NEW MEMBER'S DIARY 1998-1999
The battle practices are continuing on a monthly basis, with varying attendance - cold weather and rain influences the motivation of even the hardiest
warriors. But, aside from missing one through being on holiday, I have been a regular attendee. I intend to be the best as I possibly can with the shield
and spear. Its gives your morale a boost when your leader comments that you are "too good for a new member". I don't know whether he thinks I have had more
experience than I have claimed, but it is reassuring to know I ain't all that bad.
Supplying my own kit is now high on my priority list. I have made my own shield and spear, spilling no small amount of blood in the process. Some might say
it would bring good luck in battle! My wife simply shrugs.
Having decided to make them from scratch I had to interrogate Kevin as to the manufacturing method. There are no plans available currently for new members,
but I had the forethought to make notes from our conversations. I may suggest to Kevin that such plans are published on the web [Suggestion noted; I like a
volunteer :-) ]. The spear was fairly easy to construct, merely tapering the end of the nine foot ash spear to fit tightly into the spearhead, and drilling
a 4mm hole through them both, pushing a sturdy nail through it sawing off the pointed end and bashing it to give it the appearance of a rivet.
"Rivets" seem to be the basis of most of the construction techniques for all the weaponry, seeing that screws and bolts as they are today weren't used.
Unfortunately rivets are rather difficult to come by, at least those of appropriate size and strength, so sawn off coach bolts make do.
The shield was slightly more complicated, involving a couple of large 'Dog Chews'(rawhide) softened in hot water for a couple of hours and nailed onto its
circular rim with 9mm carpet tacks. When dried, they offer excellent protection for the 12mm plywood rim. Someone recently suggested that you could sew the
dog chews together and stretch it over the rim like a bicycle tyre. I may give that a go next time. I may still toy with other methods later on.
Without going into too much detail, the trickiest bit in making the shield was riveting (customised coach bolts, that is) the shield boss (metal bowl in
centre of shield) onto the shield itself. A good metal drill is worth investing in, one with a variable speed, as I melted one by drilling at too high a
speed. I may search hardware stores for alternatives. Although it was suggested to beat the bolt end down to form a rivet - like appearance, I lacked an
anvil, so I made do with grinding them down instead. Looks the same.
The tunics and trousers are the next on the (my wife's) agenda. We visited the Blackbird Leys(Near Cowley, Oxford) Re-enactors market in October and bought
wool and linen of suitably authentic (loose) weave and colour (non-intense, natural colours), some tablet weave and a strap-end and buckle for my belt.
When they're done, I'll be fully kitted out, and I'll feel more like a full time member.
My next purchase'll be a helmet, as I've already witnessed one eyebrow gashing during a practise, so it sounds a worthwhile investment, let alone a cool
accessory. [A rare occurrence, but with all contact sports the risk of injury is ever present. In perspective in nine years of re-enactment I've had two
injuries requiring a visit to casualty and innumerable bruises. In the nine years I've attended close on 30 National Events (2 days per event), 20 Local
Events (1 Day events), 20 school shows (3 hours per time), and 70 battle practices.]
One advancement I have witnessed before a battle practise - to try and avoid injury - is a warming up session. At the moment this only involves running up
and down a hill! Though most of us are out of shape and provides little in the way of improving our fitness, it makes you aware of your body (I don't know
how else to put it!) and improves co-ordination when you actually start training. This came about by several persons turning up "cold" after a longish period
away and promptly falling over their own feet. Though bloody funny (once it was aware it wasn't serious) it did drive home the importance of warming up.
[Whilst actually not totally correct we have had a tendency to skip the warmup if there are only a few of us in attendance.]
The lesson to be learnt from these and other incidents is that you can not expect to turn up for practise after six months and then expect to perform at
your normal level!
At the last practise of 1998, I was actually given the chance to try my hand at fighting with a Langseax, (a long knife). It was, admittedly, quite
nerve-wracking as I was expected to go for the areas which I had been deliberately avoiding before, namely the upper shoulders. Still it was quite an
experience to fight close up for a change. Hurts the knuckles though, as a Langseax doesn't have a guard. Thick gloves are therefore a must have.
Anyhow, that's all I have to say for this instalment.
See you all soon.