Posts Tagged fighting

The Week After

(As before, previously published on my Patreon. I’m very much home now!)

I can’t believe it’s been almost a week since our Serbian adventure.

The days at once flew past and yet seemed so long. Cross-country friendships were kindled and I saw many move forward on their own individual journies.

One of the main things that has stayed with me was the process that Team UK went through while preparing to enter the arena to fight.

Initially, there was quiet. Just the sound of metal jingling as armour was buckled on, the odd request for help, but an absolutely intense atmosphere pervaded the Camp. I felt as if I was intruding initially, and retreated to my favourite bench to watch, close by if needed.

As the days went on, I was somehow absorbed into the activity. I helped Himself into his armour first; then another person, and another. As I’ve spoken of before, I was happy to work on odd jobs, but this was rather different – I quickly became aware that each piece of kit had to be positioned as its wearer wished. Too tight and movement would be impaired; too loose and injury could easily happen. Broken weapons demonstrated how hard each blow was, and the armour had to hold up against this.

By the final day, every time I made ready to go to my place in the audience, I was being grabbed multiple times for ‘just a quick bit of help?’ and I was carrying several peoples wallets, passports etc in my handbag. It feels peculiar how light it seems now I’m carrying just my own things!

I became incorporated into the busyness without force. I watched, respected each fighter’s preparation process, and took instruction (pointing out potential problems if I saw them). I was caring, efficient and – again, after years of PA work – able to do what was needed. They were patient with me, and (I hope) glad of the help.

The thing that has stayed with me, however, is that atmosphere. It wasn’t just about doing a job. The absolute focus was crucial. Every person had their own method for getting ready to face a team of other men or women, and each wanted to remain standing at the end.

I would imagine it to be similar to before an important sporting match, but with the added edge of higher potential for injury. Everyone saw and heard the little Serbian ambulances trundling on and off the field each day. Fortunately, nobody on Team UK suffered more than a concussion.

But I was honoured to be included in these rituals, and said as much to the Team Coach afterwards.

I’m reminded a lot of a line in the movie ‘The 13th Warrior’. Antonio Banderas’ Arab scholar is given a sword, like all the other warriors present. He protests, ‘I cannot lift this!’ One of the others smiles and yells ‘Grow stronger!’

That is my main take-home from this event. I saw so many fighters working to grow stronger, physically and mentally. I was very aware of my own weaknesses (likewise), but have been trying to figure out how to overcome them. I want to be better as Team Support in the future. I want to be as strong as I can.

Perhaps such inspiration will help mind as much as body. I saw much that I would call bravery, but which would be shrugged off as ‘normal’ to the fighters.

The members of Team UK are already looking to future events both at home and in Europe in the months ahead. Some I will be able to attend, some not. I was surprised how disappointed this made me.

I see parallels in recent thoughts and writings. What is important, what is not. How can I grow stronger, to do what I need to do in everyday life and its associated battles.

I hope my striving to be a Mental Health Warrior will be reflected in my physical spoons as well. Either way, I’ll do my best, for myself and those around me. I’m honoured to do so.

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Serbia – Last Day

(Again – previously published on Patreon. Please support for immediate access)

We’ve been very lucky with the weather this weekend – kind of. It’s been sunny and hot, which is great for the crowds, but not so much for the folks in armour.

Yesterday, though, the rain began. Gently, over the UK v France fight (cue lots of jokes about British weather helping us), but heavier overnight. Today, the site is rather muddy. Now the jokes are about Agincourt.

(Addendum: It got worse. Flooding-worse. Fortunately, all the fighting was done by then!)

I’m feeling philosophical. It’s our last day of the event, as we fly home first thing tomorrow. I’ve not been fighting, but Support is so important to the team. In the past, supporters were (briefly) treated like squires – but that was quickly knocked on the head. We’re not unpaid servants!

The (ex-Polish military) Team Coach took all of us Support crew aside last night and thanked us. This was really amazing, and I felt myself welling up – I was touched. It’s easy to forget the helpers, but without us, preparation and constant assistance would be much harder. Extra hands are needed for a knight to get into armour, and water is ALWAYS needed post-fight.

Back on the second day, the Team Captain asked if I could sew. A few minutes later, I was sat in his tent, his helmet between my knees (stop sniggering), stitching the cloth around the metal. Everything must be historically accurate to the eye, but the fabric collar was too thick and ungainly, getting in our Captain’s way.

When I’d finished, he was surprised how even it all was, much more comfortable and still looking good. Since then, it’s been noticed that when I’m asked to help with something, I get it done, quickly and well. It’s almost as if I’d been a PA for years… impossible tasks are my specialty 😂

What they didn’t see was my workarounds. I hadn’t expected to sew this week, so had no thimble. The material was thick linen with padding inside. So I found some fabric plasters, put them around my fingertips and – Tadaaa! Bodged thimbles. Also less blood, which is a bonus.

One fellow’s straps broke on his tabard. I ran for the needle and thread and was stitching things up before he had a chance to move. Again, surprise.

I’m Support. I help. From taking photographs for tourists with the knights in the marketplace, to fixing armour. Not glamorous, but necessary (and also kind of fun).

