Posted by: wrmcnutt | March 4, 2010

Black Gryfon – 2010

Ok, for the newcomers, I’m in the SCA, a medieval re-creation organization similar to the Civil War re-enactors you may have heard of.  We get together, put on armor, bash each other with simulated swords, wear funny clothes, and otherwise try and re-create the interesting/romantic parts of the middle ages.  There’s a lot of us, mostly in the United States, although that’s changing.  We’re divided into geographic kingdoms, and call our large gatherings “wars.” But not all of the SCA is about combat.  Occasionally we will gather at events we call “collegia,” and as it happens, this weekend was my local group’s annual collegium, “Black Gryfon.”

Well, this weekend’s Black Gryfon Collegium was a rollicking success.  The turnout was good, the classes were full, and the feast was flavorful. The weather was perfect, the company was congenial, and, in so far as I could determine, a good time was had by all.

My own weekend began somewhat late, owing to assorted professional obligations that kept me in the digital saddle until after 6:00 PM, but my bride had preceded me to site, taking with her our bedding and assorted items, so that my late start did not have us assembling our weekend home well into the night.  I arrived on site around six o’clock, local time, my residence being in real time, referred to by others as “Eastern Time.”  The roads were dry, and mostly flat and straight, in that East Tennessee way.  The journey was uneventful except for one quick stop for fuel.  There were already about fifty folk on site by the time I was able to get to Fall Creek Falls group camp, where we were scheduled to meet.

It was too chilly out to wander around without a coat, but you could unload a car without bundling up like Nanook.  I got there just after sunset, and on a clear night, Fall Creek Falls never disappoints.  It’s a LONG way to civilization from up there, and there’s virtually no light pollution.  The star looks like diamonds on black velvet.  There was a traveler’s fare served, but I had already dined, so I didn’t partake.  It smelled REALLY good, but I’m about the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life, and have no business eating two suppers.

I suppose I should start with the accommodations.  The Fall Creek Falls group camp is an odd duck in the Tennessee State Park System. Rather than be broken up into many small cabins for four, six, or eight people, the camp has two dormitories, each of which sleeps, oh, I dunno, eighty or so people to a floor.  Each floor is also equipped with a single bathroom.  This occasionally leads to a little entertainment when folks are not accustomed to the site. You see, the dorms were pretty clearly designed with some kind of gender segregated experience in mind.  It’s pretty clear that the upstairs dorm is supposed to be the “girls dorm” and the downstairs dorm is supposed to be the “boy’s dorm.”  That doesn’t work well in the SCA.  Lotsa married people and people with children, either small ones that need to be supervised, or older ones that REALLY need to be supervised.  So our group tends to just call both bathrooms “unisex.”

But the “boy’s dorm” is equipped with urinals and showers that are just eight spigots sticking out of the wall.   No partitions. No doors.  No curtains.  Just spigots and urninals.  Now, mind you, there are sit down toilets in that dorm as well, but there are only four of them. And you can see clear to the back of the showers from the front door.  Many’s the unsuspecting newcomer who has been startled when some stranger of the opposite sex wanders in while they’re using the shower.  Also entertaining is seeing gentlemen using the urinals practically leap INTO them attempting to keep from offending ladies who have wandered in.  The “girl’s dorm,” on the other hand, has provisions for privacy.  Shower stalls, all sit-down toilets, and that sort of thing.  We make both bathrooms unisex because people don’t want to have to take little kids up and down the stairs to the gender appropriate dorm bathroom.  Sometimes we post a warning sign, but that’s up to the autocrat, and they don’t always remember.

Anyway –  the dorms are connected via covered walkway to the two story hall.  Upstairs there are three classrooms, separated by accordion partitions.  Downstairs is the great hall with kitchen and general seating.

We had a full slot of courses.  I participated in a Herald’s salon.  It was an informal gathering of heralds to answer questions and speak in general terms.  I had fun, but I ended up feeling like we didn’t fill the time as well as me might. And the turnout was very light.  Was it me that nobody wanted to listen to, or that nobody is interested in heraldry?  I also finally got to participate in Mistress Elizabet MacKenzie du Ross’ cheese tasting class.  Liz has researched five modern cheeses whose basic forms and flavors can be documented as eaten in the middle ages, leaving participants with a short list of stuff they can just go out and buy to make lunch a more medieval experience.  I think that was my favorite class.

Although Lady Giavanna presenting an amazing Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in Renaissance Italy class.  She brought in a bunch of cards with really outrageous conspicuous consumption items on them and gave us each around 800,000 lire in gold coins to bid.  I didn’t think she counted on me, though.

The first item up was a marble bust.  She had an example to look at, but what we were actually bidding on was a custom carving.  I, of course, opened the bidding with “I will pay eight thousand pounds sterling to take home Lady Giavanna’s bust.”

She then trotted out a list of luxury furniture.  As a “furniture laurel,” I simply had to bid.  As the bidding on the bust had gotten absolutely absurd, I opened with a ten thousand pound bid . . .  “to take home Lady Giavanna’s chest.”

I got outbid on that one, too.  But the next item was mine.  She put a custom statue up for bid.  So I started the bidding at one hundred thousand pounds.  For Lady Giavanna’s nude form.  I won that one.

I wasn’t able to come up with a witty double entendre for every item, tragically.  I did make her turn utterly scarlet more than once, and she actually hid her nose at one point.  The most expensive item up for sale was a castle in Florence, and I had to club together with Mistress Marthe and another lady.  We ended up bidding 1.4 million pounds sterling to win it.  There was another consortium from the Haseatic league bidding, and they ran the bidding up about a half-million over where it should have been.

The good was great, and the company convivial.  I just wish whoever Typhoid Mary was had stayed home.  A BUNCH of us brought home a virus, and I’m only just now getting over mine.

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  1. there are few things in life more irritating than someone who brings illness to an event to share.
    you have my sympathy.

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