Fascination with the Blade

This is going to be a series of articles on my fascination with bladed weapons. Just something that has been part of not only my life, but is part of our everyday lives. We all have a kitchen and we all have knifes. We also use pen knifes and multi-tools.

Main difference between a tool and a weapon is how the tool is used. A lot of ancient weapons started off as tools with a specific purpose in mind.

The Vikings, for example, used axes as a tool to cut and shape wood, but these are also just as affective against an enemy. Eventually, some of these tools became more specialised as weapons. The Viking axe evolved a bearded drop to the blade which was much more affective at hooking the shield of an enemy and pulling it down, allowing for a fellow warrior to then launch a counter attack.

My fascination with the blade, comes from my dads influence as a child. The first movie I ever remember watching with him was the 1986 movie Highlander. I remember asking about it and he told me they can only die with swords. He also had his own fascination with blades. He had his own pair of curved swords. I also use multi-tools when the occasion calls for them – mainly the pliers or screwdriver function, but occasionally the knife comes in handy.

I will confess that I am also a movie buff and love movies like Lord of the Rings, Conan (original 2 and remake), Alita Battle Angel, Thundercats cartoon and, of course, Highlander (original, not TV series or sequels and don’t get me started on the shit-show that was Highlander 2).

The fact is that we cannot get away from blades. They are part of our daily life and also our culture. Take a look at Lady Justice – scales in one hand and the sword in the other. Even Star Wars features a futuristic version of the sword in the form of the lightsabre.

Away from these areas, we also have Stanley knifes (box cutters), multi-tools and off course, shaving razors. Lets face it – bladed tools are everywhere and there is simply no getting away from them.

In my early 20s I developed an interest in Medieval history, specially the 12th – 13th Centuries and, as you can guess, I have always had a fascination with some of the weapons that may have been used by the Knights or Lords of the middle-ages. I have went to museums and looked at some of the swords in the display cases and wondered who owned them? What did they feel like to wield? How many battles have they been in and how many lives have they taken? How many times did they save the life of their owner?

They were made and used during a time, hundreds of years ago, and in whose footsteps we still follow. Some street layouts and names have remained the same for centuries and have their names given from historical buildings that once stood in that locale.

I live in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. Every day I pass a castle that was build by a Knight (Sir John de Courcy) in 1177. This imposing structure still stands to this day and still has scars from its battles throughout history. The town centre still has its original medieval layout, including a local restaurant that was built in at least 1200CE.

With all this history on my doorstep, I often wonder that I am walking in the footprints of history. How many battles took place here?

To get a better idea, I joined a local history and re-enactment group; whilst my membership was short-lived, for reasons I will not go into, it allowed me to experience a part of living history that was otherwise inaccessable.

I have read books about the history of swords and other weapons, but books can only teach so much. Each item of clothing, tool, weapon etc can teach an individual a personal experience that would be impossible otherwise.

When I held a sword in my hand for the first time…it felt wonderful. When I first began to withdraw it from its scabbard, I was able to experience how long the sword was and I just about cleared it. Then there was the weight. Whilst it only weighted little over 1kg, it felt a little heavy and (I am only slightly built) and so I was able to experience a lot of muscle in my forearm working, when I was swinging the sword about. I was also able to figure out how to do that fancy swirly swing that is common in movies when showing off their swords.

To be continued…

Razors and the Environment

OK, random post, but something that I have been thinking about for a few days and as this is as good a place as any to think aloud, then what the heck. Here it goes.

I started shaving when I was about 15/16. Not much to shave back then. I was in my 30s before I could grow a full beard, and even now it really doesn’t get too thick. Genetics at work I suppose; though I have had a Goatee since I was in my mid-20s. Only thing I’ve really ever managed to grow properly.

Anyway, as I have previously mentioned, this year I am doing things slightly differently and trying to be a better person and make some positive changes in my life. I was in Tesco on Friday last week and I decided to buy a new shaving razor. I liked the look of it (see pic below) and so I decided on a whim to buy it.

By this point you are maybe wondering where the issue of the environment comes into my random thoughts. Well, here it goes.

Over the years I have used a wide range of different razors and never gave the environment a 2nd thought until Friday last week. I have used countless disposable razors as well as electric razors (my dad used to use a 3-headed electric razor and due to these memories, this was the first of several electric razors to come and go within my possession). And all of them have ended up in landfill. Not good for the environment…nor my wallet actually. I must confess that I still have an electrical beard trimmer (as I have shaved bare from time-to-time) and an electrical razor and intend to keep them for as long as they function.

But I would say that I have went through many more disposable razors than any other type. The one I mainly use, which I will now be changing, is the one below:

Ok, a little bit of a Google search revealed to me the categories of the 5 main types of razor available, so now I can sound a little more knowledgeable lol.

#1 Disposable: I’ve used these things in the past. Cheap, rust easily and blunt quickly then just bin. But lot’s of plastic and the ones I used only had 3 blades which became clogged or blunt quite quick. Basically, the worst I’ve used for quality and especially the environment with all that plastic going to landfill.

