It’s been ages since we got back, and even more ages since either of us wrote anything. Oh well.

This year I tried my hand at archery – I’d finally given in and bought myself a longbow at a historical fair, but hadn’t had chance to practice before going. I like longbows. Mine is ash, 35lb pull (which is rather weedy, but could still reach all the targets). Some of the other archers do loads of archery, and some of them have loads of money. So there was a proper 130lb war bow that I couldn’t draw, and lots of 70lb ones which were still rather powerful. I got to get quite a bit less bad at it, and particularly enjoyed clout shooting (shooting at a cloth on a stick at the far end of a field, aiming up into the sky to get more range – nearest the stick wins). Also I learned about archery, and how we defeated the French at Poitiers, Crecy and Agincourt against the odds.

The way that people were using a simple but powerful tool made of wood, how different people had different preferences and so on, made me think a bit about the bit in the first Harry Potter book where he goes to Ollivander’s to get a wand. Another thing that struck me this year, I think partly because of some of the other archers also made bows and chairs etc. was that at Kentwell there are people who can actually make things, real things, rather than words in the Web 2.0 user-generated content meaning of make. One bloke, who makes bowls with his lovely pole-lathe started as a geneticist, then changed to selling industrial amounts of liquid nitrogen and oxygen, and now makes pipes for a living (musical ones, but not bagpipes).

He had a second lathe with him this year, where the pole was a proper bit of timber rather than a chopped bit of tree. He was saying how it was all put together at the last minute, using bits of wood he had lying around the workshop – holly, box, ash etc. This impressed me: not only did he have the various kinds of wood lying around, but he could identify them. Then there
were the basket makers – one lady was making a new basket for her dog. I need a basket for my dog, so I’ll make one. Marvellous. They use wickedly sharp knives to cut the willow.

Anyway, as well as all that there were the usual out of hours things – ceilidhs, a boat race along the moat, green man (celebration of midsummer) eating tea out on the front lawn (A got scared of the peacocks, who can be a pest as they scavenge people’s leftovers, which sometimes haven’t been left yet).

K and L had to zoom back as they were singing in a concert. Fortunately we were just back in time to see the interesting part of the boat race. The concert was for all the music groups associated with the school where they do their Saturday morning music thing. The youngest performer was in their group (a 4 year old girl, who did very well), and the oldest was a six former in one of the school groups. K+L were excellent, enjoyed themselves, and also enjoyed the other groups.

Also, K and L got to be gentry for the day, with minimal effort from us. Normally gentry is a hassle, as the costumes are elaborate and fancy, and you need posh accessories too. The outdoors gentry (visiting gentry from elsewhere) a.k.a. gentry in a pavilion a.k.a. tentry, had some costumes spare that happened to fit K and L. K liked it, and L looked forward to it so much she occasionally literally jumped for joy. After all, it’s not every day you get to be a princess. (See Flickr for the many layers of getting ready.)

Katy’s dad was doing his first Kentwell for quite a few years. In recent years there had been a problem of young lads wandering around in feral gangs. There was a school room in the house, but that was fairly posh and small. So the big cheese PP asked David if he could start a second, less posh, school in one of the barns in order to keep these lads out of mischief. He was given a free hand and more help than most stations get as PP realised it was likely to be an unpopular thing.

David did his usual excellent job of preparation, and it turned out to be somewhere that the boys wanted to be. One of the archers had a son who was supposed to be there but wasn’t, and so was almost dragged there by his dad. Later on I asked the boy how it went and he said it was good. They made a sundial by working out when noon was by shadows and then using an hour glass to do the other hours away from that. They used slates and slate pencils, and did their proper work on one side and used the other to give a score to visiting school parties a la X Factor.

They had clay letters and roman numerals made by a Kentwell potter, and they were taught the pre-1588 way of doing roman numerals: XIV is the same as XVI as the position doesn’t matter – you just add up the individual letters to make 16. So 9 is VIIII. Actually, a run of 2 or more Is has a tail on the last I which makes it look like VIIIJ. Doing division by multiple subtraction is a lot easier if the position doesn’t matter. Oh, and chess played to Tudor rules (no castling, no en passant, and pawns never move 2 spaces). And there was delicious cake, made by David’s partner. Katy took some lovely photos of David and the school, again on Flickr.