Of murders and mayhem…

The Roman Empire. 350AD. Constantine’s legacy is being fought over by his three sons. The new state religion, Christianity, is fumbling to find its feet, as civil war rages across the known world.

Ancient Rome – the setting for my forthcoming novel. Forthcoming, as in: conception has occurred, but I’ve barely reached the end of the first month of the first trimester. And considering conception occurred a few years back, it will most likely be a number of years before the ‘possibly-getting-close-to-being-published-now’ stage. And yes, I feel guilty about that. In our instant society, it seems as though to take your time over something is an indication of something being ‘wrong with you’. Which is sad, I think. (But possibly accurate in my case, anyway!) But it’s true though – how often do modern writers produce at least a novel a year – or if not, then one every few years? Actors are known for what films they have released, and how regularly they work – musicians, too. In fact, I would say that most industries are the same, as it’s a symptom of the time, not of the media. We’re an instant, output-based world now, and the days of a novelist spending years if not decades agonising over a manuscript, are long gone. Which is a pity. But still…

This post is the first of four on ‘places I want to visit prior to death or rapture’. D’Oh! Can’t visit Ancient Rome. Bumma! So I guess modern Rome will have to do. And once there, I guess I’ll just have to do the touristy thing and visit all those places where the ‘Ancient Rome’ has been preserved. Further research on my novel. I want to walk where Theophilus walked and see what he saw. Maybe not smell what he smelled, exactly, but at least be able to imagine it!

So why Ancient Rome, exactly? Well, I first fell in love with the historical novel when I spent many an hour with Brother Cadfael as a teenager. Being half-Welsh myself, I felt a connection with Ellis Peters’ creation, and developed a fascination with her ability to conjure character profiles and detailed storylines from historical figures and factual events. And Rome of 350AD? Well, I’m a Christian. And for almost a decade now, I’ve been interested in the Hebrew Roots of my faith, and the growth of the ‘Church’ in the West, particularly from the time of Constantine onwards.

So yes, that’s why Ancient Rome – or Rome, at least – makes the list of Top 4 places to visit. Tomorrow’s destination is closer to home. Well – it’s in Australia, anyway. So stay tuned, dear readers, and have a lovely rest-of-the-day!

 

Okay, okay. We get the picture now.

I can’t recall coming across many sarcastic songs. But I think I’ve just realised, at the age of 36, that “The Twelve Days of Christmas” which I had always thought of as a beautiful love song, is one such song. Over the past twelve days, I’ve looked at each and every gift, making comment on the meaning behind the gift, and the possible intention of the giver – the so-called ‘True Love’.

Initially, I was impressed at his pragmatism. He gave gifts that showed his understanding of the real world. That relationships need practicality too. The partridge and pear tree, both edible, came before the two turtle doves – symbols of devoted love. Hens and more edible birds followed.

As the days went past, the ‘True Love’s organisational skills impressed me. Not only was he able to source some pretty interesting gifts (geese that always laid, swans known for their singing ability) but he also managed to get a LOT of them. Six geese per day, since Day 6, means (let’s see my maths skills in action again, shall we…) that today we now stand at 42 geese. Seven swans per day since day 7 means 42 of them too. That’s a lot, in my opinion. Finding them, purchasing them and organising them all to arrive on the exact day that they were needed, would have been a task-and-a-half as well, I’d say.

But then the sheer enormity of her household started making more and more of an impression. By Day 8 we were adding people. Milkmaids (with cows, I’m assuming), then ladies dancing, then leaping lords (which again would have been a difficult find!). And finally yesterday, we added musicians. Eleven bagpipers would certainly add to the cacophony.

All of which led to my change in opinion. From incredulity, to suspicion. (Okay, I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, I’ll admit it. Took me til Day 11.) With that much noise, I’m now of the opinion that his intentions may actually have been the opposite of what I had originally thought. I’m starting to think that he may not have been particularly fond of the singer – rather, he wanted to give her a mental breakdown. My proof? Circumstantial, I admit it, but still. Today’s gift is drummers. Twelve of them. All drumming. What’s the bet that they don’t just perform one song?! So by now, we have… 12 drummers, 22 bagpipers, 30 lords flirting with 27 dancing ladies and 40 milkmaids (and I’m guessing, at LEAST 40 cows), 42 swans, 42 geese, 40 pheasants, 36 blackbirds, 30 hens, 22 turtle doves, 12 partridges and 12 pear trees (well… at least they’re quiet!)

