Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Three Minutes Forty-nine – Our Value as Writers by Paul Andruss –


Another post from the archives of Paul Andruss here on Smorgasbord… and this week he leaves us with some questions… about the financial aspects of our writing, professional and peer group opinions of our writing, and where our efforts place us in terms of writer vs. author status.

Something to think about………

Three Minutes Forty-nine by Paul Andruss

    I am Spartacus!
                                                No, I am Spartacus!
                                                                                         No, I’m Spartacus!

(The entirely fictional finale to the 1960 Universal film Spartacus)

While watching something on YouTube, probably a pop video if the title is anything to go by, I was struck by a comment that said…

‘Thank you for the upload. Your reward is I have given you three minutes and forty nine seconds of my life.’

You can imagine my reaction. I cannot abide arrogance in anyone, except me.

Then I got thinking. They had a point. One, as authors, we should bear in mind. Everything we read costs time. And time is irreplaceable.

In case you think I refer to time in some nebulous way as in ‘I gave you the best years of my life you bastard!’ Let me say, it is quite easy to put a cash value on time. The Government did. They called it the minimum living wage.

In the UK in 2018 this is £7.50. Although it varies state by state, the United States federal rate is $7.25. Bear in mind $7.25 at current exchange rates is £5.35. Citizens of the richest country in the world you are being robbed!

Hand on heart how many of you are worth the national minimum wage?

Or are your worth more?

Given most of you are authors, are you worth as much as what Dan Brown or JK Rowling clear in an hour?

Obviously, at least twice that much; that goes without saying. But to get a realistic figure, let’s look at the price of a proofreading service.

Proofreading costs £5.00 per 1,000 words.

The average person reads 200 words a minute.

That neatly works out at £1.00 or $1.35 a minute, or £60.00 or $80 per hour.

As authors, if you could set your own hourly rate would you consider that reasonable recompense for your labours?

If so what the about compensation for your readers’ time?

What price would you put on that?

I timed it. This article has cost you 6 minutes 30 seconds of your life, or in cash terms £6.50 or $8.78.

The $64,000 question is…

Do we, as writers, give value for money?

I have read on numerous blogs we need to write every day to exercise our writing muscle. And with a proviso I agree. In theory practice makes for better writing.

O, the proviso?

Glad you asked.

It only works if you extend and explore your craft. Writing out a hundred times a day ‘I must become a better writer does not make a better writer.

A muscle develops by increasing the demands put on it. If after a few weeks you are doing exactly the same exercise routine, your muscles cease to improve. Why should the writing muscle be different?

People doing physically demanding work do not have the bodies of Greek gods or goddesses. Their muscles are small and dense. They are restricted, even dwarfed by repetition. And in the end they are crippled by it.

Even if writing the same piece every day did make you a better writer, one must wonder would it make the product worth reading?

Every time we write we cannot wait to publish, and hear our adoring fans go ga-ga. Do we never stop to think that as writers we are judged solely on our writing quality? Is it not better to leave it a couple of days and review before publishing? During those days our subconscious quietly beavers away, streamlining arguments and developing new insights.

Rest and review might turn something so-so into a right little gem. Finally before hitting the publish-button we need to ask: Are we saying something that need not be said at all?

Writing is our product: our brand. Experts say the best way to expand a brand is word-of-mouth marketing. If we write well, people like our product. When they recommend us to friends, our brand grows. Conversely if we fail engage due to overkill, or poor, dull work, they stop reading us. Success is entirely in our hands. There is no second chance to make a first impression.

Self-publishing and blogging has blurred the difference between a writer and an author so both appear synonymous. They are not.

Author is a profession. Authors were paid writers. Writers simply wrote. It was irrelevant whether it was poems, stories, or a diary. Even famous diarists like Samuel Pepys and Ann Frank never meant for their words to be read publically. You wrote for yourself until published.

In the days of traditional publishing the difference between author and writer was clear cut.

The publishing process defined it. The writer became an author in stages when…

The manuscript was accepted by an agent based on their professional opinion of its quality and commercial appeal.

The agent approached publishers; one of whom accepted the work based the same criteria.

The manuscript underwent proofreading and editorial development before the author received back the final proofs for checking prior to publication.

Books were sold.

Money exchanged hands.

And voila, you were an author.

It was a long and often fraught journey for both sides. In an over-crowded and competitive marketplace, agents and publishers relentlessly pushed the writer to produce professional standard work.

Agents and publishers might love literature, but primarily they are in business to make money. There were consequences should standards drop. Publishers went bankrupt. If agents could not provide commercial writers they lost their reputation and publishers’ good will.

The problem with self-publishing and blogging is the lack of such external quality controls.
A proof reader will pick up typos, spelling and grammar. But how many can afford to pay a professional proof-reader £400 for 80,000 words. To keep the maths simple 80,000 words is roughly a 300 page novel.

Quality substantive editing costs about £45 or $60 an hour with the editor working at 1 to 6 pages per hour: a 300 page book (at 6 pages per hour) costs £2,200 or $3,000. Intensive developmental editing at £60 or $80 for 2 to 5 pages per hour equals £3,500 or $4,800.

These prices are for experienced professionals. Exceptional editors are like gold dust.

They should probably share writing credits with the author. Yet authors’ relationships with editors are often problematic. Gore Vidal complained his editor removed 4 chapters of his best-selling historical novel Creation. Vidal put back the 4 offending chapters once the rights reverted to him and he negotiated a new deal for the reprint.

As independent authors can we entirely trust any editor we pay, to work in our interest; not their own? Would an editor forfeit a lucrative fee by telling the unvarnished truth? Or would they diplomatically pocket the cash and salvage what they were able in the time allowed; pretty certain the book will never be traditionally published. They know you are not in a position to critique their work unless you pay for another editor.

We writers often rely on peer review. What is peer review but the opinion of a number of people in exactly the same boat as us? There is something to be said for a dozen beta readers highlighting the same problem. But what if they see different problems and suggest conflicting changes?

In the end, it is for you, the writer, to develop critical faculties so as to be able to ruthlessly and dispassionately assess your own work. Examine everything you read, emulate the good and learn from the bad. Listen to people you trust, based on nothing but on your opinion of them as writers. Always ask yourself:

Does the new piece enhance your brand as an aspiring author?

Would you pay £5 or $6.75 per 1,000 words to read it if someone else wrote it?

I have never been paid for writing.

I hold my hands up. I am a writer: not an author.

I am Spartacus

What about you?

Are you Spartacus too?

©Paul Andruss 2018

About Paul Andruss.

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks

You can find all of Paul’s previous posts and gardening column in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/paul-andruss-myths-legends-fantasy-and-gardening/

Thank you for dropping in today and as always please leave your questions and comments for Paul… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from my Archives – Smorgasbord Writer in Residence – #Coffee – A Noxious Concoction by Paul Andruss


Paul Andruss shares myths, legends and things we take for granted… in a unique and illuminating manner.. today he expresses himself on the subject of coffee… (Sorry could not resist)…. Over to you Paul…

Coffee – A Noxious Concoction

Coyotescoffee.ca

It is almost inconceivable to think once upon a time coffee was viewed in much the same way we view hard drugs, and disparaged using much the same language.

Surprised?

Curious?

Grab yerself a cup a joe and dive in.

The origin of coffee and even its name is shrouded in myth. The word coffee comes from the Turkish Kavhe, which derives from the Arabic qahwah meaning perhaps ‘to lack hunger’, or ‘dark’, ‘sour’ or even ‘dark wine’.

It is thought the wild coffee bush originated in Sub-Saharan tropical Africa. Legend says around 900 AD goat-herders in the Ethiopian Highlands noticed their animals getting frisky after eating the bright red fruits of the coffee bush and tried it themselves. Because the seeds (coffee beans) were hard, they were roasted to make them edible.

A story, for which I found no substantiating evidence, was the seeds were ground down and rubbed on the gums, rather like cocaine. (Not though I know, I hasten to add: it took me 20 years to give up ciggies. One sniff of cocaine and I’d be on 30 a day). Eventually the powder was boiled in water producing a fragrant drink. There is a rather enigmatic reference to a brown liquid that might be coffee in a 10th century Persian medical book. In 1583, a German physician, returning from the Middle East, wrote coffee was useful in curing many illnesses.

Another legend says an 11th century Islamic Sufi mystic used coffee to sharpen the mind and concentrate his thoughts during his religious devotions. However both legends date from 1650s when coffee was widely drunk in the Islamic world and was already known in Europe.

In the 1500s Yemen merchants brought coffee across the Red Sea from Ethiopia, Sufi mystics (the same group that produced the Whirling Dervishes) used it to stay awake during nocturnal devotions. Coffee spread across Arabia to Mecca, perhaps as an alternative to wine, forbidden by the Prophet (the ban extends to all alcohol; even though lots of the faithful continue to booze to this day).

In 1511, Imams in Mecca banned coffee, preaching it led to indecent behaviour. In 1524, Suliman the Magnificent over turned the ban. A few years later there was another religious ban in Egypt and coffeehouses were ransacked. However by this time coffee was used across the Muslim world. By 1550, there were coffeehouses in Istanbul and Syria.
Despite this, Muslim coffee-drinkers’ tribulations were not over. In the 1600s Sultan Murad VI banned tobacco, alcohol and coffee. Consumption was a capital offence. He was so keen on the ban he would stalk the streets in disguise with a concealed sword beheading offenders on the spot. Obviously, he carried on using all three himself and probably died of liver failure due to alcoholism. His successor leniently commuted punishment for a first offence to a good beating. For a second offence you were sewn into a bag and dumped in the Bosporus.

