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tisdag 22 december 2009

Deserted?

No. Just having a break. My real life has had a tremendous backlash, as my wife is divorcing me. My emotions plus practical limitations has made blogging harder. I will try to use some time in the near future to update you about what's happening and what the future looks like. Until then - Merry christmas and a happy new year.

fredag 6 november 2009

Neulakko has risen from the grave

Elina at http://www.neulakko.net, a fellow medieval blogger, suffered from a hacker attack some while ago. Everything turned out fine, apart from general confusion, and I just wanted to let you know that she's still there. If you haven't visited her blog, please do - I myself find it very interesting. It is written partly in Finnish and partly in English, so you should be able to understand it all.

torsdag 5 november 2009

Ronneburg - a magic tale

It seems I am always a step behind when updating my blog. Life is chasing me from one strange experience to the next, and I hardly have any time to settle down. I am dead tired at the moment, yawning constantly, but this story must be told!

In september we finally got to visit the Ronneburg about 40 minutes drive from Frankfurt am Main in Germany. I dreamt about the place since last year - everyone talked about it. I just had to see it. This year it was time, and our good friends in MiM - lead by Ronnie and Constantin - had made a tremendous job organizing, lasting months before the event took place. I reckon a great number of the MiMs were involved in planning and execution of the event: http://www.14tes.eu/

Generously enough, they invited the whole of the company, and at first there were many of us planning to go, but as the event drew nearer, more and more decided to step down. In the end, we invited friends from Fraternis Militia Carnis to fill the ranks. Carl and Guffe decided to join, and the three of us went by plane from Gothenburg, after quite a drive from Växjö. Alex, Johan and Simon went by car with our equipment.

We were picked up at the airport by Constantin, who was good enough to drive us all the way to the Ronneburg, and then he actually went back to Frankfurt to spend the night with his family. I was a bit touched - such hospitality and friendlyness I have seldom experienced. But the best part was really that he handed us a pilz, first thing when we got to the car. Ah! What a welcome!

After some time we could see the lights of the Ronneburg on a hilltop. It was a splendid sight, and as we parked the car, and hauled our packs up the pathway, through the first gate, I was astonished. Nowadays, I seldom have the feeling of "the middle ages". I have become blasé. Not much amazes me anymore - I have seen a lot of stuff, and experienced many things. But the lantern hanging in the passage outside the guard room gave me shivers down the spine - this WAS the middle ages, even though I saw that the lantern was an electric one. Johan met us half way, and greeted us. He showed us the way into the courtyard, and even before I was there, I felt confused and lost. We were shown to a room where we were going to sleep, and managed to arrange our stuff and make our beds. Then we had food and beer.

I met a lot of familiar people. Kyra, for example. She is really nice. And Anne from Nürnberg. Ages ago she sent me a CD with pics from Nürnberg, and I have yet to return the favor; I already fixed up a CD full of pics, but I never get along to posting it, and I forgot to bring it to the Ronneburg. Don't fret, Anne. You WILL get your pics.

I really can't remember if I went to bed early our late. Early, I believe, as we stood up early as well. We put our armour on, and started Swedish army gymnastics on the courtyard. We were looking for Lars, a young boy, as Johan said he needed the practice - his mother wanted to make a man out of him, and we were determined to try our best. But we just couldn't find him. We looked all over for him, and finally, we spotted him. He saw us first, and dashed to get to safety, away from burly, Swedish soldiers. Eventually we cornered him, and he promised to join us for morning gymnastics. When he came, we started out, lead by Johan.

It turned out, very quickly, that Johan wasn't 20 anymore, and that he hadn't in fact made any harder physical excercises clad in 14th century armour before - as soon as we started the pushups, he wilted and fell like a lump of dough. I tried my best. I think I managed about ten pushups or so, but it became painfully obvious that I myself aint 20 either... The situps were impossible in rigid body armor, so Johan had to pull me up. The gathering crowd had a good time, and so did we. Lars just shook his head, we grunted (like the old men we are becoming) about cocky young boys who should be taught a lesson, preferrably by sword (which we actually did later on, but in the form of proper fighting training). Before the morning PT was over, we ran through the castle, guns held high. It wasn't very far, and I was pleased I could manage, even though I'm getting a bit fat. As we headed back, I nearly threw up. I had to sit down and rest. It's tragic, really. When I was in my early teens, I was the 8th best 800 metre runner in Sweden :-)

As the old Norse Poetic Edda states:

Cattle die, | and kinsmen die | And so one dies one's self

I have one foot in the grave already.

Then - breakfast. German food is like Swedish, only made with love and concern. The Germans have proper butchers, proper bakers, proper brewers - the make food into an artform. It is not often tinged with finesse - the better. It is food for people in general. Robust, tasty, well made, with pride and effort. Cooked to give you strength to work, love and laugh.

One of the best meals I have ever had, was smoked pork, fried in its own fat, eaten along with coarse, freshly baked bread, by the fire, in the mist and drizzle, taking shelter under my kettle hat, my cloak and a couple of pavises. Another was bread, fresh out of the oven, with genuine, salty butter, home brewed, red beer and home made sausages made from lamb, spiced with herbs.

It is all really simple food, but made with the purpose of eating it yourself. I know all German food isn't made like that, but some of it is. And it is divine.

That breakfast was exquisite. The bread and the sausages from Hessen - by the Lord - were they good. I even tried a sausage where the meat was stuffed inside a pigs bladder (rather than from pigs entrails). I love sausages far better than just meat; you can make whatever you want out of them, and that is a wonderful trick!

We took our position in the guard house (one of the inner gateways, really), and set up our dice board, our jugs and our armour, to look like proper guards. Guffe, portraying a knight, had a bit of a problem fitting in, as he really shouldn't hang out with the craftsmen in the halls, the people in the kitchen or the soldiers in the guard room, plus, he didn't know many people except the rest of the Swedes. So he mostly hung out with us anyway. We spent the better part of the day in the guard house, drinking (apple juice - sometimes mixed with a bit of beer - a classic Radler!), gambling and chatting. Some of the boys joining us came from different parts of Europe. Alexander, a MiM, was in charge of the guard operation. There was a handful of other Germans as well, plus a Belgian guy. The guard room connected to the guard house was really something. It was utterly perfect, exactly like I imagined a guard room. Small, but big enough to store weapons and to keep one man on post.

I had time to saunter the castle, and as it was light outside, and as I kept to the parts of the castle I knew, I didn't get lost. I checked the craftsmen in the halls - without exception they were excellently skilled. That is maybe the best thing about the reenactment scene - people have vast knowledge about their specific areas, and you can learn so much. I am not a craftsman, but I love crafts, and to learn about them, so I had a needle maker tell me about how he made pins. It was a proper science! I could never believe all the shrewd tricks and tools used in the making of such tiny things. I believe I bought 18 of those pins for Elisabeth.

But there were loads of other craftsmen too - shoemakers, cobblers, belt makers, painters, chain mail makers, paternoster makers, makers of wax tablets, embroiderers, tailors, dyers - I really believe that I missed some of them out, in spite of that dire list. This photo shows Bertus and Isis, our dear friends from Deventer Burgerscap, sewing and embroidering.

And then, there was the kitchen. Good lord, the kitchen. Lead by Kyra, loads of people worked their fingers to the bone, cooking for well above 50 people (someone told me that we actually were more than 80 people taking part in the event). The kitchen was always bustling, and I might have annoyed more than one kitchen worker when I was trying to get the perfect photo, but I got a few splendid pics. That evening, we were treated with loads of dishes - all cooked in that period kitchen over open fire. They even baked patés, and made their own marzipan - skillfully worked into the shape of an eagle. I'll tell you more about that banquet later on - the day wasn't half finished yet - but before I continue I would like to show you a pic from the ambiguos kitchen - serene, yet pulsating with effort.
The smells, the noise. The words. The sights. Light sifting in through the smoke from the fires. Heat. Sweat. I really love kitchens. I love working with food (did you know? I worked as a chef for nearly two years!). In that aspect I can become what I most desire. I can become a craftsman, and I can make wonderful things.

I stood devotional in that kitchen for at least an hour, snapping photos when I could, trying to keep out of the way (I make people standing in my way in my kitchen into sashimi). Then I had to go. I had duties to perform at the guard house, and soon we were going to take part in a gunnery display. But first, I took a breathtaking (in many ways) tour up the tower. The view was really pretty, but as with most places today, you can always notice the modern world in some way. That meant I could see villages on all sides, roads and other things belonging to the 21st century. Too bad, but still very beautiful.

When I got back to the guard house, nothing had happened. The boys were still gambling and drinking, and admiring the peacocks striding along here and there. I had a seat and joined the game.

Some hours later it was time for us to make ready the guns. First of all we were (a bit unwillingly, I admit) dragged into a fashion display at the inner courtyard. They wanted to show different kinds of warriors, from knights to simpler mercenaries, like ourselves. But after that, we loaded up our guns. We wanted to make a good display, and as we practiced quite a lot this summer, we hoped to really give that audience something to look at.

