Tuesday 30 November 2010

Snow Business like Show Business

Since I last posted, a thick blanket of snow has descended upon Streonaeshalch, and the countenance of the entire landscape has changed. Even St Hilda's Abbey looks beautiful on the top of the cliff, and the monks are wearing habits of heavier grade wool to keep themselves warm. The soothsayers are talking as if they've never seen snow before, and the prognosticators are telling us that this cold spell will stay with us for another week at least - but it might stay for the rest of the year. Apparently it's because of global warming - humans have been burning too may bonfires, and the resulting generation of smoke is altering the temperature of the climate. Whatever. Naturally, we're being regaled by the customary tales of woe: schools closed down, people trapped in their homes under several feet of snowdrifts, the stiff corpses of frozen stoats and badgers, businesses that have been bankrupted because of lost trade - all the usual stuff. It keeps the soothsayers busy - and entertains those who are dumb enough to hang onto their every word.

Another great disaster is the disclosure of many hitherto secret conversations between representatives of the kingdoms of the Northumbrians, the Mercians, the people of Wessex, the East Angles and the Jutes. If we're to believe what the soothsayers are so authoritatively telling us, the transcripts of all kinds of conversations between their politicians have been revealed to all and sundry. The resulting embarrassment of those dignitaries whose private conversations and correspondence have been disclosed is presented to us as tasty morsels of delightful gossip. For example, one senior Danish administrator in the Mercian Danegeld referred to the eldest daughter of the King of Wessex as a 'slapper' - much to everyone's amusement. The soothsayers have told us with a straight face that this could well occasion an international incident, and blacksmiths are being advised to beat ploughshares into swords in preparation for the coming Armageddon. I asked Caedmon what a 'slapper' was - but he wouldn't tell me. He's such a sobersides at times - I'll try to remember to ask him again when he's had another cheeky mead. I promise not to drop dead from the passive drinking fumes.

Are these disclosure stories true? The jury's out, but I'm pretty sure that it's just fodder to entertain and preoccupy the masses; after all - who pays the soothsayers and keeps them in a job? As for the real entertainment business - the Waggoner and the Weasel have been summarily dismissed from The Ð Factor'. That's good enough for me.

Friday 26 November 2010

The Great Passive Danger

The soothsayers - and those who pay them to talk their addled drivel - have been at it again. They've recently announced that hundreds of thousands of people are dying as a result of passive drinking.

For the sake of those who don't quite understand this, I'll explain. The imbibing of alcoholic refreshments is a pastime that has been part of human life since the dawn of time; even the ancient Egyptians brewed ale as they built the Pyramids and flogged their slaves. Even squirrels, sheep and rabbits like to nibble at the occasional fermented apple and get a bit jolly; it makes life more enjoyable - well, at least until the morning after. I laughed myself silly when I saw a hung-over goat with his horns stuck in a tree trunk after a drunken session the other day. Cats like myself don't bother with such things; we just like to get stoned on catmint. Mmmmm - I'll hold that thought...

The problem is that once people have had a sip or two of ale or mead, their breath starts to exude alcoholic fumes. I can always tell when Caedmon has partaken of a cheeky mead or two; when he gets home he lavishes me with more than the customary attention, and tends to be a little more uninhibited and noisy in his conversation, and the fumes fill the room. I haven't told the Abbess Hilda about this. She would be most displeased.

So, what's so sinister about alcohol fumes, you might ask? If the soothsayers and their sources are correct, these vapours have a deleterious effect on those who share the same atmosphere as the drinkers. Since alcohol is a toxin which is lethal and severely addictive, people are taking ill and dying. They're dropping like flies. On the streets. Every day. The gravediggers are having to work overtime, and the priests are being run ragged because of the relentless number of last rites they have to administer - and the subsequent funeral masses they have to take.

