Tommy

Most people know that British soldiers are known informally as tommies, but few people know why.  It’s been in use since the 19th century when a name was needed for a specimen paybook being prepared for official approval.

Adjutant General Harry Calvert chose Thomas Atkins, Private, from the 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers.  And since then every soldier’s been known as Tommy!

* The photo is a bench seat at the front of Winchester Castle.

Is it a snicket?

Snicket
Back when I was a young Anorak there was a short cut from our street to the centre of my village. It was a paved gap between two sets of houses and we always referred to it as “the snicket”. I grew up in North Yorkshire, close to the east coast, but the word was my mother’s, and she came from West Yorkshire; altogether closer to the spine of England. According to my recent research, snicket is actually a north western word, originating from the Lake District.

Ginnel/Jennel
My part of the world is apparently more likely to call such an alleyway a ginnel*, although it’s not a word I heard until I moved to South Yorkshire. A friend who now lives in Sheffield (South Yorkshire) but is originally from Derbyshire, calls them jennels, which is clearly from the same source.
* Pronounced like give, not like gin.

Ten-foot
In East Yorkshire, and more specifically the city of Kingston upon Hull, they’re called ten-foots. I have no idea why, and neither does anyone else I’ve asked. It could be something to do with the width – but I’ve never measured one! Oh, and it is ten-foots, not ten-feet.

Twitchel
I currently live in the East Midlands where, I’m reliably informed by the OED, that the term for a passage between houses is a twitchel. Its earliest recorded use was from the 15th century in Nottingham, and it’s believed to be a variant of the Old English word twichen, which was used in Anglo Saxon charters for a place where two roads met.

Chare
Back up north in Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne they call them chares, and evidence comes from a 13th century map of Gateshead that included the street Potter’s Chare. However, if you head south to Oxfordshire you’ll find the obviously related words tchure, chure and chewer. They’re all probably corruptions of the Old English cierr, meaning turning.

Wynd
And that brings us to Scotland, where they spoke a completely different language for many years and still sound as if they do in some parts of the country. Way up there alleyways are called wynds – pronounced like whined – and the origin might be similar to that of the word wind (as in to twist). Incidentally, narrow boat people talk about ‘winding’ when they turn a boat around. It’s pronounced like the North Wind (doth blow, and we shall have snow, etc) and it takes a bit of getting used to when you first hear it regularly. But that’s yet another glory of the English language!

Bricks

brick wallWhen was the last time you looked at a brick wall? I mean really looked at it. I know what you’re thinking: “Why would I?” Well, there’s a lot more to brickwork than you’d realise. Anyone who has heard the story of the Three Little Pigs knows that bricks create a safe and stable structure in which to live or store goods. But over the millennia of their history they have often been much more than that.

Back in Tudor times bricks were the preserve of the rich. The amount of work involved, in preparing the clay, shaping individual bricks, and firing them, made them an expensive material. Noblemen across England showed off their status by investing in vast brick mansions, often with contrasting-coloured patterns built in.

A few technical terms:

  • Course means a horizontal row of bricks.
  • Diaper work is a pattern of bricks in a different colour from the main body, particularly in the form of a criss-cross design.
  • Bricks have short ends – headers – and long sides – stretchers.
  • The right-angled edges are called arisses.
  • The dent where the mortar goes is called a frog.
  • The brick height is called the gauge. Tudor bricks are typically much shallower gauge than modern ones.
  • Bond is the way in which headers and stretchers are mixed to create the overall pattern.

Bricklaying bonds have changed over the years. For example, modern brickwork tends to be what’s known as stretcher bond, where all the long edges face the front.

This mostly came about because of the advent of double skin houses with a cavity between the two walls. The idea was that an air gap would help insulate the house, because air is a poor conductor of heat. But the popularity of cavity wall insulation a few years ago has shown that wasn’t practical.

Earlier construction used different patterns.