To my dismay, we hardly made three shots in a minute. I was really disappointed, plus I got a nasty powder burn in my face (that's just manly). This calls for even more practice! We need to get better. We need to impress, otherwise we will not be much more than just regular medieval guys with a couple of guns - and really - most fighters in the reenactment world has bought one. We promised Lars that he could have a go at the guns, under our supervision. Like everyone trying it out, he left as a true believer.

We packed up our gear, and returned to the guard room. During the lull between dinner and display, we took quite a few pictures of each other on the walkways along the battlements (we were later told that we weren't allowed up there, so we have no intention of ever going there again. The pics were nice though.), where some of the boys collected peacock feathers. As dinner drew nearer, we had some sword practice with Lars. He is becoming a proper soldier, and when he gets a bit older, we'll recruit him.

In the dying daylight, we had some more photos taken. We convinced bertus to portray a Swedish Burgher that we assaulted in a gateway (we portray Germans living in Sweden, or Swedes of German descent - in some epoques of the middle ages, the two groups (Swedes and Germans living in Sweden) were bitter enemies). On the left is one by Franziska.

Then it was finally time for the banquet. We drank loads of good beer, and we were amazed by the skills of the kitchen staff. They had worked like slaves in that kitchen, in the heat and smoke for a whole day, and I was really thankful for the food. I hope someday I will be able to repay them. If they ever come to one of our events, I will give them such treats! Heck! I will even do a dirty dance.

The food was good, but what I appreciated the most was the work put into it. People working "below deck" seldom gets even a "thank you", and that is why I am making such a big deal out of it.

I stayed up late, drinking and chatting and probably bragging, and then came morning. And really, that was more or less the end of it. We didn't have much time to do anything but get up, pack our stuff, eat and leave. Our plane was leaving much too early, so we had to go. Oh, yeah - I had time to give Johan a shave as well, but that was it. We said quick goodbyes to people, and then headed for the car. Constantin drove us to a nearby train station, we took the train to the airport, and suddenly we landed in Gothenburg again. And gone was the magic...

My dearest thanks goes out to the MiMs, and in particular Ronnie and Tino, for having us. Furthermore, I'd like to thank everyone taking part in this splendid happening. Hope to see you soon!

måndag 2 november 2009

Feast of St Stefanus

The 12th of december the company will host our traditional feast of St Stefanus, an important saint in Scandinavia (and the first christian martyr). Usually we gather and eat medieval sweets and drink hypocras until we feel sick from sugar overdose, while we watch a mysetryplay picturing the martyrdom of St Stefanus, or as he is known in Sweden - Staffan Stalledräng.

All readers are very welcome, provided you can come up with a late 14th century outfit, and that you tell us that you want to join before the 5th of december.

Welcome!

måndag 26 oktober 2009

Danish trip

I just got back from a weekend research trip in Denmark. I have had a smashing time, and I got loads of pictures. I'll tell you all about it when I get around to it.

fredag 9 oktober 2009

Slingerbult

lThe other day I had a visit from a blogging girl with the tag Slingerbult. Her real name is Elin, and the funny thing is that she commented on one of my earlier posts - about the haggis-making. And now she moved to Växjö, and will take part in our weekly sewing-meetings. It was really good to meet her - she seems decent. Welcome, Elin!

By the way - check out her blog here http://slingerbult.blogspot.com/

torsdag 8 oktober 2009

A trip to the land of stroopwafels, episode 2

Next morning Eli was hungover. Like really. I took Isolde for a long, long walk, where I found a small St James chapel. Further down the street, I found a park, where Compagnie van Cranenburgh was encamped. It's really funny; I met them already, five or six years ago, during my first reenactment events in Azincourt. And it turned out they knew about Albrechts Bössor. It's really nice to be known for the right reasons, and the guys in Compagnie van Cranenburgh held us in esteem. We chatted for a bit, before I turned back to camp. I invited them to next year's edition of the Battle of Ystad.

And by the way - in that park I actually saw - Black swans. I'm not kidding you. They were actually black. I thought the talk about black swans was only fairy tales, but now I know (if someone didn't just spray paint the poor animals...).

When me and Isolde came back to camp, Eli was still sleeping, but Isolde wanted her mother, and she was steadily growing more and more whiny - she needed a nap. But it's not easy to get a 2,5 year old kid to sleep in a camp in the middle of the day. It was time for lunch as well, so I started cooking. Eli got to hold Isolde down - it was not something any of the appreciated, but before long they both slept like logs in the tent.

In the early afternoon it was time for the dreaded parade. It was a big one this year, and we were put in the back of it. We also met Fritz, another acquaintance from Azincourt. He took a flag from us in battle, but returned it again. However, we have ever since had the opinion that it should be his. We haven't got hold of him, but as soon as we get his address, we shall post him that little flag - if we can find it.

Me and Lunda were the only ones of the Swedes partaking in the parade. It's not much to say about it, other than it was a quite long walk - all the way to the Valkhof. As we got back to camp the actual festival had begun, and the church square where we camped was filled to the brim with curious tourists checking out what we were cooking and what clothes we were wearing.

At five o'clock in the evening, it was all over. We had a last meal, and packed up camp. The organizers were nice as usual, and brought us catered food. We were finished about nine, and set out for home. We reached Sweden maybe ten hours later, and that was the end of it...

I almost forgot: Lunda got caught on Dutch television. He was inteviewed, and can be seen 4 minutes and 15 seconds in the movie clip. Enjoy!

tisdag 6 oktober 2009

A trip to the land of stroopwafels, episode 1

We went to Nijmegen. It was time for a new trip to the land of beer and stroopwafels. We missed it last year, so we were really looking forward to it. At first we were supposed to be enough people to fill up at least two cars. We ended up with three adults and one toddler.

We wanted to leave early, but because of life being as it is, we didn't leave Sweden until 2 in the afternoon. The trip south was kind of alright, although we went into a traffic queue, plus it was raining a lot. We arrived in Nijmegen at night, about half past 12, and put up our tent plagued by stormwinds and heavy rain. Thomas Schatek from MiM was up using the "bathroom", and greeted us as we tried to negotiate the canvas against the wind. He offered his help, we said thanks but no thanks, and he went quickly to bed - a smart man!

There were three of us, but we still managed to get the tent up alright. That was so good, as we usually need at least four to fix it. We pegged one part to the ground before stretching it out on three sides. In 37 minutes we managed to put up the tent and make straw beds for all of us - it must be a new record. Eli and Isolde were dead tired, so they instantly went to bed. The rain whipped the tent, but they kept dry and warm between the blankets. Lunda and I wiped the rain from our faces and went over the square to our favourite pub - Camelot (http://www.cafecamelot.nl/). Our camp is situated by the church in the background, by the way - this is a map of the surroundings:

Visa större karta

As you can see, we camped in the middle of the town!

Camelot gave us the warmth we needed. We tried a couple of different brews (and realized that they no longer serve the delicious/disgusting Duchesse de Bourgogne; with each sip you have to decide whether it's utterly excellent or magnificently gross) and had a chat about life, before heading home to our tent. We went to bed abou 2 in the morning.

Morning light woke us up, and we rose to have breakfast with the Schateks - Thomas and Franziska. They had bread, coffee and tasty German sausages - a good start on the weekend. I planned the food for the weekend with Franziska - a way to practice my bad German - and then we went to shop food at the market. Thomas, fluent in Dutch, accompanied us to help us with interpretation - especially the names of different spice should prove difficult to figure out, although I managed to work it out in the end, with the help of Thomas and friendly bypassers, interested in my strange clothes.

We shopped a lot. We bought sausages and delicious cheese along with dried ham - we have found that it is a good idea to have food you don't need to use pots and pans for when it is intended for the last meal of the event. It is heaven not having to do the dishes just before leaving. Once again I planned the cooking from En sås av ringa värde and hence, the shopping was aimed at chickens and some vegetables, plus bread, wine and beer. And stroopwafels! If you don't know what that is - go to the Netherlands. You haven't lived until you tried them! An I found Duchesse de Bourgogne (or however it's spelled)! Our usual outlet didn't carry them anymore, so I had to scour Nijmegen for them. I eventually found them in a really nice wine store and bought ten of them. You can never decide whether they taste divine or utterly disgustning; each sip you have to ask yourself *yuk* or *yum*. This makes drinking Duchesse kind of fun - I never really stop being fascinated by it.

It was very windy during the Saturday. It was windy enough to blow plates off the tables. The wind made it nigh impossible to do any crafting at all. I cooked instead, and that worked alright. It is lovely to work with fine ingredients, and I cooked great food as well. This time I got to try out the recipe for En sås av ringa värde - "a sauce of lesser value" - a broth, really, served with bread, parsley and red onions. I also tried the so called Vitt mos - a porridge, more or less, made by eggs, milk, bread, sugar, cinnamon and saffron. It was a lovely change from porridge, and it let us use the old bread, which otherwise had been thrown away.

Two English scribes who were really nice (and really quite old - in their 60's and 70's!) also camped at the square, and during the day a happy few from the Deventer Burgerscap showed up: Lea, Isis, Marisca (with Oriande and Zenaïde), Laurens, Nijso and Bertus. I might have forgotten someone. Sorry.

