Historical things to see in the UK

Taking a trip to England and want ideas for an an itinerary?  Here’s what I did.  What follows is a series on my two-week trip, sprinkled with advice and attractions from England, Wales, and Scotland.

My interest lay in historical attractions, and I visited a good assortment of places dating from England’s Roman age (AD 42–400) to the Victorian age (1850–1910).

The following sites/towns (and others) will be addressed:

  • Globe Theatre
  • Tower of London
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Hadrian’s wall
  • St. Martin in the Field
  • Lindisfarne
  • British Library
  • Vindolanda
  • Alnwick Castle
  • Old Gaol at Hexham
  • Hylton Castle
  • Bamburgh Castle

Christine, Luther, Markham at Tower of London

I made the trip with both my parents, my old college roommate, my sister, and her fiance.  We rented a car and did quite a lot of driving.  With six of us and our luggage crammed into one of those wee little UK conveyances, it was quite tight.

Tip: Lighten your packing by bringing only 2 or 3 changes of clothes, a bit of laundry soap, and a clothes line.  Do your washing in the sink.

Attractions at Renaissance Festivals about Sacramento

A review a number of the performances at Renaissance festivals about Sacramento:

I have patronized four Renaissance faires about Sacramento in the last twelvemonth: Auburn, Folsom, South Lake Tahoe, and Fair Oaks.  From one fair to the next, you’ll see a lot of the same acts.  Bring along a handful of one-dollar bills and keep them free of your wallet so that you can smoothly and swiftly show your appreciation at the end of pleasing performances.

I had better own at the outset that I have a predilection for magical and musical performances, and I tend not to care for bawdy performances.

Claude the fire-breathing dragon
Merloch Silvermaine at Auburn Renaissaince faire
Merloch Silvermaine - click 2 view

The following are rated from okay to very good (so 1 = okay).

Magic with Merloch Silvermaine (5/5)

If you see one act this year, let it be Kim Silverman’s (a.k.a. Merloch Silvermain).  Not only is the man a superb showman and not only is the character he plays nothing short of enchanting, his magic is astounding.  It will inspire the most jaded and incredulous observer.

I have encountered Merloch Silvermain only at the Auburn Renaissance faire.  (Yes, the beard is real.)

The Smith family (5/5)

If you see two acts, let this be the second.  Two parents and three girls singing like seraphs.  They do a worthy rendition of one of my favourite songs, ‘She Moves through the Fair’.  (Here’s another good version to sample.)

I have encountered the Smiths only at the Auburn Renaissance faire.

Paul the Magnificent (4/5)

A magic show.  I’ve seen good and bad, and Paul (a.k.a. Brother Paul) ranks among the pretty good.  He would be a solid 4/5 except that his opening tricks (involving two bowls and water) were none too wonderful.  Nonetheless, I was in amazement at the better portion of his feats.

I have encountered Paul the Magnificent only at the Fair Oaks Renaissance faire.

Yea Jeffrey (4/5)

Jeffrey does juggling tricks, and they’re quite good, but the better value lies in Jeffrey’s character. Jeffrey excels at playing the fool—not in the modern, metaphoric sense, but rather recalling the days when the king’s fool held a position of honour.

Don’t worry, he’s not the sort of fool who is obnoxious or attempts to ingratiate himself through pity.  Nor is he overmuch silly.  He’s a good showman with a good sense of poise, humour, and timing.

I have encountered Jeffrey only at the Fair Oaks Renaissance faire.

The Method at Fair Oaks Renaissance Faire
The Method - click to enlarge

The Method (2/5)

A singing couple.  There’s nothing wrong with their act, and indeed sitting for their songs would not be a waste of your time, except that you may find more delightful things to do.

I have seen The Method at every or nearly every one of the Renaissance festivals mentioned up top.

Aryeh Frankfurter (4/5)

Aryeh (pronounced R-E-A) plays Celtic and Nordic music on the nyckelharpa (keyed fiddle).  I’ve never seen this fellow take the stage, but I’ve seen him at both of the Folsom Renaissance festivals that I’ve attended.  A harp minus track, played through a speaker beside his chair, accompanies.  I enjoy this guy’s music enough that I bought a disc from him (Two Worlds One).

I have encountered Aryeh only at the Folsom Renaissance faire.

Pyrtaneum's cellist - click2view

Prytaneum (3/5)

A cellist and a harpist.  Their material is good, though not as engaging as some.

Fowl Tales (3/5)

For children, this might be a solid 5 out of 5.  A man and his parrots do tricks in guise of a sailor aboard a ship.  The trainer and the parrots are all good performers.

I have seen Fowl Tales at every or nearly every one of the Renaissance festivals mentioned up top.

Broon (4/5)

The Broon show is quite a lark.  Broon performs magic, which is good in its own right, but he is also an excellent showman, witty and light on his toes.  He will have the audience rolling from their seats with laughter.

