September 2013


10th September


Good grief, it's autumn already - and the Frei Compagnie's event season has just ended on a suitably high note with our traditional appearance at lovely Ledsham Fayre. Luckily, the torrential downpours that drenched the country on Friday 6th had all cleared up by the following day, and we enjoyed fine weather and great crowds round our living history camp and shows. (On the left, you can see Rob and Wayne in the foreground, mixing it up with a little sword practice, and behind them, the queue waiting for the perenially-popular have-a-go archery). One thing I particularly enjoyed was narrating a brief re-enactment of the death of Richard III, where Rob and Hubcap attacked an unhelmed Wayne (not for real, of course!) with the range of weapons used to slay King Richard at Bosworth. It might be pretty gruesome but it went down well with the audience - and it's a rare thing to be able to reconstruct (based on the forensic archaeology) exactly how such a famous historical figure met their fate, so we're planning to develop this into a more detailed vignette to deliver at future events.

I also enjoyed doing a bit of early Christmas shopping, since Ledsham Fayre is justly renowned for the excellent market that runs alongside all the other entertainments, competitions and exhibitors. The market sells all sorts of things from fresh local produce, plants and flowers to artworks and handicrafts. In previous years, I've seldom got past the hand-made fudge stall, but this year I spent most of my time and money (alright, Hubcap's money) on Happy Tree Cosmetics. This lovely local company is run by Wayne Bradley, a friend of Towton Battlefield Society, and supplies a range of the most delicious, all natural bath and body products and scented candles, attractively presented in re-usable tins and Kilner jars. You can see a selection on the right: Raspberry & Rose Himalayan Bath Salts (heavenly), Lemon & Patchouli Bath Salts (smell good enough to eat), and two long-burning soy candles (Lemon & Patchouli and Orange & Ginger) in the foreground. I treated myself to a tin of the Lemon & Patchouli bath salts and a matching pot of shea-butter/jojoba body balm - they're among the most gorgeously-scented cosmetics I've ever had the pleasure to use, made my skin feel beautifully soft and smooth, and the perfume lasted for ages. So if you're looking for an unusual and special gift for someone - or just a real treat for yourself - I can wholeheartedly recommend the Happy Tree!

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27th September


We've been making the most of the past couple of weeks of glorious Indian summer with some great seasonal activities, among them enjoying the second Towton Battlefield Society Palm Sunday Archers competition shoot last Sunday. In 2012, the prize was the coveted Towton Arrow trophy, which Hubcap stole from me with a last-minute lucky cabbage shot - so this year was a real grudge-match between us (as everyone was at great pains to point out!). And here we are in action: me on the left, sporting our new 'White Tree of Gondor' bracer (thanks, Wayne Reynolds!) and Mick on the right, on the way to losing his title of 'Best TBS Archer'. Sadly, not to me... even though I shot fairly well and consistently throughout, and especially in the final 'Fun Shoot' where I picked up 63 points on 'archery darts' and a bonus 100 by hitting  'Captain Cabbage' in the head. Alas, for the second year running I was beaten into second place - this time by TBS member Eric Thorpe, who finished in grand style by planting all three of his arrows in that ruddy cabbage! My only consolation was that I beat Hubcap (oh, and all the other blokes - hah!). Although, afterwards, a pint and a good Crooked Billet dinner of salmon fillet on crushed potatoes with vegetable medley did go some way towards cheering me up...


Otherwise, our fine weekends have been largely spent processing the wonderful bounty of fruit and vegetables that have come our way, thanks to a summer of good growing weather. On the left you can see me plying the fruit press as we render down several stone of apples into juice for Hubcap's latest batch of cider (two gallons now blurping away in the kitchen and clearing nicely). We've got more apples and pears to process into juice for the freezer this weekend... and in the meantime, I've been doing lots of preserving! Our John Downey crab-apple tree (below left) gave its biggest crop to date this year, so I had my first stab at making crab-apple jelly - messy, but well worth it! One big advantage of making jelly instead of jam is that the fruits don't need peeling or coring (good job with crab-apples or there'd be nowt left of them) - you just cook them to a mush and drain the juice out through a fine-mesh bag (below centre). It also seems to set a lot faster than jam, so you have to work pretty quick to get it into the jars! And below right are some of the 'fruits', so to speak, of my labours: left to right, redcurrant jelly, spiced apple preserve and crab-apple jelly - gorgeous colours and textures, infinitely tastier than the mass-produced versions (especially the redcurrant), and altogether satisfying way of using up large quantities of seasonal produce. I guess I'd better go out and pick some more brambles now...

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