Sunday, 13 August 2017

Intermission.

                                                               
When I started this blog it was to chart my progress and experience getting into reenactment, where to buy stuff, where to get information, what to avoid, how events were organized, what common experiences there were?.. I'm not sure if the blog really fits that remit anymore.

Should I talk about tips and tricks of gun maintenance? or camp cookery? or delve more into the history, revealing everything a soldier would have had in his pack? should I review gear? what has faded and torn? what arrived three months late? or carry on with the story telling... Or I could find things to rant about I'm sure.

Don't worry, this is not like your insecure friend threatening to delete their facebook account so people can cry out  'No, don't go!'

The blog will continue.

I like the idea of being able to look back after ten years and read about a day I spent at Horsham town museum as much as reliving some epic aspect of a battle in Eastern Germany so it will at least go on as a Diary and if you want to tag along for the ride then great. I did ponder whether to write about Eastbourne as it is an event I have been to four times now, but felt it would be incomplete not to at least give it an honourable mention as a nice day out!


There are still new things on the horizon, I should be going to the American civil war international event near Nottingham next month.. new era and also new experience as I will be going as a civilian, a journalist in fact and for some reason, more so than soldiering as a Frenchmen, I feel I should have a new character.. Wilfred Armitage of Maryland, freelance journalist, failed author. Trying to capture the truth of the war that divides a nation, claiming impartiality, but not really convinced of it himself. I suspect this feeling is borne of playing an individual instead of one of a group. You can talk about the history of the 45th regiment, their trials and tribulations, how they fought, their battle honours, you can't do the same in the third person for a fictional character.. although you can talk generically about journalism, telegraphs, news agencies and the general history of the times.


The possibility of making an appearance at an eighteenth century do as some stray Frenchmen helping the jacobites (or possibly the Americans) may also come about, have tricorne will travel. I still have not had cause to wear my Franciscan Monk's habit.. yet, but adventures in the 45eme will always be the priority.

                             Ever Onwards. There's always something new. 








By the Seaside.

The sun was shinning down on the happy beach goers as I strolled along Eastbourne promenade towards the redoubt.. but then.. Thunderbolts and lightning! Rhandolph has landed! 


It certainly helped wrap up the event for the day and soon the 45eme crew were off to the Belgian cafe for the evening. I was tempted by the £17.50 beer of the century just to find out if it was REALLY worth it, to say you had tried it.. but didn't, we instead had giant six pint carafe things with a tap on the side. All very agreeable, with Dutch hummus.


Next morning with some time until public admission we all went to the beach and some ventured into paddling in the sea, some put off by the prospect of having to do up their gaiters all over again.
Then along the prom for an ice cream or two. It was a lovely event as it did feel very much like a family outing to the seaside.


Since our last visit the museum has been extended and is now dedicated to the redoubt and it's personal history instead of the more regimental museum of before.
After a brief drill and firing display I managed to traumatise a child when her father jokingly said 'Look out, the Frenchmen is going to get you!' and playing along chased after the small scooter borne child going 'Raaaagh'. It remained in tears for some time afterwards. Oh well.


The skirmish began with us rushing in and firing a couple of vollies into the Scots before advancing, we then rushed the stairs where the rifles were.. and we were repelled, taking casualties.. meant to be A casualty but in the moment three of us all decided to be that casualty. No one can say we don't die. This unfortunately left only Duncan, who I believe may have picked up a musket, and John to carry on the fight.
Briefly.

Professor Flapjaque returns to entertain the masses.

Eastbourne is always a good little event where the museum/saff pretty much leave the smattering of reenactors to do their own thing. I suppose it can only help support the redoubt/museum and we are pretty much volunteers, all here for the fun, ice cream and Belgian beer. 

Should be back next year! 





Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Absolutely Marvelous.



Three days later and I still can't get Abba out of my head. 

For some time we have had an invitation to drop in and parade about at the Marvelous festival, a celebration of (hopefully) top quality tribute bands, whom I shall refer to by their proper names. Last year the invitation got a bit more formal, a group, with actual things to do, and this year even more so. Arriving on the friday evening there was a couple of drinks in the small stage tent, just out of the rain, and the treat of an Elvis impersonator.


One of our main duties was keeping certain areas free of tents/chairs/people as everyone poured in looking for an advantageous place to sit/set up camp.. mine was the walk way that split the main viewing area in half and by the disabled seating area. When the gates were flung open it was quite daunting to see this human wave armed with deck chairs, pic nic baskets and crates of cider coming towards me like a horde of refugees from Tunbridge Wells. After only a few quiet words the lines of demarkation for the walk way were set and it became evident that it was a no go area. 