Some historians believe coffee was met with suspicion because tyrannical rulers feared free speech. They thought coffeehouses spread sedition. According to one story, a Grand Vizier, after secretly visiting a coffeehouse in Istanbul, reported to the Sultan: People drinking alcohol get drunk, sing and are jolly, whereas the people drinking coffee remain sober and plot against us.

In 1550 coffee was introduced to Europe via Muslim slaves in Malta. It reached Europe commercially through trade between Venice and the Ottoman Empire. Legend says in 1600 when Cardinals tried to get Pope Clement to ban coffee as a ‘bitter invention of Satan’ the pope tried some and declared Satan’s drink to be so delicious it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it. He thought it so much better for the populace than alcohol that he even considered baptising the bean to free it of its Infidel (and so satanic) taint.

A quarter of a century later an Oxford University student recorded trying coffee imported from Crete. Within twenty five years the first coffeehouse opened in Holborn and by 1665 there were 82 in London. These swiftly became business premises – for men only. The insurance company Lloyds of London started in Lloyd’s Coffeehouse. Gambling and unsuitable conversation was banned: religious dissent and ribaldry. Politics was fair game, which led to them being associated with sedition.

The first monarch to shut down coffeehouses was King Charles II in the 1660s when he traced some seditious poetry to them. The outcry caused him to change his mind in 11 days. A century later Frederick the Great fearful of revolution demanded Germans drink beer not coffee and sent his soldiers to shutdown illicit coffeehouses. He believed the French and American Revolutions were planned in coffeehouses.

Americans initially preferred tea, until the British Crown took advantage by taxing it to the hilt. After the Boston Tea Party, when American patriots, dumped crates of tea into Boston harbour, protesting ‘taxation without representation’, drinking tea was seen as unpatriotic.

John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail:
‘When I came to Mrs Huston’s House, I had ridden 35 miles at least. “Madam” said I, “is it lawfull for a weary Traveller to refresh himself with a Dish of Tea?” “No sir, said she, we have renounced all Tea in this Place. I can’t make Tea, but I’le make you Coffee.” Accordingly I have drank Coffee every Afternoon since, and have borne it very well.

The Women’s Petition Against Coffee (Ineedcoffee.com)

Monarchs were not the only ones to have a quarrel with the new coffeehouses.

Neighbours complained of the noisome smell, which seems surprising today when Estate Agents (Realtors) recommend the smells of fresh coffee and new baked bread to win over potential buyers. However coffee in those days was more like Turkish coffee: boiled to buggery. It was served in tiny cups and you only sipped the top third as the rest was sludge.

Hence the old joke:
Waiter this coffee tastes like mud!
Well sir it was ground this morning!

A recipe from the time says: Take a gallon of fair water. Boil until half of it is wasted. From this take a pint, add a spoonful of powder of coffee and boil for 15 minutes. Drink it as hot as you can and fast for two or three hours afterwards.

In 1674, a broadsheet was printed in London called ‘The Womens Petition Against Coffee’ or more explicitly ‘The Humble Petitions and Address of Several Thousands of Buxome Good-Women, Languishing in Extremity of Want’. It blamed coffee for male impotence. The petition came on the tail of a campaign by doctors claiming coffee dried up the cerebrospinal fluid and caused paralysis.

In truth both were probably governmental ruses to bring coffee into disrepute and so quieten political grumblings. Nothing hits home harder than telling a man his John Thomas will be… ‘Now Cramp’t into an Inch that was a Span

Yet the most intriguing example of anti-coffee propaganda remains Gustav III of Sweden’s ban on both tea and coffee due to misuse and excessive drinking in 1746. When illicit consumption continued, Gustav set up an empirical experiment to prove his point. After all, this was the Age of Enlightenment.

He gave two identical twins a chance to have their death sentence commuted to life imprisonment if they agreed. One was to drink 3 pots of tea per day and the other three pots of coffee. He presumed they would be dead within the year and his point made.
In fact Gustav was the first to die, assassinated 46 years later in 1792. The twins also saw their doctors out. The first twin to die was the tea drinker, aged 83. The date the coffee drinker died is unknown as by then everyone had lost interest.

On the bright side I suppose if this proves anything at all, it is that compared to coffee, tea is bad for you. This news would have suited an old friend of mine, who continually drank brewed black coffee (not instant). She claimed as coffee contained oils it kept her skin young… as opposed to tea which contains tannin: used to cure leather.

©Paul Andruss 2018

As always my gratitude to Paul for his incredible research and ability to explain the complexities of a subject in such an entertaining and informative way..

About Paul Andruss.

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks

You can find all of Paul’s previous posts and gardening column in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/paul-andruss-myths-legends-fantasy-and-gardening/

Thank you for dropping in today and as always please leave your questions and comments for Paul… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – Poetic Mead – by Paul Andruss..


Paul Andruss has been exploring poetry in the last few weeks and today a post from his archives on the subject of Poetic Mead….a drink that has been brewed for thousands of years across the continents and holds mythical properties….

The Cauldron of Inspiration warmed by the breath of nine maidens. (From Celtic Myths and Legends by Charles Squire with illustration by Ernest Wallcousins 1912)

Poetic Mead by Paul Andruss

Mead is an alcoholic drink made entirely from honey, or honey mixed with pulped fruit or mashed grain. It was drunk though history and across continents from Neolithic Chinese farmers, Vikings, to modern Kalahari Bushmen. Many cultures considered mead magical, able to bestow wisdom and the gift of poetry, and to be a universal panacea.

Mead, brewed with rice, honey and fruit, was found in Chinese archaeological sites 9,000 years old. It turned up in 8,000 year-old burial chambers near the Black Sea … the tomb of King Midas. Yes, King Midas: the one who turned everything to gold. There is some basis in fact for his golden touch: but that’s another story.

The Vedas, Hindu sacred texts written in Sanskrit almost 2,000 years ago, link mead to the gods, as does ancient Greek myth. Mead was the Olympian Gods’ tipple of choice. Hippocrates, the father of medicine (as in the Hippocratic Oath) used mead brewed with fruit juice as medicine.

Our word medicine comes from ‘mead’; as does ‘honeymoon’. In medieval times the bride’s father gave the newly-weds a month’s (a moon’s) worth of mead. It was supposed to be an aphrodisiac. In actual fact it probably did what all booze does, throws inhibitions to the wind, buggers judgement and leaves you randy. A sure fired winner for begetting the son and heir, despite the fact you had probably never met before, and the bride was probably around eleven years old. (There are so many things wrong with that sentence it does not bear thinking about.)

In Celtic myth the Cauldron of Inspiration held poetic mead, warmed by the breath of nine maidens. One sip made you a scholar and a poet. Historians believe the Cauldron of Inspiration was the original Holy Grail, later incorporated into Arthurian legend.
The Celts thought the chthonic gods (gods of the underworld) had to the power to bestow the gift of poetry. The lord of the underworld, Gwyn ap Nudd kept the pearl rimmed cauldron in his Glass Castle: often associated with Glastonbury Tor, which in those times was an island surrounded by marshes and lakes.

The early Welsh poem, The Spoils of Annwn, says King Arthur took three shiploads of knights to steal the cauldron. Each stanza ends ominously with: ‘only seven returned’. Gwyn’s fortress is named differently in each verse as the Glass Castle, the Four-cornered Castle, the Revolving Castle, the Fairy Castle, as well as the Castle of Mead Drunkenness.

Some of these names hint at a time when the White Goddess ruled. Arianrhod of the Silver Wheel, believed to be the Moon Goddess, lived in a revolving castle bound by the four corners of the earth: the starry heavens turning over the course of the night and the year. Equally she might be the North Star, which does not move at all and around which all others revolve: like a silver wheel.

Olwen of the White Track (her name means white footprints) is associated with the Milky Way. In ancient religions the Milky Way was the road to the gods. In Greek myth it was created from a spurt of milk from the breast of Zeus’ mother, hence its modern name.
In Norse myth, Odin stole poetic mead from the giants. The story goes the gods originally created a wise man called Kvasir by each spitting in a bowl. The name Kvasir means to crush or grind. Dwarves murdered Kvasir and mixed his blood with honey to produce poetic mead: one sip turned you into a scholar and a poet. When the giants took the mead, Odin stole it back.

Before exploring any further, let’s look at alcohol. People believe alcohol is euphoric. It’s not. It’s a depressant. The reason you initially become giddy is because it depresses the part of your nervous system inhibiting behaviour. In larger amounts it leaves you depressed, hence the popular image of the maudlin drunk.

Drunks are loquacious: talkative and garrulous (i.e. talk to anyone). They are also incredibly wise and witty; of course it helps if everyone else is drunk as skunks too. These were signs of divine possession and talents poets boasted of.

It might surprise you to know animals like getting drunk, and not just your dog snaffling your beer. Wildlife cameramen have filmed parties in the jungle when overripe fallen fruit ferments in the heat due to air borne yeasts. The alcohol content is low, but as animals rarely experience it, they have no tolerance.

