|2nd day of December,||feast of Saint
beaten with leaden whips until she died
| The sun looked likely to shine yestermorn,
so Gerd the miller's son and I left our chores undone and went to
village where they were to hang two thieves. Never having seen a
I could only imagine the huge hairy bandits with cruel scarred faces,
and growling fearsome curses, while we onlookers shrieked and shrank
in fear. I thought it sounded better even than a feast or a fair.
could not be found, so I made the clay-brained Gerd go with me.
It looked to be a gay( fun) occasion, even though the rain started before we were far along, which dampened our spirits a little and our shoes a lot. The sheriff had just constructed a new gallows, so the whole village turned out to celebrate. People were packed all around the church square, villagers and strangers, priests and children, peddlers and players, and hawkers selling every kind of food and drinks. I bought sausages, bread, an onion, two meat pies, and an apple pastry and ate most of it, for it was my penny, not Gerd's.
We were all laughing and shouting when we saw the sheriff pull the cart in.
| I was calling "Dead bandits never rob
again, "which I thought quite clever, as the cart passed me by,
the two bandits, ropes already tied about their necks.
| The wretched day grew worse still, for on
our way home we saw a funeral procession ride down the road toward
It was midday and the rain had slowed to a drizzle, but it was near as
dark as dusk. Never have I seen so many men and horses so quiet, their
bells and bridles muffled. The only sound was the thud of horses'
on the wet ground.
First came a crowd of men wrapped in black cloaks. I could not tell who they were but the tall man in front had the saddest face I ever saw. Following them, two horses--one before and one after--carried a sort of litter with the coffin. And in the rear marched hundreds of soldiers in battle dress, without a smile or a wave for us, without a sound, except for the slow measured tread of their boots.
Gerd and I ran home, trembling with fear that the king had died, for who else would be taken to London with such a company, such pomp, and such grief? The king had been king as long as I had lived. How could we have another? What would happen to us?
|"No, Little Bird," she said, "you weep for the wrong person.
It is not the king who is dead, but Eleanor, his kind and gentle queen
On her way to join the king
as he warred against the Scots, the queen took ill and died. The king, broken of heart, came from Scotland to take her back to London.
| He built a towering stone cross to mark the place
she lay at Lincoln Castle
||and will have one built at every stop from
|3rd DAY OF DECEMBER,||Feast of St. Birinus, apostle of Wessex, 1st bishop of Dorchester, & builder of churches|
George was drunk again all day. Aelis has been taken to London for the king's Christmas court. He never says her name. Is it the curse?
|4TH DAY OF DECEMBER,||Feast of Saint Barbara, said to have
been martyred in Nicomedia, Heliopolis, Tuscany, and Rome
My brother Thomas has come from serving the
king to spend Christmas with us. Because of the rain he arrived so
and beslombered with muck that I did not know him. He is near a
to me, as he is much with the king, but does not seem as abominable as
Robert, so I shall not overly vex him.
Thomas says the king, still on his way to London with the queen, does not weep but rides with a face of stone, so deeply does he grieve. I wonder if the mothers of the two boy bandits hanged at Wooton grieve for them. I find I prefer fairs and feasts to hangings.
5TH DAY OF DECEMBER, Feast of Saint Crispina, who was
bald to humiliate her before she was beheaded
Thomas, very lordly in his patterned hose and pointed shoes, played the child long enough to coach the village boys in their fighting games. As I sat in the sun with my eyes closed, I could hear the thud of wooden swords on the wooden shields, the screams of the dying and joyous shouts of the victors, the furious whinnying of those boys doomed to be horses instead of knights, and I pretended I was on crusade. I shall not tell George this.
|6TH DAY OF DECEMBER,||Feast of Saint Nicholas, who loves children, pawnbrokers, and sailors|
|There are no Jews left in England today,
says. By order of the king they have all left the country.
