I'd had this festival of history on my calendar for about a month - ever since I got the flyer in the mail. Some of the children were interested and some weren't. Bob was semi-interested. So after our big day Friday we were all dragging our feet. Then it started to rain. So Bob and I looked at each other and wondered if it was worth the risk of miserable to drive an hour and a half. Finally we decided to go for it, leaving the house about 9:30.
The directions were flawless as usual, dumping us right into Dunstable High Street. Now what? The brochure said something about town center parking, so we followed the signs to a parking lot. It seemed full, but after parking behind a Dominos pizza, I saw a space in the public car park, so Bob moved the van over there. (People seem to comment a lot on my attention to detail, and how long my posts are, so I'm trying to leave out a few things, like that as we left the house I had to go back in twice for things we forgot, and about the first parking sign we followed that led us into a private alley.)
It wasn't raining when we got out of the van, so we left our coats there and took our lunch. The first thing we noticed (even as we drove up) was the music; there was an electric organ on a trailer. The next thing was the smell. There were a dozen small campfires going, and as it was a windy day, it was pretty smoky. So we walked over towards the excitement, and there were lots of tents, and LOTS of people in costume. In the middle of the camp was a whole pig slowly roasting over a smoky fire. Riah knew that Robin Hood would like to eat that pig, but he didn't think he would care for it.
The first person we actually talked to was a Viking, who was cleaning a drinking horn. He was very friendly for a Viking, and explained all about his craft. We could hear sounds of battle from up the hill, but it was nearly over. However, one combatant escaped and was caught in the middle of camp and thoroughly beaten for his trouble. As we learned later, Dunstable was the site of a Viking raid in 915, and they were successfully driven back by the Saxons.
Then we had out picnic lunch of peanut butter sandwiches, chips, apples, and dessert for the children. We felt funny because no one else was picnicking, but later several did. Feeling much refreshed, we walked around the camp. A little way down the path we saw Queen Elizabeth 1 with her lord and lady in waiting. Taryn worked up the nerve to ask about the lady in waiting, and that opened up a nice conversation. Having learned that we were from Newmarket, the Queen asked how long the journey took. I said 1 1/2 hours and she was surprised and mentioned our horse must be very fast. I said, "yes, we have about 200 - 250 fast horses." "Oh, you must be very rich!" Funny, but yes, we are all very rich compared to even Kings and Queens of times gone by. I forgot to mention to her that Bob is (maybe) descended from her Aunt Margaret.
We watched two lady archers practice the longbow. Bob talked politics to a man who had missed his bus and decided to walk through the park. We picked sour cherries from a BIG cherry tree. We toured the church, which was part of the priory built by Henry 1, and the site of Henry VIII's divorce proceedings. Then it was time for a battle. That was pretty good. There were about 40 warriors - Saxons and Vikings again - and they had a few bouts back and forth across the field, then they called a talk and decided on a single combat. (I was watching William play on the grass and missed most of this.) When one champion fell, the armies struck again with vengeance and the Vikings were defeated. Then the announcer called on Woden for the dead to rise, and sure enough, they did! All the warriors got together for a photo op, and that was that.
We walked around again, and seeing on the program that the English Civil War was about to begin in another place we tried to find out how to get there. Bob got directions, but then we saw a "guided tour" was forming, so we decided to go with that instead. We walked around the block with a lady in a red cape, and she told some interesting stories about the town. It was fun, but as the 'walk' was mostly standing and listening, our feet were getting tired by the end. We could hear guns and canons being fired, and figured it would have been too loud for the children had we gone to the war.
Back at the church gardens we let the children run and climb trees while we rested our feet. We figured that was enough of that, so gathered up and headed for home.
Looking at the map, I saw an English Heritage site not too far off our road, and we thought we'd check it out. After following the map, and the road signs, and turning around twice, and looking for roads that weren't there we eventually made it back to a main road and continued on our way home. I have NO IDEA where that house is supposed to be.
We were getting hungry so we looked for a Little Chef, but it wasn't there. So we went into Newmarket and parked the car and walked down High Street. We went into one pub that served food all day (it was about 5, and a lot of places don't start serving until 6 or 7), but the rock music was very loud, so we went back out. Bob found an ATM to get more cash for his car, and then we decided on a Kebab house. There are two on high street, and later I though we should have got one from each to do a taste test, but we didn't. Bob and I each got a chicken kebab, which is grilled chicken and salad on a pita bread. In America, a kebab is small chunks of meat on a skewer. shrug. The children each got a hamburger. We took it home, and I'm glad. Those kebabs are huge. Bob didn't even finish his. I took off about half of my meat, and shared the other half with Ella, and it was still a good meal. The children all liked their burgers, too, and were full without wanting anything to go with it. So, while it cost over $40, it wasn't bad value.
And that was our Saturday. Now it's time to consider church clothes, and showers, and all that good stuff.