Like any teenage party, when word gets round all different types of beast come from far and wide to behave exactly like we do: getting giddy before turning into mean drunks. Given animals get drunk there is no reason to think pre-humans and early humans did not do the same. Alcohol and drugs are literally old as sin.

The bee was a symbol of the goddess long before farming: when you might think people noticed it fertilizing crops. Perhaps the bee became associated with the goddess not simply because it appears in spring, but also due to the way mead makes social gatherings swing.
Mead is often produced naturally when water soaks a beehive. Warm days and air-borne yeast create alcohol. Interestingly yeast might be the real reason druids (whose name means oak seer) considered the oak sacred.

The traditional story is druids harvested the sacred mistletoe from the oak. Although mistletoe does not easily grow on oak, yeast does and it is the ancestor of the yeast used today for bread and beer.

There is further evidence of mead being associated with the goddess in the way modern indigenous peoples across the world prepare alcoholic drinks. Remember the tale of the Norse gods all spitting in a cauldron to produce a wise man, whose name Kvasir means to crush, well …

In the Pacific Islands, Kava, a mildly hallucinogenic beverage is prepared by chewing the kava plant and spitting it into a bowl. The Incas used the same method to prepare a corn beer called chichi, used for ritual purposes and consumed in huge quantities during religious festivals. The same practice is still used throughout South and Central America: chewing a variety of fruits, roots and grains such as plantain manioc, agave, cassava and quinoa. The enzymes in spit break down the plant starches into sugars for the yeast to work on.

In ancient Japan a rice wine called Kuchikamizake (Heavenly-being-mouth-saké) was produced by virgins chewing rice. Remember the story of poetic mead warmed by the breath of nine maidens?

Across all cultures only women chew the grains or roots for alcohol preparation. Menfolk maintain when they do the chewing the booze doesn’t taste as good.

There are either two ways to consider this.

Either …

Men are lazy. Yeah, you might have a point. … And good for nothing drunks … Ok, ok calm down.

Or alternatively …

The methodology was already in use before humans migrated out of Africa 200,000 years ago.

Evidence supporting the idea of early hunters and gatherers liking a drink comes from the most ancient religious site in the world. Gobekli Tepe, in Turkey, dates back 12,000 years, a few thousand years before farming- about the same time as the last Ice Age ended. Gobekli Tepe is a temple of carved stone pillars arranged into communal spaces, probably used to celebrate and worship, as there is no evidence anyone lived nearby.

It is believed women gardened for a couple of thousand years before man learned to farm. Women encouraged useful plants to grow at the expense of ‘weeds’ in areas where they settled near the summer pastures of wild antelope herds. Gobekli Tepe comes from this transition period and is only 20 miles away from where wild Einkorn, the ancestor of modern wheat, grew in abundance.

Amid the evidence of feasts (mounds of wild antelope bones), archaeologists found large stone pits containing traces of mashed Einkorn used for brewing beer or more probably a beer-mead mix. It was thought beer came from an accident when early people were making bread. Now many believe it was the other way round.

Gobekli Tepe was occupied for more than 3,000 years before being abandoned, probably because the farming revolution destroyed the way of life its rituals commemorated.

All we know about the earliest religions date from fragmentary texts 5,000 years old. Yet humans, exactly the same as us, have been around for 300,000 years. Meaning for over 90% of our time on this planet we have no idea what people, just like us, believed or thought.
It is easy to see while gods might change, important concepts such as birth and death, day and night, and the phases of the moon marking the return of the sun, rains, herds and the spring would never be abandoned, and neither would the associated celebratory rituals of feasting, entertainment and getting off your face on drugs and drink; and probably getting your leg over to boot. After all, the one thing that never changes in this world is people.

©Paul Andruss 2018

A fascinating look at this drink that has captivated and clearly inspired for thousands of years…thanks Paul

About Paul Andruss.

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks

You can find all of Paul’s previous posts and gardening column in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/paul-andruss-myths-legends-fantasy-and-gardening/

Thank you for dropping in today and as always please leave your questions and comments for Paul… thanks Sally.

 

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – Arthur: King or Pawn by Paul Andruss by Paul Andruss


Arthur: King or Pawn by Paul Andruss by Paul Andruss

History is not necessarily written by the winners, but it is written for the winners. As the wheel of fortune turns dynasties rise and fall. Those on the up get to choose what survives and what is consigned to the bonfire. For example, King Arthur is probably the most famous British hero of all time, yet there is no evidence he ever existed. So was Arthur merely a legend, used hundreds of years after he lived to strengthen the political claims of Welsh Kings, Norman Kings and even the Tudors?

Arthur is not mentioned by his near contemporary, the British monk Gildas, who wrote a scathing condemnation of British kings shortly after Arthur’s time called ‘The Ruin and Conquest of Britain’ (around 547AD).

Almost 150 years later, writing for the Anglo Saxons, Bede, a monk from Jarrow, used Gildas as a source when writing his Ecclesiastical History of the English People (finished in 731). Although Bede was a meticulous scholar and had access to early copies of Gildas, and other lost documents, neither does he mention Arthur.

Arthur is first mentioned is in the Historia Brittonum, a compilation of ancient documents thought to have been compiled around 830. The earliest copy we have is from the 1100s. There are many slightly later copies including one in the Vatican. As with any late copies of early works we are not entirely sure what was in the original. Different copies disagree on wording, contents and even the name of the author.

Written some 300 years after Arthur lived, the Historia Brittonum credits him with 12 famous victories against the Saxons: culminating in Mount Badon which brought a generation of peace. Arthur is not called a king but the Dux Bellorum (Duke of Battles) an otherwise unknown title that might echo the old Roman military leader: Duke of the Saxon Shore.

The next work to substantially feature Arthur is Geoffrey of Monmouth’s ‘History of British Kings’ written around 1136. It bears little resemblance to the story we know.

The ‘History of British Kings’ was so popular it sparked an avalanche of Arthurian lore. Some stories even found their way back into medieval Welsh manuscripts and up to recently were deemed independent evidence of Arthur’s existence.

Around 1470 Thomas Malory wrote the English work ‘The Book of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table’ based on French Arthurian story cycle. Some 15 years later, the owner of the first printing press in England, William Caxton, edited the now dead Malory’s work, translated it into French (the language of the educated) and published it under the snappier title of ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’. This contains all the elements we know: Lancelot and Guinevere’, Camelot; and the quest for the Holy Grail.

Morte d’Arthur was immensely popular. Printed books were the latest fashion accessory, and more importantly they were cheap… a hell of a lot cheaper than the old hand written ones. Which begs the question, why the old books were written in the first place?
In the Classical world a large part of the population could read. There were public libraries and a whole industry of slaves dedicated to cheaply copying out works onto mass-produced papyrus sheets, made from Nile reeds. So many people could read they even had trashy novels.

In the Dark Ages the population was mainly illiterate. The preparation of ink, goose quills and parchment from sheep skin was a long arduous process for an Abbey’s cottage industry. Monks would not simply decide to waste their time on something as trivial as history, when they could be using valuable resources on laboriously copying the bible or other religious texts.

So what prompted them?

To be blunt, sucking up to royalty and propaganda!

Before the Historia Brittonum was written the Welsh kingdom of Gwynedd was beset by civil war. The neighbouring Saxon kingdom took advantage by annexing territory. When the last king of a dynasty that ruled for 400 years died, the new king, Mervyn, needed to establish a pedigree.

Thanks to Bede, and the perfidious Gildas, the Saxons believed God took England away from the British (Welsh) and granted it to them. Mervin needed ancestors and heroes who had thrashed the Saxons at great victories such as Badon. The name Arthur might have been chosen because Gildas’ hero Ambrosius Aurelianus sounded too Roman: too foreign.
Geoffrey of Monmouth was in a similar position. He wrote during an English Civil War almost a century after the Normans took England from the Anglo Saxons. Stephen seized the throne when his uncle, Henry, died only leaving a daughter, Mathilda, who promptly declared war.

Arthur was popular in Brittany and neighbouring Normandy as Britain migrants had fled there in the Dark Ages. Through some sleight of hand, the Normans lost no time in claiming their conquest a rightful reclamation of the ancestral throne; even though they were Norse-men from Norway. Geoffrey’s Arthur gave Stephen legitimacy and provided a British hero to equal Charlemagne, an ancestor of the French king who was also trying to claim the English throne.

Stephen’s successor, Henry II, went one step further. He took Arthur away from the Welsh. It is believed Henry was behind the monks finding of Arthur’s grave at Glastonbury Abbey, firmly relocating the Welsh hero to English territory. His son Richard the Lionheart, equally po-faced, presented a crusader ally with a sword he claimed was Excalibur.

The idea of the Round Table where all knights were equal was popular in Medieval Europe. The first Round Table festival of feasting, jousting and dressing up as Arthur’s knights was held in Cyprus 1233.

Arthur’s court was long held to have been in Caerleon in South Wales. In the 1290s, Edward I: Conqueror of Wales claimed Camelot was the English city of Winchester and promptly discovered Arthur’s Round Table there. Tree ring analysis subsequently dated the table’s construction to Edward I’s reign.