I find it hard to believe that the old lady and the little soft-eyed girl who stayed in our hall could be a danger to England. Is it blasphemy to ask God to protect Jews? I will ask Edward.
Or maybe not. Mayhap I will whisper it just to God and trust it is all right. God keep the Jews.
|7TH DAY OF DECEMBER,||Feast of Saint Ambrose, proclaimed bishop of Milan before he was even a Christian|
Thomas says the king and the people of his court have chosen each his own special profanity so that they don’t have to say "Deus!" or" Corpus bones!" or "Benedicite!" as we ordinary folk do. The king says "God’s breath!" His son says "God’s teeth!" Thomas says " God’s feet!" I, not being ordinary, shall choose one also. I will try one each day and see what fits me best. Today it is: Gods face!
|8TH DAY OF DECEMBER,||Feast of Saint Budoc who was born at
sea in a barrel
|God’s ears, it is cold! The sun shines
on a fairy world carved from ice. No one stirs outside. I think all
creation is huddled in our hall, so I have sneaked into my chamber. The
fireplace is not lit, but I can pull the feather bed up to my chin and
write in peace, even though the candle flame spits and sputters in the
wind and I have twice overturned the ink.
The magpie's water was frozen over this morning, so I have covered all the cages with kirtles and gowns and mantles to keep my birds warm. Mayhap they will think it night until God warms the world again.
9TH DAY OF DECEMBER, Feast of Saint Wolfeius, first
God's knees! A person can only wear one gown and one kirtle at a time, so why are my mother and her ladies making such a fuss about my covering the bird cages with their spare ones! I cannot believe they would want my poor birds to freeze to death.
I will have plenty of time to think on this, for I am imprisoned in the solar, brushing feathers and seed and bird dung off of what seems to be enough clothing for the French army. I see no deliverance. Perkin is busy with his grandmother. Aelis is in London with the king. George and Thomas are from home much these days, riding and drinking and amusing other people and not me. God's knees, I might as well be an orphan.
10TH DAY OF DECEMBER, Feast of Saint Eulalia, virgin
martyr, who spat at her judge and was burned alive
God's nails, Morwenna is in a sour temper today.
Every time I open my mouth she cracks my knuckles with her spindle.
11TH DAY OF DECEMBER, Feast of Saint Daniel, who lived
years atop a pillar
Morwenna threatens to truss me like a goose and dump me in the river if I continue in my quest for the perfect profanity. God's chin! She treats me like a child.
12TH DAY OF DECEMBER Feast of Saints Mercuria, Dionysia,
and the other Ammonaria, holy women killed by heathens.
I have chosen. God's thumbs! What a time I have had in deciding. I chose God's thumbs because thumbs are such important things and handy to use. I thought to make a list of all the things I could not do without my thumbs, like writing, plaiting my hair, and pulling Perkin by his ear, but now it seems to me to be a waste of paper and ink, for I can think of no purpose for such a list unless some heathen Turk came from across the sea and threatened to cut off my thumbs with his golden sword and I was able to convince him to spare my thumbs by reading him my list of how important thumbs are. But since it seems unlikely both that a Turk would threaten my thumbs and that a list would stop him if he did, I shall save the time and the ink and not make a list.
|13TH DAY OF DECEMBER,||Feast of Saint Judoc, whose hair
beard grew after his death and had to be trimmed by his followers.
Storm again today. George and Thomas are still gone, but we are cooped up in here like chicken in a hen house. I stayed out of Morwenna's sight so she would not set me to some lady-task. I used the time to wonder and have made a wondering song:
14TH DAY OF DECEMBER, Feast of Saint Hybald, abbot
our own Lincolnshire. I wonder if he is a relative.
I am in disgrace today. Grown quite weary with my embroidery, with my pricked fingers and tired eyes and sore back, I kicked it down the stairs to the hall, where the dogs fought and slobbered over it, so I took the soggy mess and threw it to the pigs.
