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An Introduction

Due to circumstances beyond my control…

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Due to circumstances beyond my control, I am entering a new chapter in my life – and so I thought it’d be nice to have somewhere to articulate any thoughts I may have. But being the attention-seeker that I am, I thought I may as well put it online.

It is the hope that through doing this I can not only help those who are curious about my reenacting hobby understand more about it, but enable a few more academic discussions, and allow me somewhere to express any thoughts I may have about life, society, the universe, or whether jam or cream goes on a scone first.

Feel free to disagree, and leave a comment – or just stop reading, all the same to me. This is just a place for me to leave my endless witterings to laugh at in 10 years time.

There will be 3 categories of post:

Tales from the Field: Basically I hope to start doing event summaries for any reenactments I attend. These will be a mixture of eras, of event types, and of course will only really be about my perspective.

Historical Topics: As a student of history, I occasionally like discussing bits of history which not so many know or care about. In these posts I will endeavour to make a point, or provide a debate, on some maybe more niche bits of history.

Thought for the Week: When I don’t have the above 2 to post, I’ll do something more of this – a general thought I’ve had that week about anything. This is the more rant-y/vent-y bit of this, and is really just for me – but hopefully someone might agree with me on something, eventually!

Hope you enjoy!

Summertime

More ramble, less point. As usual!

So apologies that this one comes late again – being at university, this has sort of gone out of my mind a little bit. This shall be rectified! But for now, another entry!

I thought that since I am re-engaging with my studies for the last time on my current degree (I am planning to do 2 more in the future), I would take this opportunity to reflect on the summer. As you probably remember, I started this as a way to vent; to distract myself from my personal circumstances. Well, I can say that this has been a success. Writing entries has been a wonderful way to distance myself from other things happening in my life, and I can honestly say that it helps me make my experiences more concise. As much as I say I ramble on here, I’m much worse in person – so this has been an exercise in clarity as much as it has been a place to express my opinions. It’s interesting reading back on the blog I kept in Canada (searchingfortea.wordpress.com), as I can see my thought processes in every paragraph. Maybe next year I’ll be able to look back on this and have a similar reaction.

This summer, what did I do? Well, there was the copious amount of re-enactment – I managed to fit in 3 eras this season, and play with a matchlock! I got to go to Cornwall, help build a house, and see a metric ton of coastal scenery. I got access to the Bodleian Library (for my foreign friends, the library of the University of Oxford), and especially got to work in the library of All Soul’s College (the only Oxford college to not accept students), as part of my dissertation prep.

I also got to make many many new friends, in several different sectors of my life – and this has led to my instagram being filled with pictures of alcoholic beverages (my thanks to Dave Shawley for pointing that out…).

I did a Facebook quiz of my most used words earlier in the week – and the largest items on the list were ‘movingon’ and ‘motivated’, instagram hashtags I have used a lot this summer! Well now is the time for motivation, and moving on. Essays await. A lot of them. In fact, I’ve worked out that I shall be writing 23,000 words this term. These essays shall cover everything from Waterloo, Blackadder, The Troubles – maybe even Frederick the Great. My university’s Historical Fencing group (Battle Society for those reading this at UWTSD) looks set to have a great year with lots to teach anyone who wants to learn the art of combat, with a variety of weapons.

Oh, and I’ve joined the Netball team. Enjoy that fact!

 

Right, most of these turn out to be very rambly – but I’m sure that when I find another topic to write on I shall aim to keep it more focused. Good luck to all my friends and colleagues commencing their academic year, whether it be their first, third, or eighth. And with that, adieu.

How Black a Knight

My last event of the season, somewhat belated.

So I completely forgot to publish this last week, apologies! Nevertheless, enjoy!

 

Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk, for the last few years has hosted a Pirate Festival. While by no means an authentic depiction of the men and women who terrorised many ports in the Atlantic triangle, and further abroad, during the 17th and 18th centuries, it was a fun way to finish the season with a pretty chilled event and some nice evenings drinking. Normally I do British army, but with a very hastily bodged item of headgear which actually looked really quite good (if I say so myself) I was converted to Private Martello, RM!

I mean….getting there could’ve been easier. The first stage of the journey was actually fine, although I’d forgotten some of the weird looks I get when walking through a town centre with 2 suitcases and a gun bag… And the bus segment was quite pleasant – just headphones in and while away the time until I reached my stop.

