John Ashtone, the reprobate responsible for this farrago.

John Ashtone, the reprobate responsible for this farrago.




About me

Not really that much to say, I have been told I need an about John Ashtone slot, quite why anyone would be interested defeats me, but there you go, we have a saying in Yorkshire my home County, “there’s nowt, so queer as t’folk”, but then it wouldn’t do for us all to be the same. I have traveled quite a bit.

In my younger days, a friend and I went hitch hiking around what was then Western Europe, reaching the Arctic circle just above Rovaniemi in Finland and as far East as Tehran in Iran. Before there are any complaints I know Iran is in Asia, actually it was quite a fascinating place, if somewhat of a dump, also the people were not really that friendly. As opposed to Finland where they could not have been more welcoming.

France was superb, but spoilt by the people living there, the French seem to go out of there way to annoy. I had bumped into a couple of fellow Yorkshiremen in Perpingnan, and we had gone into a bar. There were about 9 guys in there, with no French among them, the football world cup was on, and having just earned a drink by identifying correctly all the five nationalities of the people sat in the Bar, we were invited over to join the throng.

They were plotting ways to execute the barman, by the most slow and painful way possible. Apparently he was refusing to show the England Argentina match on the TV (it was the one before the infamous hand of god game), now what struck me was there was not a Brit among the drinkers, two were Spanish and so were supporting Argentina.

They all had one common theme, they loved France but hated the French, this included three Italians, two Dutchmen, a Swede and a Norwegian. I had cheated by saying the the last two were Scandinavian, although I did say I thought the Norwegian was so, because his Levis were brand new.

Anyroad up, the Frenchman was willing to lose 100% of his customers, who just wanted to watch a footie match, which was part of the most important competition in the soccer calendar? No I don’t understand the thinking either.

I nearly drowned in lake Geneva, when I ran out of energy, swimming out to a pontoon about 400 metres out in the lake. Answer don’t start smoking, it ruins your stamina, I had only started through boredom of so many miles to go to the next stop, and at that time nearly everyone smoked, especially on the continent. I was rescued by a pedalo, and clung on to the float while he towed me to shore.

The other near death experience while doing the “Grand Tour” was in Germany, me and Dave, my travelling buddy, were in Hamburg, and had found a park that had a fence around and a children’s playground. This contained a plastic pyramid for the kids to climb on, it made an ideal place to be out of view. Dave woke me at about six in the morning with the words, “John there is a man pointing a gun at your head” my reply was three words, “Fuck off Dave” at which point as I turned over, there was an almighty banging as whoever used his revolver to bang the side of the pyramid and,
“Rouser, rouser, rouser”.
The answer to the question, what do you do when someone points a loaded gun at your head, is anything they ask you to.

We were out of there like a shot, and before there were any shots.

It was our farewell to Hamburg, the night before had been brilliant, entertained by a ex Waffen SS officer, called Walter, we hadn’t spent a ‘Day Mark’ (the Deutsche mark was pronounced that way). And had gone around a stack of bars, and drank and ate ourselves silly, while poor old Walter had said how he regretted being in the Waffen SS because now he couldn’t visit UK which he longed to do.

That is just two snippets, and on reflection I suppose I had a little bit of an adventure, I have also had a Holiday in India, I had booked a flight to Bombay, (and before any politically correct idiots start saying it is now Mumbai, I should tell them to go round the markets in Bombay) and took it from there. I went North to Agra and the Taj Mahal, before heading South to Hyderabad, by sleeper class on the train and then cross country by local trains and local busses to Goa, before going back North to Poona and then back to Bombay, great fun.

Apart from that I have been self employed on and off for about 15 years, and had various jobs and trades, including book selling, stock control, courier work and warehousing, but my current job is the good old fall back Security guarding, which is helping to pay off the massive debts I accumulated ensuring my staff were paid and the rent and rates kept upto date.

I am something of a bilbliophile, and would like to move house at some point to a larger one to accommodate the books I have acquired. I live with Rose but that is purely functional these days to keep a roof over our heads and ensure there is no rent once the Mortgage is paid.


Hello and welcome to my new site, initially it won’t look as professional as my last site, which was produced using Weebly web builder, which I thoroughly recommend, however I had outgrown it, as it restricted me to 6 pages for free, but more importantly it did not have as much versatility with interactive possibilities.

Hence changing to WordPress, which I shall keep expanding.

And one of the first things I have done is improve the font face, this is good old Baskerville, which is much easier to read with longer passages, due to the serifs in the font guiding the brain.

Initially the subjects covered are Early English Medieval History, covering the departure of the Romans in Circa 410 AD through to around 1050, this will be expanded through to some time around 6:00 late Monday afternoon 22nd August 1485 when the Middle Ages stops (oh alright, the middle ages doesn’t stop just then, but it winds up Historians full of their own Hubris and basically half wits, of which for some reason there are quite a few, perhaps having a sense of humour removed is part of taking a History degree for some?) but might just continue into Henry VII, we will see how things pan out.  Also Economics, dealing with some of the basics, namely what fiat money is and how it works, also why money came into existence, and some Macro Economic themes explained, also some aspects explained like GDP, what the Balance of payments is, and why it is different from the budget surplus or deficit, and if all the Countries owe so much National debt who is it owed to.  Money is tied into King Offa who first introduced the Silver penny in England which is the ancestor of the current penny/cent.

