Saturday 31st August and Sunday 1st September 2002
This story could start at least three weeks earlier and with an extra person. The short version is that Leia runs out of money and gets eaten by the faff monster. Stewart goes to Scotland on her own.
It dark, it’s raining, there are South African’s in the next tent singing Bestiality’s Best. I am on the second plastic campsite as the first is a quagmire. Alan Gault was rudely awakened just so I could say hello and Mark Johnson is wondering what I’m doing here at all. The South Africans are now singing the album version (every single damn verse of it) of Over the Hills and Far Away. It’s a long way home and I wonder what I’ve got myself into this time.
It’s sunny but after last night I decide that guy ropes are a good idea. Tent secure, I wander off to the Scottish LHE (the opposite side of the field to the English) to meet my battle companions. I was soon adopted by a combination of Gadgedlar (the nutters who invited the Gwerin in the first place) and the Swords of Dalriada (the Cantref to Gadgedlar’s Gwerin) whose first question was “Do you fight?” I was indeed among friends. There was much fascination with Baby as they had never seen a langseax before.
The show started with a parade of the two armies. We (the Scots) were led by a pipe band which involved a lot of tartan and seemed to inspire opinions from Gadgedlar. We marched in, I felt like something out of Highlander, the crowd cheered, we were mighty and the battle hadn’t even started yet!
Before the battle we put on a display of how a shiltron works. A shiltron is a sort of hedgehog of spears and works by everyone squeezing in really tight together. I kept hearing Igg’s voice shouting, “Don’t bunch!” Shiltrons are good at repelling cavalry charges. To prove this they charged a horse at us , not quite a boarsnout but still scary.
Then came a demonstration of a stunt looking cooler when it goes wrong than when it goes right. The Bruce thumps a young English plonker, who was having a go, with his axe. Both men and the Bruce’s horse go down, much clanking, much cheering. Half time score: Bruce 1, English nil. The horse was fine.
I’m in the middle of the shiltron and get told to stay out of trouble. Much relief when I see Scottish Regia guarding our flank. No competitive hitty-fighty but it all looked pretty. We screamed a lot and strangely enough, we won! Were led back to the LHE and had many photos taken.
Much drinking, much fun. I introduced Michael to the Scots (transcribers note – Michael is an evil little hand puppet. He bothers me). Unreasonable Shopping Prize goes to Alan Gault who came back from the traders market with, amongst other things, a bed. I came back with a pattern-welded scram. Later on an ambulance pulls up to the English LHE, an investigation reveals the first-aiders got bored and returned the battered corpse of the English Clifford to his wife who was in the middle of her widow’s party.
I get christened “Wee Viking Lassie” and Raymond names Michael “The Wee Man”.
I learned a new definition of the word cold. Even the Scots were complaining, what chance did I have?
Never has a cup of tea by a fire been so welcome.
Battling similar to day before, I ended up in the front row of the shiltron. Also got picked up and used as a battering ram in the Kiddies Battle.
Today the parade was a walk through the Bannockburn Memorial and dip our spears as we go by. The crowd is strangely quiet. I later find out a Scottish man told one of the reenactors watching he had tear in his eye. I am sharing more than a brawl and a booze-up with these people. This is a special show in a special place; I walk upon hallowed ground indeed. A humbler Gwerin left that field than entered it.
I said my goodbyes to the Scots and was passed to the stewardship of Sue and David from Sheffield, since staying in the middle of a field on my own didn’t sound like fun. The looks we got as my tent was picked up as it stood and carried across the site were highly entertaining. A pleasant evening was spent with Sue, David & Co. They like Michael too (transcribers note – I don’t!).
A lift was gratefully received from David to the Stirling station. It took me eleven hours to get home.
Was it worth it – yes, even if just to say “I was there”. See you next year and I’ll bring some more Gwerin.
Thanks to everyone who helped make this adventure possible: Will, Kate, Sue, David, Beb, Micahael, Bethan, The Swords of Dalriada and Gadgedlar particularly, Fred, Jon, Jenifer, Katrina and everyone called Alan.