August 2012

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2nd August


Last night was Towton Battlefield Society's annual open evening, 'Medieval Yorkshire', at the Crooked Billet. Hubcap and I arrived at 6.30 pm to find warm sunshine and a field already buzzing with folk setting up for our 7pm kick-off. It was shaping up to be a fine evening: among the attractions were Stuart, our erstwhile 'Lord Clifford', this time in Viking guise with his fine array of Dark Age/early Medieval kit (note the replica Sutton Hoo helmet on the right!); members of the Kunst Des Fechtens martial arts group (left), who had come to do an open air training session; our usual living history camp and armoury with medieval crafts and weapons, have-a-go archery and TBS merchandise stall; and a display from the Heritage Initiative Project for Sherburn-in-Elmet (see below). Richard and Jo from the Billet had also got a cracking barbecue going and Society members and the public were flocking in to enjoy the sights, try their hand at the longbow and get deafened by Des's big guns!

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So it was all going great guns, so to speak - we even had Chris Maudsley, a media studies student from the University of York, filming Frei Compagnie members doing battle in front of a green screen to use in his thesis film project on the battle of Towton. And I'd just remarked to someone that it looked as if the weather was going to hold when the first few raindrops pattered gently down onto the awning...


Famous last words?! Within minutes it was pouring, everyone running for shelter, the field deserted... and a gallon of water collecting in the awning I was sitting under with Alex... then the weight of it pulled a peg loose - whereupon it collapsed in a drenching heap on top of us! Cue great squealing, melee and confusion as people tried to re-erect it... meanwhile we just went out into the rain and started gathering up the bows and arrows folk had dropped in their haste to get under cover, on the basis we could hardly get any wetter. Which effectively doused the rest of the evening, as you can see from the pic on the right... although we did get the compensation of an amazing double rainbow, and later the rising of a spectacular huge harvest moon (yes, the rain did stop and the skies clear after all the visitors had gone home!). And Frei Co still had fun, as we always do... but what a shame the rain kiboshed what would have been a great evening for everyone else.


Having a go with the longbow...                                                         A crowd at the TBS stall                                                             L - R: Alma Traska, Rae Tan and Max Pinson

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12th August


Henry Wowler is a year old! So in honour of his first birthday, this post will be all about:


Cats. I love 'em - always have. (I had three at home when I was a kid, and another two as soon as I got my first house - there they are, left and right). I love the sensuous curve of cats' backs when they sit, and the curl of their tails; the contrast between soft mitten paws and fatal rows of fish-hook claws; and especially those metallic, reptilian eyes... they should be looking out from dragon's faces, surely, not small cuddly mammals?


But love 'em or no, acquiring Henry Wowler wasn't part of my life-plan last November. In fact, as you can probably tell from my weak grimace in the pic below, I was pretty shell-shocked to discover we'd be putting him up for one night... I certainly wasn't expecting to take in a permanent lodger!


Little fluffy girl-cat Ash...



 ...and below, Henry Wowler saying, 'Yay, it's my birthday!'                                                                    

...and her half-brother, Lister...




...and below, Henry in customary pose for a hard day's cat-napping


But that's what happened. And now here he is full-grown - a far cry from that 3-month-old waif perched on my shoulder; the one who ran me ragged for months, demanding two breakfasts and five solid hours of play before he'd climb in my lap to be stroked unconscious. Long gone too are the days when he wouldn't venture outside unaccompanied (frightened he'd get shut out and lost again, probably)... and, thank goodness, of emptying litter trays and coping with all the noxious gassy by-products of juvenile feline digestion.


