Roots of Rookeri 42

Citadel Lecheni
Sifadis Lafdi, Shore House

Week Twenty-Nine

Ay, his stubborn refusal to understand and to act. Why would he not believe her words? She ought to take that as insult. It took Mathon and Eshe and, at the last, Jonesi to convince him that ay, the citadel was imperilled and that, ay, her House—nix, it now was his—would no longer exist unless he acted the Hero and took the relevant action. Crud and crusts, what a miracle that she’d found the heir, and that he had returned to here. Now he must mend the tree and claim the chair.

“How?” he asked, absent his usual flippancy.

“There’s everything here to heal the tree,” Jonesi said with a sweeping gesture at the clutter piled upon Mathon’s benches.

Boddy deigned a look. Ay-ay, she could have picked up that coffee pot and crashed it upon him for his wearied tone. “Yeah.”

“Leave him be,” Eshe said. “He needs time. He needs to make this task his own.”

Of course, friends all their lives, she’d know. Sifadis turned away before Eshe saw the scolding eye turned upon her. Och, she ought not to be like it. But it seemed she alone could see the urgency, and how dire the plight of Lecheni and her people. It wasn’t just for her and Boddy that the tree needed mending.

Peace, Disa. How long did it take you to grasp its import?

Ay, she answered her ancestress, Ffadise. But then there was time and plenty, while now there is none.

You exaggerate, Disa. There is ample for what must be done.

Och, ample indeed! Not if he sits there shaking his head and saying nay, nay, nay, I don’t believe it. But she had to admit he was now off his butt and looking around as Jonesi had prompted.

“Yeah,” he said again. Yet now he was prowling around the workshop, and pointing to this and that contraption. “Which lamps burn the brightest?” he asked Mathon and Mathon, delighted, ran to assist him. “These, yeah? What heat do they give?”

“Enough to fry a squirrel’s egg—are you wanting to die? Aye, Boddy, aye, these are hot, indeed hot.”

“Yeah, great, she needs heat. Yet heat will desiccate. Have you something we can use to deliver water? Not just at her roots but all the way up to the top of the tower?”

“Aye, indeed that I do,” Mathon answered, twizzling around, so excited. “I have pumps. Where? Ah, here. But that’s some strong pump you’re jawing about.”

“We’ll need sprinkler-heads to it.”

“Aye, the one, the one,” Mathon said, “but you would be better with three.”

“Does anyone know where there’s a close source of water?” Boddy asked, looking around at each of them. “Or must we take it from the moat?”

“There’s a well in the garden,” Sifadis answered before Eshe could. “Gowen and I use it for the Daabian plants.”

“We ought to dismantle the tower,” Boddy said without even a nod of acknowledgement to her, as if she’d not spoken.

“But, Boddy, my husband, you cannot imagine the runmen allowing it?” Was there a bite to her voice? But she couldn’t hide it. “What, Kalamite? Nay, nix, never.”

Boddy returned to where she stood by the coffee pots. Had he noticed her tone? He slipped his arm around her waist. She wanted to snuggle and nestle against him and yet she held steady and held him away. He leant in closer and spoke softly and gently into her ear. “You want us to be together when this is over? Then allow me to do it my way.”

He was still talking as he moved away, deserting her, leaving her cold and lonely. “I mean, spew on it, Disa. You’ve given me a task I wasn’t prepared for and, by the gods, it won’t be easy. But as you say, unless I do this Shore House, the citadel and numberless people will die. Now, it would be best if we could dismantle the tower—”

“Yet Disa is right,” Eshe added her worth. “There is Kalamite.”

Boddy turned on his heel to face her. “Yeah, Eshe, I know. And don’t you start on me, too. So what do you want me to do? Dismantle him first?”

“Hay la,” Sifadis said, voice noticeably trembling. “Is this talk of killing him?”

“Disa, peace.” He mimed the sealing of lips. “Unless it’s constructive—by which I mean constructing a plan. That I welcome from anyone because, right now, I’m flummoxed and down.” With a theatrical gesture he clutched his head.

Sifadis seethed with frustration. She wanted to go to him, throw her arms around him. She wanted to help him. Instead, she clenched her fists, brought tight to her mouth. He was angry at her. Gods, but how she deserved it. Ay, tricking him, deceiving him, enticing him here. She had brought him to a place he’d vowed to despise, to resolve a problem he deemed not his own. Yet it was his problem, for he was the heir. Hay la, why couldn’t they have escaped to the Daab, plant collectors as he’d playfully proposed?

He turned to Mathon. “Is there a way we can be rid of Kalamite? It need only be temporary, yeah. Some place to send him? Forgive me, I don’t yet know enough of your ways.”

“Aye, there’s the Warison Path,” Mathon said. “You always can use the Warison Path—ach, but most Houses keep their doors barred at the inside.”

Sifadis didn’t understand his intent, yet Boddy caught it. “What, you’re suggesting we snatch him and hide him away? Great, yeah, fine, that might work.”

“I have a suggestion,” Eshe said.

Ay and she would.

Mayhap you have a part to play, too, Ffadise said.

Ay? And what would that be?

Think upon it.

“Well?” Boddy prompted his close friend Eshe—of whom he had spoken with such affection. Curses upon her, and curses on him!

“I could lure him away from the citadel, clear away from the town,” Eshe said.

“Hey, great, yeah—except I won’t have you put yourself into danger. But, let’s hear your idea. Go on.”

He wouldn’t have brave, capable Eshe put herself into danger. Ay, but he’d not say that if his own wife were to offer. Sifadis turned away else she would have glared.

“Trefan is lodging out at Churen Manse,” Eshe said. “If I went to see him my guess is—no, it’s a certainty—Kalamite would follow.”

“But you say he’s after your death.”

Nay, never, nix, can’t risk her life. Send Disa instead.

Disa. Stop this at once. Ffadise said. What kind of wife are you?

“Kalamite is after all our deaths,” Eshe said. “All except for Jonesi. That man is insane. But, Boddy, what is the point of pumps and lamps when he won’t allow you into the tower? You’re right what you said: We must be rid of him first—and we must keep him away. Maybe I can persuade Trefan to bring some men to guard the tower until the Witan accepts you?”

“Ghats and rats,” Boddy groaned, “this is all moving so quickly! The Witan accepts me?”

Time you spoke, Disa. Ffadise prompted.

But what could she say? “My many-many sorries for that,” she said. “But until I found that document—”

“Yea,” Boddy snapped. “You still haven’t explained that.”

“But until it was found how could I know you were the one? And now the eclipse is less than two weeks away.”

“Jonesi, dear friend,” Boddy turned to him, “Does she make any sense to you?”

“Stop tormenting her,” Jonesi said—sweet, sweet Jonesi. “There is work to be done. I’ll go with Eshe and protect her.”

“Thanks but I need you here, to help me.”

“Rokke will help if I say,” Sifadis cut in. “And so too will Gowen and Gowen’s seleman.” They would need Gowen to let them into the garden, and to do whatever was needed with the water supply.

“I will help too.” Mathon seemed to swell with enthusiasm. “Don’t forget me. Oh my, indeed that I will, for the rightful man to sit on the chair!”

“How long do you need for him to be gone?” Eshe asked.

Boddy thought for a moment before he answered. “Four days would be good. No, make it five. Then we need a way to hold him away after that. He’s not going to be happy. His tree, his tower—it’s death to enter, remember.”

“Nay, nix, Boddy, she can’t do that,” Sifadis said and almost withered beneath his sudden stare. “But Churen Manse will not host her that many days. Nah, Eshe, you must visit my holdings as well. That ought to confound the tattagoose.”

She nodded. Ay-la, she even smiled. She had contributed to her husband’s plans, and by it helped keep him safe. Besides, five days without Eshe around his ankles. And maybe when she returns it’ll be with Trefan.

“We’ll get everything ready in here,” Boddy said, rapidly moving his thoughts along. Now he was sounding more like himself. Though there still wasn’t a sway to his hips, and he wasn’t yet joking. “We’ll test the lamps, check their brightness and heat. We’ll get together sufficient piping—is this all you have, Mathon, yea?”

Mathon grinned and shook his head. He jabbed his thumb back to say he had plenty more back there, wherever there was.

“Great, yeah. This might come together yet. Sprinklers; have you heads? Yea, I see. And the pumps—can you work out the pressure if we calculate the height? Hey, Disa, I haven’t had so much fun since I was in school. I never thought I’d miss doing calculations. Now this water supply?”

“You must talk to Gowen of that,” Sifadis said, quietly basking in contentment. He was having fun, because of her.

Boddy nodded. Then held still, now deep in thought.

“Wood Tower. It’s nothing but wood and tile, yeah?” he asked her—her, not his friends, because they wouldn’t know.

Alas and ay-la, neither did Sifadis. “I suppose.” The shrug happened though she tried not to allow it.

“Trefan thought it built of stone,” Eshe volunteered.

Sifadis held her tongue.

“Mathon?” he asked. “You’ve been in there.”

“Aye, indeed, aye, but ten years back, and in the dark. And I was creeping. The walkways are wood. Scary, those, in the wind. Oh very scary, oh my.”

“Well the outer towers are wood and tile so . . .” Boddy also shrugged.

“Boddy Felagi, my friend, have you thought it might be the tree that accounts for the name?”

“Yeah, I suppose. I was just thinking, we could burrow in from the bottom.”

“No need,” Eshe said, full of brightness. “I have the key.”

They all looked at her, even Sifadis.

“The keys to the coloured towers are kept in the guardhouse,” Eshe explained. “Trefan reckons the runmen keep them there just to taunt the holden. But Ryal Holde gave in to temptation and stole the key to the Purple Tower. When he fled, terrified out of his wits, he took the key with him. He handed it over to the Council and my father gave it to me. I no longer have the original, I gave that to Trefan. Mine is one of Mathon’s Every Keys.”

Again, she produced the small metal box from her bag and laid it on the bench by the coffee pots.

Mathon pawed over the box without actually touching the contents. “You have yet to say where you came by this, Lubanthan Eshe. Indeed, oh my, this box has been missing some, oh, some seven, eight or even more years.”

“It was a gift to me,” Eshe told him. “But Jilli, who gave it to me, said her husband had it from a Rothi trader who brought north it from a mid-western town. Her husband is Eshquan.”