Also I shall now start adding a blog on a regular basis, this will reflect on matters arising, the first one was on Iran talking to USA, and the peace dividends it could bring, as there is always something going on in the world I shall no doubt be able to pontificate on all sorts, I have not decided how frequent they will be, on the principle that no doubt they will settle down into a regular routine of their own making.  From these may well come other regular topics which people find difficult and I shall hopefully explain them in a way that is understandable to the averagely intelligent person, I will be honest if I can understand it then you probably can.
John Ashtone about me.


This is an excerpt from my Book, Dark Ages to the Vikings


Excerpt from Chapter 16,   

10th & 11th Centuries

England now started to form into a coherent Country, this was brought about by the efforts of the Kings, from Alfred the Great onwards.  There is no evidence that any area constituted what a specific king thought should be the area he ruled, merely what he could rule, and where he could gather taxes.  In the case of Aethelred II (the Unready) as much in taxes as possible to pay the Danegeld.  It does not seem to occur to the raiding armies that just collecting a percentage of money would be a more efficient means of making a profit than raping and pillaging, although it may well mean the latter two ceased to become an option so was probably the reason it was not thought of.

This shows how to get Oxen to pull a cart, poke them with a long stick appears to be the answer.

This shows how to get Oxen to pull a cart, poke them with a long stick appears to be the answer.

That is until Swein (King of the Danes) sees that England is there for the taking, and so decides to tap the money supply at its source, but here fortune intervenes because the person with whom the fates will decide should get the interminable mint of money, is Canute and he is not just in it for the wealth.

He is a man of his time, and being a good King in the eyes of his God, to him seems to mean more than an extra dollop of dosh, to the extent that he clamps down on corruption, and while others may have said they were for the observance of the Laws, Canute has it proclaimed in the Village, in the Town, that any officials not fulfilling their duties under the Law are to be reported to him so that punishment can be seen for all.

Ploughing, this is a contemporary drawing, but is simplified, it is thought 8 Oxen would be use.

Ploughing, this is a contemporary drawing, but is simplified, it is thought 8 Oxen would be use.

In 11th Century England there would most likely have been disparities in its enforcement, but it does seem to have been largely observed in deed, not just word.  This is probably why the wealth of the Nation came back so quickly, once the pent up demand is beginning to be serviced after the Danegeld ceased to be paid.

The Architecture however suffered severe blows, the lack of regular income due to the ravages of the Danes took its toll in building development, and it seems to have nearly halted at the beginning of the 10th Century and little improved later, the continual depletion of the treasury stymied any advancement of design.  There is little left now of the building from this period, mainly due to the paucity of new works, probably caused by the upsets of Aethelred (II) but then with no impetuous from the King, it is not until Eadward the Confessor that any building of note is erected, and the Westminster Abbey he constructed was not the one we see today.

The Counties or more properly the Shires were by the 11th Century fully in place below the Danelaw that is, and the Shires themselves were divided into Hundred’s, and the Hundred’s were there for Tax raising and administrative purposes like the settling of legal disputes between farmers and holding the Courts, which in many places was every four weeks, these Hundreds seem to have come into being about the reign of Edgar.

The Courts and Taxes would require people who could read and write, so the Monasteries kept on supplying the people with these skills, from Alfred’s day onwards even in Aethelred’s reign the Taxes were raised very efficiently by contemporary standards in Europe, the Children of the Royal court and Ceorls are the ones who seem to have been ‘Educated’ and trained to the civil service.

Footnote that turned into an essay,

on reading and writing in the medieval period

A note from the author on the above, as pointed out it is an extract, so a lot of what is written is explained previously in the book, like the fact that the Aethelred (Aethelraed) we are dealing with is the 2nd with that name who was King of England. His name is made of two parts, Aethel is of Royal blood, and Raed means well advised or of good wisdom and honest brokering, hence the Unready is a pun, or play on words, he was regarded as ill advised at best, and it is somewhat offensive at worst, meaning advised by the stupidly evil.
Also there is a wide ranging myth about the ability to read and write, from Alfred the Great’s time onwards, reading is back with a vengeance, however a lot more people could read than could write, also all reading was done aloud, silent reading is a modern day (18th century onwards) phenomena. There is no indication any King from Alfred’s time could not read, most could write, because they would be taught as children to read and probably write. Also all the Women of the court and many women of the nobility would probably be able to read, although writing was much less likely, by the time the boys were learning to write, the girls would be learning to sew.
Printing press 1511 j 2
Obviously from the time of Alfred (893) onwards the spread of reading and writing into the wider community was slow, however we are talking hundred’s of years, and it spread, though incremental, was steady. And sibling’s and aunts and uncles were often expected to teach the younger members of the family at least the ability to read. Danziger in his book 1215, which is about the Magna Charta, estimates about one in twenty people being able to read, which I suspect is being generous, however even one in fifty is a lot more than many people think to be the case.
The wider use of linen, helped spread reading, especially once paper making is introduced around the 14th century, the reason is this, clothes were handed down, and sold into the 2nd hand market, linen and at this time cotton to a lesser extent, suddenly has a residual market, so even the tattiest linen clothes have a value for paper making, helping bring the cost of paper down.
Indeed by the 15th century the pressure for more books was tremendous, many could read, those who had a good fist for writing, would be commissioned to write out a new copy of favourite books, and by now there are more titles in circulation, Piers Ploughman, Canterbury tales are just two in English, and then all the Continental titles, plus the Bible, and psalters plus how to books, like the rules of playing chess, which also doubled as self help books.
Along with the discovery of antimony that allowed the fine detailing in metal stamps for silver and gold smiths, the stage was set for a way of mass producing books, because the cheap means of producing paper, the mass of people who could read, and the general wealth of many who wanted to read more were all in place. I will let you fill in what happens next around 1450s.