As we were really few, we consorted a lot more than we usually do; we shared kitchen with the Schateks and had the Dutch about five metres across the square. This gave rise to a very familiar feeling that I really enjoyed, and we constantly "visited" each other.

Isolde kept busy with Oriande, Marisca's daughter. They kept holding hands and ran around the camp site to everyone's enjoyment, while us grown ups did this and that. As the day went to evening, we had our evening meal, and something to drink. As it grew late, we (the men) decided to have a boy's night out. Franziska didn't like this at all - she wanted to be a part of it, but you can't have a girl tagging along on a boy's night out. So we named her Bertus instead, as the real Bertus was stayiung behind anyway. We called her Bertus and made her drink like Bertus.

We went to a pub called In de blauwe hand. It is many centuries old, and if I understand it correctly, it was the hangout for indigo dyers. Now it's just a great pub; it's crammed, warm, murky and comfy. And they have great beer. I got a bit tipsy. But Franziska - sorry - Bertus got drunk, so we asked him if she wanted to leave. We didn't want to press him into drink anymore. But then she got a little sour:
"That's what you want, isn't it? You want me to leave! You didn't want me to come along from the beginning!" There, there Bertus...

She/he and Thomas left eventually. Me, Laurens and Lunda stayed for a bit, and when Lunda went to the loo, me and Laurens decided we wanted to teach him a lesson for being tardy. We rolled up our hoods into hard knots, and held them in the end of the liripipes. This way they resembled flails. We waited outside until he came out, and then we gave him the thrashing of his life. He tried to defend himself of course, and soon we were running through the backstreets and alley-ways, having an all-out war all against each other, stealing each others caps, smacking each other with our liripipe flails and having a grand time.

måndag 5 oktober 2009

Working man

I haven't written for some time, and that's because I'm starting a new job in a couple of weeks. That means I have loads to do at the place where I'm working now, and no motivation to write when I am home - I'm just too tired. This will change soon though, and I'll post stuff about our trips to Nijmegen and Ronneburg, plus some crafting I've been involved with - eating knives, new hose and a pair of gloves for my gauntlets (those gloves will look like crap, and I bet I have to adjust them again before being satisfied). I'll keep you - posted :-D

tisdag 22 september 2009

Ystad

Ystad. A small town at the south coast of Sweden. Outside - the castle of Bjersjöholm, the site of one of the biggest (the biggest?) 14th century events in Sweden, spanning over four and a half days. Our friends in Fraternis Militia Carnis are kind of co-organizers of the event; they have the responsibility to set up the battle. The event was set in the beginning of July, but I haven't had time or motivation to write anything about it yet. But here I go!

Me and my daughter Isolde was first on the spot of the guys from Albrechts Bössor. Elisabeth had business elsewhere, so she couldn't come.

I more or less set our whole camp myself (with some help from our friends in Fraternis Militia Carnis), and I was about finished when some of the others turned up. We made straw beds in the tents. Me, Morgan and Isolde were to bunk together. I made the tent as comfy as possible, with blankets and sheeps fleece. The small tents really are a bit small when you want to bring your equipment along; you won't feel that it is roomy if you are more than two people. Luckily we finally finished our bigger tents, which means we have space enough for the whole of the company.

The light was fading, but as Swedish summer nights almost never go quite dark, there was still light enough to make Isolde think it was day. And she behaved that way, plus she was really really tired. I put her to bed, and made up a story about a cow and a calf. She still likes
that one.

I had a couple of beers and a chat with the other guys, as the camp was beginning to form - even in the dark people arrived, and set up their tents. White shapes were risen against the night sky as I sat shivering from the chilly air with a mug in my hand. It is a funny thing to let your ears do all the "looking round" - it gives a whole new perspective. You know what happens, and you can picture it in your head, even if your eyes can only see shadows and a lonely lantern here and there.

At Thursday the event started. We were to have one battle each day, and we were having kitchen duty at least one of the days. As I used to work as a chef, I had the honor and the responsibility to organize the food one of the days. Sebastian, a more or less well known character at this blog, had planned it all before, and he had a lorry come all the way out to the area, and unload food enough for more than 60 people. He didn't want to cook, though, as that is what he does all day long. I'll get to the cooking part further down.

The day was used to check out the market for a bit. There weren't much for the serious reenactor, although some of the stalls had some stuff that could pass as decent.

Furthermore, we practiced gunnery. During calm, focused conditions, our best gunnery team can fire 4 shots in one minute and 3 seconds. That is exceptional, but we WILL be able to fire four shots in a minute blank. It is a matter of routine and practice, so we'll get there. We were very proud of ourselves, and of course it looked stunning.

The rest of the day, we built barricades for the battle. Henrik, a pyrotechnist, made up holes in the ground, which were filled with blackpowder and charcoal - these small harmless "bombs" were to be ignited by electricity when the cannons fired at the barricades - and it created a marvellous effect!

I mostly fired handgonnes during each battle, although I picked up my sword from time to time; when the fight came closer I had to protect myself. I'd rather not, if I can choose - My gauntlets have never really fit me, probably due to the crappy leather gloves I have as a base for the metal. They are really uncomfortable and restrain my movements. I am going to sew a pair that really fits - then I'll be happy to pick up the falchion and ward off the scabrous dogs that assail me!

Lots of groups took part in the fighting, among others our pals in Tyska Orden, our great friends of Deventer Burgerscap (it was really a blast to see them - they came all the way from the Netherlands!) and some other groups that are new to the Swedish 14th century scene. It is really good to see new groups emerge; it will be a blast when we get to work with them!

One of the guys from the great Norwegian tournament group Frilansene has made a quite decent film of the battle. It can be seen here. Be sure to check out the "bombs" exploding (Oi! Have a look after you finish reading)!

I could write on and on about the fights, the good company, the drink and the late nights, but I'm afraid I would only be repeating myself. That's why I'm going to tell you more about my day as a head chef in a kitchen serving more than 60 people, three times a day over an open fire.

First of all - the kitchen. It was the biggest reenactment field kitchen I have seen. The cooking fire was big enough for three or four pots, and the fireplace was made by bricks. We had lots of working space, and I had maybe ten people at my command. I was prepared for hard work as we began cooking breakfast; porridge, smoked susages, cheese and bread.

Second I'll present the menu for the event as a whole, although I was only responsible for two of the following meals (I guess I already broke my promise about spamming you with food details. Sorry. I am a terrible person...):

- Russet soup, from Le Viandier
- Legs of duck a'la Dodine, from Le Viandier
- Pork, cabbages and apples seasoned with cumin (one of mine!)
- Salmon covered in herbs served with frumenty, from Faite de cuisine (also one of mine! :-))
- Onion soup served with sausages and bread, from the Forme of Curye
- Grilled lambs and piglets along with root vegetables and camelina sauce
- Chicken with onions and almonds

And third I'll tell you more about the two dishes I was in charge of making.

The first dish we prepared was the pork seasoned with cumin. This was easy enough. We cut the pork into dice, 2x2 centimetres or so big. It was already seasoned with cumin seeds. At the same time we cut like a million cabbages and fried them with butter and honey, plus some vinegar. When it was close to finished, we started to boil the pork for some minutes - in the meantime we cut the apples and put them in the pot with the sliced cabbages. I tried it with salt and pepper - and it was a huge success!

Next dish (for the evening meal) was salmon covered with herbs. A time consuming process was to prepare the frumenty. The problem is that the barley always stick in the pot when it starts to swell and become thick. We solved that in an easy way: we boiled chicken stock and poured it over a big trough filled with barley. And lo and behold! The barley swelled, and was finished to eat in just a matter of about ten minutes. In the mean time, I used my skills as an old sushi chef to fix up the salmons. I got quite decent filets, but I saved the skin - it protects the meat when you fry the fish. My trusty helpers started to fry the fish, as I mixed the now finished barley with cream and more chicken stock. The result was a lovely, thick stew. Sadly it lacked salt. I'll do better next time.

Something that put a bit of damper on my dinner mood was that one of our boys came running from one end of the camp to the other - he was running from the training grounds. He came running back with another members personal effects in his hands. This usually means trouble, and boy, was I right.

Scan, one of our prospects, was down and out. I wanted to throw everything aside to go check on him, but I didn't; several of the boys are old combat medics - and Dr Bob was about, which meant me getting involved would only complicate things. So I took a deep breath, grasped my ladle and continued to stir my pots in the chilly wind.

One of the company members brought me a damage report. Scan had been cut in the face during practice. Three teeth had been broken, and he had a wide Joker grin, as the sword had cut his left cheek open. The cut was about three centimetres long, and he was taken to the Ystad hospital for serious patching up. I didn't have the focus to eat just then, so I finished cooking and put a couple of guys to do the dishes, so I had the possibility to get in the car and drive to pick the guys up at the hospital.

Scan had been fixed up real nice, but he was a bit down, as the effect of the adrenalin and the painkillers were wearing off. We bought soup for him, so that he could eat, and in the same time we tried to get hold of emergency dentists to fix up his teeth.