#2 Electric: have used these in the past and still use them for personal grooming and beard trimming. I currently have 2 and use them for different purposes. I don’t mind spending a little extra for a good one (a little research found electric shavers retailing at £250 and above. At that price I would expect it to shave me itself and also run me a bath and change my cats litter trays!) with a decent range of hair lengths – used it to shave my head twice during lockdown in 2020 when I couldn’t get to a barber. Plus no shaving foam. Bonus!

#3 Cartridge Razors: I have been using these things for years and love(d) the idea of holding onto the base and just binning the head when it was finished. But, be it 3 or 5 blade, it was always getting clogged with hair and I had to hold a finger under the water-tap (faucet if you are American) to create a strong jet of high pressure water to clean the blades…whilst also sending water in all directions. Plus it was expensive! Have you seen the price of the replacement cartridges!? Yea, so you might spend £15 and get 9 cartridges, but then it’s like £7 for 4. That’s £1.75 each! Plus, again, all that plastic going into the bin.

#4 Safety Razor: £15 for the razor, and then 10 blades for £2!!! Plus, the amount of metal needing to be disposed off is minimal. I loose more metal through dropped change than I would through this method. Plus, I will be honest, it is the closest shave I have ever had in my life.

#5 Straight Razor: best shave, apparently, you will ever have as well as being the most cost effective. But also the most dangerous and, whilst I am usually careful around blades, I think I would have to add the cost of my funeral to this one if I made a mistake. Not for me lol.

Thanks for reading.

Inspiration

OK, so my laser engraver will be arriving ahead of schedule. This is good news as it’s lighting a fire under my arse and getting my creative juices flowing.

I’ve some raw materials (blank wooden key rings & wood slices) which I’ve used before. I’ve sold a few hand burned pieces and also made gifts. Everything starts as a stencil as I can barely draw a straight line with a ruler.

The handmade stuff takes at least 20mins and a lot of concentration. I will still offer this, but at a reduced cost, even though it’s more time consuming, due to the fact that the quality won’t match that of a machine.

But, the machine has its limits and some things just need to be done by hand. However, the machine can also produce engravings faster than I can and more constantly and in greater quantity; meaning I can offer more variety and potentially take on more requests.

I’ve also downloaded a book on simple tattoos from which I can get images and inspiration.

So, what am I planning on doing with all the stuff I hope to make? I’d like to make a few 💷, but I don’t want to run a business. I don’t have a head for business. I’d just like to make enough to pay for the engraver, cover my base costs and earn a little extra cash.

But I am also hoping to offer a service to my viking group so I can potentially laser engrave swords, daggers and axes as well as some raw leather before it’s made into clothing or other gear.

Basically I just want to make stuff because it interests me and is therapeutic.

New Beginnings

The year has just begun and already I am making the changes that are required and long overdue.

Resolutions are easy to make, but hard to keep without the commitment and I will be honest; staying power is something I have been lacking this year.

For example, after lockdown happened I was able, without any effort, to loose about 5lbs simply by eating smaller meals, cutting out the junk, eating only when I was hungry and not eating after 8pm. Well…that went out the window and I put the weight back on and more. I am the heaviest I have ever been in my life and I am determined to loose about 21lbs to get back down to a weight that I suited.

Another goal is to re-commit to my religious beliefs and find better ways to incorporate them into my daily life. This means adapting the terminology more and also consulting the Runes for guidance, as well as acknowledging and celebrating the Sabbats.

I was planning a few walks in the Mournes in 2020 but events conspired against me thanks to Covid restrictions. So, this year I would like to revisit Silent Valley, hike the Granite trail and, my biggest goal, is to hike to the top of Slieve Donard. Something I have wanted to do for a long time.

I would also dearly love for my current job to be made permanent as this would provide a large amount of stability in my life. I thoroughly enjoy my job and whilst it can be challenging at times, there is no part of it which I have failed to embrace and excel at.

Hobbies: I have also bought a new piece of kit (still in the post as of time of writing) in the form of a laser engraver, which I am hoping will enable me to expand my creativity and also allow for some more complex work as well as a small degree of mass production. Details to follow when it arrives.

And then we come to Vikings. I am looking forward to getting dressed up again and meeting my team and planning new publicity photos and attending as many events as I possibly can. Magnus Viking Association in Ballydugan, Co.Down, Northern Ireland.

Maria

A life cut short by a broken heart,
We were once close but now apart,
Time spent together can never be enough,
The years without you are going to be tough.

You have a smile that brightens the darkest days,
That said you care in so many ways,
And a hearty laugh that sounds like thunder,
That breaks the clouds like a natural wonder.

Sadly the time has come that we must part,
You will always have a permanent niche in my heart.