Glenn Morgan - click to enlarge

Glenn Morgan (3/5)

Glenn plays the hammered dulcimer, and his music is beautiful.  I recommend seeking this fellow out.  You don’t need to look for him at one of the stages (though he may have booked a couple of times there); he’ll probably be stationed somewhere playing most of the day long.  Good for a conversation.

Merrie Pryanksters (2/5)

(Is that really how they spell it?)  The pryanksters provide fiddle and dance.  As with any other 2/5, this is not a bad performance.  Indeed, if you have kids who enjoy dance, have them watch or dance along.  Still, it isn’t enough to hold my attention long on most days.

Hay Penny Consort playing recorders
Hay Penny Consort - click to view

Hay Penny Consort (3/5)

From 2 to 5 ladies playing recorder flutes (from soprano to bass).  Lovely tunes in lovely harmonies.

St. Valerius (1/5)

Okay, I haven’t the right to really rate this act, as I only looked in for a minute before moving on.  They were performing the well-worn Pyramus and Thisbe piece as recorded in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The fact is that I’m disappointed with nearly all Shakespearean performances, one reason being that upwards of half the cast thinks its character is the clown.  Even well-reviewed, supposedly high-brow casts just can’t act.  This was the most clownish I have yet seen.  (Feel free to leave comments disabusing me of my first impressions.)

The Sell Swords (1/5)

Silliness perhaps suitable for children, but I didn’t remain around long enough to determine the second point for certain.  Two “brothers” portraying sailors or pirates.

Noah Had (at least) 5 Sons

You remember Noah’s three sons: Japheth, Shem, & Ham.  Scriptural record suggests that there were at least two other, older brothers, who, if they existed, perished in or before the great flood.

A matter of numbers

The record in the book of Moses has Noah’s granddaughters marrying prior to the great flood, but the timeline hardly allows for Shem, Ham, or Japheth to have had children of marrying age prior to the flood.  Rather, it has a vacuum which seems to expect the existence of earlier progeny, whose children would certainly have been of marrying age before the flood.

Admittedly, scriptural record has come under fire in the last 100 years, and consequently, timelines given prior to the divided kingdom of Israel will be taken lightly by critics, but in the face of criticism, the scriptural record tends to be vindicated where there is any evidence either to prove or disprove.

The age at which one becomes a father

The simplest hint that Noah had earlier sons is only circumstantial, but it had better be discussed first because the circumstance in question is integral to the weightier evidence to come.  The meat of it is that unless Noah had children earlier than Japheth, he was substantially slower to father children than his forebears were—4 times slower!

Moses chapters 6 and 7 records the age of each patriarch from Adam to Noah at the time each fathered his primogeniture*.  The generations before Noah yield the following ages:

130†, 105, 90, 70, 65, 162, 65, 187, 182

…and for Noah: 450.  That’s about 4.3 times the median age for all previous generations (105).

(*We may reasonably presume, at least, that the lineage given follows a line of filius primus, or at least, that of the first son who survived to carry on his father’s lineage.  This is not explicit in the record, however.)

(†This age actually represents the age at which Adam fathered Seth, who was preceded by at least two brothers.  Having Adam’s age in fact be younger even than 130 strengthens the evidence.)

Noah’s granddaughters

Moses 8 speaks of Noah’s granddaughters marrying wicked men‡ prior to the flood (indeed, their conduct is presented as though it were a significant incitement of the flood).  Significantly, Moses 8:14–15 speaks of them as the daughters of the sons of Noah, so if we imagine that Shem, Ham, and Japheth were the only sons of Noah, at least Japheth and Shem were old enough to have daughters of marrying age.

Noah was 492 when Shem was born, so if we give Shem the mean fathering age for his predecessors (105 years old), then Noah would have been approximately 597 years old at the time his granddaughters were born.

At what age would a woman of that period marry? It’s hard to say, but the earliest suggestion of the parity/disparity of a wife’s age to that of her husband in the descendancy that we’re dealing with is that of Sarai (Sarah) and Abram (Abraham).  Genesis 17:17 indicates that Sarai was 10 years younger than Abram.  This isn’t enough evidence to suggest that in the time of Noah (1000 years earlier) the practice was the same, but it is enough to destroy any assumption that Noah’s practice was associated with the marrying age at the time of Christ (~12 years old for a woman) (unless the marrying age for men was ~20, but that’s just not realistic, as it means that couples would generally put off procreating for ~100 years).

Regardless of whether the marrying age of Noah’s granddaughters was near to that of their husbands or much lower, however, the math still doesn’t work.  Genesis 7:6 states that “Noah was 600 years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth.”  If we keep our assumption that Shem married at age 105, his daughters would have to marry at the age of 3 for that to work.

If we back down Shem’s (and Japheth’s) fathering age to the very earliest had among their predecessors (65 years old), that leaves 43 years for the daughters.  Having Shem’s daughters marry at the age of 43 comes across unlikely since their husbands presumably got married at a mean age of 2.4 times as old (unless there was a consistent and significant gap between marriage and filius primus, which is doubtful).

(‡It is interesting to note at this point that we see quite the reverse of what is represented in Genesis viz. sons/daughters of god  and sons/daughters of men.  In Genesis, the sons of god take the daughters of men to wife, whereas in Moses, the daughters of the sons of god are taken to wife of the sons of men.)