I wandered through Streonaeshalch earlier, and I must say I haven't stumbled across a human corpse yet. I'd have expected to have seen heaps of them by now - if the soothsayers' accounts are to be taken at face value.

I went to see Leo to ask his opinion about it. Leo is a new friend I met while I was wandering around the home of one of the wealthy nobles a few weeks ago. He's a cat - but he's enormous, and he has a shaggy mane. He's kept in an enormous cage, and his owner feeds him sides of raw meat. Lucky thing. He's a nice fellow, but his breath smells positively awful. And I don't get too close - even though we're in the same branch of the animal kingdom; he can get rather enthusiastic with his huge paws and teeth.

When I told him what I heard, he said it was news to him. But if I could help him get out of his cage, he'd happily go to town and take a look; if there were any dead bodies, he would gladly help clear them up. I really believe that he would as well.

I thought better of Leo's suggestion, however. I feel sorry for him because unlike me, he isn't free to roam as he pleases, but somehow, I don't think it would be a good idea to let him loose - except perhaps in the house of Beeby See and the other soothsayers who talk such guff. I'll have a think about that...

Thursday 25 November 2010

Hasn't Anybody Noticed Yet..?

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but once more in Streonaeshalch we've received reports from the soothsayers that young people have been meeting in various towns in droves to protest at the increase in their education fees. These had been announced by Caedmeron and Clegge and their government owing to the vast deficit in the Kingdom of Northumbria's finances. In places, these gatherings have turned ugly, as children have exhibited the kind destructive behaviour I've come to associate with the human race. Even Feaxede the fox doesn't do such wanton damage - and he's a vandal par excellence. He loves to leave headless chickens around the place like some untidy teenager. The rioting youths have damaged property and torched buildings; scuffles have broken out as the municipal thugs have tried to contain and control them.

On the face of it, the young people have good reason to be angry. After all, before this present Tree/Liberationist alliance administration came to office in the Witangemot, Clegge himself made an unequivocal pledge to the Northumbrian people that his faction would on no account support any increase in education fees. So there's been a complete volte-face on the part of the Liberationists. Nothing new there; promises and pledges from politicians are like vapours - but less tangible.

Naturally, the Redistributionists (Reds) are putting on a display of their own infantile style of theatre, and trying to make some political capital out of it all - their impudence is breathtaking. The  financial catastrophe that the Kingdom is allegedly encountering is a direct result of the years of their own reckless and feckless profligacy. Even Caedmon - who is normally a placid and saintly man, not normally given to intemperate language - has described them as thieving degenerates and spendthrifts.

As a cat, I can afford to ignore it all. Quite frankly, I don't give a rat's backside. But what does bother me however is that the people of this realm are so chronically forgetful, shortsighted and dense. Any fool in the animal kingdom will tell them that whichever faction - or factions - run the Witangemot makes no difference to the actual business of government. What's a government without a litany of broken pledges and discarded principles? I'm quite sure that Judas Iscariot would have made a fine politician. Actually - the Church should make him the patron saint of politicians. It would be so fitting. I'll have a word with Caedmon about it.

One of the monks told Caedmon that he actual word 'govern-ment' appears to come from two Latin words: guberno (to rule) and mentiri (to lie). Hasn't anybody noticed yet?

Tuesday 23 November 2010

The Royal Wedding Announcement

I've heard today from the soothsayers that the happy couple - Walthelm and Gytha - have announced the date of their wedding; it's going to be on the 29th April next year. Such excitement abounds here in Streonaeshalch!

I then began to wonder what I could do to provide them with a bottom-drawer present to help the couple as they prepare for their nuptials. I asked Caedmon for some ideas, but he was most unhelpful; he doesn't summon a great deal of interest with the affairs of great and the good - unless they happen to be clergy in the Church or men of letters.