It all really started changing when, at five months, he got the key (or the flap) to the door... and I started getting my life back. Instead of chasing catnip mice and bits of string, he wanted to be outside with his fruitless bird-stalking and (messily fruitful) nocturnal worm-catching. That is, until he graduated from invertebrates by catching his first real mouse, whereupon making my first pot of early-morning coffee turned into a horror story... what gore-fest would I find on my kitchen floor thanks to his new knack of bringing 'playmates' home (dead or alive)? But it meant Hubcap's ambition for his 'cat-son' were fulfilled, and the vet's prediction on our 'big ears' proved right: not only has the Wowler grown into one of the biggest boy-cats on the block, he's also now a horribly efficient hunter of anything that moves (provided it's smaller than him) - he may even have caught his first rat yesterday, and I have high hopes of him starting on the squirrels and wood-pigeons! And one compensation of finding creatures (or bits thereof) scattered around Helmickton is that he's settled down into a independent cat-life: out killing things all night, scoffing a huge breakfast, and sleeping it off until tea-time - when he rouses himself just enough to be cuddled and stroked back to sleep to sharpen his appetite for supper, followed by another night on the tiles... repeat ad nauseam.  It's all right for some (and a lot less demanding for me!).

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Still, he does give us plenty of entertainment, laughing at his funny little ways - as well as keeping us busy cleaning up after him (and his fleas) and pandering to his wants. Yup, it's never a dull moment with our Henry - so Happy 1st Birthday, Mr. Wowler, and may you have many more!

21st August


Exciting news for Herstory! I've found an excellent company, Ebooks by Design, to convert Gondarlan into mobi/Kindle and e-pub formats; the proofs should be with me next week, and I'm hoping the e-version will at last be released in September! So if you want to publish an e-book but (like me) don't have the technical nous or programmes to do the conversion yourself, I can recommend Ebooks by Design... it's only going to cost £100 to convert a 300-page, 118,000 word novel into the two formats. Excellent value - and Steve Baker, their head of Formatting & Design, couldn't be more efficient or helpful.


Meanwhile Book 2, Breath of Gaia, has reached the final stages to ready it for publication! I've commissioned a superb artist, Graham Scott, to do a cover illustration; and our friend the author and military historian David Cooke is currently reading the text to supply me with a jacket 'blurb'. All I have left to do is draw a frontispiece map of the Urth... so I'm hoping that Breath will also be out in e-book - maybe even paperback - in time to catch the Christmas market.


And when I have a spare moment, I'm cracking on with Book 3, Wolfsbane - and drafting text to give Lay of Angor its very own website. So it's all go on the fantasy front - watch this space for further developments!


28th August


Phew! Back home, cleaned up and packed away after the Frei Compagnie's most-successful-ever appearance at Cawood Craft Festival! By dint of a full-colour feature in the event brochure and greatly improved signage around the village, we had plenty of visitors to our camp (left) - and good audiences for the shows - all weekend. And we gave them plenty to see, starting with an impressive menu of camp-fire foods: Fran's stuffed fish wrapped in salt-dough and baked directly on the coals, Alex's deep-fried pork & raisin and fig rolls, my vegetable pottages and lots of other yummy 15th century foods - including home-churned butter! So we all ate very well, and in-between-times tried to burn off the calories with a goodly array of medieval combat shows, as you can see below:


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Mistress Doggett shoots...                                    a crowd gathers for Des, Steve and Hannah's gunnery show...                              and Megan gets a quarter-staff lesson from her Dad.      


So everyone was kept busy, from taking part in the opening parade on Saturday, through our firepower shows with artillery and archery, kiddies' bill-drills and the ever-popular have-a-go archery sessions which netted us £100 over the weekend. On Sunday afternoon, our friends from Kunst Des Fechtens (see right) joined us for an open-air weapons training session - always useful to show the public you don't HAVE to wear medieval costume to practice medieval martial arts. Of course, Mr. Doggett couldn't resist getting in on the action - there he is on the left, fighting with Dean - and below, the result of hitting his eye on Dean's staff (he's sporting a real shiner now, as you can see in the pic below right!).


Luckily the weather stayed a good deal better than forecast for most of the weekend - but the obligatory end-of-event downpour put a damper on our final have-a-go session, and ensured all the tents were sopping wet just in time to go back in the van. Consequently Bank Holiday Monday saw the garden at Helmickton swathed in wet canvas - at least until the heavens opened again and we had to bundle them back in the shed, feeling guiltily relieved that we weren't still at Cawood for the Festival's third day as the rain went on pouring... and pouring... and pouring.


But, thank goodness, it's sunny and breezy today - so I might just manage to get everything dried out ready for our next outing to Ledsham Fayre on Saturday!

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