Ubique et intrinque paratus…

Fancy dress prom

Serves me right..... all those dismissive things I said recently about the Italian invaders, and now I've had to be one !

Oh my, friendships can get very demanding indeed.  What could I say, I owed her !  “Would you like to be a Roman for half an hour ?” (she forgot to mention it was half an hour each morning for seven days). 

‘Oh little town of Bethlehem’ – yes, that’s right, I’m dressed as a Roman soldier -a Centurion actually – in the little Carmarthenshire village of Bethlehem !  Now you would have thought that someone might have realised the irony of that!  However, towering over the village is an Iron-age fortress, supposedly peopled by the Celts in the period prior to the Roman occupations and, presumably, during it.

So the local Tywi Afon Oesoedd project – A River through time – together with the Brecon Beacons National Park and Dyfed Archaeology devised a small schools programme to show local children some of the history on their doorstep.  How I came to be the ‘invader’ needn’t be dwelled upon – suffice to say I can’t say no to AP ! but how it evolved that I had to subjugate myself to a local Celtic strumpet – actually the supposed servant of my wife Clitoria (well something like that) – is in need of explanation.

On the first morning the plot was simple; the kids arrived in minibuses driven by two NP Wardens – Toby and Wyn, both good mates of mine – to be met by me dragging and  beating my slave Maticus, when I see the kids I basically tell them to ‘Get Lost’  – only in Latin: “Buggeroffum Bastarium” or some such – Creudwyn (the above mentioned Celtic slapper) intervenes and I whip her too while she protests that my Missus, Clitoria, said it was OK, they could come in.  So I relent and let them in – to the little old school room – where Creudwyn (names are changed to protect the innocent) tells them about me, how we lived, the close-by Llys Brychan Roman farmstead and Garn Goch, the defended enclosure.  She of course, being a Celt, speaks to them in Welsh, then Maticus, my little French twink, happens to speak a form of English and he describes my weapon and my prowess in using it, as well as my shield and my rather alluring red dress and armour (which I have to tell you, weighs a ton !).  He is particularly complimentary about by shiny helmet, even though its now some time since he polished it.

I then bid them Valette – or is it Salvette ?  I can never remember, and I’m still unsure if it is nominative or accusative….- and I leave.  Well it turns out (I had noticed several of the kiddywinks leaving) I made them cry !  Next morning we toned it down, I only beat Maticus, fewer cried, by Wednesday I was just swearing at him and dragging him by his hair, harmless enough you may think, BUT come Thursday, oh, they are so frightened of me…. because, according to Creudwyn, I’m in charge, NOT HER !  I’m the bloody Roman, I kick arse, I WAS THE VICTOR !  But oh no, Welsh history is being re-written here,  the Celts were in charge.  By Friday she had become Romano-British (she must have got lucky with one of my soldiers). 

But that’s not the strangest event of the week,  each day the kids make models and do drawings, using the typical ‘craft products’ that have been used for generations – we now call it recycling – old washing-up liquid bottles, cardboard boxes, those tubes from inside loo rolls etc.  Thursday all that was stopped, GERMS !!  It appears that using loo roll tubes is only permissible if they’ve been zapped for three minutes on max, in a micro-wave oven. 

The Lunatics are definitely running the Assylum, no question.

Centurion and Celtic slave

Stootus Maximus with my slave Creudwyn. Who's in charge ?

Now this episode with the children raises some interesting issues.  In my normal life – no, dressing up is NOT normal for me – I have no contact with little people – thank the Lord ! – and therefore my knowledge of how they think and behave is deficient.  Nevertheless I was suprised that they were unable to differentiate between me really beating my slaves and the fact they had just arrived in brand new minibuses.  Creudwyn (names are changed to protect the innocent) thinks its because they are young – 8-10 – and still believe in Father C etc (and why wouldn’t they ?).  I somehow doubt this – although it should be noted that although Creudwyn has her faults, being wrong is definitely not one of them ! –  I wonder if its more to do with the fact that TV, and ‘reality’ TV at that,  dominates their imaginative inputs, and the current school curriculum ( a good Latin word, don’t you think !) disallows for exposure to acting, competitive sport, music and art.  In fact, anything that re-inforces culture and creative imagination is absent, at least in any meaningful format.  Thus, when the little people are suddenly confronted with adults ‘enacting’ scenarios to depict historic events, they are unprepared and confused, and are left believing its all somehow ‘for real’.  Do they ever go to Pantomime ?  what do they think Nativity plays are ? oh my,  what are we doing in the name of education !
Death to the Celts

In the end, I got so fed up I stabbed the lot with my gladius.

In a few weeks (29-30 July) an Archaeological weekend illustrating the history of Garn Goch and the Roman occupation of the Tywi valley and its environs will be held.  I’ve declined the invitation to ‘perform’ again.  Rather I’m either going to elaborate on my investigations of the Iron-Age and Early Medieval field systems and the different dry stone walling techniques that are revealed in and around the Garn, or, I will exhibit some of the farming artefacts from my project ‘Our Farming Heritage’ (soon to be revealed on www.farmhistory.co.uk) and in particular those which transcend the centuries, such as a plough I recently acquired, and an Ox Yoke , both of which appear in medieval illustrations, such as the Luttrell Psalter.
medieval plough

This old plough has recently joined my collection from the hidden recesses of a country pub. It resembles those seen in medieval illustrations though it is missing its cutting iron - coulter. It was found in Sussex, and as yet I have been unable to identify it or its probable age. Any ideas anyone ?

The plough (plow) resembles, closely, a medieval design.  I obtained it from a country pub near Crickhowell, a pub part-owned by a long-lost friend from my days in Brighton in the 1970s.  I called to ‘negotiate’ and ended up being re-united with my old rugby buddy.  He’s taking me to a re-union of our era players in October, I’m looking forward to it immensely,  more old friends !  Is this all an omen – spooky !

The plough is a very rare item and, even though its not of Welsh origin, it has a distinct lineage from those discussed by Ffransis Payne in his definitive study
Yr Aradr Gymreig (1975) [the Welsh Plough].  I’m excited to have it, it is still in the house where I can look at it every day.  The other item I’m pleased to have is a double ox yoke, and even though it does not have (at present) its ‘ox-bows’, it is a fine addition to the collection, and I will make two new bows out of local hazel shortly.  I have chosen the yoke as the symbol for my mobile museum project.
Double Ox Yoke

A double ox (ychen) yoke, another 'star' addition to the collection. The ox (castrated bullock) was the main source of motive power on farms right up until the middle of the C20th on many upland Welsh farms.

I would love to have a pair of oxen to train, to show how they worked the land and maintain an important element of our farming heritage.  Alas, I’m never likely to, a fellow on the BBC’s ‘Countryfile’ programme who trains animals for films etc. ‘lost’ one of his highly valuable trained oxen to a TB test, heartbreaking.  Maybe my new colleagues in the Historic Landscape project, Anthony and Margot  (soon to be launched on www.agriculturalhistory.co.uk / www.tygwynfarm.co.uk ) can be persuaded.  After all, even in Wales there is a demand for farm animals for TV / film – only today I found Tom some sheep for a TV series he’s doing – from my friends at Simply the Best Training at Caerlan Farm.  Who knows, the way my life is spinning at the moment….
Our Farming Heritage 

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