The only festivals I can lay claim to having attended are the Finch Hatton Show, Mackay Show and a Psychic Expo or two. There are some miscellaneous festivals that I was dragged to by my parents. Festivals involving French Doors, brass plumbing and the merits of Solar Heating*
Since the move I’ve attended the Supernova convention. Which was unbridled brilliance and passion and joy for the things I like (writing, anime, comics and games) and just yesterday I went to the Medieval and Renaissance Festival out at Caboolture. I now know as a scientific fact that festivals are just as fun now as when I was young.
We’ll skip past the roadworks that led to limbo and the even longer line that waited at the ticket entrance and move right into the festival itself. First thing I should point out is that I like going to festivals that are held at schools for one reason:
The food is always good.
I don’t know whether its the Legions of Mothers whose spirits still season and flavour the food made in the tuckshop (and now there is a small part of me that really doesn’t want to find out) but the food from there was fantastic. In fact I’d say it was the best hamburger (not steak burger, that’s in a category of its own) I’ve eaten this year. And it only cost $4.00 (Take that, Surf Club! With your $10.00 patty and your ridiculous sauce).
So that’s the food, except to say that Beef Stew should, in fairness to the customer, have beef in it and I don’t know what combination of spices made it smell like vomit and taste like water but tell me so I can avoid it for the rest of my days.
There were lectures. I saw a lecture on Hollywood’s Attack on History. A man dressed as an authentic Janissary from the Ottoman Empire laid out the faults several movies including Braveheart, Gladiator, Alexander (though he did rave about the costuming and weapons for that film as being extraordinarily accurate), and the 13th Warrior. I have to admit that I didn’t realize just how glaring some of these errors could be:
Dates of history mangled to fit into the story (The “Real” Story of King Arthur cops a beating on this one)
The use of fire in weapons (Gladiator’s catapults shouldn’t have been there in the first place and they shouldn’t have been hurling Napalm B.C.)
Weapons and tactics like Braveheart’s 12ft long spears that the British should have known about for several hundreds of years, or Solomon “The Wise” producing chrome for darkest (and unexplored Africa) to shine his shield to blind the hordes of oncoming Egyptians before they all (Yes all, some took swan dives into it) fell into a ravine (Apparently a quick scan of the battlefield just wasn’t done back then).
As if I wasn’t nervous enough about my writing, now I’ve got to check dates and tactics because I’m sure that historians will. The lecture was very good though.
Right after that lecture came another and this was what I’d really wanted to see: An explanation behind the formula of the Prima Spada school of Fencing. Founded by Spanish Renaissance Scholar and Sword master Tibool, an examination at the first four pages of his two hundred and fifty page book on fencing showed just how math could be used to inflict harm upon another. Some points (Ha! Little bit of fencing humour there)
Just about everything with Prima Spada can be brought back to five circles. These circles represent the proportions of one’s body, determine the correct length of the sword, outline the footwork required for each strike, etc.
The rapier is divided into twelve parts along the length of the blade. A different part of the blade is used depending upon how far you are from your opponent in terms of attack and defence. You remember this in combination with your footwork and distance.
The en garde position is to place your heels at 90 degrees with your sword arm (with sword) extended out in front of you at 90 degrees to your body. The idea being that you keep your opponent away at sword’s length, not allowing him to get close enough for a strike and while maintaining this defence, you are in a good position to attack yourself.
It should be noted though that the author of the book does state that while he would use this stance for purpose of training and instruction, were he to fight for his life, he would not utilize it. Instead he would use every stance and trick he had in his socks (and considering that their socks were lengths of hosiery, this means there are a lot of tricks available).
The math of it blew me away. The science of killing your opponent, and by science I mean a method tried and tested whose outcome would not deviate outside of predicted factors. I’m not sure what impressed me more: The fact that someone could theoretically produce such a formula of death, or that they were arrogant enough to think it would work.
I am rather glad I caught the lecture on the theory of Prima Spada as it gave me insight into the method of their duelling when they started demonstrating their skills some hours later. A number of their students were fighting in an area, championing the causes of those amongst the audience. During these exchanges I got to see standard rapier fencing, two-handed great sword fencing, rapier and dagger combinations and a rapier and cape combination. Then during the practical demonstration they displayed skill in fighting with Case Rapier, which means Dual Rapiers (Two swords in one case, hence the name). And then something awesome happened:
The Grand Master of the Prima Spada School selected two students to face him, two on one. The students armed with rapiers, the master armed with a rapier dagger combo. The announcer explains that in the movies you typically see the hero fighting hordes of opponents who are polite enough to face him one at a time. Not in this case. He goes on further to explain that in most times its the swordsmen in tandem to beat the singular opponent, despite this person being the Grand Master…
…Its at that point that the grand master sweeps off his hat, takes a bow and then, to the surprise of myself, the audience and his entire entourage of students, tossed away his dagger so that he is facing his students on equal weapons. He then gestured and the duel was on.