As far as I know, all is well with Scan, his cheek and his teeth. You just can't forget about that cut - nowadays we call him Smiley :-)
The most perfect thing was that the man actually stayed the whole event through! Pure and utter quality! He was even fighting the next day. No matter what happens, that man will have my respect for not stepping down, and for not submitting to fear. I am certain I would not have been as strong and composed.

Cheers to you, Smiley!

måndag 21 september 2009

Varberg - recipes

A sauce for noble men
- Cloves
- Nutmeg
- Cardamom
- Peppers
- Ginger
- Cinnamon
- Roasted bread crumbs
- Salt
- Vinegar

How to:
- Mix it all. Finished.

Chicken boiled with sage and smoked pork
- A chicken
- Salted/smoked pork
- Sage
- Salt
- A little vinegar

How to:
- Chop the pork in small dice
- Chop the sage
- Put it together with the chicken in a pot, and boil for about an hour

Grön sås (Green Sauce - a sauce made from vinegar with different herbs)
- Parsley
- Sage
- Thyme
- A pinch of cinnamon
- Vinegar

How to:
- Grind the herbs
- Add the cinnamon
- Add the vinegar

Simple chicken
- A chicken
- Lard or butter
- Wine
- Black pepper
- Water
- Salt

How to:
- Boil the chicken for about an hour
- Pick the meat of the bones. Fry the meat
- Add some wine, salt and pepper
- Let it boil for a short time

Kaliis
- Diced bread
- Egg yolks
- Fatty milk

How to:
- Mix egg yolks and milk
- Pour eggs/milk over the bread
- Fry slowly until thick enough to cut

Späckad mjölk
- Lots of eggs
- Fatty milk
- Smoked pork
- Saffron

How to:
- Chop the pork in small dice
- Beat eggs and milk
- Mix it with the pork
- Boil the mixture, and let simmer until it resembles wet scrambled eggs
- Let it cool
- Put in a cloth and a sieve, and strain the water over night
- Cut it into slices
- Fry it in butter

There (*pant*). I'll never do this again. It was a bit tedious...

Varberg - menu

Friday evening:

Meats:
- Fried sausages
- Bread
- Butter
- Sauerkraut

Veg:
- Eggs
- Olive oil
- Salt

Preparations:
- Making of En sås för herremän - a sauce for noble men
- Frying meat
- Pickling the above meat in the above sauce

Saturday morning:

- Porridge
- Honey
- Milk
- Butter
- Bread

Preparations:
- Soaking peas in water

Saturday lunch:

Meats:
- Späckhöns (chicken boiled with sage and smoked pork)
- Grön sås (a sauce made from vinegar with different herbs)
- Bread
- Butter

Veg:
- Frumenty
- Boiled carrots

Preparations:
- Reducing the stock left from the chicken

Saturday evening:

Meats:
- Enkla hönor (simple chicken)
- Bread
- Butter

Veg:
- Peasoup

Preparations:
- Späckad mjölk (a dish consisting of eggs and milk heated up, then mixed with pork and put in pressure over night)

Sunday morning:

Meats:
- Kaliis (a dish made from dried bread and eggs)
- Bread
- Cheese
- Butter

Veg:
- Kaliis made with water instead of milk

Sunday lunch:

Meats:
- Pickled meat, prepared almost 48 hours before (and yes - it kept fresh in spite of the heat!)
- Späckad mjölk

Veg:
- Boiled and then fried root vegetables
- Fried eggs

Preparations:
- Saving the stock from the boiled root vegetables
- Saving four eggs

Sunday evening:

Meats:
- Assorted cheese
- Ham
- Sausages
- Apples
- Pears
- Raisins
- Nuts

Veg:
- Stock saved from lunch
- Eggs
- Bread
- Apples
- Pears
- Nuts
- Raisins

There you go. A menu. Next step - the recipes (yeah - I know this is bull shit boring. I'll try not to do it anymore, OK?).

söndag 20 september 2009

Varberg

We had a great time in Varberg, at the west coast of southern Sweden. The event was hosted at Varberg Castle - which also houses a museum where the Bocksten finds are on display. We had two different kinds of display - fighting and a fashion show. The fashion show was not as good as Johan wanted it, but it gave us some ideas for the future. The public was really interested to check out our clothes and how they were made; stitches seem to be really cool :-)

The fighting wasn't bad either. Me and Morgan made a very good show when it came to wrestling. Johan followed up with dagger techniques, and I displayed the longsword. The display ended with Johan and Thomas beating each other to bloody pulp in a full contact clash. The audience was struck with awe, as the monster-fight-extravaganza took place.

For some reason, we didn't get a lot of photos from the event, but the few we have can be viewed here.

The main thing about the Varberg event was, however, one of my biggest challenges as a camp cook. I'd like to point out that it is something that is important to me, although I am a bit afraid you guys don't feel the same way. Please bear with me.

I put together two menues (one for the vegetarians and one for the regular omnivores), three meals a day for two days and one evening. Almost all of the recipes were from the book En sås av ringa värde, written by Daniel Serra and Hanna Tunberg, based on a Danish cookbook from around 1300. It was a serious piece of planning to be able to fix everything together. I planned to use the same broth several times, but I didn't have the means to store it, so I had to plan the different dishes with my mind set on that. Plus - I didn't want to serve similar meals in a row, and a lot of the food could turn bad in the extremely hot weather - I would say it were the hottest days this summer - over 30 degrees celsius! The meat and the chicken had to be cooked as soon as possible, and some of the dishes prepared more than one day ahead.

All in all everything went really well, except for the späckad mjölk - I'll present the recipe further down, but first I'll list the menu for the weekend, along with my working schedule. In the next post.

torsdag 10 september 2009

New helmet

A new helmet has been peeking out on different photos on the blog (you can have a look at me wearing it in a previous post - the one about the chain mail). I have finally the motivation to publish some of its history here.

I wanted a helmet made from one piece, so I contacted Ralph Snel, an incredibly talented Dutchman who lives part time in Sweden. He made my earlier helmet, and I was happy with it. But that was in 2003, and since then I have become more picky, and Ralph has become a lot better. We met in the spring/summer 2008 and had a chat about how I wanted it to look. Ralph measured my head and we discussed various aspects of helmet making. I wanted a kettle that that looked like ones in Skamstrup church in Denmark. It is dated to 1350-1375, which is perfect (well, 1375-1380 would have been better :-)) for me. It's the helmets on the topmost picture. I also looked up some other, similar helmets for reference. They are posted below. The two at the far left (top row) is from French manuscripts, while the right one (still top row) is from a Polish fresco. The photos in the next row is from a museum in Nürnberg, Germany. I am not sure about the dating, but it basically looks like the helmets in the top row.














So Ralph started working.

I think it is an incredible study of craftsmanship.













It's really smashing, if you ask me!




As it was finished, I made a lining for it.













Altogether, I thought it was a bit big. It was too heavy. The brim was too wide, and if I was going to wear it with my ears outside it, it would look silly on top of my head. So at first I wasn't as happy with it as I thought I would be. But as soon as the lining was put in, and I could wear the helmet with my ears inside it (it sounds a bit funny, but it looks alright, plus it's really good when you want to conceal the earplugs you use when firing guns), I started to feel a lot better. The real turn came in Morimondo, where I could happily grin at archers doing their best to shoot me - their arrows just bounce of, as the brim is wide enough to cover my shoulders. When I came close and personal with other fighters, I only needed to raise my shield and duck down to be perfectly safe. The weight of it "softens" the blows to the head, and when firing guns you can hear a faint "clang!", as from a church bell, as the boom from the gun resounds in the metal. It fits my needs, and I look sinister in it, as my eyes are always shaded from the sun. Probably I won't need another helmet in my days, even if some people might think that I look like a giant mushroom!

måndag 31 augusti 2009

New skillet

Some time ago Anders, one of the company members, and I had a chat about skillets. I wanted to buy one from a caster, but he (the maker) told me that it would cost about 5000 euros just to make the mold, as I wanted a special skillet from Sweden. I wanted a cast one, and had finally decided that a Mary Rose model was looking similar enough to a 14th century one. It wouldn't be very expensive, as the maker already had a mold for it. At this time I spoke to Anders. Earlier I had found pictures of forged skillets, but I had the notion they were rare in comparison to forged ones. Anders talked me into abandoning the idea of a cast skillet, and I started looking for forged ones.

It was slow work. There are not many skillets in pictures from the time, and not many findings either. However, at one point I hade found enough pictures to order a reproduction. One of these pictures was a picture of a skillet from Vreta Kloster in Östergötland, a province in Sweden. The skillet is dated too 1100-1500 - a broad time frame really, but it shares aspects with late 14th- and early 15th century ones, like these below. They are all from French manuscripts from the end of the 14th century and the beginning of the 15th. The original skillet is quite small, but as we are becoming quite a few members in the company, I asked Anders to make it bigger. And he did. We have been using it during the season, and I am very happy with it.

Anders have been posting a description, including pictures, of his work at his blog, which can be found here. Check it out!

onsdag 29 juli 2009

It's finished!

