After the frigid cold we got some snow, and now a warm-up, so it’s really foggy today. Kat did a little happy dance because of the warmth. Couldn’t have yesterday because the driveway was glazed with freezing rain. I almost fell when I crossed the stone steps. Almost being a wonderful word in this case. Who knows what happens next? We’ve still got February ahead of us, and that’s usually good for a couple of blizzards. Gotta love the variety in New England. We are so loving the wood we got at the beginning of the year, and that John is keeping the wood-stove stoked. Sadly, poor Willow has picked up a bug, so I’d like to keep it warm for her. I’m SO pleased that so far we haven’t had any frozen pipes.
With perhaps excessive optimism, I have sent for some seeds. I feel a NEED to garden, although I expect I shouldn’t be too ambitious. The key to a good garden, I’ve found, is a good fence. Perhaps I can garden in what used to be the sheep area. That has a good fence, I’d just need to put in a new gate somehow.
This week was the Market Day at Birka, an SCA event. Because Kat was running Gold Key (the loaner garb) we headed out earlier than we would have done just to sell. I think I mentioned the planning meeting a couple weeks ago, at which I developed a deeper respect for the amount of work involved; and you’ll remember from last week our efforts to get hold of the garb so Kat could go over it and make sure it was in good repair.
Friday morning I got up just before 8 and was disturbed to be told that we were supposed to meet Kythe (the seneschal) at the storage locker in five minutes. Kat sent off a message, and we waited to hear back while getting up, dressed, packing OUR garb and snacks, getting the van loaded, etc. We are really good at that we were out by 11, and there at noon. Actually, I had time to go into “aggressive cleaning mode”, as I kept myself busy while waiting to hear what the plan was going to be. I didn’t want to leave the room and miss the call, and I can’t just wait doing nothing, so I washed dishes, swept the floor, and that sort of thing. Kythe (what a surprise, we have day jobs!) wasn’t going to get in until after work, but Jeanne (the Exchequer) got to the Expo center at 2. While the merchants weren’t supposed to go in until 3, we “had an in with the Mistress of the Gold Key” and dropped out stuff in her function room, and when Jeanne got there (with the duplicate key), we were ready to pop down to the storage facility. We were back with the 12 bins of garb in not much more than a half hour. The facility was an old mill close to the river, and was very convenient to the Expo center!
And, oh yes, we re-checked Kat’s key, and this time it worked. Argh! At least we hadn’t cut the bolt and replaced it, and will have no problem putting everything back when Kat’s finished with it.
I love the way the SCA sets up so fast. We took these two pictures:
By the time we were back, the merchants were allowed to set up. Willow was already feeling peakéd, but she set out our tables. We had four tables with lights (which meant they had to run a cord across the ceiling and down into our hollow square), and the other merchant in our group was Maison Rive. Much to our surprise, Alex was with her.
Apparently, Zon has left him, and taken Nicky, (but the grandparents are going for legal custody), so he came back with Honour- who has to make arrangements for her stuff in storage on this trip. They both seem to be holding up pretty well, but it’s got to be hard.
Honour spent her time picking hairs from a horse tail, matching the color, and sewing it on to a doll’s head. Perhaps the hand made artisan doll market will be better than the “authentic toys for SCA kids” one, which frankly stinks.
Claus seems to be able to make it work by buying her doll blanks and painting them up as lepers. He’s now got a sign that says “My Little Leper”, (only they have painted flies rather than pony’s cutie marks). Humor sells. (I’m not sure what laughing at leprosy says about our senses of humor.)
Kat handled the Gold Key by herself. She was mostly done when Kythe arrived with five more bins of garb. The barony has one clothing rack (and some shelves), but the hotel provided two or three more. She’d also gotten them to provide a “divider” curtain put up in the back, and broke that into two sections by putting the empty bins in the middle, then hanging curtains over them, so there was a changing room. She discovered that while the men’s side stayed pretty neat- the women’s side needed constant picking up; they’d take in several outfits and just leave the ones they didn’t want behind. I suppose if there had been a hook they might have hung them up, but I find that irritating that they didn’t bring them out again. People just don’t seem to get the idea that this is run by volunteers.
