ALL  ALONG THE WALL

BACK

 

Here is some text about the process and ideas I had for the project.

I had too many ideas for songs; I only finished 4 pieces, 2 songs and two monologues, due to time….

I hadn’t completed them because I wanted to offer them to the group as part of the collaboration process. So what follows are some of the ideas I had and how they took shape and were or were not finished.

On The Wrong Side of The wall.

Download 'On The Wrong Side Of The Wall'

I tried to imagine what it would have been like for a young boy, a shepherd, out on the hills with his sheep and suddenly hearing and seeing the Roman Garrisons approaching, armour shining, elephants, scary.

Also how it would have been when they built the wall, how towns, farmlands, families and neighbours might have been divided, dealing with this occupying force.

I wanted to give another perspective to the wall, to bring it up to date and relate it to the more modern walls we now have in the world, the Gaza wall, that has been built in order to ‘annexe’ Palestinian land, the Berlin wall, The Mexican border, etc. creating ‘false’ frontiers. So I made this song ‘On the wrong side of the wall.’ I consciously avoided placing those modern walls in my song. Not naming them. I hoped just to reveal the effect of these walls on the people who have been divided by them, gradually and slowly as the song unfolds, hopefully making it more timeless, and subtle. I suppose, so that it appears the song is about Hadrian’s wall, but then, I wanted to reveal the oppressive nature of the wall- verse-by-verse. A verse about being stripped and searched was cut, by consensus of the group, to shorten the song for the show, but I have since included that verse when I sing it live, and also included the verse in the 'differently arranged' recording I have 'produced' - available for download above.  We had many slow, lyrical songs already in the show; we needed a lively tune for the Show, so I gave this song a ‘sing along’ chorus and a lively rhythm. This song was completed and recorded.

 

Arrival Of The Romans. Excerpt.

I was 9 years, being pulled by ox and plough

through my grandfathers cornfields

I remember how

Shocked I was when I heard the menacing thud of marching feet

And saw the sun shining on their shields

and armour, I didn’t retreat.

Like a rumbling monster it snaked

Into the distance, from far away it came

With horses, oxen carts rattling,

 and slaves,

Rolling Northwards, Shadowed

by a fleet of ships with supplies,

thousands of cooking fires lit-

-up the night skies.

Then they pegged and surveyed

through our grazing land

and would divide us and our families with a wall (stanegate) they had planned.

the Soldiers built a white fort

on our farm plantation

on fertile soil, that we’d worked for generations,

that’s where they started to lay and build the wall foundations

our cornfields and farmland

became excavations

the wall separated us from our friends and relations-

our kith and kin’s homes were knocked down

they destroyed all our havens

Etc....

Romanitus. 

A ‘comic’ monologue….About the cultural colonisation and assimilation of Britons and Celts, and the divide and rule that took place, local chieftains that were bribed by Roman coins and the offer and promise of office and power, they would have changed their names also, succumbing to the Roman ‘conquerors.’

(I have a feeling that this kind of thing still happens in the world of  more recent colonialism, eg. The Raj, also today the Indians who work in call centres in Bangalore India,to give information about British Rail train times etc. answer as Nigel, Steve. Suzy etc. and not their Indian names, the names of immigrants used to be changed, or anglicised when entering a country.) This monologue was completed and recorded.

Galloway Girl

I have parked up my van often on the Solway Firth, looking out over the mudflats, (without the ‘Splatchers’ or mud shoes that mudflat walkers would have worn in Mersea near Colchester to stop their feet sinking, like wooden snow shoes.) I would walk on that oozing mud when the tide was out, you could see the rusting wrecked remains of a bridge, I’d drink tea with and chat to the fisherman who wade out together and stand in the mud together, their nets like sails fixed on poles, they stand together, nets placed together, patiently waiting to catch fish as the tide returns to the sea again.

The Western end of the wall is close by. I wanted to include the Solway Firth in the song.

So I imagined a Roman soldier deciding to stay behind, when the rest of his garrison would pull out and return to Rome, those soldiers would return, but have no property or home or family left there, having been away so long, it wouldn’t seem like home. Galloway and the borders might seem more like home if you were in love with a frontier girl. A Galloway Girl. (This song was completed and recorded.)

The age of Wind and stone

Building and song is from a longer verse I made about Archaeology and the puzzle of history we try to complete but cannot. And trying to get inside the skins and heads of the people who built Neolithic tombs and stone circles, everyday things, cutting fingers, eating lunch, etc, not wanting to interpret or invest these buildings with some ‘misty new age mystical’ meanings. (This monologue was completed and recorded)

Endless searching’s, unanswered

No one knows the whole story

We could guess, people do, and many people doubt.

