of their own.   Which doesn't help with the mid-write crisis.