Monday, 27 June 2016

Braiding that hair!

This Monday's Moments are likely to be full of reading up on the latest potential political upheaval in my life but I'm not posting anything on the aftermath of the EU Referendum in the UK. 

Priestess of Vesta- British Museum (Wikimedia Commons)
Recently, I posted some information on the Ancient Roman Vestalia celebrations.  While I was writing my contributions to this blog I'd forgotten that I'd seen an article and a video about a recreation of a Roman Vestal Virgin's hairstyle. Today I found the link for the whole article  HERE 

It's a fascinating little display of how a Vestal hairstyle may have been created.



Saturday, 25 June 2016

When the chips are down...

Happy Saturday wishes to you! 

Can you guess what was the hot topic I wrote about for my every-second-Saturday post at the Writing Wranglers and Warriors blog

It had to be about the current political situation that I find myself in- that of the post EU Referendum pondering. Here's a REBLOG of my Wranglers post.

"When the chips are down. My trusty Collins Dictionary gives the meaning: at a time of crisis. There are similar meanings to be found in other dictionaries… and there’s also this one: When you are in a very difficult or dangerous situation, especially one that makes you understand the true value of people or things…

In a very difficult situation…That’s how it was yesterday, and will be for the foreseeable future, for me and for millions of other people who live in the UK. The EU Referendum that took place across the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on Thursday 23rd June 2016 was for the people to decide democratically if they wished to remain in the European Union (EU), or leave the EU.

What’s the European Union all about?
The initial European Coal and Steel Community, formed in 1950, had only 6 member states. Their aim was to unite their countries, economically and politically, after the bloodbath of WW2 and to create a peaceful time in which good trade would exist between them as neighbours. The ideal that wealth could be distributed better to those most needy across their community was an amazingly wonderful concept - not easy to effect, but not impossible either. The group was renamed as the European Economic Community in 1957 and was sometimes referred to as ‘The Common Market’  The number of member states grew to 9 when the UK joined with Denmark and Ireland in 1973. In the intervening years since 1973, the number of member states has grown – the present being 28, though there are a number of new applications to join. It has never been a simple matter to join the EU because each applying state is required to fulfil rigorous criteria before entering as a member.

The EU is like many organisations: you put money in and receive money back but it’s also about a lot more than that. Each EU member state contributes to the fund and each receives money back but not necessarily the same amount they put in.
That sounds simple, even trite, but the EU is an exceedingly complicated business machine. There are many different reasons for the amount each state contributes and for how the pot of gold is redistributed. The fair redistribution of wealth is still an ideal but with many more member states trying to access the money pot, there’s no doubt that it has become cumbersome and bureaucratic. Many reciprocal arrangements have had to be made to accommodate the differences between the states. Regular updates to situations take ages and that’s not ideal, yet, isn’t surprising either. Cross border co-operation is essential for many of the opportunities that arise within the EU.

The EU isn’t perfect but for some parts of the EU the money paid back is thankfully received and well spent. The money my country of Scotland has received from EU coffers is a necessary part of our economics. We are one of the geographical areas which get more back from the EU than we seem to pay in. Why does that happen?  We still have many deprived areas which need extra funding to improve the local situation and EU funding is designed to encourage a programme of sustainable economic growth across the whole of Scotland. Another reason we get the money from the EU is because Scotland (as a region) doesn’t get that level of support funding from the UK parliament in Westminster, London. Huge amounts of UK funds go to improve the infrastructure of parts of England - in particular the SE of England where the bulk of the UK population live. Travel on roads in Scotland and you’ll see how they differ from the motorways of London and the South East of England!

I’ve also benefitted personally from being a member of the EU. I’ve been extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to live in another EU country (Holland) for a few years between 1979 and 1982. While my husband was out beavering away at work every day in Holland, I was busy giving birth to my two daughters. My healthcare, and that of the whole family, was easily arranged since we had an agreement under EU regulations. (In the UK we receive FREE health care and it was the same for us in Holland) All other official requirements for us to live there (like ‘Visas’) were easy to arrange under reciprocal agreements within the EU.

My daughter studied at Heidelberg University (Germany) for a year, the funding for the fees coming from reciprocal programmes of education within the EU. If my Fiona hadn’t been in Heidelberg, I wouldn’t have written my contemporary mystery - Topaz Eyes - because Heidelberg is where it all starts. And co-incidentally, the main female character was also a student at Heidelberg University- fancy that! The above photo was taken during one of my school holiday trips to check up on Fiona – and to enjoy German Beer and Wurst! The shadows are of myself, Fiona and my other daughter as we look down the River Neckar.

