I left for the station at about 12:40 on Friday afternoon, lugging case, rucksack and sword bag down in three easy stages. So far that morning, all I'd done was take the rubbish bag down two flights of stairs, and already I felt like I'd been through an intense workout. My limbs seemed too heavy to move.
Got my seat for the journey down to London, and settled in. Wasn't lucky with the seat: airline, facing forward, on the window side (I prefer aisle, with my legs), but the gap between the two windows was right beside my head so I couldn't really look out. Attempted to write some plot details for a story I'm planning. Spent upwards of an hour staring into space (or squinting, given the windows) trying to resolve a motivation issue, and getting nowhere. Gave up, and started reading Pterry's Men At Arms (it seemed appropriate. :-> ).
Brief faff at Kings Cross: they were renovating, and seemed to have covered/removed all the signs showing Underground maps. Couldn't remember where Liverpool St was, either, and there was only an hour changing time. Turned out to be just round the corner on the Circle line, so I was there in fifteen minutes. My train was sitting, waiting, so I bought some beer and got on.
While chugging through the countryside towards Braintree, it went through a stop called Cressing. Hmm. Might this be where Cressing Temple is? Don't really know. Didn't want to risk getting off. At Braintree, there were supposed to be buses from the station to CT. Nope. Checked local map. Found bus station. Wandered to it. Turns out to be a car park with a bus in it. And the driver claims he doesn't stop at CT. Bollocks. Get a taxi, instead. Costs a tenner.
Numerous people already there when I arrived, at about 9:30pm. I recognise a few of them and get greeted. I find the marquee where I'm sleeping, drop stuff down, and socialise for a while.
It's cold. There's a whacking great barbeque in progress, and food is doled out; I'd just finished a pastie on the train. I think I turned in at about 11pm, although I didn't get to sleep for quite a while because:
a) It was cold (although, unlike someone else, I'd at least remembered my sleeping bag).
b) The airbed was small; I kept sliding off.
c) The lights were still on.
d) There was a whacking great PA system thirty feet away playing "medieval" music at ear-splitting volume. Lots of exciting lyrics about battlefields stream with corpses and marching to war and old warriors being cold in their graves. Mmm, lovely.
Think that I got to sleep at about 1am.
Breakfast was quite nice, being a fry-up. Much milling around, greeting the odd person or two and noticing the crowds increasing as 10am approached. We had the official introduction, then most of the crowd headed off for the field where the rain was coming down lightly; we went elsewhere to a room inside the old farmhouse, for the official meeting.
Nice, short meeting. Scheduled to run between 10am and 11am. We actually finished at 2:45pm. Ahem. Had a fifteen minute break around half-one, though. Quite interesting, although there were some fraught moments when I was insufficiently prepared.
Quickly ate some of the tuna and pasta I'd brought, then decided, what the hell, might as well join in the rapier class that was about to start. Took things very gently; it still hurt my elbow.
There was a very nice demo of sword and dagger given by the 1595 Club. As always, their stuff is fantastic. It was somewhat hampered by being in one of the history barns, which was utterly unsuited for the purpose: wavy floor, very low beams everywhere, and you couldn't have too many people standing together, in case the floor gave way. Really.
There was supposed to be a talk after that, but instead an instructor certification was going on, so much faffing and milling occurred.
Didn't really have anywhere to change for dinner, since the marquee was now being set up for the meal, so I didn't, in the end. The meal itself was a lot of fun, with folks from the DDS and the Glamorgan School of Arms making for good company. It was a hog roast: they had a hog, and they roasted it. Coo. Plus pottage. And other misc. medieval things (no, no potato involved). Lots of it, and it was very nice.
Wandered for a while from table to table, wondering when everyone was going to go to bed - or at least clear off, so I could go to bed - when big Rob noticed this, and chucked everyone out of the marquee so that "people can get their 'eads down". So, that's me getting out you shoved out into the cold, folks. Sorry about that.
Got to sleep much faster this time. No music. Didn't hear the ten or so bodies turning up during the night. They were all there when I woke up at 5:45. And still there when I emerged at 7:45.
More good breakfast. Then watched the unarmed tournament, which I didn't think a lot of. Not that it was badly done, or whatever. It's just.... boxing. Not nice. Don't like. Talked to folks about cane. Made elbows ache as a result.
Another instructor certification was in progress. Took a long time, and meant that the staff workshop was very late in starting, and much abbreviated. This was okay, because the staff was way too heavy for my elbows, and I dropped out partway through.
Watched some of the freeplay, and was distinctly unimpressed by some groups' excessive use of force. Made me glad I wasn't taking part. But then, I'd learned that at Oxford, six months earlier.
Just had enough time to watch the longsword tournament. Some fine style displayed, and some complete mayhem; one bout managed to break two separate wooden longsword wasters. More use of heavy hitting: one person chose to retire after two overly-hard cuts to the forearm in the same place.
As it finished, I had to run for a taxi. I was supposed to be doing Braintree-Witham-London; since there was only four minutes of changeover at Witham, and supposedly CT was right between Braintree and Witham, I just got a taxi to Witham. Cost me 16 quid. Sigh. But there was a train just about to go to London when I got there, so I jumped on that.
No trouble with the journey back. Eventually got home at about 11:30pm, to find katlinel still up and waiting for me. Really nice to be back.