Like a jigsaw puzzle

we have one word discovered,

only one word uncovered,

we have all tried to guess

we have only one word

just one word discovered,

we think we know what it means, but we don't

know what the whole page says.

I had many other unfinished songs; here are some of the ideas.

I started to write an imagined Dramatic Border incident where people were not allowed through the gates in the wall.  (In the end I made ‘The wrong side of the wall’ which perhaps tells a similar story or theme.)

Excerpt.

All people (male and female)

between the ages of 16 to 30

who are residents of Carlisle

and the villages surrounding these towns are not allowed southward.

A cart with a bridegroom arrives at the checkpoint.

His wedding is in Carlisle

However he is from Galloway and young and he is told he can't pass through.

A relative of his

who is from Dumfries

and who speaks fluent Latin,

tries to talk to all the soldiers

to convince them to let him pass through.

A cart with only women and children

who are heading to Carlisle

for the wedding

arrives at the checking gate.

IDs are checked.

Five of the young women,

some with young children,

are from Galloway

and are told to leave the cart

They are not allowed to pass.

They are forced

onto the other side of the street

to go back home.

The bridegroom

has still not been allowed through.

Aunts, uncles and other relatives

are all standing around

trying to figure out what to do.

The relative from Dumfries

continues to go from one soldier

to the other to ask for help.

The bridegroom is told

he cannot go through.

He stands to the side.

The bridegroom is sent home.

on the wrong side of the wall.

Little Brits. The resistance.

…Excerpt

Little Brits

They call us Celts ‘Barbarians’

Just because they don’t speak our tongue

As if we are all the same as

The Goths and the Huns

They call us

Brittunculi -Little Brits.

We say-

‘Romans Go Home’

Language Latin.

A kind of kids verse idea.

…Excerpt

LATIN

Our face was some thing they spat in

And our throne was something they sat in

(Till) then The Romans Tried to make us speak Latin

Maybe that is what scared our tomcat in-

-to running away and not chatting’?

and it hasn’t sat in the mat in the hall

since they started to build and formatting that wall.

They’ve searched all of Northumbria with a fine-toothed comb

For the person who sprayed on it ‘Romans go home.’

Kids songs.

…Excerpt

Where is Hadrian’s Wall?

Hadrian’s wall

It is around Hadrian’s garden.

Where is Hadrians wall?

It surrounds Hadrians house

It’s Too high to jump for a kangaroo-

There are no holes or gaps so no one can crawl through-

Not even a vole or a mouse.

Where is Hadrians wall?

It surrounds Hadrians vegetable patch-

It won’t protect it from rabbits-

For they have a habit-of

digging tunnels with a scrape and a scratch.

 

Tune called The wall-peckers hop

Roman Veteran Soldier.

…Excerpt

I am a Centurion

A gnarled old veteran

I train soldiers.

I am stiffened with discipline,

 

I signed up for 16 years,

one of 20,000 men

I went with Maximus

I never returned home.

I was an army brat and I was landless.

She’s my common law wife

not my concubine

I’ve heard them call that hard working

woman of mine

a traitor

Because she loves and lives with me she’s called a collaborator.

 

I speak Latin and Briton; I have a Celtic accent, and forgotten most of my mother tongue,

I crossed an ocean, I hope my kids will speak Latin but they are still young.

Latin is the language of those in charge

and who rule and govern

But most people here speak Celtic

Their resistance is strong and the locals are stubborn

 

“Dear, Max, I, we are all stranded, serving our emperor over here,

Apart from those warm socks I wrote and asked for, Please send more beer.”

Tullio the Cartwright is fixing Ox-cartwheels in his busy workshop with other men,

Carts break down often,

‘Damn roads are bad here, who built them?!

Roman soldier

…Excerpt

“Probably, the saddest moment of my tour

was watching local family members climbing upon wooden scaffolding type platforms

built next to the Wall

in hopes of seeing a family member,

or to yell and scream obscenities

at us Roman border guards

as they patrolled back and forth.

In, some cases, some guards would wave

or attempt to entice individuals

to cross over the wall.

Of course, if any one decided to make the attempt,

they would have been slain immediately.

I recall, many nights lying in bed hearing skirmishes in the distance

and finding out the following day

that a father was killed trying to get over the wall.

After all, I too was a prisoner of the Romans

“I could not help but feel

that each of us was thinking

that had we been out of uniform

and in some other place,

we would have loved to sit drinking

and talking over a few beers.

On the other hand,

a week from now,

we could be charging with forces

and fighting at each other…

making widows and orphans,

cripples and corpses.

A song about the many Transmarinus,

non-Roman builders of the wall,

North Africans, Batavians, slaves.

