The long march of Winter and the close season progresses. But there's always training, and that new item of kit...
Well, things have moved on apace since writing my last entry. Training has continued on a regular basis at The
Lookout. Attendance has been sporadic due to inclement weather and a marriage, but there have been a couple of
good bashes. Things will quieten down in the summer as the vast number of events will make training sessions
redundant. But also there's often a training session at every major show and even a "National Training weekend"
at Shrewsbury (which I attended - but more on that later).
Winter seems to be a time for sanding spears, scraping layers of mud and paint off shields, making clothes and more
importantly, buying stuff. At the time of writing this entry, there are two re-enactment fayres held at Blackbird
Leys Leisure centre in Cowley (near Oxford) in the March and November of each year. They are good times to buy, not
because they are any cheaper (they aren't) but because you are able to meet up with your mates and shop at leisure
without worrying about rushing back to the living history encampment.
There is a myth that the good stuff is held back until these occasions, but I'm not too sure of that!
If you cannot make it to Blackbird Leys, then go to a major show (such as Kirby Hall, or Hastings) and you'll find
most of the same people there - they're like camp followers, of a sort.
Since my last shopping expedition, Carole, my wife kindly manufactured for me a woollen over-tunic, a pair of
trousers and a linen undertunic. At £5 a Metre, it wasn't too expensive - though the favours I now owe my wife may
take quite a while to repay.
My purchase this time was merely intended to be some wool for a cloak and a Scramsaex. I ended up spending much more.
Yes, I found the wool for my cloak and I did get my Scramsaex, but I also found a bone spoon, a leather pouch to carry
it in (as well as my valuables), a silver cross (my Regia character is a good Christian, even if I ain't!) and a rather
good book about Anglo-Saxon weapons and combat (by Richard Underwood) Oh, and a sword (an impulse buy). I mean, I haven't
even passed my spear test. But I wanted one to at least practise with, and with my wife heavily pregnant, I might not have
the money to spare/waste in the future!
At a later date I also bought another, somewhat more vital piece of kit, for "eventing". A tent.
As it will be some time before little Owen is hardy enough to survive a night in a tent (let alone drag Carole out in one)
a two-berth tent was the order of the day. Throw in one portable gas stove, a kettle and saucepan, and apart from something
to sleep in (which I already had) and food, that's all you need to survive. Time will tell if I missed out something
There is always the option of sharing, but sometimes you just can't wait for other, sleepier fellows to wake up before you
have your early morning cuppa.
Speaking of kit - never open your mouth and do it properly the first time. It saves on embarrassment...
Work, Work, Work.
In my last entry I suggested that it would be a "good idea" if there were a set of standard instructions for new members
for the creation of a shield. The words "Sounds like a volunteer" were uttered by my illustrious mentor in his editorial
comment, so I did it!
A step by step series of instructions should soon [a re-enactment term meaning don't hold your breath] be available in the
Sceaftesige homepage when the drawings [and photographs] are sorted out.[Yes, I know I've got this to do as well]
It may look complicated but it's really simple once you get started. I messed up at first, by NOT removing the bolts before
bashing the ends down into "rivets". You may not think people would notice, nor indeed care (like me), but, as it turned out
in August's "History in Action IV" at Kirby Hall, the authenticity officer - whatever his name was - DID care so I was forced
to borrow one of Kevin's spare shields. Ho-hum, you live and learn. These defects were swiftly rectified, later at home.
However, back in April, I fitted a new handle on my Scramsaex which I purchased the previous month. Unfortunately for me,
the original handle was about two inches too short to be comfortable. So I hacked off the old wooden grip, cut out the rivets
holding it together and with an angle-grinder, and ground down the tang (the narrow metal bit which forms the basis of the
handle). I then sandwiched the now considerably narrower tang with two pieces of Beech wood filched from an old bedstead,
with one side hollowed out in the shape of the tang and screwed it in place. The two pieces of wood were then glued together
with two-part epoxy adhesive and shaped to fit my grip. The result looked much more authentic that the riveted method.
Search Regia's own web-site for the way they believed the handles were fitted onto the blade.
A cold field all to ourselves
The season commences in earnest - and what better way to start it than by knocking seven bells out of your mates with no public about...
Shrewsbury Training Weekend : April 1999
April 17th saw my first organised National Regia event. Only fourteen days after the birth of our son (Owen) I was compelled to only
stay one night, being kindly put up by Kevin, in his roomy tent.