Bricks in alternate courses of headers and stretchers are known as English bond. The wall is, of course, two bricks wide because the headers are twice the length of the stretchers. Other bonds include Flemish, which consists of rows of alternate headers and stretchers, with the headers centred on the mid-point of the stretchers; herringbone; and the very complex rat trap bond, which has half-gauge bricks mixed in.

Tastes of death

At a time when the world is in the grip of a fatal pandemic it might seem a little strange that the Anorak took the one chance a day to go out for exercise and chose a cemetery for a stroll. But think about it. Graveyards are just about the only places where Joe and Josephine Public have the opportunity to leave an enduring mark; some record of their existence. This is written history, albeit rather selective.

Back in the Victorian past headstones were often sombre things – huge, but sombre – but it seems nowadays pretty much anything goes. While a few souls RIP next to a subtle symbol of their lives, others can be distinctly showy. Apparently some people can also be pretty jealous about their space, even after death. Let’s take a stroll around to see what we can discover.

Take this view, for example. Regimented row of headstones, but just look half-way down. Spot the daffodils? And the extra flower vases, inset plaques and bouquets? That’s as sure a way as any of saying “this is my space, keep off”. Of course we have to remember that it’s not the dead doing this. The occupant of the site isn’t getting much say in it. No, what it actually says is: “Don’t walk on my granny!”

Before we go much further it’s worth noting that, as far as possible, recognisable surnames have been obliterated in all these photos. First names have been left in, because these are all people that we’re talking about. But as pointed out above, it’s those left behind who care about such things and they might not like us discussing their friends and family. That’s why we’re not identifying the cemetery either, though a little judicious research might lead you in the right direction.

So the next stop is at this gent’s tomb. Clearly he’s of oriental descent because of the writing, but without more information it’s not clear which country his ancestors were from. As some Chinese families put their surnames first, both have been covered up in this photo. But note the pebble on top of the headstone. That’s generally a Jewish tradition, but mourners from many cultures are known to do it as a way to show they have visited the grave and that they care. Maybe he had a Jewish visitor. We don’t know, but someone said hello. The two statues are interesting.They look like garden ornaments. Perhaps he was a gardener.

We can tell very little about sadly missed Robert except he was only 55 when he died. We know he was a dear husband and son, but there’s no mention of being a father. He was a Derby County fan, however, as the drawing of ‘Rammy’ shows. How big a fan must he have been to want that on his headstone?

 

The name and the inscribed Celtic cross on 57-year-old Kieran’s grave suggest he probably has Irish ancestry. Behind him lies Geoffrey, whose family chose an unusual inscription. Lord of the Dance is, of course, one way to refer to god in some denominations. But it might also mean that Geoffrey was himself a dancer of some renown. Who knows?

This family clearly want to make an impression. All the graves here share the same surname so it’s a fair bet they’re related. One of the headstones has a romanticised version of a gipsy caravan on it, which implies the family might be travellers.

 

 

 

Another stone nearby has elephants on it, so they could even be circus folk. Collin’s surname is different though.

Clearly there are tastes in how the dead are remembered and over the years there have been trends. Graves from earlier dates tend to be more subtle than more modern plots. Shapes have altered, perhaps as the craft of stonemasonry has developed. (Although medieval stonemasons were pretty skilled!) Photographs of the deceased have appeared. Poems fill the stone available. Decorations have become more ornate; less serious. It makes you wonder what’s next. Have you thought about what you want on your own tombstone?

Spanish ‘flu

German graves
German graves

At the time of writing the world is in the grip of a pandemic – Covid 19. People are dying all over the globe and the social, political and economic consequences are huge. But it’s worth remembering this has happened before.

Shortly after the end of the First World War the Spanish ‘Flu swept through a generation who were already decimated by conflict. Unlike Covid 19 the Spanish ‘Flu affected young men most seriously.

Among them were 34 German prisoners of war who were due to be repatriated when they caught the infection. They all died, and are now buried in the cemetery at Castle Donington in Leicestershire. They share a separate peace garden area to one side of the site.

