Mon 6th March
Yesterday’s Frei Compagnie AGM at Leeds Royal Armouries marked the real end of an era: after serving for almost a decade since the group’s foundation in June 2007, Hubcap stood down from the post of Chair. He was delighted to pass the ‘hat of authority’ (represented by Treasurer Stuart’s somewhat rain-damp tweed cap) into the safe hands of a most worthy successor: Alex Harrison. I'm sure that she will do the job as ably as Wayne Reynolds is carrying out the Secretary post he took over from me at this time last year, being a re-enactor of very long standing, who has barely missed a Frei Co event since she and her husband Tony joined us in 2011. Alex has also thrown herself wholeheartedly into TBS, first as a prime mover in the Towton Tapestry Group project, and more recently as a member of the Executive Committee (in which capacity she has helped to clear the Society’s former ‘Hub’ at the Rockingham Arms in Towton, and get our new Visitor Information Centre Portacabin up and running at the Crooked Billet).
We’re extremely grateful to Alex for taking on the post - and to all other Frei Co members for their support over the years, and now for stepping up to relieve us of the group kit we’ve been storing and trucking for so long. I feel quite giddy at the idea
Frei Compagnie Chairs: old (Mick Doggett, left) and new (Alex Harrison, right) at Bolling Hall
that Mick and I can now choose to come to events as ordinary members, rather than having to turn out for everything with all the responsibilities that being an officer entails! I’m also very pleased that the group voted to have a peer-group training day for members to share their skills and experience in Health & Safety and use of weapons, because it should be interesting, useful and fun – and especially because we’re going to host it at Beckside at the end of September, with a party afterwards to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. That gives us an added incentive to do lots of land work over the summer, get the field nicely mowed, and make sure that everything is looking its best to receive guests for our first major event there. So it's off with the old and on with the new era for our beloved Frei Compagnie - long may it continue to grow and thrive!
Tomorrow night I’ll be launching a new talk for Sherburn Historical Society: The Brontës of Haworth, my attempt to paint a realistic portrait of one of our most famous and tragic literary families. I’m looking forward to it, having been a fan ever since mum gave me a copy of Charlotte’s Jane Eyre (one of her own favourite books) when I was a child; I still remember the impact it had on me, and the thrill of a family visit we subsequently made to the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth – and Emily’s Wuthering Heights remains one of my all-time favourite novels. So doing the research and preparation (including two more visits to Haworth and the moors last year) was a real pleasure, and I hope the audience will enjoy the talk rather than pelting me with rotten eggs – because despite my enjoyment of their writing, I’m not an uncritical Brontëmaniac and certainly don’t subscribe to the cult of ‘Saint Charlotte’! In fact I find the two elder sisters and their brother Branwell quite infuriatingly self-indulgent; Anne, the youngest, is a much easier character to like and seems by far the sanest among them. Having said that, I can identify with them all and feel great compassion for the sorrows and suffering they endured, which I hope will come over in the presentation.
If you’re interested in hearing this but can’t make tomorrow night, don’t worry - I’ll be repeating it for Doncaster & District Heritage Association History Festival at Doncaster Library on 28th April, for Doncaster Family History Association at the College for the Deaf on 26th July, and again for Garforth Probus Group’s Ladies’ Day at Garforth Working Men’s Club on 20th September.
One of the farm's muscovy ducks - not looking too happy because mating season is starting and he's just had a big bust-up with the other drakes!
Although Hubcap and I are occasional meat-eaters, we don’t like intensive farming, and find some of the processes entailed in the mass-production of animal products utterly abhorrent (like the ways in which unwanted male chicks are disposed of, which is too upsetting to post on here). So until we can start keeping our own sheep and fowl at Beckside, we’re opting out of the mainstream and are only going to buy from smaller, kinder places which really care about animal welfare. We now get our eggs from the Pennine Community, so that we can support a local good cause as well as being confident that the chickens concerned are well looked after; and on Saturday we went to check out a lovely supplier a few miles away from Wakefield, just past Oulton: Swillington Organic Farm.
This wonderful high-welfare farm specialises in rare breed, organic free-range meat, slaughtered, butchered and packed on site, which you can either buy direct from the butchery shop or have delivered in a 'Meat Box' made up to your own requirements. We did a big stock-up for the
freezer - stewing beef, diced lamb, beefburgers and Cumberland sausages - and some back bacon and wild garlic-flavoured sausages for immediate consumption. While (for obvious reasons) they were more expensive than the mass-produced equivalents, you can certainly taste the difference; the sausages were solid meat with a lovely granular texture, and the succulent, flavoursome bacon probably the best I've ever had... I'm looking forward to getting stuck into the rest of our supply, and we plan to order monthly meat boxes in future. So if you live in the Leeds area and want to eat meat with a clear conscience, check this place out - it's easy to find (just off the A642 and clearly signed), you can buy other organic products like milk, ice-cream and fruit and vegetables grown in their ancient walled garden, and they have lots of other activities there too, including guided farm tours and a venue for children's parties. Highly recommended!