Leaving in the early hours of Saturday morning I set off for Shrewsbury.A hefty two and a third hours later, I arrived at the dew
laden camp site, where I drove through hordes of apparently undead Regia folk. My fellow Garrison members had (just) roused, but
Kevin was not to be seen for a good hours or so. Coffee was drunk and the others scoffed their break fast whilst informing me of
what to expect.
I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain in full what went on, but I shall try to impart to you the colour of the
day and a half's proceedings. The activities started at 10am (as usual, I would soon learn) where the group that had assembled
there proceeded to practise line fighting in a shield wall. A "shield wall" is meant to offer maximum protection whilst the "armies"
try to wear each other down. There are inherent problems in that the only weapon to have any real affect is a spear, and the longer
the spear the better.
Eventually one of the shield walls will break down, and the successful side separates and (supposedly) finishes off the enemy using
the theory that the side which was broken will have less fighters in it and be more easily dispatched. Once one side is outnumbered,
there is little need for the shield wall and the warriors on the offensive side break out of formation. However tempting to go it
alone it is advisable to fight alongside another warrior, to reduce surprise attacks - as I myself have learnt on no small number
This continued for quite some time, until the group showed signs of boredom. Then came the "games".
Stepping stones: Shields are place on the ground a the teams are split into two sides. The idea is, as usual to kill the enemy
and invade their space. The trick is, to stay on the shields whilst fighting. The purpose of this is to try and teach you balance.
If you fell off the shields, you were "dead" and had to leave the field of battle.
Long-ship: Spears are laid out in two triangular formations, one signifying the bow of s ship, the other - the front end. The
object is to invade the other boat. The shield wall technique is used again here. Of course, as before, if you fell off the boat
you were "dead".
Bridge: Similar to the Long-ship game, but a parallel set of spears were used to signify a bridge. Islands : As before but a
number of zones were marked out using spears. The difference in this game is the presence of a threat from a number of sides.
Two hours later, it was lunch and time to say "Hi!" to our group leader who managed to crawl out from his tent - suffering for his recent
surfeit of playing computer games! A remarkable lack of sympathy and respect was shown by all. There was a brief interlude in which the
"Old Walrus" (the pseudonym of the leader of Regia, Kim Siddorn) led an informal discussion on the "Wild Wood" project which revolved
around a co-operative venture forming to create a permanent site in Kent. Unsurprisingly, some people seemed quite doubtful about the
idea - mostly (from what I have seen and heard) from people unlikely to use it, due to their remoteness from the site. I won't comment
too much on the hearsay, but I think that anything that both teaches, entertains and brings in an income, can only be a good idea! Nothing
can improve or indeed survive without change. But onto the training; The rest of the working day (four hours or so!) was spent yomping
through the nearby woodland where battles were fought in a variety of locations. At a crossroads, up a hill, in a valley, by a ravine
(whilst pretending to be Orks and Elves), being ambushed on the return leg on a number of occasions and finally a rollicking hack and
slash amongst thorny hedges.
Damn good fun I must say! My fighting technique was praised by a number of occasions, as was my clothing. The day was rounded off with
food and drink at a pub not too far away "considering our remoteness", screaming abuse at each other and jumping over / walking through
a furiously fuelled camp fire. My first night under canvass for many a year was completely without sleep for a variety of scatological
reasons (steer clear of tinned vegetable curry!!!!) and the fact that it was bloody cold, was ended at five o'clock impressing people with
my culinary skills, by cooking an impressive fry-up over the rekindled and much more subdued camp fire. The morning was spent having
another session of training similar to the day before, but a good deal more relaxed. Finally, after giving the small contingency of archers
something interesting to shoot at (in preparation for the event to take place in Hastings later in the year), the festivities drew to a
close. A large number left at twelve to vote on the Wild Wood project idea, which after what was an apparently heated discussions, the
idea was accepted. I personally look forward to next Easter, when the first planned event will be staged there. At a later date, unless
something appears on another site, I will fill you in on the details of the project, and how it fared. Until then, adieu. N.B. : "Wildwood"
(or Wychurst) was host to a Regia event later that same year, and by all reports, it was a success.
A warmer field in Dorset
It comes to us all - time to meet the public...
