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annwfyn: (studious - reading books)
I had an odd experience yesterday while reading on the plane. I picked up a copy of a book I'd read and loved as a teen - the House by the Dvina by Eugenie Frasier - the story of her childhood in Russia just before the Revolution.

I remembered it as being a bit like Agatha Christie or Gwen Raverat' s memoires - you know - lots of adorable stories about eccentric relatives and rocking horses. And I thought it would be a comfy airport read.

My reading journey went something like this...

...oh. She's a bit bitter about the Bolsheviks, isn't she?

...yeah, she's definitely in favour of the old regime. Makes sense, as her family were pretty aristocratic in Russia. Except for great-grandmother who was a serf.

...so, World War One went badly. I knew that. Also, goddamn Britain treated Russia badly.

...wow. She used the word 'insolent' to describe how some revolutionary spoke to her mother. Check your privilege, Eugenie!

...um. And then the revolutionary arrested her elderly grandfather for no reason and sent men to ransack their family home every couple of days for months.

...oh. And the local Bolsheviks would randomly confiscate anyone's stuff they wanted. I guess it is a revolution and Eugenie's family had been very well off before.

...and they raped and murdered people who objected. Whole families died. That's...

...ok. Now she's telling the tale of a mass execution she and her friends witnessed while playing in the woods as children, and how one of the people executed was a teenage boy in his school uniform.

...and how this same group of friends once chased a stray goat down so they could take turns trying to milk it because they were starving due to civil war. This is one of the upbeat comic interludes in the civil war section of the book.

...phew. She, and her mother and brother managed to escape as refugees, because her mother was Scottish and they were able to get exit papers on that basis. Now, I wonder what happens to the rest of her wonderful, loveable, larger than life family and friends that she's been describing this whole book.

...they are all murdered. Well, some die of starvation. A few more a murdered by Nazis and not communists. And two commit suicide to avoid being executed. One disappears. Probably executed. And the rest are all murdered. Every single one. Mostly under Stalin.

And I sort of sat there in horror. Yeah, too right she is bitter about the Russian Revolution. And what's worse is that I hadn't expected it. I mean, I kind of knew Stalin was bad and the Russian Civil War was awful. I've seen death stats. I did know. Yet it hadn't properly connected. For Chrissakes, as a teenager I had a hammer and sickle badge on a jacket (I thought it was cool). In my twenties I role played cool Russian revolutionaries in LRP where I never would have thought of playing a Nazi. I laughed at "how retro" when I saw protestors with the hammer and sickle outside the American Embassy in London when I'd never have done that over a swastika.

No real moral lesson. Just a weird sense that somehow we as a society aren't great. Probably because we don't believe in evil without atrocity photos and case studies.

By the way, it's a good book.
annwfyn: (studious - belle)
So, the other night I went to see the very lovely [profile] jholloway talking about Anglo-Saxon paganism at Treadwells. Now, once upon a time, in a land far far away, which we shall refer to as 'Oxford', I did an MPhil in European Archaeology, specialising in the Anglo-Saxon period. In my first year I wrote a 5000 word extended essay on the mystery of the missing infant burials of the period, and in my second year I wrote my thesis on the changing archaeological attitudes towards death and burial within the context of the conversion period.

And then I realized that I was soon going to go on a killing spree and destroy all in my path if I didn't leave Oxford soon, gave up on the phd, ran away to London to go to Camberwell, and the rest is history. And for ages, I kind of half forgot about the whole subject in a mildly pained way.

Anyway, fairly recently, [profile] jholloway said he was doing a talk at Treadwell's on Anglo-Saxon paganism, focusing on the conversion period. Which was the area I knew best. Sadly for me, and thankfully (I think) for him, I couldn't find my notes and so went along with nothing but my five year old memories of my MPhil.

And I had a wonderful time. Listening to James talk, I felt all the old love I had for that period come rushing back. I remembered how much I'd enjoyed speculating wildly in the silence of my own mind on the missing infant burials,* I remembered Tania Dickinson pushing bad photocopies across the room and squinting to try and see what she was talking about when she showed me pictures of these shield wotsits** and I remembered how much I just loved that whole period. It was marvellous, and James is a really good speaker.