“My-my, it has travelled. And doubtless it was lifted from me by a chiparin. But not Otian, I think. Ach, does it matter, does it matter, now it is back.”

“Yeah, excellent, brille,” Boddy said.

“Milig,” Sifadis added and hay la, he flashed her a smile.

“So. Now we have a way into the tower,” he said.

“At night, at night, aye you must do it at night. No runman goes in there in the night. And you must be wary, you must,” Mathon advised, “even with our Kalamite away. His runmen, see, and the holden patrolling. Aye, you’ll need be wary.”

“Hey, Boddy Felagi, the Warison Path encircles the citadel.” The way Jonesi said it, Sifadis assumed Boddy must know his intent, even if she didn’t.

“Mathon—Hadd Leef,” Boddy caught himself in a slip of etiquette. “You wouldn’t happen to have a plan of this Path and the citadel, would you, hey?”

Mathon grinned and nodded and went off to fetch it. He spread it out on the bench. “Here is Shore House with the door down below, because it is old. Here, see, in this corner, is my Mathon’s Manufactory. Equally old and equally with a door at its bottom—but I didn’t know it connects to some caves. Are there amphibs down there?”

“Apparently only Jacobs,” Eshe said, “and they don’t climb that high.”

Eshe’s knowledge upset Sifadis again. Och, a stranger who knows more than me. Ay, but she would soon be away, enwrapped in her Trefan’s strong arms.


So I admit I am jealous of her.

And who is wedded to him?

Och! He never even asked me.

Mathon pointed again to his ancient, tatty-edged drawing. “And here, you see, is the Purple Tower.”

“And there,” Eshe pointed, “is the guardhouse with the barracks above Garrison Gate.”

“Ouch!” Boddy groaned.

“Ay,” Sifadis said, “you cannot come out at Mikel’s Rams House.”

“Hey, Disa, what do you mean ‘you’? It’s we, Disa. You and me—you’re into this too.”

“I thought my work done now that I’ve brought you to here.”

“Hey, no, woman. Your ‘work’ won’t be done, Disa-dear, until we’ve both grown old and you have given me a parcel of sons—and that ought to keep us both busy, hey.” He grinned with a wicked twinkle in his eyes.

Och, Ffadise, my father was right. See how he wants to change me, broadening my hips and dragging my breasts to brush on my belly. I shall look gross if I allow him his way. Ay, and what then of the time to study? Grunting and bearing his children for him.

But without him and his children our Shore House is dead.

Hay la, what a hard price to pay.

“Thus,” Jonesi said, having strolled around the cluttered chamber, seeming to pay little attention, “with light and air and water the tree is repaired. But what of the chair?”

“Eh?” Eshe asked, for once not so bright.

“The tree must flower to prove the lafard-legere has the right to the chair,” Sifadis said, gloating.

“But, hey, the mending is the important part, yeah? To heal the tree and stop the prophecy, that’s what you said.”

“Aye,” Mathon agreed. “That’s what she said, Sifadis did. But Boteras Lafard, the tree isn’t mended until she blooms. And she will not bloom until you—you are sure, Sifadis, that he’s the one? Aye, aye, he is, he is the one—until you sit upon the chair.”

“For the tree to bloom when he sits on the chair?” Jonesi said, “I think some deceit might be needed here.”

~ ~ ~

Roots of Rookeri 43: 28th October

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Whither Shall I Wander

Indecisions. I had spent last weekend poring over maps, trying to decide where next to walk. Would it be the bus to Morton-on-the-Hill then a walk back to Taverham through the Wensum Valley? Road walking, leafy lanes. It had its appeal. Or would it be bus to Easton (end point of the ‘Norfolk Hills‘ walk) then through to Marlingford to walk back to Norwich via the Yare Valley? Then Wednesday, the chosen day, I woke up with severe withdrawal from kicking the wheat and gluten. With a big sigh, i resigned myself to no walk this week.

But Friday dawned fine. And the symptoms had gone. I felt brimming with energy, I wanted to be out there. But where? The Wensum Valley? Or the Yare?

Neither. I opted for a walk in the woods.

There’s scarcely a year gone by since I moved to Great Yarmouth (30 years ago) when I haven’t returned to my home village. It’s become an annual pilgrimage, and always to the woods, either in May for the bluebells, or in October for the chestnuts.

The bus would have delivered me to the lower end of the woods. But since I intended to finish my walk with a return to Marriott Way, where it bridges the River Tud, I thought it a good idea to start at the Tud.

River Tud at Costessey, Looking West Photo taken from Longwater Lane bridge, looking westward.
It used to be possible to see the ruins of Costessey Hall from here. The area to right is part of Old Costessey Recreation Ground—it provides a restful riverside walk.

River Tud looking eastwardThe view from the other side of the bridge.
Amazing the contrast, one serene, the other turbulent. 

Although I had the iPhone with me, I didn’t intend this to be an exercise in photography. And I doubted I’d find anything new to write about, having exhausted the subject of the ‘Lord of the Manor’ in the Jerningham series on Crimson’s History. But as I neared the woods, thoughts started popping.

Costessey is listed in the Domesday Book as having one of the very few Deer Parks in England at this time. I have always wondered where that deer park was located. The obvious response might be ‘Costessey Park’ where, from 1553 the Jerningham family lorded it over their extensive manor. Certainly in Tudor times the park was well-stocked with deer. But was that the case in 1086? Although it’s an obvious answer, to me it seems illogical.

Would the Lord of the Manor in 1086 really encourage his tenants to tramp all over his precious park when needing to consult with him? Knowing how the Normans were about hunting rights, and their deer? Therefore I’d say, in 1086, the tenant-in-chief —Alan Rufus, a Breton count who made Richmond in Yorkshire his main seat—would prefer his hall to be set some way outside of his park.

It is almost a cliché that when establishing a church on his manor, the Norman (or Saxon) lord would set it to the east of his hall.

Domesday Book makes no mention of a church at Costessey, which is not to say there was none. However, during his lifetime Count Alan was strongly connected with St Edmundsbury Abbey in Suffolk—he was buried there until his younger brothers removed his remains to St Marys Abbey in York. There are several churches with St Edmunds dedications doted about Count Alan’s extensive holdings, from Yorkshire through to East Anglia. William the Conqueror encouraged the continuation of Saxon saints when his tenants-in-chief were setting up new churches (a Papal legate arrived in England in 1070 to ‘test’ the Saxon saints and give them their seal of approval). The Costessey church is dedicated to St Edmunds, suggesting this was one of Count Alan’s foundations.

So where is the church? Might it be any place near the Tudor hall and deer park? No.

Costessey 2014

As can be seen on this map, Costessey hall and deer park was set at some distance from St Edmund’s church, which is in the most ancient part of the village. The shaded area represents land settled from early Saxon times. 

No lord of manor had his hall to the west of the church, simply because there is the river. But neither would he set himself a mile or more away from his tenants, cottars and serfs. (Not that the Domesday tenant-in-chief was 365 days resident, yet he would have had a bailiff to supervise operations in his absence.) While he might have a hunting lodge in the park, it would not be his preferred place of business.

It had always been my belief that East Hills wood—where I now was heading—had been part of the Domesday deer park. On the map above, East Hills wood is that squiggly green bit to the east of Costessey Hall.

East Hills Woods, Costessey

East Hills woods, as entered from Longwater Lane. The trees here are most young, a massive replant to replace the elm infected by Dutch Elm Disease. When the Jerningham-Stafford family withdrew from the village, they donated this woods, and Green Hills (to the north, in the old village) to be freely enjoyed by all in the parish. It is now managed by South Norfolk District Council.  

With the exception of this narrow western belt, which seems to be a late addition to the woodland, the rest is rooted upon the same glacial terminal moraine as Ringland Hills (see Norfolk Hills), with equal steepness. I can imagine both here and at Ringland, the hillsides were formerly sheep runs. But the shallow sandy soil, coupled with the steep sides, forbade any attempt at arable farming. A map dating to 1794 shows East Hills (named as Easter Hills on an Ordnance Survey map of 1880) as considerable less extensive.

Fadens Map East Hills Costessey

Unable to crop the Easterly Hills, the Jerninghams planted nut and timber trees: chestnuts, hazels, hornbeam. I needed a safety helmet as I walked beneath the chestnut trees. I’ve never known them to so bombard me.

Chestnut Trees in East Hills Woods Costessey

The chestnut tree to the left, foreground, has five trunks shooting from a central bole, evidence of long years of coppicing. Many of the trees on this particular hill that I remember from childhood have now been cut down for safety sake, the sandy soil unable to hold their roots. Chestnuts live about 400 years; those I remember must have been close to that. 

Woodland Path, East Hills Costessey

Hazels in East Hills Costessey

These hazels might look young, yet I remember them growing here when I was a child (and I’m not saying how long ago that was!). This is the effect of constant coppicing.

More Hazels, East Hills Costessey

Hazels 2 East Hills Costessey

Just look at the wonderful twisted trunks.
We used to make spears from the young straight stems.

I came in at the wrong entrance to snap the really big beeches—though their size wouldn’t prove the woodland’s age, for they could previously have been growing in grassland. I did manage to photograph some elegant ladies. The beech nuts were thick on the ground beneath them.

Study in Grey, East Hills Wood, CostesseyThe northern boundary is marked by beeches, too. It is here that we see the most marked evidence of this being the Domesday Deer Park.

Beech trees in East Hills Woods at CostesseyNot immediately obvious, but that emerald moss (right, foreground) is the edge of a one-time ditch. The old parks were ringed with high banks and deep ditches.

Evidence of park ditch at East Hills Woods, CostesseyJust look at the size of that beech with its multiple trunks and rain-exposed roots. It would have been planted at the top of the bank, with a ditch now leaf-filled at its back.

Ditch in East Hills Wood, Costessey

Another shoot of the ditch

And while we’re along this northern boundary, and talking ‘age’, how old might this field maple be?

Ancient Filed Maple, East Hills, Costessey

Only ever a small tree, this field maple just kept on putting out trunks. 

So often managed and coppiced woodland takes on a regimented form; all straight trunks, lacking character. But not here.

Ancient Birch, East Hills wood, CostesseyThe birch is the first coloniser of wasteland, followed closely by the oak. Unfortunately, many of the oaks here have had to be culled. 

Tree Stump, East Hills, CostesseyAlas for this tree, it is no more.
(When I look at this I see a kangeroo and its joey!)

