I never thought I’d be writing another post referencing Christianity so soon after my last one. I practically emptied myself of my thoughts regarding my mother faith! However, apparently in this twisted world I may never be finished commenting on the worst excesses of it.
In my e-mail this morning I received an invitation to sign a petition, directed at several members of parliament who have received material support from a Christian charity, CARE (Christian Action Research and Education). The petition was started by Phillip Dawson from Enfield, who discovered that CARE co-sponsored a conference in 2009 which included the topics of “therapeutic approaches to same-sex attraction” and “mentoring the sexually broken”. His discovery turned into horror when he realised that the very same charity has since funded interns for 18 members of parliament, including his own (who has since severed ties with the organisation).
I’m back from another LARP adventure – bruised, mud-splattered, thorn-stung and still wiping various colours of face paint from my eyes; but guess what? I’m loving it.
This LARP business is fast becoming an obsession for me. When I first dipped my proverbial toe into the world of Durholme and its surrounding environs it was an incredibly strange experience. Though it was definitely entertaining I still felt overwhelmed by and separate from the action, like a cinema-goer who’s wandered through the invisible barrier of the screen. At first all I could do was gawp. Now I’m finding my feet and getting into it a little bit more, I can honestly say there’s nothing quite like LARP for filling your Saturdays.
Two weeks ago Sable returned to Durholme and went on an expedition into the surrounding area of Rovac, in which she met the True Elves of the Hidden Valley, helped to free them from the tyranny of invading dwarves and tried her best not to get killed. Climbing up and down the wooded hills surrounding Durham, I must admit I was impressed by the system; a huge crowd of extras playing NPCs or ‘non-player characters’, who did their bit and then quickly ran on ahead to the next designated encounter spot, then changed character completely. The thought and depth which is ploughed into the game behind the scenes is staggering. Thus I was overjoyed when I arrived this morning to be told that I was to be part of the ‘monster’ crew and playing an NPC.
Last night was, well… interesting. Last week, I would never have imagined that I would spend the evening in a darkened tavern, playing a wooden board game with an orc, a warrior monk and a high priest of the Sordanite faith. We struggled to see the dice under the feeble light of a single candle. With our counters mostly captured the orc roared his approval at a game soon to be won; that is, until a cold breeze and shrill cackling on the air announced the presence of air demons! One swirled around our table and blew out our light, then disappeared into the darkness as the sound of chairs scraping backwards and swords being unsheathed left our game completely forgotten.
Oh, and did I mention? I was an elf.
The North Hylton area of Sunderland boasts the city’s only castle; the aptly named Hylton Castle, now in ruins. A castle has stood on this spot since 1066, when the Hilton family were awarded land in the area following the Norman Conquest. Rebuilt in stone during the 14th-15th centuries, all that remains today are the magnificent gate house and nearby chapel which was dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria in 1157.
Hylton Castle is also home to one of the north-east’s most enduring folk stories, which is well known to school children of the city and beyond. It concerns the life and death of a certain stablehand named Roger Skelton, who is thought to have served the Hylton family in the early 17th century.
There are many strange tales of ghosts and spirits from the north country, both old and new. Some are vengeful to the living, while others haunt buildings and landmarks with no purpose at all. The ghost in this story, known commonly as Nelly the Knocker, was allegedly once a common sight in the fields near Haltwhistle, today a small town in the southern reaches of Northumberland and not far from Hadrian’s Wall.
On a farm near the village of Haltwhistle there was a field in which stood a large stone. As far as memory could recall, this rock had been haunted by a spirit in the shape of a melancholy lady dressed in loose grey clothes. Every night, so it is said, she could be seen knocking feebly at the stone, and it is because of this the locals named her Nelly the Knocker. Nelly was a harmless type of ghost; she did no one any harm and so no one took any notice of her, save a mention or two when they passed by the field after nightfall – “Oh, there’s old Nelly at her knocking again!”.
Given the bustling industrial and urban nature of North Tyneside, you would not be blamed for believing that there are no tales of witches, fairies or dragons from these parts. However, stories of years gone from the north of the Tyne have long survived the layers of steel and concrete which now cover the land. You may be surprised to learn that a wicked witch once lived not far from where the bustling city stands today.
There once lived an old woman in a village near to Newcastle. To the villagers she seemed harmless, but what they did not know was that she had stolen a lot of money from them and hidden it away. The old woman lived by herself in a little cottage, but as she grew older she found it much harder to keep her house clean and tidy. She decided to hire a servant girl to do the housework for her.