Back to the Future

Copyright DMcIlmoyle

Copyright DMcIlmoyle

Do you want to know where I’ve been since September? Well, somewhere in the early ’70s. The days when a spacehopper was a legitimate form of perambulation – until you got your first chopper. Back when tank tops were Fair Isle sweaters without sleeves, Angel Delight was the height of sophistication and all bread was white. That’s right, I’ve had s*d all internet connection.

For the benefit of those of you outside the UK, we have a weird telephony heritage. For much of the 20th century, our hard lines were held in a duopoly between BT, who had virtually all of them, and Mercury, who for some strange reason had a monopoly on service for the city of Kingston-upon-Hull. The market’s been a theoretical free-for-all since the ’90s but in practice, if you live in a rural area, you’ve got one choice and that choice is the original provider.

Celtic head from Netherby, at Tullie House. Copyright D McIlmoyl

This is how I feel about this subject.

Ofcom tell me that the national average broadband speed is 17.8Mbit/s but ‘superfast’ broadband is now reaching an average 47Mbit/s. I was getting 0.18 Mbit/s most of the time, with a corresponding upload speed of 0.06, if it was uploading at all.

This meant that I struggled to upload posts onto WordPress and, after Windows 8.0 removed the ability to easily downsave pictures to a small file size, it was impossible to upload photographs.

Cumbrians being Cumbrians, we haven’t been sitting on our hands. Alston, the highest town in Britain, has had its own network for years. The Eden Valley has a wireless mast system which works fantastically well for those within line of sight of the mast. There are other similar schemes. The local council also reckons it’s rolling out superfast fibre broadband with the assistance of the aforementioned former monopoly, but at the moment *coughs* it rather looks like those townies who already got a decent connection have now got a superfast connection, and those of us who always struggled are forever being told ‘in the next six months’. Allegedly.

So, I’ve entered the Space Age. The neighbours now think I work for MI6, or have a *really, really big* Sky TV package… but I have broadband! A cracking 24Mbit/s delivered from a satellite in geostationary orbit 22,000 miles over my head. And I can now post on WordPress.

Copyright DMcIlmoyle

Copyright DMcIlmoyle

I’ve had a few ideas for posts in the last seven months. In no particular order:

Coel Hen, the legendary ancestor of the Men of the North

The gargoyles of Carlisle cathedral

The significance of the saltire (shape) on early medieval finds

Why are so many ancient sites called ‘Maiden Castle’ (including Mayburgh Henge. Sic)? And the Maiden Way?

The Maiden Way, silver and Roman forts

Rhieinmelth, the last princess

The Viking burials at Cumwhitton

Holloways, lanes and the myth of the ocean highway

The origins of the west Cumbrian shipping industry

When Workington was at the height of all things new

Holed garden stones as apotropaia – folklore or Victorian fancy?

Sky gods, tarns and axes

Belatucadros, Penrith’s bloodthirsty god (allegedly!)

Hueteris – who he?

The Brigantes and the Carvetii – so much legend and so little fact

The ‘deer people’


The catastrophic flood of Skinburness

Lake monsters!

Countess Ossalinsky

Spillers’ fields

Castle Hewen



David I, a Scottish King in Carlisle

Mme D’Estrange and Anne Clifford

Warriners, Lickbarrows and Kellets

Carlisle’s single ducking

Jenny Greenteeth

Hazel and rowan

Kings of the North Pennines

Copyright Diane McIlmoyle 28.04.15


19 thoughts on “Back to the Future

  1. Great to see you back~ I wondered if you had stopped blogging . Your list sounds wonderful and really looking forward to any and all your ideas!

    • Hi there! Well, I guess I had.. In truth lots of other stuff has been going on, the sort of stuff that disinclines you to try and fail to upload posts six times because of the dodgy connection. Hopefully I can now spare the time I used to spend threatening the laptop in a more constructive manner 😉

    • She does! Sadly her story seems to have so many unanswered questions. I recall when I looked into the story of Bega, admittedly a little later than R, I discovered that new evidence had been found in York St Mary’s that made a difference to that history. How fab it would be if such a thing could happen for R and her relatives. Probably won’t happen, though 😦

  2. Very much looking forward to seeing more posts from you! Also, as a fellow rural village dweller with dreadful broadband provided by the useless monopoly of BT, I would be interested in finding out more about your satellite network provider!

    • You have all my sympathy, John! I suspect people with a ‘normal’ connection have no idea how annoying life can get when you can’t do internet banking, apply for a Flusco tip permit, check out at the M&S website, upload pictures of whatever you need to look at (in my case, ground elder…) or email attachments. I’ve now had mine up and running for 6 days and no problems so far. Mine is from Avonline, but there are other providers such as Bentley Walker. It’s nowhere near as expensive as its reputation. I reckon I’ll be barely £100 out of pocket compared to BT, and I might even be better off if my internet useage continues as it is. I understand that there might be installation grants if you’re in Wales or, I think, parts of the SW but ask the satellite people about that. And look for non-standard things like the mast system we have here.

  3. Glad you’re back! Living in rural Indiana, USA, I can empathize. My internet service until a few months ago was what we call a hot spot – a little gizmo (we like scientific terms) that allowed me 5 Gb of service per month. I now have service at 768 kb speed, except when other people are on when it’s slower to non-existent. I could get satellite TV I suppose … (no cable where I live)

    • *groans* I know, it’s really annoying! We have no cable here and our telephone lines are old copper ones, in some cases actually technically shared with other lines. Even my telephone line is noisy… I can hear other people talking on it! Our mobile signal is only G, not 3G or, heaven-help-us, 4G, so that’s no use for internet, either. My satellite isn’t Sky telly – it’s just for broadband (and could be phone if I wanted). Technically I now have the speed to stream telly programmes, but I’ll have to see how I get through my 25G/month. I suspect it will be a surprise to you given you live in a country with proper open spaces… I’m only 4 miles from a telephone exchange and 8 miles from a decent-sized town! Bonkers, isn’t it?

      And satellite was cheaper than I thought it would be. I guess you’d be on a different one but surely worth checking it out.

      • On the plus side, I have deer wander through my back yard on a regular basis. Besides, maybe it’s just making the best of a bad situation but I’ve decided I don’t want cable. When I get someplace that has it I just find I have another hundred channels or so to flip through before deciding nothing decent is on. Though I have become addicted to Game of Thrones.

  4. Great to see you back in the blogosphere, Diane. I’ve really missed your posts. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on Rhieinmelth.

  5. Oh dear, I hope that your brief return to the superfast internet highway wasn’t either (a) a flash-in-the-pan, that there is a perfectly good and positive reason why you aren’t blogging regularly, or (b) due to a more serious reason why you’ve been absent for over a third of a year. Fingers crossed it’s option (a).

    For what it’s worth, posts about any (or all, if possible) of the topics you’ve mentioned would be perfectly acceptable. Here’s hoping that all’s well, and that all will end well.

    • I agree! I’d love to hear some more Cumbrian history, with a particular interest in the vikings who lived there, in Langdale and other places.

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