Some two centuries later, Henry VIII slyly had the Round Table painted with a Tudor Rose and a portrait of Arthur at its head, looking suspiciously like himself, to impress his rival the French King. In actual fact Henry VIII was not joking when he claimed Arthur as an ancestor. Tudor is an ancient Welsh name.

His father’s rival in the civil war, known as the War of the Roses, Edward IV also claimed descent from Arthur through the Welsh Kings. When Edward died of fever, or poison, he left two young sons under the protection of his brother Richard. Richard promptly had his brother’s marriage declared invalid, making the boy’s illegitimate, and crowned himself Richard III.

His brother’s sons known to history as the ‘Princes in the Tower’ are believed to have been murdered by their uncle at the ages of 13 and 10. This view was popularised, somewhat unsurprisingly, in the time of Henry VIIIs daughter Elizabeth I in William Shakespeare’s play.

All things considered, when we see how successive dynasties used Arthur to bolster their claims of legitimacy it does appear Britain’s greatest hero is far more a pawn than he ever was king.

In truth the only person who did not use Arthur for their own ends was Gildas. And here lies the irony. In a biography written after Geoffrey of Monmouth’s book, Arthur’s contemporary, the monk Gildas, is accused of deliberately ignoring Arthur due to a personal beef. It claims Arthur murdered Gildas’ brother and the holy man holding a grudge, deliberately excluded him from ‘The Ruin and Conquest of Britain’.

For once we can be pretty certain this is fiction as the author Caradoc was a contemporary of Geoffrey. And while Geoffrey names Arthur’s wife Guanhumara, Caradoc calls her Gwenhwyfar a Welsh version of the Guinevere only used in later stories.

©PaulAndruss 2017

My thanks to Paul for this wonderful post on one of our most revered legends. Real or otherwise, the very mention of King Arthur has stirred the hearts and minds of millions across the centuries and instilled pride and honour.

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks

You can find all of Paul’s previous posts and gardening column in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/paul-andruss-myths-legends-fantasy-and-gardening/

Thank you for dropping in today and as always please leave your questions and comments for Paul… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – The Dancing Floor of Glastonbury Tor by Paul Andruss


In June this year thousands will descend on Glastonbury in Somerset for a music festival.. As always, images in the media from past years show that there is a certain amount of licence to partake in various shenanigans during the days and nights of the festival.. but there is nothing new in history.. And who knows what ancients stand on Glastonbury Tor looking down on the festival site, laughing at the amateurs emulating a much more fascinating and sometimes deadly time in history.

The Dancing Floor of Glastonbury Tor by Paul Andruss

Somerset Levels Flood 2014 (Daily Mail)

For those who don’t know, the hill of Glastonbury Tor dominates a huge area of low-lying land called the Somerset Levels, which you may remember from the UK media coverage of the disastrous floods submerging large parts of the area during winter 2014.

Ancient Somerset Landscape (Andruss)

The Somerset Levels are marshy fenlands medieval monks drained for agriculture. Before silting up with eroded run-off from the surrounding hills, the area was a sea flooded valley scattered with wooded islands. It would have made Glastonbury Tor a wonder to behold. You can appreciate how it looked on magical winter days when a sea of grey mist leaves the Tor hanging above the horizon like a Fata Morgana; a mirage named after the powerful sorceress of Arthurian legend as it appears to leave places suspended in air like fairy castles.

Fata Morgana (unknown credit)

The hill is topped by the ruined tower of the ancient St Michael’s Church. It was demolished during the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII and not destroyed by the earthquake (felt all the way to London) as is sometimes claimed. That earthquake happened in the 1200s and destroyed an earlier wooden church on the site.

Glastonbury Tor showing the terraces (Geoff Ward)

Seven worn and weathered terraces spiral around Glastonbury Tor. Various explanations are given for them, such as natural features; bank and ditch fortifications; early agricultural terraces; cattle paths or even cart tracks. None hold up. Some antiquarians suggest they are the remains of an ancient labyrinth or maze leading to a great Celtic sanctuary on the crest of the Tor. Although parts have crumbled away, they maintain you can reconstruct the shape from what survives.

Reconstructed terraces (Geoff Ward)

Aerial photographs often turn up ghosts of labyrinths cut from the turf in fields near ancient lost villages. All of these labyrinths have the same pattern, or are close variations. Unlike modern mazes labyrinths have no walls. They are simply a turf cut double spiral path that was danced during Easter.

Like dancing around a maypole, the Easter maze dance was a relic of an old pagan fertility ritual. It took place in villages across Britain right up to recent times. Men and women each taking one of the two paths, strutted and hobbled into the centre and then out again.

The same hobbling fertility dance, on mazes of exactly the same design, can be traced back through history. The Ancient Greeks thought it copied the mating dance of the lascivious partridge. Such a belief indicates the dance dates back to the very first farmers, for whom the annual arrival of partridges provided a welcome food source in early spring. The partridges were so intent on mating they were easily caught and so came to epitomise lewdness to the ancients.

Cretan Labyrinth Coin (Pinterest)

Because the maze design was found on ancient coins from Crete, the Greeks thought it was the labyrinth where King Minos kept the Minotaur. In the story Theseus killed the monster at the centre of an underground maze before successfully negotiating his way out by following a scarlet thread from Minos’ sorceress daughter Ariadne. Yet the word labyrinth did not originally mean a maze, it comes from labrys: a Minoan double headed ceremonial axe that was a symbol of sovereignty.

Greek myth has it that the inventor Daedalus built the labyrinth for Minos. Daedalus was the chap who made wings for himself and his son to escape Minos. When his son Icarus flew to near the sun the wax holding the wings together melted, and the boy drowned. Homer (the poet… not the guy from The Simpsons) adds, without explanation… Daedalus in Cnossos once contrived a dancing-floor for fair-haired Ariadne.

The earliest Welsh and Irish books of Celtic myth claim the Celts were descended from ancient Greeks and linked Minos’ daughter Ariadne with the Welsh goddess Arianrhod (meaning Silver Wheel – the Moon).

Robert Graves in ‘The White Goddess’ believes the myth of Theseus remembers the overthrow of the old religion of the Bull god Minos by the moon goddess Ariadne during the collapse of Bronze Age civilisation about 1,000 BC. This places the change to the collapse of the Minoan civilisation around the time of the Santorini explosion. At this time human sacrifice became common on Crete, and may be associated with a new agricultural religion, one that originated the Middle East and involved the sacrifice of the sacred king or Green Man- the male fertility principle.

Ancient Egyptian document from round this time speak of a group of pirates, traders and invaders they call the Sea Peoples. It is thought these were from the coast of Turkey and Phoenicia. These areas worshipped the Harvest Mother Goddess Cybele (Sybil) and her consort Attis, a dying and reborn harvest god slain by the boar’s tusk of winter: just as Dermot O’ Dyna was in Irish myth. Castration featured in the Attis cult as the god’s fertility was given to the fields to ensure the coming harvest.

During the 6 days of mourning at the end of the year, which commemorated the god’s death, want-to-be priests of Cybele would dress as women and emasculate themselves in his honour. Running through the streets, although staggering is probably the more correct word, they would throw their severed genitals through an open doorway. If their aim was true the household would be obliged to nurse them back to health. If they missed, they were left to die where they fell.

According to Sir James Frazer’s ‘The Golden Bough’, there are legends all over Europe of sacred kings being ritually murdered at the end of his reign. His severed genitals were secretly buried and his blood spread on the fields to ensure the coming harvest. No one wanted to leave the King’s ritual death to chance; especially with the harvest depending on it. It is likely the king was first drugged and forced to dance the maze as part of a ritual to induce a hypnotic altered state; offering a vision of the otherworld before his murder.

Newgrange (Andruss)

There is evidence of such a ritual being performed in the Neolithic mound of Newgrange in Ireland. When scientists played drumming through loudspeakers in the inner chamber, the noise caused the sandy floor of the passageway to dance, forming regularly repeating patterns such as circles, waves and chevrons. The corbelled ceiling created infrasound echoes promoting nausea and disorientation. Coupled with psycho-active drugs such a foxglove, deadly nightshade and the hallucinogenic fungus still known as The Old Man of the Woods, any victim would have been confused, faint, ecstatic, disoriented and hallucinating as he proceeded up the passageway to his fate.

Glastonbury Tor was believed to be the Celtic Underworld. The early Welsh poem, the ‘Spoils of Annwn’, calls Glastonbury Tor Caer Sidi; which not only means a Fairy Castle, but also the Spiral Castle; which may refer to the ceremonial spiral labyrinth, carved into the side of the hill. Perhaps it is referring to the ‘dancing floor’ leading the sacred king to the afterlife.

To the Celts the afterlife was real as this one, so much so they left debts to be settled in the next world. They believed doors between the two realms opened on Samuin and the dead returned, real as the living: ideas which still haunt our Halloween. They believed also in reincarnation – a Greek idea adopted from Pythagoras, but much, much older and found across ancient Asia. In their version of reincarnation you might not only be reborn, but somehow return to life looking exactly as you always had.

By Roman times, the partridge dance was performed by young noblemen. Called the Troy Dance, it was supposed to remember the legend of Roman descent from survivors fleeing the fall of Troy. Troy fell when the Greeks left a hollow wooden horse as an offering to the Trojan gods after they packed up and went home. It was a ruse. The Greek fleet was holed up over the horizon, and the wooden horse was stuffed with soldiers. The Trojan horse was dragged into the city and when everyone was flat out from celebrating, the Greek soldiers emerged and opened the gates to their comrades, who slaughtered everyone.
It led to the old adage: ‘Beware of Greeks bearing gifts’. Although one could equally say… ’Beware of gifts bearing Greeks.’

