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A Love Letter to Re-enactment

April 10, 2020
9 Saxons date unknown

The Nine Saxons, so called because something something something…

This photo popped up on my Facebook feed a few days ago and instantly I was transported 30 years into my past, to possibly the most formative year of my life.  It’s a typical estate pub, in a typical working class area, in my birth town.  Nothing to make it stand out, but this is where the Hounds of the Morrigan re-enactment group would finish off a Thursday nights weapons practice (as I believe they still do), week in, week out.

I joined at the end of my final year of ‘A’ levels, just as I was taking a year off before university for “I should have studied harder, my bad” reasons.  This was the first social thing I had ever done in my lifetime that didn’t also involve my twin sister.  I had been in the same classes at school, same brownies/Guides, same church (we both got over that), had broadly the same friends, went to the same events, everything involved us both.  For me, anyway.  You see, I’d cast myself into the role of the ‘broken’ twin, the lesser, the ‘ugly’ ‘unpopular’ twin, only tolerated because my twin was there.  I had friends and was a joiner, and no-one who knew me, I think, would know the depth of my feelings, which looking back I am convinced was my first bout with depression.

avin a larp

‘avin a larp

But I wasn’t going to university now and I needed something that I could do that was purely me.  I met a couple of girls down the Great Western (one of several rock pubs I frequented. With my sister) who mentioned they did battle re-enactment.  I love me some ‘istory and I love me some dressing up.  Throw in actual metal swords, spears and, I admit, very attractive men (long hair, beards, tall and hippy/rock-ish, yum), and I was totally sold.  There was also LARP’ing, and that’s just fantasy instead of history re-enactment, so I was even more sold.  Solder.  The soldist!

I quickly fell utterly head over heels with the re-enactment but more importantly, for me, the people.  They didn’t know my sister, it was just me.  It appeared I fit in really well and they were all absolutely amazing.  My confidence grew in every way possible, and I finally had an idea of who I was.  I was an ‘I’, not a ‘we’.

Not only were Thursdays spent practising, the spear being my favourite weapon although I was also ratified (meaning I could take part in battles as I was a safe fighter) in broadsword fighting and prat-falling (safely looking like I was badly injured), but we would all spend weekends away performing at various fetes and events around the country.  At the time the group had a big single decker bus and we would travel as a group, camping at the shows.  The days would be spent battling in showgrounds, and the nights drinking, smoking, listening to music (generally performed by those attending) and generally having the best time.

I only got injured once.  I was at Battle Abbey, wenching (I’d not fought in a while, so basically water-carried for the fighters), and we had had a great day.  We were all sat around a campfire, now the rain had finally stopped.  There were a fair few sleeping bags being dried out.  I was one row back from the front when all of a sudden my eye stung and I couldn’t open it, and it wouldn’t stop watering.  Somehow, I’d managed to get a massive bit of ash on my cornea.

Fast forward to the next morning; my eye wouldn’t open and was very painful.  It was clear I would need to go to A&E.  The only clothes we had were period clothes circa 1066.  It dawned on me; I was going to go to hospital in historical clothing on the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, because I’d put my eye out.

arquebus and me - Beaulieu 1989-90

3rd from the left, firing an arquebus (very early form of gun)

I grew so much throughout my time with the Hounds of the Morrigan.  I met my first love there.  I had my heart broken (well, bruised) more than once.  I flirted outrageously and was flirted back with.  I learned what ‘mine’s a nuke’ meant.  I met the best women there.  I became me there.

I fell in love with re-enactment but really, I fell in love with re-enactors.  Even now, 30 years on, I love every single one of them.  They made me.  Thank you, all.

  1. Sounds like it was a major part if your life. I actually ran the group in 1990-1991 when we had that bus which reading your prose, brought back many fond memories

    • I remember you, if you are the you who had a little cuteness of a daughter that came to shows at the time!

      • Simon permalink

        Indeed! I actually had two daughters and a son that were often pages at the shows where we did the knights tourney. I was the Black Knight, Sean the Blue, Cyd the Red, plus a Green and Yellow whose names I can’t remember at present. We took the bus to loads of locations including a big pageant at RAF Cosford.

        • RAF Cosford had horses right? I ended up squiring for one of them! I do remember you, big brown ‘tache and all, and I know you were the recipient of many a hug!

  2. Oh Tina! So beautiful! Thank you for sharing such a moving lovely memory

  3. Angie permalink


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