I used to take a great delight in the re-enactment hobby. I discovered it in the 1980’s as an adjunct to the activities of our local muzzle-loading rifle shooting club.
We’re in Australia, but a section of the country that has little colonial history of note – few battles and none of them famous. Re-enacting colonial times would mainly involve hard work, dirt, and discomfort. It is an unattractive prospect compared to the pageantry and bloodshed of the United States, Britain, or the European continent. There is little in the way of glamour to it all.
So I reached out – gathering materials to pretend to live in 1860’s America, 1800’s England, and various areas during the Middle ages. There were a lot more things to wear and do when one concentrated on these cultures. At various times you could have seen me as an ACW soldier of either side, a British soldier of 1815 or 1860, a medieval dentist or crossbowman…it was a varied picture. But none of it was a picture of my own life …or of the lives of my ancestors.
Ultimately, this is where the activity failed. It introduced me to like-minded individuals here and now, and I value their friendships….but it had no valid connection to my life.
So what has taken the place of this once all-consuming passion? What fire burns in the grate now? And why is it producing a better heat for me? Read the next post and see.
I am prompted to write today’s column by an advertisement that appeared on a Facebook timeline. It touted some form of cultural cringe session entitled ” Return To Roots “. The images fronting it suggested that the participants would be from Central American jungles, but I suspect that this was nothing more than graphic designer’s code for ” Come along and get drunk on expensive beer. ”
Nothing wrong with that, as many of my friends will attest, but using it as a catchphrase was damnable. If you REALLY want people to return to their roots, you are going to have to accept that the roots that they return to are neither exotic, erotic, or interesting. The crowd you are going to get is going to have to revert to being teenagers in the 1980’s in outer city suburbs…and you can get fresher versions of that at any servo on the Albany Highway right now.
No – what the advertisement was calling for was for a to return to someone else’s roots. What exactly it wanted us to do there is questionable. Root around? Dress up? Play act? I can do that in the traditional garb of my forefathers – a shirt and trousers – while drinking the mystical potion of the tribe – the highball. I do not need to put warpaint on my cheeks and shake a spear to be warlike. Our tribe put on khaki clothing and shook rifles…and it worked.
I’m as guilty as the next re-enactor of aping something that none of my family ever remotely enacted in the first place. As far as I can tell, none of the Steins or Sheedys were ever at Waterloo – except me – and I was 180 years late, thank goodness. What I did then and others do now is not re-enacting…it is acting. If we were better at it we would be paid money and solicited to give our political opinion on CNN.
But as far as returning to roots? I hardly remember some of their names, let alone addresses or faces…I still have a rash, however…
Featured Image: Fake Petzval lens effect. Real geezer.
I have recently considered the business of actors and re-enactors – as recently as last week, when I enjoyed a day on the grounds of Government House. In costume. No, I wasn’t playing Queen Victoria – I was just an itinerant photographer. I accompanied 7 others dressed in clothing reminiscent of the period of time in which the building was relevant. The general public was allowed in for free to stroll and gawk in areas normally forbidden them.
Were we re-enactors? Not really. We were visual props, as were several veteran motor cars, a section of the Army pipe band, and a complete Salvation Army band. I ‘ll bet none of us were paid for attendance and I know that at least one of me wasn’t fed or watered either, but I didn’t mind – I gathered $ 100 worth of commercial blog material that will pay off eventually.
Were we actors? Hard to tell – no script, no parts, no direction other than the internal orders of the day within the Great War society. Did we have an audience? Did we entertain them?
More to the point, did they entertain us? I can say yes to this – the crowd had very few wallys in it and the ones that did pipe up were pretty tame. Perhaps the venue dictated the manners. If so, I will be going again next year. I had a lovely time. I thought the hanging went off very well, and even if my shoes were painful at the end of the day it was worth it.
But there are other questions…and other rules to follow. Follow on …