Monday, 22 September 2008


I have just started listening to an audiobook called The Year of Magna Carta, by Danny Danziger and John Gillingham. As I listened, I realised that England, in 1215 was very like this part of France - the Limousin - is out in the countryside where I live!

This is what the book says:

In 1215, nine-tenths of the population lived in the countryside. Most families lived and worked on small farms, as they had since time immemorial. The typical family lived in a two-roomed, timber-framed house, standing within a plot of land known as a croft of up to an acre in extent. There was plenty of room for a vegetable and fruit garden as well as outbuildings for poultry and other livestock, all surrounded by a bank and a ditch. The house had a thatched roof, clay floors and clay or wattle and daub walls; windows with shutters and an open hearth in the larger room.

Now that I've had my house insulated, of course, and two en-suite bedrooms made in what was the grain-storage space of the loft, it doesn't fit this description at all, but you can see how (except for the thatch) it would have been - maybe even less than a hundred years ago - and there are still houses in the countryside around here - still lived in - where conditions are not much different from those of 1215, except that the main room is dominated by a 32" television set!

The two small rooms to the left and right of the main house would have been for housing animals - in the smaller of the two there is still a dark mark on the stones inside, at the height where the cattle would have rubbed against the walls!

The house with the satellite dish on the wall is not mine, but belongs to a neighbour, although the buildings attached to it on my side are two little outhouses - one of which housed the outside toilet which was my only sanitation for over a year - and an 'abri' - which is the tiled shelter under the satellite dish.

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