Vikings

By the light of stars
They set sail this night
To lands of new
And villages to fight

Of gold and silver they were told
To be taken by the brave and bold
Protected by men as big as a tree
Slay them we must and claim our victory

New villages were made
And lands were settled
They farmed with spade
And maidens protected

Invades they were,
But now no more
No fight to be had
They had settled their score

Yet their deeds live on
Past through history
Through their stories of war
And great victory

A Message to a Killer

You took my yesterday
You’ve robbed me in every way
It’s been 30 years this year
Now you’ve had my final tear

I’ve fallen on the floor
I don’t want this any more
I’ve finally had enough
My life til now had been tough

Now I’m making my last stand
I’ve found my helping hand
I have finally found a way
With my new voice I now say
That I’m giving up my sorrow
So that you can’t steal another tomorrow

No Updates

I know I haven’t updated this for many many weeks.

I’ve been busy and trying to sort some aspects of my life out and I AM making progress on this issue, but my journey is far from complete.

I have been working on some carving projects and neglecting other areas of my life…including this blog.

I will make more of an effort to keep it updated in the New Year 🙂

Simba

IMG_0148

Hey you! Hi there, hello!
What’s your name? Mine is Will-oo
Now you’re here and I have your attention
Let me tell you a story I simply must mention
I was born on a farm, but it wasn’t to be
I was put up for adoption, which was safer for me

In this temporary home I made a new friend
Knowing my stay here would someday end
So until then I decided to kick back and relax
Manipulating the humans, to the max
I was on top of our cage, sleeping on my mate,
Enjoying the life, which I thought was just great
When one day, 6ft above the floor
Where I was staying safe, away from the door
Two strangers had arrived; they came for me
I was awoken from my slumber on a cat called Wolf-e
They weren’t dogs or cats but people see?
Introducing themselves were Dad and Mum-ee

I knew before them that they’d take me home
And when I got there I realised I wasn’t alone
A new brother and sister were waiting for me
Don’t know what they look like cause I’m blind you see
My big bro, was a Rascal by name and nature
I thought he was quite, an interesting creature
And get this, it’s no joke
When Misty vanishes just like smoke

I love to sit, on a warm lap
Closing my eyes, drifting into a nap
Mum tickles my head, just behind my ear
Feeling safe, I have nothing to fear
My Dad has a head, which I love to lick
Using a tongue with bristles ever so thick
One day I even followed him up a ladder
Couldn’t understand why he was getting madder
Turns out he was stuck up in the attic
With me at the top he got into a panic
A solution was found and this problem got solved
You wouldn’t believe what this involved!
And after this, dad was a lot more cautious
He kept a closer eye on each and all of us

We have our own room, which is shared
With places to hide if I feel scared
After these events my true personality came out
I get can my own way when loudly I shout
But that’s ok because I am blind as a bat
Simba I’m now called and I’m King Cat!

Then one day Mum and Dad went out
I cried for them and we began to shout
For they had gone to that same place
From where we first met, face to face
And when they came back they were not alone
As they had brought another cat into my royal home!
She was small and black and as feisty as can be
We soon realised she was mad as a nutty Cook-ie!

Amid this expansion I’m sure you can see
That it took us awhile to feel like a fam-il-ee
With happiness reigning entirely in the house
We were playing our favourite game of cat and mouse
Then one day our parents went out again
We don’t want this, it’s a total pain!

And from the CPA they came back
With something tiny coloured white and black
For home they brought the smallest kitten
And after a while we were totally smitten
Soon we realised what was in store
For this small kitten had a purr like a roar
Then one day, he felled dad like a tree
Watched it happen we all did see
“Tttiiimmmbbbeeerrr” we laughed as dad fell in the kitchen
“You called?” whispered this newest addition
Dad must’ve heard us cause shortly thereafter
He changed the kittens name from ‘Timmy’ to ‘Tim-ber’
This cat said, “I can be quiet as a mouse, and quite sneaky”
“I don’t cause all the mischief, yet they always blame me!”

Oh hey, sorry friend, look at the time
The hour is late; it must be near nine,
For now this tail I must briefly conclude
So good day and goodnight, see ya later dude!

Titanic

RMS_Titanic_3

Born in a Belfast dry dock,
Growing bigger in every way
Their sheer size was a shock
The biggest sisters of their day

People stopped and gazed
Stirring all the time
They were looking up amazed
At the flagship of the White Star Line

All aboard the people went
Their hopes were high and free
For their money was all spent
On dreams across the sea.

Full speed ahead, the captain said
A fastest journey to best
Beat this time and forget your bed,
No time for sleep or rest

Whilst crossing the ocean,
Titanic ran out of luck
A disaster was set in motion
When an iceberg was struck

The price to live was set far too high,
And many couldn’t pay
The question was and does remain, “Why
Did hundreds have to die that day?”

These mysteries are proving hard to solve
And a sad truth awaits for some
It was not for lack of money or love
That those answers may never come

Forever deep down on the ocean bed
The sinking still a mystery
We will always remember her brave dead
And their small part in Belfast history.