After years of sporadic, hate filled work, the panzar is finished. It has left me with a feeling of emptiness, but more important - a will to make a new, better one. This one isn't perfect from a cosmetic poin of view, and it doesn't fit as good as it could. It is in part based on an Italian fresco (this was a long time before I decided not to use Italian sources), but I have made a lot of changes (i.e. mistakes), because I am simply not a craftsman. This picture of the original is scanned from my copy of Medieval Military Costume by Gerry Embleton - a must have for the military reenactor. I am certain I have a photo of the same fresco somewhere, but I can't seem to find it.

I really liked the type of panzar pictured here - the "bags" to fit the elbows are really vivid, plus the quilting is unusual in recreations. That's why I immediately decided to give it a try, about four years ago.

This is how I went about. The top of the shoulders are heavily padded to reduce chafing from my plata (coat-of-plate), as are the outside of the arms and the chest (four layers of woolen blanket). The waistline and the lower arms have very little padding (2 layers or less), whilst the inside of the arms plus the armpits have no padding at all. This is to allow easy movement.

So far so good. You veteran readers have certainly read about my "button making industry" earlier (check earlier posts under the topic "arms and armour" for example). I made 70 buttons - 15 for each arm and 40 for the chest. It was a tedious work, but it came out alright. The help to give the armour a tight, nice fit. Plus it looks gorgeous.

If only it was true. Let's look at how it really turned out. I look more or less like a stuffed crab in it. When this picture was taken, in Morimondo this year, I was just about finished with it. I very soon realized that I had to remove tons of padding from the elbow joint, as I couldn't bend my arms. To look a bit normal I also needed to remove padding from under the arm. You can have a closer look on how this turned out at the picture labelled "4" below. The patches and the extra, tacky seams are clearly visible. And by the way - the "elbow bags" are nowhere to be seen...

Next error: The damned patching. My opinion is that a panzar was made by a professional, and that would mean that beginners mistakes like mine would be absent in a finished panzar. My biggest mistake was to forget that the outermost layer have to be bigger than the ones closer to the body. This mistake cost me lots of extra work, as I had to patch every edge keeping the armour together. The patching can be seen at the pictures labelled 1 (the side), 2 (back) and 3 (front) below. As the quilting form a quite special pattern, the patches form really distinct contrasts. And it looks ugly.

Next, we have the chest (labelled 3). It is also patched (it's hard to see in the picture, but I marked the seams with yellow), but the big thing is that I was forced to abandon buttoning; the edge was simply to stiff (and the panzar itself too tight) to allow buttoning. I tried at first, but it took me about 5 minutes to button two of them, so I decided to skip the buttons and go for lacing instead. 70 buttons in the bin, and another step away from the main plan...

I also needed to remove quite a lot of padding from the cuffs, as my gauntlets couldn't fit over them.

All in all, it's crap. And I have already started to buy new materials for the next one. Hopefully I won't be making all those mistakes again.

måndag 27 juli 2009

New cauldron

We have a new cauldron. On the picture it is filled with enough porridge to feed the whole of Lund. It contains 25 litres and it is really, really heavy. And I love it. Robin, the blacksmith of Kulturen, made a handle for it. Now it's complete, and I am looking forward to years of good use, together with the steadily growing collection of kitchen utensils.

The tent is finished!

It was a lot of work but we finished the tent a couple of months ago. I haven't got around to post anything about it yet, be here goes.

At present, Albrechts bössor have three smaller tents and two bigger ones. All of them is made by triangles sewn together. The bigger ones aren't much bigger than the smaller ones, but the difference is everything; there is much more space in the bigger ones. You can actually keep your equipment at your bed.

We recently found out however, that we need some sort of device for shutting the tents - when it's windy the flap that forms the "door" is really out and about. Let's see if anyone will make it happen...

New knives

I have been lobbying for a set of knives for the company. Up until now we have been chopping onions with daggers and hunting knives, which is creative, but not very practical. Besides I am going ballistic if I have to chop another onion with a weapon.

First of all, I ordered a couple (the first two) from a business dealing in reenactment/LARP-stuff. They were really cheap, so I decided it couldn't hurt much if they sucked. I worked a couple of hours to sharpen them (I had to remake the edge totally), and then I found that they worked satisfactory. The steel isn't very good though - you have to sharpen them quite often for them to stay sharp enough to use. I like their shape (especially when cutting meats) and balance, but they are a bit too light for me. My days as a chef has left me really picky when it comes to knives.


The second buy isn't really a buy yet. I have lent a couple of knives made by Simon's pal Kristoffer. He seems a good man, interested in joining the company one day. The knives are kind of rough to the finish, and the sharpening is uneven, plus I'm not sure I like the shape (either I really like it or I really don't - I haven't decided yet) and size of them (they should be a bit shorter). The most important thing is how they will work when they are properly sharpened. A great and significant difference between the first ones and the second ones are that the second ones seems to be made from a much better steel - they will be able to keep their edge a lot better than the others. We'll see.

It is however a good thing that we have decent knives - it will greatly improve the cooking.

My chain mail finally arrived!

Here it is. It's a flat ring, riveted chain mail. It fits like a knife when I wear it, but I had severe trouble putting it on, not to mention taking it off. It must have been quite a sight; I was on the balcony (Eli didn't want me to put grease stains everywhere in the flat), wearing underpants and a gambeson. I was panting and sweating like a pig, and really needed help to put it on. I jumped up and down to make it slide down, but it stuck on my nose and on my ears, and pulled my beard and hair. Solid pain. Grunting. Muscles tiring. Panic closed in - hot dam - I was stuck, and could never get out. But as soon as I had negotiated my head through the almost too small head opening, it was a lot easier. Great. Let's put that helmet on and take some photos. Done.

And then I needed to get out of it. Not possible. Not even remotely. Damn. It stuck halfway, on my ears and nose again. Why, mother? Why the big ears and the potato nose? A close up on the picture reveals how close a shave it really was - it is not only sun burn on my face... I asked Eli to go get a pair of pliers to cut me out of it, but before she had gone I managed to squirm my ears and nose lose. 75% of all the hairs in my beard and on my head followed as I bent forward in the shape of an upside-down "U", jumping like a kid in dire need of toilet. Again - solid pain. Clad only in underpants and gambeson. Out on the balcony. The chain mail finally slid of. And I realized I need to get a few modifications done...

But it sure is pretty!

fredag 24 juli 2009

Happy days in Lund - Gunnery and storming the Dean's house

Sunday, the last day of the event. We were to show off the same combat display as Saturday and then we had a gunnery display a well.

We started off with the gunnery. Johan held an excellent lecture on early fire arms. He has been fine polishing the same lecture for years, and it is getting better everytime. Me and the others waited to load and fire - Guffe and Roger from Fraternis Militia Carnis were posing as gunners as well. Guffe felt kind of naked without his full plate, but I believe he had a good time anyways. He smiled a lot, although not in that picture; he and Roger are far too concentrated keeping up with the loading speed of the rest of the gunners.

Johan finished the lecture and ordered us to load and fire. It's all caught on tape. The gun teams all load up really quick and fire even quicker. I felt it was a splendid display, which showed that we have been growing better - the practice in Morimondo payed off. It is always more fun to shoot the guns than you remember, so I was quite happy with it. That's me in the big helmet by the way.

video

After lunch it was time for yet another combat display, but this time, we weren't as many; some of the guys had gone to the Dean's House ("Dekanen") to prepare for our storming. They brought a couple of handgonnes and waited lazily at the top floor, scouting our display out from a window. Johan was supposed to give them a sign, and then they would fire on us. We would take our stuff and storm the place with the ladder via the balcony. Simple enough.

Before the display was quite finished, the first shot was fired. We stopped in the midst of everything, glancing at Johan. He shrugged. The second shot was fired. We pushed our way through the audience and ran towards Dekanen, with a huge tail of spectators following us. As we came up to the building we were taunted from the balcony by the enemy. We told them our minds and reached for our sturdy ladder, only to discover that we had forgot it... Me and Simon ran all the way back to get it, only to discover that it wasn't in our camp. I was a bit confused. We ran back. And there was the ladder. I was two bits confused. It turned out that the helpful blacksmith of Kulturen, Robin, plus Stefan, an old friend, had seen us leave the ladder behind. The promptly picked it up to help us out. Funny.

We put the ladder to the balcony and I started to climb. The first step of the ladder broke. Then the second. Then the third. And the fourth. Then the left side of it collapsed. I hung onto it like a rat to a piece of wood in a stormy sea, but was forced to let go. The ladder was tested! I couldn't understand why it just crashed at that moment, but I soon realized that it wasn't tested for armoured people...

Simon, the smallest of us, took point, and scaled the remains of the ladder. We pushed him up to the balcony, but there were the defenders. Simon later told me he was inches from falling to his near death, as Ville pushed a sword in his chest when Simon tried to climb the banisters. He managed to "fight them off" and to gain ground on the balcony. The crowd cheered, while we stood wondering how on earth we were supposed to pull Simon's stunt off, once again.

