At the market

Today, as a special treat, I’ve invited Nancy Jardine to my blog. Her second book in her Celtic Ferver series is launched today After Whorl: Bran Reborn.

This guest post is by Nancy Jardine

This guest post is by Nancy Jardine

Saturday 14th December, nice and early, I went out to sell at our local Farmers’ Market. Do I have produce like some home grown Brussels sprouts, or some carrots or home made bread? No, I have none of those things. And yet, I am allowed to sell at the market.

Before 9am, I turned up to find the stall awnings were already erected and my table was allocated. I only needed a small table, the cost £15 for the four hour duration of the market. It took me only a minute to whip a nice white cutwork cloth onto the scarred wooden slatted rectangle of wood that serves as a table. I’ve sold at the market a couple of times before and know how many skelfs one can get in one’s fingers if not careful (some people would call them splinters) so I cover with a nice white cloth to show off my wares. Unlike some of the stall holders who sell copious amounts of breads, or beers or cakes, or vegetables, or even jewellery, it doesn’t take me long to pile up a few samples of my energy draining efforts. I also don’t need to be at the market square for 7 am to get the electrics set up for the refrigeration needed for the stalls which sell meat or fish.

My produce is my books.

I whip a few examples of my novels on to the table and fuss them into the best displaying place. During the summer, I found the direct sunlight made some books shine more than others, though that wasn’t the case today. It wasn’t bad for almost mid December – no rain but the gathering cloud told of rain to come, though at that early time the wind was light. After the books were in place, I spread around some business cards, leaflets and some bookmarks detailing my novels. I adjusted a few advertising posters which were placed prominently behind me on a large placard that leaned against the plastic canvas of the awnings of the stalls, and some others at the side of the table set at comfortable reading height.

Two of those laminated adverts were very important, today, since one of them gave details of my ancestral mystery Topaz Eyes which has been nominated for The People’s Book Prize, and the other was information about After Whorl: Bran Reborn being launched on Monday 16th December 2013. I used a cast iron recipe book stand to display one of the posters. I pulled out some pens and my all-important cash box.

This photo is shown with permission of Nancy Jardine

This photo is shown with permission of Nancy Jardine

I was ready, so I waited. For customers. It took around 10 minutes before I had my first sale. I was buoyed up! I was selling. Smiles a mile wide!

Around 12.15pm, what had been an un-troublesome wind began to be a naughty one. The canvas awning behind me started flapping. Some of those flaps were quite dramatic when the huge metal clamps were dislodged. The canvas did a lot of shimmy shimmying and the packaging boxes behind the stallholders started a merry tap dance. It was one of those “Oh!” moments. Would it seem wimpy to pack up just because of a few major gusts of wind? A few moments later it had whipped up to 65 mph gales (at least that was what it felt like!) which descended on the area really quickly. High winds around noon were predicted so it actually didn’t come as too much of a surprise: gradual would have been good though. While my inner self was debating the wimpy question and I was smiling as though nothing unusual was happening, the awning behind me suddenly flew up and off and that was it for the day. Books are perishable, and when the plastic weatherproof awning has taken flight, the books are too precious a commodity to leave out. There was the merest hint of rain when the gust ceased. PANIC! I fought for some seconds to catch the end of the very large canvas, someone else assisting. On my side of the market, it was totally chaotic. When the table began to lift into the air, I got more than a bit worried! Fortunately, the stall next to me was a church group selling hot mulled wine and bacon butties and had lots of women in attendance. Help was at hand.

I used to be amazed at how quickly we could strike camp as a Girl Guide. Today was one better. Those stalls were cleared in about four minutes flat! The Christmas trees had to be caught from being special flying broomsticks! The unsold wreaths were grasped like basketballs and bumped and banged into boxes, but the pros of the market are like ‘Grease Lightening’! They jump around like blue…flies helping each other, and the rookies like me!

Definitely done for the day!

