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Fencing Fest, La Prova Dura and the end of an era (tongue in cheek)

This post is a bit of a combined one as I haven’t written in a while.

You may ask, what have I been doing, where have I been? The real question is, where haven’t I been?

First, I drove up to River Haven for Fencing Fest. Adelaide – Ipswitch took me back to back 12 hour days of driving solo each way for a total of 48 hours+ on the road over the weekend. It was a good challenge, but as much as I want to drive solo for a while.

I did have the pleasure of enjoying a bunch of the Harry Dresden audio books along the way which made the trip very fast, compared to past years road adventures.

Along the way I stopped to see the CSIRO Dish in Parkes, if you’re ever there, it’s worth the look.

At Fencing Fest itself, I got to take classes in Spanish fencing, some of which still hurt my brain to put into practice, I got to participate in three journeyman prizes and a Guild of Defence tournament as well as do some marshalling. I got to meet new people, get to know others better and had a really relaxing time, even if my fighting was fairly crap. I learnt a lot and had fun doing so – which made the trip worthwhile for me.

I also plied several characters with dubious quantities of booze. Good times.

Finally this weekend I attended La Prova Dura here in Innilgard. I only managed to make it for the one day, in between doing Taxi for wayfarers and a bad case of hayfever I didn’t feel up for a whole weekend – but I got to see some really cool fights, excellent displays of heraldry and armour and a lot of courage. I really admired the three gentles who took to the field with polearms – it showed a lot of flair, was excellent to watch and lead to some really amusing moments.

Photo: H Taylor

I had the pleasure of stepping down after two years as Baronial Seneschal (not pictured: the bottle of Gin their Excellencies gave me among other tokens of thanks). Haven been given the symbolic alcoholic sock, I escaped court a free elf, only to be called back up by their Majesties…

Photo: H Taylor

…Who apparently saw fit to admit me into the Order of the Golden Tear. It was an honour to receive and I hope I do it justice. There was a bit of turnaround to the whole experience as I received my AoA two years ago at the last La Prova Dura when King Steffan and Queen Branwen reigned, to receive another award from them at this La Prova Dura was a nice touch of follow on.

It feels like just yesterday I was stepping up as Baronial Seneschal, but at the same time passing it on with the Office and Barony in good standing feels like a weight off the shoulders. There were tough times and fun times and overall I learnt a lot and can only hope the process hasn’t made me too bitter and jaded.

That’s it for now, I should hopefully have some more updates to this website soon, I’m reworking all my A&S and looking at developing some basic rapier guides – no promises on a date but stay tuned.

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Meerkats invade Krae Glas

A week ago I had the pleasure of being part of the Meerkat advance strike force into the Barony of Krae Glas. We crossed the border in the dead of night and proceeded to advance into the Barony. Our totally not prepared victims met us on the Saturday as we proceeded to run a rapier training day, full of fighting, teaching, coaching and just general tom-foolerly. In addition, we had the pleasure of being taught by several notables from Krae Glas, so the education-invasion wasn’t entirely one-sided.

On the Sunday, after what felt like the worlds longest drive, we reached the Hamlet of Grœnahólar within the Barony of Krae Glas and proceeded to be entertained by very pretty horses and skilled riders. It happened to be my first event watching equestrian and I found it very entertaining. Master Yevan held the field against two fighters from Krae Glas, eventually moving into a full on team melee, after which we began the challenge tournament. Eastern fighters were encouraged to challenge Meerkats with three passes per challenge, different weapon combinations each pass.

There was an offhand severed hand, war chicken and pig among the usual dagger, buckler, rotella, longsword suspects.

The forces of the East narrowly defended their lands with their Baronial Rapier Champion taking the day.

Overall it was a great trip full of great hospitality in a great Barony. I’ll be visiting again and looking forward to the fights.

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That time I drank my way on to the Stewarding team

This year was my third festival and probably one of the most intense events of my SCA career. It began, innocently enough, arriving early on Sunday to help setup. After getting my gear sorted for the night and helping my camp with their tents, it began to flood with wind, rain and hail. My compatriots ended up leaving for warmer accommodations which left me without anything to do – always a dangerous situation. So, I warmed myself up by helping push bogged cars off site. Many hands, light work and all that.

Drying out from pushing cars, I ended up drinking with the Event Stewards, meeting pretty much all of them for the first time. When more drinks were needed, I offered to get my scotch to some comments of “Dude, my car is closer, don’t worry”. Let it not be said that I’m stubborn.

When I had said I had 4.5L of Scotch, apparently people thought I had that in multiple bottles. The looks on faces as I carried this in and set it on the table were priceless. This was the start of getting to know people who I hadn’t really met before but now feel like I’ve known for at least a year.

