Finished Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie. Second book in the First Law fantasy trilogy. Still pretty rollicking stuff, uses the fast switching between points of view to keep the tension up. The cliches are more apparent in this one though: has a near-obligatory Quest and Siege, as well as some of the annoying details like swords stuck through belts, sound-proof tents, trebuchets as deadly as modern artillery and the obligatory stew. Still, as before the appealingly twisted characters help lift it above the average.
Home to see the parents for a few days. Dad's midway through the radiotherapy for his cancer. Seems to be holding up pretty well so far. No hair loss on his head. Seems pretty active (considering his other conditions) though he says he gets tired more easily. Apparently the worst side effects happen 2 to 6 weeks after the treatment, so presumably things will get worse.
Went along with my Dad to one of his nukings. Hospital looks pretty new, clean and modern. Lots of blond wood and chest-height glass-block desks inside the radiotherapy ward. Looks a bit like an All Bar One: was tempted to go up and ask for a pint of Stella and 300 Becquerels of Gamma, please luv.
They give him free transport to and from the hospital which is handy since he can't walk far with his Parkinson's. Their timekeeping is pretty erratic though: sometimes an hour or two early or late. The hospital guarantees that they'll still see him even if the ambulance (or sometimes minicab) is late, but I think he still finds it stressful hanging around.
We made it to the Royal Exchange to see "Hay Fever": revival of an old Noel Coward comedy. A family of Bohemian eccentrics invite assorted squares (not sure what the Twenties slang for that was) to their country cottage and various culture clashes ensue.
Seemed horribly dated. Couldn't really summon up either sympathy or hatred for the tiresome family, and the guests just seem bland. Still, the cast did a heroic job of trying to inject life into the stylised dialogue.
Was curious to see it in the round. We were on the bottom deck with the cast in the middle: the set had carefully low divans so you could see across. Not sure the intimate environment really suits such mannered material, but did get to see quite a lot.
Nice costumes though.
Finished the latest TTC course: Terror of History: Heretics, Mystics and Witches in the Western Tradition by Teofilo F. Ruiz. Covers what it says, between 1000 and 1700 A.D.
Found it a bit vague and waffly. Covers a huge range of ground and suffers from sparse sources. I'm not convinced that the three phenomena have much in common. Ruiz seems to think that they're all linked via existential angst (the Terror of History) but that seems to me to be too generic to be helpful: you can use it as a catch-all for everything.
Some factoids I found interesting. The Abilgensian Crusade, the first time the Pope endorsed military attacks on unconventional Christians, seems to have been partly politically motivated, as a way for Northern French to get their hands on what had previously been independent kingdoms.
The irony that later on the Franciscans would a little later be an officially-promoted movement promoting largely the same beliefs that had been heretical in the Waldensians, is pretty well known though. Don't think it's that ironic anyway: the backlash against extravagance and corruption was pretty much bound to be initially resisted and finally part-accepted by the extravagant and corrupt.
What I found more interesting was his view that the Lutheran reformation was also largely politically motivated: German princes, afraid of a powerful Holy Roman Emperor with actual military muscle, grabbed the latest in a series of popular reform/heresy movements to fight holy with holy.
Ruiz also points out that some of the best known witch-hunts were highly atypical: the Salem witch trials for instance. In Salem it was mostly the poor villagers accusing the wealthier townies, and that the young were accused. In most cases, witches were single women past reproductive age, and were generally in the low ranks (if married, their husbands had generally been hired labourers). Complainants were generally family members or in-laws. Witch-hunts were usually rural, and in the medieval nuclear families the "witches" would have their own huts.
So, in general it seems that rather than irrational mass hysteria, witch-hunts were a somewhat pragmatic way to rid yourself and your village of eccentrics, annoying mother-in-laws, beggars and get your hands on any scraps of land or property they had.
Overall then, a moderately interesting course, but if you know much about the middle ages you'll have come across a lot of this stuff before.
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