Morwenna grabbed me by the ear and pinched my face. My mother gave me a gentle but stern lecture about behaving like a lady. Ladies, it seems, seldom have strong feelings and, if they do, never never let them show. God's thumbs! I always have strong feelings and they are quite painful until I let them out, like a cow who needs to give milk and bellows with the pain in her teats. So I am in disgrace in my chamber. I pray Morwenna never discovers that being enchambered is no punishment for me. She would find some new torture, like sending me to listen to the ladies in the solar.
|15TH DAY OF DECEMBER,||Feast of Saint Offa, king of East
who left his wife, his lands, his family, and his country to become a
in Rome and die.
I was seated at dinner this day with a visitor from Kent, another clodpole in search of a wife. This one was friendly and good-tempered, and had all his teeth and hair. But he did not compare with George or Perkin, so I would have none of him. Our talk at dinner went like this:
16TH DAY OF DECEMBER, Feast of Saint Bean, lakeside
My breath stinks, my gut grumbles, and my liver is oppilated. It must be all this fish. Would that Christmas come soon and bring an end to fasting. I am turning into a herring.
AFTER VESPERS, LATER THIS DAY: My uncle George is leaving Stonebridge. He does not eat but only drinks his meals. His cheeks are dusky with unshaved whiskers. He has no stories or winks or grins for me anymore. Is it the curse? Do I have powers?
|17TH DAY OF DECEMBER,||Feast of Saint Lazarus, raised from the dead by Jesus and later went to France|
George has gone to York. He did not say goodbye so I do not know if he will be back for Christmas. I do not know if the curse worked. I will miss him but I liked him better before he loved Aelis. I think love is like mildew, growing gray and musty on things, spoiling them, and smelling bad.
18TH DAY OF DECEMBER, Feast of Saint Mawnan, an Irish
who kept a pet ram
The cold has trapped us inside again and I am grown full restless. This is how I have spent my day: I was awakened at dawn by Wat dropping the wood as he lit my fire. I put on my undertunic and stocking while still under the covers for warmth and then, breaking the ice in the bowl, splashed water on my face and hands. I dressed in my yellow gown with the blue kirtle over, my red shoes, and my cloak, even though I was not going outside. Morwenna helped me plait my hair, which we trimmed with silver pins.
We could not hear Mass for we could not get through the snow to the church, so I breakfasted with bread and ale. The next two hours I hemmed sheets in the solar while I listened to my mother's ladies chatter about the Christmas feast. We ate dinner very quickly, for the snow falling through the smokehole in the hall kept dousing the fire. I then hurried back to the solar where it was noisy but warm, and here I am now, writing and wishing I were outside on the meadow and Perkin was playing the pipes and the goats were nuzzling one another and me. It is many hours until supper and bed.
|19TH DAY OF DECEMBER,||Feast of saint Nemesius, acquitted for theft but executed for being a Christian|
The little book of saints never disappoints me. I have kept it with me since the abbot sent it. I showed it once to my mother, who exclaimed over the pictures, listened to a story or two, and then forgot about it. I therefore consider it mine. Or almost mine. Or near enough, for here it is in my chamber.
20TH DAY OF DECEMBER, Feast of Saints Ammon, Zeno,
Ingenes, and Theophilus, soldiers martyred by the Romans
Too dull for writing.
|21ST DAY OF DECEMBER,||Feast of Saint Thomas the apostle,
the shortest day and longest night of the year
|The snow has stopped. Life begins again.
Last night I tucked a pin into an onion and put it under my pillow so I would dream of my future husband. I dreamed only of onions and the morning had to wash my hair. It near froze before it dried.
We feasted this day in honor of my brother Thomas, whose saint's day this is.
We had oceans of fish and acres of dried apples, and musicians and jugglers and tumblers, and so many guests there were no benches for the young men, who had to sit on the soiled rushes and grab at food as best they could. I am still dazzled by the acrobats and the magician who carried the fire into a linen napkin and pulled roses from my ear!
