Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Fruits of Our Labour and May 24 Weekend

This past weekend was held a really neat SCA event called Fruits of Our Labour, or FOOL, though there was nothing foolish at all about it.

The emphasis of the event was on classes that teach actual skills in one of the arts and sciences practiced in the SCA. This included a wide range of topics, everything from mead making to glass bead manufacture. A full list of class descriptions can be found here:


This is a great idea as it gives people a chance to try all sorts of neat things in a pretty relaxed environment.

Our plan was to go for the Saturday of the event and spend the rest of the long weekend doing errands and stuff around the house. The site was about an hour away from our place, a scout camp called Camp Impessa. My wife had volunteered to do a class on how to construct award scrolls in the SCA and I had offered to run fencing for the day. When I first started checking the weather for the event at the beginning of the week Environment Canada was saying a mix of sun and cloud, but by the afternoon it was saying rain for Saturday and Sunday. This did not bode well for fencing, which would be taking place outside. Over the week this forecast remained pretty static though by Friday the rain was limited to Saturday. That's the day I planned on having my tourney, so still not good.

When we got up Saturday morning things seemed reasonably nice, but a quick check of the EC radar showed a large system moving up from the south. Dang! We loaded up the car with our stuff and the kids and headed out. My navigation was actually pretty decent for a change and we got to the site without a hitch. We did drive through multiple bands of rain. During the course of the drive, my dear wife, noticing my apprehension concerning the weather, said something extremely nice to me. She said that if the rain keeps up, we can always come back tomorrow. Thank you Eve!

The site was very nice, with a large central lodge, several outlying cabins and a lot of open space. There was also areas with fire pits, a large picnic shelter, an amphitheater and a network of trails. Several people had brought tents so they could stay the whole weekend and others had taken space in the cabins. It was spitting when we got there so we quickly moved into the lodge which was set up as a tavern and common area. There were lots of tables and chairs inside and some very comfy couches. The earlier spitting turned into full blown rain and my spirits sank. The event steward, Mistress Odette, was hopeful that the rain would end I would be able to have fencing that day, but my hopes were not high. In the mean time we set up comfortably in a corner of the lodge, including, thank goodness, the play yard for Elizabeth. It was very pleasant and there was even a merchant near us selling a range of excellent medieval books, a fact for which our wallets would pay dear.

During the day I wandered the site in between rain showers, usually tailing Elizabeth. I visited friends who were camping there and saw the production of leather water bottles based on period patterns and techniques. The rained and wet grass combined to soak through my shoes and two layers of stockings. I also spent time up in the lodge chatting with folks. They had some evilly comfortable couches there and I think I nodded off at one point. All in all a relaxing day, but not what I was hoping for. About mid day I went around and let fencers know that I would be running the tourney on Sunday, when the weather promised to be much nicer. I also managed to pick up a book on calligraphy for Eve and a castle book for Matthew from Evan Quicktounge, bookseller extraordinaire. Matthew spent his time drawing, playing with Lego and occasionally running around in the rain. Thankfully I packed extra tunics for him. We were hoping he could do some archery with his new bow but the weather was too bad and the person running archery was only going to be at the event for Saturday.

Eve's class went off wonderfully and she had a least 10 people in attendance. They decided to hold it upstairs in the lodge rather than in the rather poorly lit downstairs rooms. She had brought all sorts of suppl es for people to use including paper, inks, pens, markers, brushes, paints, pallets, water cups and basically everything you needed to do calligraphy and illumination. She also brought a bunch of books and examples of scrolls that she had done over the years. I think the class was a great success and I saw a number of wonderful scrolls produced. Hopefully it will encourage people to produce award scrolls, as there is a steady demand and not a huge number of active scribes to fill that demand.

We headed back home after Eve finished her class and feasted on pizza. We generally took it easy, knowing that Sunday was going to be another long day.

I had let people know I would be back on Sunday at around 11ish in order to give the family a chance to sleep in. The weather Sunday morning was much nicer than the day before, but I could feel the humidity as I repacked the car. We made our way back to the site, again without a hitch.

I decided to set up the list for the tourney near the picnic shelter, as two of the fencers, Baroness Eyrny and Lady Jocelyn were also running the leather bottle production class which was taking place in the shelter. This meant they could work and play at the same time. Jocelyn had kindly brought list posts as had Lord Matteo, so I was able to cordon off a pretty big space.

Now about the tourney. One thing that I have noticed about SCA fencing tourneys is that there is a limited number of parallels to what we do in period. There were Prize Fights, duels, and brawls but nothing that really matched up with the idea of a tournament involving rapiers. The rapier was more of a personal defence weapon, not one that people used in a formal setting unless it was something like a duel or a Prize. I had found one exception to this, and that was a form of German tournament called a Fechtschule. In Germany there were two main fencing groups, the Brotherhood of St. Mark known as the Marxbrudder, and the free fencers or Federfechters which loosely translates as the fencers of the feather. They met in competitions that were usually sponsored by a local Lord or fencing master. They occur ed on Sundays and took place at a tavern with the bouts being fought in the courtyard and the interior used as a first aid post for those involved in the Fechtschule. It was a festive occasion and a popular spectator sport. Fencers would issue challenges and bouts would be fought for a silver coin. To win a bout a fencer needed to inflict a bloody head wound on their opponent, as there was no question of who won.

