Sunday, 28 July 2013

Rhuddlan Castle...

During our recent stay in North Wales, we escaped the horrors of Prestatyn's Pontins holiday camp (No, I'm still too raw to tell you about it. It will definitely be the subject of a future post though!), exchanging them for the delights of Rhuddlan Castle in Denbighshire.

You know me. I can't resist the lure of a castle, ruined or otherwise. Just take a look at the thickness of those walls, would you? And check out that impressive twin-towered gatehouse! Can you hear me salivating? The castle may be battered and beaten but it's still standing. Not bad for a structure that started its life back in 1277, in the days when Edward I was busily constructing his fearsome 'Iron Ring'  with which to subdue the Welsh.

Needless to say, the kids absolutely loved it--almost as much as I did! While they were occupied with my SIL, rolling themselves down a steep grassy hill (above the tower in the bottom left corner of the picture, if you're interested. :)), I had a little wander around by myself.

The only tiny niggle I had with this marvellous place was the lack of information available for the curious visitor. Visit any other historic site in the UK and the tourist is bombarded with information boards. In Rhuddlan, I only found two in the entire castle. Even so, I was surprised to find just how familiar it all was.

Martha has taught me well!

Martha is the she-ro of my current WIP, a twenty-first century woman who finds herself in an alternate medieval world. (It's a F.A.R.T, btw. A fantasy, adventure, romantic, time-travel story. :)) As I walked around, I recognised many parts of the castle. The curtain wall, the inner and outer baileys, the gatehouses, the death-holes, the wall was meeting up with old friends!

It was a weird experience. Not weird as in ghostly, but it was a little bit odd. The fragmented walls seemed to rebuild themselves right before my eyes, and all the gaps disappeared. A bit like in the TV show 'Time Team' where, before your very eyes, the clever techies reconstruct an entire Roman pot from a tiny mud-encrusted shard. It was easy to imagine the noises and smells of castle life. I fancied I saw a few of the long-dead people whose feet had worn such deep dips into the thick stone steps leading up to the towers.

Then the kids reclaimed my attention and the echoes faded away. All that remained were the roosting pigeons--and then one of them shat on me! That's supposed to be a lucky sign on this side of the pond. As I mopped the residue away with a wet-wipe, I certainly felt lucky. It was a perfect day, especially as the entry fee was just over ten quid for two adults and four kids. Bargain!

Monday, 1 July 2013

Things that make you go, Oooooh!

I'm inspired by many, many things in life. Big and small. And they don't get much bigger than this.

The Hubble telescope might be an expensive toy, but to my flagging brain cells, it's as stimulating as a dip in the North Sea in the depths of a British Winter.
'The first Deep Field, the Hubble Deep Field North (HDF-N), was observed over 10 consecutive days during Christmas 1995. The resulting image consisted of 342 separate exposures, with a total exposure time of more than 100 hours, compared with typical Hubble exposures of a few hours. The observed region of sky in Ursa Major was carefully selected to be as empty as possible so that Hubble would look far beyond the stars of our own Milky Way and out past nearby galaxies.

The results were astonishing! Almost 3000 galaxies(!) were seen in the image. Scientists analysed the image statistically and found that the HDF had seen back to the very young Universe where the bulk of the galaxies had not, as yet, had time to form stars. Or, as the popular press dramatically reported, “Hubble sees back to Big Bang”.'

3000 galaxies. Not planets, mind. GALAXIES! Ouch! Brain aches. Hmm...I suddenly feel inspired to resurrect those old sci-fi MS I have stashed away in the attic.

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