Drinking with the team lead to helping them out the next day, following them around and doing odd tasks, from handing out information packs to marking lines, to directing portaloos, answering questions from the populace.. it was a long couple of days during setup, many of which I have partially blanked out. I know I spent 10 hours on a single day directing portaloos, walking the site with the driver and being a visible question person as I was wearing hi-vis and a radio.

On those days I ended up being looked after by the kindness of strangers and friends. So many campsites offered me food, water and alcohol on a regular basis and quite honestly I would have dropped if not for them. Over two nights, I ended up being kidnapped by Mistress Collette to the local RSL, a place I’ve never been aware of, but I was incredibly impressed with the quality of food. I’m incredibly grateful for the kidnappings, beyond the excellent company and conversation I was saved from chewing on boot leather.

As the event started officially I got more involved with the Constable office, taking on my assigned responsibilities and then some. I did a single day of 15+ hours of being the Deputy on Duty, something that exhausted me, but provided me with the chance to meet a lot of people and gain tons of experience.

Given that I was being allowed to perform in challenging roles, I shifted my priorities for Festival and focused on the work. Any who know me will know I generally have a need to be productive and useful – this festival physically broke me but it was the most enjoyable by far.

I did have to cancel my plans for Laurel Prize and the Food Fight, however I am more than capable of stuffing people with doughnuts at almost any opportunity and I only had one person seriously complain about the lack of doughnuts.

Innilgard held the Red Frette social which was the third year having an Innilgard camp night, first year actually advertising to everyone officially. The Crown visited while Collegians sang the Moose song which lead to great amusement. We had large amounts of visitors and a lot of fun. I only know of one person who lost their legs that evening, with special thanks to the amazing Master Paddy for flapping the wings on his hat and heart and helping the person home.

During the event I once again ended up kidnapped by Mistress Collette with instructions to “stand there bleeting” as she dragged me into the Attican campsite claiming I followed her home. I was quickly introduced to everyone and had food offered to me, and I was touched by the instant acceptance and hospitality into a private dinner. I got a chance to meet a goodly number of Atticans at this festival and I wasn’t bitten once (at least by Atticans, but that’s another story).

I had the great pleasure of witnessing two peerage elevations I really wanted to see, the first for Master Gregory who in his usual fashion, smashed the bar out of the park with his vigil and ceremony. Took long enough, but excellent to see.

The other was for Mistress Clara Bonaventure, the Unicorn Doctor Lady, who is quite simply put an awesome person. Always helping, always with an infectious smile and always good company. An impressive oath was given, but that’s only appropriate as it was for an impressive lady.

I was honoured by the Barony of Rowany by admission into the Order of the Silver Cinquefoil – their award for gentles from other Baronies who do service. I proudly wore the pin all festival and will fashion it into a hat in the near future – the appreciation for work, and the (what felt like) hundreds of people who came up to me over the event to offer congratulations made it for me. I thank you all.

Through the course of my work with the Stewarding team and being Diet Vandel I got the chance to meet the wonderful people in the Swamp and spent a good chunk of time relaxing, drinking and chilling with them. They’re awesome people and the environment there helped me unwind on more than one occasion. I don’t know you all that much, but I still have great love.

I was incredibly honoured to be asked to witness the protege ceremony of my friend Declan to Vandel, it was short and private as far as ceremonies in the SCA go, but held a lot of meaning and was incredibly appropriate. Declan I first met at my first festival, and since then I haven’t seen or heard of him stopping working. I can only hope that Declan learns to take the time to chill on the couch from time to time, in between his amazing and precise work.

Among the new friends I got to know better (There are too many to list here, apologies in advance if you’re not named) was a foreign devil from across the sea, the awesome Max in the Red Hat, who besides generally floating around and always being there for everyone, also ended up being Stunt Amos for at least a day to keep me from wearing too many hats. I have a great appreciation for the casual way you threw yourself into work, always with good cheer and happiness. Inspiring stuff.

On the Rapier side, I managed to fight in the Queens Glove, and after her request a few months ago at a training, I acquired the War Pig and War Chicken of Innilgard – pictures to come, imagine squeaky plastic dog toys. I only made it to the Third Round but I managed to fight some impressive individuals and had a hell of a lot of fun attempting to be entertaining.

While I didn’t get to doing any of the testing I threatened would have liked to, I did get to watch some and found myself impressed by not only those being tested, but those doing the testing.

I didn’t see much of my Barony this festival as I was off on adventures and working, but every time I did see them, there were smiles, hugs and inappropriate comments, so I felt at home. A big thank you to the B&B for working tirelessly to provide the camp experience for Innilgard and helping me out with Warden duties.