Wareham - Late May Bank Holiday: 1999
The Saxon festival at Wareham is a regular Regia event Wareham is a pretty little place with appealing pubs and picturesque cottages lining the
streets quite unassuming at first impressions. Hardly the place to host a hoard of rampaging Vikings and Saxons. But regardless of this, the big
thing for me, was that it was my first ever "real" Regia event (drum rolls please!!!)
So, still being limited to one night's absence from Carole and the screaming (and later, to be discovered, hungry) Owen, I arrived on the Sunday
morning. Catching Paul's eye through the fence, I managed to find my way INTO the encampment and the 20th century campsite, where I could change
into more appropriate gear. On my way I passed other members of our group packing up - who were under similar curfews from their respective other
halves! Kevin and Liz (and their baby, Finn) were there at the Wic (the authentic campsite) so I was not alone. I had little time to relax, as that
morning's training session was about to begin. As I had and still do intend to be able to use my sword as soon as possible, I leapt into the organised
fray, and died hideously time and time again. Well - to do myself some credit - I didn't die that often, but I died more than I'd like!
The layout of the arena was sprawling. There was one large 20th century - style trading tent stuck all alone in one part of the field, and on the
same side was the authentic section. This was cramped in comparison and could have done with spreading itself about a bit. The other two sides of
the quadrangular arena were dotted about with food tents. It isn't as bad as it sounds on paper, but the layout could have been better in my opinion.
Shortly after I came off the field, I was swiftly approached by a gentleman (whose name I have forgotten) and asked whether I would like to help row
the longship they had moored on the river which passed through the village. Being new, I quickly accepted and joined the other applicants on the dray
horse carriage which took us ploddingly to town free of charge. They did try and suggest that we (and other Regia society members) pay for this speedy
form of transport, but they got no money from us in the end.
The boat was situated by two (remember that, TWO) pubs! And after the (assumedly) new Regia member was told to put a cloak over his 20th century
clothes, we rowed away and vast speeds. There isn't a lot you can say about rowing, except it was hard work (I'm sure I was the only one rowing really
hard), unless something goes wrong. Well something did not dramatically, but the commander's friend ( I do remember his name, but I shall avoid
embarrassing him too much. He knows who he is) took command - I think he had done it before, but I'm not sure. At a particularly nasty bend, he realised
his limitations as we almost ran aground. Cue lots of reversing (yes you can reverse a longship) and sheepish looks. We did return eventually and received
lots of second looks from tourists who were walking along side the river and after negotiating a ratbag who took our mooring position the main event was
about to begin. So no refreshments!!!
I forget the format of the show, but it revolved around locals offering money to avoid being ransacked by the Vikings (one of whom was me). A pittance
would be offered to us, we would reject it, fight and fall back. They would then throw a bag full of bones at us, as payment instead. We would take this
as an insult and attack. But disaster struck, as my shield strap came undone moments before the attack began, so until the initial clash was finished, I
swapped my two handed spear with Paul's single hander. In the majority of battles, there is always an "initial" clash, where all we do is make lots of
noise and "ham" it up. This was easily achieved, and once completed, I re-threaded by strap and took up my two-hander again. In the end, it was a bloodbath
and we were on the wrong end. The enemy out manoeuvred us, by flanking our shield wall on both sides. We were disorganised and our morale dissipated. But
all in all, it was rather good fun! A bit like battle practise, but a lot shorter. After the public were invited onto the field, and questions were asked
and, with an assumed air of authority, answered by yours truly, I left the field to do a serious bit of shopping. I shan't bore you with the details of my
shopping spree, but in the end, I put an order in for a made-to-measure helmet (cost £150).
Originally it was to have been of a Viking (spectacle) design, but as my character was ultimately Saxon, and all of my other kit was Saxon, and of later
age, I changed my mind and vouched for a standard nasal helm. This helmet, I can use in practically all of Regia's events, and made a lot more (financial)
sense. My time at Wareham was over far too quickly, and I look forward to being there for the duration, next year - perhaps with the family - and perhaps
in a tent (or B&B for Carole and Owen?)
Undaunted by the public - time to face a tougher challenge altogether...
Show 1 - Oakland's Junior School. Friday 11th June
This is the flip-side of Regia activities, and a surprisingly enjoyable one. As part of the national curriculum, Regia is asked to give a talk on what life
was like in the "Settlers and Invaders" module (Kevin, you may wish to comment here!!)[I'll pick up the hint later - must write a specific page on this].