The names of the dead
The names of the dead

2019 news review

 

January
Brexit vote gives Government the biggest defeat in history. (432 to 202)
Four dead in Paris bakery explosion.
Andy Murray faces career decision over hip injury.
Prince Philip escapes injury in car accident.
Police question Prince Philip for not wearing a seatbelt.
Cafe chain Patisserie Valerie collapses.
Footballer Emiliano Sala missing after plane crash.
US temperatures lowest for 108 years.
Lake Michigan frozen.

Bought the farm
Actress Carol Channing, 97.
Poet Mary Oliver, 83.
Actor Windsor Davies, 88.
BBC presenter Dianne Oxberry, 51. (cancer)
Chemist Stewart Adams, 95, developer of ibuprofen.
Footballer Emiliano Sala, 28.   (Plane crash)
Singer James Ingram, 66.

February
Big freeze hits UK.
Snow closes hundreds of schools across Wales and south of England.
Duke of Edinburgh agrees to stop driving.
Equine flu halts racing calendar.
8 MPs quit Labour party over Jeremy Corbyn.
3 Tories follow suit over Brexit ‘no deal’ threat.
Knife crime reaches its highest UK level on record. (Office for National Statistics)
Flybmi blames Brexit for its collapse.
IS schoolgirl Shamima Begum has British citizenship withdrawn.
End of February ‘unseasonably warm’.

Gone beyond
Comedian Jeremy Hardy, 57. (The News Quiz, I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, Jeremy Hardy Speaks to the Nation)  cancer.
Actor Clive Swift, 82. (Keeping up Appearances)
Actor Albert Finney, 82.
Rapper Cadet, 28. (Road accident)
Actor Carmen Argenziano, 75. (Stargate)
Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, 85.
Former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks, 81. (Leicester City, Stoke City, national team)
Dick Churchill, 99. (British RAF squadron leader, last survivor of the Great Escape)
Deputy Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police John Stalker, 79.
Paul Flynn, 84. (MP for Newport West)
Monkee Peter Tork, 77.
Conductor composer André Previn, 89.

March
Ethiopian Airlines crash kills 157.
Boeing 737 Max planes grounded.
House of Commons rejects Theresa May’s Brexit deal again.
Speaker John Bercow says she can’t have a third vote without changing the offer.
An online e-petition calling on the government to revoke Brexit Article 50 reaches 5,000,000 signatures.
A million people march for ‘People’s Vote’ in London.
Theresa May submits a third, updated offer and is rejected again.
Soldier faces prosecution over Bloody Sunday.

Passed on
Mountaineers Tom Ballard, 30 and Daniele Nardi, 42. (Lost on Nanga Parbat)
Actor Luke Perry, 52.
Prodigy singer Keith Flint, 49.
Walker Brother Scott, 76,
Philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock, 94.
Television presenter Magenta Devine, 61, (Rough Guide, Network 7)

April
Brexit row rumbles on.
Ex UKIP leader Nigel Farage launches the Brexit Party.
Climate change action group Extinction Rebellion causes transport chaos in London.
Hottest April day on record (25C)
Huge fire at Notre Dame in Paris.

Joined the choir eternal
John McEnery, 75, British actor
Trainspotting actor Bradley Welsh, 48. (shooting)
Songwriter Les Reed, 83  (It’s Not Unusual, Delilah, The Last Waltz)
CBBC star Mya-Lecia Naylor, 16.
David Winters, 80, English-American actor and choreographer (West Side Story).
Dick Rivers, 74, French rock and roll singer (Les Chats Sauvages), cancer.

May
The Duchess of Sussex gives birth to a son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor.
UK local elections bring gains for Lib Dems and Greens.
Britain gets lowest ever score in Eurovision – then gets five points taken away to finish last.
Calls for PM’s resignation over Brexit.
Jeremy Kyle show suspended after the death of a participant.
Theresa May announces her resignation from the Tory party.
Boris Johnson says he’ll run for Tory party leader.