Now I don’t know about you, but that to me sounds as though he has had a bit of an agenda, and disguised it with supposed kindness. Sneaky. Underhanded. Not the nicest person you’d want to be your ‘True Love’. So all in all, I’m left feeling rather disappointed. I hadn’t expected that this process would end up as a bit of a downer. Sorry, folks.

On a happier note though, I must admit that I’m very glad I joined in this #blog12daysxmas challenge. I had expected it to be a more difficult task, blogging each day, than it was. Maybe it was easier due to holidays, or something, but now that I’ve started, I’ve decided to continue blogging. And I like the idea of using a ‘list’ on which to structure my writing. @haikugirlOz gave me the idea, actually, tweeting about Wilsons Promenade – a place I’d love to go to, but haven’t. (Yet!) So that’s my plan. Starting tomorrow, I’ll work through the Top 4 places I’d like to visit one day, and why. Stand tuned for Ancient Rome, this time tomorrow! Have a lovely rest-of-the-day, dear readers!!!

O Danny boy…

The pipes, the pipes are calling… For today’s gift, the second last, the true love adds eleven pipers to his collection of partridge, pear tree, two turtle doves, three hens, four blackbirds, five pheasants, six geese, seven swans, eight milkmaids (and accompanying cows), nine ladies, and ten lords. Just what I’d need, were I her. Imagine the ruckus, the sheer density of sound assaulting your ears on a minute-by-minute basis. Add in the sound of a bagpipe or eleven. Wow. Pretty insane.

I have suffered from the odd headache (or several) in my life. Actually, that’s a bit of a massive understatement. I used to get headaches very frequently. A stress thing, combined with a LOT of lack-of-sleep thing. At one stage, my daily dose of panadol stood at 8. For days (actually, more like weeks) on end. Then I went and had acupuncture on my shoulders / upper back / neck, for a pulled muscle. About three weeks later, I realised that I hadn’t touched the panadol packet for ages, and worked out that my last tablet was the day of the acupuncture. So you’re reading the words of someone COMPLETELY sold on the benefits of needles. Just so you know.

Anyway, I would say that the singer may also need some pampering after being around all this noise. I’ve listened to someone playing the bagpipes close up, and it was loud. Ever heard that joke, “Why do bagpipers march when playing? To get away from the noise!” Well, I get that. But to have eleven pipers close by, and presumably standing still? Well, I’d be hoping that the tune they were playing was a short one. With no encores.

I know… that’s pretty harsh, and it sounds as though I’m not too fond of the bagpipe and its resulting sounds. Well, I’ll admit to the harshness, but I’ll negate the opinion. I actually love the sound of a bagpipe. But eleven may be too many. And when that gets included to the bird calls, the cows lowing, 32 milkmaids nattering with 27 dancers and all of them flirting with the 20 lords, I’d say the resulting noise would be fairly cacophonic. Makes me wonder why the true love was sending them. (And tomorrow we’re going to get drummers added to the mix?!) Maybe we’ve got it all wrong, and he wasn’t devoted to her at all? Rather, he wanted to break up and was devoted to the idea of sending her insane? Hmmm…

Oh well. Let’s see what tomorrow brings. Have a lovely rest-of-the-day!

Ten Lords a-leaping?

A bit of a disclaimer for starters: I am NOT a Maths teacher. In fact, I’m pretty hopeless at Maths, failing it as a subject from Semester Two of Year Ten, onwards. So, although it is rather embarrassing to admit the error in my tally yesterday (there should have been 16 milkmaids by Day Nine, not 8!) it’s no surprise. Expect more of the same, when it comes to anything numerical. And sorry about that, folks!