At Oaklands Junior School, our venue was the school hall. I must say that it was odd, turning up at the school and waiting for the rest of the team, in the
teacher's staff room. I felt as though I had done something wrong! Eventually, of course the gang turned up and we set out a display of our kit at one side
of the hall and waited for the children to arrive.
First, the various ranks were described, while one of us, dressed appropriately stepped forward to give Kevin (who was addressing the children) a visual
reference. A certain amount of interplay was made between the person being described and the speaker, to liven things up for the children. In my case, I was
the humble peasant; bare-footed and subservient to my Lord, Ketil. Cue lots of cowering and humble looks.
Athelstane, dressed in his gambeson walked up next and finally Bassa, in his chain-mail and helmet, who attempted to frighten the children by attempting
mock charges and stabbing himself with an obviously sharp knife [our chainmail is remarkably effective - even against modern knives].
Interspersed with all this, were staged fights between the warriors. It made a hell of a racket, in the hall. I wonder what the other children in their
classrooms thought was going on? Also breaking up Kevin's talk, were Marnie and Liz, who spoke about our lifestyle, what we wore, how it was made, and what
we ate. A personal favourite of Liz's is going through the entire body of a deer, describing how each organ was used. Watching the children's faces as she
spoke about sausages being made from the intestines and how the bladder was used to carry water, was most amusing!
Rounding off the talk was a question and answer session. This is a hit and miss affair, and generally depends on the children, and whether they talk to us
in "character" or as people who have an interest in Anglo-Saxon life. In all, I quite enjoyed the experience. It was fairly rewarding to see the children look
"interested" in what was effectively a dramatised history lesson. Why wasn't this sort of thing going on when I were a lad?
Show 2 - St Margaret Clithero RC School. Saturday 12th June (The Donkey Derby)
The only difference between this and the day before's was the outdoor venue (a school's sports field), the presence of the Wic, and a variation in format.
Liz and Marnie didn't address the public from the arena, but stayed at the authentic site, speaking to the general public there. There were a few more warriors
present, as Animal and Andy turned up. Animal, however, was soon incapacitated - by fracturing a finger - early on in an over enthusiastic fight with Andy. But
that's Animal for you. [A hazard of our hobby — however on a participant comparison basis with Rugby, we have about 1% of the injuries and most are nothing more
than bad bruises.]
This was the second time our group was asked to do this show, but the previous year, the weather turned foul and the event was a washout. This year, it was much
improved, though during our second display the heavens began to open up, bringing the display to a speedy conclusion. So yet again we got rather damp.
The Village Fair
Life's not all roses - beware the dreaded drink...
Ah, I had heard so much about Wing during the previous year, how the streets were lined with pubs and. . . .well, I suppose the pubs seemed to be the focus of the
conversations. Unfortunately this was yet another event I was obliged to turn up for only one day. I plumped for the Friday. My logic was that there would be more
socialising that night rather than on Saturday. I was wrong. But more on that later...
Leaving Blackwater on Friday, 4pm was (in hindsight) a daft idea, as the traffic going `round the M25 and more importantly joining the M1, was obscene. I should
have guessed from tales Kevin, our group leader told me, of nightmarish Friday evening journeys. Never again!. Either I go up straight after Friday lunchtime, or
I go on the Saturday morning (but that has its own pitfalls). In the end, by the time I got there and had put up my tent, it was gone nine.
Kevin and Liz weren't going to be there due to a mechanical problem with their Land Rover, so I was prepared to be amongst strangers. Fortunately both Simons and
Matt was there. Matt (a keen drinker) and I both had the mind to get to the pub quickly, as the light was diminishing quickly at the same rate that our thirst was
increasing. However the mysterious "things" that women do coupled with random conversations with infrequently met friends delayed the pleasure of alcohol more and
more. So much more, that I left Matt (whom I had thought of as being a kindred spirit in the boozing club) and went to the pub myself and downed a swift pint or
two before emerging to see the others finally gathering together themselves to join me. We took over the dining area (all of four tables) and drank the night away.
I drank rather energetically compared to them and was in a rather jolly frame of mind by the time I crawled into my tent. Jolly good pub that! I just wish I could
remember it's name!