This was a large chunk of Saturday afternoon, everyone sat under the rainy awning.

At five o'clock we did a musketry display, announced from the stage more people wandered over than expected and so a firing competition was quickly improvised into the bargain, this would be repeated on the Sunday. People mingled asking questions afterwards including some very tipsy women who wouldn't believe they were real guns despite one of them having watched the end of the display.


A free staff dinner later we returned to the camp, where I managed to fall off my chair carrying a glass of wine, before disappearing to go and see the (UK) Foo Fighters.

Our musketry display was received with rapturous applause, and this was just my bit.

'So do you normally dress like this at the weekend?'


Sunday morning, the joys of litter picking. The punters had all been given a bin bag on entry which was a good idea but still there was rogue rubbish, including a sadly deflated parrot and random olives... and then, after it had rained all night, we were given pitchforks for spreading hay into the worst of the mud and big puddles. 

Down on le farm.

No one wanted to be near the crowds when 'Waterloo' came on. 


Some of the bands completely passed me by although I did catch some of Bryan Adams, not deliberately, which is basically the soundtrack to midlife crisis. I was glad we left before Madness were on as it is my experience that hearing Madness instantly changes grown men into those weetabix characters from the 1980s. 
I would have liked to have stayed for the grand finale of Queen though but it would quite simply have meant staying over another night with no money left and in whatever ditch I could find. 

It was literally a marvelous weekend, despite the rain, and something a bit different. Another experience reenactment has brought to me that I would otherwise have missed. Maybe next year I shall try to make it to a battle prom, which is basically a classical concert with a few musket vollies thrown in. If only Rammstein would give us a gig.

until then 'We are the champions!' 




Thursday, 27 July 2017

Basing house

It was only a few days before Basing house that a change of plans made most of the weekend free so I could attend. It was a modest event and not many of our group were going but really that should be MORE reason to go. I also try to live by the idea of 'If in doubt, go!' In a YOLO sort of way, although that phrase had always confused me when I think about it.
If you only live once shouldn't you actually be really careful?


Basing house was once a magnificent complex of courtly buildings that started as a Roman site, then Norman, and reached  a it's height of splendour during the Tudor period but was beseiged and raised to the ground in the Civil war. There is a civil war reenactment of this most years but this weekend was Jane Austen weekend to mark 200 years since her death, with dance classes, book stalls, and some regency era soldiers of course, and two donkeys.


One of the great things about smaller events is you get to meet everyone you are working with.. some of the people there I have probably been at a dozen events with but if they are in the British camp with two hundred others and you won't know them from Tommy Atkins, but two days in the same tentline and a social evening and you'll know them well enough to say hello and catch up at other events.


After an inundation of breakfast offers on Sunday I went for a stroll, more people turned up, public and a couple more troops. Investigated the giant Lego model of Basing house in its prime.
Some of us then walked along the river to spread the word, it would have been rude to address the punters in the pub garden without having a drink of course. Hopefully a few decided to drop in post Sunday lunch.


We pushed on Sunday for a skirmish instead of another display and drummed up five French (two usually Brits but one had a French voltigeurs kit for the odd outing).. and an armed prison escape was on. Richard (who was to change sides) came into the obscure ruins to bring our soup and was overpowered and shot (out of sight) we then spread out around the enteance and bridge and opened fire on the surprised British in camp. Drums announced a patrol of Footguards would soon be joining us.

A couple of redcoats were down but numbers would soon tell. Despite a new flint I started to get misfires although you knew when they went off, big cartridges!  Quite by surprise the two British cavalry charged into the fray and I abandoned my musket to draw my sabre on them, seldom in life do you get to cross swords with men swirling around you on big horses.. and aaah, I went down.
It was a good scenario for the numbers we had and a nice bit of variety from the usual more formal battles.
Someone asked me if I wasn't worried about having two big horses swirling round me, sometimes horse can make you uneasy if they are skittish and you are not sure if they might try and pass straight through the spot you are standing on.. but you feel a certain confidence when you know both the riders and steeds know what they are about. In the UK most cavalry have their own horses but occasionally, and more so on the continent, people just hire a horse for an event and naturally it is dismayed to find itself in a field full of musketry, smoke and cannons. I think all the accidents I've seen have been at bigger continental events.

All in all a pleasant little event, possibly bigger next time if the organisers were happy although as mentioned weather and advertising didn't do it any favours. Bit of an odd event next, a music festival with just us adding a bit of colour, and doing a bit of crowd control and odd jobs! see you soon!