Still an’ all – the idea I was trying to get across was just how insanely full the singers house was getting. I postulated that the sheer number of birdlife, plus the milkmaids and their accompanying cows, was the reason behind not only the ladies needing to dance (quickstep around the others!) but also why the ten Lords today (and the ten tomorrow, and then the ten of the final day’s worth of gift) all need to be gifted in leaping. Let’s face it – there’s probably very little floor space left!

But back to today’s gift; ten Lords a-leaping. I’m not sure what the word ‘Lord‘ conjures up in your mind. In mine, (besides the ‘LORD’, as in, the one whose birthday season we’re blogging about!) I think of a Lord from dear Old England. One of those sedate, stately figures who are seen to always be ‘in control’ of their expression, their behaviour, even their thoughts. Austen’s ‘Mr Darcy‘ springs to mind, and others of his ilk. So when I try to picture even just ONE of these Lordly figures leaping, the incongruity jumps up and slaps me in the face. I mean – seriously – when EVER would you catch sight of a Lord ‘leaping’? Hmmm…???! (Let alone TEN of them! And don’t forget there’s going to be 30 by the end of the gift!)

So now I’m thinking that today’s gift is a truly remarkable one in its rarity. I’m thinking that it must have been incredibly difficult for the True Love to find. A very difficult challenge he set himself, to prove his love. Wow. I’m a little taken aback, aren’t you? Surprised by the depth of his commitment. Heck – I’m brand new to this ‘blogging’ bit, using #blog12daysxmas as my incentive, and I can’t even blog for ten days straight without submitting yesterday’s just before bed. And here he is sourcing all these birds, cows, people (and rare ones, too!) every single day?!! (And I thought I was organised. He must have been planning this for about a year! He had probably bought out all the swans in Europe by now!)

Anyway, just thought I’d share with you my incredulity today. Have a lovely one, and I’ll meet you back here tomorrow, same time, same place, ready for Day 11’s gift…

Nine ladies dancing…

By now, there would be a lot of birds at the singer’s house. Just a quick tally tells us that there would be: 9 partridges, 16 turtle doves, 21 hens, 24 colly birds, 25 pheasants, 25 geese and 21 swans. There would also be at least one cow (although it’s more likely that there would be AT LEAST eight of them!) and eight milkmaids. So – to today’s gift. Let’s just add nine ladies, shall we? And yes, they’ll probably have to dance just to get around all the others! (Although that’s not entirely true. The 21 swans should be in the lake, you’d think. The requirement was that they be excellent swimmers…) And perhaps that’s why the lords coming tomorrow need to be skilled in leaping?! Hehe! Still, it’s an interesting household to ponder.

Speaking of pondering, I’m going to continue this thought with my head on my pillow. It’s been a long one today, and I’m exhausted. Sunburnt too, which makes it more pronounced, I think. Sorry it’s a short one today, dear readers.

See you tomorrow!

 

Wouldn’t it be nice…

… to win a million! (How ‘bout that 31 million last night?! But bummed I didn’t win it. Oh well.) What would YOU do with that much money?

Me? Well, after the mortgage and paying off the vehicles, credit cards, etc and donations to worthy charities (not forgetting my bank account, of course!) I must admit that one of the first things I would do is to get a housecleaner. I quite despise cleaning. Sad, and very un-motherly, un-wifely and all the rest, but very very true. So to be given, like the singer, eight maids, would probably be a dream come true. (Although I wonder. If I had eight today, eight tomorrow, eight the days after etc until I had 40 of them, would that be 39-odd too many?!) And are ‘milk’ maids different from ‘normal’ maids?

Hmmm… what do they do when they’ve finished milking? Go on to the next cow, or bludge for the rest of the day?! (Heck, with 40 of them, there’s almost enough for them to form a union on me!!) And does the cow or cows come supplied WITH each maid? Because if not, there’s not a whole heap for them to do. After all, the singer mentions nothing about her true love supplying the cows as well…?

