I don’t live in the past—I only visit—and so can you!

IN LOVE WITH EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE PAST Part 3

This week, we turn to Julie Watkins, who wrote this a while ago at my behest when I heard her talking about it to M o Ps at an event. This is reprinted from New Member Times 28:

My participation in the NWTA was ended when my husband had some h ealth prob-lems. When he recovered, he was looking for real medieval living history. But I got caught in what he eventually settled on—the Regia Anglorum reenactment society—for three basic reasons.

The first was that there were no explosions. I tolerated the gun culture in the NWTA but was happier when I found an organization that had high standards without loud noises.

The second was that I had been in love with the Norse medieval culture ever since we had visited Iceland in the late 1980s. I liked that Iceland that it skipped the renaissance. Earlier, I had been interested in Tolkien, which led me to reading the sagas. I can’t remember the specifics, but I remember reading one after another, just liking the language of the storytelling.

And finally, in Regia Anglorum, I found that I was even closer to what I considered the ultimate living-history experience. It was simpler, less posh culture, closer to everyday life that I had found living history before to be. Even the costume was simpler. It was mainly rectangles, square and triangles, and the only curves were in the wimples. It was not only easier to put things together but to wear what had been put together. I got interested in the textiles of the era and love talking about it to Members of the Public while on the ropeline. I love being able to talk about a consistent broad over view and to display the different looms. And in addition, since this era predates the introduction of the spinning wheel, the tools for spinning are much smaller and easier to transport!

Ironically, on the line, I try to do the simplest actions in my demonstrations of textile production. Not I only because I can’t do it—I’m probably as skilled as an eight-year-old would have been then—but I find it easier to do this while speaking with the M o Ps. And when I screw up—as I often do—it can be more easily undone, so they don’t feel horrid for spoiling a difficult endeavor with their honest questions. 🙂 They are hopefully ready to go on asking questions and learning. Often, while speaking with them, I find out what I don’t yet know and have to look it up so that I’ll know it in the future!

I am very happy dealing with a culture that I find simple and easy both to understand and to explain to the M o Ps. I especially like where our group is at present, where we are portraying the Danelaw at a certain point in the early eleventh century. There are plenty of artifacts that the archaeologists have found in the area, and I find the portrayal easy and satisfying.

There are a few things that drive me crazy. What did a period carrying bag look like? It might have been such a humble, everyday article that no one made mention of it in chronicles or displayed it in art. Or perhaps it was never used. After all, how many items did you own in those days that you had to carry around? I would like to know, not only so I can acquire a similar bag for myself but so I can talk about it to fellow reenactors and M o Ps. Of course, I’m dealing with a modern reaction here; what I think or hope they had does not necessarily have anything to do what they did think or have!

Even so, reenacting everyday life in a culture where I can wear simple and comfortable clothes with no bustles, no stays and no ruffs, while talking about how life was lived by the common folk is both simple and satisfying. I, for one, am happy I encountered it!

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