The turf-cut mazes were called ‘Troy Town’ in English, which is ‘Caer-droia’ in Welsh. According to the 9th century chronicle of the ‘Historia Britonum’, Britain was settled by survivors of Troy. The first British King, Brutus, was the grandson of a Trojan prince. Geoffrey of Monmouth recounted the tale in his ‘History of British Kings’.

The Brutus legend was believed true up to Tudor times and many ancient documents, referred to Britain as a ‘Remnant of Troy’. Legend says Brutus and his followers landed at the town of Totnes in Devon, around 80 miles from Glastonbury. A stone in the town, known as the ‘Brutus Stone’, commemorates his arrival.

The original pattern of the labyrinth circling Glastonbury Tor may date as far back as 8,000 years to the Neolithic period, or New Stone Age, when farming first spread to Europe. The same design is found from the eastern Mediterranean to Scandinavia, North-eastern Russia and Ireland. Two mazes are carved on a rock slab near Bosinney in Cornwall; and another is carved on a massive granite block from the Wicklow Hills in Ireland. All are thought to date from the same period.

Rocky Valley Labyrinth Carvings (Britain Express)

©PaulAndruss 2017

My thanks to Paul for this intriguing article that will make me pay more attention to those attending the Glastonbury Festival in future… Little do they know that their shenanigans are minor compared to others who have danced there.

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks

You can find all of Paul’s previous posts and gardening column in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/paul-andruss-myths-legends-fantasy-and-gardening/

Thank you for dropping in today and as always please leave your questions and comments for Paul… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – The Thirteenth Apostle – Constantine the Great Part Two by Paul Andruss.


Today part two of the story of The Thirteenth Apostle (and his mum) from Paul Andruss. 

As with any legend, there is usually some variations on the origins and plenty of embellishments by later historians, that need to be resolved. Paul takes on the task and unravels the stories to reveal the probable truth behind Constantine the Great, the first Christian Emperor.. and his mother Helena.

Part one can be found here: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2019/04/27/smorgasbord-posts-from-my-archives-the-thirteenth-apostle-and-his-mum-by-paul-andruss/

The Thirteenth Apostle – Constantine the Great Part Two – by Paul Andruss.

Statue of Constantine the Great at York (source: schoolworkhelper)

If Constantine’s attitude to religion was ambiguous, the same could not be said for his choice of Byzantium, which he renamed Constantinople. Rome had long been abandoned by the emperors. It was too out of the way for armies constantly on the move. Plus emperors were usually upstarts. The ancient snobbish Roman nobility had a far stronger claim. Better to leave them squabbling among themselves as they would over the Papacy all through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Byzantium was a perfect choice. Already a thousand years old it was in the heart of Rome’s richest provinces and close to the Rome’s traditional enemy, the Persian Empire. It straddled the continents of Europe and Asia and was an easily defensible peninsula with a deep natural harbour controlling trade between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

Although we think of this period as the beginning of the Byzantine Empire, its inhabitants always referred to themselves as Romanoi.

Constantine set about making it the glory of the world, the new Rome and the Mother of Cities. Its modern name Istanbul originated from a Medieval Greek phrase meaning ‘in THE CITY’, for as the largest metropolis in the classical world for a millennium it needed no other name.

Leaving nothing to chance Constantine consulted pagan soothsayers to determine an auspicious day to mark out his new city with the tip of his spear. The limit of the city walls enclosed an area more than five times greater than the existing town of Byzantium. With no doubt his entourage paling, Constantine announced he wanted it complete for his silver jubilee, a year and a half hence.

At the heart of the city was the Milion, the milestone from which distances all over the empire were measured. Within the surrounding structure, of four triumphal arches supporting a cupola, he placed the true cross recently sent from Jerusalem. To the east rose his first great church, still standing today, dedicated to the Holy Peace of God or the Hagia Eirene (St Irene). Ironic really considering the Empress Irene, some four centuries later blinded, imprisoned and then murdered her son to retain power.

Constantine’s Church of Hagia Eirene (Source: the history hub)
By his Imperial Palace Constantine built a chariot racing track, the Hippodrome. He decorated it with the ancient bronze serpent column from the shrine of the Oracle at Delphi, the most sacred place in the pagan world. And it did not stop there. Every city in the empire had its statues and artworks looted to beautify the new capital.
 Serpent Column reconstructed from public domain photos (Wikipedia – Andruss)

Hippodrome of Constantinople 1727 showing the Blue Mosque, Serpent Column & Obelisk of Theodosius (Aubry de la Mottraye. Source: Wikipedia)

From the Egyptian holy city of Heliopolis came a 100 foot high porphyry column. It stood on a twenty foot high marble base that held the pot of oil Mary Magdalene used to anoint Jesus, the baskets from the miracle of loaves and fishes, the hatchet Noah used to build the ark, and the Palladium, an ancient wooden statue of Athena that Aeneas had brought from the burning ruins of Troy: it was the most sacred object in ancient Rome. Topping this remarkable confection stood a statue of Constantine dressed as Sol Invictus.

Constantine Column (1912) reconstructed with original sketch (Photos in Public domain Wikipedia- Andruss)

In 337 AD, Constantine died after a reign of 31 years. His was the longest reign since the original Emperor Augustus three centuries before. He was placed in a gold coffin draped in purple and lay in state in his palace for three and a half months.

Constantine had planned his funeral down to the last detail. He was carried in procession around his beloved city; his funeral cortege headed by his son and heir with an army in full battle dress. Then came the gold coffin flanked by spearmen and infantry and after followed by the court and citizens in deepest mourning.

Constantine was laid to rest in his gorgeous new Church of the Holy Apostles. The interior was richly inlaid with coloured marble, while the outside was clad in polished brass and adorned with gold, to reflect the sun and dazzle the beholder. The emperor was put in a huge ornate tomb in the centre flanked on each side by 6 sarcophagi each containing the relics of one of Christ’s apostles, scoured from the four corners of the earth.

In life Constantine revelled in the title he had awarded himself ‘Equal of the Apostles’, in death the position and grandeur of this tomb seemed to suggest that rather than an equal, he was, in fact, their superior.

Two hundred years later Constantine’s Church of the Holy Apostles was entirely remodelled by the Emperor Justinian. It stood until it was looted by crusaders in the fourth Crusade. Today not a trace remains of Constantine’s tomb or the surrounding sarcophagi of the apostles.

Sic transit Gloria mundi. (So passes worldly glory.)

My foot!

Colossus of Constantine fragments in the Courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori of the Musei Capitolini, (source: LegionXXIV)

©Paul Andruss

About Paul Andruss

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – The Thirteenth Apostle (and his mum) by Paul Andruss


I thought over the weekend I would share a two part series from Paul Andruss posted originally in November 2017…

As with any legend, there is usually some variations on the origins and plenty of embellishments by later historians, that need to be resolved.

Paul takes on the task and unravels the stories to reveal the probable truth behind Constantine the Great, the first Christian Emperor.. and his mother Helena.

The Thirteenth Apostle (and his mum) by Paul Andruss

Statue of Constantine the Great at York (source: schoolworkhelper)

This is about an illegitimate boy, who grew up to inherit a shattered empire and changed the world; who overthrew pantheons of gods for the one his old mum worshipped.

Although he was not baptised until on his deathbed, he claimed to be Christ’s most favoured disciple. At one time he was believed to be a British king who became emperor of the Romans; and his mum, Helena, a British Princess who found the true cross of Jesus and became a saint, which ain’t too shabby for a barmaid.

Constantine the Great, the first Christian Emperor, was once considered British born and bred. The legend went something like this. His dad, Constantius, was a Roman senator who came to Britain to meet old King Cole in Colchester. Yes, that old King Cole, although he wasn’t such a merry old soul when he thought the Romans were coming to knock him off his throne. When Cole died, Constantius took the throne for himself and married Cole’s daughter, the beautiful Princess Helena. In due course their son Constantine became king and sometime later took his army off to the continent to thrash the perfidious Romans and ended up becoming Emperor.

Head of the Colossus of Constantine in the Courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori of the Musei Capitolini, (source: jacabook.it)

As with all legends, there are nuggets of truth mixed with fool’s gold. There probably was an Old King Cole (in legend called Coel Hen meaning Old Cole), but nothing is known of him except he wasn’t king of Colchester, which is named from the Roman words for ‘colony’ and ‘fort’. He probably was a warlord working for the Romans beyond Hadrian’s Wall, around 350 AD: a quarter of a century after Constantine died.

Part of Constantine’s legend is mixed up with another Roman General who left Britain to become Emperor almost a century later. Magnus Maximus, which modestly translates as Greatest of the Great, was married a British Princess called St Helena of Wales, and they had a son named Custennin (Welsh for Constantine).

