Its in the Stars, and “Computer says NO !”

Sunset over Epynt

'At the going down of the Sun', another crazy day ends but, hey, what a way to go - the only 'brightness' to hit me on this day of stellar conflict !

I should have known, I ought to have realised, it happens every year for goodness sake.  When the Virgo horrorscope tells you that Capricorn is about to clash with your Anus then you know the bottom is about to fall out of your world – and then some…

It started to happen, with hindsight, earlier last week.  I could have quarrelled with my shadow, and things began to break, or I’d forget something, or mess – up something, or have a little argument ! (like what you read…).  The crash came on Friday, albeit I didn’t realise that was so until later.  As you know, I had a little ‘tete- a-tete’ at the training course, and that was fairly significant in terms of its implications and its impact.

However, I got home feeling not too bad, considering.  Much to my suprise my phone line was down – and hence this thing was off-line too – I called BT on the mobile and they said they would sort it next day.  In fairness, they did and I duly did my on-line duties – including my blog post – and began to shut down when…. “Your computer is in danger”, “You need to buy this security programme right now”,” You cannot connect to Internet Explorer” (I guess until I paid up ?).  I switched off and hit the sack.

On Sunday I was due to meet up with a friend – a fellow landscape historian although he is more a REAL historian and has just finished a 700 + page book, in Welsh, on the early Romano – Welsh period.  I’d arranged a meet at a nearby garage, I waited until 11.00 am and then went on my merry way, already in a bad mood !!  My destination was the little village of Bethlehem (where I had so famously done my fierce Centurion act a few weeks before) and then on up to a large and significant Iron Age hill fort called Garn Goch.  Now I’ll return to this part of the story, but to return to my lap-top problem, it so happened that my friend’s lady companion (yes, old fashioned but true) is something of an IT freak, when I told her and said how much this ‘protection’ was going to cost she suggested I checked it out to see what others thought of it (I should mention I have a ‘big’ computer as well as my lap-top).  On returning home I did just that, guess what….

It appears that the whole bloody IT world – except yours truly – knew of  Anti Vir Pro oh yes, everyone, why did no-one tell me then ?  The thing that is telling you that your computer is at risk is the bloody virus and its terminal, apparently.  Pages and pages of pleas for help, suggestions as to how to eradicate it, all beyond my simple mind.  So lap-top land is not available to me, not until I can get someone to clean it for me – pity me people, I’m blogging this sitting on a hard chair in my very untidy study (a certain reader knows exactly how untidy, and how cold this room gets !).

So, bust up and fall out, telephone down, lap-top infected, boy was I glad to see Monday, well actually, NO I WASN’T.  My ankle had swollen like a grapefruit and was mucho painful.  No messing with that, off to the hospital tout suite.  Oh, but on the way I just needed to stop at the hole-in-the-wall to get some cash.  Computer Says NO ! For the second time, artificial intelligence ruins my day !  That can’t be.

Do you remember some work I had been doing for the quarry – Tarmac PLC actually – throughout the Spring.  Friday had been the day on which over £7k should have been automatically deposited in my account.  The bugger of it is, I actually suspected it wouldn’t happen, and it didn’t,  BASTARDS….  So while I’m sitting waiting to be seen, and probably absorbing MRSA or some-such friendly virus, and why not, if my lap-top has one…, I use up zillions of minutes on my mobile, tracking why I’m not rich, and why, if I can’t solve it, I won’t be going on hols.

Now I’ve learnt from past experiences that screaming at the girl who presses the button is not productive.  In fact, charm and pathetic plea bargaining is the only way to get heard and get to the bottom of the problem.  The answer actually was simple, it was down to a twat, a twat who has done me before, at Christmas actually (the same reader will well remember the little shit!).  Now, in truth, he’s a really nice youngish guy, punching above his weight, and struggling to survive really.  He is the veritable ‘duck in a swollen river’, apparently calm and in control but below paddling like mad to save himself from drowning.  Simply, he had not forwarded my invoice to head-office.  In fairness he had authorised the purchase order number and had tallied that with my quote, but had not done, back on the 24th May, what was needed.  Now this company only pay-out after 60 days, miss that and you wait another 30 days.  Strangely the money due at the end of August – i.e. invoiced end of June – has been correctly dealt with, but, for reasons best known to him (he is on leave of course !) the May invoice is still on his computer.