We decided to charge the "locked" door, and to take the fight to them. I was first up the stairs, and put my shoulder to the heavy door, it slid open, and I barged in. My first sight was Simon, sitting on a bench, resting. He was dead tired and grinned at me when I pushed him on his feet - we were supposed to clear out this nest of cut throats once and for all. We stormed out on the balcony and smashed into the defenders. It was a relentless fight, real close quarters, with precious little space to manouever. Me and Alex pushed our opponents up the stairs, side by side. The stair case was so narrow that we more or less stuck there. Simon pushed us upwards by pressing his shield in our backs. Me and Alex were assaulted by Guffe and his heavy pole axe. Alex helped me to keep my shield raised, as we little by little took the stairs. The crowd roared and my muscles were aching like crazy. Sweat was in my eyes, but we were pushed up by a screaming Simon. There was no turning back.

At the first half landing some one cut down John. He was hanging over the banisters, playing dead. He later told me that he had done such a splendid job, that his saliva slowly had started to run out of his mouth, dripping in long strings scattering a group of kids underneath.

At the last half landing, we stood face to face with Guffe and Ville. I can't remember what happened, but I think Ville cut me down. I stumbled and fell, out of harms way. Or so I thought: Guffe did the same, landing on my shield arm. I was pretty sure it broke.
"Guffe! Pleeease roll off!"
"Dammit! I can't! It's too narrow here. I'm stuck!"
Don't ask me how, but I managed to wriggle out of that hellish position. I was relatively comfortable until the fight ended, and we stood up to enjoy the cheers of the audience.

After that, it was fighting time, just for the fun of it. Most of us had never fought indoors, and Dekanen gave us a perfect excuse. So we fought until I was too tired to lift my arms. We were grinning like children when we threw each other over tables, kicked each other into corners, used daggers, wrestling techniques and what have you. It was so funny! I don't think I have had as much fun since my first fight in Azincourt 2003.

After this, the event was drawing to its end. We packed up and wished John and Hannah a pleasant honeymoon in Sweden, before we jumped in the cars and drove back home.

All in all I had a great weekend, and we already have great plans for the next storming of Dekanen!

Happy days in Lund - fashion show and fighting

This was the first time we really displayed fashion. We have been working on different types of display to fit the needs of our contractors. This time they wanted fashion so we gave them what they wanted. The display consisted of Anna, Johan and myself. It was pretty haphazard (imagine a bunch of gunners trying to look perdy) but we managed to show the spectators one or two things about fashion, from head to toe. I don't think Johan was very pleased with it (he was holding the reins), but it worked all right.

Next step was the combat display. I started to show the boys taking part in the display a thing or two about the wrestling techniques of Master Ott, some time before it was time to show it to the audience. Some of them had never been taking part in medieval wrestling before, so I put together a simple and brief programme at the spot. They all did well, and when it was show time, I was happy with their skills. The onlookers were clearly amazed. Wrestling is exciting when you get to know the mechanisms behind it - it is all about balance and how to influence it.

Next, Johan showed some dagger techniques, as deadly and brutal as they are ingenious. I think he has gone soft (or old), because he was nearly gentle with me. I remember the early days he used me as a dummy; I could hardly stand. Nevertheless, the spectators always seem to enjoy my pain, but that's OK. It's my job to make people laugh. Bastards.

Usually, when we make combat displays, we show off techniques from unarmed fighting via dagger to sword tricks. Lastly we gear up and show a non-coordinated fight with near full force. Hence it was time for sword and buckler. Simon and Alex showed sword patterns from Lichtenauer/Ringeck. It was a stylish show - a perfect mix of serious sword handling and pure fun. Hopefully Simon would like to develop his skills even further, and that he would like to be responsible for sword and buckler displays in the future.

Last, but not least, we had the uncoordinated fight. Not much to say about it to be honest. Of course it was a good fight and all, but if you do something enough times, it will often only be an ordinary thing. If you never fought a reenactment fight, it is a glorious experience. My first fight, in France by the way, had me gasping for breath. I had a headache from all the tension and I knew that I could never get enough of this. But this is not the time to tell about that.

During the day, me and Johan took John and Hannah on a stroll through Lund, to show them some of the sights. There are more than a handful of medieval buildings still standing, including the cathedral, so you can get your medieval stomach quite full of experience. Even though culture and history was on the agenda, I guess I made John's day when I steered him inside Systembolaget (on of the smaller ones) at Mårtenstorget. For those of you not from Sweden, or familiar with Swedish circumstances when it comes to alcohol, I can tell you that Systembolaget is a state owned business selling all sorts of alcohol. And they are good at it. John spent a near 45 minutes browsing the bottles, and left quite happy.

When the displays were finished for the day, we could concentrate on the good things in life; firing salutes to close the event for the day and then get to the eating and drinking. The camp became a merry scene; some of the musicians came to visit. We bribed them with cheap whiskey to keep them playing, whilst we were playing Glückshaus along with other guests, such as Maja and Elin, two great girls interested in joining the company.

Eli and Hannah tried on the company coat together (it's called company coat as it easily could swallow the whole of Albrechts Bössor) while they were drinking copious amounts of wine. John tried to sleep in the midst of it, and I pulled a blanket over him, as the night grew colder.

During the night some of the boys had been talking to the organizers of the event, and gained access to the 15th century Dean's House. This lead to big plans, and building of a ladder for storming the balcony of the said house during a display on sunday. The builders were a bit drunk, but managed to make a ladder alright. We tried it out by climbing it onto the balcony. It worked like a charm. Eli and Hannah tried to steal it, to strand us on the balcony, but they were stopped by Johan, lucky for us.

It was suddenly it very late, the guests had left and I felt really tired. So I went to bed. And fell fast asleep at once.

Great days, this.

Getting on my feet

What happened to me struck me completely off my feet, and I lost all will to live (although I didn't lose the will to be alive). It was the deepest sadness and despair I have ever felt, but luckily it didn't last very long. Things are better now. They are not perfect, but they will be - in time. One thing is for certain though - it will never be as it was. However I reckon that is a good thing, and this day I feel living enough to write again. And I will.

onsdag 8 juli 2009

Life is life

Stuff is happening right now, and it makes me sick with worry and grief. It feels like a big lump of horror is gnawing my guts. It makes my eyes tear, my stomach hurt and my muscles tense. Everything depends on what happens this weekend, and if it goes wrong, I might never ever write again. I hope (and I actually pray - which I have never done before) that everything turns out well. I have faith, though I despair.

Those of you that have been reading my notes I give my thanks. I really hope I shall find the strength and joy to write again.

torsdag 18 juni 2009

Happy days in Lund - arriving and setting up camp

It was time for our "own" regular event - Medeltidsdagarna i Lund (http://www.kulturen.com/medeltidsfestivalen/). It is a small, cozy event in the middle of the open air museum Kulturen in the south Swedish city of Lund. The site is special, as houses from different parts of Sweden have all been disassembled and reassembled in Lund. Some of the buildings are medieval, and some are from later days, but most of them look exactly as medieval farmsteads. They are built in the same way as during the 14th century and with the same techniques. It's beautiful and we like it there.

The boys and girls of Albrechts Bössor are invited each year, to have displays and to add to the general mood of the festival. This year, we had a fashion show, a display regarding medieval fire arms and to fighting displays.

We arrived on friday evening and started to put up camp. John and Hannah from The Company of Chivalry (http://www.yecompaynyeofcheualrye.com/cc/) were waiting for us, along with Lunda and some of the others. We had a problem with putting up the tents, as we left the centre poles in Italy, to keep the weight down, but after some looking we managed to scrounge up enough poles of the right dimension to put up the tents. Next step was filling them with straw, to make beds. It turned out that the organizers hadn't brought enough straw for all to go around. We shared it amongst us, and we had kind of thin, but OK beds in the end.

It was growing dark, and it started to drizzle. Morale was kind of low, but Lunda and the Brits had been cooking potatoes and chopping chives to go with the massive amount of herring that I pickled. It's traditional summer food in Sweden, and as I use my grandmothers old recipe, it always turn out good. Thing was that 75% of the company just left the site to go for a falafel, because they didn't like the herring - before even tasting it!

I was bloody pissed. I had been working hard for this, and I was really disappointed that noone would eat it - except for John. He really loved it and ate a good part. Even Hannah, who doesn't like fish, tried it, and kind of liked it. But not too much though. To go with this we had bought a classic Swedish lager for the Brits, and a nice aquavit - a spiced vodka - both traditional additions to pickled herring. We sat up drinking in the Dean's House ("Dekanhuset" or "Dekanen"), a 15th century building furnished with some nice reproductions of chests, benches and tables. John stitched on his shoes, we told jokes and had a really good time. I went to check on Isolde, who (finally) slept sound under a sheep's fleece, while the rain and wind whipped the tents. When I finally went to bed, it was more early morning than late night. I was happy that our tents, both new and old, could stand the rain.

