They offered merchants the option of leaving on Saturday night as usual. I expect that’s important if you have an all-day drive to get home. But they made the rest of us close up at 7, which left Willow and I waiting for Kat to be allowed to close Gold Key. We had a pizza delivered and talked to the people who came through because the room was not being used except by Gold Key. Sadly, the room next to us was the Halfa- or Belly Dancing room. It seems Birka has become one of the biggest gatherings for middle eastern dancers in New England. There’s a lot of pounding drums coming through the walls. There was a bardic circle, and a ball, (some joke about a zamboni has left me confused). During the day there’s fighting and fencing, and lots of courts. I am SO glad I’m not royalty these days! There is too much population in the kingdom and too many people doing incredible stuff for one pair to recognize everyone who does something worthy! One of the things being discussed a lot during the day was a proposal that any event (like Birka) that the Crown attends is going to obviously be better attended, so the group should give 20% of the profits for that event (if any) to the kingdom to help offset expenses. When we were on the throne I know we spent about $5K on gas, and were given $200 for stamps. The points of contention were that if they were taking some of the profits, they should also be taking the same share of any risk. Some Birka’s there’s a huge snowstorm, and we are obliged to fill a certain number of hotel rooms.) The other point is that if they are going to give the Crown another $5K to spend, they have to provide good book keeping to prove the they didn’t waste it. That seems reasonable to me, but at the same time, it would be a royal pain. I think they also had a meeting on Saturday night to give people a chance to comment on it. At any rate, they couldn’t or shouldn’t just decide to do it and not give people a chance to discuss it.
There is a big weather front causing a lot of cold and snow, but so far we have not seen much. I suppose it’s because it’s coming across the country and we’re getting the tail end. One of our friends in the midwest has mentioned 50º below (F), and that’s pretty darned cold! Other friends here in NH (Hi Shema!) had 7” in the last storm, while we got three. It is cold, and we are investing propane in keeping the cellar about 40º, but think it’s worth it. I have put on five pounds since the holidays rather than losing any weight, probably because of the comfort food we’ve been eating, and not going out unless we had to.
We did go out this weekend. It was the Marketplace at Birka up in the Expo Center- which is now a Doubletree hotel, having been sold. It’s hard to tell though. This year there was another change: Birka ran for three days, so the Merchants could open on Sunday, and didn’t have to pack out Saturday night. (I guess the reptile show didn’t book this year.) They didn’t have any activities except a Royal Curia (Kingdom business meeting) on Sunday other than the merchants, so it wasn’t a huge deal. They did have the gate, and Michael said a fair number of people bought in, so that’s cool.
Merchants were allowed in at three on Friday, but Kat was aiming at one to start setting up the Gold Key. She had to go over to the storage place, get the bins, and have everything set up and ready to go by 6. We took two cars, one with the five bins she keeps for year-round Gold Key, and one with our goods. At three I started setting up our tables, and she got help (and Willow) to set up her room. As usual, she’d only been given two of the three garment racks she requested, and had to ask for another, and they set up the changing rooms wrong. Sadly this time part of the Barony display rack was missing from it’s bag so she didn’t have a place to hang the coats people left as collateral when they borrow garb. They also scheduled a break in the middle of Saturday, again; even though she tells them every year that she can’t close for three hours on the most active day. We keep hoping someday they’ll actually listen to her. The people who borrow garb need to be able to return it when they are ready, and to get their clothes or whatever they left behind. Frankly by 7 on Saturday, she only had four items left, but she had to wait for the people to come return them because they would really want to get their coats back! One couple came back for their coats but were allowed to keep the garb so they could continue dancing at the ball, and return the garb in the morning. As usual she had a good time dressing people.
We have become used to finishing set up by 5 and having supper at the pub before things open at 6. This time however the pub was being remodeled and they have a new restaurant. I didn’t care for it. The chef had taken old favorites and done something “new” to each one. I had a Reuben- but they changed out the sauerkraut for hot Kimchee. That didn’t sound too bad, but I have to admit that the tears were running down my cheeks it was so spicy, and the waitress heard me tell the girls “I wouldn’t order this again.” She offered to make me a new one without the kimchee, and came back 3 times. Then the manager came out and offered us free dessert. Meanwhile poor Kat had ordered grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup. Rather than ham or bacon, it had pork belly. Not crisp pork belly, as I’ve seen it before, but a half centimeter thick pretty much raw pork fat. Since they were concentrating on me, they didn’t notice her not eating after the first bite. (Willow and I each tried a nibble and agreed that it was pretty gross.) THAT I’d have happily had replaced without the offending ingredient. And they’d also seasoned the soup oddly so she could eat it either. Willow’s turkey sandwich was OK- the frou-frou twist was cranberry aioli, which isn’t that odd an idea. Apparently the manager didn’t tell the waitress about the free mousse, but we did, and got it as a take-away. Luckily, Ekke and Eleanor thought that the pork belly in the sandwich was a great idea, so we passed it to them. She said they’d probably try it at home. À chacun son goût. Glad it didn’t go to waste. Willow had the mousse at home, and I had the corned beef on rye for lunch the next day (but I did miss the sour kraut). I don’t know what we did for Kat. She had packed some snacks so I guess that may have been it.
