I’m going to have to hold my hands up and say I had a proper geek-fan-history-buff last weekend. In the last remaining time before Summer starts really melting into Autumn. I’ve started trying to get things done. Primarily because, you are currently reading the blog of a self-confessed history geek who lived under an hour away from Stonehenge for just under ten years.. But waited until I lived 5 hours away before actually visiting. Having conducted a very scientific staw-poll among people that have been unfortunate enough to be forced into a conversation with me, this is a well known phenomenon. You know it is perfectly possible and easy to go and see whatever fantastic historical site/natural beauty spot/yearly event and as a consequence it becomes oh-so-easy to put it on the long-term to do list and it inevitably gets forgotten*. That is of course until the privilege of a short journey time is removed. Then it becomes a much more valuable commodity.
*Fortunately due to my easily activated sense of boredom on dog-walks the more canine friendly of places gets more of a visiting.
Ah but to where?! I hear you eagerly cry. Was it to the great henge of which you have just spoken (which by-the-by has just been in the news with some amazing new findings. Read more: Stonehenge researchers ‘may have found largest Neolithic site’) Was it one of the ruined abbeys that are sprinkled across parts of the north, standing testament to time and the more destructive whims of Henry VIII and those who followed with iconoclastic tendencies. Nope.
I went to a certain parsonage in Haworth. The home and now museum dedicated to the Brontë family and in particular the three remarkable sisters. Now I have to own up and confess. while history is my greatest love, to whom I am willing to devote a lifetime commitment I did flirt with the idea of English Literature as a degree and course in life for a long time. While I know many may point out it would be entirely unfair to regard the two as somehow mutually exclusive. I must justify myself to the purists out there. You know who you are.
What I found amazing was how human it all became. I stood in rooms that Emily, Charlotte and Branwell (their brother) are either to have known or thought to have died. As well as the same room that works of world literature where entirely composed and written. You may not be a fan of Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre and there literary fellows. But it’s hard to not stand in awe of the achievement and precedent of their accomplishment. The fact that on one poignant display, one of Charlotte’s letters showed she admitted that she had known so few people and expressed regret at having lived such a small existence. I challenge anyone not to be bowled over by that.
*Brief moment of solemnity*
Ok, I may have been getting a little carried away with myself. So to temper all that emotion and spiritual connection I present you with…
Re-enactments (aka Comi-con for History Buffs)
I was also one of the lucky ones who made their way up to Hadrian’s Wall for the Live events they (English Heritage) staged over a long weekend. To compare my excitement to an over-worked Roman plebian who has just been told it’s actually a sacred feast-day, doesn’t even come close. And I didn’t even make it beyond Birdoswald fort.
The re-enactors in question were the Italian group Lego I Italica joined by some Gallic natives and encamped on either side of the archaeological remains of the actual fort. Rather than go into too much detail and insight a Neronian-like levels of jealousy from anyone who didn’t manage to see it I would urge you to look at some of the more professional photographs taken at the event (Hadrian’s Wall: Romans v Barbarians – in pictures).
Needless to say in the ensuing battle between the natives (infuriatingly referred to as ‘barbarians’ throughout the commentary) and Roman legionaries. The Romans came out a little better. But since all combatants, dead or alive during battle, stood at the end for a victory march, I don’t think the fatality statistics will make too uncomfortable reading.
So, if you’ve managed to read this far, what stoic life lessons should you take away from this post? Well, first and foremost, go out and get to those historic places you’ve been meaning to visit. Second, and perhaps most important, try and get yourself to a re-enactment where a detachment of said re-enactors sing a Roman marching song in full regalia while marching from the field of the (admittedly fake) battle. It makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
(Cover image courtesy of: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images)