Back in AD 71, would my main characters in my historical romantic adventure novel, After Whorl: Bran Reborn, be doing anything similar? No. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t…and yet they do ‘sort of’ go to market. They want to thwart the Roman usurpers in any and every way possible, but full on confrontation isn’t the way. Brennus knows exactly how efficient the Roman fighting machine is and knows he needs to find other more creative ways to prevent Roman infiltration of northern Brigantia. Trade is a good way for him and Ineda, his newly acquired foster- sister, to be closer to the Roman forts that are springing up around them. Closer means more chance that their spying will be fruitful but that requires a good excuse for being in the proximity of the Roman-only enclave. Determined to get inside those fort gates, trading with the Roman scum is a very lucrative way.

Do Brennus (under the guise of Bran) and Ineda set up a market stall like I just did this morning? No. They wouldn’t be allowed to by the Romans. In Britannia, small towns did grow up around fort walls, populated by local Celtic trades’ people, but I don’t believe that would have happened yet in northern climes in AD 71. Though, it was happening in southern ‘England’ because those areas had been settled on by the Roman Empire for decades. That settling hadn’t yet happened in the north, in AD 71.

What I imagine must have occurred was that around the newly built northern Roman forts (Yorkshire) the Celtic tribespeople, who traded goods for Roman coin, would have delivered their wares to the stalls manned by immunes. In the Roman Army, immunes were skilled workforces who were particularly trained to do some special function. There were engineers, road builders, bridge builders… The list goes on. Those men who supplied the special skills needed were war trained, but did not take up arms unless they were being directly attacked. They were not the main fighting force.
Tribes mentioned in Bran Reborn
During my research, I’ve found it quite fascinating to read of the immune force of men who kept the Roman ‘siege machine’ well oiled, and well supplied! So, in my novel After Whorl: Bran Reborn, Brennus and Ineda deliver their leather and woollen cloth to Dulius, the Roman soldier who is second in charge of supplies at the fort named Nidd. After that, the leather and cloth Brennus and Ineda sell will be given to the Roman stallholders. The fighting force of Roman legionary and auxiliary soldiers were expected to ensure their own kit and uniform were serviceable. If they needed something new- for example if their tunic was irreparable -they had to pay for a new one. Money in actual coin rarely changed hands, I’ve read, but each soldier had an ‘account book’. The immune accountant would deduct the money a soldier needed for a new tunic from the year’s wages. I think supplies had to be constant to keep up with demand.

Although Bran and Ineda do not set up a stall like I did this morning the Roman stallholders would have. I don’t expect they would have had a pretty cloth covering the table like I did, but I do think they would have had a hard time selling their goods if poor weather descended upon them. They probably did have some sort of awnings which would have provided some shelter but gusty winds would have scattered their produce just like happened to me. The milled oats and ground emmer wheat, cloth, leather, vegetables, cloth, fish, meat cuts, etc would have been simply laid out on a flat surface. All would be susceptible to the vagaries of northern ‘English’ weather conditions. The decanus, a soldier in charge of a group of around 8-10 men, would maybe have done the market ‘buying’ since it’s thought they cooked and ate in their ‘tent’ group ( a contubernium was the name given to the ‘unit’ of 8-10 men ). That decanus would have been quick off the mark if the goods he was intending to buy suddenly flew off the table!

Some things never change!

Di- thank you so much for inviting me to chatter today, and I’ll also take the opportunity to say I’m deeply thankful of the constant support you give me on Facebook!

To Di’s readers I hope you get a kick out of reading my windy stories! Comments will be very welcome! (And lucrative for someone who wins an ecopy of After Whorl: Bran Reborn)

Facebook Launch Party **Giveaways**

For a chance to enter the draw for a ‘triquetra’ necklace and other prizes join Nancy’s Facebook Launch party and look for details of how to win the prizes on offer.

Blog launch Tour **Special Prize**
A special Blog Tour ‘friend’ will WIN a mystery gift for the most commented visits to blogs during the launch tour for After Whorl: Bran Reborn. (i.e. most comments between 9th Dec and 18th Dec wins the prize) To be sure you don’t miss any blog posts check Nancy’s Blog regularly between the 9th Dec and the 17th Dec.

