Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Reaching Across the Gap

As some of you know, I have a collection of medieval hammered silver English coins.  For a long while I just had one for every monarch between William the Conqueror and Elizabeth I.  Recently I got ambitious and set myself a new goal: a thousand years of English coins!  I have added only a few since then, since some are expensive and others hard to find, but Monday evening I bought what will be the Alpha coin, Cnut (aka Canute).  He became King of England, Denmark, Norway and “some of the Swedes” in and after 1016.  Tenth and eleventh century records are scant and contradictory, but he apparently was a bold, cruel, ambitious, pious Christian who managed to have two wives at the same time.  Here is a picture of the obverse and reverse of the coin, which is less than an inch wide. 

I already have my Omega, an Elizabeth II coin, so my collection now reaches across the millennium – with gaps that I hope to fill in the next few years.  I spent an hour with the man who sold me the coin, looking at others, and sighing over their cost.  I think I’d better work harder on convincing Hallmark or similar television network to buy my Betsy Devonshire series with an eye toward making a series of movies based on them, if I hope to fill some of those gaps.

Thanksgiving is upon us.  Ellen, Ann and I are going to a friend’s place to join nine others for a big ham dinner.  I am bringing Aunt Velva’s Bean Salad, Ellen is bringing calico beans, and Ann is bringing the mashed potatoes (made with cream cheese, isn’t that curious?).  But I am also buying a turkey breast on Wednesday to roast on Friday, as it simply isn’t Thanksgiving without turkey.

The First Sunday in Advent is this Sunday, so Ann and I are spending this afternoon setting up the Fontanini Christmas Creche set at my church (over 200 pieces, if you count every sheep), an annual event we both look forward to very much.  This year we are adding the young man mashing grapes in a vat and another young man weaving a basket, and a new, bigger inn.  Where will it end?  When will we have enough?  I have no idea.  But I’m starting to think I need an apprentice who is a member of the church, because one of these years I’ll find I’m no longer able to balance on a chair on a table to reach for the hook in the ceiling that suspends the “multitude of the heavenly host” hovering over the shepherds.

On a literary note, I think I’ve finally got a handle on the character of Betsy’s first husband, Boo.  My sleuth Betsy didn’t like my first and second try at him, but I think I’ve found a way to make him both disreputable and likable.  I’ll take him for a walk at my writers’ group meeting this Saturday.


Linda O. Johnston said...

Wow--do you have a coin from the time of King Charles II? That's when the forerunners of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels became popular and appeared on artwork.

Monica Ferris said...

No, but he's on my bucket (and wishful thinking) list. He was only king for nine years, so his coins are rare and expensive - in the thousands of dollars for a good one. The closest I come is a James I.

Betty Hechtman said...

It must be interesting to think about the hands that touched those coins and what they used them to pay for.

Monica Ferris said...

Betty, you put your finger on a huge reason for my collection. Here is a coin, very much as it was made when the king or queen on its face was reigning, held in the hand of a person also alive then, who bought a meal, or a hen, or a horseshoe with it. It went on to other hands to buy goods or pay taxes and got a little worn, and maybe a thief shaved a tiny sliver off the edge of it (among other slivers, until he had a small horde of silver - and lost a hand or even his life if he got caught doing it), and then a person afraid because invaders or enemies or some other danger was approaching and put it, with other coins, into a pottery jug (because pottery doesn't crumble into rust) and buried it in his back garden or his meadow. Then went away and died before he could recover it. And hundreds of years later a plowshare or excavator or spade broke into the jug. It was reported to the government, who took a share, and the rest went to coin dealers. And now it's mine. When I hold it in my hand, it's as if I am holding all those hands.