In general, I'm also beginning to really enjoy just going to Treadwells, which is such a weird and interesting place. There's quite a cool evening event on 4 June, which is a fake Victorian seance which I'm considering going to. Would anyone be interested? The blurb for it is here.

Finally, I think anyone who has some free time on Sunday should cough up a tenner and come along to hear me talking about the Craven Street Bones. Come on! It'll be fun! I am pretty good value for money when it comes to 18th century gore and guts.



*Most pre-industrial cultures have a really high rate of infant mortality. Either the Anglo-Saxons magically didn't, or they disposed of their infant dead differently, as they don't show up in most early Anglo-Saxon cemetaries.

** That's the technical term.
annwfyn: (studious - belle)
So, the other night I went to see the very lovely [profile] jholloway talking about Anglo-Saxon paganism at Treadwells. Now, once upon a time, in a land far far away, which we shall refer to as 'Oxford', I did an MPhil in European Archaeology, specialising in the Anglo-Saxon period. In my first year I wrote a 5000 word extended essay on the mystery of the missing infant burials of the period, and in my second year I wrote my thesis on the changing archaeological attitudes towards death and burial within the context of the conversion period.

And then I realized that I was soon going to go on a killing spree and destroy all in my path if I didn't leave Oxford soon, gave up on the phd, ran away to London to go to Camberwell, and the rest is history. And for ages, I kind of half forgot about the whole subject in a mildly pained way.

Anyway, fairly recently, [profile] jholloway said he was doing a talk at Treadwell's on Anglo-Saxon paganism, focusing on the conversion period. Which was the area I knew best. Sadly for me, and thankfully (I think) for him, I couldn't find my notes and so went along with nothing but my five year old memories of my MPhil.

And I had a wonderful time. Listening to James talk, I felt all the old love I had for that period come rushing back. I remembered how much I'd enjoyed speculating wildly in the silence of my own mind on the missing infant burials,* I remembered Tania Dickinson pushing bad photocopies across the room and squinting to try and see what she was talking about when she showed me pictures of these shield wotsits** and I remembered how much I just loved that whole period. It was marvellous, and James is a really good speaker.

In general, I'm also beginning to really enjoy just going to Treadwells, which is such a weird and interesting place. There's quite a cool evening event on 4 June, which is a fake Victorian seance which I'm considering going to. Would anyone be interested? The blurb for it is here.

Finally, I think anyone who has some free time on Sunday should cough up a tenner and come along to hear me talking about the Craven Street Bones. Come on! It'll be fun! I am pretty good value for money when it comes to 18th century gore and guts.



*Most pre-industrial cultures have a really high rate of infant mortality. Either the Anglo-Saxons magically didn't, or they disposed of their infant dead differently, as they don't show up in most early Anglo-Saxon cemetaries.

** That's the technical term.
annwfyn: (studious - the worst witch)
Gah! I'm feeling frustrated today.

I want to write random tat prose, set in 1943, but there's just so much I don't know!

I don't know what kind of social class a train driver and his family would be. I think respectable working class, but I'm not sure. I don't know what kind of areas of London they would have lived in, I don't know what the standard of living was for the respectable working classes in the 1940s, or the limitations placed on teenage girls in that time frame.

I sort of know bits, but not enough, and I don't know where to start looking.

Bah! And humbug!
annwfyn: (studious - the worst witch)
Gah! I'm feeling frustrated today.

I want to write random tat prose, set in 1943, but there's just so much I don't know!

I don't know what kind of social class a train driver and his family would be. I think respectable working class, but I'm not sure. I don't know what kind of areas of London they would have lived in, I don't know what the standard of living was for the respectable working classes in the 1940s, or the limitations placed on teenage girls in that time frame.

I sort of know bits, but not enough, and I don't know where to start looking.

Bah! And humbug!
annwfyn: (sitting on books)
I'm currently being quietly amused by this. It turns out that we're actually all Spanish - the orignal 'celtic' people of the British Isles are apparently genetically indistinguishable from the indigenous people of the Iberian Peninsula.

Full article cut and pasted beneath the cut )
annwfyn: (sitting on books)
I'm currently being quietly amused by this. It turns out that we're actually all Spanish - the orignal 'celtic' people of the British Isles are apparently genetically indistinguishable from the indigenous people of the Iberian Peninsula.

Full article cut and pasted beneath the cut )

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