Tuesday, 4 July 2017

B r e t t a n 2



Truely I am falling into the reenactment calender, some events you want to do every year.. and July means getting on the coach for Bretten in Baden-Wurtemburg! sixteen hours across France, Belgium, Luxemburg.. where they have white chocolate and strawberry magnums... and into Germany for the Peter und Paul festival.


Group shopping trip, coach unpacked, camp and bar set up and it's time for a wander into town for a beer and an ice cream, my own new tradition, and learnt that Kubel is German for 'dollop' of ice cream.  "Ein eis mit Zwei kubel, ein Walnuss, und ein Malaga.' ends any confusion, although I still get ice cream on my hat.



                                                  

We were required on day one to all kneel before the Hauptman and the flag and take a solemn oath:
 'Do you all swear to serve the Bretten council and have a bloody good time doing it!?'
'YES."



The battles are a number of small encounters loosely telling the story of 1504 but no one would say the reenactment is a major part of the festivities just one of many draws on the menu. There is a lot going on and a lot of 1504 life of the craftsmen and guilds of the time, be they carpenters, radish farmers or even a few lepers, and a lot of flag twirling and drumming.


Whilst hardly a campaign weekend Bretten is to some extent an immersive experience, most of the town is so transformed that you really can be in the mindset of being a landskneckt for the weekend, its a life of swaggering about being armed in fancy togs, possibly half covered in bells to give notice and mark you out from the townsfolk, and eating and drinking and fighting. That evening at the Bretten camp/tavern there is a ceremony where those bringing large pieces of wood or bread up to a dignitary can be rewarded with a helmet full of beer and I managed to insinuate myself into being honourary helmet holder, I didn't think the offerings that great this year, no one struggled up with a tree truck, although it did mean there was enough for a free beer for me. We landskneckts don't do stuff for nothing you know!

This immersion was also why I insisted on keeping my Katzbalger (side sword) on at all times, it is a status symbol of our profession.


Not being on duty Saturday was largely a day of pottering about, and shopping, I bought a nice leather pouch to replace the linen money bag I had to keep wrestling with, and sometimes losing, and of course MORE BELLS, three separate ones and a string of them for my other leg, and a fridge magnet. Random act of German kindness this weekend was walking up for what Id taken to be a small bar and asking for a beer only to discover, drink being handed over, that it was just someone's tent. 



Volunteered again for being amongst the Surgeon's cases, this years padding being chicken instead of raw pork, although still bound in ham.  Doing this means fighting in the first attack before being cruelly struck down.. and staggering into the arms of a helpful frau and ushered to the surgical station and doing lots of screaming. I don't mind missing most of the fighting as I still find it a strange mix of polite 'to me, to you, to me!' paddling and a minority of people who actually want to win like someone actually cares. Most of my comments from 'Mush' about willing co-operation still stand except you do have a limited degree of autonomy on whether you get killed early or late.. or not at all if it is your day.. because being stabbed requires a quite dramatic response whilst no one really knows where a musket ball has gone.
(incidentally my renaissance EU brooch proved popular and I may have to make half a dozen for folk if I can find a good source of brooches).



Still on the subject of food and drink one of my favourite moments of the weekend was being one of our group invited to the Herring and potatoes breakfast. This is actually all homemade and in the courtyard of someone's house which makes it even more intimate and whilst I had my doubts about cold fish and beer for breakfast when I woke up it all proved superb and I may have to put herring on the shopping list. 


Instead of march, wait, march. wait, march, wait, march.. this year was only a short march, one long wait, and a long march all in one go, with lovely crowds lining the way. 


A gun with a history, when the festival was (re)started back in the 50's there was an abandoned WWII 88mm anti-aircraft gun that they cannibalised to make the barrel of this cannon.

Nightlife.



As well as acrobats there were several bands on, a few modern ones over in the Markt platz and some authentic ones by the Church including a Balkan band with bagpipes that saw a lot of mantic swirling.


Tavern rules. Hats must be worn. no phones. No smoking. (yes, I did have to use my phone to take a picture of the no phones sign.)

A lovely couple watch the sun rise!

Heroes! some of the intrepid and hard working tavern staff still smiling after three days of it! (hopefully with some time of for their own fun)


and so it was time to clamber onto the bus for the long drive home. At Calaise I was actually worried that the sadly destroyed loins of my trousers might be an issue but nothing was said. Can they be saved? no.. but yes.. project for next year is to chop them up into a slashed pair with a different colour underneath, and maybe one pink lower leg on the left side. Also a bling gold chain to show my wealth and a peacock feather to show my affiliation with the Holy Roman Empire... or maybe a (faux) furry tail. These look quite cute but were not anything to do with the renaissance furry club and were actually meant to draw fleas away from your own clothes/body and into the tail.