So I went for a stroll, and during my perambulations I happened across Feaxede, the local fox, who'd been on a foraging mission in the local dump. (He and I have a cordial relationship, and we often help each other on a quid pro quo basis, since we have various tastes in common.) Since he depends upon human habitations for a lot of his business and food intake, he was quite keen to join in the spirit of things. He told me that there are lots of interesting things that we could choose from, and led me to the tip from which he'd just emerged.

After some considerable time of looking and sniffing around, I came to the conclusion that the couple might not need a worn-out shoe or the bony remains of a chicken carcass. They've probably got thousands of them already, and besides, they don't want for anything, do they?

Anyway - what on earth am I getting so excited about? They don't give any thought to a white cat, so why should I bother with them? They're only nobles, after all. I much prefer the excitement and hullabaloo of The Ð Factor'. It's such a shame that the page boy got heaved out so unceremoniously. How do the Waggoner and the Weasel manage to remain in the competition?

Monday 22 November 2010

The Do-do Principle In Action

Well, life in the Witangemot puppet show certainly gets lively these days. A distinguished young advisor to the Tree/Liberationist alliance has been given his marching orders - despite having been hailed as a guiding light when he was first appointed. I heard that he publicly stated that we've never had it so good here in Northumbria; he also made reference to the 'so-called recession.' So, why did he get the heave-ho from Caedmeron? With one accord the soothsayers are saying that he was a very haughty, nasty fellow who was talking bombastic nonsense. Of course we're in a deep financial crisis, they say. Look at the numbers of hovel improvement pack inspectors, fish quota accountants and cat registrars who are now out of work. This is a calamity of unparalleled proportions.

As I wander through Streonaeshalch in this lovely corner of the Northumbrian realm, I can't say that I've seen any vestige of the doom-and-gloom that the soothsayers are talking about; everyone around here lives modestly and works hard. The baker is still making bread, and the butcher is still selling meat for those who can afford it. All the rest are eating fish, which is cheap and in plentiful supply. Caedmon still feeds me fish that he gets from the market by the harbour. The innkeeper is still selling mead and ale at exorbitant prices. Despite the fact that they have 'The Ð Factor' and similar fripperies to entertain them and boost their morale, I can't say the humans are badly off. Nobody's actually starving. Perhaps the sacked young adviser was telling the truth. Telling the truth in public can land you in the stuff that happens: Caedmon told me that when I was a kitten, and I've no reason to disbelieve it.

It would appear that the financial calamities that have beset the Northumbrian populace have also been occurring elsewhere; over in Ireland they've had to rely on the Holy Roman Empire (which is neither holy nor Roman) to help bail them out of yet another financial crisis and to bring them into a state of subjection. One of the monks at the Abbey is Irish, and he's heard regularly from his relatives over there, so I get plenty of updates. Isn't it strange that things can change so quickly - and all from the public pronouncements of some play-acting political leaders? Caedmeron let the mouse out of the bag when he said that the smelly brown stuff happens. Over here - and over in Ireland it's been given every encouragement to happen. And I know who's making sure it happens. They can fool other humans - but they can't fool a cat.

Thursday 18 November 2010

Smelly Brown Stuff Happening

At an awards ceremony last night, Caedmeron - the beloved Leader of the Tree-Liberationist alliance government - is reported to have responded to a question by saying "Sh*t happens."

I can only marvel at the sublime profundity of such a response - and the depth of thought and accumulated wisdom that gave rise to it. I've indeed found this maxim to be true; inevitably I find that it "happens" whenever I visit my kitty tray or a patch in the garden for some colonic relief. I hastily bury the outcome, since it's neither fragrant nor pretty. Caedmon certainly doesn't like it either; my scatological offerings usually prompt some wry word of protestation. I sheepishly slink out of the room, and in a state of exhilaration brought on by the release of my bodily endorphins, I joyously bound around the hovel and finally collapse in an exhausted heap, and take a welcome nap.

Stercus accidit, as the Romans used to say before their language became a liturgical fossil. But who exactly makes it happen? Is it the result of some inevitable natural processes, the outcome of the providential hand of the Almighty, or is it merely chance?