Constantius Chlorus (Source: Alchetron)

Our Constantine’s dad was Constantius Chlorus, meaning pale or literally green. He may have been suffering from chlorosis: a pernicious anaemia, or even leukaemia. He was a member of the emperor’s bodyguard who worked his way up to Caesar. At this time the Empire was divided between four rulers: the Eastern and Western senior emperors called Augusti and their juniors named Caesars. Constantius came to stop the Scottish Picts raiding the Roman province of Britain.

Constantine’s mum was not a princess. She was an inn keeper’s daughter from the Black Sea and probably his common-law wife as the army did not approve of soldiers marrying.

By the time Constantius became Caesar he had dumped her for a political marriage to his Augustus’ daughter.

Constantius recognised Constantine as his son and heir meaning the lad grew up as a hostage to his father’s loyalty in the Emperor Diocletian’s court, where he became a favourite due to his military prowess. When Diocletian abdicated in May 305, rather than take his chances in the bloodbath that invariably accompanied a new Emperor’s reign, Constantine fled to his dad in Britain.

When his father died at York six months later, the soldiers elected the 32 year old Constantine to the rank of Caesar. While this was by no means unusual, you still had to fight for it. Constantine spent the next 20 years killing off his rivals to emerge as sole emperor.

His first major battle, and miracle, was at Milvian Bridge outside Rome, in 313 AD, against his rival Western Emperor. Details are sketchy. The story goes he had a dream before the battle advising him to make his soldiers paint their shields with the Chi Rho (two Greek letters X=CH & P=R) used as an acrostic for Christ. Later, this became a vision of a cross in the sun with the words ‘by this conquer’ witnessed by Constantine and his army. That story first appears in his biography written by Bishop Eusebius long after Constantine’s death.

The Chi- Ro Source: (clker .com)

The story is a good example of the propaganda obscuring Constantine’s reign. As the first Christian Emperor instead of history we have hagiography (holy-writing), usually reserved for the miraculous lives of saints. In part, this might be due to Constantine’s own influence.

Eusebius also states a year later Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, recognising Christianity as a legal religion. This is another gloss. The edict did not promote Christianity but merely affirmed the previous Edict of Toleration ending Diocletian’s Christian Persecution. It had been rescinded by the Eastern Augustus, enemy of Constantine and his Augustus Licinius. Although Constantine may have been responsible, the edict was issued in Licinius’ name. Yet when Eusebius wrote Constantine’s biography, Licinius’ was demonised.

After their victory, Licinius made Constantine the Western Augustus; taking for himself the more prosperous East. Constantine carried on the civil war. In 323, at the age of 50 he emerged as sole ruler after his sister had persuaded her husband Licinius to surrender in return for his life. Two months later Constantine had him murdered: no one knows why.

During his struggle for ultimate power, Constantine was careful to avoid any mention of Christ. Instead he used Sol Invictus – the Unconquered Sun (whose holy day was Sunday) – as the symbol of the supreme god. Yet while he was careful not to upset the Senate or citizens of largely pagan Rome, he refused to attend a victory sacrifice to Jupiter and spent a lot of his own money restoring Rome’s damaged churches.

Once Constantine was sole emperor he issued a proclamation, in the name of Christ, saying all citizens regardless of religious belief, should be able to enjoy a life of peace and concord. Despite this he had no compunction consulting pagan oracles or displaying himself as Sol Invictus when it suited.

It is often said Christianity’s appeal for Constantine was its unity and organisation. Different peoples united in belief are easier to control than those divided by a plethora of gods. Christians were obedient to the elders and priests, who were in turn subject to an Overseer (the original meaning of Bishop). Christians also willingly paid church taxes.

Paganism was certainly nowhere near as organised, as evidenced some 50 years later when the emperor Julian the Apostate was ridiculed and possibly assassinated for trying to reintroduce the old gods. Yet the words vicar and diocese originally came from pagan Roman politics. (Pagan is a Christian word meaning a sort of country bumpkin.)

After almost a century of civil war Constantine’s main priority was an empire united by one church and one god, under one emperor. Yet he found Christianity riven by schism. The latest dispute concerned whether Christ had the same or a similar nature to God.

Constantine wrote to the bishops concerned asking them to bury their trivial differences for the sake of the empire.

When he was ignored, he summoned all the bishops to a Synod at Nicene to thrash out their differences. Constantine flattered them, pandered to their arrogance and in the end threatened them into agreeing a common creed. Although he thought he succeeded, Christians have continued to be at each other’s throats ever since. A millennium later Roman and Greek Orthodoxy split. Soon afterwards Protestant dissidents split from Catholicism.

In 326 Constantine had his wife and eldest son executed amid rumours they had an affair. Constantine was jealous of his son’s popularity with the army and people, and may have feared for his life. Constantine’s wife, and mother of his 5 children, was killed a few weeks later in bathhouse sauna. It is unknown if she was stabbed or locked in to be suffocated by the steam and broiled alive.

One of Constantine’s first acts as Emperor was to send for his mother. He renamed her birthplace Helenopolis and awarded her the title of Augusta Imperatrix instead of his wife. It was no empty title. An Augusta could issue her own coinage, wear imperial regalia, and rule her own courts. No wonder his wife was furious; perhaps this is what prompted her, possibly real, and certainly alleged affair with his son. Finally he gave his mother unlimited access to the imperial treasury to locate holy relics.

At the age of 72 Helena enthusiastically set off to Jerusalem where, according to legend she discovered the crosses of Jesus and the two thieves and was able to distinguish the true cross when a dying woman recovered after touching it. Strangely, the normally sycophantic Bishop Eusebius fails to mention this.

Helena sent the true cross, along with some thorns from the crown of thorns, and nails from the crucifixion to aid her son; who allegedly placed one nail in his helmet and another in his horse’s bridle. She took full advantage of the imperial treasury by endowing churches at Bethlehem, in the Sinai Desert at the place of the burning bush, and the Holy Sepulchre after having the area levelled and cleared.

It is not certain what happened to Helena, some historians report she brought the treasures back in person. Others, by their silence, indicate she died in the Holy Land on pilgrimage. I rather hope it was the latter and she died enjoying thoroughly herself. Helena was declared a saint.

The Relics of St Helena were on loan in Athens from the Vatican in 2017 (Source : http://www.keeptalkinggreece.com)

Part Two Tomorrow.. same time.

©Paul Andruss 2017

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks

You can find all of Paul’s previous posts and gardening column in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/paul-andruss-myths-legends-fantasy-and-gardening/

Thank you for dropping in today and as always please leave your questions and comments for Paul… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – The House by the Sea – Part Four by Paul Andruss


In yesterday’s chapter we meet a woman who seems impervious to the cold as she swims naked in the sea. Patrick Noone is enthralled by her exotic behaviour and agrees to meet her and learn how to swim….Paul Andruss continues the story.

THE HOUSE BY THE SEA – Part Four – Paul Andruss

Biddy wanted to know why he was soaking wet. He could not tell her about the woman. No, he did not want to tell her. So he made up some tall tale about falling in the woods, getting covered in mud from head to foot, and washing himself in the sea. Biddy stared gimlet-eyed like she didn’t believe a word.

‘Yer stupid get,’ she said eventually. ‘Now get outta them wet things an get some aul newspapers stuffed in them boots to dry them out by the stove.’

That night all Patrick thought about was the strange woman. He wasn’t stupid. He knew no ordinary woman could swim naked in a storm-ripped winter sea. It came as no surprise her name was Muireann. He knew the story of Muireann from school; a mermaid caught long ago in Lough Neagh in the North, who became a woman when baptised by some old saint.

All his life Patrick had heard the old stories of mermaids drowning sailors or bad fairies dragging children down to the green weeds of the river bed. But if she’d wanted him dead, she could a done it there and then. She didn’t need to offer to teach him to swim. No, whatever she was, he was sure she meant no harm.

Saturday afternoon found Patrick on the beach. He had taken off his boots and socks, along with his jacket, trousers and shirt, to stand shivering in the wind off the sea, naked except his oldest patched pair of long underpants. The ones he knew Biddy would never miss.

Muireann did not come from the sea, but walked along the wind whipped sand in an faded dress of spoilt green satin and forlorn lace. It looked as if it might have once been worn by a fine lady a hundred years ago. Its long full skirt swept the sand smooth. Its trace washed away in turn by the tide.

The dress was wet and clung to every curve. He thought it strange as her hair and skin were dry. Her thick dark hair curled unbound to the waist. Sleek and glossy, it looked as if it had been brushed until it gleamed. Eyes, dark and lustrous as he remembered, left her skin pale as ivory; her full lips looked bloodless with the cold. He thought her beautiful.

‘Don’t you look handsome,’ she remarked.

Handsome or not he found himself lost for words, and felt his face colour. He stood watching her watching him, as the cold spray plastered the thin fabric of his underpants to every muscle. Without a word she reached out to take his hands and walking backward drew him into the sea.

‘Do not be afraid,’ she he told him.

‘I’m not afraid.’

‘It feels cold at first but that is the wind on the waves. Take a deep breath and fall to me.’

He closed his eyes and squeezing her hands fearfully, did what he was told. There was a moment of panic as his feet went from under him, but her grip held firm. Under the waves it felt warm, or at least not cold. He felt light as air and just as free. He put his head up to take another breath and plunged it back underwater, opening his eyes to a brief sting of salt. He laughed. The air bubbling from of his mouth forced him to find his feet and stand with the waves crashing from waist to chest.

‘Do you like it?’ she asked.

