A year in partial review (Part 1)

So it’s been a while since I posted a blog about my larger travels and I promised a year in review.

Earlier this year, following my trip to Congregatus Australis, I made my way to Rowany Festival. I used Congregatus as an experiment on my own personal limits, and after self medicating with probably slightly too much scotch, I realized I couldn’t work at Rowany festival without better painkillers. I’d been avoiding it for as long as I could, but I’m at the stage of my life and chronic pain now where if I want to be functional more than 48 hours in any significant way, I need better painkillers.

I served on the Stewarding team once again and drove over to festival with Duchess Mari, stopping for the night an hour out of site with some lovely hosts in the craziest house. It probably deserves an episode on one of those house TV shows. In the first night of setup, I lost my tent due to 90 km winds and ended up in dorms the rest of the event. This wasn’t a large hardship as the dorms were better quality than I expected.

During my time at festival I got to catch up with a number of old friends and make some new ones. I also got to see a friend during his vigil, have a part serious, part joking discussion and then got to see him elevated as a MoD. That was one of the main highlights of my festival.

Rowany inducted me into the Order of the Silver Cinquefoil for the second year in a row, I returned the token after court as I still have the hat pin I got the year before. There was discussion if I turn in enough of them I can get made a Rowany citizen, but every time I ask the answer seems to be “at least one more”.

Festival was hard for me in some ways, I came face to face with a bunch of personal criticism I hadn’t heard before and I’ll admit, having a pile of it at once hit me like a truck. It’s taken me time to process this all, and I may make another blog post about it, but in the short form I was surprised and upset – some of the comments I can see are valid, some I think are radically delusional – but I began the process of thinking more about perceptions and how my words and actions come across to other people, especially people who don’t know me well, and it’s been a worthwhile exercise.

At the end of the event, I was given a gold token by the Stewards for the second year in a row, as you can see pictured above with a silver meerkat household token and my silver cinquefoil hat pin. This blew me away as I didn’t expect it, but it now sits proudly on my fancy hat (not my working straw one) and I love wearing it around.

Following the adventures of festival and after a slight recovery, I traveled to Krae Glas for their Day of Honour. I got the opportunity to stay with some good friends and to participate in their Rapier Championship without contesting the title. I would be glad to be Rapier Champion, but I can’t justify doing the job to my level with the distance involved.

I got to catch up with a number of great people, provided and received some private rapier tutoring and all in all had a relaxing holiday weekend.

Following my weekend in Krae Glas, I got home, turned around and went to Politarchopolis for their Tournament of the Black Boar / Feast of the Griffin event. I again, got to stay with some great friends, didn’t get up to too much mischief, and had a great time at the event. My fighting at this event wasn’t where I wanted it to be, I should have warmed up before the tournament proper, but I still had an enjoyable time assisting with marshalling and then enjoying the feast. I got to see an excellent peerage ceremony for a very awesome dude and spent my evening catching up with friends and encouraging people to drink. It seems to be one of my A&S pursuits at the moment – how many ways are there to encourage drinking at an event?

Next up is Inter College War and Midwinter, but they deserve a part 2 post. Stay tuned.

 

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Fields of Steel

So, it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post about my SCA adventures – I’ll be writing a partial year in review post soon. But for today, I want to write about Fields of Steel.

Fields of Steel came about in an odd way. We ended up with a team of 5 Stewards from the event – largely because two groups of us had a similar idea for a high-quality rapier event at the same time and we decided to combine forces rather than compete. I had the theory that since rapier war seems to be popular and enjoyable in other Kingdoms around the Known World it should be popular here – “build it and they will come”. In Lochac we’re limited to rapier war being included in only 2 events I know of (Rowany Festival and Spring War), neither of which focus on it as a dedicated activity. Thus, Fields of Steel was born.

We went in with the goal of putting out a high-quality event that was accessible to as many people as possible – we found a new site for this purpose which allowed us to keep costs very low (Early booking fee was $95 full priced attendee with dorm or camping plus food from Friday night to Sunday Lunch).