Fortunately two ladies of far superior ability sorted it for me, but it means I don’t get the money until this Friday – I’d better or else, well actually, or else I’m in serious bother and will NOT be crossing the channel.

As a result of all this war like activity between Capricorn and my butt I have had to let people down.  I had to cancel a training course because of the ankle problem – I had it encased in some strange plastic boot thing and was told to rest –  I don’t like letting people down, I couldn’t get to a couple of jobs to finish before I set off, letting people down.  Also I felt very let down, by the quarry, by folks I thought were friends, by a dear and close friend too, so I guess it all balances out.  Soldier on is all one can do, battle through to the light, and that sunset seemed to be the change.  For when I got home that night I had a suprise note from far away, a great lift; so I opened a beer thus confirming what the prophet once said:

When it feels as if the bottom is falling out of your World,

Drink ‘Real Ale’, then it feels as if the World

is falling out of your bottom !

Coco Chanel Stell

At last I finished the Coco Chanel Stell. It has a certain 'pre-historic' air about it, not least because of the random limestone that had to be used.

So, the rest of the week then.  Well, as I’ve noted, I was a little handicapped as far as any serious work was concerned and had to cancel a ‘Tools Safe use and Maintenance’ course for Simply the Best Training (  I managed to get around the Garn Goch site on Sunday and eventually caught up with my friend and his lady companion (note this folks – SHE had been an hour late !!! how unusual…) and we managed to come to some conclusions about the land lay-out, the presence of a farmstead called Llys Brychan – which has a tentative Roman connection – lying close-by and Capel Tydist, a short distance west of the fort but near a ‘Banjo enclosure’ (an Iron-Age chieftain’s enclosure).  I’ve always thought the Llys Brychan name was far more significant than the ‘mosaic’ remains, ‘Llys’ meaning the early medieval court of a local ruler, and, of course, ‘Brychan’ being the King of Brecon, a mere few miles to the east.  Capel Tydist is actually the chapel site of one of his daughters.

The whole area around Garn Goch would seem to have been an ‘Upland Vill’ consisting of 4 Trefii plus the ‘home farm’ tref of the Llys.

Apart from we two nerds roaming around, there was a number of other activities relating to Iron Age life, an old friend and fellow Smithsonian traveller, Helen Campbell, a basket weaver was there as was Essyllt Harker, the story-teller.  A number of colleagues from the Dyfed Archaeology Trust and the Brecon Beacons National Park were well met (they had organised the well attended event).  A number of interesting artefacts were on site as well as some experimental archaeology in the form of open-hearth cooking of unlevened bread – well it was Sunday after all, oh yes, and Bethlehem is just below…

Quern Stone at Garn Goch

A pair of Quern stones which were used to ground flour /oats throughout the centuries. The one rotates on the other by hand and arm motion. This pair are a facsimile but accurate, and they worked very well.

There was much comment – mainly from locals who know me – of my rather fetching turn-out in my Roman gear, I just knew that the notion I wouldn’t be recognised was a load of tosh !!  Over-all it was a good day but, it was probably the straw that broke the back as far as my ankle was concerned.

However, I did manage to take myself off to Cwmbran to visit the Ancient Cwmbran Project which is throwing up more and more exciting discoveries of Early Medieval / Welsh structural Society and, of significant interest to Medievalists, finds associated with the Cistercian Abbey of Llantarnam.  I am about to ‘write-up’ my report on the dry stone walls that have been the focus of attention in a number of remnant woods high up on the slopes of Mynydd Maen, below the great defended hill-top of Twm Barlwm.  I noted a short while ago how significant a skyline that was, even from out on Flatholm.

Bronze Age or earlier ? Stone Axe head.

This stone axe head was found in fields near Garn Goch. How amazing to hold something fashioned and used by man 3000+ years ago - better than viewing it from behind glass, but then this is still in the possession of the farmer who found it. The stone is from the Presceli hills some thirty miles to the west.

I find I’m getting more and more intrigued by the history that still lies beneath my feet.  At one time I imagined there was nothing left to discover, how wrong was that !  Of course I’m mostly fascinated with the landscape per se than artefacts from holes in the ground but they have a mystique that most people can’t resist.