Here was where the troubles began. I was getting a lift from a couple of comrades, but the second we got in the car we ran into traffic. And they’d been caught badly too, so by the time we arrived and were set up it was past 9. Our billet for the weekend was lovely – a building provided by the Quakers. A little cramped, but warm and dry and I got a mattress so my back didn’t completely give up on me. We headed down to the Albatross (a schooner, I believe, moored on the quay) for the evening’s festivities, only to find that all the chippies were closed. I mean, I wasn’t terribly hungry, but it meant that the alcohol started taking effect that much quicker! A packet of crisps, and some nuts, sufficed; and it was a real joy to be singing shanties and songs once again. I’ve missed it far too much.

In the morning we arose, dressed, and headed for a cafe in town which did a marvellous full english – just what was needed. Then a parade down to the front, at which point we gave a volley to the crowd (I got to give the orders!), and began the events of the day. This was namely milling out with the public, a volley on every hour, and the occasional foray to the shops. Before you ask, yes I found the bookstore and yes I bought some more books. They’re on my shelf at uni right now.

The first major event, however, was the tug of war with the Pirates. 7 aside, the pirates had waded through part of the harbour to reach the sandbank we were to be contesting. Us Crown Forces waited to be ferried over. We set up, and it became clear very suddenly that the quality of our lineup far outweighed the quality of theirs. I was acting as the team’s Ron Burgundy (think about it) and as we began to pull them through the sand they dropped the rope, sending us sprawling, and then charged! So 1-0. We then switched ends, and I was finding the sand very soft and difficult to maintain ground on at this point since I’d not taken my shoes off, only to be thrown to our backs once again as they gave up! A victory for the King! We then waded back, getting my feet somewhat damp in the process.

Time now for a splendid lunch cooked by the ladies of Black Knight Historical, more mingling and educating the public, more shooting, and then time for a fish and chips dinner. We retired for a quick nap, and then out to commence the evening’s drinking, singing, and enjoying of good company. David and I ended up seeing midnight in on board the Albatross again, but with some peculiar folk band singing some very overdone ‘pirate’ songs….I won’t start ranting here.

The morning came, and so back to the cafe for another very competitive fry up, and then down to the quay again for more shooting and educating. Except it transpired that Radio Norfolk was on its way, on a treasure hunt, and so we were *very reluctantly* forced to board the Albatross with a volley and a charge and take it off the piratical menace threatening the host! It was then also decided we should do something else for the public, and so a few pirates were taken over to the sandbank and shot as traitors to his Majesty. All in a day’s work! I’m also happy to say that we made some new friends among their ranks, them all having been miraculously resurrected after the firing squad. Sadly the first 2 volleys were just my gun….the lesson is to clean it the night before! Saying that, the sea air really was clogging up the pans, and turning any powder residue into mush…

The rest of the day passed quickly, with another few chances to use all the powder available to us – and then back home! The journey was much quicker than the one there, and we even made it to my bus stop so I could catch the last one. All in all, a lovely and chilled weekend, and a smashing end to the season!

Photo by Peter Leech

Bored Games?

Try something new!

I’m writing this as I wait for my lift to this weekend’s reenactment, so just a quick apology for any grammatical mistakes I make. Anyway, this week’s entry is on the topic of a treasured hobby of mine.

Since I was young I’ve loved to play board games. Partly for the themes (I was originally only interested in the Game of Thrones board game because of the world it’s based on); partly for the mechanics (there’s an amazing game which mimics Roman Republican politics amazingly…it just also happens to be based in a hen coop 😂); but mostly because they’re a wonderful way to pass the time with friends, especially if they’re as invested as I am.

But, despite the huge variety in content, difficulty, price, and theme, some still find the concept boring. I understand that not everybody likes everything, but I think that board games are often judged unfairly as just being ‘nerdy’ far more than video games. And so, to challenge this assumption, I’m going to go through a few games I think everyone should try – and hopefully introduce someone to a new way to pass the time.

 

Love Letter

Now this game may look very silly, but for a quick way to pass the time with a very simple game you’d be hard pressed to find a better alternative.

The game’s story is that in a generic medieval fantasy land, the princess is recently single, and so you are playing as the suitors desperate to win her hand by gaining the trust of her friends and relatives. In game terms this means that there are 8 different cards, each in different quantities, and each with a unique ability. The aim is to either knock out all your opponents, or be the person with the highest ranking card at the end of the round.