Interesting concept, to be defined by what you do. It’s something I’ve been mulling over for the last little while. You see, for the last month, I’ve been ‘unemployed’. As in, no certainty of what paid work I’ll end up with this year. (I finished up at both Coolum Beach Christian College and Glasshouse Country Christian College in the first week of December, deciding that I needed a three-day-a-week job with ONE employer, rather than two-and-a-half days over two employers.) It’s the first time in 15 years that I’ve had no real inkling of what my future entailed. I have a B.Ed degree, so I guess that makes me a ‘teacher’ – but if a teaching job is not what I end up with this year, should I still be defined by my degree? I’m studying a M.IT majoring in Library / Information Services, and would LOVE a job in the LIS field somewhere – but again, should that be my identifier? I’m a wife, a mother, I run the goodoldtalk.com website, and hubby and I are the QLD distributors for Mosquito Magnet machines – so what, exactly, should I choose to define myself by?

It’s a pity, but I guess it’s the way society works. People are defined by what they do. These eight maids are known by the fact that they milk. Me? Well, I am known for… hmmm…

Dear readers, I will let you make up your own minds. (Feel free to let me know your opinion, by the way. And of course, any offers of employment are also extremely welcome hehe!) Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you all tomorrow. Have your dancing shoes ready!

 

Seven swimming swans (make sure they’re swimming now, mind!)

Well, today spells the last of the bird gifts. Some interpretations of the meaning behind the song state that each gift represented something special for each month. Meaning that the swans would have been a gift for the seventh month. July. (Although I’ve also heard that October used to be year’s end, just a few hundred years ago, so maybe the seventh month for the ‘true love’ and his ‘singer’ wasn’t the same as the seventh month for us? I wonder…)

Anyway, why swans? Unlike the partridge, the hens, the ‘rings’ (pheasants) and the geese, they’re probably not edible – well, they’re not known for it, are they?! So maybe, like the turtle doves, they were included for aesthetic reasons, instead. (Their swimming abilities, methinks?! Hehe!) And I never quite decided why those Colly birds were included on Day 4, did I? Oh well… Swans, for me, remind me of that Fairy Tale “The Ugly Duckling”. I loved that story. The duckling had so much to be bitter about, but wasn’t. Something to aspire to!

Interestingly enough, that was one of the DVD’s I played for my kids in our long drive home, late last night. (Yes, we’re no longer flooded in – yay! As of yesterday, 4am, we were still on the “island” of 1770 / Agnes Waters, but by 6 had sneakily crossed over to Miriam Vale, by midday were doing a reccy of Gin Gin, and by 4pm had made it through Gin Gin and headed home. Twas a very late night, but SO worth the huge drive just to get to dry clothes and mud-free sheets!)

But back to the song. It looks like tomorrow’s on to the people. Maybe the ‘singer’ told the ‘true love’ that she’d had enough of birds?! But that, I guess, is a ponder for another time.

See you tomorrow, folks!

So it’s half a dozen geese today

So now it’s geese. Bigger birds, this time. And laying ones. (Hmmm… was that ‘Goose that laid the golden egg’ fable was around when this song was first created, by any chance?) But that brings us to six days of birds, with one more to go. Interesting, really. And I wonder if this song is the first example of when birds were associated with Christmas?

Never had geese. My only experience with them was a couple of years back, when my next-door neighbour had a small flock of them, half a dozen or so, visit her back verandah and swimming pool area. Being in her mid-60’s, she was powerless to drive them away. So there they stayed, all afternoon, apparently making the most horrendous noises, until their owner came home from work that evening, realised they were missing, and collected them. She didn’t mind too much – but wasn’t particularly impressed when she realised their deposits had stained her concrete. “They must do acid poos!” she kept on saying. We both just laughed.

No – my experiences are with ducks. As a kids, Dad brought home two of the cutest little ducklings for us one day. These two soft and fluffy creatures were quickly joined by another two (seriously – who could resist that softness?!) and we kids had fun making dams for our ducklings in the backyard. Another one joined them, and then two drakes, so we ended up with seven large white ducks within just a few months. Which was wonderful fun. Well, up until the drakes (Donald and Bilbo, from our interests at the time: Disney and Tolkien) learned how to nip at our ankles – and then, nip at any other part of our bodies they could reach. Hoo boy – then we were in for it! We quickly built a pen for them. And when they got out, there was a lot of squawking trying to get them back in! (From both two-legged species, let me tell you!) Still… they are some good memories. (Glad I’ve decided to bring my kids up with hens, though. Much safer than ducks!)