He nodded, eager; greedy; happy as a child on his birthday.

‘A deep breath,’ she instructed.

He breathed and together they plunged beneath the waves.

They say everyone favours one of the four elements. Some breeze through life with laughter in their heart. Some light up the world around them, though they may be changeable as the day is long. Others, solid and dependable, will not be moved if they know they are right. They thirst for justice and are good to have standing at your side in troubled times. Then there are those, often the quiet ones, who run still and deep. Whether they be calm or tempestuous, they do not give love easily. But when they love… ah, when they love, over time that love of theirs will erode mountains.

On Monday Patrick saw Muireann walking along the beach in another antique dress. As luck would have it, or maybe it was a premonition, he had packed his old underpants in his knapsack. After this they met for an hour each evening on his way home to swim together. With the lengthening days and bursting buds, Patrick realised he dreaded the return of spring. Sleeping under the trees night after night seemed a poor substitute with his new taste for the sea.

In his heart he knew this is what his father felt in his fishing boat: the call of the sea; in all her moods. And perhaps there was more. A dark sinister thought crept in, growing like a worm gnawing at his heart. Perhaps his father had known his own Muireann. Perhaps this was this why he drowned, searching for one such as her? Perhaps this was why his mother left?

Day after day he steeled himself to ask Muireann if she knew of his father. Each time he quailed, afraid of what it would mean. If her people were responsible for his father’s death or his mother leaving; where would that leave them?

One Thursday morning, no more than couple of hours after starting work, Sam the Undertaker’s son burst into the logging camp looking for Patrick. His Uncle Pat was dead. Ron the foreman told him to take what time he needed and he’d try not to dock his wages if he could. Although wages were the last thing on Patrick’s mind.

Biddy later told him Pat had died in his sleep. He knew Biddy and Pat slept in different rooms. Pat’s cough kept her up all night leaving her good for nothing. She’d seen him when she took in with his early morning tea. He was so peaceful; not a peep out of him. She thought it would be a kindness to let him sleep; not realising he was already gone.

As darkness fell Patrick grew fretful. Muireann was expecting him. What if he didn’t show? Would she ever come again? But how could he leave Biddy? She had no one else. Reluctantly he closed the curtains, knowing they would not be opened again ‘til after the funeral. There would be no swimming now, no dalliance, at least for a while. It was no comfort to know he was doing the right thing.

The funeral was Saturday afternoon so friends from the logging camp could act as pallbearers. Patrick was not in work but sat with Biddy night and day watching over the body. Friday night everyone turned up for the send-off. Biddy laid on a spread, with a barrel brought from the pub in the drayman’s cart.

It was a good turn-out. There was lots a laughing and singing round the coffin with two fellas from the pub on fiddle and banjo. Near midnight, when the songs were getting maudlin and people shifting uneasily, looking ready to leave, it was time for Pat to go. Biddy went over and opened the window, while respectfully the mourners formed an avenue for his spirit to pass between them out into the night.

The funeral went without a hitch. Everyone came round after. They were subdued for a while, probably nursing hangovers. Some brought a bottle or two by way of commiseration. Wives drifted by with a stew-pot, a spare pie or something else they’d baked. Before anyone knew, it was midnight again and the barrel was finished and the bottles empty and everyone was saying what a great aul fella Paddy was. Though by Jeasus, they’d bothered with him little enough before. And that was that. The man was laid to earth. Biddy and Patrick were expected to get on with it.

After Church on Sunday, there was cold-cuts for dinner and a slice of pie. Claiming a blindin’ head, Biddy went to bed. At a loss Patrick went to the sea. When Muireann wasn’t there, he stripped himself naked and swam until his arms and legs burned. Coming out he realised his eyes were running with tears and he thought it must be the bloody salt water.

For the next week he went to the sea each evening on his way home from work. Muireann had gone. Sometimes he stripped himself and swam. But his heart wasn’t in it. By the month end he was back to work proper and sleeping under the stars, or more often than not under a stretched tarpaulin with the rain drip, drip, dripping off the branches onto the oiled canvass above his head. He missed the sea. But on them nights he missed the sea least of all.

©Paul Andruss 2018

© Images The Colour of Life Geoff Cronin

My thanks again to Paul for this compelling episode in this story and I hope you will pop in tomorrow for the final part.

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks

Thanks again for dropping in and hope to see you tomorrow for the final part of the story…Sally.

Smorgasbord Blogs from My Archives – The House by the Sea Part Three by Paul Andruss


Welcome to the third chapter of The House by the Sea. We left Patrick Noone coming to terms with life with his Aunt Biddy and Uncle Pat. At seven years old he took over the chores for his ill uncle and has learned the value of hard work. Paul Andruss picks up the story.

THE HOUSE BY THE SEA – Part Three – Paul Andruss

At the age of fourteen, Biddy put a word in and Patrick got the gardener’s boy’s job up the big house. The gardener, an amiable old chap who headed a team of ten good natured fellas, took bright eager Patrick under his wing, intending to teach him all he knew. Perhaps he felt sorry for him because he was quiet. At the end of his second year the old man sat Patrick down, knocked out his pipe on the heel of his boot and slowly shook his head.

‘By the holy Jeasus an all o’ his saints lad, you’ve a aul rare gift. No matter what I gives yer, by Jeasus, if it don’t curl up an die. I might as well save meself the trouble an dip it in saltwater. Now I likes yer, I do, an there is no doubt yer can graft, but it can’t go on. I’m supposed ta be fillin the place like the Garden o’ Eden, not leaving it scorched as the hobs a Hell.

‘Now Paddy lad, don’t be lookin at me like a dog off to be whipped, I spake to Danny, that’s Mr McEnery ta yer, an yer fixed ta join is timber gang, if he likes the cut of yer jib. It’s a good life lad, an yer gift for killin plants ain’t such a handicap to them, what with the business the’re in,’ he chortled.

That afternoon the gardener took him to be looked over by the Estates Manager Mr McEnery, or ‘that miserable aul’ get’ as everyone else referred to him. The estate had a logging team and its own timber mill, each run by a foreman under McEnery. At first Patrick was put in the timber mill, which he hated; especially with McEnery living up to his nickname, barking out his orders with a puss on him like he’d been slapped round the face with an aul kipper.

Lucky for Patrick within a fortnight one of the logging men had an accident and he was sent to the team, temporary mind, to help load and drive the cart. It was a wet cold miserable week. None of the other fellas were keen on moving out of the comfort of the factory.

Patrick loved the freedom, loved no one checking on you every five minutes. Most of all, he loved being in the woods with the scattered diffused light breaking through the dark green canopy and the rain on his face. He thought it was the closest he’d ever come to being underwater. It was like living in the sea.

Before long he was wielding an axe as good as any of them and loving every minute. The rest of the lads were like Uncle Pat, except fit and full of laughter. Even the foreman Ron, only got stiff when aul McEnery came sniffing round, which wasn’t that often as long as you got your quota to the mill on time.

In summer they would stay out for days on end, working dawn ‘til dusk and sleeping on canvass cots under tarpaulins stretched between branches like tents. They kept a roaring log fire on the go, cooking up a big aul frying pans a bacon, sausage, eggs n bread, n spuds roast in the ashes. With a big aul billie a tea, strong n sweet with condensed milk, stewing away night and day.

He worked six and half days, and it was hard, hard labour, but it filled him out. By the age of twenty he was weathered as seasoned oak, with muscles like ripcords, a strong back and broad across the shoulders. A quiet man, each Saturday afternoon instead of staying in the pub with the lads, he’d head back to Aunt Biddy to turn over the bulk of his wages and help out with the chores. On the way home he always made sure to pick up a couple a pint bottles of the black stuff from the pub and a pack of ciggies from the tobacconists for Uncle Pat along with a bag of boiled sweets for Biddy.

There was Mass on Sunday morning followed by a slap up breakfast and a slap up dinner. By suppertime he was heading back to camp with a week’s worth of clean clothes and a couple of large meat and potato pies in his backpack to share with the lads.

Winter was different. It was too cold to be sleeping rough. With the short days the lads headed off early to their homes or lodgings in the town. At one point, Patrick even suggested Auntie Biddy take in a few for the extra money, but by this time Big Pat wasn’t well enough. The poor aul sod looked like death, propped up in the big aul armchair by the grate day and night; asleep more often than not, with a burned down ciggie hangin’ from his lips.

He’d joke the doctor told him to stay away from the ciggies. ‘But I said to him,’ he’d say, ‘by Jeasus Doc, and where am I goin’ a get one a them fancy ciggie holders when I’m buggered walking ta the privy?’

Then he’d laugh, which would start the hacking cough, which wouldn’t stop. Biddy or Patrick would have to bend him forward and rub his back trying to loosen the congestion. Sometimes after a bad attack, Patrick saw Biddy bent over the stove, or doing the ironing, quietly crying. He knew better than to say something.

It was an early spring afternoon, one of them days with just a promise of what’s to come in the air. Patrick was walking home before twilight. There had been a filthy big storm the day before that left the logging camp like a sea of mud, with nothing movin’. The foremen sent them home saying they’d get an early start tomorra.