22ND OF DECEMBER, Feast of Saints Chaeremon, Ischyrion,
other Egyptian Christians, who were driven into the desert and never
My chamber is full of visiting girls here to celebrate Christmas. They twitter and chatter louder than my birds, but it does not sound like music to me. I cannot think so I cannot write. No more to say. I miss Aelis. I worry for George. Did the curse work?
|23RD DAY OF DECEMBER,||Feast of Saint Victoria, Roman
stabbed to death for refusing to sacrifice to idols
The abominable Robert has arrived for the Christmas feast. He brought no gifts, as did my uncle George , and no tales of court, as did Thomas, but only his gross yellow-toothed self. He sows turmoil everywhere. Pinched me where I sit and threatened to roast my birds for Christmas dinner. Made one of the maids cry. Set the dogs fighting until my father threw them into the snow. Teased Thomas about his passion for the daughter of Arnulf of Weddingford. Robert told him that every man needs a horse, a sword, and a woman, but he should love only the first two.
|24TH DAY OF DECEMBER,||Eve of Christmas Day & Feast of
Saint Mochua of Timahoe, Irish monk who was once a soldier.
|Another bright clear day so we were able to
search the woods for mistletoe, holly, and ivy to hang in the hall.
Thomas and his friends Ralph acted out the battle of the holly and ivy, arguing over who God loved best, bickering in high voice and shamming a tournament of plants. We all laughed and cheered them. It was a treat to be without Robert, who now that he is twenty thinks our games childish and beneath him.
|As I write this, I can see from the open widow the parade of villagers leading a cow, an ox, and an ass to the manger in the church. Soon fires will be lit upon the hill, Wat will bring in the yule log, and Christmas will begin.|
25TH DAY OF DECEMBER, Christmas Day
|Waes hail! The hall was overstuffed today
for the Christmas feast, with villagers and guests and Thomas's friends
from court. Even my nip-cheese father forebore to complain about the
today being Christmas Day. We ate, of course, boar's head, which the
assistant carried about the hall on a platter decorated with apples and
||We also had herring pie, fried milk, onion and mustard omelette,
soup, figs stuffed with cinnamon and hard-boiled eggs, mulled pear
We had hardly finished eating when we heard " please to let the mummers in," and the Christmas play began.
a wise man, of course. Thomas Baker was Joseph, and Gerd the miller's
played the evil King Herod, although, like Gerd, Herod seems more
than evil. Elfa the laundress was the Virgin Mary; it was to be Beryl,
John At-Wood's daughter, but since Michaelmas she is breeding and no
in real life or in mumming.
I was very stirred when John Over-Bridge carried in the gilt star on the long pole, which the three wise man and the shepherds followed to the Holy Manger. The villagers who played the shepherds thought to make the play more lively by leading real sheep to the cradle where the Christ Child lay. One began to eat the rushes off the floor and two others, frighted by dogs, ran off, knocking into each other, the shepherds, the other players, the table, the torches. We all joined in a great chase about the hall after the bawling and kicking sheep. Finally Perkin used his best goatherd voice to calm the sheep and lead them outside, and the play finished with just two wise men. The shepherds were right. It was much more lively.
After the play we played Snapdragons. William Steward burned his hand trying to snatch a raisin from the flaming pan. I anointed it with a paste of sow bugs, moss, and goose grease, although he said he suffered more from the stink than from the pain of the burn. My mother then bade us play a game where no one gets burned, so we changed to Hot Cockles, where people only get smacked.
| The hall is full of sleeping bodies tonight.
I had to step carefully over those on the floor so I could snatch more
figs from the kitchen.
If there is sticky on these pages, it is from figs, I love them well.
|26TH DAY OF DECEMBER,||
Feast of Saint Stephen, stoned to death for blasphemy.