We sent her food, (and so did the head of staff, and others) but she didn’t get a chance to eat it, she was that busy. But she says she preferred it that way, because she didn’t have to tell anyone else what to do. The heralds table and the information table were in the front of that room as well, so she wasn’t alone in the moments she wasn’t dressing someone. Friday evening was set up, they didn’t open Gold Key, and when we went home we brought back a full length mirror and more hangers, but that’s all it needed. MUCH to our relief, the garb wasn’t musty. Apparently Kythe’s lady had aired a lot of it before Harpers Retreat. At the end of the weekend, Justin (Kythe’s son) and another young man helped her pack everything up and into the van. While she was a bit hungry at the end, I think she has found her place in the SCA. (Treating strangers like dolls to dress up.) As well as finding clothing for the modern folk who wanted to come check out the SCA, she also told them what their costumes said about them “You’re in Saxon garb, you’re in Norman; you’d probably be her servant.”, lacing up bodices, encouraging them to get into the spirit of the SCA. One of her racks was for their coats, which she took as security for the loaned garb. In theory she could have stayed open for returns until 10, but thankfully everything was returned well before then. I guess anyone who wanted to stay for the ball was already a member with garb.
Willow stayed at the Cabochons booth, and I wandered around a good deal. I’d decided I didn’t have enough pictures of our friends, so I took pictures until the camera ran out of battery. I also was clever enough to write down who was who, although I haven’t yet labeled the pictures- I hope I get to it before I forget. We have so many friends that I feel quite blessed. There were around 1400 people there (next year is the 25th anniversary, and they think it may reach 2000), and people came from as far away as the West Kingdom (California) and Drachenwald (Europe). I asked one lady why and she explained “Because it’s Birka!” Well, that says a lot about the event Olaf started. (Olaf was there as usual, passing out chocolate to ladies, and helping with the check in.) I’m so glad someone is willing to do that! As is required by the numbers, they have an incredibly organized system, with a cash register at the end.
Deirdre (Jeanne) spent most of the weekend in a little office doing financial stuff.
(again, I’m SO happy not to be doing that!) The entrance tokens were tumbled semi-precious stones on ribbons, but merchants and staff got pins with beads on them. (pout) Things I did not get to included a fashion show, arts and sciences display, fencing, fighting, courts, a ball, a halfla, the Birkastan (Middle Eastern) room, a bardic circle, classes, meetings, tours… no, I pretty much stayed at the merchants. I did run a meeting for the Soothsayers Guild and was going to do a class on Soothsaying, but it was scheduled against the ball and bardic and hafla in the evening, so no one showed (hardly surprising). I was not unhappy about that. I was surprised and impressed that they managed to get court done in only 90 minutes! By 8 pm (when my class was scheduled) I was SO ready to go home. And Willow managed to pack up our tables during the 15 minutes I was waiting to see if anyone would come.
I should probably mention what a halfla is- it’s kind of a bardic circle with a middle eastern focus. It turns out that Birka has become one of the biggest Middle Eastern events in the SCA- “Birkastan”- their room was next to Gold Key. The room on the other side was the registration/check-in. Classes and meetings were upstairs. This event has gotten so huge that it’s impossible to put up all the people who come by having them stay with the locals, thus it must be at an hotel. This does allow for partying, and reduce driving home in nasty weather. Since it’s held at the end of January, there is a blizzard as often as not, although this year the predicted storm did not happen to our great joy. The sun came streaming in through the plate glass windows making the lights we’d brought redundant. But there have been many years when it’s solid grey outside, so I think it’s a good bet.
The event technically opened for business at 7, and we were set up by 5, so we went over to the pub and had supper. Willow had the “mountain of potato” potato chunks with cheese, bacon and scallions, it was good. I forget what Kat had, but I had the most boring Reuben I’ve ever had in my life, and I’ve had a lot because it’s my default sandwich choice. I have no idea how they did it, but it was incredibly bland. If you go to the JD’s pub- get the mountain of potatoes.
The people I got pics of included Kat, Alex & Alizaunde, Cassandra, Ann Gryffyth, Elise, Kirsten, Cellach, Sile, Margarite, James, Kitara (who I really didn’t recognize- I’m used to her being a kid and she grew up!), Cormac, Aurelia & Francesca, Dougal & Sian, Arwen, Ina, Ariadne & Dimitri, Joanna Dudley, Olaf, Chris, Kiaya & Gideon, Mike, Rob, Tadgh, Doria, Tomris, Deirdre, Kris Spinster, Rob, Bonne, Maureen, & Christian Tobler, Aine, Guendolyn, Ekke, Padraig and Stephanie?, Tish, Lilliana, Elinor, Tinker, Cynder, (?oops) & Spenser, Freya, Gwyneth, Claus, but the battery gave out at Elsbeth, so I didn’t come anywhere close to getting all the pictures I wanted. Probably less than half. If you want pics of any of those folk, let me know, it would overload most mail programs.