Kicked the bucket
Broadcaster Brian Walden, 86.
Hollywood legend Doris Day, 97.
Comedian Freddie Starr, 76.
Broadcaster Nan Winton, 93.  First woman to read BBC News on television
Louvre pyramid architect I M Pei, 102.
F1 legend Niki Lauda, 70.
Actor Stephen Thorne, 84. (Z-Cars, Crossroads, Doctor Who)
First BBC woman newsreader Nan Winton, 93.

June
Isle of Lewis chessman found in Edinburgh house.
Liverpool defeat Tottenham Hotspur 2 – 0 in the first all-English UEFA Champions League Final since 2008.
US President Donald Trump pays three-day state visit to the UK.
BBC announces it will end free television licences for over-75s from June 2020.
First person in the UK convicted of illegally manufacturing a firearm using a 3D printer.
Heavy rain causes chaos in UK.
Met Office records hottest June day for 40 years. (34C)
Brexit party sweeps the board in Euro elections.
D-Day 75th anniversary marked with events both sides of the channel.
Theresa May steps down as prime minister.
Massive power failure plunges Argentina and Uruguay into darkness.

Snuffed it
Blake’s 7 actor Paul Darrow, 78.
UK’s oldest person Grace Jones, 112.
Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli, 96.
Jazz musician Dr John, 77.
Actor Bryan Marshall, 81. (The Spy Who Loved Me, Quatermass and the Pit, The Long Good Friday)

July
Big Ben is 160 years old
6.4 earthquake hits California
Warner Brothers Studio fire.
Boris Johnson wins Tory leadership contest to become PM.
Theresa May resigns and Boris Johnson takes over.
“Bloodbath” cabinet reshuffle removes all but five ministers.
5.1 earthquake hits Athens.
11.7 million viewers watch England’s  1 – 2 defeat to USA in the FIFA Women’s World Cup semi final.
Lewis Hamilton wins a record sixth Formula 1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Novak Djokovic (Serbia) beats Roger Federer (Switzerland) in the longest ever Wimbledon final. (4 hours 57 minutes.)

Conked out
Horse racing pundit John McCririck, 79.
Disney star Cameron Boyce, 20. (complications from epilepsy)
Comedy actor Michael Sleggs, 33. (heart failure)
Journalist Christopher Booker, 81. (Sunday Telegraph)
Actress Denise Nickerson, 62. (Violet Beauregarde in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory)
Actor Brendan Grace, 68. (Father Ted)
Actor Freddie Jones, 91. (Emmerdale,  Elephant Man)
Actor Rip Torn, 88. (Men in Black)
Actor Rutger Hauer, 75.
Chaser, 15, American Border Collie with the largest-tested non-human memory.

August
Two mass shootings kill 20 people in a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas and 9 in Dayton Ohio.
Whaley Bridge, Derbyshire evacuated following dam failure.
Six-year-old thrown off Tate Modern by teenager.
Research shows the Milky Way galaxy is warped.
20 hospitals to receive a share of £850m
Whaley Bridge, Furness Vale and New Mills in Derbyshire evacuated when after concrete slabs on Toddbrook Reservoir partially collapse.
Three remaining cooling towers at Didcot power station, Oxfordshire are demolished, hitting an electricity pole and leaving 40,000 homes without power.
Worldwide protests over climate change.100 MPs write to Boris Johnson for a recall of Parliament to debate concerns that the UK faces “a national emergency” over Brexit.
Video of Prince Andrew with sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Hottest late August bank holiday weekend on record

