Tuesday, 19 July 2011

An Experience

It all began when James flicked through his diary and listed his weekends away.

"Duke of Edinburgh weekend, the reenactment weekend that Matthew wants us to do, stag party weekend, and then a full week away with my Duke of Edinburgh gold group..." he said, flicking the pages of his diary and looking somewhat sheepish.

And entirely of my own volition and without any prompting whatsoever I said: "let's all do the reenactment weekend together."

So after weeks of stressing and sulking, and after cursing myself repeatedly for uttering those few foolish words, we headed down to the Kelmarsh Festival of History to join the Coldstream Foot Guards Regiment for one weekend, and to journey back in time to the Napoleonic era.

It was a strange and surreal experience. 

We abandoned our comfortable clothes in favour of hand stitched linen undergarments and heavy, woolen cloaks; we abandoned our warm house for a canvas tent that sagged as the rain pooled in its roof and we abandoned socially accepted behaviour to participate in a strange sort of charade that involved grown men barking orders at one another and rushing about self-importantly in their splendid military garb.

And even though I've spent the past two days trying to mentally deconstruct and compartmentalize it, I still can't quite work out what to make of it.

Because there were moments of magic even amongst the misery of torrential rain and sopping wet shoes, and yet there were moments of despondency too, that left me wondering what on earth I was doing grappling with a cape that was intent on throttling me whilst chasing my boy in a dress around a large, wet field.  

I have no idea how I will remember this surreal weekend that interrupted our sedate and ordinary life in the years to come, but I hope that it will be with wonder.

I hope that I'll forget the boredom that came from hours spent sitting in a wet tent with strangers; the despondency of rainy mornings and leaky tents; the  pure rage that left me shocked and shaken when James abandoned me in a cold tent with a screaming baby whilst he went and 'found the camp' via the beer tent; the discomfort of ill-fitting costumes and the exacerbation of spending time with strangers who found it hard to distinguish between the real and imagined.  

And instead I hope that I'll remember the quiet wholesomeness of the life that we lived for those days. I hope I'll remember the smells of woodsmoke and wet grass; the sight of hundreds of canvas tents stretching away towards the horizon; the peace of sitting around a campfire late on a summer's evening whilst long shadows stretched over men intently polishing their muskets; the relief of a warm cup of tea on a long, wet morning, the simple joy of bread and jam, the bizarre cuteness of my baby boy in a bonnet; the way strangers oooh'd and ahhhh'd over John and stopped to take his picture; the serene magic of watching my babe become hypnotised by the wisps of cloud that floated in front of the full summer moon; the thrill of taking part in such a splendid and sumptuous spectacle, the excitement of seeing Roman soldiers and medieval knights and vikings wandering quite naturally past our camp; John's unbridled excitement as the Spitfires roared overhead and the pride that I felt each time someone complemented me on his cuteness and unnaturally good nature.

But most of all I hope that I remember the quiet contentment of my boy; the way he adapted quite naturally to this strange new reality that we thrust upon him and amused himself for two long days with pieces of wood from the woodpile and scraps of bread from the table, and the way he never once grumbled in spite of wet clothes and late mealtimes, lack of sleep and an onslaught of strangers.  

And I hope I remember that the next time I land myself in the midst of some strange and surreal experience, I needn't worry about my boy, because he's the definition of adaptable and he teaches me lessons in contentment each and every day.

1 comment:

  1. I always wondered about the wives of those re-enactment fans - now I know! Well done for embracing the new experience (and John does look ridiculously cute).