By the law of averages, it had to happen one day: yes, after enjoying many years with glorious Spring sunshine, the TBS Palm Sunday commemoration of the battle of Towton on 29th March was our windiest and wettest ever (as you can see from the grey skies and upraised brollies in the picture top left). The early date and forecast conditions may have been responsible for a much smaller living history camp than we usually have, and the conditions were a real nightmare for unfortunate campers like Hubcap - especially on Saturday night, when a terrible gale started blowing tents down and no-one got much sleep.
It was also the first Palm Sunday that I didn't go on, or lead, a battlefield walk since joining TBS in early 2005 - my arthritis picked the wrong weekend to play up, and I didn't feel fit enough to be outdoors in the cold and wet, or to negotiate rough muddy tracks. So I spent Saturday at home, and most of Sunday manning my book stall in the Barn, muffled up in four layers of clothing with my cloak wrapped round my legs (see pic left, courtesy of Mike Wilson). For once, the weather meant it was warmer inside the Barn than out - and when the perishing wind changed direction, it was actually less draughty than it had been last year, so I remained surprisingly comfortable! I also had a steady stream of visitors; again, the nasty conditions outside meant that members of the public were glad to spend a bit more time indoors looking round the displays and stalls.
However, I did manage to get onto the field to watch Stuart, Wayne and Dean giving their 'Arming the Knight' and combat demonstration, which was typically good and well-received; and to snap a few shots of our Frei Compagnie stalwarts and the battle finale. Below left, our baker Howard has his first try at cooking flat-breads on a skillet over an open fire (delicious, so I'm told; they'd all been eaten by the time I arrived for lunch!); below right, bowyer Dave Moss is hard at work; and below centre, Lord Dacre has just met his death in the early stages of the battle of Towton - the weather had brightened up somewhat by then but it was still very windy, as you can see by that streaming banner! So despite the unpromising conditions, we still managed to deliver our programme - (cont'd below pics)
and since I'd been braced for public disappointment and complaints because the camp and battle were much smaller than in recent years, the response took me by surprise - participants and visitors alike were saying it had been their best Towton ever! I can only conclude that this was a sort of 'Blitz spirit' kicking in; several re-enactors observed that the battle had been fought in a snowstorm, so the cold and wind made it feel like a more authentic experience and helped them to empathise with the armies of 1461; members of the public were impressed that they (and our traders) literally soldiered on to make the event happen regardless; and we all jollied each other along to make the best of some extremely challenging conditions.
So when we got home, wind-scorched and weary, it was also good to discover that although (not surprisingly) visitor numbers were down on previous years, we'd still had around 1000 people on site, and made £3500 to cover our costs and swell the Society coffers - and the whole thing seemed to fly by so quickly, I can hardly believe it's all over till 2016.
Since then, I have bowed to the demands of his many fans by getting seriously stuck into 'The Tail of Henry Wowler' - there he is on the right, looking typically winsome. The reactions to my announcement about it on Facebook have been amazing - folk clamouring for copies (especially if Henry can sign them personally - Hubcap and I are still trying to work out how we can contrive this!). It will be a compilation of extracts from this website and my Facebook posts about him, tied together with new narrative including chapters on 'Wow-talk' and 'Henry the Hunter'... and I'm going to do my level best to have it ready in time for Christmas 2015. Watch this space for further details!
Belated Happy Easter - I hope you had a good one! You can see from the pictures on the right how Hubcap and I spent our Easter Monday: with a trip to Cleethorpes. Despite an unpromising start to the day weather-wise, by the time we arrived on the promenade around 11am, we couldn't find a single parking space for its entire length - we had to leave the car at the extreme end and walk back to the main attractions. The top photo shows one of these, on the right behind the vintage cafe: Ross Castle, a well-remembered landmark from my childhood (when naturally I believed it to be what it resembles, a medieval look-out tower). I never knew much about it then; but thanks to new information boards I've discovered that it was built in the 1860's by the Manchester, Sheffield & Lincoln Railway Company, as part of their works to prevent cliff-face erosion in the part of town still known as High Cliff. It was made as a folly-cum-visitor-attraction, giving spectacular views out across the River Humber to Hull, and was named after the company secretary, Edward Ross. It's now a Grade II listed building, and a pleasant, quirky thing to go and see if you fancy a day at the seaside.
