Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Skirmish


"What's going on today then?"

I smiled through the screaming in my head and answered without a trace of irritation.

"It's our 17th Century Weekend."

Every single bleeding event this happens. I have banged on about it before I know, here and here. It's just so hard for me to fathom how they can sign their name beneath the event listing on the rota and then walk through a sizeable civil war encampment on their way to the house, and still have to ask what's happening. I mean, I was even in full 17th century costume myself. Was it really likely it was going to turn out to be the Autumn Walk or something?

Once the volunteers had established exactly what was going on the rest of the event went entertainingly well. The highlight was, as is often the case, entirely unplanned. Part of the scenario was the skirmish that took part outside the house, by the moat. I, and the rest of the household, would watch from the house as Parliamentarian and Royalist soldiers clashed. Cannons roared, muskets fired, swords clashed. It was all very colourful and noisy. The first skirmish had gone without incident earlier on in the afternoon, and now it was time for the second one.

I was sat at the table in the Great Hall, the rest of the household in character with me, playing cards, while the servant children swept and tidied in the background. Then the sound of gun fire is heard from outside and the men of the house grab their weapons and rush outside while the women and children look anxiously out of the windows.

By the moat soldiers were fighting in hand to hand combat. The public were safely cordoned off on the opposite side of the moat, facing the house. The fight progressed, a sword was thrust, the losing soldier fell to the ground and should, at this point, have just played dead for the rest of the battle. However, he fell with some momentum and rolled....and continued rolling, straight into the moat. There was an almighty splash and an "ooooh" from the audience. He later told me that his thought, as he fell, in full armour, was "just how deep is this moat, anyway?" Fortunately the water is pretty shallow and he immediately re-emerged, spluttering and covered in mud and pond weed. The public were unaware of this, as there is a five foot drop into the moat, so from there vantage point he had simply vanished from view.

In the house we were doubled over laughing. What made it funnier still was that the children were laughing in that infectious, purely joyous way they have, pointing and telling me "That's my dad! He's got to stay there now for the rest of the battle!"

And he did, crouching there, back to the wall of the moat, while the skirmish continued around him.

One of his daughters gleefully informed me how she'd been messing about by the moat the evening before and had slipped and put her foot in the water. "He sent me back to the tent to get changed and said I had to stay there until he said I could come back out again." No prizes for guessing what she said to her dad once the event had finished.

At last the scene ended, the audience dispersed, and two strong men helped to haul the unfortunate moat diver back out again. "I'll have to go back in again," he gasped. "My sword's still in there."

So, back he went, to fish around in the murky depths. He did find his sword eventually, raising it aloft triumphantly while we stood on the bank, laughing and shouting "Behold Excalibur!"

I do feel for him though. Getting the smell of disturbed moat sediment back out of woollen and leather garments is no easy matter. Authentic though.

12 comments:

Reg Pither said...

Typical!! The women sit on their voluminous, bustled arses while the future of the country is being decided in bloody battle outside!!
I didn't get where I am today by rustling up an interesting quiche, you know!
Yours,
Mr O Cromwell,
Cambridgshire.

Doris said...

Hah! Shows what *you* know. Bustles didn't come in til centuries later. My voluminous arse was all my own.

Despina said...

Such good humour! I love it! Does this man have a flair for Am-dram?

stitchwort said...

And of course, proper 17th century washing techniques didn't include bio pre-soakers, fabric softeners and the like - probably a lot of mucking about with soapwort.

Reg Pither said...

Curses! Foiled again!!

Ollie.

Geoff said...

So, moat it be.

Boz said...

Some poor bugger probably had to go around after every major battle and fish swords / corpses / incapacitated soldiers / othr people's dads out of the loacl moat or river.

And hey - an interesting quiche can get you quite far in this world.

Doris said...

Despina - I think all re-enactors have a dramatic bent, as it were.

Stitchwort - I think his kit is going to be perpetually whiffy and not even a sprig of lavender is going to help.

Reg - yeah, you bummed out on that one.

Geoff - water good pun!

Boz - Yes, I suspect as much.

Reg Pither said...

Doz,

What I don't really understand is why they re-enact battles when they already know who wins? I mean, who would willingly take part in a fight they know they're going to lose? Is it the Vinnie Jones' raison d'etre - it's not the winning that's important, it's the senseless violence?
Don't you feel tempted to shout from that upstairs window "You're fools to yourselves! It'll end in tears, trust me"?

Yours With No Sense of Romance,

Mr Anachronistic Bustle.

cogidubnus said...

Ah but Reg...It is for that very good reason I try not to watch "Titanic" - you see, I know how it ends...

I was rather reflecting upon the fact that it is easier to remove the man from the moat, than the moat from the man...Now I'd call that deep, were the moat not in fact, so shallow...

ho hum

Doris said...

Reg - the losers have the best outfits though.

Cogidubnus - deep thoughts indeed...

Betty said...

It could be worse. I should imagine that getting the smell of disturbed moat sediment out of chainmail would be even more difficult.