Pushing up daisies
Saoirse Kennedy Hill, Granddaughter of Robert F Kennedy, 22. (Overdosed. (33.3C)
Barrington Pheloung, composer of Inspector Morse theme, 65.
Scottish golfer Gordon Brand Jnr, 60.
Kinks keyboardist Ian Gibbons, 67.
Singer and impressionist Joe Longthorne, 64.
Actor Peter Fonda, 79. (Easy Rider)
Animator and director Richard Williams, 86. (Who Framed 
Roger Rabbit)
Bass guitarist Larry Taylor, 77. (Canned Heat)
Actress Sheila Steafel, 84.
Screenwriter Terrance Dicks, 84. (Doctor Who, Crossroads, Space: 1999)
Actress Valerie Harper, 80. (Mary Tyler Moore Show)

September
Brexit row grinds on.
Pound falls below $1.20 – its lowest since October 2016.
Boris’s brother resigns as an MP.
Boris’s call for a general election in October fails.
Court wrangling over whether proroguing parliament is legal. Supreme Court decides it isn’t.
American woman says she had sex with Prince Andrew as a 17-year-old. He denies it.
Government forced to publish Brexit no-deal contingency plan, Operation Yellowhammer.
Travel company Thomas Cook collapses after 178 years in business.
BBC row over Naga Munchetty reponse to Trump racism.

Gone to meet their maker
Singer Ric Ocasek, 75. (The Cars)
Former Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe, 95.
Former French president Jacques Chirac, 86.
BBC News journalist Hanna Yusuf, 27.
Actress Jean Heywood, 98. (When the Boat Comes In, Our Day Out, Billy Elliot)

October
Office for National Statistics says 726 homeless people died in last year. The highest number on record.
Stabbings in Arndale Centre, Manchester.
London bans Extinction Rebellion protests.
John Bercow resigns.
Grenfell Tower report criticises fire service.

Six feet under
Opera soprano Jessye Norman, 74.
British journalist and broadcaster Peter Sissons, 77.
American actress Diahann Carroll, 84.  (Julia, Dynasty, Claudine)
Actor Stephen Moore, 81. (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
Drummer Ginger Baker, 80. (Cream, Blind Faith)
Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, 85. (Voskhod 2, first person to walk in space.)
Rock singer and guitarist Paul Barrere, 71. (Little Feat)

November
Immediate end to fracking in the UK.
Fracking ban might not be permanent.
18 female MPs say they won’t seek re-election because of threats and abuse.
“Biblical” rainfall levels cause more than 100 flood warnings across the Midlands and northern England.
Mothercare goes bust.
Prince Andrew steps down from public engagements as pressure builds.
Police shoot dead a terrorism suspect on London Bridge. Two others killed and five injured in knife attack.

Had a good innings
TV presenter Gay Byrne, 85. (The Late Late Show)
Actor Ian Cullen, 80. (Z Cars)
Irish actor Niall Tóibín, 89.
Photographer Terry O’Neill, 81.
Actor Michael J Pollard, 80. (Bonnie and Clyde)
Australian-born broadcaster and writer Clive James, 80.
Chef Gary Rhodes, 59.
Theatre director Sir Jonathan Miller, 85.
Shoe designer Terry de Havilland, 81.
Veteran Labour politician Frank Dobson, 79.

December
At least 18 dead after volcano erupts in New Zealand.
General election Tory landslide.
SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon calls for independence referendum.
Climate campaigner Greta Thunberg named Time magazine Person of the Year.
Trump throws his dummy out of the pram.
Last-minute Strictly Come Dancing entrant Kelvin Fletcher lifts the glitter ball trophy.
Australia has hottest days on record, approaching 50C.
Wildfires sweep through Australia.

Code black
Actor Rene Auberjonois, 79. (Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Benson, M.A.S.H.)
Sesame Street‘s Big Bird puppeteer Caroll Spinney, 85.
Australian musician Greedy Smith, 63. (Mental as Anything)
Cricketer Bob Willis, 70.
Rapper Juice Wrld, 21.
Battle of Britain pilot Maurice Mounsdon, 101.
Botanist and naturalist David Bellamy, 86.
The Rev. David Coles, 42. (Partner of Richard Coles, Vicar of Finedon.)
Actor Nicky Henson, 74.
Singer and entertainer Kenny Lynch, 81.
Actor Tony Britton, 95. (Sunday Bloody Sunday, Day of the Jackal)

Iron

Iron figurine from 10 North Street, Cromford, Derbyshire

There are three main types of iron that should be considered: wrought, cast and steel.