Almost at the far end of the wood, tracking along the lower (northern) boundary, I was able to see the other Jerningham-planted hill—Green Hill.

Green Hills as seen from East Hills, CostesseyGreen Hills Wood as seen from East Hills Wood
My last address before moving to Yarmouth was amongst those roofs. Not surprising, then, that I miss the woods.

Emerging with reluctance, from the woods I pushed on to complete the walk. I wasn’t walking any great distance (3½ miles maximum), so I made up for it by walking fast. I was heading for that sweeping yellow road (on the map above) that connects the old village to the A1074 (Town House Road/Norwich Road). Being locally-grown, and not having a car, I was able to cut where a stranger, or a car, could not.

My next destination was (the former) Costessey Pits, now Gunton Lane Recreation Ground—which in the 1960s we illegally turned into a motorbike scramble track.

(formerly) Costessey Pits, now Gunton Lane Recreation Ground

The water-filled pits occupy far less acreage than at the former Taverham Pits, now Costessey Pits. But they are surrounded by a woodland, 40 years in growing.

Costessey Pits, aka Gunton Lane Recreation GroundDucks breed here. A local walker I met here tells me there’s a heron breeding here too.

Dark Pool Reflections

The sun hasn’t entirely gone—see the blue sky reflected. But the day was rapidly becoming overcast—just as I found some autumn foliage. 

Autumn colours at Gunton Lane Recreation Ground, CostesseyThe increasingly overcast day didn’t help to lighten the eerie feel to this woodland. Though it’s in frequent use by walkers, with dogs, there is also a sense of isolation. No traffic noise. No noise.

Dark Pit at Gunton Lane, CostesseyI have lightened this photo, it was so dark.
The mossy green trunks suggest a dank place.

Tree Carving at Gunton Lane, CostesseyThe Green Man, guardian of this quiet, dark wood.
I want to return here, to see if I can take a better photo. And to see more clearly what animal it is on the Green Man’s back (a hare?). And is it a dog, or a deer beside him?

This woodland, with its pools, is just part of the Gunton Lane Recreation Ground. The River Tud runs through it.

River Tud at Gunton RG CostesseyThe water here is ankle deep; the river bed is sandy gravel. Ideal for young children to paddle and splash in the heat of the summer. 

Riverside Walk (Tud near Marriott Way)Looking back along the River Tud, but still within the Recreation Ground.
To the right is the dark, eerie woods with its tranquil pools.
(This is definitely a place I shall return to)

And so to join, once again, Marriott Way . . .

Marriott Way as it leaves CostesseyMarriott Way, as it leaves Costessey with its woodlands behind it.

This is probably the last walk this year that I shall write up. I want to concentrate on increasing distance (stamina training); best for that is the wall to the north of Breydon Water. While the mudflats attract migratory birds, they’re usually little more than black dots in the distance. As for my health, my next HbA1c test is March/April 2015 when I shall probably post an update.

In the meantime, since I’m preparing a story to run when Roots of Rookeri ends, I’ve plenty to occupy my time. Also, Iris Einstein keeps twittering in my ear of some more useless facts. So, watch this space!

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Feast Fables, Book 2, Act III

In the previous episode of Feast Fables, while Ardhea flew south to find a man with Eskin tales to give to her Linershunn, Eld Freilsen tried to burn Kerrid out of her headland home.

As Act III opens, Kerrid is waiting for Ardhea’s return. Next episode, Knowing Man Knowing Tree, ready now.

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So Am I Cured?

Diabetes Reversed

Those following my blog might remember that, way back in June, I was diagnosed with diabetes type 2, after being virtually vegetablised for the past 8 years by CFS—if not, see Mixed Blessing of a Winter Bug.

But, apparently, diabetes type 2 is reversible. I wasn’t too confident about that when I first heard it. So 3 weeks later, at a meeting with the practice nurse, I asked about it.

The diagnoses had been by HbA1c test, which measures the level of sugar-coated icebergs red blood cells. Because these glycated hemoglobin remain in the blood for up to 3 months, the test gives a more realistic picture of blood sugars than the fasting glucose test which provides only a snapshot of the immediate situation.

Results in hand, the nurse produced a chart, laid it on her desk where I could see it, and pointed to 5” below it. “That’s where you were on the blood test. 15. This is where you need to be, to be cured. 4.” She pointed to the cool blue section at the top of the chart. Guess that meant I had some climbing to do.

By this time—3 weeks of medication and adjusted diet—I had already lost 14lbs and experienced a glorious tsunami of energy. But as yet I was only following the guidelines on Diabetes UK website.

Basically, and briefly, Diabetes UK recommends the typical Food Pyramid (or FoodPlate) for control of diabetes, which is:

Carbohydrates—5-14 portions a day (1/3rd of daily diet)
Proteins—2-3 portions a day
Fat (and sugar)—0-4 portions a day.

My initial stratagem had been to reduce simple sugars, but to leave complex carbs alone. In so doing, in those first 3 weeks, I’d already become Jumpy Jack Flash. What I had done without realising it was to reduce my daily calorie intake by a quarter, and adopted a Low GL diet.

GL = Glycemic Load is the amount of sugar released into the bloodstream during the first 2 hours after eating—which is not the same as the Glycemic Index. Moreover, if you’re devious, and know how, the Glycemic Load can be adjusted.

Generally, GL applies only to Fruit, Veg, and Grains. You might think that odd when a picnic pork pie has a high GL. But no matter the pork and fat content, it’s only the crusty bit that hikes it up. And it’s not the lactose in dairy foods that sends the GL of yoghurt sky-rocketing; it’s the added sugar.

The GL of a food is easy to find. No charts required. Although some fruits have a high GL (dates are the worst), they’re generally low. But that doesn’t mean stuffing the face silly. Fruits, luscious as they are, thirst-quenching, heavy in vitamins and . . . things, are also big-time heavy in fructose and while the body is pretty efficient at handling glucose, it’s not so hot on effective utilisation of fructose. In fact, it’s a guaranteed hoist of the blood sugar levels. Hoist that flag, me-boy-oos, let them see the Skull and Crossbones!

Fruit had been my undoing. In the previous six months, zapped to my lowest (courtesy of that winter bug) preparing food had taken on the proportions of pyramid building. So, to keep up a healthy intake of vitamins, minerals and fibre, I’d become a frugivore (simply wash and devour, no preps required). This fruit-full diet was supplemented with microwave meals (of the healthier range), and enriched, multi-seed, whole-wheat bread. (Sounds healthy? But as I was to discover, it’s the perfect recipe for diabetes). But back to GL.

As with fruit, most vegetables have a low GL—except those grown underground. These have evolved a strategy to survive times of drought: i.e. they store up sugar thus tend towards the high GL. So, never a fan of root vegetables (and that includes white potatoes, yams, sweet potatoes as well as the more obvious carrots, swedes and parsnips), it was no hardship to root them out.

Which leaves the grains. Grains rate a medium to high GL. White and refined, brown and whole, there is no such thing as a low GL grain. Except there is: there’s the humble, nutritious, versatile oat.

Question: If grains in all their manifestations have such an elevating effect upon blood glucose levels, why do Diabetes UK recommend 5-14 portions of grain a day? (For the answer, read below)

There are tricks that, when applied, will bring the GL down. This was my second, adjusted, stratagem, gleaned from the pages of Patrick Holford’s ‘Say No To Diabetes’ (Piatkus, 2011).

Carbohydrate’s forbidding GL can be brought almost down to its knees by the simple addition of PROTEIN. So in theory, you can down a super-sized portion of Christmas pud as long as you drown it in two cartons of cream—though perhaps that’s not too wise. But adding seeds and nuts, cheese, eggs and meat to carbohydrate foods DOES reduce the GL. And a reduced GL means a reduced volume of glucose circulating in the blood, doing untold damage.

Q: How’s this possible?
A: Acid.

Carbohydrates prefer to be digested in an alkaline environment. To suggest they might perform their digestive-strips in anything even slightly acidic is like asking the Queen to appear in a greasy boilersuit! They get real sluggish and shy about it. Most unreasonable—but rather handy for we diabetics. Making the digestive environment more acidic automatically slows the digestion. Slow digestion = slow release into system = Low GL.

And what is protein made of? Amino acids. And that alone will lower the GL.

But why stop there? If protein’s amino acids will apply the brake and reduce the sugar bobbing about in the blood, so then will any acid. Think lemon juice. Think vinegar. Think a nice crisp salad served with a simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. Think lowest of low Glycemic Load! Think very-very low blood sugars.

So without ever counting a calorie I was able to lower the circulating blood sugar—by some 64% (but I was using more weapons than just that one).

The Low GL Diet advocated by Holford is just an itsy bitsy too severe for me, though I did adopt a few more of his recommendations.

Chromium supplement

Chromium does the same job as Metformin, i.e. it sensitises the insulin resistant cells, thereby allowing the insulin to do its job—to release the locked up sugar in the form of energy. And as I’ve said, that energy was released. My problem was how to use it, since the years of CFS had left my body seriously weakened.

Cinnamon, ½ teaspoon of a day.

Cinnamon reduces blood sugar and reduces insulin resistance. I have my half-teaspoon on my breakfast cereal (porridge oats, made with cold milk and left overnight in the fridge to swell. I also add Chia Seeds, a rich source of protein and omega 3.)


Oats help balance the blood sugar AND lowers LDL cholesterol AND they provide essential fibre. Though many advocates of the Low Carb Diet recommend the complete removal of grains, to me the benefits out-weigh the carbs. So, for me, this grain remains. Having said that, my breakfast weighs in at:

Oats 6 grams
Chia seeds 6 grams
Blueberries 8 grams (I like my fruit)
Plus whatever the carbs in the milk.

20 grams for breakfast to set me up for the day (morning being my busiest time).

Remove Wheat

Holford doesn’t explain in any depth why wheat is so damaging. For that I needed to read Wheat Belly by William Davies. I had already discovered Wheat Belly on YouTube, and visited his site, but the book fills in the gaps.

It’s not merely the GL, though the comparative GLs of these three common items do help to drive the message home:

Table Sugar = 59
White Bread = 69
Wholegrain Bread = 72

And to pull it into even sharper focus:

Mars Bar = 68

Surprised? Though of course, the GL can be reduced when packed around protein, or additives are added during the baking process.

