View My Stats

torsdag 18 juni 2009

Happy days in Lund - arriving and setting up camp

It was time for our "own" regular event - Medeltidsdagarna i Lund ( 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 ( 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.