A new friend recently asked if I lived in a castle. This made me realise how many people have disappeared from my list of contacts over the last 12 month’s and how many new friends have entered this domain, knowing little of the writer. This is a rambling explanation I wrote some 3 years ago when I first began this space.
I imagine there is a name for it: defending your own personal space. We walk through the busy shopping precincts, crowded with Christmas shoppers, we queue at the checkouts, each one of us defending that infinite gap of privacy from the people around us, trying to invisibly input our pin numbers! As a single diner, you would smile at the efforts that folk take in not occupying one of the three vacant seats at your table. The village pub, posh restaurant, theatre, soccer match, a moorland walk and most obvious of all, the beach – we huddle alone or in groups ‘defending’ our [dubious] ownership of a table, chair, area of sand and guarded on three sides by a multi coloured, ‘windbreak.’
Then an Englishman, invented the WWW. [Yes folks, another British invention that we have failed to capitalise on!]. The internet was soon available to us all. We could speak to people all over the planet – from our isolated dens/bedrooms. The screen and the electrical impulses, are as near as we allowed anyone to get close to us. I am amazed on reflection that I have been part of this revolution for some ten years now. Sadly, this complete freedom is being sadly eroded, the “system” now provides names to contact! The first rule in the distant past was that you created and sustained your anonymity. My first effort reflected the strange world I was entering – ‘Alien Dream’. In French you are aware they have masculine and feminine words, even in English ‘A D’ was deemed to be ‘feminine’. The problems are obvious!
My hobby is Genealogy, the history of my family. It will be plain to all that history is my favourite subject. History, is usually written by the main players, I find it more interesting to learn about how our ancestors coped with the social and economic problems of their days. The Hymn, ‘All things bright an beautiful’, says: “The rich man in his castle, The poor man at his gate.” Well my lot were both. All civilisations have protected family, in Barrows, Motte and Baileys and castles.
The Anjovian Empire, extended from the borders of Scotland to the Mediterranean Sea. Strategically placed hills, rivers and on estuaries loomed the power of the invader – Castles. Some large and significant while others were small and now, largely forgotton. Testimony to the rich accomplishments of England and France. They are foreboding structures. Haunted by the spirits of the past. My fascination with castles began when I heard the methods employed during sieges. Two of which were the hurling of rancid meat into the castle for the starving defenders to eat. The catapult like structure, bears the name of one line of ancestors – did they make them? Did they fire them? Another was the idea of the besiegers digging under the castle foundations and shoring the castle up with tarred wood. This was ignited, [later gunpowder was used], and the wall of the castle collapsed. On school holidays my family would visit places like Conwy and Scarborough. They hung huge carpets up on the walls to stop the draughts and called them tapestries. Castle stairs apparently spiral to the right almost universally. The reason for this is most people are right handed and hold their sword in this hand. An attacker running up the stairs is therefore hampered by the central supporting column of the staircase. The defenders however did not suffer such problems. They drank and caroused the days away between battles. The castle owner paid for all these festivities and this became a recognised method for the monarch of the day to stop his followers from becoming too rich, and powerful!
Sir William Pitt, Earl of Chatham, in 1766 made an impassioned defence of private homeowners against discretionary government searches. He enunciated on the right of an Englishman to be secure in his home: “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail — its roof may shake — the wind may blow through it — the storm may enter — the rain may enter — but the King of England cannot enter; all his forces dare not cross the threshold of that ruined tenement.” In England, law is created by precedent – not a written constitution, so it is that this right, dates back to 1604, the year that Shakespeare presented Othello. An individual named Semayne complained that his home had been broken into and his assets seized by the sheriff. The judgment that followed declared: ‘The house of everyone is his castle.‘ It went on to say, ‘That if a door is open, a sheriff may enter but that it is not lawful for the sheriff, on request made and denied, at the suit of a common person to break the defendant’s house.’ One 18th-century commentator wrote: ‘The law of England has so particular and tender a regard to the immunity of a man’s house, that it styles it his castle, and will never suffer it to be violated with impunity. For this reason, no doors can in general be broken open to execute any civil process; though, in criminal cases, the public safety supersedes the private.
This right, “Of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated,” is enshrined in the constitution of the Commonwealth of United States. [Fourth Amendment]. Written incidentally from the works of French and English philosophers.
The above is a rather convoluted explanation of why my space is named as it is. So yes, I do live in a castle, my home IS my castle. As with most strategic edifices, it is built on a hill, overlooking the Trent Valley in Middle England. Unlike nearby Ashby Castle it has double glazing and the larder is always well stocked. [This latter fact comes from my genes who learnt to hoard during War time rationing!].
Whilst having had the title by document – it seemed that Glencairn was an appropriate name to use on the internet. I do not display a picture of the real Castle Glencairn for obvious reasons. As children we would play, King of the Castle and today I work on my computer and access the internet from my castle. It is the refuge from whence I travel around the world from this book lined room, isolated from, but close to you my friends the world over.