Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Living Histrionics

This weekend brought the return of the Living History fair at Mannington Hall, which was more or less where this blog began nearly a year ago.

Queenie attended on a return visit. I had to wrangle with the Keeper of the Ticket Office single handedly. I was attempting to go in through a door marked 'entrance', and clearly, I had misunderstood the due process. I should instead know to walk approximately five steps to my right and enter through a gate which bore the words No Right of Way. I then compounded matters by five minutes later trying to leave the grounds through an open door labelled Exit rather than through the same gate as before, which by this time had been bolted shut in two places.

As I was alone at Mannington, I was getting changed on site (in a disabled loo, as always) and dependent on finding a passing Viking/Puritan/Saxon/Victorian who would be able and willing to lace me up. Imagine my delight, then, when I happened upon my friend and erstwhile castle colleague, Sian. Sian was promoting Swaffham museum by being a 19th century Fenland Wise Woman for the day. She was sharing a tent with Howard Carter, the famed Egyptologist, and his very large sarcophagus.

One could tell she was a Wise Woman because was wearing wellies. Very sensible. Anyhow I extracted a promise of lacing up from her and went on my way to complete my toilette in the toilet.

But Quelle Horreur!!!! I'd got almost all the seven layers of Queenie's garb on before I realised I had FORGOTTEN MY KIRTLE. The kirtle is the skirt, the uppermost , biggest and most obvious bit of the costume. In my case, it's made from about 4 metres of crimson silk. How did I manage to forget it? Forward planning. I've always known it was a bad idea.

In an unprecedented bout of early preparation I had taken the kirtle out of the suitcase and hung it up to let some creases fall out overnight. And of course, I had neglected to return it to the case the next morning.

After a moment of panic in which I rapidly went through the options of going home and coming back again, or just going home and staying there, I remembered that next door to Sian's tent was A FABRIC SELLER.

Most unseemly in my farthingale, I dashed across to this stall where I spotted a remnant which would do. Bless the stall holder for letting me have it cheap (well, I AM the Queen). Then I dashed back to the toilet to find my money, then back again to pay. On my final run, a nearby hurdy gurdy player started up with a comical 'panto chase' melody, which didn't go unnoticed.

Sian then pinned the remnant into kirtlish shape. A million thanks to her for her patience, kindness and yes, spilt blood.

Obviously re-enactment is a serious business to some. A true re-enactor would never see the funny side of this- authenticity had been violated. I should be sent to the Tower. But I had a lovely day, and lots of people were entertained by taking photos of me having a cheese puff for lunch.

Next Stop : Hingham Craft Fair!

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