And of course, we simply had to go to the chippy for lunch! In the pic below, Mick's getting stuck into fish n' chips with plenty of salt and vinegar - England's original 'fast food', made possible in the Victorian period by the spread of railways to the coast, which allowed fresh fish to be transported inland faster than it could spoil. One of the bags to his left contains something else we simply had to buy that day: a stick of rock as specially requested by a friend. We bought him a rock 'dummy' too, a type of novelty I also remember well from my childhood - although these days their shape has changed, and decency forbids me to put up a picture of it. Suffice to say it was pink, very rude, and afforded us considerable amusement! So we had a fun day sightseeing and visiting family and friends, and it was great to find my home resort so busy and traders doing so well, but we made a wise decision by leaving early; by mid afternoon the sun had come out, and there were so many more cars streaming into town than leaving that I bet the main road was one huge traffic-jam by the time everyone wanted to head home.
Finally, if you've read this far down I'd like to thank you: the statistics checked this morning show that the 'Herstory' website has had 45684 hits over the past year - that's 3807 per month, or 878 a week. Small beer by some website standards, but a whopping increase for me and I'm delighted. So thanks very much for visiting!
I hope you had a good St George's Day on the 23rd, and managed to enjoy some of the increasingly popular celebrations of this day. The Frei Compagnie certainly did, with our usual appearance at the multi-period event at Morley Rugby Club organised by our friend and fellow member Kevin Morley (there he is on the left, making a splendid St George).
Having watched the weather forecasts all week, we were expecting a dull, cold day - so I decided to try out the Compagnie's latest asset, a superb fire range set-up crafted by multi-talented master bowyer Dave Moss, (see right), as I thought we might appreciate a fire to warm our hands and some hot soup for lunch. However, as the photos show, the forecast was wrong - true, the breeze was chilly but we had blazing sunshine all day and not a drop of rain. But I made pottage anyway, and later on cooked another medieval dish traditionally served at this time of year: tansy cake. Tansy is a lovely herb, very easy to grow (we have a big patch in our garden - see below right), with a strong
aromatic fragrance and a pretty yellow flower in the autumn. In the middle ages it was widely used as a strewing herb, releasing its scent when trodden underfoot; but it was also valuable as a vermifuge to purge the body of worms in the spring - hence the serving of tansy cake around Easter time, when the plants are freshly growing after dying back over the winter. It's dead easy to make and very tasty - so if you fancy trying it, here's the recipe I used: 3 medium eggs, beaten; 2 large white bread buns made into fine crumbs; a good big handful of fresh young tansy leaves, finely chopped (if you can't get tansy, spinach is an acceptable alternative also used in the medieval period); a carton of single cream; quarter teaspoon each of grated nutmeg and ginger powder; salted butter for frying. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl until it forms a soft batter (beware - the raw mixture tastes horribly bitter, but don't be put off - it loses the bitterness on cooking). Then simply melt the butter in a large pan, drop in dollops of mixture to make little pancakes, and fry until golden brown on both sides. Yum! They're jolly good, AND they'll get rid of your intestinal parasites!
In between times we enjoyed a cracking day with great crowds and great shows to watch. The return of the parade from town, led by a wonderful brass band (see below) was a very stirring sight with its massed ranks of serving military personnel, re-enactors, cadets, scouts, Girl Guides and sports clubs, and heralded the arrival of a substantial crowd to enjoy the sunshine and entertainment (continued below pics).
We contributed to the entertainment with arena shows on Wars of the Roses soldiers and our 'Death of King Richard III' vignette, some big bangs from Des's big guns, and Kevin riding in the equestrian displays - the highlight of that for me was when he charged at Stuart and broke a lance on his pavise (see left)! The finale of the afternoon was the usual battle from the World War II re-enactors, including some spectacular pyrotechnics (see right). That was followed by a remembrance for the fallen of all conflicts and a bugler playing The Last Post, which brought a lump to my throat and made a very fitting end to this day of celebration for England's patron saint. It was also a great start to the Frei Compagnie's re-enactment season, and we're all geared up now for our next appearance at Sherburn Gala on Saturday 16th May - see you there!