At the moment I am something of an expert on Roman Britain. It is a bulge of unlikely knowledge, acquired thanks to a week spent walking Hadrian's Wall (the middle stretch of 40 miles or so, between Newcastle and Carlisle). Six days following the impressive, snaking stone remains of wall, forts, towers and milestones made it impossible not to want to bury one's nose in a guide book to soak up everything one could. It probably helped that the weather was mostly fabulous – miles and miles of Scotland and England laid out like a feast – and that I had taken the precaution of investing in some sturdy comfortable boots. But what impressed me most consistently was the knowledge that I was clambering along something that had been put in place TWO THOUSAND YEARS AGO.
Here are some interesting facts before I forget them:
1. Hadrian built the wall to keep out the 'Barbarians'…who turned into the Scottish nation we know and love today! 2. Hadrian was gay and loved a beautiful young man with whom he was unable to share his life on account of a harridan wife who happened to be the daughter of someone very very important whom he did not want to piss off. (See? Already some of the more solid aspects of my new erudition – like names - are slipping away.) 3. Hadrian spent years simply travelling round the boundaries of his massive global Roman Empire trying to keep it strong. No wonder his marriage to the harridan felt the strain. 4. The Romans occupied Britain for almost THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY years. ie the equivalent to us, now, of having been ruled by strangers since the end of the Seventeenth Century. That is a long time. 5. Then they just left!! (To focus strength on other, more important boundary issues). Which must have been exciting for the occupied locals – 'freedom! At last! But also traumatic, because three centuries in, lots of Romans and Brits had fallen in love with each other and made babies and families and so on. Not to mention the other problem that they took all their famous expertise (underground heating, road-building etc ) with them. It is no coincidence that we nose-dived into the Dark Ages as a result, a dodgy patch that lasted for some five hundred years.
There. Done. A written outline of stuff that I soon might not remember, and already sadly lacking some of the names, dates and figures that were at my fingertips this time last week. No, it's not dementia – not just yet anyway (she touches wood); but simply one of the irksome aspects of having edged into one's sixth decade. My brain still remembers crates of things, it's just the question of what makes it into those crates that is no longer certain. Yes, that is what annoys me the most – the lack of control – rather than the memory slippage itself.
I console myself that we are in a more 'immediate' age now anyway. Facts are a finger-touch away on our keyboards, freeing our intellectual and creative energies for the instant expression and interaction offered by communications' technology. Adaptable creature that I am, (cue hollow laughter from close family and friends), I am actually starting to get the hang of it and, dare I say, to enjoy it! I tweet. (@ABrookfield1). My website is getting a make-over. A Facebook page (facebook.com/amandabrookfield) is imminent. All three will link up. And soon this hitherto quarterly newsletter will transmogrify into a more regular blog. It might be different, better, shorter, longer…I have no idea. I intend to make the most of this new 'freedom' and let my thoughts flow where they will. The only thing I know for sure is that I am looking forward to it.