We built a moderately large team to support us and put people in key positions where we predicted they would be needed. As with any first-time event of this scale, there were a few hiccups, but they were largely dealt with on-site with thanks to our excellent community and their willingness to volunteer to make the SCA work. That said, there was a lot of work involved and I estimate that from the Monday before the event to the end of the event and arriving home, I did a 90 hour week for Fields of Steel related activities and I doubt I was the only Steward to do so.

An example of the firelight torches on the field with some colourful characters posing. Photo: RJ Roach

With all the planning and work we put in, we were able to bring a firelight tournament to Innilgard. While nowhere near the scale of Great Northern War, it was a good foundation to begin with and hopefully we can put on future events with firelight activities. The costs for this equipment have been carried privately and the labour was skillfully done by TH Lord Kit Hackforth.

As part of our experiment with the event, there was the idea that people could really enjoy rapier war if they had some more knowledge on how to do it better. To that end, we applied for grants from the Rowany Fighter Auction Fund and the Lochac Stronger Kingdom Fund to help defray the costs of bringing 4 guest martial teachers in. We were blessed with a volunteer arts and sciences guest teacher who offered an alternative to the martial stream in the form of cheesemaking, which many locals and visitors loved.

These classes crammed a lot of information into heads and I hope it inspires people to learn and develop skills and to share them with others – likewise, I hope it inspires those we brought over to consider continuing to teach their classes in a rapier context to help grow Rapier War in our Kingdom.

The food was amazing for the event, we were very lucky to have tapped a skilled feast cook in the form of Lady Angharad – without her I don’t think this event would have been anywhere close to as successful as it was.

We also managed to put together coins as gifts, prizes and thanks (photos to come). TH Lord Kit and I made period coin dies and struck a number of coins. These coins served as prizes for the martial activities and prizes for the best heraldic display. Something I wanted to do was introduce the idea of a Stewards thank you – inspired by the practice at Rowany festival. Key guests and event officers were given a coin, and the stewards each nominated a number of volunteers at the end of the event to receive a thank you coin. As I mentioned in court, this event would not have run without people helping make the event work and even small acts of help made a major impact (more on this theory in my new writing)

The (now) Honourable Lady Adeliz and I, equally skilled at funny faces. Photo: H Taylor

The best part of the event for me was catching up with friends from afar and seeing them recognized in court. I had written a bunch of recommendations before the event and it was great to see the process work. A special thanks for this goes to our Khagan who went above and beyond in coming out to the event, despite last-minute weather chaos in Sydney and the pain of dealing with chaotic airports and canceled flights. The entire Royal family were planned to come out for Fields of Steel but the airlines only made it possible for one of them to make the event. I found this rather inspiring though, as the Royals could have canceled entirely and we would have been sad, but completely understanding – freak weather incidents and flight cancellations are out of anyone’s control.

As an overall summary, I think the event went well and the feedback I received was that people had fun. If we manage to run this again in 2 years I have a list of improvements and adjustments to make it even better and I hope we’ll see many returning visitors as well as new faces. The biggest possible thanks I can offer goes out to everyone who helped out, who fixed problems before they existed and who helped keep me sane. I have much love for you all.

 

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Rapier Championship and Congregatus

During February I had the great pleasure to attend Innilgards Baronial Rapier Championship – usually an excellent fencing event and this year was no exception.

 

Carrying on a piece of theater from Fields of Gold, where I was presented the Lochac Seals of State by King Steffan and Queen Branwen to transport them to Innilgard to put into the hands of the new Provost of Scribes, I delivered them to Baroness Aeschine and Baron Cullan, as the local representatives of the Crown, to present them to Baroness Fionn.

Having completed that, I spent the day successfully field marshaling the event, getting a front row to some excellent fights. I’m lucky to be part of a Barony full of many strong fighters who are generally fun to be around to boot.

There were some excellent fights during that tournament and the finals were some very impressive fencing.