Please note: I don't want you all to think all I like to do in Regia is drink, drink and drink - it is a glorious pastime and an essential part of male bonding -
and without other forms of entertainment nothing more is inspiring for unique topics of conversation than five pints of real ale!
It was during the following morning's (very fine) pub breakfast, that I learnt of my mistake of arriving on a Friday. The pub whose hospitality I had frequented
was donating a barrel of real ale (Green King IPA, I believe) to the group. Free beer! Free Beer? I missed out on free beer? Oh well, how was I to know? Coping
with the disappointment quite well, I reminded those (very) few people who were allegedly organising the event, that the barrel was awaiting delivery and swiftly
changed into Regia kit. I helped (someone) beat into the iron hard ground vast quantities of wooden stakes, and as the temperature rose steadily to the late 80s,
we settled down to an informal practise session. It was still rather quiet on the public front, when we were called to join the parade. We were placed towards the
front of the parade directly behind a group of pipers, who were leading the procession. Matt spent most of the time trying to scare children and women, whilst I was
attempting to be the proper upstanding member of Regia Anglorum that I always aspire to be. I've got plenty of time to develop a Regia personality (though I am sure
that Matt's Viking personality is all his own!) It was a long slog around the backstreets of Wing, by which time I had firmly decided to do some adjustments to my
second hand shoes (bought at Kirby Hall the previous year). Several cans of fizz later, the event was about to begin.
The theme of this "battle" was to be a group of Vikings asking tribute from a small settlement (the Living History site). This small settlement basically tells them
to "soddeth offeth" and a battle commences. The only real points of note worth mentioning, is that firstly, a hit point system was trialled, whereby unarmoured
(squishies) get one hit - in the normal approved areas, and the armoured fellows in chain, would need three hits in the appropriate areas for them to go down. The
obvious outcome from this, is that on the whole, only the armoured men survived the fight.
Secondly, a Dane axe system of shield destruction was enforced, where if the axe was swung realistically, then the owner of the shield which was struck, would be
required to dispose of said shield as soon as possible, whilst role- playing having it smashed. This was brought about because of the crap way Dane axes were used
in the past. They were wielded like glorified spears. Hardly befitting a weapon of mass destruction I anyone's opinion! The only modifications to their use, is that
the wielder must wear full armour and have their shield strapped to their back if they insist on carrying one.
The actual battle lasted quite a while and was thoroughly enjoyable - one of the more rewarding fights I had been in so far. Part of the added enjoyment was getting
to know the other regulars better and better!
This is what Regia is all about.
We've now reached the show that inspired me to join - but take the stories of the "old timers" with a pinch of salt...
KIRBY HALL: HISTORY IN ACTION IV
August 14th and 15th 1999
I'll skip the "journey to" sequence and the rather tedious moaning about the traffic. I shall avoid mentioning the (non "Regia") idiots talking near by throughout
most of the night, while I tried to sleep and shalln't mention the fact that the only way (for me) to get sleep before four o'clock in the morning, is now to get
hideously drunk! I will not talk about the vast amount of time spent looking for ways to spend hundreds of pounds on chain mail and other nick knacks. Nor the (seemingly)
hours spent slaving over a smouldering pan of bacon on Sunday Morning. Instead, I will talk about what it was like to be on the other side of the barrier, having attended
History In Action III, the year before as a member of the public.
I was, in a way, expecting too much from this event. It would never live up to any of my ideals. I'm not saying that it wasn't fun; it was. In hindsight, it just wasn't
any better that Wing or Wareham. The main problem with Kirby Hall, was that you felt a very small part of a very big machine and I get a lot of that working for the civil
service! Though I said I wasn't going to talk about it, I have to say the shopping was fun. I got a bloody good deal on a suit of chainmail which was made up into a
Romper suit (ala Bayeaux tapestry images) No living person could get into the thing and pull the hood up, as surprise, surprise, the hood didn't stretch. You would have
to cut you own head off to pull it up! An average chainmail suit will cost about ,350 to ,400 pounds. I got this for ,150. Considering there were other suits on sale for
twice that, without arms and considerably shorter in length. I must have been blessed. Many thanks to Paul, who drew my attention to it. I owe him one! With regards to the
battle(s) that Regia was there to re-enact, the event in question was Stamford Bridge. An event that was to be recreated by us, later in October. This gist of it went
There were two forces. The Vikings, who were led by Harald Hardrada and the Saxons led by Harold Godwinson. Each side was composed of a central core of armour, flanked
by two sides of what is cruelly termed "squishies" that is, unarmoured spearmen. The (very rough) plan was that each side would only face off their opposite number throughout
the battle. If the Vikings won the battle however, they would run off. If the Saxons won, then they would "ham it up" by pretending to rob the dead and finish off any dying
The battle on the first day was a complete non-event as far as the right flank (my flank) was concerned. All we did was rattle our spear at each other until the final charge
went off, by which time the enemy (Saxon) armour had dispatched our armour and came at us from behind. Dashed unsporting, I say! The following day was a hell of a lot more
interesting and well worth turning up for!