We closed at 10 Friday, and had to be there at 9 on Saturday, (with an hour drive each way) so we had no time to sleep in. But we did, slept until 8:30 so didn’t get there until 9:30. Fell back asleep after the alarm. Sunday we didn’t have to get there until 10, so that was better. As usual, the cool part of Birka is talking to friends. There are so many that I started jotting down who I’d talked to so I could remember, but then I lost the paper! Oh well. The two biggest surprises were Ianthe, who I haven’t seen in years. She has an apprentice who was selling and she came to help her, and came over to chat. We mostly talked about knitting and old friends. As usual, I have a very hard time seeing much difference in how my friends look after the first few seconds. Tamooj came up from Texas, which was a treat. Kia and Jeanne were being elevated to Baron and Baroness, so that’s right up there with a wedding or graduation, so he came. We had a lovely chat and he told me about what he does down there. Aside from SCA he also is involved in a living history 19th c village, where he gets to work with longhorn cattle, and reclaim old cauldrons from rust, and do theatrical stuff, like a production of A Christmas Carol he told me about. Apparently there’s active archaeology going on- he said that the area has been continuously inhabited for more than 8.5 thousand years. I think that makes it older than Jericho. (Nope, I checked, Jericho is 11K. But that’s still impressive!) It was great to see them again. Morgan Kuberry came by with Ruby, who now remembers me. Jamie, my apprentice, came by with his little girl, who doesn’t (she was running him ragged- no chance to talk!) Raven and Criket came by- he’s been finishing unfinished sewing projects this winter. He counted 200, and has finished 95 already! I’m impressed, and I hope, inspired. Avi came by with Kalen, I didn’t see Bianca, but I did see Sue. She’d borrowed Gold Key and looked quite pleased with the mixed periods she’d selected to wear together. Hey, who doesn’t want to look like a princess? Raye and Joanie came by, and I think they may join the SCA. I could list as many as I could think of, but that would probably be pointless and boring. The point is that I had a lovely time talking to people. One of Tamooj’s men at arms from 20-30 years ago came by Steve Lake, and he gave me a gift of maple syrup from his trees! My man at arms, Brian, also gave me a gift, a set of reproduction Anglo-Saxon coins! I also got a copy of the second Frey’s Saga book to go on my “show off” shelf of book covers I’ve done. So I had things to take home, even though we weren’t shopping this year.
Another Steve- Osgkar, was elevated to Companion of the Pelican during the morning court. I love this image of when he was called into court- he looks like he’s afraid they’re about to give him another kingdom office! (They don’t do that without asking.) As I told him, one cannot be surprised that it happened, but had I known, I’d have tried to attend to cheer! I DID get over to the ballroom to see the elevation of Kaziah and Diedre to be the new Baron and Baroness of Stonemarche. I think they are going to be magnificent. (Of course, so were Jocelyn and Doria, Xavier and Maria, and Megan and Morgan.) Kia has opted to wear really gorgeous male garb, not that she’s claiming to be a guy, just trying to make it easier for people to understand two women in the roles of Baron and Baroness. She had the most magnificent leggings and Houpelande! I haven’t yet seen a picture that does it justice, and Dierdre looked So gorgeous and regal! (Although there was a bit of a problem with the coronets. (Retro-fitting will happen.) Someone else was called in right after that for another peerage elevation, but I left as the King was so informal it bothered me. He said “Hi everyone!” at one point, and made a joke about forgetting his mike. Actually having mikes so you can hear what’s going on doesn’t bother me as much. I used my phone to take pictures. They all looked very dark, so I lightened them before sending them to fb, but when I saw them on the computer they looked too light. I don’t know whether it’s my eyes, the phone display or what.
During the day we also got to watch people going by in their outfits for the Fashion show. In recent years there’s been a theme (sports teams the year Kat got her Award of Arms). This year it was super hero from comics. The whole point is to make an outfit that’s perfectly acceptable medieval garb, but the colors you use and certain details will let people who are in the know realize that you are doing a medieval version of Captain America, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Dr. Strange, Magneto or whoever. It was a lot of fun, and I have to admit, Willow was much better at picking up on the clues than I was. The lady who we’ve seen at Pennsic doing that with Pokémon was there, dressed in a Bulbasaur inspired outfit in the morning, and Charezar in the afternoon. When we recognized them, she gave us buttons! Even more useful, since she sells the Pokémon buttons, she was able to change a twenty for one dollar bills for us when we were out!
We were in our usual place near the rest-rooms, and I didn’t wander around much (no shopping), but went up and down the window side row Friday, and the next row Saturday morning, the next Saturday evening. It’s still fun to look at all the wonderful craftsmanship. We did well enough that had the honey seller not left Saturday night I’d probably have gotten a bucket of honey. But mostly we were paying for heating oil, car repairs, and doctors appointments. I was very impressed at how quickly it all goes up and comes down again. I took some pictures of various craftsmen wares I hope to use as reference for next year’s cover. One of the men makes obsidian knives- it’s sort of the medieval equivalent of an exacto or razor knife, there were basket makers, and needle makers, potters, wood workers, jewelers, glassworkers, horn carvers, amber carvers, spinners and dyers, leatherworkers, spice merchants, booksellers, trim and fabric merchants,… there is just so much talent and so much cool stuff to want. Things you didn’t know were available until you see them! I can see why people who aren’t even in the SCA have heard of it and pay $15 just to come in and shop. Sunday was ten to three, and despite pushing it, we didn’t get out quickly enough that we could stop for our traditional (before this it’s been at 10 on Saturday) stop at the Chinese Buffet. I will admit that I moped a bit, but my birthday is coming. We can be grateful that we got neither snow, nor sub-zero weather.
Monday I went to the Optometrist- I’d lost a contact, and it had been long enough that it’s time to replace them anyway. The good news is the hint of cataract isn’t any worse than two years ago, and my eyes aren’t any worse either. While waiting for the doctor I pulled out my phone to track the time, got bored, took pictures of the exam room, and tucked it into my bra when he came in. Then I forgot it. Later I couldn’t find my phone and went back there to search for it, before finding it right where I’d tucked it. I did try to call to tell them I’d found it, but after spending 15 minutes on voicemail gave up on them. I’ve also got an appointment to get the car inspected (and a headlight fixed) Friday. Kat had an appointment today, but has been put off until tomorrow because they were expecting white-out conditions. Willow’s finding the drive to Keene hard- or maybe it’s just the CFS. Did you hear that in England they are having discussions about ME (Myalgic Encephalopathy- which is what they call Chronic Fatigue there) in Parliament? Apparently some doctors still don’t believe in it, and many families whose children are suffering from it have been threatened to have their children taken away because the doctors thought it must be the result of psychological abuse! Invisible illnesses are SO hard! Having your government make it worse when you’re already watching your child suffer is just appalling! I’m glad they are getting some good attention on it now, but shame on them before!
I haven’t watched much this week, but two of the three movies I did see were depressing, probably because they were about mental illness. Affliction (1997) had Nick Nolte as a small town sheriff looking into a suspicious hunting death. This is a fairly standard trope, but the personal complications revolved around his having been abused as a child. The performances were incredibly powerful, and the way they kept revisiting the death as he considered different possible ways it could have happened was an amazing depiction of the Rashomon effect, only it was one person, rethinking it. The moment that’s going to stick with me is when his girlfriend (Sissy Spacek) is talking to his father (James Colburn) and she says something that sets off his defenses and he suddenly gets dangerous “Don’t you sass me!” And she stares, then laughs, and leaves, as she understands that nothing she can say or do will breach the wall of his belief system that he is supposed to beat those around him into follow his whim. I also liked the younger brother who he’d tried to protect not having any memory of what his older brother had protected him from- to the point of inadvertently gas lighting. The mystery around which the plot was based was entirely secondary to the tragedy of the family.
The Machinist (2004) had Christian Bale as a man wondering about his sanity after a year of not being able to sleep, and was also powerful and impressive. I fear my take-away from that is going to be images of his body. The actor actually dropped from 173 pounds to 120 in order to look right- he looked like some of the people who were liberated from German concentration camps. It was scary to look at. I’m surprised Bale didn’t suffer any worse from such a huge weight loss. It reminded me a lot of Hitchcock.
More fun was A Simple Favor, although I might not have thought so had I not just watched the two previous downers. This is the story of the odd friendship of a perky single mother who does a “Mom Videoblog” and does all the “Mom stuff”, and a mysterious executive who’s son is in the same class, is so private her husband doesn’t even know about her past, and disappears. (The favor in the title is watching her kid when her husband is away). The innocent mother uses her “mom” skills to try to track down her missing friend, proving that there’s more to her than her brownies and friendship bracelets would indicate. I especially liked the scene where she puts her friend’s egotistical boss in his place. It’s not the frivolous mystery I’d expected, but I really liked the strong female characters.
OK that’s it for this week. If I forgot anything and it’s important, I can tell you next week.
(The sig quote is from Thomas Paine- the 29th was Free Thinker’s Day)