It's a sign!

I've been working on some Covid signs for my tent for the Abbey Medieval Festival. It's exciting to think we will be going ahead, although in a slightly different capacity this year.

I have two great options. 

One I have printed out on paper and will laminate for use in wet weather, and the other, featuring a squirrel, will be painted onto board with a "Stay 6 squirrels apart" message.

Obviously, this is nose-to-tail squirrels, and good luck getting them to line up.

Other safety measures must be observed this year including hand sanitizing station, disinfectant sprays and wipes for the Selfie Station and a traffic management plan. The tents are supposed to have separate entry and exit points which is tricky in a tent with a single door flap. 

Happily, I do have a wide opening at the front, so this will actually be possible for me.

The weeks are ticking down. It's getting exciting!


The Write Stuff

Image (c) Tania Crossingham's School of Illumination created for the Abbey Medieval Festival 2021.
Image (c) Tania Crossingham's School of Illumination created for the Abbey Medieval Festival 2021.

I was honoured to be asked by my favourite museum to be a part of a series of short snippets for promoting the Abbey Medieval Festival this year. 

Tania Crossingham's School of Illumination has provided a set of nine medieval characters and several of us gave our thoughts on each one. The filming was done last weekend, and now the first one is revealed!

The Scribe!

The first video is about the role of scribes, and in it we briefly share a few thoughts. Of course, at first our thoughts turn to images of monks working in their scriptoriums, but as the sale and production of books becomes more widespread, we see books requiring the services of many specialist artisans to make a book.

Parchment and vellum makers, ink-makers, quill makers, copyists, illuminators, book binders, gold leaf specialists, cover-makers, hinge and clasp-makers and the craftsmen who make and supply settings and gem stones on the covers of the high-end books.

Many people will be astonished to hear that as the book trade became less monastery-oriented, women might be employed in illumination or other steps in the book trade.

Certainly, they were keen patrons of beautiful books of hours or romances which were often handed down in wills to their daughters.



Happy Mothering Sunday

It's really true what we say about our camp mothers... those older ladies int he group who really do have spare everything, and usually makes sure everyone has sunscreen on hot days and warm drinks on cold ones. 

They have aspirin, safety pins for clothing emergencies, a quick-fix sewing kit, spare toilet paper, tissues, allergy tablets, and the first aid kit.

Very often these amazing women can be found in the kitchen putting food into our starving tummies and doing so with the smallest cost the the members of the group.

Our Camp Mothers are our heros. 

Happy Mother's Day, Ladies!



I'm always excited when there's a book fair on, but a book fair at our local University is usually jam packed full of reference books!

This was the first time I'd been to the University of Queensland one, so I was extremely keen to see what was on offer and what the prices were like! I was extremely delighted with both!

Most other book fairs have a large number of general reading books, but this was table after table after table of reference books in absolutely immaculate condition.

I was particularly excited to find a number of books I'd wanted for a long time- Andreas Capellanus for starters! His book on The Art of Courtly Love was one that I have referenced but not owned a complete copy of, so that was extremely exciting for me!

A further trip back on half-price final day gave up these treasures (and another 30 non-medieval books ranging from religion to medicine to old, English poetry.)

I'm not the least bit sad to report that the final day Half Price on Everything lured me back for a final pick over, and it was fantastic to pick up a further three boxes of books. Star of the day was a book about Sermons on Sin, which turned out to be from a 15th century preacher I had previously not heard of.

I have hopes that his lecturing on sin will include some great bits I can use in my Medieval Women sex talks. I'm pretty sure it will, because, let's face it, sin and sex are hand in hand in the medieval world.

I bought a few great books about wool, fibres, dying and ancient textiles which all look to be pretty great. A bit on the remedial side, for experienced people, but a really great basic resource for me.

Since I have a library of vintage books, I added some beautiful old tomes to my basket and brought them home for a mere pittance.

Of course, now my To Read pile is overflowing!


No sewing today, but a ton of gardening in my mostly medieval garden. 

I have container gardens but I've has a little issue with drainage, so today I emptied all the containers, added pine bark chips for better drainage under the soil and then replanted everything. 

Many of the plants were in pots and will survive an upheaval like this, but others were in the soil, so the next few days will be interesting to see what survives and what doesn't. 

Here's pics of how it was when I started a year ago 

and how it looked before I lifted all the plants:

I needed to move the boxes which were over the drain as there were drain issues and they needed to be cleaned out. They were sitting on planks to stop the soil from falling through, but in spite of creating a great little hideout for the water dragons, they were becoming a bit smelly.

All the boxes had to be emptied to be moved over literally 30cm and that couldn't happen while they were full of wet soil. The soil itself, while being damper than it should be in some places, was extremely worm-rich, which was an extremely happy discovery.

The bees also continued to visit undeterred by the gardening, and one particular skink with somewhat of a death-wish, came perilously close to meeting an untimely end by attempting friendship with my cat. The biggest of the water dragons has taken to stalking my cat, which is proving to be more excitement than she would like.

Some of the bigger herbs, like the rue, sage and feverfew were looking a little sad, but the strawberries needed planting out and a leek (which I hadn't eaten and threw in) has sprouted roots and is looking like it's going to grow happily. The comfrey was suffering from lack of sunshine and hopefully will enjoy its new location better.

I currently have 4 elderflower bushes, and while one is not liking the change of location, I'm hoping it changes its mind and makes a comeback because it's now it a corner which really needs screening. 

The lemongrass, although not medieval, was on the receiving end of a good trim and it will only be a matter of a few days before my kitty has fresh shoots to nibble


Medieval bananas

TS Vienna has a bit to say about the banana.
TS Vienna has a bit to say about the banana.

No, really!

Go on with you! Bananas are arousing?

