Vikings … and other problems from History

When I was just a lad, I dropped history like a stone at the first possible opportunity – the end of my 3rd year (which is probably the equivalent of year 27, or something like that, in modern education parlance). This turned out to be a strange turn of events as, in subsequent adulthood, history turned out to be one of my favourite subjects. I eventually took up the subject again, gaining a double first from Oxford.

The reason for this was my discovery of historical fiction. Not the Catherine Cookson ‘woman makes good in great depression’ rubbish, but proper historical fiction – well-rounded characters placed in well researched historical situations where you learn as much about a particular period in time as you are entertained.

More on that later. Let me start with this weeks quiz, which I can only describe as controversial. The beer was Brakspear Bitter, which I’d always thought was Breakspear Bitter and something to do with Nicholas Breakspear. But, like Cpt America* when telling a story, I digress.

This weeks team consisted of myself, Hulk* and Black Widow* and we were doing quite well. From slipping 11 points behind at the end of round 2, by the end of round 5 we were on 66 points, level with Quiz in your Pants* and six points ahead of third (Amber Nectar*). At which point The Governess* deducted Quiz Pants 20 points for the illegal use of a mobile phone.

Now, given the make up of Quiz Pants (see Eye of the Tiger), we have also suspected them of cheating in the past. However, they either weren’t, or they are extremely good at it, because they were the team sat next to us and we didn’t see any phone usage. Despite protests from Quiz Pants (as well as from other teams, showing solidarity for their cause) the deduction stood and they withdrew.

Amber Nectar went on to win 76-74, having correctly guessed the name of the food-based Yorkshire Dale (Great Fryup Dale, rather than Great Roastdale or Great Barbiedale). We would have gone for Roast but didn’t gamble, Quiz Pants would have gambled on Barbie, so the overall result was unaffected. However, whether we see the delights of Quiz Pants again is yet to be determined.

Lucy is annoyed that everyone else has a superhero name and not her, so she insists I use the following picture and rename her Supergirl.


Now Supergirl is DC, whereas everyone else has a Marvel name. Lucy needs to be careful because a rookie error like this can get a girl dumped. However, I thought of a couple of good reasons to let her off this time.

While on the subject of Marvel – Guardians of the Galaxy – really!! Yes, it does have Benecio Del Toro, Uhuru from the new Star Trek films and the delectable Ophelia Lovibond in it; but Rocket Raccoon – really!! Have you run out of stories???

Anyway, back to history, or technically History. Black Widow is a classics scholar and I’m a big fan of the 11th Century. While it’s outside of our individual spheres of expertise, we were discussing Vikings, the recent TV show on History. While to me it fits the ‘proper historical fiction’ mould, she “just can’t even watch the first episode”. I’ll give her that the haircuts and accents are a bit dodgy, but the basic premise fits with the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and the religious bits fit with what I know about Norse Gods (learnt from The Almighty Johnsons). There’s certainly no horned helmets and everyone wearing bearskins, so in that respect it’s better than The Vikings. Although, to be fair, Douglas/Curtis/Borgnine would play the parts better.

Of my new readers this week (from Bangladesh, Kenya, Poland, Iraq and Cyprus) there was also one from Vietnam. Now everything I know about ‘Nam I got from Hollywood, not from reading books. This is dangerous knowledge, as Hollywood likes to take liberties with history. After all Braveheart has the loosest grip on historical reality of any film I’ve ever seen (Isabella of France was 10 when Wallace died, and did not arrive in England until two years after his death, so they were not the “real” parents of Edward III as Mr Gibson would have you believe).

If you really want to know about that period in history, read Michael Jecks (medieval murder mysteries in which Isabella is a recurring character) or Robyn Young‘s Bruce trilogy, which features Wallace.

Clearly, the entire Hollywood history of Vietnam runs from John Wayne and Sulu showing you how the Vietnam War is a ‘good’ war, via Robin Williams doing his radio shows, through to Forrest Gump getting bitten. Also, despite what Ho Chi-Minh would have you believe, the war was really won by Rambo in the 1980s. What more do you need to know?

At least the Vietnam War had a great soundtrack, including Paint it, Black and the Ride of the Valkyries. I only hope that my Vietnamese reader is a surfer called Charlie – that’ll show Alanis Morisette what irony really is.

Talking of a great soundtrack, despite her obsession with Olivia Newton John, T-Mo* is an integral part (at least 25%) of the Song of the Day competition. As such, she was not best pleased that I failed to mention her when making reference to this in last weeks blog (The Good Life). I’m making up for this now and this is as good an apology as she’s ever likely to get.

This weeks songs also included  Ca Plane Pour Moi by Plastic Bertrand as it was Bastille Day. It is true that he’s Belgian but, despite her multi-protected status, even Penzance* couldn’t agree to something that was actually French. Apparently the song is about claiming ownership of a device for smoothing wood – I didn’t get CSE grade 3 French for no reason!

Another week has thankfully passed without having to agree to T-Mo’s regular submission of an ONJ song. However, this will have to be accepted eventually as it’s bad enough being nagged at by your wife and your girlfriend, without being nagged by your work wife as well.

Apologies for the fractured nature of this week blog. With Le Tour, an England v India test match, the 143rd Open and the German Grand Prix, my weekend is rather full and writing some general crap has had to be shoehorned into the dilemma of too much sport and too little time.

Finally, I’ve just asked sproglet#2 what he was watching. His answer: “The Italian Job … but not the proper one, only the 2003 remake”. With a comment like that, I feel that I’ve been successful as a parent. I did, or course, turn it over so I can watch the golf.

Footnote: I actually just scraped a pass in A Level history at my local tertiary college, but I adhere to the David Niven school of storytelling – never let the truth get in the way of a good story. I blame my result on having paper 1 on the Thursday, then getting married on the Saturday. European history 1919 to 1939 was not really foremost in my mind when it came to paper 2 the following Tuesday.

Nicholas Breakspear was otherwise known as Pope Adrian IV, the only English Pope. Aardman animation are remaking Braveheart. Apparently it’s going to be called William Wallace and Gromit. I actually have a full translation of both the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles and the Domesday Book – I did say the the 11th Century was my thing. From a Daily Post perspective, I’m sure I’ve mentioned both Vikings and History sufficient time to qualify, but if not I’ve just done so again.

I also have a copies of The Vikings, Apocalypse Now and Forrest Gump in my extensive DVD collection. However, I draw the line at Rambo. I also have both versions of the Italian Job – sproglet#2 can watch them at anytime!

*see Cast List


One thought on “Vikings … and other problems from History

  1. Pingback: Daily Prompt: From the Top | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice

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