This high (native) GL is the result of a specific sugar found in today’s modern strains of wheat, Amylopectin A. Davies calls it an exorphin: an introduced substance that locks onto the brain’s endorphin receptors. Working in exactly the same way as all addictive substances, it begins by enhancing the feel-good factor, then produces a must-have gnawing crave that can only be satisfied with more of the substance. Pretty soon the consumer is hooked, without even knowing it. AND, the sneaky exorphin, it also increases the appetite so you have to eat more, and more. And more.

Thing is, this modern-strain wheat isn’t just in bread. It’s in almost every processed food. It’s in condiments, it’s in candy. It’s even in cosmetics. Chances are high there’s not a solitary person in the West who hasn’t been hooked. It’s more ubiquitous than High Fructose Corn Syrup, and that has a bad enough press. And it’s silently pushing up our blood sugars—by recommendation of such organisations as Diabetes UK! Seriously, I’m not picking on them. They only follow the guidelines put out by the countries’ medical associations. 

Although I had already reduced my wheat intake—kicked my favourite sarnies into the bin (bo-ho), even up to early this week I was still eating a (very) small amount. But that now has gone, every last speck.

As with any addiction, there are withdrawal symptoms. Flu-like, I’d been warned. I’ve another term for it. CFS-like, and real bad—which is why I’ve called off my walk this week. The symptoms generally last up to 5 days. Yippee, for next week. But for now, my fingers are hurting, just typing.

However, it is not only the GL factor of wheat that’s the problem. It’s the gluten.

Yea, everyone knows about gluten and coeliac disease. But gluten can also set up hundreds of reactions all through the body with hardly a symptom to show until it’s too late. Until you’re falling over, balance lost. Until you’re diagnosed with dementia. Until . . . a hundred other things, none of them pleasant. Wheat’s best kept secrets are only now coming to light.

Seated Goddess of Catalhuyuk

The Seated Woman of Çatal Hüyük (Source: Wikipedia)
A Neolithic sculpture dated c. 6000 BCE
A body typical of wheat consumption

Problem: I’ve now reduced those sugar-coating carbohydrates. But what has replaced them?

Protein, yes, to a degree. Protein is needed to lower the remaining carbs’ GL. I needed more than is usually recommended. I had muscles to build.

The UK recommendation for a diet of 2000 calories is 45 g protein. Unless my arithmetic is seriously wrong, 45 g @ 4 cals/g = 180  calories. In the recommended diet of 2000 calories, that’s 9% of total calories. My own protein consumption works out at 20-25% of total calories (which was 1500, but is now 1700).

The day I sat down to calculate that—remembering, I’m not counting calories on a daily basis—it also occurred to me how much fat I was eating.

Total carbs (40 g @ 4 cals/g = 160 calories) = 9.4% of total calories
Total protein = 25% total calories

Whatever is left must be the fats. What’s left is an astounding 65.6%! (Actually, carbs might be closer to 15% once vegetable are factored in, giving C=15, P=25, F=60.) Though I hasten to add, having a long-standing dislike of the more obvious animal fats, this colossal percentage is comprised mostly of vegetable fats.

Even so, to me this seemed very, very wrong. What happened to the Food Pyramid, Food Plate, or whatever you want to call it. What about Diabetes UK’s recommendations?

That’s when I found an interview on YouTube, with Denise Minger, author of Death By Food Pyramid by ‘Fat-Burning Man’, Abel James.

I watched with open mouth. (See the YouTube video below.)

Until recently Denise was an advocate of the Raw Food Vegan Diet. But when her dentist tutted at the appalling state of her teeth, she became so alarmed that she subsequently researched into exactly what is good for the health.

What was wrong with her teeth? The same thing that’s been ‘wrong’ with my bones. The same deficiency that’s now rife throughout the Western world—i.e. the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D & K2. Without them the bones and teeth crumble. And that’s not all. The arteries clog, leading to heart attacks. I’m not using this blog to say more about that. I prefer to do humour, not horror. All I’ll say is, check it out.

Fat is Bad! We’ve all heard it. Some of us have even encountered a GP who wants—nay, insists—on prescribing a statin drug to lower the blood cholesterol. Some wise ones (me!) have refused it.

Eat a low fat diet, and take drugs that  lower the naturally-produced cholesterol—it’s good for your heart, you know it makes sense. But it doesn’t, and it isn’t. That advice, now sufficiently proven incorrect, was based on conjectural evidence, not clinical research.

But so much for my bones, and Denise Minger’s teeth. What else did her research reveal?

In 1970 the USDA contracted a Ms Louise Lake, who then was teaching at NYU, to update and replace the ‘Basic 4’ food groups which had been in general promotion since WWII.

After a year of researching the literature relating to nutrition, Ms Lake produced the Food Pyramid. Although it has since undergone several minor adjustments, the concept is well known to everyone. Britain has copied it. Diabetes UK bases their recommendations upon it.

But the familiar Food Pyramid isn’t the one produced by Louise Lake. In fact, it’s nothing like it.

1: Lake recommended cold pressed oils—e.g. extra virgin olive oil, and extra virgin coconut oil. NOT Rapeseed Oil, Sunflower Oil, and the rest of that ilk.

2: Lake recommended TWO to THREE servings of grain a day (less for less active people), and they to be unrefined, i.e. wholegrain.

Lake further stated that more than these 2-3 servings would be conducive to a mass epidemic of OBESITY and DIABETES. (Yet Diabetes UK recommends 5-14 portions of grain a day.)

Amazing, hey.

3: Lake recommended the bottom of the pyramid to be FATS and PROTEIN (No comment)

4: Lake further recommended the middle of the Pyramid to be FRUIT and VEG .

So what happened to change it?

For a start, the fruit and veg servings were reduced for fear that a high intake would result in CANCER! (No, there are no typos in that sentence.)

Then the grains were increased to replace the proteins and fats because, as Louise Lake was told by US Congress


Okay, you can close your mouths now and see the YouTube video below for the relevant interview.


Petřkovická_venuše 23 kya

The Venus of Petřkovice dated to c. 23,000 BCE
An excellent example of the Paleo Diet
(Source: Wikipedia)

While I was with the nurse, back at the beginning of July, she printed out a form to take to Pathology at the end of September/beginning of October for a follow-up HbA1c blood test.

Back in July, the nurse had said my blood glucose was ‘15’, and I needed to be ‘4’.

Beginning of October, my results came back as ‘41’. Apparently ‘41’ is at the top of her chart, in the same general area as the previous ‘4’.

But now she tells me the previous test (when it was off the chart at the bottom) was ‘115’.

You might begin to see my confusion. But this is my fault. I should have asked her what units were used. Too late, I was at home before I realised. So I checked out the ‘HbA1c test and results’ on Wikipedia. This is where I got tangled in numbers but I think I’ve grasped it now.

5.5 mmol/l is considered the normal reading for blood glucose level. While this equates to an ‘estimated average glucose’ (eAG) of 7.0, it also equates to the HbA1c reading of 42 mmol/mol. (126 eAG, or 100–152 mg/dL on the American scales.)

So my ecstatic ‘41’ is only marginally beneath ‘Normal’. I had already reduced it by 64%, but now I need to drop another 10 mmol/mol (25% of present reading) to reach the magical ‘4—you’re cured.’

Am I devastated? No, I’m chuffed. I’ve lost 28 lbs—offset against the re-acquisition of much heavier muscle and bone. My waist has shrunk by 5”, my hips by 4”. And after years of CFS, I’m bursting with energy. My blood pressure is down—and I mean DOWN (101/59), so I’m weaning off the medication. This medication has kept me a more or less constant at 135/70 for years, and whenever I said to the GP of weaning off it I’d be told my bp was only steady because of the med. Now I need to come off it to stop me from falling over!

Also, when looking at the HbA1c reading, and the fact I haven’t yet reached Target, I have to remember for the first month I was following Diabetes UK’s advice—in other words I was still eating plenty big servings of carbs; in the second month I was on Low GL, but there was still wheat in my diet. It wasn’t until this last month that I’ve really got down to it.

And there’s also the Exercise Factor.

Until I had built up the muscle and bone, particularly in the legs, I wasn’t able to gain the full benefit from that E-word. When I started the dance aerobics again I could only manage 5 minutes. The reason I chose dance over the much-recommended brisk walk, is because I just couldn’t walk. Now I am walking 5-6 miles, up hills, against strong blustering winds, and on the beach. I am now back to 30-35 minutes dance aerobics alternating with days of brisk walks.

So what’s the relevance of dance—or any other exercise? Exercise uses stored glucose, thus making way for the next input. Without sufficient exercise to burn the carbs I had eaten, they were just getting stored away as fat, never again to move. So, until I could dance, I couldn’t shift it.

YouTube is full of dance workouts, but I follow my own choreography. The thing is to use all the muscles, or as many as possible, to thoroughly empty the stores.

My current playlist:

1: New York City – T Rex (4:22 mins warm up)
2: Nutbush City Limits – Tina Turner (2:51 mins, stretch and tone)
3: Mony Mony – Billy Idol (5:02 mins, interval training)
4: Born to Boogie – T Rex (2:27 mins, keeping the pace)
5: Bat Out Of Hell – Meatloaf (9:49 mins, interval training, manic)
6: The Groover – T Rex (3:20 mins, coming down)
7: I Hear You Knocking – Dave Edmunds (2:48 mins, cool down)

It’s heavy on T Rex simply because it has a real good dance beat. And that Bat Out Of Hell? It’s not for the un-fit.

On top of this, I’m back to weight training. For so many years those nice shiny weights and bars have glared at me from the bedroom floor. I’ve asked everyone I meet if they’d like them. I hate binning things. I would have taken them to the nearest charity shop—except I couldn’t carry them. The bars are 2 kgs each, with ankle weights at 1.2 kg apiece. I haven’t yet started adding more weights; I want to get used to this first. The thing about doing weights is it’s the quickest way to an endorphin rush (without using drugs). It quicker even then sex. And when you get there, you fly. (Ok, it’s my new addiction.)

I’m not seeing the nurse again for another six months. She’s happy that I’m controlling the sugar levels. But ‘control’ isn’t enough for me. I want to hit that magic ‘4’. And I am determined to do it.

What’s the alternative? Deterioration. Amputation. Early death.

No. Now I have my life back, I want to keep it for as long as humanly possible.