As I ponder over my recent discoveries in the realms of Witangemot, human political life and the sordid labyrinth of intrigues that surround it all, I've come to conclude that - despite the fact that there's always an element of uncertainty in the world - there are those who make it their interest to make it happen for the ignorant and hapless majority.

Wednesday 17 November 2010

The Royal Engagement

Well, amid all the gloom and doom traded by the soothsayers concerning spending cuts, the Viking threat, the financial problems of Ireland and the usual puppet-theatre knockabout of the Witangemot faction leaders, we've received news which - dare I say it - even eclipses the glory of 'The Ð Factor'. Prince Walthelm and his female companion Gytha have announced their intention to marry. The royal wedding will take place sometime next year, and I can already hear the potters, merchants and moneylenders rubbing their hands with glee. This is going to guarantee them work and business for months. As they say here in Streonaeshalch: 'Every clod has a silver lining'.

Oh, the joy of it all! The soothsayers have been cooing about this like doves possessed by some frantic spirit; they've talked incessantly about it for hours. I'm sure there are more momentous and weighty matters that they can pronounce and pontificate on - it's starting to get monotonous.

One of the most influential soothsayers is known as Beeby See, but many refer to her as 'Auntie.' Since I'm only a cat, I'm not privy to information regarding the whereabouts of the aforesaid prince and his intended - and Caedmon is rather vague about these matters. So I came to the conclusion that the next best option would be to bring an engagement gift to Beeby See herself. She could then deliver it to the parties concerned.

Last night while Caedmon was writing, I decided to visit Beeby's luxurious dwelling and creep in through the front door unnoticed. The air was cold and the moon was bright in a cloudless night sky, and I excitedly made my way through the streets. I was so apprehensive of the idea of bringing them my gift that I actually felt quite ill. Nevertheless, I presented my offering at Beeby's large and malodorous feet. She wasn't even aware of my presence: she was so busy holding forth to the various hangers-on who were dancing attendance upon her.

Having disgorged the entire contents of my stomach on the mat on which she stood, I quickly withdrew and returned home. I feel so much better now.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

The Northumbrian National Faction

As I observe the present day with my feline eyes, I never cease to marvel at the sheer idiocy and unreasonableness that is rapidly engulfing the human institutions here in Streonaeshalch, and in the Kingdom Of Northumbria as a whole.

As I've previously mentioned, it came to my realisation (and I don't miss a trick - it's a feline thing) that the political landscape of this 7th century kingdom is dominated by the wealthy and powerful - although by a hidden hand. The instruments of government through the Witangemot talking shop are constructed to create the illusion that the ordinary people have some measure of say and control over their governance. In reality, the representatives of the people are no more than stooges of their wealthy paymasters, and they put on a wonderfully theatrical display of political animosity to fool the populace. They are paid well for their show, but most people don't even see this..

I've also mentioned the Vikings - a generally peaceable minority group over here, who stubbornly stick to their own religions and customs - despite living in a largely Christianised Anglo-Saxon community. The soothsayers have regularly spread scare stories about them. These state that the Vikings pose a clear and present threat to the Anglo-Saxon way of life; allegedly there are those among them who'd think nothing of going beserk and killing innocent people - and themselves - in the cause of their god Odin. Supposedly they believe that they receive a hero's reward in Valhalla when they die as warriors for their cause. At the same time, the Witangemot are passing laws in the name of 'equality' and 'diversity' that actually favour the Vikings more than the indigenous residents.

The hysteria about Vikings has been intense; as a reaction against this, some Northumbrian people have formed their own factions in the interest of preserving the Anglo-Saxon identity and culture. The main group is called The Northumbrian National Faction; they've existed for a few years. Caedmon tells me that when they first came into being, they were tolerated by the soothsayers and the people as a whole - rather in the same way that a parent might indulgently or patiently tolerate a noisy or disruptive child. But in recent times the mood towards them has changed. They are now demonised as a group of bigots; their views aren't given houseroom by most people, and they're dismissed as Anglo-Saxon supremacists without so much as a discussion. This caused me to wonder. Why have attitudes changed so much in a comparatively short time? Why are people not even willing to listen to them? Is it really true that they aren't worth listening to?

