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Tuesday, January 23, 2024

The Sheriff of Nottingham - A Medieval Myth?


Image from "Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves."

The Sheriff of Nottingham – A Medieval Myth?

We remember the Sheriff of Nottingham, the ultimate medieval ‘baddie’, enemy of Robin Hood, played with vigorous style by Alan Rickman in “Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves.”


No records give this man’s name, only his title, yet there never was a sheriff of Nottingham. So did this un-named villain exist?


One clue is in the title “Sheriff”, meaning shire-reeve, the reeve (royal officer) of the shire.


A further clue to the genesis of this myth is the fact that there was a High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and the Royal Forests, appointed by the Crown by the Normans soon after the Norman Conquest of 1066.


The Forest Laws were a Norman import, imposed upon Anglo-Saxon Laws and customs, and very much despised by the conquered population. The Forest Laws were a means by which the King could extend his rule, eagerly used by monarchs to do just that. They could be imposed on more than woodland or forest, and the High Sheriff, the creature of the King, was hated as an enforcer of arbitrary, sometimes brutal laws. Forest Laws were intended to reserve the red and fallow deer  and the boar for the King and the aristocracy – and no one else. Dogs, apart from guard dogs, were forbidden in forest areas, and people were forbidden to carry hunting weapons. William Rufus, the son of William the Conqueror, increased the severity of the laws in the royal forests to include death and mutilation. Such sentences seem to have rarely imposed, but such laws caused resentment.  


King William II Rufus died in the royal New Forest, struck by an arrow. Political assassination or an angry local, furious at the laws?


Another reason why the foil of Robin Hood was a sheriff was because, in history, so many sheriffs or high sheriffs were bad lots. Philip Mark, sheriff from 1209 to 1224, Henry de Faucemberg (!318 to 1319) and John de Oxenford (1334 to 1339) were all corrupt, robbing and extorting with a will. ‘Gentlemen’ gangs of younger sons of the landed gentry, trained for battle and with no lands to inherit, took readily to robbery and more. Men such as the Folvilles and the Coterels actively recruited royal and other officials to help them murder and steal. In 1335 Nicholas Coterel was even made bailiff for the High Peak District of Derbyshire, the ultimate huntsman-turned-gamekeeper!


Given the danger for breakers of the king’s laws, poachers in the royal forest areas were often celebrated and praised. Few who benefited protested, especially if they might receive a share of fresh, tasty meat.



Woodland, forests and hunting feature in many of my medieval stories. I have Magnus, the hero in “The Snow Bride” involved in an assassination attempt in northern woodland during a hunt, and Conrad, the hero of “Sir Conrad and the Christmas Treasure” is a steward of the forest high lands. I speak of poaching, hunting and magic done to aid both in my novel, “The Master Cook and the Maiden”. All three of these novels are available on Amazon and free to read through Kindle Unlimited. Why not give them a try?


"The Snow Bride"

"Sir Conrad and the Christmas Treasure." 

"The Master Cook and the Maiden." 






Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Movie Kisses Series 1/9/2024 Phantom of the Opera #prairierosepubs #moviekisses #poto

In my 2023 year-long blogging series, I looked at dance scenes from historically-set movies that showed us so much more about the relationship between the dancers than straight dialogue could accomplish as efficiently.

Come along with me in 2024 for my series about kissing scenes in historically-set movies. The time period is roughly cut off at 1945.

These aren’t just any old kisses. These are THE KISS. THE KISS we've craved through the movie. We need THE KISS. We’ve waited and waited for THE KISS. It makes our foot ‘pop’. 

Jeremy Bishop photo | Unsplash

I will offer a background set-up to each scene and a clip of the scene. I’m saving my two favorite kissing scenes until December. It will be worth the wait, I promise.

Each kissing scene is workplace-friendly.

The January Kissing Scene is from The Phantom of the Opera (2004).

Yes. The Phantom is not a nice guy. I get it. Over the course of the movie, he’s committed murder, kidnapping, extortion, and coercion to name a few undesirable traits in a companion, but dang, I love this story so much that I’m able to overlook those rather egregious shortcomings. (twisted…I know)

Sure, the first kissing scene with Christine and Raoul is romantic when they are on the roof of the Opera Populaire and it required so many takes that Emmy Rossum (Christine) had to ice her lips because they were swollen, but it's the kiss with Gerard Butler (the Phantom) that makes my foot pop. (I may or may not have actually swooned the first time I saw this scene.) ;-)

I anticipated The Kiss from the moment the Phantom showed himself in the mirror.

We know Christine and Raoul will end up together, because Raoul is the knight in shining armor. But The Phantom is the bad boy, and I have a soft spot in my romance-writing heart for the misunderstood bad boy.

This clip is the ending few minutes of the movie. Watch through 1:20 and you’ll see The Kiss.

See you next month for more kisses from the big screen.

Kaye Spencer

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Experience & Assumptions


Post by Doris McCraw

aka Angela Raines

Photo (C) Doris McCraw

We are starting a new year. It's a time of goals and resolutions. It's also true that many of us need to remember or follow through. This year instead of the usual, I use the word experience. 

I choose to experience writing about the Civil War veterans and their wives/families, who are buried in the cemeteries here in the Pikes Peak Region. This can be tricky for there are many assumptions about veterans that I will need to be aware of.