My version would be similar but some changes were made. Originally I was going to have each side elect a captain who would decide who would fight which bout, but I ended up not doing this as I had a fairly small group of fencers. I also removed the head wounds only rule, though I may experiment with that in future. I had six fencers for the Fechtschule: Baroness Eyrny, Lady Jocelyn, Lady Findabhair, Lord Matteo, THL Gerrard and Lord Simone. Sides were created by picking tokens from a bag and the Marxbrudder fencers received a purple favour and the Federfechters a green one. I didn't realize it at the time but this was sort of a Babylon 5 reference. Check out the episode "Geometry of Shadows".

For the purse, I had a carved wooden box with 100 tokens in it and two mugs one marked with a green cloth and the other with a purple one. When one side or another won a bout a token went into the appropriate mug. The tournament format did not decide an individual winner, though this could probably be done by a separate tracking sheet. I did have two prizes for those I thought fought with the greatest courtesy and honour in the form of a couple of ornate rings from my collection.

Before the Fechtscule started I got to read a speech I had prepared, based on an extant one from a period Fechtschule. here is the text of the speech:

In honour of Their Most Gracious and Noble Majesties, I, the Honourable Lord Albrecht Stampfer, Free Scholar and Proctor of the Ealdormere Academy of Defence and Fencing Champion of the Barony of Ramshaven on whose lands we intend to play at fence, with the permission of the Steward of this event, have set up a free public Fechtschule, with all honourable weapons here in this place.

So then, let all good gentles who are here present and have learned the noble art of fence and are experienced in it, and who intend to bring joy and entertainment with due submission to the high born gentlemen and all the Ladies with their skill, come forward unhindered to fight for the established prize, to keep the fitting passage of arms according to the honourable ancient custom of fencing.

And I am minded and determined to keep myself unprejudiced towards all such good gentles, as befits an honour loving gentleman and Fee Scholar, and to guard and protect them against and in opposition to arrogance and impropriety.

Guard and protection is to be extended to each, as well as all the rest, and likewise I wish to request that if two of you bear hatred and envy towards one another you will not fight it out in the school.

The original speech can be found in The Secret History of the Sword by J. Christoph Amberger, which was also my main source of information on the Fechtschule.

One hundred bouts is a lot of fencing, especially for six people on a warm day, but the fencers present were real troopers, going through with all one hundred. I had made up a purple flag and a green flag so I could indicate which side won each bout. I can't recall the name of the Lady who helped out with the score keeping, but she was a Scots persona with plaid trews and a claymore over her back. Her help was greatly appreciated.

The bouts went through the afternoon and it was a close fought thing. There were frequent rest, water and bottle making breaks. At the end victory went to the Federfechters, consisting of Lord Simone, THL Gerrard, Lady Findabhair. I presented the rings to Lady Findabhair and Lord Simone. Simone had recently re-authorized and was his usually energetic and very skilled self, even fencing with me for awhile after the tourney was over. I'm hoping to run this type of tourney again some day hopefully with more fencers. I think everyone involved had fun and no one could complain about not getting to play enough :).

Just after the Fechtschule there was a Baronial Moot for Ramshaven. I managed to make it there,but only for the last bit as I had trouble finding where it was. I reminded people that the other Canton of Ramshaven, namely Der Welfengau, was still alive and there was a cheer. Eve, Devin, Isaac and I had worked quite hard to get things going again. I invited people to come visit us at our meetings on Tuesday nights.

While I was running the tourney Eve was looking after Elizabeth and she got in a couple of good runs around the site. Eventually she ran out of steam and took an extended nap in her play yard. Eve got to relax and do some sewing on her Tudor Cabriolet Dress as she calls it (it's convertible). Matthew got to play with a bunch of kids, fight in a woods boffer battle, throw sticks into a ravine, work a pole lathe to help make a wooden bowl, battled with Lego, played a game based on The Hobbit and generally expended a lot of energy. After Elizabeth woke from her nap we decided it would be a good time to go. I took Elizabeth for one more run while Eve packed up our stuff. I also got a chance to buy an interesting book I had been eyeing throughout the event on Special Operation During the Age of Chivalry. Before we could leave, Kol, the Baron of Ramshaven asked if I could stand with him in court as I was his fencing champion. He also mentioned that one of the pieces of business in court involved Eve.

I escorted the family over to the court site, lugging the play yard along in case we needed it and then I went back to the lodge to meet up with Their Excellencies. We processed over to the court behind Their Majesties, who had been at an event in the States the day before and had travelled all the way back to attend FOOL (yes, they rock!). The court was short but sweet. Eve was called up and received an Award from Their Excellencies, the Guidon de Sang, in recognition of her efforts in reviving Der Welfengau. Very cool!

The organizers of FOOL, Mistress Odette and Countess Rylan deserve major kudos. It is a great event and a great site. I'm looking forward to next year and have already volunteered to run fencing there next time around. Maybe I could also teach a class.

Finally we could head back home, stopping in Guelph for some last minute groceries. When we got back Eve and I whipped up some home made hamburgers which were great. I left the car unpacking for the next day. Unfortunately Matthew left his soccer ball at the site but hopefully we'll be able to recover it.

The next day was Victoria Day and we took it easy at home. I did some laundry and made Eve a Pinacolada and some of her favourite chip dip. We watched the first two Addams Family movies which I had got Eve for her birthday. They really are brilliantly funny in parts and Raul Julia is sorely missed. Eve then made some really wonderful steaks. We don't have a barbeque but she pan fried them to perfection and served them with corn on the cob and sauteed mushrooms. We followed up supper with some Black Forest cake. It was fantastic.

All in all it was a wonderful weekend, despite the gloomy beginning. Mark will be over on Thursday to play a game based on Babylon 5 (there's that show again) and I will blog again after that. Also, Eve's brother Joe is coming over for the weekend and Matthew and I are going to a Jays game.

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