When I started university (because yes, I am horribly privileged), during Fresher’s Week my now-fiancée told me about a session he went to with “Batsoc”. “Huh?” was my response. He then went on to tell me that it was the university’s Battle Re-Enactment Society, and they do the Middle Ages (a phrase woefully inept as I would find out). This meant he had spent a few hours walking around a patch of grass in helmet, shield and waving a sword about whilst simultaneously trying not to have an asthma attack.
My first response to this was pretty typical of most people when they hear about it – “why on Earth would you ever want to do that?”. A year later I finally gave it a go. Well, I say I gave it a go. I went to their craft session first, and made a rather fetching red hood and started making a leather pouch (which I still haven’t finished).
Whilst doing any craft in a large group, you inevitably start talking to people – whether it’s asking how they do a certain thing (like “how do you do chain mail?”) to just chatting, you start to talk. Thankfully, these were people who were all like-minded, including someone who let me try on a lovely authentic dress they had made, and let me geek out about fabric and crafty things in all their glory.
So naturally when I next met up with them I tried to kill them.
I will stress that I mean PRETEND kill them, with blunted steel swords, but it still involved a lot of shouting and wonderfully over-the-top pretends deaths. I don’t remember much of the training session, but I do remember trying and failing to keep my shield up at a respectable height towards the end of the session, and trying very hard to yell “OOOT!” and “NORMANDYYYYYYY!” with a very hoarse throat.
Since then, I was hooked.
If truth be told, it wasn’t the prospect of being an amazing swordsman and being able to kill anyone I came across that kept me there. It was the prospect of putting on a good show. I enjoyed the dying more than winning – I still don’t quite know what to do with myself if I win a fight. It bought into my attention-seeking side, and had never quite let itself go.
And then Hastings arrived. What a culture shock. I always hated camping, but a weekend at Hastings fighting Normans, passing my Basic Training test (which meant that I was safe to go onto the field), marching through Hastings, chucking a torch onto a gigantic bonfire, and then fighting more Normans the next day whilst sleeping on the cold ground in a tent was brilliant.
I can safely say that I’m hooked.
I didn’t even LIKE the Crusade period (I study Ancient History for a reason), but being able to re-create it has FORCED me to be interested in it, so I can put on a more interesting show.
Oh, that and the shiny lamella, maille, swords, axes, helmets, and the Eastern kit.