Finally in closing court, I got to see my friend Mistress Elena awarded a plate in memorial to Mistress Francesca as a token of service, above and beyond the call. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate person to receive such an honour, as she worked all event, not just herding cats Heralds, but also spent countless hours walking the site and troubleshooting.

I was also touched to be included as one of the 12 individuals offered a golden event token (photos once it’s delivered), as a thank you for my service across the site. When standing next to the other 11 I felt humbled as I was among excellent company and to be thought to be included among them was a little scary.

On the final night I had an amusing educational moment on why Lord Gabriel Ziegler instructed me to gradually raise my voice when doing voice heraldry, and not go 0-11 all at once as I made an announcement at Greesispoone and watched a poor Lady have her skeleton jump out of her skin, look around, then quickly stitch it’s way back inside as I went straight to Loud – Capital L. I was glad to be of small service to Greesispoone as they spent all event feeding me, looking after me and otherwise tolerating my bad jokes.

There is more I could waffle on about, but this pretty much sums up my festival.

A big thank you to everyone who helped me in any way, shape or fashion – there are tons of you and you are all awesome. For everyone who fed me, watered me and generally made sure I didn’t fall over – I love you all. Thank you.

Next year I get to do it all officially as a member of the Stewarding team, but I think I’ll see what mischief I can bring for bribery anyway. Sharing a giant bottle of scotch around warmed more than our bodies on cold nights.

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The polishing of silver and manufacture of awards

When I was recently cleaning out my house I came across half a dozen old silver goblets and my first thought was “These would be perfect Fretted Goblets” (note: The Fretted Goblet is the Innilgard Baronial Service award, they look pretty and you can put alcohol in them).

Being me, I put them aside and didn’t pick them up until a few weeks ago, doing a second clean of my house. I ended up doing a bunch of research on how to clean them, given their age, my uncertainty over their makeup being silver or silver plate, and my desire to not spend much money. I came across a cheap, easy method that makes cleaning addictive.

Goblets, no cleaning, dust and grime included.

These Goblets had been sitting in a dark cupboard for over 20 years. I’d imagine they may well be older than me, or possibly even the Barony itself. That said, other than the tarnish/grime and discoloration there was no overt damage. While my method of cleaning has worked on Goblets after I’ve engraved them, I’m not sure of the results if you had major chips/damage to silver plate.

Pre clean, picture two

As you can see, they were really filthy, I know in the past I’ve actually thrown out pieces of cheap silver plate that were this dirty on the basis that it would probably take too much work to restore. The whole reason I began this project with these was I considered them expendable, but they turned out better than I hoped.

Goblets taking their cleaning bath

Step 1. Using either aluminum foil trays, or a plastic/glass/non metal container lined with aluminum foil, add in a small handful of sea salt, boiling water, a few tablespoons of baking soda (enough to get the water bubbly) – then lay your pieces of silver in the mixture taking care not to be burnt. It doesn’t have to fully submerge the item, as you will probably make multiple passes and rotate the item, but the silver items MUST touch the aluminum foil and MUST NOT touch each other. Finally, pour in some white vinegar until the mixture begins a happy little bubble.

Sit back, wait, get a glass of wine. After an hour or two, or when the water has gone cold, take your items out, and using a paper towel, gently wipe them clean. You’ll noticeably turn a white paper towel black, although you may need to repeat this process a few time.

This tray was used approx 2-3 times and the transfer of tarnish is visible to the eye.

It is worthwhile to regularly replace your aluminum foil every pass or two, as it increases the efficiency. Pictured above you can see visible discoloration left from using the same tray for multiple passes.

Final product

So, after only a few passes in their cleaning baths, no harsh or expensive chemicals, you have goblets approx 95% cleaner than they were. They are not *perfectly* cleaned, imperfections and stubborn spots still exist, however I like to think of them as charms of character rather than imperfections.

This ends the silver cleaning portion, the following details turning the cleaned item into Baronial Awards.

The award itself is a simple silver Goblet with a red frette engraved and painted into the side. How hard could it be?

Using a cheap engraving pen I had laying around from a discount hardware store, I carefully engraved frettes into the goblets, just enough to create a tactile sensation when running a finger over it. This is one of the prettier results. I ended up supporting it with my hands, it would have been much easier with a small vise to support the item.

Red enamel paint

Visiting my local train hobby store, I was able to find a small pot of red enamel for under $4 that would probably allow me to make a few dozen goblets with ease.

A crimescene?

