NEW MEMBER'S DIARY 2011-2012
First Witan: 16th October 2011
One week after our crushing victory over Nigel’s Normans, I attended my first Sceaftesige get-together,
which happened to be the Annual meeting of the Witan. Theoretically this is when
important things are decided, but I had absolutely no idea what to expect, so I just took myself to
the agreed locale, which happened to be just outside of Sceaftesige’s land-grant — in the neutral
territory of Hampshire.
As is traditional, I started the day by getting lost, and almost found myself amongst a happening
football game. I thought about opening the gate and seeing whether the path continued, but the
boisterous game seemed too dangerous and I turned around. A normal Sunday football game
looks far less appealing than spears and swords pointed in my direction by battle-hardened
members of Sceaftesige.
I approached another building, negotiating a narrow alleyway sided by high chain-link fences and
was relieved to see the black and yellow shields of Sceaftesige Garrison resting against Alan’s car.
There was a newcomer, an individual who contacted Ketil at around the same time as myself, but
who didn’t have the means to make it to Kent or Dorset. Once he paid the hefty one-day insurance
charge, he joined us in battle practice.
Both Kettlewell the Elder and Younger were there, as was Gareth. Together with Alan, Mark (the
new newbie) and myself, six people were ready for practice. There were only five shields, so while
a sixth was summoned forth by Carole, and whilst Alan introduced Mark to the concepts of re-enactment
fighting just as he had with me a week before, the rest of us practiced.
A week ago, my tactic was to cower behind my shield and stay with the main shieldwall. It had
worked well in the battle, although a few of the training sessions had me stabbed, sliced and
disposed of in other ways. Now, as Kettlewell the Elder instructed us to dispose of our shields, I
found myself fighting with only my quick feet, parries and wits for protection. But to my surprise
I was quite comfortable, facing three much more experienced fighters, I somehow found ways
through their defences and repeatedly stabbed them in the chest, stomach, thigh and backside. I
was struck too of course, Gareth gave me a very respectable bruise just above the knee, he was
surprised that it was a valid hit, thinking that it was on the knee and therefore an illegal hit.
Soon the spare shield, an old and battered relic from Alan’s past, was brought forth and all six of
us could fight, spear and shield in hand.
A series of three-on-three actions followed, on a couple of occasions I demonstrated my ability to
survive until it was three-on-one, and then heroically died in a frenzy of lashing spearheads and
cries of “Kill ‘im!”. Other fights had me die depressingly quickly, but I think I can confidently say
that my ability to survive was better than my ability to kill.
I was also introduced to the “Bridge Game”, where our shields were used to demark a bridge. Two
from each team stepped forth to fight on the bridge, with the third in reserve. As Mark thrust his
spear into my stomach and as I fell lifeless into the torrent below (stepped backwards), I thought to
myself that this is a lot of fun. I expected it to be fun, but I am surprised as quite how much fun it
actually is. My regret is not finding it sooner.
We paused for a cup of tea, but apart from that continuously fought for the whole morning.
My Philadelphia World Champions Baseball t-shirt was dripping in sweat, a stout bruise was
developing just above my knee (thanks Gareth) and I was pathetically out-of-breath. I don’t go to
the gym, it is just too boring; if I am ever to keep fit — this is the way I’ll do it.
After a nice soup, fighting was over and the Witan could begin. Witan — meaning wise man — is
the name given to the annual meeting. It is called a Witan because “Witan” is a nice Anglo-Saxon word, and to
compensate for the lack of wise men who take part — I think. Ketil, who had sat in silence for the
last hour, started the session. He sat at the head of the table with Alan by his side. The children,
who until now were playing on a computer were ejected from the room and the computer was
usurped by Alan, who read out the minutes of the previous year’s Witan. It involved a lot of actions
on Ketil, which resulting in him sniggering to himself behind his beard.
As Alan read out the previous minutes, a few people made comments or jokes. Ketil mentioned in
passing that this Witan must be earlier than last year’s. He also mentioned that this was the first
Witan in a while which was quorate, although I’m not sure why that mattered.
Once the minutes had been read, he started to speak. He started by saying “It’s been another
year.”, and then confirmed that he’d completed none of his actions from last year.
Before he went on, I pointed out that if the previous Witan was later than this year, it can’t have
been another year. Ketil smiled (I knew I’d just made a mistake) and then demoted to me to slave.
“But” I said “I’m already a slave!” and then instantly thought “You idiot, I could have got away with
Alan and Ketil then took away my clothing privileges, as I didn’t own any period clothing, this was a
problem. I shut my trap. I wonder if I’ll ever make Thegn…
The reports came in from all the officers:
- Ketil started with the group leader report.
- Alan continued with the 2iC report.
- Liz with the Authenticity Officer’s report
- Carole with the Wyc Officer’s report
- The Treasurer wasn’t in attendance so Carole also did that.
- Ketil and Alan, as joint training officer, made a two-word report on training.
After the reports came the elections:
- Ketil, in a big booming voice, started: “Who dares oppose me as group leader?” Well, he
didn’t really say that but the result was the same — no-one did.
- No-one opposed Alan either.
- Carole pleaded that someone replace her as Wyc Officer — but no-one wanted that
- Liz is the only one who has the expertise to continue as Authenticity Officer, I’m not even
sure if the question was asked.
- The Treasurer was duly re-appointed too, as his name is on the bank account.
Then issues were discussed. This was my time to shine. The newly unopposed
group leader looked at me and smiled in the same way as just before he revoked my
clothing privileges. He reminded everyone that he’d asked me to do a new members diary. I
confirmed that I’d have a go at it, but promised nothing (little did he know I’d already finished the
previous three sections). He also stated that Mark could also do one — it would have been
interesting to see how our experiences differed, had he joined…
The next issue was the state of the Sceaftesige web-site. Finding the Sceaftesige web-site proved
particularly difficult when I searched, as previously mentioned, and it was agreed that something
needed to be done. A few people, including Mark, had ideas or offered to help in some way,
but everyone expertly succeeded in sidestepping the issue. Occasionally, after a suggestion or
comment, Ketil would say something like “Sounds like you’re volunteering”, which was a very good
way of shutting them up.
After a few minutes of this, and as the topic started to drift, I thought to myself that this is a silly
situation, I have the skills to do a web-site — or at least I claimed to have — and I can
probably find the time, so I took a gulp, and volunteered myself. Hopefully my clothing privileges
might be restored… But it transpired that the Web-Site Officer was called Marnie, and since she wasn’t
there, I’d have to make the offer to her at some later date.
Ketil had just reminded us that he is the only group leader to control two whole modern counties
(Berkshire and Buckinghamshire), and this was the next point. There were seldom any battle
practices in Bucks. It was agreed to have more, but where and when was left for another day, and
being a resident of the Royal County, I didn’t feel I had much to offer on this topic, so kept quiet.