I slept well until morning, and stood up to face a grey, rainy morning. Most of our stuff was put under roof, but some lay scattered about the camp (it's always like that - in spite of my, and others, honest attempts to keep the camp tidy). I managed to get a fire going, and put our new cauldron on the fire; it was time to initiate it to the company. Breakfast was to be porridge, and as the food was slowly heating up, I tried to tidy up. The others came out from the tents. Johan seemed really tired (and later told me that he had fallen into some kind of diet-coma or coma-light, which ever expression fits).

As it was finally time for breakfast, it was also time for me to get groceries. Me, and a handful of the others, went for the store, where we bought a whole salmon, a couple of kilos of smoked pork, bread, flour, rolled oats for porridge, apples and other stuff we needed. As we got back to camp, the festival had started - and the rain had stopped. We immediately started too cook lunch - frumenty with fried, smoked pork - an old favourite! Then - lunch. I can't remember what we had, but it might have been frumenty, an old time favourite (boiled barley served with salted pork - it's a lot better than it sounds). It was good to use the new monster cauldron, but it really looked a lot like - iron. It was almost shiny. Simon fixed it up, with a load of grease and 10 minutes on the fire. It was black as sin when he was finished. As soon as the food was on the boil, the sun had begun to shine, and to dry our minds and clothes. Our humours rose, and it was time for the first display - the fashion show.

Tired of nagging

I am tired of nagging. And I am tired of people in the company just being so stubborn and so single minded. Either I cannot make them understand or they just don't want to. Another alternative is that they understand, but the just don't give a shit about my arguments. Even though I feel it's for the best of the company. It might be a bit of all, but nevertheless I am making enemies, because I won't shut up. I am too concerned about the company to not argue for what I believe is right. A lot of the guys just consider one or two of the aspects, but they don't seem to give a shit about other, really important stuff.

Sometimes I wonder if I should go on. Often I feel I am giving too much of myself, but nobody cares. I am kind of convinced that a lot would change for the worse if I left. I have played with the idea of making a new company, or join an existing one. Or just give up reenacting. Or at least do nothing in the company, and leave everything I do for others to handle. That way they might notice how much I really contribute to our group.

It might be that I am totally mistaken. I might not be such a big player after all. The company might just do fine without me, but sometimes - today for example - it feels like everything would crash without my efforts. We'll see what happens, and what I'll do in the end.

Italian Sunday

The last day of the event, everything was focused on the Big One. The fight during the day feels a lot bigger than the night fight. Furthermore, we had a plan. The cocky Brit byrd Ellie was going to get it. A lot (most) of the guys in Albrechts Bössor has been in the military, and one has been working as a prison guard, so we decided to use what we've learned in the service of the state, and snatch her from the line (the English have quite a few women in their line, but Ellie gives more lip than the rest). Next step was to force her to use one of our handgonnes against her own. A devious plan indeed!

I decided not to join the line this day. Me and a couple of others (some of the Italians from yesterday also joined us at the gunnery position) stayed with the handgonnes. It all started out fine, but I recently heard that one of the Swedes had both (!) his legplates smashed from his shins. Both straps attaching them broke. One of the English used a mace that was far too heavy and, if you ask me, shouldn't have been allowed at all at the field.

Now, back to the plan. Two of the biggest guys put their swords in their sheaths and strapped their shields to their arms. A couple of knights were going in first, to attack the people on the sides of Ellie, and to rob her of the safety of her comrades. Directly after that, the big guys just grappled her - one on each arm - and turned her around. She was dragged backwards by two 100 kilo guys, spitting and cursing, but then it all went wrong.

The English just couldn't stand to see one of their own being taken, and they shall have credit for that. The thing is, they shouldn't take things to seriously. We weren't going to kill her for real - it was all in good fun. But they were too prestigious. One of their knights left their line, and grabbed her to pull her back. Our knights pounded him silly, but he just wouldn't take hits. He started a tug-o-war with the poor Ellie, and our guys decided this wasn't at all what we were after, and simply let her go. Too bad. It would have been so funny.

When the fight was over, we were all steaming in the afternoon heat. A crowd of several thousand had come to see us fight, and it was kind of massive to see them all. We lined up in the usual fashion, and I looked down the line. We seemed to be hundreds (I guess we were). An impressive sight. After the speech by Padre Mauro and the charging of the audience, we packed up the camp. It took us some hours, and we were just about finished, when we were invited by our hosts to eat. We had lovely tortellini and after that cold meats and salamis. An excellent meal that came with wine.

The evening came to an end. I had a couple of drinks, but were too tired to stay up late (this wasn't at all true for my wife though...). I slept for some hours, and in the early morning we began our journey home.

tisdag 2 juni 2009

Gunning the Saturday away - part 2

Simon got the honour of resupplying the gunners' bags. I had to get more powder, as we more or less had run out. We were fit for the evenings fight, and waited, while we fortified our position behind the pavise by forcing stakes into the ground. The deal was, that we were going to start fighting along the spearmen in Carnis' unit - a group armed with spears and other pole arms, supported by some cap-à-pie-knights. The captains' meeting had confirmed our grim expectations - we were going to fight the Poles. Again. Everyone was put down in a way, but they also wanted satisfaction from last year. The mood was strangely mixed.

We marched into the field as darkness had settled, and witnessed a quite cool display, when soldiers burned an oupost belonging to the enemy. We left our guns and gunnery equipment with a guard in the gunnery position, and went to join the spears of Carnis.

Drums rolled. The Poles were advancing right towards us in a disturbing pace. Above us the sound of flying arrows could be heard, as our strong archers unit let loose of their flowers of war. Then, suddenly, a unit started to advance diagonally across the field. It were the English. Good old Company of Chivalry! They steered in front of the Polish, and marched at us. The Polish stopped, and turned to engage some unlucky Italians. They left us with the boys of merry England.

We advanced to meet them. Me and Johan held the unit's right flank, armed with sword and shield. And then the bills fell into the line with a crash. The English are hard fighters, but most of them still think it's good fun. That's why you can almost endure a heavy bill hitting you in the head. The fight was on. It was an inferno of thrusting spears and glinting swords, of screaming and clattering, of fear and dark joy. As usual, I don't remember much of the fights. You are so focused on details that you forget the whole picture.

The battle was drawing near its end, and the gunners left the line, as decided before hand - we were going to cover the withdrawal of our forces with gun fire. And we did. Orders were shouted, priming powder was ignited. The muzzle flashes and the bangs filled the night, as the crowd cried in terror with each shot fired. We felt grim and mighty, and actually we were more gunners than usual; a handful of Italian colleagues had joined up, and fired happily shot after shot. In the wet grass, they stinging grey smoke lingered. The smell was strong. It looked awesome.

It was about then it happened. We heard muffled screams in the direction of Carnis' unit, and Dr Bob ran towards the spot. I don't know what happened in detail, but I do know that one of our German friends had an Italian spear in his eye. Dr Bob joined him in the ambulance for Abbiategrasso hospital. He returned much later in the night, and told us the unlucky German would probably be alright, even if nothing was certain (today he is more or less fully restored, and he will keep his eye sight as far as I know).

You always take a risk when fighting in the field. You always get bruised, and you always burn your hands when meddling with gun powder. It's not a children's game, even if it's not for real. People do get hurt - they even die, although very seldom. I guess nobody wants to think of it, and to tell the truth the injuries are kind of few, if you regard how many are involved in this hobby, and the violent nature of it. I have myself been close to serious injury when one of the guns exploded and I had a piece of shrapnel in my chin. It came out after some weeks and an operation. I will always have a noteable scar in my face, but in a strange way, I feel kind of proud of it. I just sincerely hope next explosion won't get my eye or any of my arterys.

And then - as usual - it was time for food and drink. We ended up in our camp, really late, where I swearing and cursing lost game after game of the dice game Glückenhaus. I swear Hannah must have cheated! Four twelves in a row? Impossible!

måndag 1 juni 2009

Gunning the Saturday away - part 1

Saturday the event started for real. We had breakfast, and then went for the ice cream place. Italian ice cream is sooo good. I was a bit tired from the day before, but Dr Bob gave me something to drink that was supposed to restore the balance in my body - water, salt and sugar. It tasted so foul I almost threw up, mainly because lots of the salt and sugar was left in the bottom, and I got it all in my mouth, but also because of the unlikely mix of the taste of salt and sugar...

Kåre from Carnis had challenged a Polish guy to a fight, and that guy came to the camp, all geared up in a beautiful kit. He looked impressive and was polite and friendly, and I was glad I had that impression; it fuels my opinion that the Polish are actually very nice guys, only with different views on how to fight. Kåre was woken up, as he was still sleeping in the tent. Although probably really tired, he geared up, and they went to the field to settle the score, in all friendlyness. I didn't see it happen, but they hadn't been fighting for long until Kåre somehow was hit by the shield of the Polish guy. According to Dr Bob (who really is a doctor), Kåre's nose broke by the blow. And he wasn't happy about it. I can't remember all of it, but the Pole meant that Kåre did something he shouldn't do, and Kåre said, in his turn, that shield bashing is out of the question. At least they parted as friends. I think.

