Monday, February 22, 2010

The Battle of Maldon

Current work: Medical and nonfic
Listening to: The Amazing
Reading: Shirley Wells, A Darker Side (another cracking story and I didn’t guess the murderer until the end – her characterisation really is stellar!)

On Sunday, according to the weather forecast, it was going to be dry all morning and very wet in the afternoon. Fine. I wanted to leave REALLY early so we’d reach Maldon as soon as possible after low tide.

Maldon’s a bit of a special place for me. I haven’t been there for years – but the last time (before Sunday) was the day DH and I got engaged. And the final decision was taken at Maldon. (He made the mistake of taking my bestest aunt, bestest uncle and cousins to the jeweller’s. Cousin picked out the most expensive ring… LOL. I actually wanted a cheaper and prettier ring, and he gave it to me over dinner out that night after pudding. The man has his priorities right.)

It’s also the place where we used to go a lot when I was a toddler. There’s cine film of my first unaided steps – and it’s at Maldon. There’s also cine film of me in the park on the roundabout. Apparently I drove my parents crazy, begging for just one more ride. Hmm. That one came home to roost as Madam is extremely fond of fairground rides…

Anyway. The reason we went was to take location pics for the Essex book, and the story I wanted to illustrate was the Battle of Maldon. As in the Anglo-Saxon poem (which I adored studying in my third year at uni); the earliest known battlefield site in Britain (10 August 991, if we’re being picky); and where the Saxons lost against the Danes and their leader had his head hacked off (and he was interred in Ely Cathedral with a ball of wax in place of his head). The battle outcome involved the east coast paying Danegeld for 25 years. Byrhtnoth had to fight; if he hadn’t, the Danes would’ve sailed off, raided the coast further down, and more lives would’ve been lost. Then again, the fact that he let them walk over the causeway to give them a sporting chance rather than just picking them off the landbridge, one by one… Not the best military strategy, perhaps. And why did he do it? ‘Ofermode’, according to the poet. This is the most hotly debated half-line in the poem: does it mean ‘confidence’ or ‘arrogance’? Was he too eager for battle, were the Vikings underhand, or…? Also worth noting that the word ‘ofermode’ appears in the OE poem ‘Genesis’ referring to Lucifer, the angel of pride. Pride was a sin – and yet pride in one’s ancestors and their behaviour wasn’t a sin. Interesting. (And I’m aware that I’ve just turned seriously nerdy, so will rein my enthusiasm in right now.)

It rained as soon as we reached Suffolk, but it got brighter as we neared Maldon. I was armed with a detailed map. We found Byrhtnoth’s statue and I did a bit of declaiming. (Well, you have to - right?)

Cue grumbles from research team about it being freezing and did we really have to walk all the way to the causeway? Yes, because it’s not that far. Except then it poured.

REALLY poured.

Research team staged a rebellion, so we ended up back at the car. (I’m planning another trip next weekend. And Maldon is sort of on the way to Rayleigh. Just hope the tide is in my favour.)

Maldon was the first stop of several – and I’ll tell you about some more tomorrow. (Be warned – church-crawling was involved. I am still dallying with the church book, even though it’s currently on ice. And there were specific things I wanted from this part of Essex. Pretty pics to follow…)

Plan for today: get cracking on my Medical. Lovely agent likes it, but has asked for tweaks on the first three chapters. However, she thinks it’s going to be a great story and (given that I spent last week doing second revisions instead of what I planned to do, i.e. loaf about with family) has rather more confidence in me than I do, right now!


Jan Jones said...

Oh dear, Kate. Better luck with the weather next w/e.

But what lovely memories, all the same.

Kate Hardy said...

Jan - at leat it wasn't snowing. (Unlike today. I might have to crack in a minute and put the heating on.)

Definitely lovely memories; will have to take the kids back in the summer so they can enjoy it, too. Sadly the fairground rides are no longer there, but I do remember loving them!

Nicola Cornick said...

I'm not complaining about your nerdy details, Kate. I love it! Am now totally fascinated as to whether Byrhtnoth was confident, arrogant or simply proud of the line he was descended from. And was his military strategy based on gallantry (offering the Danes a fighting chance) or just bad judgement? Whilst I admire a man of honour there are times when you need to be ruthless!

Olivia Ryan said...

Loved this, Kate - Maldon is just down the road from me and we've spent many a happy summer day there especially when the kids were young and the old open air swimming pool was there - complete with beach! Sadly though, it was closed a few years back after a drowning incident. I'm fascinated by your story - often wondered who that statue was of!! (I'm totally brainless as far as history is concerned!). So nice to read good things about my county for a change - it comes in for a lot of stick.

penny robins said...

It's lovely to hear you're in my neck of the woods Kate. I'm from Rayleigh although my parents are still there I've just moved out to Westcliff on Sea. Can't wait to read all about it x

Kate Hardy said...

Nicola - that's a question that experts have argued over for years. I think it was a mixture of the two. Plus, of course, if he hadn't fought, they would've sailed off and sttacked somewhere else, and this was a good chance to deplete their forces.

Kate Hardy said...

Olivia - I remember that swimming pool! And how sad that someone drowned there.

I feel the same way as you do re Essex. It's my birth county and although I 've spent most of my life in Norfolk, I have a very soft spot for Essex. It's way past time that the good bits were talked about instead of the tedious jokes about Essex girls.

Kate Hardy said...

Hi Penny - nice to see you here. Weather permitting, I will definitely be posting pics of Rayleigh next week, as well as somewhere a wee bit closer to you (Prittlewell).

My bestest cousin (aka my bridesmaid) got married in Westcliff. Madam was her bridesmaid and son was her pageboy. Ahh, memories...

Lacey Devlin said...

I don't blame the research team for staging a rebellion!

I love engagement stories! *sigh*