Before I tell you all about “The Cambridge Living History Fair“, let me firstly apologize for the late posting of this blog. We’ve had massive computer issues here at the fool house. I.E. no computer. But, because I know how much you all look forward to my blog, and have no doubt been wondering if you’ve missed my latest chapter in the life of a modern day medieval fool, so those wonderful people at “Bridgit designs” have added a new app to my website. If you just look to the right of the main blog page, you will see a piece that says “subscribe to the blog”. Just add your email address and every time I write a new entry, you’ll get an email to let you know. Thereby insuring that you need never again panic over whether or not you’ve missed another chapter in this, thrilling insight into the world of foolery.
Lastly, I’d like to give a special thank you to Evi Watts for the wonderful photographs. More of her
work can be found on her Facebook page at “Evi Watts photography”
What is a living history fair?;
October saw me working at “The Cambridge living history
fair”. Which isn’t actually held in Cambridge, but at Woodgreen animal sanctuary. Which isn’t actually in Woodgreen, but in Godmanchester.
“But what” I hear you ask “is a living history fair”? Well read on oh ardent reader, and all shall be revealed.
A living history fair is a themed market. A place where purveyors of all things historical gather together to sell their wonderful wares. Here you can buy anything from Viking arrows to Victorian antiques, full sized spinning wheels to fabulous silverware and a lot more besides.
Even if you’re not into history or re-enactment, there’s still lots of goodies guaranteed to tempt you. There’s medieval mead, period novels, beautiful handmade dresses, super soft sheep skins and surprisingly unique Christmas presents galore. Things like classic toys and games made from real wood (none of your cheap plastic rubbish here) and large unicorn bean bags that would look great in your little princess’s bedroom. You could even walk away having hired a roman legion or joined a period polish army.
And at this particular fair, unlike so many others, you needn’t worry about the kids getting bored as you wander around, awe struck by the goods for sale. For Bernie, the organizer of “The Cambridge Living History Fair” hires in some great family entertainment for…….. well, all the family.
The ninth legion of the roman empire was there, teaching young legionnaires skill at arms with short sword and shield. A story teller brought to life an age when dragons roared, heroes quested, and lovers? well they done what lovers do best. There was even an amazing harper playing ageless ballads and of cause, yours truly was there, performing a range of walk about and stage shows that appealed to to of all ages, from 4-400.
Saturday, day one;
I arrived on the Saturday morning and was pleased to see many familiar faces. Not just people I know, but people who I class as real friends, all gathered together under one roof. This weekend was going to be fun. All I had to do was perform, have fun and not spend too much money on all the glorious goodies that
were up for grabs.
In between shows I was performing walk-about routines. This gave me a chance to catch up with old friends. Reminisce about shows gone by and maybe try or comment on their latest products.
One such trader was the infamous Dr T. Bottom, owner of “The Trolls Bottom” bar and a man with a real passion for making fine flavored spirits. One of his latest concoctions is a smooth and deceptively mellow “honey rum”. He wanted my opinion on it and well, it’s good to help your friends, so I tried a little taster. Was it yet another one of his finer wonders? Well let’s put it this way. I walked away a little poorer and he was now minus one bottle and a little richer.
Martin from “Cowleys Fine Foods” was also there with his jerked meat and vegan thingies stall. With his “brake lights red” hair and “lieutenant sharp green” millitary tailcoat, Martain is a somewhat colourful and flamboyant person. He has a northern accent and the abillity to take what to you and I may, at first glance, sound like unlikely foods, such as horse, kangaroo and scorpion, and turn them into culinary delights such as kangaroo marinated in thai green curry sauce. Marketed as “Tank girl treats, Thai me kangaroo down”.
If foreign foods aren’t your thing, then how about his “My brittle pony, pony expressso”. Here’s what his website says about it.
“This is a new addition to our range, horse meat is lean, healthy and full of flavour. This jerky is made with espresso coffee, Dijon mustard, garlic and a dash of Soy Sauce and is guaranteed to contain no horse meat substitutes such as beef. Once opened it needs to be eaten within 5 years.
But my favourite thing about his stall. the thing that makes my mouth water every time I think about Cowleys fine foods, is his range of chilli thingies. From dried chilli mushrooms to thick moist chilli sauces, this stall has it all. His sauces come in a variety of strengths, from sissy weak to “ouch ouch ouch ouch ouch”, but all of them come with a decadent depth of flavour that washes over you in waves that, depending on the sauces strength, can be anything from ripples on the shore to surf that tsunami. Somehow I managed to enter his stall to try a taster, pay for one bottle, yet walk out with 3! Not that I’m complaining.
Another one of those old friends is “Bernie The Bolt“. bernie isn’t just the organizer of this event. he also runs a historical haberdashery. Selling rolls of felt, cotton and the finest silks. All of which are needed by re-enactors from all periods. Oh, and there’s one other thing bernie is known for. Bernie is what I call “one of nature’s gentlemen”. A nicer, more honest chap you’d be hard to find anywhere.