More recently over Easter I traveled across to Krae Glas for their Easter-not-Festival event Congregatus Australis. I got to spend a lot of the event playing in a commercial kitchen with skilled cooks and chefs which made the process very easy. I find working in the kitchen to be a good escape. Some nights with over 100 people in the feast hall, it gets intense, being able to work somewhere semi-quieter with less people is almost relaxing.

The food overall was incredibly impressive, and the kitchen worked to a very high standard.

I taught two classes, a stripped down version of my introduction to rapier class and my Krapfen doughnut class.

I didn’t have the energy to engage in much fencing this weekend, but I did have great fun marshaling the Princess Bride tournament, with many stupid deaths and not quite deaths. A fun format that I think would be worth trying here locally.

Sadly my Krapfen didn’t turn out to my standards. I suspect juggling some prep in the kitchen while managing a class that was much larger in attendance than I expected lead to mistakes. That said, the small children enjoyed the deep fried spiced fruit sugar things which at the end of the day is the real goal. On the topic of sugar I got to take Mistress Bethonys sugar class and picked up a few tricks on boiling different types of sugar to make them workable. I suspect some taffy will be in the future.

I assisted in some authorizations in my capacity as an authorizing marshal in an attempt to bolster numbers of the marshallette in Krae Glas/Stormhold. Hopefully this will see a knock on result of more capable fighters taking to the field in coming years giving us bigger and better fields to play with.

I had a whirlwind of a time, met new people, caught up with old friends, got to know some people better. I got stupidly drunk one night but didn’t end up slapped in the face or banished as a result, so I’ll take that as a win. I had a great time just being social with good people, singing, drinking and being merry.

I also managed to conduct vital experiments into portable rapier marshal technology….

Apparently my rapier gear bag is large enough to move a body. Who knew….

I had the great pleasure of being presented a very swish tea towel as a gift by Baroness Krae Glas as a thank you for my work in the kitchen – originally I was unsure if it was an actual gift or just a ‘use it now’ gift – I had planned to swipe it anyway and dare Krae Glas fighters to come take it from me, but apparently she later confirmed in court it was a gift to keep. Very much appreciated.

Which is why I was blown away when I was presented with the Order of the Delphinus Dionysi at the closing court (the “you’re a foreign devil who does good stuff” award for Krae Glas). Unexpected but appreciated and I’ll have to use it as motivation and excuse to visit more often.. another meerkat invasion anyone, or maybe a surprise Amos ambush feast..

And as I’m writing this I still haven’t unpacked the car, or started washing.. but in 9 days I leave again to drive to setup site for Festival and do it all over again. Looking forward to it, but I strongly suspect this month will fully exhaust me.

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Site updates!

So as I’m sure most of my regular readers would have noticed, I updated the design of the website to go with the New Year. I’m quite happy at a few of the small changes I made and how it has come out.

I’ve also written some new content for the website, some ideas I’ve bounced around and worked on slowly for a few months now.

First I wrote a short introductory guide for people interested in assisting in feast kitchens. It’s by no means as complex or indepth as some of the other guides out there, but it provides a good start to people who have no idea where to begin.

I also spent some time finishing a short guide on applying for office positions in the SCA. I’ve written at least half a dozen in my time in the SCA and I’ve only been unsuccessful once (I attribute my success to picking jobs no-one else wanted). I’ve also read a ton from well written multi-page documents covering every possible type of experience to a short line of “I will do it”. I know what I personally prefer to see.

As always I’m open to constructive feedback or questions on either of these, I plan to add some more writings this month, suggestions on topics are welcome.

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Fields of Gold and 2017 in review.

My last event for the year was Fields of Gold in the Barony of Politarchopolis – there was a fair degree of turn about as I’m sure you all recall I attended my first event of 2017 in Polit at 12th Night. Instead of carpooling with pointy hat types, I travelled to FoG alone just myself and several Dresden Files audio books. I had the good pleasure of being hosted by the incredibly hospitable Don Lorcan who promptly twisted my arm and forced good drink, food and semi-drunken sword-fighting discussions. It would have been worth the trip for that alone.

A small amount of rapier gear for FoG. 3 pikes is reasonable, right?