It gets worse

Even if you discredit the foregoing assumptions—that is, if you suppose that:

  1. two of Noah’s sons married as young as the youngest in precedent
  2. (and)
  3. brides at the time of Noah’s grandchildren were less than half as old as their husbands
  4. (or)
  5. couples tended to wait a long time after marrying before birthing their primogeniture
  6. (and)
  7. two of Noah’s sons defied this convention, having daughters shortly after marrying

—even then, you still have problems with the timeline.  Look at Moses 8:15–17.  In verse 15, God decries the marriages of Noah’s granddaughters.  In verse 16, Noah undertakes a ministry.  In verse 17, God threatens to send the great flood.

The line to focus on is in verse 17: “all flesh shall die; yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years; and if men do not repent, I will send in the floods upon them.”

It is possible that God’s pronouncement in verse 17 was given before the events of verses 15 and 16, but the organization of the chapter implies the contrary.  That means that the flood must have fallen no sooner than 120 years after the earliest marriages of the daughters of the sons of Noah.

Even if you outright omit Noah’s granddaughters and add that 120 years into the timeline right after the birth of Shem, Noah would be 612.  That’s 12 years after the flood. This contradiction should lead us to suppose that Shem, Ham, and Japheth were born after the criticism of Noah’s granddaughters and before the flood; ergo their fathers were born well in advance of Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

If Noah had at least 5 sons…

If Noah had at least 5 sons, the math works (and so do the semantics of “daughters of [Noah’s] sons”).

We can suppose that Noah started fathering at the median time for his ascendancy (age 105).  Add another 105 years for his first sons to have children of their own (Noah reaches age 210).  Add another 105 years for his earliest granddaughters to get married (Noah reaches age 315).  Add another 120 years for God’s prophesy in Moses 7:17 (Noah reaches age 435).

That’s completely believable and there’s no shortage of wiggle room.  We just have to push the prophecy 165 years later, during which interim, we suppose it was business as usual, fathering more children, grandfathering more grandchildren.

Room for error

Admittedly, interpretation of scripture is notorious for being contradicted by other scriptures, and the matter of Noah’s children is no exception.

In particular, Moses 7:42–43 displays the prophecy (made in Enoch’s day) “that the posterity of all the sons of Noah should be saved with a temporal salvation.”  (Verse 43 makes it clear that the temporal salvation in question is indeed salvation from death in the flood.)

Tradition and 1 Peter 3:20 teach that none of Noah’s grandchildren was saved in the ark.  If our portrait of history relies on Noah’s earlier sons having daughters and on none of those daughters surviving the flood, then we have a conflict of source material.  I.e. if none of Noah’s grandchildren were spared the flood, then the posterity of his drowned sons was not saved with a temporal salvation.

It seems likely that our interpretation of one or more of the foregoing scriptures is in error.  The most likely error is an error in the semantics of “all” (not an unknown problem with transmitted, transmuted, or translated texts).  Perhaps “all the sons of Noah” as used in Moses 7 means only all the sons that are known.

There is good scope for creativity, however; the foregoing teachings might yet be reconciled at least one other way: a remnant of the houses of Noah’s earlier sons might have escaped the known world and so avoided the flood.  In such case, the whole (known) world would still be inundated, but the posterity of all the sons of Noah would be preserved.

C. S. Lewis & Iron Maiden

Narnia, Tring - geograph.org.uk - 333973

What do C. S. Lewis and Iron Maiden have to do with one another?  (If you’re a Maiden fan, then you probably guessed 90% of the answer aright just upon hearing the question.)


Steve Harris 30nov2006 (version 2)Anyone who has listened to much Iron Maiden can tell that these blokes (or at least bassist Steve Harris, who does the larger part of their writing) are culturally literate.  Songs about Alexander the Great, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Dune, Icarus and Daedalus, to name a few, speckle their catalogue.  It’s no surprise, then, to find one of C. S. Lewis’ works integrated into one of their own.

Clive Staples “Jack” Lewis is better known for his writings in defense of Christianity (“Christian apologetics”) and his Narnia series.  Lesser known among his works is his Space Trilogy, the first volume of which bears the title Out of the Silent Planet.  It is this work that appears in Iron Maiden’s song catalogue, track 9 on their 13th album Brave New World.

The “silent planet” of mention is our planet, Earth.  It seems a strange moniker, certainly, for what planet could be noisier than one inhabited by humans?  The answer requires the reader to understand a point of view different from his own, for thought the earth is not silent to our ears, it is strangely cut off from the higher spheres (referring to the mediaeval astronomical concept); the spirits that enliven other planets/heavenly bodies are unable to communicate with or receive correspondence from the spirit that inhabits Earth.

Is your interest piqued?  Why not visit your local library today and pick up a good C. S. Lewis book or Iron Maiden album?

Lamp post image by Rob Farrow [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Steve Harris image by Rockk3r (Original version by Darz Mol here) (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons