August 2013

27th August

Happy Bank Holiday - hope you had a good one! We spent ours at a favourite event: the annual Cawood Craft Festival. At least, I did on the Sunday, which was gloriously sunny (see pic below left); being firmly a fair-weather re-enactor, I declined to drive through the flooded roads of North Yorkshire on Saturday to spend the day sitting under the awning in the pouring rain (pic above left, courtesy of Wayne Reynolds)!

As ever, we were camped on the Garth of the Gatehouse of Cawood Castle (the large brick building you can see behind Kevin and Anna's painted tent). This orginally formed part of a fortified palace, residence of the Archbishops of York, and one of its many claims to fame is as the site of the Great Feast of Cawood. This took place on 6th September 1464 to mark the enthronement of George Neville, (brother of Richard Neville, the 'Kingmaker' Earl of Warwick), and was an ostentatious statement of the family's power: 2000 guests were feted like kings at a 64-course banquet held over several days, at which (among other things) 104 oxen, 400 swans, 104 peacocks and 100 tuns of wine were consumed! The Frei Compagnie kitchen couldn't quite equal that, although member Mark Harrison noted that we did serve more than 20 different dishes - including a pottage we cooked over the fire on Sunday morning, but not including the sacrificial 'wasp banquet' we laid out in a vain attempt to distract them from our own food. (It was the waspiest year ever at Cawood - the field was full of nests, but luckily Hubcap was the only person to get stung!).

Apart from feasting and sieving wasps out of our ale and hippocras, we put on some fun shows - below left, Hubcap and Wayne are locked in combat; below centre is our stalwart bill-line; and below right, said line put to flight by the newly recruited Cawood Militia! We also managed to make over £50 in have-a-go archery fees in a brisk hours' work at the end of the day... and then we enjoyed a very special treat. To celebrate their silver wedding anniversary, Mark and Su Harrison had booked to stay in the Gatehouse for a week - and very kindly let us in to have a look at their (literally) palatial accommodation. If you keep scrolling down, you'll see a pic of some of the team up on the roof, which gives magnificent views of the surrounding coutryside, all looking very pink after our day in the sun...

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...and although my own photographs couldn't do justice to the interior, you can find lots of lovely images of it (together with booking information) on the Landmark Trust website. It's all very tastefully done with a real period feel - apart from the mercifully modern kitchen and bathroom facilities - if not the best place for wheelchair users or people with walking difficulties or vertigo, since access to the upper bedroom and roof terrace is via an extremely steep spiral staircase with only a rope hand-rail and very narrow risers! It costs around £200 a night to stay there, which sounds pricey but can work out to be quite economical if you have four people sharing (there's a fine four-poster double bed in the lower room, and twin beds in the upper).

It's a pity there isn't more of the original building left; as well as its Wars of the Roses connections, it was one of the homes of Cardinal Wolsey, Archbishop of York under Henry VIII; but like so many of our castles, Cawood was destroyed after the English Civil War. Still, I feel very privileged to have had a glimpse inside - probably the first and last time I'll ever see it, unless we win the Lottery!

13th August HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HENRY WOWLER!

Today's post is in honour of our dear Henry, who is now two years old - more or less. We don't know his exact birth-date, except that it's sometime around the middle of August, so this seems like as good a time to celebrate as any.

Yes, the Wowler is two, which means he's lived with us for 21 months. I use the term advisedly; I can't claim to own him, or call him 'our' cat, (apart from in the sense I might say, 'our lodger'). Henry is, and always has been, very much his own feline... and given that he has the key to the door in the shape of his cat-flap, and can stay or leave as he pleases, we can only assume that he finds his lodgings acceptable!