Nancy Jardine lives in the fantastic ‘castle country’ of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, with her husband. She spends her week making creative excuses for her neglected large garden; doesn’t manage as much writing as she always plans to do since she’s on Facebook too often, but she does have a thoroughly great time playing with her toddler granddaughter when she’s just supposed to be ‘just’ childminding her twice a week.

A lover of all things historical it sneaks into most of her writing along with many of the fantastic world locations she has been fortunate to visit. Her published work to date has been two non fiction history related projects; two contemporary ancestral mysteries; one light-hearted contemporary romance mystery and a historical novel. She has been published by The Wild Rose Press and Crooked Cat Publishing.
You’ll find Nancy at the following places: Amazon UK author page Amazon US author page Blog Website Facebook Goodreads About Me LinkedIn Twitter @nansjar Google+
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Ravaged by war
…AD 71. After the battle at Whorl, Brennus of Garrigill is irrevocably changed.

Returning to Marske, Ineda finds her grandmother dead, though Brennus is not. Snared by a Roman patrol, they are marched to Witton where he is forced to labour for the Roman IX Legion.

Embracing his new identity as Bran, Brennus vows to avert Roman occupation of northernmost Brigantia. Ineda becomes his doughty spying accomplice, though sometimes she’s too impetuous. Trading with the Romans lends excellent opportunities for information gathering. Over time, Bran’s feelings for Ineda mar with his loyalty to Ineda’s father.

When she disappears, and cannot be found, Bran enters direct service with Venutius, King of the Brigantes.


The Perfect Gift?

I wrote this a while ago and thought, as it’s near Christmas, I’d share it with you. I hope you enjoy it.

Donna couldn’t wait for Christmas morning. She hadn’t been this excited since she was eight years old and had asked Santa for a new bike.

She had not been disappointed! Running downstairs on the frosty morning, she pushed open the living room door. There, under the tree was the exact bike she had seen in the shop window. Her shrieks of joy had woken her parents, who joined their tearful daughter under the tree.

Yes, that had been the best Christmas ever. But, this Christmas promised to be even better. It was her first in the new flat and also her first with Simon.

Simon was very special. He treat Donna like a princess. He was kind and thoughtful, he had an amazing sense of humour, he’d even got Donna’s mother wrapped around his little finger!

For the last month Simon had been promising Donna something special for Christmas. She had tried and tried to get him to give her at least a hint as to what it my be but Simon had kept his secret. All he would say was that it was something she had been asking for.

This was not a lot of help! Donna was an avid window shopper and was constantly pointing things out that she would like. She had seen a beautiful watch in the jewellers, a music centre in the electrical store, shoes, numerous tops, skirts, trousers and the most amazing checked jacket!

On Christmas Eve, Donna tried once more. Snuggled up on the sofa, a soppy movie on TV and a glass of whiskey cream in hand, she looked into Simon’s gentle, blue eyes.

“Is there no way I can persuade you to tell me what you have bought me? The suspense is nearly killing me. Plleeeease tell me”
Simon grinned his lopsided grin. His left eye crinkled slightly more than his right. Donna thought this was particularly cute.

Simon bent his head and kissed her on the nose.

“Nope, not a thing! Don’t worry, you won’t have long to wait! Let me see, only another seven hours.”

Donna’s excitement thrilled him. He’d never met anyone who was as impatient as her. Her childlike enthusiasm convinced him even more that the gift he had bought her would be ideal. He was nearly as excited about it as Donna was!

“Seven hours!” shrieked Donna. “Seven hours? But it will be midnight in two, and then it’s officially Christmas!”

Laughing, Simon tussled Donna’s hair. “Everyone knows Santa doesn’t come until you are fast asleep!”

Having no choice in the matter, Donna pouted before finishing her drink in one gulp.

“Right, well if that’s the case, my mum always said that the sooner I went to sleep, the sooner Santa would come, and the sooner I go to bed, the sooner I’ll go to sleep. So, I am going to bed.”

Donna spun on her heels, and stuck her tongue out at Simon.

Christmas morning dawned bright and sunny. Donna, yawned and stretched before turning to a slumbering Simon.