For 3-5 players, a very simple game to pick up on – and which is a surprising amount of fun. It’s a style of game with lots of shorter rounds, so the quick play means everyone is involved all the time.

Ave Caesar

A little more complex, you and up to 5 other friends are playing as Roman charioteers. You each have a deck of cards with values from 1-6, and a race track with a certain number of spaces to get round. Sounds easy? Except the outside of the corners feature more spaces to get round – so getting to the inside of the corner becomes more important as the race reaches its conclusion. Oh, and you’ve got to stop to give the Emperor his dues before you finish.

A little more complicated, but good fun with some competitive friends.

Galaxy Trucker

This is probably the most complex game on this list. You are embarking on interstellar adventures, but first must build your ship within the time limit (yes you’re actually timed) – ensuring you have enough fuel, enough guns, and enough crew to make it to the end.

Then you play through the adventure, seeing if anyone is able to finish with an intact ship! And then you do it again, and again, with ships getting more complex and with more options for spaceship customisation.

4 player, and very rewarding when you understand how to build that perfect ship.

Cash n Guns

Reservoir Dogs, the game, I like to think of this as. If you’ve not seen it, go and see it. Then come back.

You’ve just robbed a bank, and are dividing up the loot. Except none of you want to back down. It’s up to your bluffing, intimidation, and bullets to get you what you want.

Basically you get a foam gun and have to point it at the other players.

4-8 players – a really simple party game, and I can very easily see it being a good drinking tool!

Munchkin 

Possibly the silliest game here. It boils down to a simplified game of Dungeons and Dragons, with added hilarity and anarchy. Your aim is to reach level 10, but that’s harder when everyone else is trying to stop you.

Levelling up by bribing the GM, or facing a pot plant, this game is a really easy way of learning how to play D&D, with the bonus of it not taking itself seriously. A very relaxed look at one of the ‘nerdiest’ icons around.

3-6 players, it’s all in the cards you draw and how you use them – your own success or others’ failure.

 

Hopefully you might try one of these games in the future, and you might even like them. But if you don’t enjoy them, I would urge you to keep looking. There’re board games for everyone’s tastes, and these are just to mine.

 

See you next week, for 2 entries!

Willing Suspension of Disbelief

Or why Fantasy/Scifi writers don’t deserve to be lazy

Hello all! Hope you’ve all had a nice week. This entry is in response to many comments I see on Facebook [Disclaimer: other social media networks are available], and many forums, in regards to the HBO show Game of Thrones. Now I know some/many of you won’t have seen this, and this problem isn’t exclusively confined to this show, so that shouldn’t be a problem (although my examples will only be from the show).

The issue as I see it is this: any fantasy/scifi writer might make their world similar to ours, but with advanced technology/magic/dragons/zombies, and give that world a name and have their story take place in this world. They then have something implausible on a basic level happen – someone travels 1000 miles overnight, or someone is able to breathe in an oxygen-lacking atmosphere – and any criticisms of this are instantly shut down by “so you’re happy to believe in Dragons but not fast travel?” And the answer is no. And here’s why.

There’s a wonderful interview from a couple of years ago with John Bradley, known for playing Samwell Tarly in Game of Thrones, in which he addresses a criticism made of one aspect of his character:

“He says, ‘No, I’ve just been wondering … why are you still so fat?’” Bradley relays. “I said, ‘Well … what?’ He said, ‘No, no, no, I just don’t believe it. You’re right up north, you’re not eatin’ anything, you’re trekking across landscapes and running from things all the time. You should be losing weight.’ and I said, ‘OK, look. This is a fantasy show. We’ve got fire-breathing giant dragons, we’ve got ice zombies, we’ve got women giving birth to a cloud — why do you think it’s me still being fat that you just don’t buy?’”

Source: http://screenertv.com/television/game-of-thrones-john-bradley-shuts-down-fat-shaming-fan/

Now, some would take that as the fan fat-shaming him, which I accept is a valid problem. However, the fan also makes a valid point. In Westeros, it’s established that magic is a part of the world, that dragons can fly and breathe fire, that the White Walkers are real. It’s also established that people starve, that famine has killed thousands of people. The same rules of weight-loss and starvation in our world therefore also apply to Game of Thrones, and so he should be losing weight.

It’s the same problem I would argue with the feudal ideologies of many of the characters. It’s understood that women hold a weaker role in the society – there is an emphasis on kings not queens (where possible), and it’s pretty obvious that women hold the same role in Westerosi society that women generally did in medieval European society. I’m aware that I’m not an expert in this field, and I’m sure someone has done comparisons somewhere online, but generally I think it’s a fair observation.