I experimented with multiple ways of applying the enamel. I didn’t have any very tiny brushes so I made do with a combination of toothpicks, cotton swabs, methylated spirits and of course, the enamel.

I covered my table in a moderate amount of paper towels and stirred the enamel to make sure it was consistant in texture. Using a toothpick I gently spread and encouraged it into the engraved frettes. There was inevitable spillage.

Paint spread over the engraving

As you can see, the initial result looked more like a blob of paint. I then was able to sharpen the enamel after it had partially set involving some painstaking fine detail work.

Using a cotton swab, I first dabbed a small amount of methylated spirits around the paint, not touching, being careful to only work on half at a time to prevent the spirits from rolling into the paint fully. Using a toothpick whose tip I had soaked in spirits, I then carefully and gently scraped at the paint, lifting off the excess and creating clarity in the design. This took a few passes and more than one toothpick.

Partially complete

I found that while it was easier to lift the enamel straight away after painting, it was also easier to accidentally damage the frette, requiring repainting. So, I found myself waiting around 2 hours before sitting down and going to work in earnest.

Finished frette

As you can see, there is clearly a frette now rather than a blob of paint. All that was left was to finish up the others, and add colored ties to allow the new Fretted Goblets to be attached to belts for easy transport and display.

I presented them today at the Barons Championship tournament to the B&B, including giving the prettiest one to Baroness Aeschine, as she had given me hers when she presented me with mine earlier this year.

Overall, this was a fun project, first time engraving, first time painting anything that small for almost 20 years and a new cleaning technique that has me hunting OP shops for old (cheap) silver plate I can look at restoring.

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Great Southern Gathering 8

This was my second Great Southern Gathering having attended my first in Krae Glas in 2015, and I have to say it continues to be one of my favourite events of the year. Somehow, through a combination of voodoo sorcery, goat magic and black alchemy – the event seems to remain action packed while remaining relaxing – even for those running around doing things.

It’s a scary concept.

This weekend was the first event where I debuted my new SCA name – Amos Ironbeard. After previously having issues getting people to use my first SCA name (Járnskeggi the Mad) – along with my own desire to explore other cultures and later time periods, this seemed to make sense. However, it seemed to be too great a success, the name has caught on quicker than my own reaction to it, resulting in some hilarious “Amos. Amos. Amos. AMOS.” moments. I appreciate the effort you all put in, and I’m still happy to answer to Járnskeggi, after all, I am still Ironbeard and still Mad.

I had the privilege of being Deputy Steward for the event which mostly involved carrying stuff, answering questions and making sure people didn’t burn the place down (They didn’t even come close). A vast majority of the hard work was done by Mistress Ingerith as Event Steward and Baroness Aeschine as Event Cook – they both worked hard to make the event great – along with the many others who pitched in from assisting in the kitchen, taking out trash and running out into storms at night to help with tents.

The weather was chaotic across the state but thankfully the site and event avoided most of the chaos. There was mud on site, and vehicle travel had to be limited to save cars from bogging but overall it wasn’t terrible – a combination of angles and drainage probably helped.

I was impressed by the amount of people taking classes and teaching them across the event, it looked like a lot of people were having fun trying out new things and I know a few friends who are taking away ideas and projects to work on in the future.

I was lucky enough to be able to teach my Krapfen class, with special thanks to Lady Safiyya for her translations, and had attendance from some truly talented individuals. Scarcely did I have to give instruction to find dough being rolled, apples being peeled and witty banter being slung across the kitchen – it felt more like the kitchen team at a feast than a class and the atmosphere was enjoyable. We ended up making enough Krapfen to feed the event, a few times over, with platters going out for people to sample only to return empty minutes later. I continue to learn from teaching and it served as an excellent dry run for cooking Krapfen for my next feast this month.

On the Sunday the weather held out enough for guild prizes to be fought, I was lucky enough to test multiple Free Scholars including His Excellency, Baron Cullan, my dear language tutor and translator the Lady Safiyya and the distinguished Lord Mikołaj. There was a moment I had to leap between fields to consult for two candidates at the same time, much to the amusement of my fellows, but it was an enjoyable experience.

I was sponsored for my Journeyman prize by Lord Guildmaster William Blackwood, and managed to take away the green sash at the end, although I now have several things to work on in the near future and after witnessing some of the fighting and classes over the weekend my to-do list more than doubled as I start my very long journey to the path of becoming a Provost.

I got the chance to make new friends, catch up with old, including the ones I hardly get a chance to see. I drank far too much on the Friday night which made prepping for my class Saturday morning interesting, however overall I really enjoyed the event.

That said, I will greatly enjoy being in my own bed tonight.

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