With this in mind I hatched a plan; I told Caedmon that I would be away for a few days, and I left the hovel and wandered through the town, attracting attention from cat-loving children who stopped to give me the obligatory fuss. Of course, I obligingly purred to their satisfaction. I hung around the street corners and listened to people in the fish market until I found someone whose views I could identify as being consistent with those of the Northumbrian National Faction. It was a large fisherman called Ulric; he was grumbling about the Witangemot -  and the factions who were caving in to the demands of the Vikings for more concessions. Summoning my charm-offensive strategy, I rubbed against his ankle and miaowed loudly. I laid the 'poor pussycat' act on as thickly as I could. He naturally relented and took me home to his own hovel - much to the delight of his children. I made myself at home, tolerated the benign but rough treatment from the youngsters, and listened to conversations between Ulric and his wife Freda. After a few days of eavesdropping on their conversations - and those with visiting friends - I had a clear picture of what they thought. There was something of a hostile edge in their attitude to the Vikings, but for all that, they were reasonable and God-fearing people who were aggrieved that their thoughts and feelings were dismissed out of hand by the majority because of the prejudice that had been spread against them. They'd reached the same conclusions as I had; the Witangemot was rigged - like a loaded dice. They also suspected the hidden hand of the nobility.

After a few nights of free board and lodging (and fish suppers), I caused an upset by scratching one of the children and in view of my unpopularity took the opportunity to slip away and return to Caedmon's place.

For some reason those words '..divide and rule' still come into my head. I think I know why.

Thursday 11 November 2010

Disorder In The House

In the last few days since my previous posting, things have turned quite ugly among the humans here in Northumbria. Of course, as a cat I can sit in complete and contented detachment from it all, go to the woods on hunting expeditions for mice and birds, and enjoy exploring the nooks and crannies of the cliffs in the fresh sea air of Streonaeshalch. And that's what I do. After all, I'm a cat - why should the tedious affairs of humanity be of the least concern to me?

But I have to admit it: my natural curiosity and enquiring mind leads me to investigate the worlds I inhabit. Cats live in two worlds; their own is the primitive hunter world of stealth, tooth and claw; the other sphere is the cuddly kitty world of the fireside-hogging, chair-adorning, miaowing moggy. So my return back to warmth, shelter (and a wonderful fish supper) at Caedmon's hovel is where both these worlds overlap. And Caedmon never fails to tell me what's going on - whether I want to hear it or not. I just sit sagely and slowly blink at him.

It would appear that the educated young men and women of Northumbria have been rioting on account of the Witangemot's decision regarding the cost of their tuition. A vast number of them assembled in York - the capital city of our realm - and some of the mob caused a great deal of damage to the headquarters of the Tree Faction. They also raged against the Liberationists, who are in a ruling alliance with the Trees. The city was barely able to muster enough men to keep order. While I understand their frustrations, I find it difficult to accept their justification for violent and destructive behaviour. That's not the way of cats; only human beings are capable of such folly.

Now in previous times, the authorities would have caught the offending parties and dealt with them severely; many young people used to be executed for crimes - so much so that one Saxon king expressed concern over this during his reign. But nowadays, there's scant regard for the law and issues of justice by anyone (with the exception of Caedmon and the God-fearing monks and worshippers at the Abbey). The Witangemot seem to be happy enough to make legions of petty laws and collect revenue from fines through the moots.