And for that reason, it’s a point to be made that Danaerys and her quest for the Iron Throne is not guaranteed to succeed – by virtue of the fact that if she does take the throne, she will have to marry and bring another House into the mix. I mean, Henry Tudor did it, and it worked because he only sought to unify. It’s been made clear from the off that the Targaereans are all about genetic purity. And why is Henry Tudor relevant? Because we know that the society in Westeros is similar to ours.

In the same way that in medieval European society, the feudal system created many knights and sets of heraldry; in Westerosi society the battlefields should be more colourful than presented in the show. We know they exist in a feudal system, by virtue of the explanation of bannermen. These bannermen all have crests – yet only wear their lord’s heraldry in battle. Just because it’s set in a fantasy world, does not mean basic rules apply.

 

This got a little rambly, apologies. I hope that while the argument may be a little badly put together, the point is made. Your story being set in a fictional universe doesn’t excuse you from ignoring laws of physics or society.

Homer with a Gun

My musings on the August Bank Holiday…

Thank you all for reading this, I know I’ve been a little silent this past week. Been a little busy/tired/not motivated enough to write. I’ve decided that since I’m approaching heading back to uni, and the well of good material write is beginning to run low, I’m going to be posting once a week. I can pretend it’s so I can guarantee quality for you, the consumers, but it’s simply because I haven’t the inspiration write 2 entries a week, and the energy to write them well. These’ll be published every Friday from now on, and I may occasionally do 2 a week, but thought I’d let you know. Now onwards!

 

Now, this week’s title may seem somewhat peculiar to those not versed in the events of last weekend, or wordplay. I was at the Military Odyssey show in Kent (take a second to think it through…got it? Good!); one of the largest multi-period events in the country, now that English Heritage are no longer running Kelmarsh. There is, sadly, a predominant focus on WW2 – but I was surprised as to how much other stuff there was. From Ancient Greek, to Imperial Japanese, the Wild West, Saxon/Viking, us Napoleonics, some very smart looking Victorians, War of the Roses, Catalunian War of the Spanish Succession-era, American Civil War, and then of course World War 1 and 2. There were even some American Iraq-era troops there…which I wasn’t quite sure how to react to. A really diverse mix, and it was wonderful to be able to see how well researched so many of the impressions are. Personally, I think it’s far easier to start a 20th century impression, particularly WW2, as there are photos and it’s still in living memory – but talking to one of the founding members of one of the oldest American WW2 units in the country, it appears a substantial amount of legwork is still required actually sourcing specific items. I digress. The point is that this was a big multi-period, but that we were not the main focus – that being the tanks and other assorted vehicles.

I got a lift down with Ed, our CO, and we arrived as our unit’s advance party after a smooth run down the motorway. The 79th Cameron Highlanders and 42nd Black Watch were mostly encamped, so we began the task of marking our street, and the street for the Buffs (the 3rd East Kent, the last of the 4 units registered to be there for the Napoleonics) – my tent became the end of our line, and once that was up I began co-ordinating the erecting of the lean to, and the unloading of the van. This was helped along massively by the appearance of Ted (our newest recruit, sporting some lovely sideburns), and his children who he’d…’gently encouraged’ along. As more arrived, the business of setting up camp got along nicely, and by the early evening we were finished. The shopping run was organised, and once dinner had been imbibed we made a brief appearance at the bar to inspect the facilities. Good range of beers, and a nice space. We finished the evening around the campfire, having been given a healthy size pile of wood to burn.

The next day began, and we knew it was going to be warm. And it got warm quickly. But that was ok, I’d been round the fire since half 6 getting breakfast ready. Gotta say, volunteering for breakfast means I can’t go insane during the evening as I have to be up to get the fires going – quite a good control mechanism! Anyway, yes, doing breakfast I picked up my first burn of the weekend (a small one on my left arm caught on the fire tray) – but onwards. It began getting warm around 9…just as we started getting dressed. Now it became apparent that there were no French at the event, so I was aware of many people scuttling around trying to sort out the problem for our arena battle. It transpired that the solution was to invite a group portraying generic 18thC pirates to act as French resistance during Wellington’s invasion of France in 1814 (also it was suggested that we do Quiberon Bay, 1794!). Other than the battle, we didn’t have much to do Saturday, or Sunday, other than talk to the public…which there could’ve been more of. Because we weren’t the main attraction there weren’t many wandering by our camp, although there were some very interested people. It’s also lovely talking to reenactors of other periods who have come for a look, I try to at least go on a brief wander at some point at these events, because every era’s reenactors are different – and I find it amazing to see some of the stuff from different eras. Once we got to the evening, it was a lovely chicken dinner, and then onto the drinking! This involved another trek to the bar, this time I decided to go in Mexican kit (since I’d brought the jacket, and received my bonnet d’police on the Friday). A lovely evening, again, spent at the bar (I even met another Rory!) – although at this point I need to raise a discussion point.

