Friday, 21 April 2017
My inspiration for Donaeld came from one of those sudden light bulb moments. I spend a worrying amount of my time thinking of puns. Realistically too much time. And they flow. Constantly. Like a babbling brook. Friends sigh regularly. Enemies shake their heads, unwind their arms from the ready to punch pose and walk off because I’m really not worth the bother. Or should I say almost constantly. Because this night in late January, even a couple of pints down my local hadn’t got the synapses whirring. And so I lay there in bed trying to take inspiration from my surroundings. Curtains. The number of times I’ve stared at curtains trying to think of a good pun for them (“Come on, come on, you useless drapes, you are funny, come on”), and it’s never worked out. Instead my mind switched to Trump. How couldn’t it? He’s just taken up post, everything was going doolally, Natural reaction. And as I’m an archaeologist, I started thinking about historic references that might be funny for my Facebook. Because I didn’t have Twitter. I’d briefly dabbled with it back in August 2016 following a not entirely tongue in cheek campaign by a couple of my Facebook friends to extend my humour towards other people (and I suspected away from their feeds, leaving them clear of irritating puns and political satire, refilled instead with the comforting swathes of banality of friends who’ve just had a baby or a cat or a nervous breakdown). It had failed as I’d got bored after 4 days (you can look it up, the account is called @joggledfuttocks, I’ve reused some of the jokes) and didn’t really understand the point of Twitter. It seemed silly and pointless and anyway, no-one was looking at my jokes and I was getting less of those sweet sweet pointless digital vindications of apparent worth that so many people crave than I was getting on Facebook. So I’d cast out the small blue bird having a back spasm and went back to the big F. Thumbs up. Great decision.
Anyway. Historic Trump. Could work. Then I remembered my Anglo-Saxon archaeology lectures and the mystery of Mercia. You see Anglo-Saxon archaeology is odd and quite difficult. There are a few well known sites and the odd incredible discovery but overall compared to the Romans beforehand and the Medieval period afterwards it’s a bit… lacking. Anglo-Saxon London, or Lundenwic as it was, is only known about in two or three test pits or archaeological basement evaluations around Covent Garden, and those tend to be gravel extraction pits, not domestic arrangements. There is still lively debate (occasionally in the pub after conferences very lively debate involving harsh words and pointed fingers) on who the Anglo-Saxons were, where they came from and what they did with the native British. Wessex is relatively well known through the documents of Alfred’s reign and Northumberland thanks to the Enlightenment that gave Bede the chance to write his Ecclesiastical History of the English Speaking Peoples. Even East Anglia has Sutton Hoo, Ispwich and the lost trading town of Dunwic. And then there’s Mercia. Mercia is a bit of a confusing thing archaeologically. We know it was there, we know people were there and roughly where they were. But there isn’t the same level of evidence as the other kingdoms. It’s a blankish sheet, just waiting for someone to come and scribble all over it. I’d looked at doing that scribbling academically but the application died before it left my desk.
Maybe humour would be better. So the first scribbling in what would become Donaeld the Unready was delivered to my friends.
“Make Mercia Great Again. Gonna build a massive dyke along the Severn, keep out those British rapists. And they'll pay for it.”
It got a reasonable response- a solid 11 likes, a few comments. Grand. But then I do have a lot of friends who are also archaeologists and we are an odd bunch. The next got a better discussion going.
"That Canute. What a loser. Can't even hold back the sea. It's just water. We're going to be so tough on the sea. Gonna ban it til we can sort it all out."
A further 12 likes. But then came the bombshell. My friend Ali, a longstanding contributor to the 80-90 comment punwars that occasionally erupt on my wall, suggested a name. Donaeld the Unready. Oh my. To my addled brain (I’d had a couple more beers at this point, and they were homebrew so goodness knows what effect they had on my internal organs) this was too good an opportunity. I set up the account, found my favourite medieval manuscript picture- the beaver chewing off its own testicles- and away it went. I sat back, satisfied that I’d created something nice and niche that might get a few hundred scholar interested in both politics and Anglo-Saxon history and went to bed. I didn’t turn off notifications on my phone. It spent the next 8 hours in a state of near constant vibration that would have satisfied the most demanding of sex deprived spinsters. At 4am I gave up on sleep and looked through it.
I was huge in Australia.
 I’ve got a good one now, but I refuse to be drawn on it
 It’s from a medieval bestiary which suggests that beavers thought the only reason people hunted them was for their balls and so would chew them off in an attempt to placate the hunters. Given that beavers were hunted to extinction in Britain, I suspect this tactic was unsuccessful. Or maybe too successful and they died out due to a lack of bollocks.
Ealdorman of the Witan
Standing in the shield wall, really appreciate your support, steady hand.
You, those homebrew beers and your friend Ali have my eternal gratitude.
posted 21st April 2017
"The number of times I’ve stared at curtains trying to think of a good pun for them (“Come on, come on, you useless drapes, you are funny, come on”), and it’s never worked out". Just pull yourself together....
posted 21st April 2017
Nobel economist Paul Krugman tweeted very enthusiastically about Donaeld which was I found it. Nearly always cheers me.
posted 22nd April 2017
It's brilliant stuff. As someone who has always had a soft spot for the idea of reviving Mercia, it's wonderful.
posted 22nd April 2017