But it's not the Witangemot that should be bearing the brunt of the young peoples' ire: I know for a fact that the bodies that seemingly wield authority in this kingdom are nothing more than hirelings of the wealthy nobles. They play a part like actors on a stage. Frankly, I've seen better performances on 'The Ð Factor'. They do the nobles' bidding, speak the right words, receive their monetary rewards and retire to a life of luxurious indolence.

 I came to this conclusion through observation, listening and reflection; these young people are supposedly highly intelligent and educated, but their anger is tragically misdirected. They've allowed themselves - and their perceptions - to be manipulated by the Witangemot and the soothsayers. So, who's really stupid - me? Or them?

Monday 8 November 2010

The One-Eyed Viking Viper

I have to admit it - I'm flummoxed, despite the fact that my feline eyes have been opened to that bizarre human charade called 'politics'.

It hasn't taken me too long to work out that the 3-faction system in the Witangemot was created by the wealthy nobles to make the gullible Anglo-Saxon majority think that they're actually participating in the day-to-day running of the Northumbrian kingdom. That's straightforward enough - even a missing lynx could work that out.

I've also figured out that the hidden rulers are perfectly happy to use all kinds of tricks to keep the majority of people in a state of uncertainty; the financial cutbacks and the terror threat from the Viking hordes are sufficient to keep the people preoccupied with illusionary crises rather than thinking about how they can make things better for themselves. They also resort to using entertainments like 'The Ð Factor' to keep the people distracted; it's the old Roman 'bread and circuses' trick that Caedmon told me about. All this makes perfect sense to me.

So why am I so puzzled? Well, it all started with a troublesome Viking priest who settled here in Northumbria some years ago. He sailed the sea from Norway and married one of the local Anglo-Saxon girls. As he settled in to life on this side of the North Sea, he started to cause trouble among members of the Viking community over here. Vikings are very zealous for their old Norse gods and legends, and at present, very few of them have adopted the Christian faith of the Anglo-Saxons. While there are minor rumblings of resentment by the local Anglo-Saxon people about them, most local people are quite happy to let them follow their ancestral religion - as long as they don't try to enforce it on the host community. But there are small factions among the Vikings who believe that it is their responsibility before Odin to bring the entire world under the yoke of the Valhalla religion, and this particular man has been very much at the heart of this. He has been thrown out of his religious community and subsequently has set up his own, and is surrounded with a coterie of wild-eyed fly agaric-munching followers. They breathe fire and slaughter against all the Christian Anglo-Saxons, and their rhetoric is as high as the midden dump in midsummer.

He's a strange man; for a start, his name is Erik Bloodhook, which is weird enough as it is. He has a long black beard and only has one hand and one eye; his missing hand is replaced by a sharp hook - hence his name. Legend has it - according to the soothsayers - that he lost his sight and his hand in a bloody battle with the Bulgars, but I've heard that his hand was actually removed by executioners as a punishment for theft of ladies' undergarments from washing lines. Those Vikings are known to dispense rough justice.

Erik has been renowned as an orator among his friends, and he frequently whips them up into a state of religious fervour by his fiery rhetoric. I'm sure that the sacred mushroom and mead have their part to play in this, but they would strenuously deny this. The consequence of his ravings is that young Vikings are inspired by him to take violent action against the Anglo-Saxons, who they refer to as 'infidels'. Boats were burned at quaysides, and various houses were torched in the name of Odin, Loki at alia.

The local authorities decided that he was too much of a nuisance, and so they seized him and threw him into a prison cell. They decided to strip him of his adopted Northumbrian nationality and send him back to Norway in a longboat. The problem was that the Norwegian Vikings didn't want him either, so he has to remain over here - where he can continue his religious ravings unhindered.