There were many dressed in SS uniforms at the bar, and so I want to ask my readers what they think of those who reenact the SS/the Gestapo? In my opinion, it is important to demonstrate both sides of WW2 and so, while the “clean Wehrmacht” is a myth, I have less of a problem with those reenacting the other German Armed Forces. The SS, however, I would say are not ok to reenact. They did some horrible things, things which for some are still in living memory – and so I would argue that it is insensitive to recreate those who executed civilians and committed war crimes. The only exceptions I would make, are the SS Panzer divisions who verifiably did not commit any war crimes (such as the 9th, ‘Hohenstaufen’, who make it clear on their website that they picked that unit because they feel the SS need to be portrayed, and so picked one which was comparatively not as/not at all involved in the atrocities committed). What’re your thoughts?

Anyway, the Sunday was much the same. It was so hot it was hard to find the energy to do much – although talking to the public is always a good motivator! The battle was similar (us advancing onto a small fortification, and then charging once we began running out of rounds), although this time I was seconded to aid the general staff. I got to fire at a guy charging me with a pike! (Hey, it’s the little things! And my gun went off!). After the battle we went off behind some of the tents and had a little firing range with the Buffs. Gotta say, I’d forgotten how small the Baker rifle feels compared to a Bess. And it gives, comparatively, more of a recoil, I think. Interesting stuff. In the evening, we were invited to join the Catalunians (I’ve no idea why they’d come this far, but whatever they enjoy) – who were performing a ceremony, of some sort, as they mixed a lovely concoction (I think rum?) as we traded off songs. They were singing amazing ballads…we started with drinking songs. Although I have now learnt a new opener, courtesy of Ted:

Knock Knock?

Who’s there?

Ribena

Ribena who?

Ribena Wild Rover for many’s a year!

I then went to visit my friends in Soskan (the Southern Skirmish Association, one of the 2 American Civil War reenactment societies in the UK), and I rounded off the evening there singing a mixture of folk and comedy songs into Monday morning.

I was up to cook breakfast, for the 3rd and final time, and managed my 3rd burn of the weekend – on my right index finger. Luckily that stopped hurting soon after. I also managed to inhale a mouthful of smoke through our fire pipe, but we’ll get to that! I was lucky enough to have been granted the honour of raising and lowering the flag at the weekend, and it was so uplifting to have finished the weekend and not screwed up the procedure once (bearing in mind I may or may not have broken the rope on it a few months ago…)! The battle was fun again, although this time I died! Some of the ‘French’ clearly didn’t want to go down and so dying seemed like a nice way to pass the time…

We also did a short drill demonstration a few hours after, although clearly the rest of the unit need to work on their 3 rounds a minute! I tried to get to 4 rounds, at the firing range, but was a good 10 seconds short. I will make it eventually! Once the time to pack up ticked round we cleared away extra speedily. Having packed most of my stuff away during the day, I was able to take over my dad’s role of dealing with the fires – before loading the van as well. Feels good being this productive!

It was when I got home that the final chapter in this saga (apologies for the ramble!) reared its head. I had begun to develop a sore throat, cough, and headache on the way home – so thought that I should call NHS 111, having breathed in. Well, halfway through dinner I was ordered to go to A&E…at 10.30pm…with my entire family out…on a Bank Holiday Monday. Thankfully an old friend came to the rescue, and after waiting just over 2.5 hours was cleared – my O2 sats were fine, and my blood came back as clear. Thanks to all those who wished me well! When I finally got back home at 2.15am Tuesday morning, bed was all I needed!

And that’s the end of my Bank Holiday weekend adventure! Sorry it went on a little longer than normal, but if you’ve persevered this far then well done!

Photo by Alan Balding

Hever Ho!

A summary of my recent medievaling in Kent!