Posted in On The Door | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

Roots of Rookeri 41

Citadel Lecheni
Boteras Rookeri-Sharmin aka Boddy

Week Twenty-Nine

Wowzah! Boddy walked upon air, his body overflowing with love for this woman. Hey, he even loved the way she had pummelled his body till thoroughly bruised because, with his deceit, he’d caused her such fright. He could have countered that. For she, too, had deceived him, keeping knowledge of his position to herself. But why disturb these delicious days. And wowzah-wowzah, never had he dreamt of a love like this. He’d been right when he’d said to Eshe’s father that love was best expressed in bed. And she’d been unbelievably keen. What Jonesi and Eshe did while they canoodled he’d not the faintest interest nor an idea. But ho-hum and alas, they couldn’t remain in bed for ever.

“So, hey, who’s this Mathon-guy you say I must meet?” he asked her.

“Ay, you know him. The maker of lamps.”

“Great, yeah, fine, I’d guessed that much. But why must I meet him? Couldn’t we stay here one more day? I’m still hungry, you know. You make me hungry. Savagely hungry.” He nuzzled around her.

“Crud and crusts, have you not yet eaten enough?”

“No, believe me, I’ve not. You tricked me to wed you, now the least you can do is to allow me to bed you—over and over, endlessly over.”

She looked at him with her most serious eyes. “Boddy Lafard, believe me, I am thoroughly bedded. Any more and I’ll be thoroughly crippled. You want that for me? So now you must meet Mathon Lafard. You will soon understand why.”

He released her—reluctantly.

Then—natzo, the embarrassment! He had to face Jonesi and Eshe and they, of course, must jibe him. But now he was off to meet this guy Mathon.

“What is his guild?” Eshe asked before they all left Shore House.

Giggling, swaying, unaccountably happy: was it all because he was still alive? No, it was the news brought that morning by Disa’s dulsind, Ember, of Eshe’s latest amour. Ghats and rats, leave Eshe alone for two shakes and again she’s in love. So, great, yeah, fine, but who had she chosen this time? Oh, only the lafard-legere’s younger brother. But then, hey, didn’t that suit her, for she was a femella. He wished her well with it.

“Well, yea,” Eshe snorted, face suddenly glum. “Except Breken’s only gone and banished him from the citadel. He’s lodging, now, at Churen Manse.”

“Ay, he does often stay there,” Disa said.

Eshe’s hand flew to her mouth.

“Nay, he has no woman there.”

Apparently Disa knew all about their love affair, though she’d said not a word to Boddy. Anyway, upshot was, Eshe was happy as they left Shore House, though she still was dressed as a man.

Kalamite, Keefer-Papa of the Runman Order

Aiya! That wretched Blue Tower hindered his view, slap between Shore House and Runman’s. Yet if he stretched his back and craned his neck at just the angle—twenty-five degrees above horizontal—he could just see its aged entrance. Fortunate, the ancient House had no courtyard to front it. In his skewed and increasingly painful position, he devoted his hours to watching. She—his lover, his mother, his queen—had pressed him do it.

It was the second day before she emerged. But who, in Stup’s dark nature, were these accompanying folk? Three men—and one shown a lafard by his tifting. His two companions—but nix, nix, nix, these were not Rothi. Confusion! Fabrics too fine for them to be hindlings, yet even from his twisted viewpoint he could see not a sparkle upon them. Their beads were paupers’ painted wood. And one had hair that was black. Black! What Rothi ever let their hair be that colour, hindling or no? The other? The other was hidden beneath a broad-brimmed hat—and even that wasn’t tift. These three must be her servants. Aiy, that must be it. Mayhap she brought them with her from Luban. Aiy, that would explain it.

Kalamite straightened his back and dekinked his neck. He left the window. He left his chamber. He had watched them till he’d discerned where they were heading—to the Law Court. What was there that that Shore woman wanted? Or did she go to the Witan?

He had heard—from Ffika—that she’d stirred up the kirk flies by demanding from Breken Lafard reparation for the unlawful killing her husband. Yet there had been no execution.

“Nay, Papa Hadd. He died in the cell,” Ffika assured him.

Hm. Strange that he died, and not at Kalamite’s say.

“Have you yet acquired me that ship?” he asked to cover his confusion.

“With respect, Papa Hadd, you asked for a boat.”

Ships put to sea, boats do not!” He flicked the impudent Ffika’s large pink ears.

Kalamite set that memory aside and swooped down the circular stairs, He was into the courtyard and under the arch before the Shore woman with her entourage had yet passed by it. He looked. He saw. He was aghast.

It was him. He was sure. Though what hair could be seen beneath the hat was perhaps a smidge lighter. Yet every Rothi knew how to do that. Aiya, just look at his walk! The arrogant sway of it, his entire body moving like he was grass in the wind. And see—see! His hand brushing hers as they walked close together. Aiya, this was no bel hade with her ruffler. Nix-and-nay, there was something about them—like two people bound, and bound by more than the vows of marriage. They were happy together. It was obscene, the way they glowed, the same way he glowed after deep communing with his queen. And they wore necklaces.

But, nix-and-nay, it could not be. That Boddy-usurper was dead. He had died in his cell. Then . . . the horror hit him. This was a second Boddy. Yet there’d been no mention of twins. But what other answer? How totally deceiving, how thoroughly unfair.

Kalamite watched from the arch and saw—had Stup stolen his senses, to be again mistaken? It wasn’t the Law Court, their destination. Nix, never! They were going to Mathon’s Manufactory.

Aiya, he knew now their intent. And the lafard-legere had dared to laugh at him?
What other reason to go there but for the acquisition of Mathon’s explosives.

Nix, nix, nix, he couldn’t allow this to be. They would destroy the towers, destroy his queen. Aiya, but how to stop them? Could he send Matikkas to kill them? Though Matikkas already knew too much, and Matikkas had let it be known in town that Kalamite was involved in the dead stew’s killing. He ought to have Matikkas killed. But who to do his bidding once that brabbling franyan was gone.

But, now, what to do about the Shore woman and her while-a-day Boddy? His lips curled at the name. The gyrating, arrogant, Javanese POET. Aiya! All he could do yet was to watch them—watch her. Aiy, that he would do. And once he had sufficient—and undeniable evidence—then he would go again to the Witan. The lafard-legere, alone, must deal with it. That was, after all, the legere’s legitimate role. Yet, time pressed. There were now only nine days before the conjunction.

Boteras Rookeri-Sharmin aka Boddy

Had Boddy not been so thoroughly loved-up, he’d have refused the meeting. Yeah-zo, this Mathon was the Master of the Guild of Manufacturers, and Manufacturers were the most deeply corrupted by Mercury’s Curse.

“Hey, Boddy Felagi,” Jonesi had softly chided. “Let up on a man not yet met. The guilds are to steer them away from that net.”

“Yea, Boddy,” Eshe added. “Besides, who made the lamps that light your theatre?”

“Negghe’s theatre. I gave it to him.”

But, yeah, Eshe and Jonesi were right. And hey, as he’d said, he had left his old life behind. Like it or not, here he was in Murky-trapped, Murky-beset, corrupt to its roots, Rothi. He even wore gems around his neck! They’d been Disa’s father’s, how could he refuse them without her weeping. Amethysts set in white gold, they weighted his neck. But without them he and she weren’t properly wed. The necklace she wore had been her mother’s, but that didn’t sit right with Boddy. Besides, the gems didn’t suit her. What, amethysts mixed with rose quartz? Only topaz and garnets were fit for her ivory-pale neck—and he would provide the gems and fasten the necklace upon her. Yeah, and when would be that? The things he must do for his Disa. And they still hadn’t sat quietly and talked about this. Though that was his fault, preferring to fill his mouth with her flesh. And nibbles, of course, must turn to feasting.

Boddy had expected a seleman to answer his knock at the hefty-made door. But, ho-hum, not. Apparently this old man was he, the said Mathon, Master of the Guild of Manufacturers.

“Sifadis, my-my, a surprise,” Mathon gushed, though he did seemed genuinely pleased to see her. “And who have you with you?”

“I will tell you it all once inside.” She glanced back over her shoulder. The old man understood her.

“Then come in, come in, oh my, do come in. One, two, three . . . four of you?”

Prejudices tumbled like snows in springs—Boddy liked this Mathon at once. Hey, man, where was his tift? He wore fewer trappings than a trall or a hindling, plainly attired in a woven hemp smock and brecks. He led them through to an inner chamber. There was a singular lack of windows.

The chamber was cluttered with twenty-five benches, but these not benches for sitting upon. Metal contraptions littered twenty-two of them (impressed by the confusion, Boddy quickly had counted). He looked around him, and around him, and around. This was not like the Ghats’ manufactories: great halls aglow with hungry furnaces, ringing with the beat of discordant hammers. Hey, this was . . . genteel, yeah, genteel was the word. And everywhere were Mathon-lamps mounted.

“Sifadis, now, will you and your companions share a cup with me?” Mathon asked her. “I have Lubanthan coffee. Hush, don’t tell, but that Otian brings it to me.” He made it sound a forbidden temptation.

Disa laughed. “Mathon Hadd, we all have coffee. Otian brings it for all.

“He does?” The old Master Manufacturer clucked like a hen. “My-my-my, but he told me it was especially for me. Still, you will partake along with me? Without your saying, I believe these others will enjoy it.” He moved in closer and whispered—though being beside Disa Boddy easily heard him, “And why is that woman dressed as a man?”

Disa returned the whisper. “She is hiding from Kalamite.”

“Oh! Is she the spy?” He seemed delighted to be involved in the conspiracy. “But you know, if she wishes to move without being seen, she should use the Warison Path. I can give her a key.”

While he rummaged around on one of the benches Boddy looked a query at Disa, but she gave no explanation. Mathon returned with a small metal box which he slammed on the bench closest to them.

“See! My Every Key. My, my, an ingenious device, though I say it myself. Indeed, ingenious indeed.”

Eshe pulled out a similar box from the small toad-skin pouch she’d refused to relinquish. She laid it beside Mathon’s. Mathon beamed.

“Is that the Warison key?” Disa asked—still no explanation to Boddy.

Eshe shook her head and produced another. “This is the key to the Warison Path. But, alas, I know of only two doors.’

Disa shrugged. “I cannot help there. Shore House has none.”

‘Indeed there is one, indeed, indeed. There’s a Warison Door at every House,” Mathon assured her.