As I stopped to chat with him, so I couldn’t help but notice a large roll of bright red felted wool. The type that would look really good in my next motley. I knew that I had no choice but to buy some. Not so much because I wanted it, but because I knew that my wife, Jester Dragonfly would also spot it, and it takes a braver man than me too stand between her and my hard earned wages.
So far the not spending too much of my wages part of the plan wasn’t actually going to plan, but hey, you know what they say about a fool and his money. As for the rest of the plan, I.E. perform and have fun, that at least was going well. So two out of three aint bad.
Saturdays work came to a close and I was given a lift home by Rachel of “Brighid Designs”, our favorite seamstress of choice. She has made some wonderful creations for Jester Dragonfly, but the main reason we use her is because it’s hard to improve on perfection. Her two children had spent the day at the fool house, playing with Stormageddon and we arrived home to find a lovely home made meal, all piping hot and waiting for us. Andy the storyteller had also joined us and was staying the night at our house. It felt quite Walton-esk as children and adults crammed around the dining table passing bowls of munchies from person to person. Plates became laden with food, cleared of food, then re-ladened again. Then, with bellies bigger than Donald Trump’s mouth, we retired to the sitting room for an evening of polite chat before bed.
Sunday, day two;
Sunday was very similar to the day before, but with one difference. Sunday I took my harp “Leanne Shee” with me.
Leanne is a 26 string lever harp made by “Starfish Designs” up in scotland. Although they are not the cheapest of harps, and last time I checked there was around a year’s waiting time between ordering and collecting your harp. The fact is Starfish harps are more than a practical, performance grade harp. They are practical, performance grade works of audio art, and the after care you receive from their small team of experts is second to none. I’ve never had a harp like her, she is worth every penny and then some.
I gave her the name “leanne Shee” as it’s a play on the Irish words “Leannan Sidhe”. The leannan Sidhe are irish fairy folk. They are generally depicted as a beautiful muse who falls in love with and offers inspiration to a bard in exchange for for his love and devotion. However, although this results in him composing wonderful works of music, it also drives him into madness and premature death. But hey, that’s the celts for you. They love a happy ending.
Playing harp in a hall full of my peers, as well as more than one historical musician wasn’t scary. It was terrifying. So I found a quiet spot and sat with my back against the wall. Then I placed Leanne on my lap and my fingers on her strings. I then waited a few seconds as I took a deep breath or two, then started to play.
Thankfully I got many compliments for my playing and more than one person was surprised when the fool proved that he could actually knock out a half decent tune or two. Hitting all the right notes, just not necessarily in the right order. One stall holder was so impressed that he felt compelled to leave his stall and come over and compliment me. Telling me that I was the best live music he’d heard all weekend! It was only latter that I realized that I was the only live music he’d heard all weekend.
A good friend of mine, Chad, was so impressed that he put a clip of it on youtube. Which can be viewed here
Dr T. Bottom must of seen how nervous I was as he offered me yet another taster to calm my nerves. This time it was a drink known as “Cloudy water”. My view of which is thus:
If you had a good night last night and awoke with a cloudy head, then cloudy water is what you need. It will not only clear your head with all the vigour of a blackboard eraser, but also (if drunk in sufficient quantity), knock you out again until tal pain has past. An aniseed based drink that is not so much a pernod, more of a per-yes. As in “purrrrrrrr yes, oh yes, I need a bottle of that”.
I must say that I was quite impressed and surprised by people’s reaction to my harp playing and, encouraged by their compliments, spent the day swapping between walk-about, shows and harp playing.
Then 4 o’clock came and the fair came to a close. So, with harp in hand and goodies galore, I headed home, not as rich as I’d hoped (for I’d spent more than I’d meant to) but happy and (dare I say it, yes I dare) proud, not of my harp playing skills, but rather of the fact that I’d been brave enough to try playing in front of my peers.
So, having read my review of one of Britain’s best living history fairs, are you sorry you missed it? Well fear not oh ardent readers, for this momentous event is now so popular that it happens not just once, but twice a year! Always in October and February, and always with loads and loads of free entertainment. So dig out your diaries and make a date for the 18th and 19th of February when woodgreen animal centre will once again pay host to The Cambridge Living History Fair.
Lastly, if you scroll down to the bottom of the page. You will see that there is an app that allows you to sign up to my newsletter. Don’t worry, I’ll not inundate you with loads of rubbish, but I will occasionally contact you with a list of events I’m attending. Many of which are free. It will also contain links to websites offering discounted entry to events as well as previously unseen clips of yours truly in action. So go on, take the plunge. I dare you.
Finally, if you’re enjoying these blogs, please leave a comment on the comments part. It’s not only nice to get feedback, but it also helps with my google ranking.
So until next time I bid you all adue and fare thee well.