Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bolsover Castle

We've been slowly trying to tease out how re-enactment and living history work here, and making contacts with groups. I'm keen to get involved in some 15th C stuff, which here largely is labelled as 're-enactment', and tends to involve Battles, but we're also very keen to get involved in serious living history, and they take it very seriously here indeed.

As part of this exploration, and in order to reach out to some groups, we took ourselves up to Chesterfield to see a relatively low key event at Bolsover Castle. There were representatives from about half-a-dozen groups under the War Of The Roses Federation, mainly from up in the north, so there were perhaps 100 re-enactors wandering around.

 Most of the tents and equipment was small enough to pack into small cars or vans - the little bell-ended tents, and round pavilions, seem to be very popular.
 We were amused that the re-enactors thought it was horrifically hot, as conditions were much like Abbey, so blokes generally stripped down to their underclothes. It was nice to see a lot of straw hats though, something represented in 15th C art that seldom seems to show up on the heads of Australian re-enactors
 The castle itself is in various stages of disrepair, but is located in an incredibly dominating position in the landscape. It was knocked up well after the age of castles, but echoed the design of castles when they had a purpose, right down to having an inner bailey around a faux-norman keep.
 I can see your house from up here...
 The view was staggering, and lovely, the sky was blue, the air was warm. Perfection.
 Needless to say the fountain outside the keep caused every small child to fall around in paroxysms of laughter.
 Hmm. Bob can't be a female fighter because there's limited historical evidence for it, but a female blacksmith is ok?

These guys had a very nice setup, and were really engaging presenters.
 Dad trying to get his kid to interact with the Shining Knight. The kid didn't want any of it.
 There were four jousters, and they jousted twice a day. I was pretty impressed by the organisation of this, as they balanced out a presentation of the pomp and circumstance with the need to keep the event ticking over, but did not dumb it down for the audience too far.

The rider's kit was very nice, and we caught them doing the arming-of-the-knight in their camps with damned fine explanations for the public.

I spent the whole day feeling like I was wearing the wrong clothes, and was on the wrong side of the fourth wall.
 Another penny dropped while we were there: the musicians do not see themselves as re-enactors, nor do the re-enactors or organisers. Also, it looks like re-enactors here do not do music.
 Knights. They're shiny.
 And they're still shiny.
Oh look, he's shiny too.

I almost forgot - coming into Chesterfield we were distinctly puzzled by the church spire, and initially thought we were seeing it from a strange angle. No, it's bent. Even better, the bend, and twist, is not a recent failure of the structure  - the church and spire date back to the last part of the 14th Century, and it's been bent and twisted since it was built. In all likelihood it's spectacularly dodgy workmanship, but remarkably it's not yet fallen over.

Other things during the month

 People at my workplace are keen on baking. And are all slightly mad. And cookies are important to our work. Hence, cookie monster cupcakes. It makes perfect sense.
 My workplace is very close to Leicester Square, which is home to a lot of media activity. I came through one morning in the rain, and for no readily apparent reason a Mariachi band was huddled under the shelter while PR people flapped about trying to raise a crowd.
 The park near us, besides the Thames, erupted into a field, a meadow, of daisies.
 Bob beside the Thames, flowers in her hair. She's sad though. Her beloved pet dog Silky had just passed away. We miss her a lot.
 We went into the Queen's Gallery on the first day of the Jubilee to see the (amazingly good) exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci's anatomical drawings. They were setting up for the jubilee concert, doing sound checks and rehearsals, and their were huge crowds hanging around in the hope of seeing something - we did get to hear Robbie Williams rehearsing, and later, Annie Lennox - which made getting to the gallery difficult. So we detoured quite a way through the park, and came across these meadows of poppies and daisies and other wildflowers, specially prepared to encourage wildlife into the park, and flowering for the first time.

A house in the Country

Continuing with the somewhat arbitrary splatting of photos up. As I mentioned, Bob's parents came over shortly after we moved into the Arsenal, and we spent some time nipping around London with them (and being fed rather too well through a succession of restaurants). Among other things during that week we got out to see "One Man, Two Guvnors" - if it tours or a production shows up in your locale do go and see it: it's a terrifically funny collision between music hall slapstick, British farce and Commedia Dell'Arte. Trust me. It's funny.

A welcome respite though was a trip out to the country house of Bob's sister and her family. Apart from my work exploding horribly and me spending too much time with a laptop, it was amazingly relaxing. What can  you expect from a farm house that in parts dates back to the 17th century?

More photos are up at Flickr: Country House in May

We didn't do much that weekend, which is just as well, as once we stopped moving - and in some ways this was the first time we'd stopped moving in months, we just... stopped. We strolled through the woods, ate an amazing roast Sunday lunch in a pub, read, drew. Did little.

A whole month

Ah yes. Silence. Can we use the excuse that we've had Bob's parents to stay, and been flat out working, and flat out doing things?

Well that's the excuse anyway. We still haven't got much furniture in the flat - two beds, two bean bags, two bar stools, four chairs and a table. It's a start. Next step is going to have to be either bookshelves or wardrobes, because in theory unless something's gone horribly wrong in the Mediterranean the ship with all my stuff will arrive in a week or so. It's a difficult question: should the books remain on the floor, or the clothes?

 We've not just been working and clucking around the house though. On May Day Bob danced out with New Esperance, and I got a chance to duck out of work and nip up to the pub in Islington that they started at. And to sink a pint.

Although I didn't see it, this was apparently the shape of their day - going from pub to pub around Islington, drinking and dancing in the streets, carrying the traditional Milkmaid's Garland.

A fine tradition. Dancing up the afternoon sun.

More photos of the day are up at Flickr: May Day Dance Out 2012

Oh. Yes. Forgot to mention that we voted for the Mayor, but he got in anyway. I like the attitude toward democracy here, or at least for London: if you're living here and contributing to the economy, you get a say in whose bums are polishing the cushions. Also, they take voting seriously at the Arsenal