We went to Davide, one of the organizers, to fetch powder for the guns, and then we prepared priming powder by grinding some of it up in a mortar. We filled up the powder flasks, cut appropriate pieces of slow match, packed our gunners' bags and dressed up in full battle gear. Then we went out in the field. It was really hot. It was so hot Dr Bob couldn't stay outside - he sat boiling in the heat, trying not to collapse. The rest of us tried to be heroes (but remained only stupid) while we prepared to practice the art of gunnery. Yosef from Fraternis Militia Carnis didn't have much armour on, so he chose to fight alongside us. He became a welcome addition to the gunnery position, behind a sturdy pavise on our left flank.

Earlier we haven't had much of standardized commands for firing the guns and controlling the gun crews, so we started by making them up. They have a good feel to them, and some are borrowed or adapted from "genuine" Swedish army commands. And here they are (scroll down if you feel it is getting immensely boring):

Duka! ("Set up", when arriving at a firing position)
Gör klart att skägga! (When preparing to leave a firing position "Make ready to run like hell"), then
Packa! ("Pack up")
Ladda! ("Load!")
Fänga! ("Prime!")
Eld! ("Fire!")
Samtidigt eldöppnande - eld! ("Simultaneous fire - Fire!")
I tur och ordning - eld! ("One after another - Fire!")
Fri eldgivning - eld! ("Fire at will - Fire!")

Furthermore, we kitted our gunners' bags with the same set of equipment:

- Slow match
- A tool for holding the slow match
- A ramrod
- A bag full of wad
- A powder flask
- A small container with priming powder
- A mallet for packing the charge
- Means to light up the slow match
- A needle to clear out the priming hole if necessary

Then we plunged into it. We loaded, fired, loaded again, fired - I lost count on how many shots we fired, but I am pretty sure we kept going for at least 30 minutes. Yosef turned out to be an incredible loader - he was too quick for the rest of us. Just a shame he's a member of Carnis - not of Albrechts Bössor ;-)

Alex got to test fire his new monster gun. We used double the amount of powder and double the wad (we use tea bags as wad). At first it just kind of said "poof!" anyway, so we were more thorough when packing the charge, with small carpenters mallets I had bought especially for the occasion (these turned out to be kinda crappy, as they slid off the ramrod when we were packing the charge - we need to get new ones).

During firing, the guns became so hot we had to switch them for unused ones. The bangs made my new helmet resound with a faint clang, and when we eventually finished, the faces of our boys were covered in black powder grime and sweat.

Then our friends from Carnis took the field. They were practicing spear fighting, and we joined in. Kristoffer (aka "Dansken" - The Dane") was responsible for drilling the group, and he was hung over. Like really. Plus, his orders were in Danish, and built up in such a way that people got confused and a bit annoyed. When things didn't work out as he wanted, he screamed louder, and pushed us in the back, which made everyone much more motivated - not. The heat, and the fact that he made us trot around with presented spears (which is physically straining after a while) and the screaming (plus our half hour firing spree just before) made me wish I'd been somewhere else. Finally it all ended, and we could go back to eat.

lördag 30 maj 2009

Departing for foreign lands, our first day in camp

We met up with others in the company in Milan, and had an excellent meal, whereafter we slept safe and sound at a crappy hostel. Aaaaaaand let's skip to the cool part!

The camp was slowly forming as we arrived. It is a special view - a medieval camp coming to life. We could enjoy it from a little hill top, just as we arrived. We all helped out making camp, and with relative ease and speed everything was finished. For some reason, the boys and girls in the company always seem to be digging the waste pit and making the wash up-place when we go with other companies. It has almost become kind of a tradition. I guess it depends on that most men in Albrechts Bössor has been in the army, and know the value of good hygiene when camping, especially when there are lots of people around. It was really hard work, using only medieval tools, but soon enough I finished the pit connected to the washing up-place. We had a breather, and sat down inside the new tent.

And then the rain started. And what a rain it was. The raindrops hammered the tent walls and sent tiny drops, nearly mist, inside. We sat a while and realised that the tent passed the test. Water was coming through, but it wasn't dripping. Rather it ran down the tent walls down on the ground, exactly how it's supposed to do. You can't really keep completely dry in a tent. Rather, you don't get soaked.

But at this point, we started to worry a bit. At this pace, water would be floating in the tent very soon, so it was time for more army work. We picked up the shovels and picks, and went out bare chested (skin is water proof :-)) to dig canals around the tents. We worked at a furious pace, whipped by the rain. The canals actually filled up as we were digging them, so we had to make them deeper and wider still. When we were finished the rain stopped. And it didn't rain a drop after that. Rather it was scorching hot. Figures.

That night, we had a lot of beer and Grappa. Padre Mauro, the priest connected to the Morimondo church, ran the pub situated in the monastery. We looked at a film from last year's battle and sang indecent songs together with all our old friends. Göran, one of the new comers in Carnis, brought his hurdy gurdy and played the song "Höstvisa" - Autumn Song. It just so happens that that particular song is somewhat of a national anthem to Albrechts Bössor, and we all bellowed the words in between glasses of wine and beer. I had bought Amarone, a herbal liquor, which resembles of Jägermeister - only better. It was nicked by Ellie from the Company of Chivalry, and never seen again. That girl has a lip, and she's not taller than three apples stacked on each other.

Padre Mauro gave each company two sets of aquarelles portraying different aspects of the newly renovated monastery. Up until now, we have always looked at scaffolding when turning our eyes to the monastery, but now, the renovations are over. The monastery sure is a sight. It is very beautiful and very big. Of course I missed the guided tour. I will have to make it next year, as it is said to be very good.

The English joined us at our camp to drink some more. The night went on, with a lot of laughter and singing. A perfect start of the first event of the year. I can't remember when I went to bed, but I slept as good as I always do in the hay, under the blankets. Waking up was a different story though...

fredag 22 maj 2009

Departing for foreign lands

Alea Iacta Est…
…said Caesar, trying to blend in, because he wasn’t in Rome. He was in fact in Milan, as were I. Mercenaries from across Europe were drawn to the village of Casorate, some distance from the great city. They enrolled either for Visconti or his rivals, as they were preparing to fight each other, in the year of our lord 1356. Caesar wasn’t really there, by the way. He was born and killed much earlier. And to tell you the truth, I wasn’t there either. At least not that particular year, or any year yet. I went to Morimondo, some distance from Casorate, to reenact the battle of Casorate. Don’t ask me why it is taking place in Morimondo. I have no idea why. I’m just happy to be invited.

This, the first event of the season, was preceded by lots and lots of work and preparations. Me and Elisabeth had three main things to fix: One of the new company tents (which you probably already read about), lining for my new helmet and the sleeves for my (much hated) panzar. And how we worked. We were actually finished in time, against all experience and against all odds, and could even relax a couple of hours before packing the stuff and leaving for Kalmar. We were planning to leave Thursday, three days after packing up. Now all we could do was to wait.
The truck picking up people’s equipment left Stockholm Tuesday morning, and apparently got into trouble from the start. They were planning to pack equipment from a storage room in Stockholm about 6 in the morning, but the guy with the keys didn’t show up until hours later. The three heroes in the truck reacted as anyone would, and became a bit cross. When they had packed it all, they realized that it was a lot of gear. In fact, they suspected it was more than they were allowed to load the truck with. A bit of a set back, really, as they still had two pick up points left - Kalmar and Malmö.

They arrived in Kalmar much later than they planned, really stressed, and discovered even more stuff. At this point they phoned Ragnar, who phoned me. He told me that the drivers weren’t exactly happy with the amount of gear that we had left for them. Ragnar explained that the drivers seemed to be most upset about all the stuff the guys of Albrechts Bössor were bringing along. I was a bit puzzled. And annoyed. We usually put an honour into bringing only what we can carry, and this didn’t go well along with the drivers’ accusation. I phoned Sebastian, and I expected him to be really really mad. But he wasn’t.

- Sebbe! Ragnar called me. What’s going on?
- I guess we have about 1000 kilos of over weight, and we hardly left Kalmar. We still have Malmö left. Do you know if there’s anything you guys can leave behind?
I had a think.
- Yeah, I guess, but I’ll call the guys and ask them. I’ll get back to you.
So I called all of the guys going to Italy, and finally came up with a short list of things to leave behind. Then I called Simon, the guy in the company living closest to Malmö. Even if he lives closer than the rest of us, he still faced an hours drive. We really needed him to go and sort things out, and it wasn’t even sure that he was able to. I called.
- Hey Simon. What are you up to?
- Not much. Having a meal. I just came from work.
- Oh well. Eat up. The king needs you.
- Really?
- Really, really.

And that excellent piece of friend just did it. He jumped in his car and went to help the drivers. I really don’t believe we were big sinners in the packing business, but nevertheless he might have saved some face for the company.

Thursday. We left Växjö in the morning. Isolde’s grandmother came to pick her up, and we waved to the at the train platform as they went. And then we stepped aboard, bound for Copenhagen airport. We met up with Simon and had a sushi in Malmö at the place I used to work. It was good to see my old colleagues again, and the sushi tasted better than ever.
We arrived in Copenhagen and checked in to the flight. Then we had a tedious wait before boarding and taking off. Two hours later we stepped on Italian soil.