Welcome welcome one and all, to yet another long awaited thrilling entry in the continuing saga on the times, trials and tribulations of life as a modern day medieval fool. Or as I prefer to call it “my blog”.
It’s been a busy summer, busier than normal, but that’s the way I want it. After all, to quote from the great prophet, “an unemployed jester is nobodies fool”. I could write 4 or 5 entries about the fun we’ve had this summer, but instead I’m going to concentrate on a couple of the best. I.E. “England’s Medieval Festival” (A.K.A. hersty) and “The Ancient Oak Medieval Fayre” (A.K.A. the ancient oak medieval fayre).
England’s Medieval Festival is a great event held over the August bank holiday at Herstmonceux castle near Hastings in east sussex. This was it’s 26th consecutive year, of which I think I’ve performed at the last 24. During that time it’s seen many changes and has grown from strength to strength. The most notable changes from my point of view is the inclusion of camping for the public (including some groovy glamping tents). This is a wonderful and unique chance to fully immerse oneself in 3 whole days (and nights) of medieval life. And lets face is, what child (aged 9-90) doesn’t want to spend the evening siting at a table, listening to some world class, kicking music, whilst chatting to knights, princess’s and of cause, the worlds sexist (and most humble) fool.
And if that’s not your thing, then there’s the outside cinema with an array of medieval themed films. Or maybe you want to really push the boat out and enjoy a medieval banquet held in the castles great banqueting hall. If you’re really lucky, then some knights might even invite you to join them in their camp as they sit around a fire, supping on ale or a bottle or two of mead from the greatest of all mead producers, The “Magic Mead” company. In my humble opinion they are purveyors of the some of the best meads I’ve ever tried (and over 30 years of medievaling means that, in my time, I have tried a mead or two).
The other main change from my point of view, is the inclusion of a wet weather contingency plan. This ensures that the fun continues regardless of the traditional bank holiday weather, but more on that latter, for I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let me start at the beginning, which for us was turning up on the Friday afternoon and, in a break from our normal hersty setting up routine, setting up in daylight. It’s so much easier (and a lot less painful) to hammer in 83 heavy duty metal tent pegs when you can see what your doing. And a lot easier to juggle in my shows when my thumbs aren’t swollen from misaimed mallet swings.
Over the years we and the adjacent shows and stalls have always set up in the same places and know exactly where to place ourselves. In our case we are between the 3rd and 7th posts of the fencing around kids kingdom. Unfortunately the site owners have removed the fence, meaning that I and my neighbours spent a good ten minutes standing there, scratching our heads, trying to work out who goes where. Luckily for us, although we only meet up once a year, we all class each other as good friends, so it was all sorted out without fistycuffs or lances at dawn.
Saturday morning greeted us with brilliant sunshine and the promise of a fun filled, action packed day, and so it was with a spring in our steps that Jester Dragonfly and I headed up to the front gate, eager to meet and welcome that mighty hord known as “the public”. Now it’s a long walk from our medieval encampment in kids kingdom all the way up to front of house, but one of the unique things about England’s Medieval Festival is the “gatters”. These are a fleet of golf carts that travel around the site. They are not just there to transport mega stars like my own humble self, but also members of the public. Simply wait until a gatter comes along, stick out your thumb, jump aboard (making sure its stopped first) and tell them where you wish to go. This free service is perfect for the elderly, parents with tiered out kids or those who simply fancy a ride.
As expected, it was a busy day and I was soon enjoying performing my “welcome routines”. These are a variety of short routines designed to get people in the mood for a fun day whilst also giving them some info on whats happening where. It also gives me the chance to interact 1 to 1 with people, thereby giving them the personal touch that this festival is well known for. Then, after a couple of hours of “welcome to england’s medieval festival. The best festival in the whole field” and other witty intros, it was time to head back to camp and get ready for my first show.
After checking all my kit was ready, I wandered out onto the footpath to talk to passers by. Telling kids, adult, dogs and anything else that ventured by that it was nearly show time and asking them to come and watch (well it’s really embarrassing if I’m the only one there). I need not of feared, for I had a great crowd and as I gazed out at them I recognised many faces of fans who come to see my kids show year after year. Some of them even had children with them!
After my show and a quick bit of lunch, it was time to do some walk about. I love doing walk about as you never know who you’re going to meet or what the kids are going to say. As such you have to be ready for any and everything. From kids who want to see magic, adults who want to hear a joke and people who need info or have a problem. As the face of the festival you need to be ready for it all. But walk about is also my chance to meet up with old friends, re-enactors, traders and members of the public who, over the years, have become true friends. Then, after my second show and yet more walk about, it was time to head back up to the gates and do the good byes.
Another thing I like about this festival is the fact that, even though it’s one of the largest of it’s kind, the orginisors still take the time to listen to ideas from us mere mortals. One idea I had was to build a platform for me inside the castle tower a the entrance/exit. Here I sit chatting to the public as they leave. Asking them if they’d had a good day (in all my years there no one has ever said no). Laughing and joking with them and performing various short good bye routines, including one where I portray rapunzel’s brother, repugnant.
Eventually the last of the day trippers, pushing prams full of tiered out babes leave and its time to have a couple of hours down time before my final show of the day. For although the kids kingdom has closed, we still have all the glampers and campers to entertain. This includes a fire possession from the camp site to the beer tent, where many bands perform through out the night. But that’s not something I take part in. My job is to perform for the grand banquet in the castles grand banqueting hall.
The Grand Banquet
Here the room is filled with 3 long tables. The two longest tables are surrounded by banqueters (if that’s not a real word, then it dammed well should be). The 3rd table is reserved for the nobles of the house, including the festivals very own king and queen. A lovely couple who, when not kinging, queening and presiding over banquets, spend their spare time running “The Crossed Keys“. A lovely old fashioned pub in Chatteris. If you’re ever in the area and want the very best in food and ales, all served in a old world setting, then you wont do better than visiting the crossed keys pub (tell them I sent you, I might make a free beer out of it). Then, at around 10pm, and only then, is my days work done and I can finally stop playing the part of the happy, care free fool and go back to being a misserable, child hating what name. (That’s a joke by the way. The truth is I love my job. It’s a true passion and oh so much better than working for a living). And so it is that, work finished, it’s time for a quick drink and dance to some great live music in the tavern, then off to bed, for tomorrows another busy day.
Sunday morning brought with it dark, heavy clouds and the promise of rain. But unlike other, lesser events, this doesn’t mean we remain shut, for here at england’s medieval festival the moto is “The show must go on”. For not only are there the campers and glampers to entertain, but over the years the daytrippers have also come to learn that we remain not only open, but also up and running.
The promised rain began to fall just as I started my first show of the day, but one of the percurlyatites that I’m known for, is my love of a challenge and the challenge was this. Do I stop my show and move it under cover (stopping part way through is never a good idea) or do I prove to myself that I’m good enough to be able to keep people standing in the rain for the next 20 minutes just to watch me? I’m proud to say that I raised to the challenge.
Now whenever I’m performing, at the back of my mind, there’s always the fear that, mid performance, I’ll mess up and my balls will drop. Add to this the slippery nature of my now wet balls and you can understand just how uncomfortable I felt. (should I pause awhile here whilst those of you with a childish mind stop sniggering). but that wasn’t the only problem. The stuffing in my horny hat isn’t waterproof and the added weight of the water in the stuffing meant that, as I jumped about, so I was constantly being slapped in the face by a soggy horn (oh please, stop laughing and just grow up).
Like I say, I love a challenge, so my 30 minute show lasted about 40 minutes, simply because it was so much fun to keep them there. But eventually I drew my show to a close, took a well deserved squelchy bow and quickly moved my equipment into the dry before venturing out once again into the rain, this time to perform walk about routines.
I’m lucky in the sense that I have a full length, woollen medieval coat which keeps all save my head not only dry, but also warm. So I was quite happy to wander around in the rain. As the rain got heavier and heavier, so I headed down towards the massive medieval market. Here I knew I’d find lots of traders who, due to the weather, weren’t going to do a lot of trade. So I amused myself by strolling around singing “summertime”, “oh what a beautiful morning” and other similar themed songs in such a happy manner that it was almost guaranteed to get on their nerves (hey, it’s one of the perks of the trade). And it was whilst strolling around that I saw a show the likes of which I’ve never seen before.
The jousting field was deemed too slippery for the horses to perform safely on, but our motto here is, as stated earlier, “the show must go on”. And so it was that I gazed upon the sight of crowds of people thoroughly enjoying getting soaking wet as they watched the jousters jousting without the horses!
Grown men in full armour running at each other with great big, long wooden poles, often slipping and fulling in the mud long before they reached their target, as they done a truly brilliant job of entertaining the crowds. It was one of the funniest thing I’ve seen in a long time and proof of just how hard everyone at England’s Medieval Festival works to make it one of the best shows around. regardless of the weather.
Monday was, thankfully another dry day and warm enough to cause steam to raise from soggy knights and damp damsels. The crowds were larger than normal and a great time was had by all as knights battled, jousters jousted (with horses this time) and I, your humble narrator, donned his spare, dry hat and spent the day fooling, juggling, magicing and all the other “ings” that one would expect from Britain’s premier humble fool. Then, after the last show was completed and the last goodbye said, it was time to pack up our tents, wring out our soggy bits and finally head home from what must be one of the best and most enjoyable herstys we had in a very long time.
But our time at home was somewhat short lived. For we arrived home late Tuesday night. Unpacked and washed kit Wednesday, then repacked Thursday ready to venture forth once more bright and early on the Friday. This time to a smaller, yet no less entertaining show known as “The ancient Oak Medieval Fayre“.
The Ancient Oak Medieval Fayre
Based just outside of Cambridge, this is a wonderful medieval show put on by a friend of mine. In fact the show is so good that Jester Dragonfly and I are always more than happy to not only perform at it, but also help by crewing free of charge. I also supplied free advertising for them on both, TV and radio. You can watch and listen to them by clicking on the red links, but I wont as I hate watching myself.
Like all good shows it had all the basic elements of a fun filled medieval re-enactment. I.E. knights in armour hitting each other on the head in a historical manner, jousting from the world famous “Horsemen of the knight“. living history camps with Vikings, Saxons and of course medieval encampments from over 10 different re-enactment groups! It had a medieval market where one could buy anything from mead to armour, wooden swords to full on, double-handed war axes forged by master blacksmiths and oh so much more.
There was a wonderful, Birds of Prey display by Tim and Tina from “ Out on a Wing Falconry “. This lovely couple perform one of the best falconry displays I’ve seen in a very long time and are also really nice people who have a true love for their birds. So if you’re looking for a display for a show or birthday treat, or maybe you want to give someone special a one to one day flying birds. Then give them a call. You really wont be disappointed.
there was even a chance to tryout your skills as an archer care of the “Phoenix Warlords Medieval Re-enactment“. The rather good and nicely priced beer tent was supplied by “The Trolls Bottom” and came complete with an array of fine ales and ciders as well as mead and a selection of their own flavoured spirits.
Our dear friends “The Pentacle Drummers” were there performing with ear splitting enthusiasm as they beat dried animal skins with lumps of wood and I, your poor humble narrator, performed comic skills of mystery and dexterity. All this and more was happening at east Anglia’s biggest and bestest medieval re-enactment, all contained in a field just a few miles from the centre of Cambridge city.
Now every gig is different. They all have their strong points and their weak points. and the strong point about this event, the one thing that sticks out in my mind even more than the awesome entertainment, is it’s feel. It’s like being on your local village green with family and mates.
It was a sunny weekend and families set up house on the green surrounding the main arena. Spreading out blankets and picnics as they settled down for a fun filled day. Once settled they could let their kids run free, safe in the knowledge that they could watch them from a distance as, vorpal swords in hand, they challenged other kids to do battle. As the kids from one family made friends with kids from another family, so their parents would chat and new friendships were made.
Then the 5 kids fighting each other would decide to team up and fight the kids from a couple of other families At one point I sat at my tents, watching as this happened and thinking that it was like watching 11 year olds acting out “Game of thrones” (but with less blood and more clothing).
There was an array of food outlets, including one of my personal favorites “Dragonjaks“. A wonderful bunch of chefs who not only knock out great food at great prices whilst smiling and chatting with folk, but also kept me in a constant supply of coffee. Even the medieval market had a big family feel, for it was chock-a-block full of the “cream de la cream” of traders. All of them being the old school type of people who would always go that extra mile to help someone out, be they fellow traders or members of the public.
Next to our colourful, medieval encampment was a “have a go archery” stall, run by The phoenix war band. These are a wonderful bunch of reenactors who banded together to raise money for charity. Their have a go encampment has a range of bows of different size and strength to cater for all ages and the money they raise goes towards good causes. They also had a large, square medieval tent with the sides taken down so that they had some shade. And here it was that the true star of this blog, the stupendous Stormageddon, had his Stupendous haircut.
“But what” I here you cry “Is so stupendous about a haircut”? Well read on dear reader, for all shall be revealed.
Storms Sponsored Haircut
Our son, the fazmagorical Storm (A.K.A Stormageddon) is very nearly 7 (14th of September) in all those long years, he has never had, what my parents would call “a real haircut”! and he is very well known for his long, flowing blond locks. However, earlier this year he told us that he wanted, as he put it, “A boys haircut”.
Neither his mother, Jester Dragonfly, or myself wanted him to lose his rupunzalish look, but at the same time, he is now old enough to make the decision, and so it was that we begrudgingly agreed. After a talk with him about it he decided to do several things. The first was that he wanted to donate his hair to “The Princess Trust“. A wonderful charity that make wigs for children who, due to cancer and other illness’s, have lost their hair. Something that I personally feel is a wonderful idea made even more beautiful by it’s pure simplicity.
