It’s Grim Up North

It’s AD126 and Hadrian’s Wall is well underway. The magnificent forts at Housesteads and Birdoswald are also up and running and the auxiliary troops housed there have a cushy number: soft beds, decent food, entertainment, the latest fashions from Rome, luxurious communal toilets, hot baths, etc. They may not enjoy the full status of the legions based in York and building the wall is hard graft but the compensations of living in relative luxury clearly outweigh the disadvantages.

Alas, for those based in the Milecastles, situated every mile along the great wall, life is less exciting. No great luxuries are to be had here, especially at Milecastle 17 – Drizzlewort.

Built mainly from turf, Drizzlewort houses just seven men and a servant. With only a cold stream for bathing and a hole in the ground for a toilet, the inhabitants exist on a diet of beans, lentils and the occasional bits of pork. Worst of all for lads used to sunnier climes, is the weather; it rarely stops raining, unless, of course, it’s snowing. Oh yes, it’s grim up north!

Widely considered to be the worst posting of all for those Romans soldiers unfortunate enough to be serving the Empire in Britain, life in Drizzlewort not only consists of building the wall but also manning the gate, which acts as a customs post and access point for local traders, and where sentry duty mostly involves keeping out the deadly, if hard-to-pin-down Picts

The soldiers posted to Drizzlewort never stop complaining, and are generally the lowest of the low, most of whom would desert given half a chance. However, every cloud has a silver lining and, given the place’s strategic importance and isolation, there are always good business opportunities for people who can manipulate the system…

It’s Grim Up North is being developed as a radio sitcom. A pilot episode was recorded at Sunderland University directed by Jackie Fielding and starring Dale Meeks, Dean Logan, Gary Kitching, Mat Hobbins, Jackie Fielding and Karen Traynor.  It has since been commissioned by BBC Radio Cumbria as a five part comedy serial and re-recorded at the BBC Studios in Newcastle with the same cast plus Chris Connel.  You can listen to the original full pilot episode here.

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