The only thing I think any of us bought was a pair of chairs someone was selling for a friend. Gorgeous things- foldable, with backs, and I love the lions on the arms. The tipping point was when I realized that both were selling for the original price of the chair with a back Willow got (and loved) at the war this year. Now Kat has a chair too, and we have one for visitors.
Yesterday Kat and I went over to the laundromat and she ran all the Gold Key garb through the washers. (She’d packed everything up at the end of the event sorted by what could be washed together.) I had this silly idea that all I’d have to do was drop her off and I could sit and read, but I also ran some errands and help stuff the clean clothes back in the bins when it was done. (Of course, the storm arrived for that! I can, but don’t like driving in snow.) Actually I rushed her out as the weather got worse and we dried the last at home. Did you know the machines at laundromats don’t take coins anymore? It’s all done by electronic card readers. I think there was one point when Kat had 4 oversize and 8 normal washers going at once. Now she’s going through every piece to check what needs repairs, pressing or any other maintenance. Better her then me. When I was Mistress of the Gold Key in Carolingia, we had a couple cardboard boxes- mostly kids clothes Gillian had outgrown, and large size garb from when Geoffrey Beauchamp changed personas. (I don’t think those plastic bins had been invented then!)
I made a concerted effort to do NOT A DARNED THING (but read and relax) after Birka. I’ve found that people have a tendency to get sick after a big event, and I think you need to take time to relax or your body will make you. And I’d rather lie in bed goofing off than feeling wretched and blowing my nose!
So I did finish the book I’d wanted to read- The Vestal Vanishes, another Libertas mystery of Roman Britain. I love that series, maybe because it’s Roman Britain, maybe because Libertas is about my age and I relate. Rowe is also an honest mystery writer, she gives you all the clues as she goes, and so you can figure it out if you notice them. I also read E.Aster Bunnymund and the warrior Eggs – one of the books on which Rise of the Guardians was based. I will probably also read the one about Nicholas St. North, and Toothiana (the Tooth Fairy). Mostly I was interested in the Sandman and quite cross when I couldn’t take his book out of the library, then I discovered that while it’s in the Library listing, it’s not coming out until this summer, so I forgive them.
This week I watched the adventure Under the Mountain which was pretty good- apparently it was a mini-series in the 80s. I watched a collection of classic Tarzan films with Johnny Wiesmuller. I was impressed with the stunts and all the animals, and loved the underwater ballets (skinny dipping scene) that took advantage of his swimming abilities. I also watched Cast Away (finally), and yes, it was a really good movie. I liked the way they dealt with problems honestly, and still managed a fairly upbeat ending.
This week I finished The Glory that was Greece, the audio course on Greek Art and Architecture. I also took a lot of books from the library from the “reading list” in the guidebook, and am totally immersed in Greek culture. I’m now starting The Grandeur that was Rome, but am carefully avoiding sending for a similar pile of books for that one. Still- it’s audio, and it’s nice to be able to see the sculptures, vases etc. about which the professor is talking. The book I’m loving most is not so visual, but is about culture: The Portrait of a Priestess talks about the roll of women in Greek society, and how we’ve probably misinterpreted it because of our current idea that religion is a separate area from everything else. In the pagan world, it was totally integrated, which changes so much of how we interpret women’s roles. Being an opinionated cuss, I’m also enjoying learning about the cult practices, so I can compare them to neo-paganism (shame on me).
I’m finding getting started on the Spanish Pimsleur course hard because it’s on the computer and I was used to doing it in my room while getting up or in the car. When I sit down to the computer I’ve usually got something to do- updating a website or checking my mail, and you can’t do that at the same time the way you can with a plain audio tape. On the other hand, I think it may help with reading Spanish. If I can remember to use it.
~James B. Stockdale
A liberally educated person meets new ideas with curiosity and fascination. An illiberally educated person meets new ideas with fear.