He twirled and ducked, swayed and dodged, parried and slashed, each move a counter to his students working his mind into the formula of Prima Spada style as surely and as quickly as he worked his feet and his sword. The duel went for about two minutes before one of his students got through his guard and delivered the killing blow. At least that’s how the announcer said it. Myself, there were a couple of instances where I saw he could and did make a couple of blows that would have seen victory awarded to the lone swordsman.
This is a very roundabout way of saying that once I’ve settled things cash-wise; I’m going off to learn how to fence.
Let’s see, what else did I see.
I saw medieval sword fighting, a long sword versus a broadsword where the announcer explained that despite what had been the stereotype amongst movies and role playing games, a two handed sword is quicker and more accurate than a one handed sword. This was demonstrated and proven quite succinctly as two chainmail-garbed figures wrestled with blades before a great and growing audience who were attracted to the sounds of metal ringing across the commons. I saw a great sword (zweihander I think) in use and Jesus! Even blunted, that sword could still slice through a Queensland Blue pumpkin like it was nothing and having cut those things for a living while working in Woolworths, that’s not to be underestimated.
Kids dressed up as medieval figures can sometimes provide story inspiration. I saw one kid carrying the sword, cloak and helmet of another, the weight of his lost companion weighed heavier than his physical burden. So much so that he fell to his knees and cried out in anguish (Actually it was his brother, the kid was lost and everything was a toy but it was such a movie moment it kept me smiling for the rest of the day). The other instance was when a small kid with a toy battleaxe was walking around with his dad. I say small kid but I’m reasonably convinved it was a dwarf who had shaved his beard off cause he turns to his giant companion and loudly proclaimes “With this axe, I can kill anybody!”
Two very attractive young women strode across the carnival on stilts, dressed as wood dryads. And not for the first time did I wish I’d brought my camera. Also saw many people dressed in medieval/Renaissance clothing including a woman with a cloak, hood and staff with this symbol.
Henceforth she was referred to as “Lady Biohazard”. I am so going to use that name for some project.
I visited the array of tents that had been designed to replicate the Ottoman Empire. Some poor kid who had spent his time researching and writing two pages of facts had not yet been asked to give a tour, so I took pity on him and let him explain it to me. I learnt the role of the Janissary (A child chosen to become a slave to the Sultan. And despite the word “slave” it was seen as something of an honour to be accorded as it meant the child had an education and a place amongst the Sultan’s army. One could even rise to be Prime Minister). I also learnt that a cooking pot called a Kazan carried the same weight and importance as a battle standard of the western armies. To knock over the Kazan was seen as an act of mutiny, to hide behind it was to signify that one’s opponent was too strong and the person required protection. And to lose it during battle was dishonour so profound that the one who lost it would commit suicide rather than face the shame.
I got to participate in an Ottoman tea ceremony where I got to try apple tea. That was yummy. I also got to try homemade Turkish delight that was also yummy and very messy what with it being coated in powdered sugar. I got to see several medieval wares for sale including jewellery that would have neatly taken care of upcoming presents for my friends (Lots of silver dragon necklaces) as well as many swords (I question the authenticity of a Klingon Bat’Leth being available for sale though). Saw jousting, saw plays, and saw sword dancing. And then got to watch a green-haired Viking and the fencing sword master duel each other with long swords. That was impressive!
It got cold fast and as we hurried back to the car where we’d left our coats, we saw many medieval societies gathered around campfires. Chicken and other meat were spitted over the fire and rows upon rows of home made tents completed the illusion that for one instant, we had all looked back at our footsteps across history and saw that which carried us to our lives of today. It’s a sobering thing.
Also I saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and the things that I can’t write about regarding this movie would have doubled the size of the one you just read. Suffice to say, best movie I’ve seen this year so far.
*The thing is we have plenty of sun, but we also have plenty of heat. I’m not sure the sales rep made it out of town alive.