“Wake up! It’s CHRISTMAS!”

“Morning baby. Happy Christmas. What time is it?”

“It’s pressie time silly! Come on! Get up!”

Unable to resist Donna’s demands any longer, he followed her downstairs.

Under the tree, a huge pile of gaudily wrapped presents of all shapes and sizes sat waiting to be ripped open.

Diving in, Donna gradually worked her way through the mini mountain, sharing out the gifts.

Donna had read each and every tag before opening her presents and now sat in the centre of a pile of crumpled, discarded wrapping paper, a selection of perfumes, chocolates, Compact discs, make-up, tops, a pretty necklace and some novelty slippers.

With no more presents left to open, Donna was more than a little perturbed. She hadn’t opened one from Simon. She had made sure she knew which present came from whom and there was definitely not one from Simon. Had he forgotten to put it under the tree? Or maybe, it was too big, or better still, too small, to put under the tree!

“Simon honey. I don’t mean to be rude, but, I haven’t found the present from you.”

“That’s because I wanted you to open it last!”

Fighting his way through the wrapping and being careful not to tread on any of their presents, Simon strode over to the TV cabinet. Reaching behind it, he pulled out a large box covered in shiny gold paper.

Donna’s eyes widened.

“Happy Christmas darling. I just know you’ll love it!”

Donna’s jaw dropped as the paper fell away to reveal what Simon had bought her. She was truly speechless!

“Oh darling! I knew you’d love it! It is the one you’d seen and wanted so much isn’t it?”

“It’s…It’s…” Donna just could not find the words.

Luckily, Simon mistook the tears that were welling in her eyes for tears of joy.

Taking the half opened parcel from her hands, Simon shook the contents free of the last remnants of gold paper.

“It’s an Antony Worrell-Thompson wok! It’s got all the tools and a huge recipe book! I knew you’d be surprised!”

Surprised! That was the understatement of the century!

Somehow she told Simon that yes, it was the one she had seen and no, she most certainly would never have guessed in a million years that this was what he had bought her.

Donna scrambled to her feet and ran to the bathroom where the tears fell unchecked.

“A wok? What in God’s name was he thinking?” she asked her reflection. All that excitement and anticipation for a bloody wok! She’d never forgive him! If he thought that she was going to be bowled over by a bloody wok, he really did not know her at all! The worst of it was, it would have cost a fortune! Stupid, stupid man!

She pulled herself together before emerging from the bathroom. A blazing row followed, the outcome of which saw Donna spending the rest of the holidays alone. The wok had followed Simon through the door!

Most definitely NOT the perfect Christmas present!

A Short Piece To Make You Smile



 Fifty Quid



“Guess what mam I’ve sold that ornament you hate. Got fifty quid for it too!”


I was dead proud of meself. Mr Jenkins’d wanted to give me twenty but I did like they do on telly and told him I wanted eighty. I couldn’t believe it when he’d given me fifty. I felt right grown up!


A sharp crack stung me face. I’d expected me mam to be chuffed, not to crack me.


“You stupid, stupid boy!” I’d never seen her so mad.


“But mam you hated it.” I was nearly crying, but 10 year old boys don’t cry so I swallowed hard.


“I nicked it.” Her voice was odd, shaking like and she looked scared. “I nicked it. It was a one off. I couldn’t sell the bloody thing because it was so rare.” Then she swore. I’d never heard me mam swear. She looked round the room, her eyes were weird like the pictures of rabbits I’ve seen when a car’s coming towards them and they don’t know which way to turn. She’d not moved when the cops turned up, three vans and a car, all with their lights flashing.

They took pictures off the walls, checked all the furniture and emptied the drawers and cupboards. Me mam just sat with her head in her hands. Me Nan came for me. She never even looked at me mam, just grabbed me hand and brought me here. I’ve not seen me mam since. I’m not allowed to mention her.

Nobody asked me about the money I got from Mr Jenkins, so I’ve hid it and one day when I’m grown up, I’m going to use it to find her and tell her I’m sorry for selling the ornament.