He's certainly come a long way in that time, from the feather-weight scrap of lost kitten Mick found in a bramble bush in November 2011, to the thumping great 10-pound-plus tom-cat you see in these pictures today! And so have we, I suppose... inured now to having the house, everything in it, and even my car, permanently coated in a fine layer of orange/white fur (although Hubcap still moans occasionally about cat-fur sandwiches for lunch). I'm resigned to going about looking like a crazy cat-lady with Henry woven into all my clothes, despite my best efforts with brushes and adhesive rollers; and accustomed (though I can't say I like it) to finding all manner of gory unpleasantness strewn around the kitchen when I come down in the early hours of the morning, thanks to his nocturnal hunting expeditions.

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Yes, life with Wow is certainly interesting! It's been fascinating to watch his various stages of growth and development, and the odd little fads and fancies that come and go. For instance, he's now gone off commandeering my office chair and hassling me as I try to work; his favourite day-time snooze spots are currently his 'love-rug' (an ancient sheepskin which always gets him treadling and purring, though he no longer searches through it looking for nipples, like he did when he was a kitten), the top of our bed - or the blanket box underneath it. The latter is his almost inevitable bolt-hole whenever anyone comes to the house, from visitors to the postman, window-cleaner or even next-door's window cleaner - ever alert to 'Stranger Danger', he will slink off belly-down, wide-eyed with panic, and tuck himself safely away. Our theory is that, having spent his first weeks of life in a house where he was obliged to share attention with other animals, a baby and a toddler, he lives in constant dread of being stolen away from the place where he rules the roost as 'Only-Cat' and taken back there! But wherever he sleeps for the day, he seems to rationalise that by tea-time, he deserves a bit of attention... and the pic below centre shows how, unless I'm very lucky, I end up eating my dinner (usually after Hubcap, who is less of a soft touch, has evicted the Wow from his own lap - not without much 'mooing' and protest on Henry's behalf, of course).

The other pics show him enjoying one of his birthday presents: a Cosmic Catnip 'cat-fish' stuffed with pungent North American catnip - they claim it's the best in the world, and Henry seems to agree! The other gift was one he didn't appreciate as much, but I'm sure other cats will - a donation to the Cats Protection League to support their valuable work caring for lost, abused and abandoned cats, neutering feral cats and much more. So if you fancy giving Henry Wowler a present, why not send a donation on his behalf, or buy something from their shop? Cats in need will thank you for it!

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5th August

(Belated) Happy Yorkshire Day! Hope you had a good one on 1st August - and this post shows how we celebrated ours, appearing with our Frei Compagnie chums on behalf of Towton Battlefield Society for a Medieval Yorkshire Festival at the Crooked Billet.

Hubcap and I arrived at 9.30 am to set up, only to discover we were real late-comers compared to landlady Laura Charles - she'd been up since 4 am to start cooking an 11-stone pig for the hog-roast! But we made up for it later on, with a fine show of medieval military equipment next to the TBS Visitor Information Centre: on the right you can see Kevin with kit ranging from early post-Norman-Conquest to the 15th century, Dave with his crossbows, and Pete with his stripey pavilion full of Wars of the Roses goodies including a very interesting display on arrow-head making.

On the main field, Alex and I risked rape and pillage by setting up the kitchen with our customary 15th century feast next to a couple of Vikings! Yes, Stuart and Wayne decided to forego their armour for a day and represent the Dark Ages, as you can see in the picture below left. We also had our usual demonstration and have-a-go archery sessions (below right), at which Bill and Tim were shooting their Japanese bows - not strictly medieval Yorkshire, but a weapon in use on the other side of the world at the same time as Towton was fought. Folk interested in sword fighting were able to watch Dean with his colleagues from Kunst Des Fechtens (a European martial arts school concentrating on the longsword and other medieval weapons) enjoying an open-air training session; and for a little musical relief, Laura had hired The Grinnigogs (below centre) to play some beautiful period sounds. And we all had a jolly good time, especially since the forecast thundery downpours managed to miss us altogether... although possibly my favourite bit was relaxing with a cold beer and a generous plateful of roast pork at the end of our long, hot and very busy day!

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