Friday, 26 February 2010

Roman Codswallop

What with all this ice and snow, I almost got the camera out. But all the scenes I wanted to frame had been snapped up a thousand times over. And then there are all the historic photos on the Marple website too.

No scene has been snapped more often, they say, than our dear Roman Bridge over the Goyt. 

© Copyright Peter Fuller and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Codswallop! That bridge is about as Roman as my nose. It’s time to set the record straight.

History is not what it was. I’m not with fogeys who pine for the days when some kings were Good (Richard the Lionheart) and some kings were Bad (King John) and preferably Deformed (Richard III).

We must embrace modern scholarship. I have therefore ensured that what follows has been certified by one of our finest reality-TV producers, as well as by an acclaimed radio journalist and acknowledged authority on weapons of mass destruction.

The year is 55 AD. The Romans have been bossing those southern softies around for years, with the honourable exception of Queen Boudicca (known in the Mandall household as Mrs B).

Here up North the battle for control continues. Between the River Goyt and the Irish Sea, the Romans occupy the boggy lowlands of Gorblimia.

But the Upacrustian fort overlooking the plain is staunchly British.

In between, lies Marple Ford, astride the River Goyt as it journeys to Liverpudlium.

Marple Ford

Upacrustia and Gorblimia come together in the Rhodberis family. Mrs Robby is an Upacrusta from Mellor. Whereas Mr Robby is a Gorblimi from down below in Marple. They live at the Blasted Oak public house at the Mellor hill fort with their sons, the Three Rs.

Mrs Rhodberis  - Robby for short - is at the foot of a ladder, laid against the Blasted Oak. She is shouting up at Mr Rhodberis (also known as Robby).

“What’s with the new sign, Robby?”

“It’s a make-over,” replies Mr R. “For the Romans.”

“I don’t know what’s wrong with ‘The Blasted Oak’.”

Mr Robby shrugs. “Oaks are so last millennium.” He waves towards the plan. “Down there in Gorblimia, you can’t move for Oaks and Druids: 'Old Oak', 'Oak and Cauldron'. Potion of the masses if you ask me.”

Mrs R interrupts him. “I didn’t ask you. You’re only a Gorblimi yourself. We’re Upacrustes in Mellor. True Brit.”

(There is a silence. The producer wanted Mr R to light a cigarette at this point, but the PA got all precious about it.)

“Fur cloak and no loin cloth,” he mutters.

“That’s enough of that, Webbed Feet,” she snaps back. She points at the sign. “What’s it say then?”

Mr R sighs, and says loudly and slowly. “It says ‘ROBIS VOBIS’, and it means ‘Robby’s is good for you’.’’

“Can’t stand that Latin muck.”

“Latin brings the soldiers in. Look at Private Castra and Captain Bollux. Castra brought in half the camp privates on Friday night.”

Mrs R is now considerably vexed. “This is a clean house. We never have any trouble, as long as the Gorblimis sup in the midden. We don’t need your foreign garlic-eaters, you low-life collab– ”

Mrs R holds her tongue, almost in time.

After the advert break (Explore Holidays, Low Temperature Ariel, and Resolve) the couple are more conciliatory.

Mrs R unclenches her gums: “I don’t mind the Romans, really, but you let one in, and the next minute they're all over you like lice.”

“That Private Castra can get you anything. Salt. Nylons. Hello! –”

Mrs R: “I don’t think I want anything he’s got, thank you very much. Now Captain Bollux is another matter.”

“What’s Bollux got that I haven’t?”


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