I remember ten years or so ago, on the west coast of Ireland at a little village called Rattoo, a man passed me a pair of shoes he had dug out of a peat bog some 12 metres down, they had lain on an oak roadway now subsumed by the peat, he had soaked them in baby oil – at the recommendation of the local chemist –  and formed them around a shoe last and then put them in his Rayburn stove (that’s a ‘kerosene’ stove if you are from west of Ireland ! memories eh W ?).  Bog dating indicated they must have been around 4000 years old, but as this didn’t fit in with the Archaeologists’ and Historians’ view of Irish pre-history, no one from the National Museum of Ireland was interested to come take a look.  So there they were, handed around for all to see and feel, incredible.  The laces were of human hair – imagine the DNA  / genealogy that’s locked up in there.  He also had three hand axes, perfectly formed, found by a local farmer in the corner of a field, they were  so obviously hand axes but again, as they were far too early for the accepted view of human occupation of the west coast, they were ignored by the professionals.  We know the feeling, oh yes, we know the feeling …

Myxomas hits again in Breconshire.

This poor little fellow was suffering dreadfully from the terrible effects of Myxi.

I’ll end this week with some more of my ‘Nature Calls’ – a very sad little post-script.  Regular readers will know of  my great affection for wildlife.  You can imagine the distress caused to me when I came across this little fellow on a quiet roadside this week.  He is suffering from the dreadful viral disease myxomas (sometimes referred to as myomatosis) which causes a tumour in the mucous and gelatinous tissue of the body, hence the readily observable symptom of swollen blinded eyes and puss running down the cheeks.

It was introduced in the 1950s to try to eradicate the rabbit problem in Australia and then, later, it was tried here.  Whilst it is no longer rampant it remains endemic and occurs about every five years or so.  It is the most appalling death and it upsets me enormously.  It seems strange to me, and many who know me, how now I get so affected when years ago I would readily hunt and rabbit was a staple meat in the diet of my daughters.  Apparently it is common for hunters to become conservationists.  I have to do the humane deed for these poor creatures, but it distresses me so to do.

myomas in a rabbit in Breconshire

You can feel the pain and fear in this picture, poor little fellow.

Of course another problem is that, whilst he is dying – not however once he is dead, or so it seems – he is easy prey for buzzards and, more especially, stoats.  Now I have no scientific proof but it is the case that when myxi is prevalent in the rabbit population, an inordinate number of dead stoats are seen.  If you consider most people, even country folk, never see a stoat – I may see one 3 or 4 times a year – it is strange.  It seems clear to me that the blood sucking antics of the stoat renders it liable to a huge build up of the virus which ultimately kills it.  It may occur in buzzards to, I know not, but I very much suspect that it is the consumption of the blood that gets Mr Stoat.

On a happier note, I saved this little fellow, which I regard as God’s finest creation, the cutest little creature to be found in the countryside.  Unfortunately, to be born a short-tailed vole is not a good idea.  It is very much at the ‘shallow end of the dream pool’ when it comes to ‘brute strength’ !  Everything likes to eat poor little vole, this one lived to see at least one more dawn, I hope.

Short-tailed field vole

Isn't he just the cutest thing you ever saw !

For children and sentimentalists – like me

Today I saw a tiny Vole,

As out he popped of his little hole;

And off he went along the trail,

Perhaps he’s gone to get the mail.

If Voles get letters from their friends,

Perhaps its Owl, to make amends

For eating all his furry mates,

They gulp them down and clear their plates.

That Voles are nice to eat is clear

Given all that like to hunt him here;

From Stoat and Weasel, Owl and Fox

Some people keep them in a box !

Back he comes along the wall

Hurrying past before I can call

That I’ve had to make a brand new hole

For my little brown furry Short-tailed Vole.

I think that’s probably all you can stomach from Welshwaller for now.  This weekend is a busy one – if my ankle holds out – its Brecon Jazz Festival and I’m set to do a bit of dancing, and if that’s OK, a little more and a little more, oh yes, and some more real ale !!

I’m afraid you will have to wait a little then folks, I’m taking what feels this week, like a well earned rest, and heading off across the water to France for a little tour, looking at…. Yep, you guessed it , DRY STONE WALLS !!


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