What puzzles me is why the Northumbrian authorities have let him get away with his rabble-rousing and bloodthirsty rhetoric for so long. They could have solved the problem a long time ago – but they didn’t. I’m forced to the conclusion that they need him – and his kind – to provide them with some excuse to  get away with things they couldn’t otherwise do. I’ll watch with interest…

Tuesday 2 November 2010

The Cat's Unanswered Question

I've given a lot of thought to the business of the Witangemot here in Northumbria. For a start, I'm very suspicious about it, because my feline intuition tells me that all isn't quite what it appears. Although there are 3 main factions who supposedly represent the people, I have a sneaking suspicion that they're all controlled by the same hidden rulers. When I overheard those 2 wealthy nobles in the wood talking about '..divide and rule', that confirmed my suspicions.

I realise that I don't have the intellect of a human, but we cats are shrewd, and we like to weigh things up. So - I ask myself: what exactly is government for?

As far as I can see, it exists to serve the interests of those who really run the show - which is the wealthy nobility. They handsomely pay for all kinds of perks that the Witangemot rulers seem to enjoy.

It also appears to exist to spread alarm and panic whenever appropriate, by means of the many soothsayers who seem to enjoy similar favours and prosperity to the rulers. This has the effect of keeping the ordinary Anglo-Saxons in a continual state of anxiety about their livelihood, money - and those terrible Viking infidels, who pose a clear threat to our way of life if they invade our shores in great numbers.

It also loves to control the people and order them about by means of petty rules it imposes on the people in the Kingdom. Since they're already anxious, they readily comply with and accept whatever the Witangemot and the soothsayers tell them.

It loves to extract money from the people through excessive taxation - which it then uses to spend on lavish entertainments and employment for its friends and hangers-on and pointless projects and committees.

What benefit is the Witangemot to the people? Caedmon says that it exists to restrain evil, maintain order and ensure that evildoers are appropriately punished. But I don't like to tell him that from my own perspective, they seem to make it their business to do the exact opposite. They seem to reward the scoundrels, and make life burdensome and unpredictable for the law-abiding.

Perhaps I'm missing something. But then... am I?

Monday 1 November 2010

The Great Terror

Although I'm only a cat, I've come to realise that those who really rule this Northumbrian kingdom behind the facade of the Witangemot and the 3 factions are more than happy to use scaremongering tactics to keep the Anglo-Saxon people worried and distracted.

As I've mentioned before, the Vikings are often held up as a threat to our Anglo-Saxon and Christian way of life. They have entirely different values from us, and they worship a foreign god; their religion dominates their entire way of life. They are reputedly ruthless in battle, despite the fact that they wage their warfare in the name of a supposedly compassionate deity called Odin - who seems to rely on them to do his dirty work for him. We have a few communities of Vikings already here in Northumbria, and they're generally very industrious, polite and quiet. I met one of their cats once - he was a friendly fellow once he withdrew his claws from my face.

The other day, some wreckage was found on the beach a few miles up the coast from here; the remains of Viking weapons and ship's timbers were found by a young man as he walked on the beach. Immediately there was uproar, as the word was passed around by the soothsayers - who are renowned for their loyalty to their mysterious paymasters. With one voice they immediately told the Northumbrian people that this was a portent of a great invasion, and that great courage and vigilance was needed by all. Consequently the ordinary folk are in a perpetual state of agitation, and the consumption of mead has risen sharply. (By the way, the soothsayers have also lately told the people that mead and ale are severely dangerous and destructive, so it's safe to predict that the price is going to increase within a few weeks.)

Caedmon told me that he's seen it all before; he and the monks at the Abbey aren't too concerned. He says that even if the Vikings do eventually come in force and take our land, the Lord God is in control - and they'll only do what He permits them according to His sovereign will. He also thinks that if they do come, it will be God's way of disciplining the Christian church and the Anglo-Saxon people.

He's probably right (he usually is), but for my part I haven't forgotten those 3 words of those nobles I heard in the forest: "..divide and rule.." Maybe the Vikings will eventually invade us; there are lots of stories from all over the place of raids and incursions into our territory. If they do arrive, I hope they deal with those duplicitous people who really run the show around here and give them a good hiding. I think they deserve it.