I have just written a blog article that would have seen my friends in the Middle Eastern Dancing sorority turn on me and rend me asunder. Wisely, once it was written, I erased it. These things should be said but need not be spoken above a whisper. To do so would be unkind.
But wisdom only works for a short time with me, so having used it up on that unpublished essay, I will revert to folly in this one. As I am aware that my friends in the re-enacting scene will be reading this directly or through the Facebook page, I will say at the outset that I do not mean to cause distress. This is not a Guild matter.
I’ve been pursuing something in the living history or re-enacting hobby since 1988 – not long in the terms of many in the game, but long for me. I have an attention span of about 7 years with any leisure interest unless something really sparks it along. My history has been detailed before with this blog – muzzle loading rifle shooting, various dress-ups and rendezvous, Waterloo as a 42nd Highlander, and the last 19 years as an ancillary member of a Medieval/Dark Ages society. A few side dashes to the Sherlock Holmes Society and the new Steampunk parties. It has been a marvellous time and has cost a great deal of money, which I do not regret spending. All this having been said, I am currently surveying the scene and wondering at the way that history is being re-enacted…
At any hour of the day or night my family can turn on the television – and frequently does – and violence pours out. Murder, arson, incest, war, executions, terror…and that is just the mini-series…real life news broadcasts are worse. Thinking back on it, this has been so for a very long period of time. In the re-enacting life, apart from the shooting contests at the rifle range that were conducted with sportsmanship and safety, all the rest has been pretty much the same. Excellent theatre of infantry assaults, viking raids, turkish massacres, and every other form of bloodshed imaginable. The performances of my friends has been exemplary – they have been decked out to perfection in armour and wonderful costumes and have played at slaughtering each other – to the delight of the crowds – for years. They really are good at slaughtering and hardly anyone has been hurt over the decades – a few scars and one chap who lost a tooth, but very little cause for the first-aid box to be opened.
Bravo. I think.
But I am starting to crave another form of re-enacting these days…the re-enacting of non-slaughtering. The recreation of societies that thought rather than fought. A theatre of reason and…dare I say, kindness. I can find some of this in reading the works of Paine, Hume, Franklin, Voltaire, etc. and this is good preparation for participation in …I do not know what. I think it is time to explore other possibilities in performance, even if the audience is only amongst a few.
I am encouraged to read on Facebook that there are reading societies out there that meet regularly. Not sure if I want to sip tea and hear book reviews, but something of that may be a step in the right direction. I am coming to suspect that I am looking for an English coffee house of the 18th century or a Viennese cafe of the 19th but I cannot say where this would be or who would form the intellectual center of it. I hope it will not be Dr. Johnson because I think I would have liked to stab him with a fork. I do not expect it to be me because I am afraid of being stabbed with forks. I have a vision of a party with the Dalai Lama carving an enormous round of beef and drinking a foaming tankard of ale while telling a lewd story, but I suspect it is just a dream…
At least I can say that I have found a couple of cocktail bars that seem satisfactory – this is a start.