Yeah, great, fine, Boddy now realised what the talk was about. “But Shore House doesn’t abut the warison.”

“Have you a cellar, a basement, a lower portion, hm?” Mathon asked her.

“Ay, but—”

That is where you will find the door.”

“Ay, perhaps it is there,” Disa allowed. “Our cellar is very old; nobody goes there.”

The old Master Manufacturer chuckled. “Amazing, aye. But the warison, too, is old. It is so old that the warison was there when this Manufactory still was a House. Now, and do forgive me, I have yet to arrange for refreshments. So seldom do I receive a visitor—apart from young Otian. He always is here.” He bumbled out of the door.

Boddy heard him calling for someone—Manhuchen—assumingly his dulsind, though if this wasn’t a House . . .

“Great, fine, yeah,” Boddy said in answer to Disa’s eye-held query. “But will you now tell me why we are here?”

“There’s more to Keril-og’s tale than I have yet told you. But I want you to hear it from someone other than me.”

Natzo! There was more? Would this addendum, too, get him killed? For it seemed she was intent upon that. All he wanted was for he and she to be left alone, yet she would babble of political stuff. Did she mistake him for his uncle? He was not interested. He turned away.

Ghats, she’d not even told him of being Keril-og’s heir until after Jonesi returned the Holy Book to her (it belonged to Shore House). Then Jonesi had fetched out the Rookeri Journal and thus proved Boddy had known all along who he was—just not what he was. Even then she didn’t say of the legere-chair, not of her own volition. It was Jonesi prompted her because—Ghats, rats and nats—Jonesi had known. Great, yeah, fine, Jonesi had known, but not him. How long would she have kept that unknown? And that had raised a stormy look; too true, that it had. Indeed, in the words of his wife: Ay-la, was there yet a day since their wedding when they’d not been fighting?

And now, whatever this latest revelation, it had to wait. For Mathon now returned with Manhuchen, who wasn’t a woman. Together they carefully set down their trays of porcelain beakers. Yeah zo, look at the size of them! They seemed out of place amid all these gadgets. The two men disappeared, to return with two tall coffee pots, steaming and irresistibly aromatic.

“I hope my man has it brewed how you would like it,” Mathon addressed Boddy though his eyes slipped to include Eshe and Jonesi. “You have more experience of its drinking than I.”

Spew on it, man, this Mathon thought all Lubanthans habitually drank the dark brew? Natzo. The beans grew some place west of the Ghats. In East Luban only the nobles could afford it; the Rothi Sap was easier had. But since it was offered, yeah, he would enjoy it. It might bolster him for this next revelation. Would it preface the third and final act?

“Now,” Mathon said to Disa as soon as his man closed the door behind him, “please, who are these people? Oh, my, indeed, who?” Yet he gave her no time to make introductions. “This purple lafdi pretending she’s not, I know who she is. The Lubanthan Eshe, daughter of an awis, not to be mistaken as a stew. Am I right? Oh my indeed, but I know that I am. But you two men . . . Sifadis, please, who are they?”

“This,” Disa said as she handed Boddy a brimming beaker of the blackest coffee he ever had seen, “is Boteras Lafard, lately of Rookeri, Raselstad, but now of Shore House. He is my husband.”

“This, the my, he is! But now I can see by the matching gems. And I suppose you wedded while away in Luban, and deprived us all of the celebration.”

“Hadd Leef, how can we wed here, with Kalamite wanting to kill us?” she answered. “But ay, you mostly are right. Yet we repeated the exchange of vows, witnessed by Gowen and Breken Lafard.”

“Ho, ho, ho! I’ll wager twelve weights of this coffee that young Breken didn’t like that. He had you lined up for to ally with Citadel Pot. You knew that?”

Disa nodded. “So Mikel told me.”

“And this, this other?” Mathon airily waved towards Jonesi who was staring around him, seeming to pay them little attention.

“He is Jonesi, my choreographer,” Boddy said, now he’d a chance to slip in a word.

He had laughed when Disa told him how Jonesi had answered Breken Lafard with the same, that he was Boddy’s choreographer. Ay and the nugget doubtless didn’t know what it meant. Neither did Mathon.

“He is my closest friend,” Boddy said rather than to leave Mathon floundering. “He’s as good as my father; I’m devoted to him.” Without thinking, his hand went to the red beaded bracelet.

Mathon nodded as if he understood the association. “Well,” he drew in a deep breath. “Now we know one another, the next question must be, Sifadis, why have you brought them to me. Aye, that is the question, indeed.”

“I want you to tell Boddy—”

“Boddy, Boddy, Boddy? Aha! Boteras is Boddy. So say on, Sifadis. You want me to tell Boddy what?”

“I want you to tell Boddy of you in Wood Tower.”

“You know of that? Oh my, oh-my-oh-my-my-my. But Kalamite would kill me if he knew. But such was the reason I made that Every Key. Tell me, Eshe, how did you come by it? I only made two.”

“Another time, Hadd Leef,” Disa said. “For now, just tell us of the tower. Please.”

Indeed, oh my, indeed, Boddy silently mimicked. How easily this Mathon was distracted. How, then, did he manufacture so many intriguing devices?

“Yet, Sifadis, how do you know of it?” Mathon wrung his hands worriedly, his wrinkled brow tightly drawn. “Only, oh my, if you know of it—aiy-la-di-dah, he might know of it.”

“I guessed it,” she said. “—From an entry I found in the Witan Annals.”

Boddy couldn’t help it. He laughed. That was his Disa, addicted to the smell of mace-paper. But he liked that of her. Better than her trying to put him on a chair.

She flicked him a reprimanding look and said on. “I was trying to make sense of our Shore House records, is all. Och, I just wanted to know, Mathon, why you gave up the chair. Why you gave it to your daughter. Affalind is not so ugly that such an inducement must be found for her hand.”

“My-my, that is true, ay. How perceptive of you, Sifadis. But, say, what did you find in the Witan Annals, eh? I confess, I never have read them. Dry reading, I should imagine, eh. Oh aye, dry, indeed dry.”

“It was the entry for when you announced your retirement. I cannot remember now the wording but . . . had you seen a sign or something? Something had shown you, you were not the one for that chair.”

“Oh my! Aye, oh my. How ghostly the past that returns to haunt us. Aye, I suppose I might have said something. I remember thinking, if I am not the right one, mayhap if I gave the chair to Affalind she as the heiress would attract him.”

He whistled in a most unnoble-like manner and hugged his head with his arms, sighing—or crying—of woe to him, woe.

“My father’s nephews, they didn’t like what I did,” he said. “Oh my, they did not. That Ilud Marsled, not content with the horses, you know he wanted the chair? Aye, he did—oh how he did. And his sons do nothing but babble about it. They never have forgiven me for it. It should have gone to them, so they say. But I had my Affalind, did I not. And how could they bring the right heir to it? Indeed, they could not, they could not.”

“Aye, and Breken Lafard is no more the true heir than were you,” Sifadis said.

Mathon nodded sadly. “Aye, correct. Aye and aye and aye, you’re correct. And I was not either. I knew by the tree, for the tree was dying.”

Yeah zo! At that single word, tree, a colossal energy zinged through Boddy, jolting through his every ganglion—his wheels, as Jonesi oddly called them, though they seemed nothing like wheels to Boddy, more like bales. Yet, while he felt the energy, he didn’t understand the meaning. What was this talk of a tree? He had to ask, arms waving lest the moment escaped him and Mathon wore on about something more.

“What tree?”

“Why, the tree in the tower. It was dying.”

“In Wood Tower,” Disa said.

“You know it too, little Sifadis? Aye and aye, you obviously do.”

“I found it amongst some ancient papers, entitled the Tree Legend.”

“Aye, indeed, it was in ours too. Written there, I would say by its placing, by our Rorah Lafard-Legere.”

“Yeah, great, fine,”’ Boddy said. “But would one of you care to repeat what was written? What’s this of a tree in the tower, and what’s the significance?” He might not care much of chairs but trees were entirely a different matter. And so was that tower.

“It’s a semol tree,” Mathon said. “Oh my, but it’s ancient. And it blooms only for the rightful legere.”

“Gods, no! You mean to tell me there’s a semol tree incarcerated in that tower?” Boddy all but exploded. “But it’s dark in that tower. It’s airless, it’s—natzo! No tree can survive in there. Is there water?”

“My-my. So your husband Boteras has ventured there, too?”

“Ay, and thus Kalamite is out to kill him. But do you understand now why I brought him to you, asking of this?”

“Oh aye, oh my, oh aye, indeed. Here’s a man who cares for trees.”

“A semol tree. Not an apple or pear or any another of the Avatar’s plantings. Boddy’s father fattened Daabian plants, and Boddy has such a love of them. What’s more, he is the heir to Lillis, your Rorah’s father.”

“Oh my,” Mathon said with wonder. And laughing he launched himself upon Boddy.

Great, yeah, fine. He now was entrapped, Mathon’s old arms clutching around him.

“Would you care you explain?” he mouthed to Disa, over the older man’s head.

“Mathon Hadd was the lafard-legere. Until one day, ten years ago, when he announced to the Witan his intent to step down, and that the chair should go to Affalind, his daughter.”

“Yea, yea, I’ve gathered all that,” said Boddy, impatient.

“It was the thing of the tree, you see,” Mathon said. He took a step back. Boddy again was able to breathe. “I made the key, the Every Key, particularly so I could creep into that tower. Oh my, oh Boddy, Sifadis, oh the state of that tree made me weep. He—” Mathon spat “—he does not care for her. Oh my, he does not.”

“He means Kalamite,” Sifadis said.

“Nay. Nay, nay, nay. But, aye, I mean him. But also I mean Breken. The rightful heir will care. Aye, my, that he will. Though likely that will entail a battle with our grim Kalamite. He has taken possession of her, you see. He possesses the tree.”

“But have the runmen not always had her?” Disa asked but apparently expected no answer. “So, Boddy, you now see the task before you?”

“Natzo! Just slow there a moment. Things are moving, whizz and woo, fast.”

It was Eshe summed up the situation. “You’re saying you want Boddy to depose the tattagoose and repair the tree?”

“Depose the who?” Boddy asked. Wasn’t it enough that they spoke the almost unintelligible Rothi lingo, without all this talk of geese and trees.

“Tattagoose, Kalamite,” Eshe explained. “Because he honks like a goose – honk, honk.”