They're certainly suggestive, even by modern standards, but it's very interesting to see them names and shames in medieval books, especially as bananas were definitely not found in many areas of the medieval world.

It's fascinating, then, to see them mentioned in one of the most popular health handbooks, the Tacuinum Sanitatus.  

Not every version includes bananas. Several versions concern themselves with foods and herbs which are more mainstream, but the Vienna version thoughtfully includes more exotic items.

It mentions that the writer of this version has not seen or tasted the fruit themselves, but that it has been faithfully reported that the taste, colour and properties have been tried and tested, then lovingly recorded.

For this reason, the Vienna version is by far my favourite of the existing versions. It includes other slight variations which have also been included with notes stating that they are exotic or suitable only to persons who are native to the area of the fruit or vegetable.

But really! Bananas are arousing?  

Who knew!


Book Tour, Virtually.

In  other book news, my Australian distributors, Booktopia are talking about a Virtual Book Tour, so stay tuned for people who like to go to book things without leaving the  house!

We introverted types are going to have to go back to our old excuses for not going out once we can't use a pandemic. Certainly, there must be many creative ways to say,  "I just really don't want to go out today" without losing friends and alienating people. 

Sorry, I'm uh.. washing the cat?

Okay, so I'm not sure what a Virtual Book Tour actually is, since regular ones involve signings and sales at various shops, but I promise I'll keep you all, (well, both of you) posted when I find out myself.



Library book? Yes!

Soon to be found in Brisbane Libraries!
Soon to be found in Brisbane Libraries!

Very Exciting Announcement! 

My book is being ordered in for Brisbane Libraries

I had to have it assessed for suitability of inclusion, which is the normal thing when a book is released by a local author, so I forwarded a copy to the Collections Officer in the main city library and nervously awaited to hear back.

It was accepted!

If that isn't thrilling enough, soon you will be able to come and hear me talk about it as part of the Brisbane Libraries Author Programme, perhaps as soon an August and September! (Dates to be advised.)

I'm acutely aware that the title of the book may make for some misgivings to the suitability of talks in a local library, but if it's been deemed appropriate, informative and interesting by a Mother Superior, I feel it will pass for library chats.

It is, after all, non fiction, and are libraries not centres of learning? 

I've always been enthusiastic about bringing medieval women to the unsuspecting public, and that certainly should include those of Brisbane library-goers!


Event planning

Abbey Medieval Festival tickets on sale! Artwork by  (c) Tania Crossingham.
Abbey Medieval Festival tickets on sale! Artwork by (c) Tania Crossingham.

I'm just so excited to be planning for the Abbey Medieval Festival this year!

This year I'm departing from my usual Tailor's workshop to do book signings in the market place. The museum will be selling my book for those who don't have a copy and want one, and I believe there may be some other goodies from illuminator Tania Crossingham, who did my beautiful cover artwork. 

I will have the original artwork- the hand-painted vellum- on display for those who might like to see the cover in its original form.

I'm extra delighted to be joined by my friend Mickey who will be traveling vast distances to come down for the festival and will be staying over and helping out! I'm so looking forward to having a girly house-guest (or should that be tent-guest) for the weekend!

At this stage, all the Covid safety things are being sorted and the paperwork is being done and I'm helping out with some promotions, so the excitement is building!

Now all I need to do is make some new signs!


Past tents.

Tent. Roof sag not too bad while dry.
Tent. Roof sag not too bad while dry.

Another job that needs finishing which I've been trying to address, is the droop of the tent roof which sags a little more than I'd like. This photo here shows the tent freshly erected and not rained on and holding up quite well, but after overnight dew or rains, the weight of wet canvas is a problem.

I'd had various ideas, but since I made the tent myself out of fairly lightweight canvas, I'm worried that replying on pulling it super tight with the ropes with tear it.

I have tried a rope, then a cable between the poles at the top but they had limited success. I feel that one event when it really rained for two days straight, the fabric was stretched a little.

I've even considered another third tent pole right in the middle, but it just didn't look right. 

The biggest issue with needing to pull the roof out of line to keep the ropes taut, is that then the sides of the tent don't quite sit the way they should. They splay out a little which means everything in the tent doesn't sit against walls like the walls of a house/workshop, which is what the tent represents.

With this in mind, I've often considered a ridge pole which would make the tent a tad more waterproof by keeping the tent roof at a more definite angle rather than allowing the water to pool a bit on the roof itself.

It's not period accurate, but it would make for a more functional space.

BNF. Francais 261, Titus Livius Ab Urbe Condita f.25. 1400-1410
BNF. Francais 261, Titus Livius Ab Urbe Condita f.25. 1400-1410

My biggest problem is that the tent has a top of 4.5 metres, which means that a pole for the top would need to be segmented for transporting, and therefore not very stable in windy weather. The last thing I need is the tent moving a little and the ridge pole falling on a member of the public's head.

I think, however, that I have a solution. I have an aluminium set of three poles sourced from a thrift shop. They were modern tent poles- light but strong- and I selected the ones which can be arranged with two end poles slotting into the middle piece.

This doesn't solve the issue of seeing a modern pole or the pole coming apart in very bad weather, BUT if a sew a sturdy canvas sleeve for the three sections to slide into, the sleeve holds it together firmly and makes it all but invisible at the top of the roof.

The ridge pole then keeps the top level, which is turn pulls the walls back into alignment which improved the stability and look of the entire tent.

My biggest issue today, is that although my tent-making notes indicate 4.5 metres x 2 metres was the original tent plan, I feel that the measurement ended up (after seams and shrinkage in the rain) to be 4 metres. I really can't remember.

Tonight my tent is on my lounge room floor ready to be unpacked and physically measured against the ridge pole. It's quite possible that I really just need to make the tent just a little smaller. 

I shall see. I'd really rather not need to resew anything.