He also decided to see if people would sponsor his hair cut to raise money for 3 other good causes.
- Muscular Dystrophy UK are a wonderful charity who work in a number of ways with and for those who, like Storms cousin, suffer from this genetic condition. As we have the condition in our family it is, understandably, a subject close to our hearts.
- The Anne Harris Children’s fund are a small charity who raise funds for child related good causes. They were also the main funders for my work with children in conflict zones and, when we told them that we needed £2000 for a hoist to lift my nephews wheelchair into the car, offered to fund the whole lot!
- Last but by no means lest, he wanted to raise money for his beaver pack (like cubs but for younger kids) as he wanted to give something back for all the fun.
We decided to set a goal of £1,000 to be shared equally between the 3 . I’ll be honest here and tell you that I was really worried that we had set the goal too high and he would be disappointed when we failed to reach it. I’m immensely proud to say that I need not of worried. For not only has he reached his goal, but he has passed it! I cant tell you how much yet, as the money is still coming in and people are still donating. Some in person with hard cash, others via his fund raising page https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/stormshaircut
To all our friends, in-laws, nephews and total strangers who donated and/or shared his page on social media, we here at the fools house would like to send you our sincere thanks. Indeed “Thank you” falls far short of the gratitude we feel for your amazing response. There are way too many of you to mention here, but what I will say is that “the phoenix warband” made the largest, single donation. Something that literally brought tears to Jester Dragonfly’s eyes (where as I, being a manly type of man, merely had smoke in my eyes).
The cutting of the hair was performed, free of charge by the lovely Sue from “Short Back And Sides” in March and was happening at the same time as one of my shows, so I didn’t see the work in progress, just the end result, and what a result! Truth is I hardly recognized him as he looked so…….well……..normal! And I’ll never forget the look on his face when I took a photo and showed him what he now looks like. I admit to having a fear that he wouldn’t like it and would ask for it to be put back on, followed by the tears when we say that we cant. However he was totally amazed by his new look and also (I’m relieved to say) impressed with it, and still is.
Sadly sold out
Eventually this event had to do what all events do, I.E. come to an end. And so it was that, with heavy heart, I waved goodbye to happy parents and tired children. However, my sadness at their departure was short lived, as the event owner not only paid us cash, but even gave it to me rather than the better half! And so it was that, with a skip in my step, I headed at full speed towards a stall going by the name of “The king of Cups“.
I’d strolled by their stall earlier in the day and just happened to notice that they were selling their own brand of chilli mead. Now as anyone who knows me will tell you, I love chilli’s, so I sampled a wee taster. It is one of the best chilli meads I’ve had in a long time. Not only is it a lot hotter than most commercially available chilli meads, but (and this is what all chilli lovers look for) it had a real depth of flavour.
Stood there as way after wave of flavour washed against the inside of my cheeks like a finely mixed napam and paint stripper cocktail, before swallowing and enjoying its warming feel slide down my throat, kicking my tonsils on route with all the subtleness of a welsh rugby team on a stag night. “Yes” I thought “I want a bottle of this”. So you can imagine my disappointment when my eagerly held out hand of hard cash was met with the news that they’d sold out! And so it was that, with a crushed heart I returned to our encampment, handed our wages over to Jester Dragonfly and broke camp, ready to head homeward.
I can’t say how good this festival is and also how much bigger than last years. If it keeps on growing at this rate then some of the more established local events had better watch out and up their game. As this has all the promise of becoming one of East Anglia’s major attractions.
But enough of times past and onto up and coming events:
Cambridge Living History Fair
I’ve been performing at “The Cambridge Living History Fair” since it first started, many moons ago. Since then, it has simply gone from strength to strength. “But what it a living history fair” I hear you ask “And would I, a mere member of the public enjoy it”? Again you can check out the link above or read My review of The Cambridge living history fair in my blog entry entitled “My review of The Cambridge living history fair“.
King Henry’s Christmas Court
This year King Henry the 8th will be holding a Christmas court at the Mary Rose museum in Portsmouth. The quite sensibly named “King Henry’s Christmas Court” will be held over several weekends in the build up to and over the Christmas period. And what king would dare to hold court without his trusty fool, yours truly the one and only DevilStick Peat. I’ve never performed here before, but a couple of years ago we took the kids to the museum and everyone, adults and kids alike, had a great time.
And on the subject of Christmas. Booking are coming in fast. So if you’re charged this year with finding great entertainment for your works christmas bash, medieval banquet, or Christmas market, then why not hire the best. The one and only DevilStick Peat.
Well that’s all for now folks, but before I go I’d just like to wish our son and the true star of our show, the one and only Stormageddon a very happy birthday.