First day of Christmas
|Perkin was chosen the Lord of Misrule, so
he is Master of the Christmas Revels and we must obey him until
is over. We made him a scepter wound with holly and a crown of pig
ivy, and bay and are hilariously following his orders. Even my father
at Perkin's fantastic fooling.He knighted the dogs and let them on crusade against
the barn cats. He made me fetch him ale and pinched me for all the
I've pinched him. He sat Morwenna on his lap and ordered my mother to
them hot wine.
Then he set us to making riddles, promising reward for the best. I won for my riddle: what is the bravest thing in the world? The neckband of my brother Robert's cloak, for each day it clasps a beast by the throat. I was quite proud until I learned the reward was a kiss from Perkin, so I pouted and left. Robert pinched me as I passed him.
|27TH DAY OF DECEMBER,||Saint John's Day.
Second day of Christmas
|Thomas, his friend Ralph, my father, two kitchen boys, and Gerd the miller's son all came to me seeking a cure for excessive wassailing. I doctored them with a tonic made of anise and betony and advised them to drink less and vomit more.|
|28TH DAY OF DECEMBER,||Childermas, the Feast of the Holy
and Sucklings, killed by King Herod.
Third day of Christmas.
Morwenna says today is the unluckiest day of the year. She made me stay inside my chamber and won't let me sew or embroider for fear I will prick myself, so for me it is not so unlucky.
|It is also Perkin's birthday and I think he is not unlucky. He never sews or weaves or goes to bed when someone else says. On summer nights he sleeps outside with the goats, who love him but never tell him what to do. I think Perkin is the luckiest person I know.|
|29TH DAY OF DECEMBER,||Saint Thomas of Canterbury's Day.
Fourth day of Christmas
Our Lord Perkin declared a tournament for us and the chickens. Although the chickens had silver gilt helmets and twig swords, we won. Chicken for dinner.
30TH DAY OF DECEMBER, Feast of Saint Egwin, Bishop of Worcester: Fifth day of Christmas
|More laughter and singing and arguing and shouting and noise tonight. I have come to my chamber to escape the constant chattering , although even here I am not alone. I am crowded by the visiting girls and their words, words, words.|
|31ST DAY OF DECEMBER,||Feast of Saint Sylvester; the pope who cured the emperor Constantine of leprosy. Sixth day of Christmas|
It is not snowing today, so I took my mare Blanchefleur for a ride through the frozen fields.
|I felt great need of
solitude and quiet. The manor is crowded that the privy is the only
I can be alone, and it is too cold to stay there for long.
Besides, with so many guests it is the busiest place on the manor.
I brought Blanchefleur back to the barn before supper and stumbled over Robert and Elfa the laundress snuggled into the hay. It appears they will have to get another Virgin Mary for the Christmas play next year.
Writing topics for Catherine Called Birdy - December
Dec.9th - Why was Catherine in
from her mother? Describe a time when you used something
belonging to someone else which made that person angry .
Dec 13th - What things did Catherine wonder about? Describe things you have wondered about, and not found
Dec.14th - What unladylike behavior did Catherine do?What was her punishment? Describe a time when you
behaved badly and your punishment was not so bad !
Dec.15th- Describe Catherine's behavior with her new suitor. Why did she show him all their treasures?Tell
about a time when you tried not to have a conversation with someone and how you tried to get rid
of that person.
Dec.17th - How does Catherine describe love ? Tell about a time when you felt disgusted with someone being
Dec 21st- Why was Catherine's house so full of guests? What did she enjoy the most? Describe a time when
your house had many guests and what you enjoyed about that time together.
Dec 23rd- Why does Catherine hate Robert so much? Describe someone you know whose behavior is like
Dec 24th & 25th- What events made Christmas so fun for Catherine? Describe a Christmas play or
re-enactment which was funny or exciting.
Dec.28th- Why did Catherine think Perkin was the luckiest person alive? Describe someone you think is the
luckiest person alive. Be sure to tell why.