Cally the Monster Kitten (cally_tmk) wrote,
Cally the Monster Kitten

Ithaca, Old Welsh poetry and the 21st century chicken house

It's not especially surprising to hear topics such as "Where was Homer's Ithaca?" discussed on Radio 4 - however, Material World is not the most obvious place to chance upon such a discussion. Someone has proposed a theory that the reason that no-one can find an island that corresponds closely to the descriptions of Ithaca in the Odyssey is... it's no longer an island! You can hear the full story as a podcast.

In one of those curious little turns of fate, the Odyssey was also one of the topics under discussion at my Greek Club meeting a couple of days ago. The theme for the evening was 'Greek, Welsh and Russian Epic Poetry', and I must admit I had some reservations beforehand - it sounded like one of these subjects with a tremendous capacity to be worthy but dull. Fortunately, we had a very engaging group of speakers (in fact, the chap doing the Welsh section turned out to be my Welsh tutor from evening classes a couple of years ago!) Y Gododdin is a collection of praise poems commemorating the deeds of 300 brave warriors who set out to do battle with the invading Saxons, and - being vastly outnumbered - were soundly defeated. (Yeah, this story does sound vaguely familiar from somewhere, doesn't it?) The curious thing to note here is *where* this tale is set - the warriors marched south from somewhere in the Edinburgh region to Catraeth (possibly modern Catterick). "Now hang on a minute" I can hear you saying "I thought this was supposed to be a Welsh poem?" And so indeed it is - at the time the poem was written, northern England and parts of Scotland were inhabited by Welsh speaking peoples. In fact, the county name Cumbria comes from the same roots as Cymru (the Welsh name for Wales). This all sounds rather intriguing, and once again I find myself wishing for more time to dig a bit deeper into some of these topics.

When I was little and visiting my grandparents, I often used to be sent to go and get some eggs from the lady who lived a few doors down the road. This wasn't out in the countryside either, just a Victorian terrace with a moderate-sized back garden. Whereas once upon a time, many people would keep a few chickens (and perhaps a pig or a goat), it somehow doesn't seem to quite fit in with a 21st-century lifestyle. Well, think again - the eglu could be about to change all that. It does sound rather appealing... you couldn't do much better in terms of food miles, and you could be 100% sure that your eggs came from well-cared-for hens!
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