I’ve moved around quite a lot: I was born in Australia, and brought up partly there and partly in Somerset in the UK; I moved to Sheffield to go to university, and managed to get a degree in languages and a PhD in Medieval Studies; I currently live in Somerset with my husband and our three children. Throw in a few short stints in between all this in Devon, York, Brussels and Bavaria, and it’s a fairly eclectic mix. If you asked me “Where are you from?” I’d probably give different answers on different days.
When I’m watching cricket I support Somerset, Australia and Tasmania, in that order, so I guess that probably gives a bit of a clue when I’m trying to sort out my identity.
Something which has always been constant for me is a love of history, and of the Middle Ages in particular. Some of my earliest memories involve devouring books about knights and castles – I was famous at my primary school for choosing an encyclopaedia of history when given a free choice of library book, and then reading the entire thing through twice!
I’ve been involved in all kinds of historical stuff ever since then, both professionally and personally. Clearly you don’t decide to do a PhD in something if you’re not fairly keen on it, so being able to spend three years working on depictions of medieval combat and weaponry, and reading twelfth- and thirteenth-century texts, was a kind of heaven; I then carried on into a three-year postdoctoral job as well.
As you can see from other pages on this site, I’ve published various non-fiction and scholarly things related to the Middle Ages, which have required some pretty detailed academic research.
I’m also fascinated by the stuff you can’t really find out from books – the little matters of everyday life, the “how-did-they-do-that” things.
I worked for a while at the Danelaw Dark-Age Village near York where I spent my days teaching children about how Vikings, Saxons and early medieval people lived, and helping them with practical tasks like ploughing, grinding corn, thatching, and so on.
I also spent twelve very happy years as a member of Knights in Battle, a Sheffield-based medieval re-enactment group. As you’d expect from the name, they re-enact historical battles, but they also do quite a lot of “Living History”, and until you’ve really tried to cook a meal for 50 people using only an open fire, or had to get someone into a full suit of armour within five minutes without breaking any of your fingers, or realised that you can’t have any new clothes until you’ve made them yourself, you can’t have anything approaching a proper appreciation of, and respect for, the people who lived hundreds of years ago. They had to cope with this sort of thing – not to mention inadequate sanitation and healthcare, wars, epidemics, child mortality and so on and so on – every day, and they couldn’t even go and have a nice shower and a sit down afterwards.