Monthly Archives: August 2015
I was chatting the other day (on Twitter, not that that matters) about street games we used to play as children, back in the days when only one person on the street actually had a car (an Austin A30). No one but me had ever heard of one of my favourite games – Finger Thumber Dumber Little Granny.
The gang of kids divided into two teams, via picksies. One player of the defending team was Cush, and stood against the wall. His* teammates bent down, the first with his head in the cush’s stomach, the others in a line behind to form a line of backs. The other team would, one by one, run up behind and leap onto the backs of those bending, trying to make them collapse. If they did succumb, the leaping team ‘won’ and got to inflict the punishment again. If the defenders stood strong, the leader of the leapers would shout “Finger thumber dumber little granny!” and hold up either a forefinger, thumb, fist (dumber) or little finger (little granny). One of those bent over would have to guess which he held up, ostensibly unaided by the Cush, although I’m sure Steve Maltby cheated sometimes. If the guess was wrong, the leapers got to go again. If right, the defenders got their turn at inflicting pain and suffering on their playmates. It was a remarkably sophisticated in a satisfyingly violent way. I always wanted to be on Alan Bower’s team as he weighed about the same as the weekly pop lorry and was an expert at collapsing opponents.
Extensive research (I Googled) shows that as early as the 1500s, children in Europe and the Near East played “Bucca Bucca quot sunt hic?” which name lives on in the States as ‘Buck Buck’. Pieter Bruegel’s painting “Children’s Games” (1560) depicts children playing a variant of the game (bottom right of the painting).
*for some reason girls never wanted to play this
When I’m writing I sit here, coffee to my left and bookshelves to my right. The card to the top of the lamp is because the bulb’s a bit too big and sticks out above it, blinding me. The reference book open there is Ian Mortimer’s superbly readable “Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England”, and there’s my favourite coffee mug, brought from New Zealand. If you look closely you might make out my iPod Shuffle, the only bit of Apple kit I will ever own. Above the computer screen (showing Scrivener) I have this page from the Rolls of the Northamptonshire coroner in the 14th century. It details an event which took place in 1322 and is the insisting behind my current WIP ‘The Raven’s Wing’.
After spending far too long being distracted by short fiction in all its forms, I have today finally re-immersed myself in my medieval saga of blood, of magic, and of music, The Raven’s Wing. A happy three hours this avvy reacquainted me with the intricacies of the plot and characters, aided in no small part by the remarkable writing software, Scrivener. Tucked away in the rather large research section was this little gem, which may or may not make it into the final story. I thought you might like it, though.
The holy breast milk of the Virgin Mary was an extremely popular relic in the middle ages. An entire church was built outside Bethlehem on a rock which had miraculously turned white after coming into contact with the Virgin’s milk as she breastfed Christ. Another legend says that St Bernard was praying before a statue of the Madonna when milk sprayed from its breast into his mouth. Many vials of “breast milk” began to appear all over Europe. The French theologian John Calvin said:
“Had the virgin been a cow her whole life she could never have produced such a quantity.”