Us Transmarinus,

There are many of us

 

Us Batavians were recruited and I joined for adventure and to Rome

But this is the coldest, windiest place I’ve ever known

And the bandit Horse warriors here are a hard enemy to pin down

as good as any horsemen on the Rhine-

-Delta to be found

Those Selgovae, local hunters, from the Eildon hills show no fear

They can appear from nowhere then melt away, just disappear

I’ve ridden to Colchester, all the way up to the fens

We took the Medway towns of London

When we rode our horses across the Thames.

led by our own chieftain,

Us Batavians, who are skilled horsemen,

to say nothing of the trumpeting war-Elephants thundering charge

shaking the earth, stampeding

breaking enemy lines and scattering men.

The stonemasons, or building workers song,

praising their skill- Unfinished.

…Excerpt

Gangs of 15 on the North side,

15 on the south

Keeping pace, working as a unit,

Hand to mouth

3 men laid courses

of stones and beds of mortar,

4 made and mixed one part lime, with 3 parts sand and water,

From the Sandpit near Chesters

at Fallowfield fell,

near the fort of Cilurnum.

We are paid over 200 Dinari a year

I swear that we all have earned them.

3 men filled the core,

4 provided clay to bond it,

and one gopher, the youngest,

made the tea and he responded-

to any given orders

like wood felling,

or scaffolding-

which would shake a-rickety under heavy stones, in high winds.

The B6318 military Road

(A wall pilgrims direction song re ‘route 66’)

…Excerpt

 

“Take the B6318 

it stretches westward and straight

and rolling up high crags to the Whin Sill,

at a roundabout, called the port gate

turn south down Dere Street

 or what’s now called the A68..

..to Corbridge”

After the port gate, where the Military road drops down across the A6079,

is a sign

 for Brunto Turret- where the wall stands high..

..on a steep bank, you can hear the whispers of old soldiers talking, complaining and stamping their cold feet

where the chilly wind blows through an old forest of trees…

Keepers of ‘Peace’…excerpt

Hadrian boasted-

“Gaze upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.”

 “I have achieved more by peace, than others have by war.”

Us Romans are

To be the keepers of peace

Not the makers of war.

To become their own ambassador

Not to become their own prisoners of war

Hadrian built an 80-mile wall

By mixing mortar, and then mixing metaphors,

Just like the building of a very

Inconvenience store

Stones that will last for evermore

They built it without a revolving door

Built for more than just decor

To keep out the boy and the girl next door

 

Bribery 

…excerpt

Romanisation

 “In our innocense we called it civilisation

we recieved it as if we were

being rescued

when it was really part of our

servitude.-

To teach us to sing from their song sheet

To sing in their choir

to bring us into and inside the empire…

into the family

into the fold

crown us, bribe us

so we’ll do what we’re told.”

into the family

into the fold

crown them, bribe them so they’ll

do what they’re told.

Give them an office,

Give them a job, Give them a knighthood

a villa,

Get them to rob

Divide and to rule to control

the Pictish mob

These kings will inherit

What Rome leaves behind

Give them some gold and with

 the ties that bind.

Give them a priesthood a pope-hood

Make them speak Latin

And write it, and preach it

And even to Chat in.

 

Coins, exchange and Black-market.

Unfinished  Excerpt.

"Want to buy some Denari?" Slight but obvious accent. I'd been tricked twice already, once in Newcastle the very day I landed and once in York, so I was wary. "How did you know I spoke Latin?"

He shrugged. "Doesn't everybody?"

"Not in York, How come you speak it?"

"I listen to the Roman Soldiers. . ."

It seemed as if the Romans were using Corbridge as a show window in which people of the North could see the advantages of Romanization, there was obviously lots of money being poured in.

"Did you ever think how it looks to people from the other side?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, lots of those people don't want to leave—they were born and raised in some neighborhood, and that's home to them, no matter how miserable. But a clever guy who wants to make life a little less miserable can do it easy."

"How?"

"I'll give you a simple example. He buys ten eggs for a bronze sestertius, and he carries them over the wall, where he sells them for a bronze sestertius. But this bronze sestertius he can exchange for three-and-a-half of the other kind. So he goes back through the gate buys thirty-five eggs, and keeps it up till he, maybe, doubles his weekly income."

Song idea as a letter home:

I’m a young Roman Woman I’ve become very lonely,

marooned in a sea of soldiers, with very little female company-

-of the same age, I’ll write another page-

of this letter, but your replies I lack,

it’s my third letter to you

but you haven’t written back.

Sulspicia Lepidina wore sandals

made in Gaul,

carved from leather

for her feet so small

I offered this idea to Ruth who did a  wonderful job on it, re working it and making it her own, Kate and I sat with her and threw words into the pot, then I left Ruthand Kate  to plot it between them and Ruth shaped it into a song she would sing for herself.

BACK