Wrought Iron has a melting point of 1535 degrees C so it comes out of the furnace solid and is worked solid. It is hammered into shape and forms a tough finished product. It is good for tools and swords. It has less than 0.3 per cent carbon content.

Cast Iron comes out of the furnace molten and is poured into moulds to make its shape. It is brittle so it does not produce good tools or edged weapons. Often it is used for decorative objects. It has more than 2 per cent carbon. These two forms are dependent on the type of ore available, high-carbon ores will not make good wrought iron. Chinese ores, for example, are useful only for cast iron, which is why there is so much decorative Chinese ironwork.

Steel is a combination of iron and the right amount of carbon – between 0.3 and 2 percent – which makes it particularly tough and flexible. It is capable of holding an edge and is therefore very useful for tools and weapons. It is, however, very difficult to manufacture and involves “cooking” the iron and carbon together for many hours at more than 1100 degrees C.

The “Three Age” history of the introduction of iron in Europe is unique and not reflected anywhere else in the world. In southern Africa, for example, there never was a Bronze Age and the first metal to be used was iron. In North America native copper was hammered into shapes but was never smelted. In Europe the Iron Age followed the Bronze Age but there was no distinct line between the two. Iron was merely an additional metal. It is difficult to form into complex shapes, unlike bronze, and it corrodes easily so it was not a suitable material for all uses. By the 2nd millennium BCE a few iron items were in circulation, such as pins and awls but around 1100 BCE the metal took off in a big way. It appeared throughout the near east, Europe and Britain almost simultaneously.

There are two sources of iron – meteoric iron is extremely rare and can be identified by its high nickel content, iron ores are naturally occurring in the earth’s crust.  Ores appear as oxides and sulphides; both are commonly available. Iron ore is rarely pure so there are almost always other constituents in any iron item. Unfortunately it is impossible to assign chemical “signatures” to European ores because they vary so much, so the inclusions are not useful for sourcing raw materials used in archaeological artefacts.

Thanks to Prof Elizabeth Slater (RIP), head of department at the University of Liverpool school of archaeology for clear lectures on artefacts and materials. J M Cronyn’s Elements of Archaeological Conservation has also been consulted.

Búkolla and the Boy

(This tale was told by tour guide Hafsteinn during a coach trip round the Golden Circle in Iceland at Christmas 2004. A version of it can also be found in Icelandic Folk and Fairy Tales by May and Hallberg Hallmundsson, first published 1987 by Iceland Review, Reykjavik)

Once upon a time, as all stories start, there was a peasant and his wife who lived on the Thingvellir plain. They were not very rich but they had a very strong and beautiful cow, whose name was Búkolla because that is a good name for cows in Iceland. Now Búkolla was their pride and joy. They also had a son but they did not love him so much.

One day Búkolla went missing and the peasant and his wife were beside themselves with worry. They said to the boy: “You had better go and find the cow and don’t come back until you do. If you cannot find her, don’t come back at all.”  They gave him some food and two pairs of shoes, because his own were made of fish skin and were not good for walking, and he set off across the plain to look for the cow.

He walked and walked and eventually became tired so he sat down on a rock to rest. He ate some food and he changed his shoes and then he shouted: “Búkolla, Búkolla! If you can hear me, please moo!” And far away in the very distance he heard the sound: “Moo!” of the precious Búkolla. So he walked towards the sound.

He walked and walked and again became tired so he sat down on a rock to rest. He ate some more food and changed his shoes and then he shouted: “Búkolla, Búkolla! If you can hear me, please moo!” And slightly closer he heard the sound: “Moo!” of the precious Búkolla. So he walked towards the sound.

