I started to write a review of my year. It included a round up of most stuff and then it was going to have my top five things I was most chuffed with. However it started to become a mammoth task and I decided to start from scratch, so here goes...
From a Conflicting Interests point of view 2011 has been ace! We roamed up and down the country, went to (not in order) Kenilworth Castle (Smashing) Dover Castle, twice, (Fantastic) Bodiam Castle (Very satisfying) Herstmonceux Castle (Brill) Kentwell Hall (Always a pleasure) Tewkesbury, Bosworth, Hatfield, Kelmarsh, Weald, Collchester, Bentley, Wellwyn, Hadleigh Round House, Mannington Hall. We fought in battles, skirmishes, tourneys; from 1 on1 crest melees with the Knights Tourney of Foote (Thanks Mark Vance et al) to 1000 a side dust ups like Tewkes (thanks the Tyrrels) and everything in between. We have enjoyed a wide range of Living History activities and displays. I have become the MSS Script Writer's Guild and have written and co-written several scripts for our battle displays, which is a very satisfying thing to do. We met some great new friends and reaffirmed old friendships. In fact reenactment this year has proved itself to be everything I got into for and more. I can't wait for next season.
In the wargaming world, I have completed projects, started new ones. I have had two more articles in print in Wargames Illustrated (that's five now) I had a photo shoot for some more articles for next year (F&IW) and was asked to write a special article for the 300th anniversary edition for next September too. I have managed to get a wide variety of games played, and found some new opponents with whom I hope to play more. Our Very British Civil War campaign is off and running and there are lots of new models to paint and play with. So on that front all is good too.
There were a couple of moments that haven't really got a mention on this blog this year and I am slightly remiss for this so here are a couple...
Our season always starts with the Suffolks' COW (Council Of War) our household gathers together in the spring to discuss the forthcoming season and which events we are aiming to go to. The calender discussion is usually fairly brief, we then focus on the main part of the COW, dinner! This takes the form of a medieval banquet usually cooked by Francis, Bess and Mirabel. Everyone else strips our livingroom and redecorates it with suitable medieval kit. We all dress for dinner and then have a slap meal. The highlight of this year's COW was the bird within a bird, within a bird, within a bird. Partridge, in pheasant, in duck, in chicken nom nom!
Already looking forward to the COW 2012.
Another highlight was when five of us went down to the Bentley Wildfowl trust in Sussex for an MSS event. We only went for one day, so went light. The highlight of the day (Aside from fighting for our friends the Ap Harrys) was the walk in. We kitted up in the car park and then marched into camp with all of our kit, just as we would have on campaign. It looked pretty good. One day I will do an event where I literally take just what I can wear and carry... one day.
Right at the end of the season I was called to do something I don't usually do, Victorians. Again new friends made, this time Daisy and Alex Richardson of Past to Present Historical. We spent a weekend at Audley End, in North Essex, entertaining the masses who queued to see Father Christmas. I went essentially as a 'Dodgy Victorian pub dwelling cove' not too tricky you would think for me. We cobbled kit together for me, thanks for all the loans guys, and off I went with a pocket full Victorian pennies and some cards to find the lady. In the end very little lady finding occurred but a great time was had, the highlight of which was getting several hundred queuing folk to do a Cockerney wave, ( Just like a Mexican Wave, just with more Dick Van Dyke) you had to be there. and we certainly will be next year:0)
So what was the best moment of the year? I thought it would be really hard to select, but as it turns out it was a piece of cake. It happened at Kentwell Hall during the Grand Recreation of Tudor life. On the third weekend of the event the military types put on a Tudor Pageant to celebrate the Master's natal day (birthday) the pageant took the form of the Battle of Azincourt. Now this essentially was a ruse to get a handful of fully armoured Men At Arms to be shot at close range by English archers, always great fun for those taking part and those watching. The rest of the 'battle' included combat between the French and English: The French and English Kings going toe to toe: The French cavalry, played by 9 and 10 year old lads on hobby horses assaulting the English lines and lots of other silliness. On the whole it was great success. The battle ended with heavily armoured and French and English knights fighting to the inevitable defeat of the French.
So was that it then? The best bit of your year? NO...
The best bit came moments later. Usually a 'battle' like this ends with the dead coming back to life and the combatants all indulge in some self congratulatory back slapping, but on this occasion it was a little different. Our pageant in 1553 had been hijacked to celebrate the accession of Lady Jane Grey and we just happened to have her eight year old sister Lady Mary Grey on the manor. At the end of the battle, in a flash of genius of whom I do not know, the Queen's sister took the field to accept a Royal Bow. In one moment our show and my season was topped off by an eight year old girl nervously walking amongst a collection of sweaty, armoured warriors who all fell to one knee in deep reverence, heads down and eyes averted in silent tribute.
I know it was all pretend but it was just a perfect moment on an English Summer's day. For those of us lucky enough to have been there it will stick with us forever. For those of you not lucky enough to be there I suggest you get out to some historical locations next summer in case some thing as cool as that happens again.
Thanks to all who have been on the road with us this year.
Roll on 2012. I'll see you in the 15th or 16th centuries.