Some of those assumptions may deal with which side of the conflict they served on. So many of us make choices we may or may not regret, yet, those choices do not define us unless we let them. There are at least two who not only served with the South, but when they moved out here after the conflict, they left a positive mark on the region. Their wives, who sometimes are forgotten, will be the focus of most of these posts.

Photo (C) Doris McCraw

What will be your choice of experiences in 2024? What is something that has been waiting to experience? What is holding you back?

As we head into the coming twelve months let's take joy in being alive, and follow the dreams you thought couldn't happen. They won't unless you grab hold and start in.

Wishing you all the best and enjoy those experiences. 


Until Next Time: Stay safe, Stay happy, and Stay healthy. 


Tuesday, January 2, 2024

New You, the Old Way

New You, the Old Way

C. A. Asbrey

A mosaic in a large Roman villa near Piazza Armerina, Sicily, features girls dressed in what look like bikinis, and they are either playing games or exercising. Most people guess that the latter as a more expanded version shows women swinging weights, throwing balls, and running. Getting into shape, and staying that way, is far from new. In fact, many of us consider doing exactly the same thing at this time of year.

The woman with the palm frond and crown is thought to depict the award ceremony for winners, but the flower-like object held by the woman on her left is less certain. It could be an award she is holding out, representative of a chariot wheel, or it might be a parasol, The woman on the far left in the yellow gown looks as though she is handing out the awards. These games were organised and handed out by older women, while the younger women participated. Men worked out in the nude, but this was frowned upon for women, so what we would now call a bikini made female participation possible.

Looking at the fuller picture you can see that a woman has a discus, two are playing with balls, and one has a hand weight. This weight was not used to tone muscles, but was swung to lengthen a long jump to increase momentum. Ball games are truly ancient, and are recorded in every ancient culture in some form. Balls from the same era were found in an Egyptian tomb, and are remarkably similar to the ball in the mosaic. They are filled with hair wrapped in linen before being covered in string. 

Wrestling is an equally ancient form of sport, with versions going back to ancient India, Asia, and Europe, and beyond. It was wildly popular, and there are multiple variations, but they essentially come down to three elements: strength, technique, and perseverance. The strongest has an advantage, but a superior use of holds and exploring the mechanics of the human body in a way that can render an opponent helpless to overcome brute force. Ancient Spartans were known for their honour in wrestling, where men from Argos were seen as skilful. Sicilians, on the other hand, were famous for their craftiness. Leontiskos of Messene was famous for breaking fingers to get out of a hold.

Sports that emulated, and increased skills in, battle were held in great esteem. Chariot and horse racing, martial arts, and tests of strength all go back to the beginning of time, with stars becoming heroes of their day. This meant the participants had to build strength and suppleness. The British rediscovered some of these ancient techniques when they colonised India. Spotting the strength and the techniques used by the locals they adapted the use of Indian Clubs, and by the 1840s they were widely used in training throughout the British army.

These regimes came from ancient Persia, but were still in use in Asia Minor. The takeover of most of India by the Mughals in 1526, meant Persian cultural influences had become strong in India, with close ties between the Mughals and the Safavid dynasty in Persia. Thus Indian wrestling, particularly in the north of the subcontinent, were influenced by Persian methods of training . Farsi terms for wrestling koshti and pahlevani became kushti and pehlwani in India. Wrestling champions in India are still called Rastem from the Persian epic hero Rustum. 

The principal types of equipment found in modern a Zurkhaneh (House of Strength) are ranges of clubs to be used in exercises, maces, pairs of heavy shields, bow-shaped weights called kabbādeh, and clubs. All of these are used in a mixture of weight training, calisthenics, and dexterity. "Professor" James Harrison, a British strongman began instruction with much lighter versions of the clubs around 1837, and they caught on very quickly.    

The first American to popularise club training in the States was a manufacturer of gymnastic equipment,  Simon D. Kehoe. He had traveled to England, witnessed Professor Harrison's displays with huge mugdars and began making clubs himself on his return. His 1866 book, Indian Club Exercises, were for clubs ranging from four to twenty pounds, smaller than the mugdars used by Prof. Harrison, but much heavier than those used by beginners of modern exponents of the clubs.   

1940s Sauna Suit
The clubs enhanced balance and posture, joint mobility and bilateral coordination like few other forms of exercise. They are still used in physical therapy for shoulder, elbow and wrist strength with fluid, full-range motions.  It wasn't long before the trend caught on, and they were widely used right into the 1940s before the use of Indian clubs in elaborate swinging routines fell out of favour outside of medical rehabilitation.

And the Indian club is not alone in falling out of fashion. Most homes have some kind of old fitness equipment lurking in the depths of storage: all come and gone when the promised miracles didn't materialise, and the novelty of a new gadget beckons. The advent of TV infomercials and selling channels only proliferated the market, and I admit to having my own weights and equipment gathering dust. Large pieces often become clothes driers, and the smaller pieces migrate to the loft or the back of a cupboard. Thigh masters, vibrating platforms, shake weights, toning belts and pads that zap the muscles and contract them back into shape without any effort, ab rollers, vibrating belts, sauna suits, and strange elastic bands are only a few of them.

However, to get throughly weird and wacky you can't beat Victorian engineering for truly imaginative and slightly unhinged contraptions. Most require no descriptions from me, so I'll leave you images from the past that show that we've always been hungry for new ways to get fit easily, and hopefully give you a chuckle as you go into a new year with hopes of your own personal improvements. At least you don't have to find space in the loft for stuff as big as these.

Good luck with those resolutions!