He walked and walked and again became tired so he sat down again on a rock to rest. He ate some more food and changed his shoes again and then he shouted: “Búkolla, Búkolla! If you can hear me, please moo!” And this time, right under his feet, he heard the sound: “Moo!” of the precious Búkolla.  And he called out: “Búkolla, where are you?” and the cow replied, because this is a fairy tale and animals can talk in fairy tales: “I’m in a cave.”

So the boy searched and found the entrance to the cave and when he went in he immediately saw that it was the home of trolls. Búkolla was tied to the wall so the boy quickly undid the rope and led her outside but he had not gone far before he looked behind and saw two female trolls, a little one and a big one, following along.  He could see that the two trolls would soon catch them up so he said: “Búkolla, Búkolla. What shall we do?” And Búkolla said: “Pull a hair from my tail and place it on the ground.” This the boy did and Búkolla stood over the hair and said: “I cast this spell upon the hair that it should become a river so wide that only a bird of the air could cross it.” And immediately a huge, wide river appeared between the boy and the trolls.

The smaller troll was angry when she saw the river but the larger troll said: “Go back and fetch our father’s bull.” So the little one went and fetched the bull and the bigger one made it drink the river dry so that they could cross it.

The boy and Búkolla had not gone far again when he looked behind and saw the large troll and the small troll following along. He could see that the two trolls would soon catch them up so he said: “Búkolla, Búkolla. What shall we do?” And Búkolla said: “Pull a hair from my tail and place it on the ground.” This the boy did and Búkolla stood over the hair and said:  “I cast this spell upon the hair so that it should become a fire so hot that only a bird of the air could cross it.”  And immediately a hot line of fire appeared between the boy and the trolls.

The smaller troll was angry when she saw the fire but the larger troll said: “Go back and fetch our father’s bull.” So the little one went and fetched the bull and the bigger one made it piss on the fire so that it was put out and they could cross it.

The boy and Búkolla had not gone far again when he looked behind and saw the large troll and the small troll following along. He could see that the two trolls would soon catch them up so he said: “Búkolla, Búkolla. What shall we do?” And Búkolla said: “Pull a hair from my tail and place it on the ground.” This the boy did again and Búkolla stood over the hair and said:  “I cast this spell upon the hair so that it should become a mountain so high that only a bird of the air could cross it.”  And immediately a tall mountain appeared between the boy and the trolls.

The smaller troll was angry when she saw the mountain but the larger troll said: “Go back and fetch our father’s drill.” So the little one went and fetched the drill and the bigger one started to make a tunnel through the mountain and the two began to go through. But trolls are not very clever and they did not realise that the tunnel got narrower at the far end and the two soon became stuck. And when the sun came out it shone into the hole and turned the trolls to stone.  So there they are still today.

The boy and Búkolla got safely home where the peasant and his wife were delighted to see their cow. But they still didn’t care for the boy very much.

Eyam – the plague village

In 1665 a bolt of cloth was delivered from London to the Derbyshire village of Eyam. The cloth was damp, and it was infested with plague carrying fleas.

Within days residents were dying, and the village took the courageous decision to cut itself off from the rest of the world to prevent the disease from spreading.

By November the next year 260 of the villages had died – but no-one outside the village had contracted the plague.

Only one of the victim is buried in the churchyard – the vicar’s wife. The rest were buried around the village, in their gardens and away from the centre, in a bid to stop the disease from spreading.

The nursery rhyme Ring a Ring a Roses is believed to have been inspired by the plague. It describes the symptoms – red blisters and sneezing – and the posies of flowers that people carried to ward off the illness.  The perfume of flowers was believed to protect you from infection – just one of the strange ideas of the time.

Others included walnuts steeped in wine; barberries (fruit of the berberis) dried, powdered, then mixed with vinegar; or stripping the feathers from the tail of a pigeon and rubbing the bare skin on the red sores. The pigeon died in the process!