“Are we going round to Dave’s to get the spears?” “Yeah, might as well.” Probably not quite how the Norsemen of yore prepared for battle.
It was a dry, overcast afternoon in the mid Welsh university town of Lampeter as I stood on the pitch facing my opponent, Gerard. He certainly looked the part with his long hair and solid body, wielding his sword in one hand and shield in the other. I faced him with axe and similar shield, surprised by the weight of the wooden disc. He told me to hold it as I thought I should to defend myself, so I raised it directly in front of me and stood braced. “No!” Thwack! Ting! Bang!He came at me suddenly and scored a couple of hits before I knew what was happening, then showed me the correct stance; the shield held forward at an angle and axe braced diagonally against it. This forms a maneuverable defensive block which can be transformed into an attack instantly.
The band of students had taken me in the previous day when one of their number found me stretching by a tree in the university grounds. I’d been terribly sick all day, something I put down to a combination of possibly contaminated river water and the egg+bacon sandwich from the Co-Op bin the night before. I suppose it might’ve also been the icecream from the same place. I figured it wasn’t such a big deal, given that it’s the first time I can recall getting sick in almost 4 years of eating from dumpsters. I’d cycled feverishly for about 20 miles before reaching town then thrown up violently in the public toilets, and was just regaining my energy when Scott adopted me for the evening, taking me directly to the armoury where a gang was preparing for battle the next day at an international historical re-enactment in a castle.
While Scott valiantly got a ride to the Welsh Border to do battle, the others promised I could join them for training if I hung around, an offer I couldn’t really refuse. After my brief induction on the axe and shield, the five of us formed a ‘circle of treachery’ and battle commenced. Although the weapons are blunt and there are some rules (no hits above the shoulders, please don’t go for the groin etc), people don’t hold back! I felt myself get in the swing of things, quite literally, immediately, as I relished the feeling of duelling worthy opponents. The sound of steel on steel as swords clanged, of spears on wood as shields blocked their thrusts, the satisfying feeling of penetrating my enemy’s defences and scoring a hit. “Oh shit, that’s four. I’m dead!” We carried on for a couple of hours with training exercises, one-on-one duels and all in battles. I inferred that people were accustomed to seeing these warriors at their university as not many heads turned. After hefting those weapons and shields about my respect for anyone who did battle in that way has increased. I usually feel fairly fit on a bike but not as a viking; they’re bloody heavy! And I wasn’t even wearing chainmail. By the end of it I was sore all over and remained that way for a few days.
Historical Re-Enactment (not to be confused with Live Action Role Play, or LARP, lest you wish to find a dull swordpoint at your neck) battles take place around the world, attracting hundreds of international participants. Some choose to adopt their role not only on the battlefield, setting up camp, eating seasonal foods and living as they would have done in that era. The various groups span thousands of years worth of history, with some opting to act out Roman battles and others firing guns from WWII. I found it a brilliant medium to get out and fight, channeling that urge which many, if not all of us have inside. I know I’ll jump into battle again if the chance arises, so why not have a go yourself? Try searching and see if you find a local group – you never know where it might take you!
Traveling on the road by bike, I experience a completely different world to that of motorists. Sights, sounds and smells that they just zoom past without realising what they’ve missed. And then of course those sights, sounds and smells they create. Their exhaust fumes blown into my face as they noisily over-accelerate past me. And their victims, the animals killed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. No point letting them go to waste! Here’s another pictorial for you folks out there.
“I’m really not a very good cook. It looks bad but I reckon it’ll taste pretty good.” said Martin Dorey apologetically as we sat in his kitchen near the beach in Bude, Cornwall. It was the first omelette I’d eaten made my a TV cook and he was right about the taste. The curly haired surfer, writer and father of four (including Bob the dog and Dave the van) is an author with two published books and presented the BBC2 TV series ‘One Man and his Campervan‘. When I met him though he was picking up bits of rubbish from amongst the pebbles on the beach, a reflection of his focus more recently – the 2 minute beach clean.
“It’s nice, simple and a great idea because people get it, and it understands that people are lazy. The 2 minute beach clean is just that. That’s it. The idea is that every time you go to the beach you do two minutes. People complain at the beach, saying ‘this is disgusting’ then do fuck all. It’s easy to rant and rave but harder to get off your arse and do something about it.” He tells me the idea stems from an old one of his which was to pick up a bottle from the beach for every good wave he got surfing; a way of thanking the beach. It’s so simple and bypasses beaurocracy, insurance and any other obstacles that can get in the way of public events. He hopes that through the use of social media, picking up trash will become not only socially acceptable but an activity to be encouraged, and suggests taking responsibility for your own bit of territory at your local beach, your own patch. Of course this applies anywhere, whether you live deep in the forest, by the coast, in the desert or at the foot of a mountain.
I’m amazed at the amount of plastic bags full of rubbish I pass by the roadside whilst cycling, thrown out of car windows. I always strap my trash to my bike and carry it until I reach a bin, whether that’s 3 or 30 miles down the road; it’s not hard. So why can’t people driving cars, using fossil fuels instead of their own effort, do the same? While cycling in Sweden my friend and I made food money by collecting cans from the side of the highway, which adds up at the end of the day considering each can or bottle has a 1kr (10p) deposit on it. We met a fellow cyclist with the same idea who made £ 35 from one 120km stretch of road leading from a national park to the nearest town with very little human settlement along the way.
I hope the idea spreads. And as Martin says, cleaning up the beaches is effectively cleaning up your food.