                                     
   Back on Brighton race hill, the end, until 2018 although there may be a UK event next June as towards the end of the Wars of the roses some European mercenaries were 'invited' to come over and fight and were best known for a battle near Stoke field, however the trials of the campaign saw most of them dead before long, but long enough to get a look in on some British battlefields and so I might get the old yellow-and-red out twice next year and invite some of our German/Swedish friends over here.

                                                                  Tschuss!


Friday, 16 June 2017

MUSH

Many moons ago when the internet was relatively young, there was a thing called a MUSH.. a multiple user shared halucination. A game basically set in whatever background the players wanted, like Star Wars for instance.
Reenactment is a lot like a mush because it relies on willing participation of a great number of people any of whom could go out of character/setting and off on a random tangent, it was also mainly run by narrative agreement, no one could knock your character unconscious for instance unless you went along with them doing it, You have to play the game, be part of a bigger story but still with some leeway to act individually. We are all here to have fun.

In reenactment nothing is really enforced by law (unless it is unsafe). I have never seen anyone refused from taking part due to poor kit but this is because people want to support the hobby and experience the life, including proper gear, and maybe I have been fortunate in my experience.
 If you see a packet of hobnobs on your camp table do you..
A) Cover them up because they are spoiling it for your sense of time/place.
B) Cover them up for the public really, it's expected of the group.
C) Leave them because you are having lunch and people shouldn't have to do things at lunch. like at work.
D) Put a pair of jeans and a tee shirt on and sit and eat the biscuits. if you are not being in reenactor mode people shouldn't mind (see Jena 2016) and your fellows are probably too polite to tell you to go elsewhere. 

                                         Sentiment good, but you've still spoilt that photo!

Playing the game is meeting a certain standard and taking part seriously.. yet also not TOO seriously. Your not really in the army, respect your officer but remember his name is Gary and he's a shoe salesman from Norwich.

I have also had members of the public say that some groups are friendly to the public whilst others blank them completely, I have seen this, seems to differ from unit to unit. Sometimes people are busy, some people are shy, but this should seldom reflect on the whole group. if you are all making rounds up have one person tell those loitering public what you are doing and why. They have come to see you. 

This weekend gone we fought several units of Austrians and they played the game well. They knew what was required of them and when they had to take casualties and be thrown out of the town, that is exactly what happened. They did it with a (concealed from the public) smile and didn't need repeated assaults before making a reluctant retreat. No one is going to think less of your unit and its pretend fighting skillz because in the officer's meeting that morning it was decided that unit x would be beaten up. If you want to play to win go and do airsoft. This is more like theatre with a bit of improv than a sport.

                                                         We are all here to have fun, that does not mean lowering standards, but remembering why you are here and why people come along to shows. There is a hazy wall between whatever century you are in and the rest of the world, sometimes it must be broken for the public, sometimes for other reenactors, the challenge is knowing when it is the right time.

                                                              Play the game!


Thursday, 15 June 2017

Significant other.

Another question I have found often posed, usually from other reenactors, is... 'So, your wife not interested in coming along?'

This is usually met with a faltering 'Er... no.' as I choose where to begin, it is usually with the camping bit. When we were younger we went camping a few times but the appeal began to wain for her, especially after one particularly wet weekend in Dorset, trying to get the tent set up in a downpour. Now we have a bit more disposable income there is these things called 'Hotels'.


She also has no real interest in Napoleonic history, I know there is the 'Jane Austen' card that some suggest as a means of getting those not interested in cannons and cartouches involved (for Napoleonic period), possibly with fancy dancing and dresses thrown in.. but then I'm not interested in that bit either! and I don't recall Elizabeth Bennet sitting on a log by the campfire with a tankard of grog. Nor is she interested in being a soldier.

Are we too late for the Jane Austen weekend?

Also if she did come along she'd need food and a tent, a proper Napoleonic tent, which is quite an investment even before camp bed, lantern, flatscreen television, etc.. and where do I go? I like sleeping outside which would be a bit odd if your partner is sleeping in a tent five feet away, and eating separately.


She did come to the AGM and met people, enough to get an impression, and takes an interest in my tales from the front line and who is who.. but has no desire to be part of those stories involving mud, smoke, sweat, mishaps, turnips and year old biscuits.

'Are we having fun yet?'

Also as another non-partner bringing comrade put it she recognizes that THIS IS MY THING. I go off and run around with guns and swords and see friends, have a couple of drinks and a sing song, get away from normal life, wander around the country and the camp, come back and then be put in a hot bath.

.