“You mean he smells like a hog,” Boddy said.

“Ah lah, it’s true but he cannot help that. It comes from a process for . . .” Disa shrugged her ignorance. “Oh, some herb or—something the runmen use.”

“But disregarding that,” Eshe said. “It is death to enter the towers.”

“Ay,” Disa said. “But Boddy is dead already.”

Natzo, he was not dead. What, Breken and Mikel had witnessed their wedding. Ah, but to Kalamite, yeah, to Kalamite he would appear to be dead. Things were beginning to come together. So why did he shiver?

“Besides, there is more to the prophecy,” Disa said.

“My-my, a prophecy, now, is it?”

“But of course it’s a prophecy,” Disa said.

Boddy rather would walk away but . . . He sighed. Yeah-zo, in so far, he might as well stay. “Come on then, what is the rest of it?”

“Must you say it as if you were yawning?” Disa snapped at him.

“Yea, Disa, I must,” he said. “I’m beginning to feel you’ve abducted me just to perform these tasks for you. I ask, what have these things to do with me?”

“Hay la!” Her eyes shot wide with outrage. “Boddy! But you are the key, the central player. You are the Hero.”

“Good word.” Eshe nodded approval.

Boddy ignored her. “Say again, what do you mean?”

“The tree only blossoms for the rightful heir. For you, Boddy, only for you, for you are he.”


“Ay, it is so.”

“And all of life is but one Spirit,” Jonesi said, turning round from his inspection of Mathon’s contraptions. “Your mother used to say that.”

“Ay-lah,” Disa said. “And were we not talking of that back in Raselstad?”

He remembered clearly the conversation, sparked by the birds around Remen’s Black Tower. He felt suddenly odd. Almost cold. And all of life is one Spirit.

“So what’s the rest of this prophecy?”

He had a chilling feeling that something (not his little god Roo; perhaps the One Spirit?) was guiding his life and he wasn’t sure that he liked it. Yeah-zo, he didn’t like it at all.

Disa quoted the prophecy: “When the tree dies the sea will rise up and swallow the citadel.”

“Yeah right, Disa, that prophecy is risible. The citadel stands high on a headland, far above the water. The sea’s not likely to suddenly swallow it.”

“You think? But at new moons and full moons the high tides are high. And on the fifteenth day of the Witan weeks—”

“That’s the fifteenth of October to us,” Eshe said.

“On that day the three moons will conjoin. You have lived in Luban all your life, far away from the sea. You have no notion of tides. But before I left to come to you, I left instructions for my seamen. They are not to put out to sea until all has settled. But I hear from them now. They expect the tides during those days, and after, to fully submerge the spit. And you know the difference in height between that and this headland? A dot. The townsfolk are unsettled, now that the eclipse grows near. Already the tides are riding in higher. Those living alongside the river are making arrangements to move into the town. They think the citadel will save them. But they know nothing of the prophecy. For myself, nay, that triple eclipse could drown us all.”

“There are sea-filled caves beneath the citadel,” Eshe added. “They give directly onto the Warison Path.”

“But how can mending the tree . . . ?” Boddy asked, trying to make sense of it.

“It’s not only the tree. You must sit on the chair.”

In how many days? Ghats, but she was asking too much of him.

~ ~ ~

Roots of Rookeri 42: 21st October

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A Walk Along Water

Burgh Castle

8:45 Set out.
I had spent the previous evening debating how I was to do this.

Should I bus out and walk back? If so, should I walk back along Breydon Wall—which can be monotonous, especially when alone (no one to talk to); also, it had rained hard the day before, so wet feet were a consideration. Or I could walk back by road—that would add another mile or so, and along roads not intended for pedestrians. Another consideration was the weather. Okay for the morning (perhaps a bit windy) but high chance of rain and increasingly high gusts of wind in the afternoon. I’ve walked Breydon Wall in rain and wind. It’s not the most pleasant experience.

Here’s my decision . . .

Breydon Bridge View 1

Breydon Bridge, approaching from Cobholm

Breydon Bridge is a 9-span, 247m viaduct over Breydon Water. It forms part of the A47 Trunk Road Great Yarmouth western bypass.

Breydon Bridge View 2

Breydon Bridge in close-up

Until Breydon Bridge was built on the 1980s traffic heading south through Great Yarmouth, both from the north (A149) and west (A47), had no alternative but to use Haven Bridge (see A Posh Resort)—which was a notorious bottleneck, especially on a hot afternoon when its drawbridge-type mechanisms were liable to become stuck. The new Breydon Bridge (began 1983, completed 1985), also works on the drawbridge principle but it’s what’s called a ‘rolling lift trunnion’ (apparently, though I’m no expert). Of all the designs put forward, I’m sure this one won out for its ‘Dutch’ appearance.

At the same time as the bridge was built, a new (metal) dolphin was erected. (Again, see A Posh Resort).

Breydon Dolphin

Breydon’s New Metal Dolphin. Neat, hey?
What I like about this photo it how extensive Breydon Water looks.

But I’m jumping ahead.

One of the things that makes living in Yarmouth bearable (remembering I’m a country lass by birth and rearing) is how quickly you can be out of the traffic and the people and the concrete.

Cobholm Common Land

5 minutes walk from Haven Bridge . . .

Ironically, since the name Cobholm means ‘a hump-like island’, it’s not at all an island but a low-lying area much subject to flooding. As I said, it rained the day before!

Marshy land at Cobholm

Flooded common land at Cobholm—doesn’t bode well for the walk.

Back on with the walk along Breydon Wall.

The tide was high (cue Blondie). In fact, the tide wasn’t yet at it fullest. We’re still close to the autumnal equinox, when the highs are HIGH. I was to see no mud flats on this walk and very little by way of birds (though that was due to the wind). But I was to see this boat. Several times. I couldn’t work out what it was doing, buzzing back and forth.

Boat 1

One black & white boat. It passed under Breydon Bridge at the same time as me, heading upriver (I thought, until it returned). Note the scarlet dolphin!

The Path Ahead

The Path Ahead . . .
It isn’t usually as naked as this; it’s usually heavy with rampant herbage and floral additions. It’s been recently cut—so much for my concern for wet feet.

I took a brief detour through that scrubland you can see up ahead (to right). I’m not sure if it’s a special planting or naturally evolved: it wasn’t there when I first doing this walk (how many centuries ago?) I’ve named it Cuckoo Scrub cos come spring from around here the cuckoos call.

Cuckoo Scrub

Within Cuckoo Scrub, looking out towards Breydon.

And finally I reach the (official) start of the walk. Here begins Angles Way.

Angles Way at Gt Yarmouth

Angles Way. See that wood on the horizon? Doesn’t look very far, does it. It’s 4.5 miles away, but not as the crow flies. As the path wends.

Angles Way is a public footpath from Great Yarmouth, via Breydon Water, to the River Waveney which it then follows all the way to its source, passing through Oulton Broad, Beccles, Bungay, Harleston and Diss. But it doesn’t stop there. It joins the Little Ouse at source to run through heathland and marsh and into the Suffolk Brecks. Hop along, less than a mile, and you’re onto the Peddars Way (another long distance footpath). I’m not going to do all that today! But I am tempted to bus out to Bungay where Angles Way links up with the 10 miles stretch of Bigod Way (a circular route around the town, the site of Bigod’s Castle). For someone interested in medieval history, it’s a must. But not today.

Breydon Rand View 1

A rand around Breydon—or a salt marsh in making.

All along the edge of Breydon Water are these plant-colonised mud banks (rands). For most of the year they’re above the high tides. But not around the equinox. You can see where the tide is rising around that clump of foliage to the right on the above photo.

I wasn’t able to get close enough to identify the plants but they probably include sea-lavender which typically grows on these rands. A wonderful purple-mauve haze when in full flower in the height of the summer.

Sea Lavender - limonium vulgare

Sea Lavender – Limonium vulgare (Source: Wikipedia)

Sea Purslane is also common on the rands, as are other oraches. Not to mention the garden escapees, e.g. poppy, tomatoes, daffodils, that all happily take root here.

Sea Purslane - halimione portulacoides

Sea Purslane – Halimione portulacoides (Source: Wikipedia)

Many (many-many) moons ago, I undertook a survey of the drainage channels along this south edge of Breydon, for the British Trust for Ornithology. It is sad to see the local farmers have since filled in many of the channels, and where they still exist, they are so overgrown as to support little bird-life. I remember my delight at seeing Bearded Tits with their open-mouthed young amongst the reeds.

Drainage Channel  South-side Breydon

Gloomy autumnal reeds—here the delicate Bearded Tits used to breed.

Bearded Tit (Reedling) male Male Bearded Tit (or Reedling) (Source: Wikipedia)

Of course, these marshes are famous for their grazing. Cattle are bought at market, driven onto the marshes, and left to fatten. The breeds can vary, with several different breeds in one field. Usually they are bullocks (i.e. young bulls, under 2 yrs old, usually castrated). The females are required for breeding, and milk-stock.

Cattle Grazing on Breydon Marshes

Cattle grazing on Breydon Marshes.
I couldn’t get nearer, rank (wet) grass, plus a drainage channel being between us.

What breed are they? Well, there are some red ones, black ones, and cream ones. My vote goes to the Scottish Angus breed for the red and black, while the cream ones are most likely the French ‘Blonde d’Aquitaine. I used to know the breeds, but so many now are imported from Europe.

Black and Red Angus Cattle

Herd of Black and Red Angus cattle (Source: Wikipedia)

Blonde d'Aquitaine Cattle

Blonde d’Aquitaine—a good beef cattle. (Source: Wikipedia)

And then I was at the Pump House! I’ve always considered this the half way mark. The odd machinery in the photo (below) is for dredging the channel to keep it clear of weed—or at least I assume so since there weree heaps of weed drying beside it.

Pump House, South-side Breydon

The Pump House

Breydon Walls, along with the walls alongside the rivers Waveney, Yare and Bure (see A Town of Three Rivers), weren’t constructed until the fifteenth century, when the drainage channels were also cut. I find that incredible. Flooded marshland must have been a regular occurrence—which of course kept them fertile and the grazing sweet. Until the Lady of the Manor, Lydia Baret, died in 1845, her land sold off in lots, the marshes were part of the Manor-lands of Burgh, though the grazing was let out to individual stock-rearers.

