Wednesday, 13 July 2016

& now for something completely different (Twie)

July the first was finally upon me!  

 I would be finishing the last day (early shift) of my current job on Thursday and coming home to get ready to go and catch a coach off to S/W Germany with many other members of the Free Company, who have been attending since 1996 and are something of a fixture.
 This would not only be my first non-Napoleonic event but also my first Brettan, fifteen or so hours on a coach away, with a brief pit stop in Luxemburg.

                                    The more simple travel attire.

First business on arrival was a supermarket for group food and beer, we would have our own bar set up in camp so crates of German beer made a goodly chunk of the shop, once at the site, a green space outside the original town walls we formed a human chain to unload the bus. A few of us first timers were given a brief tour of the town, though everything is pretty much in a ten minute walk of everything else.

Official duties that day included a practice parade and battle rehearsal, the battlefield is just a small park and different groups come on and off, it isn't that the festival is around the reenactment, there is so much going on.
 As a newbie I was asked to be a casualty who would then be treated, we would go on and fight a round when it was out turn then after that would be a scene with me as a walking wounded. Dusk was falling, I put on my sallet (enclosed helmet) as advised and fought our tussel, could I see 'a woman with a flag' who I was meant to stagger over to? No, could I see much of anything.. not much, was I sure this was 'After the first battle'?
I had practiced fighting with the helmet on but doing it when looking for someone in a park, with bodies and debris on the ground to avoid treading on, and no peripheral vision certainly made me see why few people have a visor down on a helmet.
So basically I missed the cue, but nevermind, all would be alright on the night.

I had been surprised that most of the group sleep in a gymnasium at the school just round the corner, all laid on by the town, but I predictably choose to remain in the camp.
                                            A proper hat.

I slept fairly well once the occasional beat box boy racer had gone home to mother and awoke with breakfast on my mind. 
We all got breakfast laid on although I had not seen where.. I set off clutching my wooden bowl and hoping my natural sense of free-food location would guide me. It did, and I was surprised at how few people had arrived, they were all still asleep but began filtering through by my third coffee.

I was on duty from one, split into two shifts, one will look after camp and run errands, tidy up, prepare food, etc etc whilst the rest are free, on the Sunday it changes to shift B. 
I still had time in the morning to buy some bells and get them sown on, which was also my first go at sewing, a hugely useful skill for any reenactor, only one bell fell off over the weekend so it can't have been that bad. I also got some on a leather band to tie around my ankle. 

Strangley I usually HATE jingly things, I have to re-arrange loose change in my pockets normally but in this role I actually wanted more such jingling.

           A marksman's competition and the sherperd's leap were local events now part of the festival weekend.
In the afternoon the on-shift went to help with a childrens fayre, tilting at targets, crossbow range, pretend drill, etc and I found myself in charge of the balloon-pig spearing. A balloon is tied to a board with a wild boar on it, and lots of dents. Some kids charged and popped the balloon first time, some just pushed it about for a while as it squeaked and wobbled. It does take a special sort of resolve to stand still holding a wooden board that a spear waving child is running at, but I survived, unlike about eighty balloons.  My enthusiasm for cheering was waning after the first fifty or so. Still good fun.

Before the battle I had to go and get a prostetic wound made up, this was actually made almost entirely of pork, a blood bag and some string and paste. It might not have been entirely fresh pork by saturday afternoon. I also had two halves of an arrow to place in position when a volley came over in the battle.

and so we kitted up and awaited out turn, bish, bash, bosh! being a Swordsman against bills and halberds I decided it was best to reverse the blade and stab downwards, two handedly, which was a traditional style but also meant I could join in the pike fighting as no one makes head height attacks for obvious reasons.
We fell back and over came a volley of arrows. Aaaaaah! I was down and the arrow stuck through my arm, I wondered the field as everyone diappeared and a lady from the surgeons led me away, my arm was braced in a rack as I sat across a bench and the arrow snapped and removed, Screams! und Gott in Himmel! then came the red hot iron, an actual hiss and smell of burnt flesh as it was cauterised, more screams 'Es tut mir Leid!' (I am sorrry!) and I was being led away.  I got a good view of the rest of the battle though and everyone formed up and the drummers hammered away with such a rythme that everyone was stamping or clapping along to it, it was like that bit in 'A knight's tale' with 'We will rock you' playing. Then there was some cheers and thank you and goodnight!

Next day there was only a parade in the early afternoon for us, it got underway quite quickly (having done several such they usually run late with many stops and starts) but after a short time we came off the road and waited whilst much of the parade passed us, there were leppers, dogs, charcoal burners, farmers throwing carrots and radishes into the crowds.. several troupes of flag hurlers, several bands very big on drums and trumpets, goats, horse drawn wagons, washerwomen, and of course bands of landskneckts.. whom we joined in behind and had a bit of a rumble in the main square, before tromping on to another square where we formed a pike/halberd block facing outwards... and back to the Brettan camp for a photo of all of everyone together.

Back to camp and a sit down for a while and an early dinner of cheese and bread and corn on the cob and a rest up, followed by a spot of packing up the camp by those on shift. I wondered into town to spend my last beer token, and found the Brettan camp once more, which is a space only for those in pretty full on kit and a hat, the reenactors bar really. 

Free food was put out and a barrel opened up for all, Hurrah! We were then entertained by a comedy circus-skills type duo with juggling, songs, balloon shapes, and some acrobatics performed on a grid made of pikes hoisted on the shoulders of a dozen landsknechts. 

More of the Free company arrived and we took over the big main table under a canvas, one of our bearded veterans, Keith, was proclaimed king as he had found a crown somewhere. Later in the evening our youngest trooper was accused of soiling the royal tablecloth without due respect or repentance and I was clerk of the court as a charge was brought up, he was sentenced to running the gauntlet and grew upset. The sentence was suspended until next year. 

At this point signs went up at the bar 'Queue here for EU citizens' and 'Queue here for non-EU citizens (back in half an hour)' , I told them we came from Austria which they seemed to find highly amusing, and we got served (that was never in doubt). I may have stood on a bench and given a short speech in my fantastic German at this point about how much I love Germany and Europe and many of us wanted nothing to do with Brexit. 'Nicht in meinem Namen' (not in my name) has strong connotations in Germany.  My oration did at least get me bought a drink from a local fraulein. Probably out of pity. 

          Due to my phone getting cracked on Saturday evening, here is an artist's impression of events.

Another highpoint of the weekend was that we were then officially presented with a full size Brettan flag as a sign of gratitude for the group supporting the event for the last twenty years and I spent the rest of the evening glued to it, and shielded it when we came under attack from flying bangers! 
By now dawn was in the air, the sky turning blue, this is also something of a Brettan tradition for some of the Free company as it means you can then sleep really well on the coach and be oblivious for a good portion of the long return journey. It worked for me. 

                             I save having a bath until I get home!

oh lovely Brettan! the date of next years event is already out so I might have to book as soon as I am able. Definitely going to become a regular thing and maybe the only chance I get to bring out the full on Landskneckt kit once a year, bells and all. 

Memories are made of this. 

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