The added bonus was having Carole and Owen there to "see" me in action. They were, unfortunately, at the other end of the battlefield, and only really saw me as I walked
off at the end. Neither battle was as much fun as when it was recreated in October, at Battle (see next instalment).
Apart from a humorous incident involving me and an egg, where I spent ages, at breakfast, cooking my egg lovingly over the fire, only to have it "leap" into the cinders,
the only real event I can remember is the final parade where every single re-enactment group filed in front of the crowd at the main arena. After which we lined the
campsite road and applauded all the other enactment groups (and whistled at the nuns, jeered the Germans, and so on) until our legs gave out. I didn't stay until the Grand
Mêlée, where all the societies battled each other, as I was eager to get out before the mad rush. Besides, it all sounded like complete chaos and rather silly
as well. Maybe next year.
As an aside - in December I saw an article on History in Action IV in FHM (or Maxim, it wasn't mine, so I cannot remember) in which, apart from the usual patronising / sarcastic
remarks about how "sad" we re-enactors are, it mentioned an incident regarding a number of jolly fellows (all white incidentally) dressing up in "Zulu" outfits, wearing brightly
coloured curly haired wigs and fighting British infantrymen. Whilst I thought it was just plain silly at the time and cared little for such antics, the article itself implied
that the incident was offensive to the ethic minority present at the event.
Being a civil servant, we are constantly criticised and nay, dare I say it, conditioned to think "equal opportunities" during every working hour. With this in mind, such
activities can only harm Regia's and indeed any re-enactment society's reputation (I am not sure to which group they belonged to - but that hardly matters, as we are guilty
by association) How are we, as a society, going to be able to flourish in a multi-ethnic society if such racial stereotypes are going to be portrayed.
There. Said it. Now on with the diary...
So, having been on both sides of the barrier, which is better. I think being a member of the public is more fun, especially for the first time, when confronted with such a
large event as this. But being on the re-enactment side is a tad more fulfilling. Not many people actually ask questions. Our group leader was either lying comatose in front
of his tent, or off at a pre-battle meeting, Liz was manning a trading stall, for someone else who couldn't seem to be bothered and mostly every one else seemed to be off
shopping. It was more of a "barely living" history exhibit...
Perhaps one reason for our poor attraction, was that we were tucked away in a corner, just in front of the market. So the majority of people simply passed us by onto other
It all seemed such a mess from my re-enactor's P.O.V. You don't have the freedom to simply wander around the other sites than if you were Joe public! Perhaps next year I'll
turn up just for the battle and wander around the rest of the day with Carole and Owen! Or perhaps not. I don't know. I suppose the basic problem with Kirby Hall, is that,
like the Phantom Menace I was so overloaded with the sense of anticipation, that I would never have thought it was a "great" event, no matter what it was like. For all its
size, it was simply OK.
I definitely prefer events of only our own period. The event in October, which was almost as big as this, was far more enjoyable - indeed it was the highlight of my year!
There's an old adage in life that's just as true in re-enactment - everything comes to he who waits. We'll we've reached the end of my first full season and the end of
this years "shows", and the season saved the best till last...
October 16th and 17th 1999
The climax to my first Regia season turned out to be, by far, the most enjoyable and the most fulfilling. Arriving on Saturday morning, after a ninety minute journey, I
arrived at Battle in East Sussex at around half ten. The light smattering of mid morning shoppers in this small picturesque country town, was sprinkled with the occasional
Saxon or Viking strolling up and down the high street. Very amusing. Moments after erecting my tent, and in a similar vein to my Wareham visit, I discovered that training
was soon to commence. Training? That wasn't mentioned in the blurb sent to me earlier in the week! However, eager to gain more experience, and hence more training stamps in
my membership book, I speedily changed into my Regia gear and raced to the field where it was supposed to happen. There I met the two Simons and various other persons from
other areas whom I knew by sight. They had come down the previous evening and had set up camp at the Living History Encampment (LHE) site.
