Archive for August, 2011

This short book describes in ten chapters what life was like in the English village currently known as Elton (but formerly known as Aethelintone, Aethelington, Adelintune and Ailington) from roughly the 12th to 14th centuries. Each chapter looks at a particular area of village life including ‘The Lord’, ‘The Village at Work’, ‘Village Justice’ and so on. The book is full of quotations from historical documents such as the Elton manorial rolls (court records) and treatises advising lords and preachers; there are also numerous black and white photographs of medieval village ruins and manuscript illustrations.

It was an interesting read, presented in as easy-to-understand a fashion as is likely possible, given the amount of information and unusual terminology the reader needs to take in. The historical quotations add a lot of context and flavour. The plentiful facts and figures help to visualise what’s being described.

The book describes how the village (at the period under discussion, at any rate) was primarily an economic, food-producing unit. Villagers farmed their own land as well as the land of their lord (the demesne). They had various fees and fines to pay. In fact, much of the information presented in the book – coming, as it does, from legal records – revolves around financial penalties. Villagers were fined (usually sixpence) for sowing seed badly, for letting their animals stray, for brewing weak ale (which was tested by annually elected ale-tasters), as well as more expected crimes such as violence and sex outside of marriage.

The picture painted of the medieval village is one of pretty unremitting hard work, of numerous financial burdens, but also one of autonomy – the lord and his representatives were by no means hands-on micro-managers – and community – in order to function, the peasants had to work together to plan how and when to work their and their lord’s fields.

I liked the book and its subject enough that I’ve decided to base some of the Monday Masterclasses on my other blog, Elements of Fantasy. So far I’ve done The Medieval Village and Its Lord and The Medieval Village and Its Land.

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It’s been a while now since my operation (which Wikipedia assures me is actually called an appendicectomy). For a few days, it seemed like the amount of discharge I was squeezing out of the main surgical wound wasn’t decreasing. One day, I happened to squeeze a little harder than usual and forced out a maggot of solid, pale green-yellow pus; and then I squeezed out another, larger lump, almost the size of a bean (although not as wide) – and later on, a third. After the last one, the liquid pus, mixed with a little blood, flowed more freely.

Even I was somewhat disgusted. Habiba’s exclamations at the last specimen were quite entertaining.

Since then, the amount of discharge has slowly tailed off, to the point where it now only generally comes out when I squeeze it – yesterday’s daytime gauze and pad were untainted when I removed them.

I could probably leave the incision alone and it might heal, better, but I’d be worried about a build up of pus inside me. Then again, the body must have ways of dealing with that kind of thing.

As I write this, I’m in a 24-hour McDonalds near City Hall in Seoul. It’s the middle of the night. I have a 5:30 train to catch down to Busan on the south coast (a bullet train, no less), from where I’ll take a ferry to Tsushima, a Japanese island in the Korea Strait. I have to: my tourist visa is due to expire on Sunday. Habiba and I had been planning to go to Japan last week, but events conspired against us. Now, I’ll return on Sunday with another tourist visa good for three months.

Hopefully, I won’t need another. I’ve started making inquiries into getting a job for September. This will actually require another visa run, as the E-2 teaching visa can only be obtained in a foreign country. I’ll probably be heading down to Japan again.

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