September 2011

26th September

When all our Frei Compagnie events are such fun it seems unfair to single out one for special praise... but the weekend we've just spent at Bolling Hall was (apart from Palm Sunday) the highlight of the season for me. The building itself, with its medieval, Civil War and Georgian/later history, is incredible - and worked very well with our show. Inside in the house-body, with its marvellous stained glass armourial window, we had Lady Frances working on her calligraphy (joined by Doctor Neil with his medical show on Sunday). Outside, we set up a nice little camp under the trees next to the building: the kitchen (ably staffed by Alex), TBS tent, and Des's armoury and guns, plus a small archery/gunnery range. The formal knot-gardens in front of the Hall made a perfect setting for Stu and Dean to do their combat displays (aided by Squire Doggett!) - and the patio was ideal for the children's bill-drill, which attracted probably the largest 'army' we've ever had on an event!

On Saturday, we enjoyed near-perfect autumn weather and a large, enthusiastic crowd... then repaired to the house-body for our end-of-season feast - a great extravaganza of medieval foods, complete with after-dinner entertainment, including Hubcap (aka 'El Gusto') knocking 'em dead (almost literally) with his rendition of the popular medieval party-trick 'Leap,Whistle and Fart'! Then I read a ghost-story to get us in the mood for the climax of the evening: a 'ghost walk' around the Hall by candlelight! Alas, I didn't see any myself, although sceptical husband had a couple of weird encounters; first a door slamming and rattling behind him for no apparent reason; and upstairs, the sound of someone breathing as if asleep in the four-poster bed against which he was leaning - he said that made the hairs rise on the back of his neck! But all I experienced were feelings of intense sadness at some of the tragic stories our guide Paul related... and almost unbearable discomfort in what I can only call the 'Red Room': a ghastly boudoir done out like a miniature whore-house with crimson brocade walls, curtains and hideous gilded canopied 'passion couch'. Apparently certain, ahem, activities have been seen and heard on said couch... but to me the room was like a horror movie set - anything less erotic I simply couldn't imagine. Gosh, was I glad to get out of there... and I suspect we were all quite relieved to go home at the end of the evening rather than camping in the Hall overnight!

But ghosts or no, we were back again bright and early (or rather, dull and rainy) on Sunday morning to do it all over again. And despite the miz weather for the first part of the day, we got great crowds again... 1471 visitors counted into the Hall over the full weekend - not including those who just stayed out in the grounds watching the shows! So a real success all round - needless to say, we'll be going back again in 2012. And I can recommend Bolling Hall to anyone for a visit - the grounds and building are beautiful, the collections and period furniture fascinating, and the staff incredibly helpful and friendly. You can find further details on the Bradford Museums website... including of the next event, 'Dark Gatherings', on Hallowe'en (Monday 31st October), when you can go along between 5.30 - 8.30 pm and take a guided ghost tour - if you dare!

20th September

Gosh, I don't know if I'm coming or going... have been keeping some very strange hours this past week, partly due to the sniffly remnant of my cold, and partly to being in an Angorian writing frenzy... I'm well into Chapter 16 of Book 2 now, and on track for publication early next year!

But I did break off last week for a little foray to the Royal Armouries in Leeds, to help out with a forthcoming programme on BBC 4 (provisionally titled 'Bullets, Boots & Biscuits' or 'How To Go To War'). Sadly for my media tart tendencies, I wasn't in front of the camera - but our re-enactment kit was! I'd trucked some stuff over - the kind of things one of Henry V's soldiers might have carried or used at Harfleur - to illustrate an interview with our chum and fellow TBS member, battlefield archaeologist Tim Sutherland:

cider apple sorting
cider kit

Picking out rotten apples, slugs and other grot The gear: pulping bucket, juice bucket & press

Far right: Pulping the apples with a gizmo attached to an electric drill - and proudly displaying the results!

Below: Mick 'presses his cheese' (ooh er, Missus!) till the juice runs into the bucket... and at the end of the day, decanted into demijohns with yeast added, that's what we got...