Sluices gates and small drainage pumps help control the water levels replacing the former Broads’ windmills (note, not built for the grinding of grain). In times past the upkeep of these, along with dredging the dykes, cutting new drains, keeping the bridges across the cuts in good repair, thistle-topping and mowing, all was the work of the marshmen. Now the pumps are automated and electrically powered.

Pump House Looking Back

Looking back to the Pump House; a glorious view: I’m halfway there.

By now all around me was the noise of nature—it would be more accurate to to call it a cacophony. To my right the water was loudly lapping. To my left, the reeds hissing, like sugar pouring into a plastic bowl. In my right ear the wind drumming; in my left it was roaring. The wind was threatening to drive me back—and it wasn’t yet up to full strength.

Boat 2

Hey, look, I’m not alone. Another boat!

These white cruisers are a frequent sight on Breydon as they make their way downriver to the open sea. I’ve always assigned them to the Brundall boatyards (outskirts of Norwich on River Yare), but this one later returned and headed upriver into the Waveney. Note, the tide is still incoming. You can just make out the tops of submerged plants (above).

Breydon Rose

Rose, water and mil—yes, there is a mill, small, on the far bank.
When the tide is out this becomes an extensive mudflat, black with feeding birds and extremely loud with the sounds of their fighting.

Submerged Rand

Just seconds before I took this there was raft of pochard ducks
But they drifted away. Camera shy.


Pochard (male). (Source: Wikipedia)

Although the pochard breed across marshland, the raft I disturbed was more likely to be the first of our winter arrivals. By late November massive rafts of mixed ducks will fill Breydon Water. Today I saw few birds: these ducks, one cormorant, a pair of swans, and no herons (that’s unusual).

And the tide STILL was rising. I hadn’t realised it, until that night as I closed my curtains, it was at the full of the moon (highest High Tides!) What’s more, the high gusts forecast for the afternoon were already hitting (I had to brace my legs and a couple of times the wind almost snatched the camera/phone out of my hands). And it wasn’t yet 10:30. Ho-hum, plough on.

Waveney Yare Confluence

The Waveney-Yare Confluence—with wavelets now forming. That white boat heading into the Waveney is the same cruiser I’d snapped earlier.
What can’t be seen is exactly how high the water.

Burgh Castle (former staithe)

The Hangar at Burgh Castle in the (not so far) distance. Hangar is an old Norse word for a steep wooded hillside. The trees ‘hang’. Logic, hey. But the photo hardly does it justice.

The end is in sight! I shall be glad to be out of the wind.


Flooded Path

 The (lower) footpath to the remains of the Roman Fort—but the high tide has flooded it. So . . . I’ll take the high road.

The parish church of SS Peter and Paul stands amid the trees, at the top of the Hangar. I had intended to visit it last, on my way to catching the bus home. But my feet having been forced it that direction . . .

And I then found a churchyard full of men. They were erecting scaffold ready to replace the roof (the red tiled section in the photo below). I had intended to take a photo of the east window behind the altar, which is an exquisite example of stained glass. But the window was boarded as protection during the work. So I’ve had to resort to what I could glean from Google Images (alas, no east window).

Burgh Castle Church SS Peter and Paul

SS Peter and Paul, Burgh Castle (Source: Norfolk Churches)

The church is one of 124 existing round-tower churches in Norfolk. Round-towers are a particularly East Anglian feature, with all but 15 of the entire country’s count being in Norfolk (124), Suffolk (38), Essex (6) and Cambridgeshire (2). The style isn’t exclusively English, examples can also be found in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Poland, Czech Republic, France and Italy. That suggests a Dane or Viking distribution. However, while East Anglia was part of Danelaw, there are no extant examples elsewhere in the Danelaw, i.e. Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

But why the round towers? Though the topic is much debated, the most likely reason is a lack of local building stone. The stone for Norwich cathedral and St Nicholas parish church at Gt Yarmouth was imported from Caen in Normandy. Flint and rubble to hand, when it came to building a parish, that’s what was used. But how to form a smart square corner using flint? Not possible. The square towered churches that are found in Norfolk have overcome the problem by use of limestone corner-blocks. But imported stone costs, so there’s also an economic factor involved.

The church of SS Peter & Paul is an early foundation, mentioned in Domesday Book as ‘a church with 10 acres of land and an acre of meadow’. Material ‘quarried’ from the nearby ruins of the Roman fort were used in the early construction of the nave and chancel, though these have twice been modified, in the thirteenth century and again in the fifteenth when the eastern extension (now to be re-roofed) was added. The tower itself has been dated to C11th. The incongruous brick top results from a quick repair sometime in the seventeenth century. Until 1851 the roof was reed thatch.

St Fursey window Norwich cathedral

St Fursey has his own window in the church at Burgh Castle, but unable to access, I’ve borrowed one from Norwich cathedral (Source: photo by Ryan Watts).

St Fursey was an Irish monk who, along with his brothers Ultan and Foillan, is credited with bringing the Christian faith to East Anglia. He founded a monastery on land granted him by the already-Christian king Sigeberht (c.629–c.634) at Cnobheresburg—generally identified as Burgh Castle. Miracles abound in St Fursey’s life, three occurring while he was at this monastery.

Later, St Fursey left the monastery in the care of his brother Foillan while he went off to find his other brother Ultan, who was living as a hermit in the ‘wilds of East Anglia’. In 648, fearing that East Anglia was about to ravaged by ‘hostile invasions’, St Fursey crossed the Channel to Neustria (more or less Normandy) and travelled to Paris. Again, miracles surrounded him. Impressed by his sanctity, the Frankish Mayor of the Palace (i.e. prime minister) Erchinoald offered him any site he wished for a monastery. St Fursey founded his (second) monastery at Lagny, 6 miles from Paris, at the time a wooded country. He died in 650; it is said, on his way to visit his brothers at Cnobheresburg.

Our knowledge of St Fursey and his brothers come primarily from Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (731 CE), and Bede’s knowledge came from Vita Sancti Fursei, considered the earliest primary source.

St Furseys Cross


Celtic Cross erected 1897 in the churchyard at Burgh Castle as a memorial to St Fursey.

It’s possible the placename Cnobheresburg translates as the’ Hill of the Army’s Fortress’. If so, it is accurately named. For in the late third century, Cnobheresburg—or Burgh Castle as it is now—was, indeed, the Hill (Cnob) of the Army’s (heres) Fortress (burg). For here was sited one of the two forts which made up Gariannonum as listed in the Notitia Dignitatum (a C4th list of the Empire’s military commands). It’s sister fort was at Caister-on-Sea (see A Town Of Three Rivers). Gariannonum was a Saxon Shore Fort, part of a string of forts that extend from the Solent to the Wash. Of late there’s been debate of their purpose. The Saxon Shore Forts lack the internal components typical of Roman military installations. So were they a defensive system against seaborne raiders, or naval bases? Or  perhaps they existed as defended trading centres? Built on a low cliff overlooking the Great Estuary, the ‘Hill of the Army’s Fortress’ was well sited to serve any and all of these functions.

East Wall Roman Fort Burgh Castle

 Roman Saxon Shore Fort at Burgh Castle—north-east corner

Before the cliff crumbled, taking the western wall with it, the fort would have enclosed about six acres, with walls 3.5 metres wide at base, tapering to 1.5 metres as they reached their full height of 4.5 metres. As seen in the photo above, the walls were further fortified by projecting bastions. Not seen in the photo, nor by the general visitor, the bastions each have a central circular hole—but whether as anchorage for a catapult or to support timber watchtowers isn’t known. What can be seen (but didn’t photo well, being in deep shadow) are the remains of deep socket-holes, possibly used for the supports of the wall-walks. And, of course, the typical parapets are long since gone.

Originally the walls would have been faced inside and out with cut flint and tile in alternating bands, only some of which now remain. Over the centuries the old Roman fort has served as a quarry for building materials, until, in places, the mortared flint rubble core is exposed—as can be seen above.

Burgh Castle Diagram

Diagram of Burgh Castle (Source: Norfolk Archaeological Trust)

Seen on the above diagram as a blue-shaded area, is the vicus, a civilian settlement. Evidence as seen in aerial photographs, plus the small scale excavations which have revealed artefacts of contemporary date—a rare survival—marks the fort and surrounds as of national importance.

But occupation of the site didn’t end with the Roman withdrawal from Britain. There is ample evidence of occupation from the middle Saxon period—lending weight to the identification of the site with St Fursey’s monastery.

Later, in late eleventh century, the site was adapted, its walls ‘quarried’ and a ditch dug around it to become a Norman motte and bailey castle (see diagram above). This was possibly instigated by the tenant-in-chief at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086, Ralph the Crossbowman. However, equally likely would be his predecessor, Stigand.

Stigand, of a Norfolk family, was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time of the Conquest but was deposed in 1070, having already been excommunicated by the pope for pluralism, i.e. holding two bishoprics concurrently, Winchester and Canterbury. He was imprisoned, where he died.

Another candidate for the architect behind the Norman castle would be Ralf the Staller, Earl of East Anglia from the Conquest until his death in 1070. He was succeeded by his son, Ralf de Gaël, who was subsequently exiled in 1075 for his involvement in the Revolt of the Earls.

Norman Motte and Bailey at Burgh Castle

Site of the Norman motte & bailey castle at the south-west corner of the Roman fort. Though the ditch remains, the mound has long since been levelled.

The western edge of the fort was further damaged by the quarrying activities of the nineteenth century brick and cement works, sited adjacent.

Burgh Castle Brick and Cement Works

Overlooking the disused Brick and Cement Works (now intense scrubland). Photo taken from the west wall of the fort, fallen remains of which can be seen in the foreground.

And finally, a parting shot of Haddiscoe Island, a long gore of land, formerly salt-marsh, sandwiched between the rivers Yare and Waveney.

Haddiscoe Island

The mill in the distance stands beside the Yare. In the foreground, reeds now grow where once was a marina, site of the famous Breydon Follies ( a kind of regatta). As for Haddiscoe Island, that was once a mudflat in the Great Estuary, exposed only at low tide.

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When Kerrid sighted the Eld thundering along Pranodalshum River, his crow, Mamlukin, flying ahead, she couldn’t guess at the horror he was about to inflict. An Asar like her, she cannot defeat him. Yet in certain ways she can outwit him.

The next episode of Feast Fables, The Wicked West Wind, ready now.



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