"Treefrog", the National training officer, soon joined us and organised the training session which lasted for the next two hours. No games were played this day, but training
was centred around good, old fashioned separating the group into teams and simply beating each other up.
One minor variation was introduced towards the end of the training session, where we were divided into two teams. One third of each team was allowed to use only a shield and
no weapons, one third was only allowed the use of a spear, and the final third, allowed only the use of a short weapon, be it an axe, sword, whatever. This worked surprisingly
well and made each side work together with their respective other two thirds, that is; the shield bearer was forced to work in tandem with the swordsman and the spearman.
A cunning ploy was conceived by one of the Simons, whereby the shield bearers would charge up and grab the enemies spears, whilst being backed up by the armed warriors who
would attempt to cut down the now defenceless fighter. By the end of the training, everyone was completely knackered from their exertions and training stamps were given out.
It was then that I was informed that the following day I would be allowed to take my spear test. AH! I thought. "At last"! From then on, all my thoughts were directed to
improve my skills that weekend, so I would be able to start using my sword in the next season.
But first, I had to go find my fellow Sceaftesige members down at the LHE site. This was the first time I had been to the English Heritage site, and had I known the distance
to and the energy required to travel there, I wouldn't have bothered. Of the all the locations; the Battlefield, the 20thC camp site, the LHE site and the training ground,
all required walking uphill to a degree. This is one of the reasons that by the time the weekend was over, I was a complete, physical wreck. I think that from now on, I shall
copy the behaviour of our group leader, and take every opportunity to collapse in a heap and rest.
But that is now - back then I was ignorant about such topographical matters . To say that the site was sprawling would be an understatement. I didn't even have time to explore
the entire location, as I was never really given the time. Only half an hour after the training session had finished, we were expected to muster for the first battle of the day.
So swiftly saying my hellos to Kev, Liz, Andy, Marnie, Paul, the two Simons and Steve Ethridge, who whilst not a part of Sceaftesige, is well known by most of the group, I
had to trot all the way back up the hill and submit myself to the master at arms check. This time (unlike Kirby Hall) my shield passed with flying colours. My Scram scabbard
was criticised for being shabby yet again, but it was allowed onto the battlefield. I didn't actually us it during the entire weekend, and may not, once I start using my sword,
bring it on at all in the future, or at least until I have made a new scabbard...
During this battle, Kevin was portraying Harald (or Harold, depending on which side of the fence you sit on) Hardrada, the leader of the Norwegian host. Consequently I was forced
to portray a Viking. I was doomed to be on the losing side of the four "planned" battles that weekend. I never saw the Fulford Gate re-enactment, as I was undergoing training
at the time. Next year I might take time out and watch it! It all depends how I get on with my sword. (....thoughts start straying to my next weapon purchase. An axe I think!
...shakes head and returns to writing!!!)
I shalln't go into every specific of who was where, what they did and when, as no amount of narrative could capture the entire proceedings. You had to be there. Besides, I told
you all about it in the previous diary entry! In effect, it was supposed to be a replay of the script used at Kirby Hall. It didn't quite work on the first day, as the Saxon army
had their backs to the spectators. Not a pretty sight.
By all accounts it wasn't supposed to happen that way, there had been a misunderstanding between the two line commanders. In any case, I was placed amongst the left flank on the
upper part of the sloped battlefield. There began the usual exchange of insults between the leaders; Tostig, Hardrada (Kevin) and Harold, while they were waiting for the narrator
to start commentating over the micro. It didn't come.
You could see their consternation as they struggled to pad out their verbal ripostes, but eventually a voice rang out over the microphone ending their torment and we could get
down to the serious matter of battling each other. Don't ask me what the commentator said, as I wasn't listening, but all I remember of the first day, was that once the initial,
noise making, shield beating and shouting was over, and we all started taking hits, I looked around me to find that my entire flank had run away!?
They later told me that they had seen large numbers of armoured Huscarls advancing on our flank and had decided that discretion was the better part of valour and they all buggered
off without a thought to tell me!
