I am very happy to announce that I have a new series on life in medieval England out on the History Hit online channel. It is four episodes focusing on peasants, guilds, clergy, and the nobility, respectively. If you would like to watch more than the trailer here you can find it at https://access.historyhit.com/checkout. If you subscribe you get a 30 day free trial (£5.99 a month thereafter). I also have another episode on there about medieval London.
I want you to know that I hate Daylight Savings. I began writing this blog on Monday, when I was cruelly forced from bed an early hour for nebulous reasons, none of which I find particularly compelling. How, pray tell, am I meant to entertain and delight you, my very beloved readers when I have had a precious hour of my life stolen from me? Truly, no one in history has suffered as I now currently suffer by virtue of being slightly sleepy. Now we can all agree that time is a construct and obviously that a delicate flower such as myself should not be held in such constraints, but I suppose it is also an opportunity to think of the reasons that we keep time.
This week, I was very pleasantly alerted to the world of AI generated pickup lines via the medium of Janelle Shane’s substack. There were any number of beautiful, bonkers, lines from, “Hey, my name is John Smith. Will you sit on my breadbox while I cook or is there some kind of speed limit on that thing?” to “I’m losing my voice from all the screaming your hotness is causing me to do.” I was, however, struck by the very good pickup line by one AI called Babbage which was heard to remark, “You’re looking good today. Want snacks?” and I am still in awe.
Anyway, I was posting away about my now blossoming relationship with Babbage over on twitter when Kara wrote to ask me to write something about pickup lines in the medieval period, and I will be damned if that is not a great idea. Don’t we all deserve a little light diversion on a Friday in the midst of all of the pandemic, ships stuck in the Suez canal, and police brutality? So, here is one for Kara.
Here in London we are currently a bit of turmoil. The other day a woman named Sarah Everard was walking home across Clapham Common and she didn’t make it. A metropolitan police officer has been arrested for her kidnap and murder and we are all pretty mad about it, understandably. A vigil in her honour the other day was violently broken up by the police, and we subsequently have been protesting, having the cops come in and do some inappropriately violent policing, rinse, repeat.
When you are in my line of work, well firstly, you don’t have any. (Zing! LOL, help, join my Patreon.) Secondly you spend a bunch of time fighting against the myths about a thousand years of history or so that we have created to feel better about ourselves. One of the really rampant myths that I deal with on a regular basis is about life expectancy in the medieval period. What gets trotted out, over and over, is the idea that “the average life expectancy in the medieval period was 35, so when you were 32 you were considered an old”. Friends, this is extremely not true, and this myth is also damaging to us now. Allow me to elaborate.
I wrote a piece, years back at the beginning of the Trump administration about the difference between journalism -wherein facts are both reported and various narratives scrutinised to a larger public- and chronicles, a sort of narrative timeline wherein various theoretically important events occur. This week I have been thinking about this again, as well as the general public’s relationship to how we transmit information, given a fairly chilling announcement from the UK government.
It is snowing in London, and just cold enough that a slight dusting has stuck to side streets and car roofs. In Prague the snow is coming down thick, and pictures of my old neighbourhood in the snow are making me a bit teary and resentful of all the travelling I cannot do. Snow in Europe shouldn’t be particularly newsworthy, but in a post climate change world these things are remarkable. Sitting as I am, in a medieval city (well, technically in a village just outside of the city, but still), and being who I am as a person, I have been thinking about winter and weather in the medieval period, and how its changes influenced society writ large.
Because of who I am at a fundamental level I have a new podcast with a mate of mine called We’re Not So Different where we will be intermittently discussing the ways that our lives and society is not that different to those of people in the past. Come hang out with Luke and I while we clear up common misconceptions about the medieval period and talk about the regular lives of boring people. It’s fun, I swear.