Well, I guess geese provide good meals. Both in eggs and in meat. And seven of them! For the next five days?!! That’s a lot of geese. A lot of noise. And a lot of acid poo!

Til tomorrow, folks!

(Oh, and if you’re interested, we’ve been able to re-supply with more fuel this morning, and milk too. Yay! Hopefully enough for another few days, at least…)

gold = yet more birds??! You’re kidding, right?

So what’s with all these birds? According to the ever trustworthy Wikipedia, “The fifth day’s gift of gold rings refers not to jewellry but to ring-necked birds such as the ring-necked pheasant; or to “five goldspinks” – a goldspink being an old name for a Goldfinch.” The entry then goes on to say “When these errors are corrected, the pattern of the first seven gifts all being birds is restored.” So again, I ask you – what’s with all these birds? Hmmm…?

So yes, that was a bit of news for me. I had always thought that the ‘golden rings’ were just that. Gold rings. So finding out this next bit of trivia didn’t surprise me in the slightest:

The ‘Christmas Price Index’…

“Since 1984, the cumulative costs of the items mentioned in the song have been used as a tongue-in-cheek economic indicator. This custom began with and is maintained by PNC Bank. Two pricing charts are created, referred to as the Christmas Price Index and The True Cost of Christmas. The former is an index of the current costs of one set of each of the gifts given by the True Love to the singer of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The latter is the cumulative cost of all the gifts with the repetitions listed in the song. The people mentioned in the song are hired, not purchased. The total costs of all goods and services for the 2010 Christmas Price Index is $23,439. The original 1984 cost was $12,623.10.”

In 2009, this article was written: “Making one’s true love happy will cost a whopping $87,403 this year… according to the latest cost analysis of the items in the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

That’s the grand total for the single partridge in a pear tree to the 12 drummers drumming, purchased repeatedly as the song suggests, according to the annual “Christmas Price Index” compiled by PNC Wealth Management.

Jim Dunigan, managing executive of investment for PNC Wealth Management… has been calculating the cost of Christmas since 1984. And the reason for the increase in 2009? He writes, “The main driver behind the higher cost is that the price of gold has increased 43 percent, bringing the five gold rings up $150 to $500.” Ha! I was not alone in my misconceptions then!

Still, for the gift to be 5 more birds – I guess the singer must be fond of eating bird meat?! I must confess – all birds, to me, taste like chicken. Hehe!

See you tomorrow, folks! (P.S. The rain seems to be stopping. The Laundromats all have queues out the doors, the bread’s all gone, and the local servo’s run out of petrol, but there’s hope that maybe we’ll get to something other than longlife milk yet!!!)

 

Birds making the meal…

I guess blackbirds must be good for something. I wonder why the ‘true love’ wanted to give the singer four of them though?

(I should probably state upfront that whenever I think of blackbirds, I think of crows. And I don’t like crows. I mean – who does? When I lived in Brisbane and studied for my B.Ed. at Griffith, there were simply hundreds of the creatures at the MtGravatt campus. They were more obvious in the late afternoons, when the student population had decreased for the day, picking scraps out of the rubbish bins and making a horrible mess. Large creatures they were, too. But apparently I’m wrong. Crows aren’t blackbirds.)

Instead, blackbirds are, again, birds used for food – just as the partridges and hens were. The ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’ nursery rhyme confirmed this. They’re quite a bit smaller than the crows I mistook them for though – which I guess is why you’d need 24 of them in a pie! They also form strong pairing relationships, so they fit in with the ‘devoted love’ theme of the song. Aww.

So back to my original question. Why four? Because you’d need that many for a reliable meal? Maybe so. Food is something at the forefront of my mind at the moment. Not just because it’s Christmas, but because I find myself for the first time, flooded in, and in a situation where we have a limited food supply for the foreseeable future. So for those of you believe in it, I’d love a few prayers sent heavenwards, to stop this rain so we can get some more food!!!

Anyway, best go. Nappies need changing and breakfast needs giving. Have a lovely day, everyone! Til tomorrow and its five gold “rings”!