I swiftly totted up the pros and cons of dying under a mass of Saxon armour, and elected to join my brethren in their hasty retreat up the hill. I survived that first day, even
though a chappy on horseback and an archer, attempted to harry me on the way. But the archer's aim was off, and the horseman, who I think may have been Harold, elected that he
didn't stand too much of a chance against a solitary spearman, turned and fled. The following day's event flowed much more smoothly. The two sides were better situated side-on
to the majority of the audience, and the commentary was well timed and apt. Myself and all the Vikings died as they ought to. Everybody was happy. Even the audience.
THE HASTINGS BATTLE
This was the biggest battle I had ever been in. A total of three societies fought side by side; Regia, Conquest and The Vikings.
At the end of Saturday's proceedings, Kim summed up his opinion on how things went with "I've been to many Battle of Hastings and this was one of them".
Whilst it could have flowed better than it did, and wasn't the totally gob smacking spectacle I had thought it was going to be, I had a fine time with a good, high body-count,
before I, myself was overrun by Normans. In the back of my mind, I was thinking that I should merely provide a token resistance, but the majority of my conscience thought "bollocks
to the Norman scum, kill the whole bloody lot of `em". So I tried. I killed about five Normans, mostly twits in chain who thought their armour would scare the "squishies". I keep
myself warm at nights by remembering their look of surprise as a mighty thrust of my spear caught them squarely in the guts.
A number of people have likened my fighting techniques to Kevin's, in that I am an exceedingly aggressive user of the spear. I my humble opinion, defence has its place, but it
won't make the buggers fall over in the long run!
On Sunday, the mounted Normandy warriors and the Archers were in greater number and were by far, much improved as a fighting unit compared to the day before and the whole
atmosphere of the day was that of being much more relaxed and free and easy. People weren't expecting much, and because of that, they were generally pleasantly surprised on how
it turned out. Myself included. I fact the whole of Sunday made the entire weekend "perfect" and was an excellent way to finish the year.
THE SPEAR TEST
But the year wasn't over yet! I had to pass my spear test. Treefrog and two other miscreants collected those other poor victims and proceeded to terrify and harass them in unison
for what seemed like an age.
It was not one of my most favourite experiences, I can tell you, but like going to the dentists, the build up is worse than the actual process of having your teeth looked at. Of
course, if you need a filling the whole experience can leave you slightly traumatised and nervous the next time. But not for me, as I passed. Hurrah!
My secret to passing the spear test (and don't blame me if you fail, when heeding what I am about to suggest) is as follows;
1 Do not panic. If you panic you WILL fail.
2 If they present you with a target, then HIT IT.
3 If they turn their backs on you stab them in it (safely)
4 Don't hit them where you're not supposed to, or hit them too hard.
5 If you make a mistake, apologise and admit it.
6 Attempt to remain in control of the situation. Very hard considering they outnumber you!
7 Never drop your spear! If you do, it shows them that you aren't in full control of it!
8 Do not be intimidated. They are very, very experienced and will not hurt you. Much.
Finally, whatever you do, even if you fail miserably, don't argue or disagree with `em, even if you think their opinion sucks. It will do you no favours in the long run. Laugh
your failure off and try again ASAP. They'll probably admire that. Nobody likes a bad loser.
Case in point: I heard that a prospective member of a new group had acted in what was apparently a dangerous manner and proceeded to disagree vehemently with Treefrog. He was
subsequently banned. Plonker!
- 14th December 1999
That's it. No more re-writing. I had promised Carole that I'd let her proof it. But life has been hectic of late. Sick relatives. Sick me (one of the prices of having infant
children is that they carry germs like nobody's business!) and a major amount of interior decorating (now 98% finished) has resulted in me missing several battle practises and
numerous Tuesday evenings of role-playing. I did manage to get back for the emergency Witan meeting.
My group leader might possibly be thinking that I've lost that early enthusiasm. Well, it would be tempting to think that on a cold Tuesday evening with one's nose streaming with
a cold (still!) and perhaps at the moment I have lost a bit of the old spark. But there has been a lot to do at home and the majority of it did (and will still do) come before
Fortunately, as I have said, the majority of it has been done. There's only Christmas to get through and I can (as can we all) relax in the glorious newness of the year 2000.
See you next year.
Alan Tidy (a.k.a. ULF)