But Fields of Gold was spectacular, flooding aside. I am grateful I wasn’t camping on-site as the flooding and mud was rather severe (and a personal reminder to myself to actually pack boots so my only shoes don’t get soaked through). I got to spend some time in the kitchen helping some culinary heavyweight champions, I fought in the Rose tournament on Sunday and had a lot of fun, taught some anti-Pike technique and got to catch up with friends, some I only get to see once or twice a year. I absolutely intend to be back next this year.

The Feast at Fields of Gold was an amazing experience with an exceptional quality of heraldic display, setup, food quality and presentation and entertainment. I had the pleasure of spending the feast with the Company of the Dead Red Griffin and promptly attempted to drown them all in alcohol. Great company and an amazing feast.

This year had it’s ups and downs, both SCA wise and personally. I came to the realization I’m physically more broken than I was previously willing to admit. I pushed myself through extreme pain thresholds, abused painkillers well past safe dosages and used alcohol to remain pain free and realized I’d rather abuse my body and be effective than stay safe and be a burden. I’m stuck with a feeling that if I can’t offer meaningful contribution in the SCA I shouldn’t bother attending. Not the ideal mindset, I know, but one that has more to do with my own personal issues than anything from the SCA.

I made new friends, pissed people off, learnt new things, made mistakes, and otherwise continued to process complex chemical reactions to sustain myself as a carbon based life form.

17th English Cookbook

I started a new area of professional study this year which gave me access into some rare documents and materials locally. One of the highlights was being able to see a 14th century French book of hours and to read and digitize a cookbook from 1628 England.

Book of Hours, 14th Century France

I began some research into SCA period bookbinding and printing techniques as a result of my studies into collections and conservation. I think there are a few rabbit holes down there I’d like to explore, if even just to create some story and schtick. Cooking wise I only served as cook at one event this year, a detraction from my usual feast(s), but I haven’t felt the motivation or drive to cook a feast locally. I have a few SCA period research and redaction projects in the works and I hope I can present some new material this year and perhaps submit an article or two to be published in a newsletter.

I spent more time this year looking at historical fencing manuals and a few lectures on YouTube. I got a lot of mileage out of this presentation from Master Don Mateo Montero de Madrid. Fairly simple ideas but it helped me focus a bit more. I was asked to do some fencing teaching this year, both locally and interstate and I really enjoyed working with people on some of the basics. I also picked up my authorizing rapier marshal tick among others and authorized my first new fighter. That was a really enjoyable experience. Other than that though, I feel I’ve hit a bit of a wall with my fencing. My chronic injuries came into effect more this year as I previously mentioned and where I felt comfortable running around a site working loaded on painkillers and a shot or three of scotch, that’s not something I’ll allow myself to do on the combat field. In 2018 I’ll have to look at ways to get more involved in fighting and to deal with the pain better while maintaining good technique.

I also failed miserably to get any sewing or new garb done this year. The help was there, the fabric is there, but I ran out of time, effort and willpower. I began sewing my own stuff in the SCA because I don’t have the budget for custom garb, I’m not the figure for a lot of the off the rack items and I’m self conscious enough to want to look good. The problem I ran into was one of having a lack of spoons to juggle my own projects with the work for others I’d taken on and my own personal life – so to cut stress and save time, I threw my own sewing aside to focus on officer/stewarding/other duties. I don’t regret that for an instant, I enjoy officer/stewarding/other duties much more than I enjoy sewing, but I do wince a little at myself and my dated garb every time I go to an event.

A ramshackle attempt at last minute late period with assorted costume pieces.

I put together a few odds and ends to make a pseudo late period outfit to attend a small event here in Innilgard and while I was fairly self conscious about wearing something more costume than garb I did enjoy the change from tunics. One of my goals is develop a late period wardrobe to go along with my tunics so I have the option based on what I want to be doing, what the event is, etc.

I have a few plans for 2018 and 2019 but for most of those you’ll have to wait and see.

Let me leave you with the cheesiest awesome video I found in 2017

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