Moments (or days, even years) of not being able to get on with one's chosen life's work happen to us all. I've got one now. I just don't want to paint. So why is this? The loveliness of the summer and the call to gardening has something to do with it. Being interested in meeting and talking with others may be a distraction.
Mainly I think it is because of the need to get on with something else which is important to me. And at present it is only merely started.
This is the new website ("Badon and the Frontier zone and other historical placenames") now being created which deals with an important part of my life with Tim, our early excitement over our interest in John Morris' books on Britain in the Dark Ages, which were being published in the 70's and 80's. They looked at the contemporary references for Britain in the years after the Roman withdrawal and were the first real, comprehensive attempt to make sense of these times, from about 400-900AD. In particular they put the British side of history into context, giving the reader the ability to see the contrasting histories of the two conflicting peoples, the Welsh (the British pre-Roman occupants) and the incoming Saxons, to be known later as the English. Tim and I collaborated on 2 original researched articles on the Battle of Badon, as an important date in the story of the English conquest of Britain and which puts the Welsh placenames into perspective as an important historical source. It was our original work on the placenames and realisation that pronunciation, not spelling, was all important, which changed this understanding of the times. It was a super, eureka, moment, as we realised their significance and we could hear the Old Welsh in our Somerset landscape coming through the Anglicised signposts. It started with Cold Kitchen, illus. above, a local hilltop with a strange sounding name. It shouldn't have been too surprising to historians, but it was. Somerset was part of Greater Wales until 720 AD and the British nature of the sounds in many of our placenames still reverberates. For some in the Placename Society, this was unacceptable, surviving "Celtic" placenames were only to be found as far east as Devon they considered. It takes a generation, sometimes, for things to filter into "acceptable" territory. I hope we have convinced them that there is more to Somerset placenames than meets the eye. Ekwall has a lot to answer for!
Our first article was published in Popular Archaeology in 1986, outlining the placename elements of importance and their requirement to be heard and not just looked at. Welsh sounds came through in the English spelling. The hard written English 'd' could be seen for the first time as the softly spoken Welsh "dd" (spoken as "th"). Bath as Badon was on the cards. By the time the second, full article was published in 1990 in the Somerset Archaeology and Natural History Society proceedings, we had forgotten the original article and didn't reference it! So when we saw others using our precise wording from the first article and realising the importance of the placenames as evidence of movement of peoples, without reference to us, we were a bit sad. However this seems to have been rectified in recent years. Bath as Badon has gradually become accepted as the site of the battle, and we are happy to have lived this long to see it as it does improve significantly the historian's view of the Anglican takeover. Previously the site could only be guessed at. To this day the Welsh (not relatives of ours) are aware of the loss of their lands to the English, the "Loegr" to which we are welcomed when driving back into England from Wales, "The Lost Lands".
So my attention will go to this for a while: Badon and the Frontier Zone and other historical placenames. Will be published within this week, if you're interested, and updated constantly with more. local placenames of historical interest, most of which I talked about in my series of lectures in the 1990s at Frome College, combining folklore, archaeology, landscape studies and placenames.
Then back to art!