So last weekend I had been invited to an event by Black Knight Historical – a company which provides living historians and re-enactors for venues of all types, from schools to castles (shameless plug on Ian’s behalf there)! They had been hired by a jousting company to provide foot soldiers for one of the 8-10 annual tournaments held at Hever Castle in Kent, the official residence of Anne Boleyn for just under a decade. Basically, it was a generic medieval event (we had kit and armour from the Norman conquest to the late 15th century) with our time mostly to ourselves – except for the twice daily archery displays and the 75 minute tournament sequence for which were required for two short fights.

Arrival at the event was made possible by a bus to Cambridgeshire and a lift from Vince (a napoleonic reenactor I’d forgotten had an interest in medieval) and off we went! The traffic could’ve been better heading down, but when we arrived there it was a lovely sight. The castle is quite simply beautiful, it really is, so check out Hever Castle’s instagram. And the campsite was a sight to behold – all yellow and black pavilions tents, and an awning set up with the fire already on the go. Sady I didn’t have any period canvas to match the colour scheme, being the colours of our ‘Black Knight’, so I was crashing with John and Richard (featured in the photo), and Chris (behind the camera) a healthy 5 minutes walk away from the main site. No matter! Once we’d got all the kit sorted, and canvas up, we finished the day with a healthy dose of liquor around the campfire!

In the morning, with our 4 normans arrived, I’d met everyone – a small bunch, with a mixture of veteran reenactors who’ve been in the hobby since I was born, and some more recent additions. On my 5 years involved, it appears I was the least experienced! That doesn’t happen often! The fun news for the weekend was that because I am a licensed shotgun and black powder certificate holder I was allowed to play with a 15thC matchlock. I have used them before, and it’s a pretty simple mechanism. You seat this lit match (rope soaked in saltpeter) into the mechanism, and the trigger simply moves the lit match onto the powder, setting off the flash and the main charge.

Two things were different to my previous experience, however. Firstly, was that I only had one powder flask and so was measuring out my charges on the fly. This led to my first charge being woefully underwhelming, and my second leading me maybe dropping it from the recoil… The other issue was that the match didn’t work! I very quickly had to resort to just holding the match, with flames spitting out, to the priming. And even then it took a good 10-20 seconds to detonate. The increased fraying leads me to believe that it may not have actually been match, but no matter! I still got the shots off, I got to talk to a lovely crowd about gunpowder in medieval kit, and proved that guns were still very much in their infancy in the period. Thankfully the weather was gorgeous both days, and so I didn’t have to wory about wind and/or rain, which would’ve made the damn thing useless!

The first day it was decided that I should go onto the battlefield as a warrior monk. For those whose knowledge of the history of ecclesiatical combat is a little lax, there was an important theological text which dictated much of the Church’s attitude to Holy men being involved in combat – Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae. He stated that if the clergy were to ‘slay or shed blood’ it would make them impure and otherwise unable to be Godly and pious. Except there are many examples of these clergy being on the battlefield – notably, to me, Bishop Odo (William the Conquerer’s brother). How? Well they carried clubs, maces, hammers, and otherwise big bashy things. This was to skirt the Church ban on swords. They still technically shed blood, but it was ok…somehow? So the first day I kitted in fully black monks’ cassock over my gambeson, a borrowed breastplate, my plate mittens, and a light helmet. I also carried a maul (4′ wooden hammer). We went on, and were divided up into our relevant sides (Rebels versus Royals), and engaged in the melee. Sadly, because I was using a quite heavy mallet I didn’t want to get too involved in grappling – although at one point I ended up giving John a small tap for which he is not letting me forget! I instead busied myself with large telegraphed swings, which I’m hoping looked great for the crowd.

We got back to camp, and so the process of disarmouring began. Because most of who was there had brought harness (plate armour) of some description, and there were very few squires, I ended up doing and undoing rather a lot of leather buckles and ties on various pieces of armour. And because everyone has their own setup I kept having to be guided through it by the wearers. Unfortunately, when dekitting it is rather imperative to get it all off as soon as possible so we can all have a drink – and so it all happens quite quickly. Nevertheless, we get out of the armour, cooled down, and did the second archery demo of the day.

Now the evening, after a wonderful bolognese, ended up with most of us sitting around a campfire passing some pringles tubes around. The idea was initially a game whereby 2 objects are passed opposite ways around the circle, and you have to say ‘this is a hippopotamus’ every time it’s passed along. Now, John being John decided that it needed fixing – and so it became a game of innuendo-laden phrase association. Which was absolutely roaring good fun until we finished all the pringles. A wonderful night with some good people. The main photo is from the small expedition to the pub before dinner that evening.