It’s easy to travel anywhere in the EU with a British passport. That might change now. I really hate the idea that my children and grandchildren might be denied the opportunities that I’ve had if Scotland is pulled out of the EU against our wishes.   

So why am I in a difficult situation?
The Recent Referendum result across the whole of the UK was a fairly narrow margin in favour of leaving the EU (51.9% for leave and 48.1% for remain) However, that’s where my personal dilemma begins because Scotland wholeheartedly chose to remain in the EU (38% for leave and 62% for remain) As a Scot, I now face a lot of uncertainty during the coming months, and years, because the choices made about the EU Referendum highlight other deep-rooted problems between what is now a very divided and not a particularly united Kingdom.

It’s fairly clear from the map shown that Scotland has a very different view on what the EU does for us than what is felt in England and Wales. Scotland wishes to remain a member of the EU and to effect that it may mean we have to become an independent country. That situation would delight me though I’ve no desire for any of the nasty backbiting and fall-out which may be part of any future break-up from the UK. Scotland is an outward looking country- and we look to all directions in the same frame of mind.

In my #Celtic Fervour Series of historical novels, the tribes of northern Britannia are different from those of the southern areas. My northern tribes are more remote from those of the south. They don’t have the same obvious metal wealth (gold, silver, copper jewellery and coinage) and easily gained material resources that were prized by the invading Roman Armies. It would have been a much more difficult job to extract iron from the rocks of the Grampian Mountains than it was to mine lead, iron and copper from the mines of Wales or south-west England. One reason for the successful mining in Roman Britain was that the Romans had plenty of slave labour, and mining experts of their own to supervise the operations. I’m currently writing about how the invading Roman Army of Agricola, in AD 84, is comparing the deprived wilderness of the Caledon Mountains to the more populated areas around Londinium which are by then already Romanised!

Whatever you’re doing this weekend I hope you don’t have to face any really difficult choices. "


Thursday, 23 June 2016

“An Emperor ought to die standing”

Today, 23rd June, is the anniversary of the death of the Emperor Vespasian and the above is said to be his Famous Last Words. (N.B. some references quote the 24th June as opposed to 23rd June)

However, there’s a little confusion over what actually were the Emperor Vespasian’s last words. He is also quoted as saying:  “Alas! I think I am becoming a god. - Vae, putō, deus fīō "

What we have to go on are the words of the poet Suetonius. Whether or not they are the true words of Vespasian is hard to tell but it’s recorded that Vespasian was noted for his witty comebacks. When it seemed to him that death was imminent the comment on him ‘becoming a god’ is a good one. The status of being deified could only happen with the approval of the Senate and it took someone, like a son or an uncontested named heir, to put enough pressure on the Senate to authorise it after the demise of the emperor. Vespasian had two sons, Titus and Domitian, so his confidence in being made a god may have been positive: one or other of his sons would ensure it happened. Alternatively, some might say that’s where the wit comes in- was Vespasian really sure of his sons?

Vespasian had ruled as emperor for almost ten years: officially confirmed as emperor on 21st December 69 AD, after the short bloody reigns of Galba, Otho and Vitellius, Vespasian brought relative peace to Rome and the legions till his death on the 23rd June 79 AD. However, that doesn’t mean that he was completely popular to all in Rome during that reign. In early 79 AD there was a failed plot on Vespasian’s life. The eminent Senators who were the perpetrators were caught and executed.

A short time later in 79 AD, while in Campania, Vespasian contracted what is now thought to have been undulant fever, generally caused by contaminated dairy products like unpasteurised milk (now named Brucellosis). The symptoms were debilitating but he was able to return to Rome, though he soon left again for Aqua Cutilia. The mineral springs of Aqua Cutilia near Rieti, Latinium was a regular summer residence of Vespasian and it was there that his illness worsened. He suffered from severe diarrhoea and it seems reasonable that this was the stage where he realised death was imminent. His comment about ‘becoming a god’ makes sense but having read about his military prowess it’s more reasonable, to me, that his true last words were “an emperor ought to die standing’. It’s written that his aides helped him to get to his feet after which he died – maybe supported but standing!

There is an alternative theory about what he joked about and you can see it HERE.

My #Celtic Fervour Series mostly takes place during the reign of Vespasian  and it's due to his expansion of the Roman Empire that my warriors of Garrigill find themselves as refugees who have no intention of bowing to the dictates of Vespasian and Rome.