As Patrick hit the coast path leading down to the house, didn’t he see the strangest thing on the beach? At first, he didn’t know what to make of it. Then thought his eyes was deceiving him. There was something black and white caught in the surf. It couldn’t be; but it was. Jesus Christ and all his saints in heaven! There was a body washed up, all white, broken and naked: a woman judging by the long dark hair tangled by the crashing waves.

His first thought was she must have drowned. There were stories he’d heard, what with living by the sea all his life, how the riptide could strip a body naked. Holy Mary Mother of God, what a hideous way to go! He was debating what to do when he saw her move. He knew it wasn’t the waves, when she moved again. Jesus Christ she was alive!

Yelling like a mad man he tore down the cliff path. Within twenty or thirty wards there was a way down to the beach: he knew it well. He hit the sand running so fast he went tumbling arse over tip. As he struggled to his feet, he looked again. He was too late. She was gone.

A cry of anguish was ripped out of the heart of him. Patrick pelted into the crashing white surf, looking right and left, hoping to find some trace. Anything!

He was shocked to see the top of a head appear from beneath the waves. A slim pale hand wiped away the long dark hair plastered across her face to reveal large brown liquid eyes looking at him, full of curiosity.

He stared back uncomprehending.

‘You’re alive?’ he muttered after a moment.

Slowly the rest of her head emerged, a delicate nose and full lips, pinched and blue with the cold.

‘I heard you coming, I had no clothes.’

‘I thought you was dead!’

‘Me? No.’ she laughed.

‘You looked dead’, he protested, biting his lip, scared to offend her. But she had looked dead; lying white and broken; cast up like flotsam.

Slowly she rose from the water, her long sleek hair sticking like a pelt to her narrow shoulders as she broke surface. Under the water it floated like strands of kelp, obscuring the swell of her breasts.

Patrick blushed to see her rising naked. He turned away. He had never seen a woman and was desperate to look. But not like this. It wasn’t decent.

He felt a peck on his cheek. ‘You are gallant,’ she said, sounding as if she was laughing at him.

Before he could stop himself, he’d looked. She was holding something to protect her modesty, lank and dark like a wet blanket, or perhaps wet leather, or maybe moleskin, for it looked slick and glossy.

‘I was swimming.’ She took his hand in her icy one and led him from the water. ‘You will catch your death.’

‘And what about you?’

‘I never feel the cold’.

She saw him puzzling over this. ‘I swim every day.’

‘It must be marvellous… to swim’

‘Can’t you?’

He shook his head.

‘Perhaps I could teach you. Would you like that?’

They were out of the swell now. The waves crashing no more than calf deep still wanted to drag him under. She began to adjust her blanket, draping it over her breasts and torso, leaving her white arms and shoulders bare.

He must have been staring for she was laughed. ‘Go home. I have a long swim a head of me and you will catch your death.’

Obediently he waded out of the cold grey water. Reaching the beach he heard her say,

‘When?’

He looked back.

‘Your swimming lesson. When?’

Saturday,’ he hesitantly replied, ‘afternoon. Two?’
‘I am Muireann.’ She smiled. ‘And I will wear something more appropriate.’

‘I’m Patrick.’ He returned her smile.

‘What a lovely name.’

He walked up the beach, feeling her eyes on him. Reaching the dunes he turned to wave goodbye. She was gone.

©Paul Andruss 2018

©Images The Colour of Life Geoff Cronin

The mystery deepens.. who is the strange woman who is brave enough to swim in such wintery seas…. pop in tomorrow to find out more.

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks

Thanks again for dropping in and hope to see you tomorrow for the next episode…Sally.

Smorgasbord Posts from My Archives – The House by the Sea – Part One by Paul Andruss


In early 2018 Paul Andruss wrote a delightful five part story and over this weekend and Easter I am going to share again. Good things are worth repeating…

THE HOUSE BY THE SEA by Paul Andruss

Patrick Noone had liked the sea ever since he could remember. He liked the way its wildness stirred restlessness in his heart. His earliest memories were of yearning to plunge into the world beneath the waves; to hold his breath and let the current sweep him where it would.

Those memories came unbidden as he lay in bed, or at twilight watching a red bloated sun sink into grey. At such times, he remembered sitting in someone’s lap with protective arms wrapped around him. He believed it was his mother; although he remembered nothing of her. He imagined if he could only turn his head to look into her eyes he would see everything. But of course, he could not.

Sometimes when he had fallen into these reveries, he thought he heard low singing in a feminine lilting voice. Never words, just a soothing noise on the edge of hearing, like the whisper of waves on the beach below the house. At such times, he remembered large, dark, liquid eyes revealing his reflection and a wide expanse of seamlessly joined sky and sea. They were his mother’s eyes he supposed. They were certainly not his father’s.

His father hated the sea. His earliest memory of his father was of a bright day. Left to his own devices young Patrick wondered down to the beach and stood letting the water lap around his toes. He was entranced, lost in the sound of distant singing. Suddenly he was snatched up. Thrust face first into a musty corduroy jacket smelling of cigarettes, and carried roughly away.

His father did not say a word as he dropped him in a heap on the kitchen floor. He made to take off his belt; then stopped. He stood staring at his son for minutes. Or was it hours? Patrick did not know. When you are a child, time seems frozen and sometimes in memory, time is frozen too.

He remembered his father’s face crumpled as he let out an anguished cry. It left Patrick shaking and he burst into tears. His father knelt down and hugged him. Patrick remembered being held so tight he could not breathe. He fought as children do when feeling smothered. Without warning his father let go and walked out the house. Patrick must have been about 5 years old.

Patrick always thought his father died that night, although he knew it was not true. For some time they lived in two rooms, the kitchen and parlour next door with all the furniture pushed back to make room for a large cold bed where Patrick and his father slept. Not though his father ever slept in the bed, he always fell asleep in the chair with a bottle on the table and a pewter mug in his hand.

In the morning Patrick would creep around, looking for a crust. Perhaps he’d find scrapings of a leek and potato soup from Aunt Biddy, or scraps congealed on last night’s plates of cold boiled bacon and colcannon. Patrick did not wake his father. Not because he was afraid, but because when his father slept he looked almost happy.

He remembered Aunt Biddy in a blustering rage accusing her brother of not loving Patrick. She claimed he was afraid of him. Even at that young age Patrick knew not a single word coming from Biddy’s mouth was true. Even she did not believe it. Biddy had her eye on his father’s handsome house; neglected and forlorn as it was.

A crying shame she scolded, with no fire in the grate and filth in the corners piled high as the dirty dishes in the sink. This was no way to live, with a poor wee mite running round filthy and bare arsed as a heathen. And didn’t she make a great show of wanting to be a sainted mother to him, lunging at Patrick with her great white arms in which to smother him. A fate Patrick avoided only by hiding behind his father’s chair.

Biddy rubbed her eyes with the edge of her pinnie. Rubbed them in the exact place tears might appear, had there been any. Upon her life she sniffled, all she ever wanted was wee ‘uns of her own. But she couldn’t yer see. Not with Big Pat’s lungs shot through with the consumption. Her voice already a hoarse whisper dropped to inaudibility at the thought of any indelicacy passing her lips. The malarkey, she mouthed, not possible yer see. Over the years Patrick often wondered if Biddy had wanted wee ‘uns of her own why she never treated him better.

Biddy was the type of woman any man would struggle to best, never mind his father with all the fight gone from him. As Patrick could testify from experience, her powerful white arms and raw rough hands could land a clout to send you spinning clean across the room; if she had a mind, which she often did.

Not long afterwards, Biddy moved in with her husband, Big Pat, a small mean-built man, skinny and pale as Biddy was large and red. Before night fell, the whole house smelled of carbolic and damp washing, a smell even the tempting aroma of a mutton stew could not overwhelm. By the end of the week she forbad Patrick’s father from drinking in the house, which meant he went out drinking in the pub. Then she forbad Big Pat from going with him, which meant he carried on drinking in the house. From then on Patrick saw his father less and less. Which was good in a way, for when he drowned Patrick never really noticed he was gone.

Once the house was as she liked it, Biddy turned her attention to Patrick. Biddy took in washing and ironing for the big house, the doctor and the priest, and wanted him out from under her feet. Announcing she couldn’t have him running round the house all day long like a wild heathen, she scrubbed him, head to foot, with gritty soap on an itchy rag and inspected his head for nits by wrenching a fine-toothed comb through his tangled locks.

He was dressed in his Sunday best, a shirt with a starched collar that chaffed his neck, short trousers creased so sharp he might do someone mischief and black books so shiny he could see his face. Biddy inspected him critically and after a final scrub round the ears with spit and the edge of her pinnie, pulled on her good coat and dragged him, screaming every inch of the way, to the nuns for schooling.

‘Jeasus, Mary and Josef, what was yer thinking?’ she roared at his father. The woman could hardly believe her ears when Father O’Malley came round to tell her little Patrick was a real heathen and if she wanted him in school he would have to be baptised. Baptised he was that very day and started school the next; the youngest in the whole place, which was really just two classes.

©Paul Andruss 2018

©Images The Colour of Life by Geoff Cronin

About Paul Andruss

Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.

Paul is the author of two books and you can find out more by clicking the image.

Finn Mac CoolThomas the Rhymer

Connect to Paul on social media.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/paul.andruss.9
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Paul_JHBooks

Thank you for dropping in today and part two of the story is tomorrow… as always we would love your feedback.. thanks Sally.