The second day was much the same as the first, except I shed the monk’s cassock and picked up a lighter poleaxe – to avoid hurting anyone too badly. But alas, tragedy struck! During the melee on the second day, my partner for the fight was instantly brought down by an axe which slipped under his helmet. I have word that he is recovering well, but for the fight I was left without someone to spar with. Instead I found myself busy fighting Chris alongside Richard – I have great respect for a man who can wield a sword and a hand hammer effectively such as he can.

After the battle, and we had dekitted, cooled down, and changed into modern kit, Vince and I had to bid our farewells so I could be sure of catching the bus home – we made it with 10 minutes to spare, so well timed.

All in all, a wonderful event with some lovely company; along with some great memories made, I hope this is the first of many events with Black Knight Historical!

From Print to Screen

A short rant about book-film adaptions.

So this is my thought for the week. The last 2 decades have been awash with film adaptations of books – The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, The Fault in Our Stars, 12 Years a Slave…I could go on. Nearly every genre has its fair share of book-screen, even Eat Pray Love is based on a book. The point of this entry though, is not so much a diatribe against converting a novel into a screenplay – but a rant about the way it’s done in modern film making. I’ll tackle historical accuracy another day.

See, when a film proudly presents the label “Based on the book by …”, I don’t think it’s unfair to expect it to be as close to the book as possible. Now, I know not everything works onscreen (POV written books famously have this problem, since without narration its hard to convey that many emotions facially) – but there comes a limit, and this limit was reached, for me, by Percy Jackson. I love these books. Seriously, I spent so many years wishing I was part of that world. And then it was announced there’d be a film. And my heart soared! Until I saw it. Seriously, read the book and then watch the film. They not only changed the plot in so many different ways, for what I can see as very little reason – but the way they portrayed the characters was just not right. I mean, they got Grover and Chiron pretty much right (and I will admit that Steve Coogan as Hades was a stroke of genius), but the rest of the characters they took liberties with for the sake of manufactured drama. And it annoys me when the book is written without the need for a screenwriter to insert their own take.

Another example is The Hobbit (as you knew I was going to bring up). My favourite book of all time. My biggest bugbear isn’t Smaug. Or Bard. Or Dain. Or Mirkwood. Or Bombur’s experimentation with barrel-based acrobatics. Or Tauriel. Or the Battle of the Five Armies. Or the Spiders. Or the Eagles. Or Beorn. Or the Trolls. It’s Bilbo. In the book, he is out of place right from the beginning. Tolkien wrote him to ensure that his sons would empathise – taken right from his comfort zone, thrust into the unknown with no friendly face and no knowledge of what to do. In the book, he stumbles through nearly every major obstacle until Mirkwood. Getting there by luck makes Bilbo’s sudden grasp of his responsibility all the more poignant, because he has been forced into this position. In the film, Martin Freeman heros his way through every major obstruction – to the point that he guesses the correct answer in Gollum’s cave, which is so out of character for book Bilbo I have to skip one of the greatest scenes in literature when I watch the film for fear I will punch the screen.

My last example, and it’s not one I know particularly well, but The Spiderwick Chronicles. Now I accept that this is a different kettle of fish – however I think the point still stands. Because they tried to (I think unsuccessfully) adapt 5 books, the screenwriters purposefully sped up certain elements of the plot to get the conflict looming quicker (notably Lucinda’s storyline, and the initial setting up of Arthur’s fate). They also left out one of the five books. Now I know this is me being picky, but if you say based on the books – you base it on the books! Personally, because they tried to cram 5 books into 1 film, it also made it unsuitable for kids. It got quite intense on screen, for books aimed at 8 year olds…and so didn’t work as an adaption, but did in its own right.

 

Because that’s my problem – go ahead, make a film about a Napoleonic captain called Jack Aubrey. But unless you’re going to adapt large parts of the plot and characters from the book, verbatim, you shouldn’t be saying “based on”. It not only raises the expectations of the audience, but implies you have a respect for the source material. Which in case of Percy Jackson (especially the second one!), to some extent Harry Potter, and especially The Hobbit…they didn’t.

Next week I’ll be starting off with an event summary of the medieval tournament-thing I’m doing this weekend! Ta-ra!