Each Team has also contributed to the overall running of the event, specifically an ‘Environmental’ charge. This means the toilet blocks are kept clean (not overflowing), litter-bins are emptied regularly… the site is cared for. As anywhere else, this is a tourist site of historical importance. Serbia is very proud of its history, and everyone here knows that they’re a part of that: medieval fighting with a 21st Century awareness and ethic.

I am writing this on my bench under some lovely trees, small leaves landing on me as I type. Team Israel is next to me, chatting and laughing. The rain has stopped, the sun is out and the mood is jovial.

It’s been a hard week spoon-wise, and we’ll both need serious rest when we get home. But again, I’m tired but proud.

Off to the traders now. I spied a small bronze Spoon pendant yesterday amidst the Heathen (and Witcher!) symbols for sale. Wonder if it’s still there…

Update: It wasn’t. But some beautiful acorn-tipped bronze pins were. Sewing accessory souvenirs! 😊

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Serbia – Day 4

(As previous, originally published on my Patreon. I’m at home right now 😊)

I have my first cup of tea since leaving England. A Yorkshire fighter brought dozens of Yorkshire teabags. And we found milk. I am happy.

Despite best intentions, blogging has not been possible in recent days, due to immense busyness and lack of wifi signal. I am currently sitting on a bench by Camp UK in the middle of Smederevo Fortress, typing this to upload later. Also listening to a multitude of languages and a group of minstrels playing not far away.

Life has been frenetic. Without all the modern gadgets we take for granted, Camp UK is incredibly focused on what it’s there to do – so at any moment, I see men working to clean their armour, work to repair dings with a small anvil and much-used tools, and women returning from fights, sweaty and either happy or frustrated.

I commented to one of the team that I can now see why Himself finds it so hard to sum up what happens at these events when he returns. Because EVERYTHING is happening, all the time.

I managed to find a quiet space, in a tent on a friendly squaddie’s cot. It’s been helpful to be able to retreat when things get overwhelming, but I’ve actually found the friendly atmosphere so lovely. Even if someone does badly in a fight, teammates are there. They may agree that Yes, You were shit – but get better and get back in there. (!)

One team has notably been losing, but perhaps not helped by their focus on 100% positivity. ‘You did great, that was fantastic!’… even when they haven’t. Flaws are ignored, mistakes glossed over. So they continue to lose and get angrier each time, crying ‘foul’ because it’s clear they ARE the best! Everyone else just doesn’t realize! Except they aren’t, and by missing that truth, they can’t get better. There is a very clear lesson there. Weakness is not failure. Be aware of and take responsibility for your flaws, and work to improve them – or they’ll remain, and you’ll be left wondering why.

Otherwise, the sense of many nations coming together in shared sport is something I’ve never quite experienced before. Someone was saying that football has its own atmosphere, but this is so different, because of the nature of the fighting. Rugby’s the nearest thing that we could think of: fighting together with full awareness of risk, but absolute willingness to commit, body and soul, as an individual and as part of a team.

I was also chatting to the Chilean team Captain. Initially, his friends at home had said ‘You’ll come back in a coffin!’ Because everyone thinks that this sport is crazy! But year on year, they’ve improved, gained more support, and people are now congratulating him on doing this and representing them.

Yes, it’s scary. Real weapons and armour, real risk. But absolutely balanced by the unity and fulfilment of what is being done.

I’m very proud of these men and women. So glad to be able to be here and be a part of this, even as just a supporter. I think we’ll be returning home happy.

UPDATE: Night has fallen. I’m writing this looking over a field of dropped armour and campfires, singing and laughter.

Team UK has beaten France to win Bronze in the 30v30 fights! Guess who was sitting in the ‘supporters’ stands surrounded by French folks. But still managed to get a Serbian family cheering for England 😂

So much of this is about shared experience. There’s (obviously) aggression in the lists when fighting, but all of the supporters cheer each other as enthusiastically as their own. The sense of fun and shared good feeling is visibly (and audibly!) crossing borders, and I absolutely love it. We need not be defined by lines on a map. We can fight in sport and then help each other up to fight again tomorrow.

Only one sour note: I was chatting with an Argentine lady Marshall. She was watching from the stands because apparently the (Russian) organisers had forbidden all women from Marshalling. Her husband was waving to her from the field. It turned out she’d trained with Himself a few years ago, and was very proud of her job, being ‘Mother’ to the fighters.

I’ve noticed a certain attitude to women here, and it makes me both nervous and sad. Some places still have to move into the 21st century, it seems. But we battle on, with those wonderful men who stand as our allies.

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Quiet

I seem to be following themes this year. The path is a winding one, leading to new places and revisiting old from a different direction. Sometimes we move in circles, or get caught in whirlpools, until we’re ready to move forward – or get thrown forcibly on to the next challenge!

It’s Yuletide, the centre of the Christmas season for the world outside my window. So much is going on, with the news full of chaos and uncertainty. People are having to take stock, to actively consider what’s important to them… because 2019 may bring deep and personal changes. Apathy, ignorance or abdication of responsibility will not be an option.

For now though, I sit. I haven’t wanted to write. I haven’t wanted my voice to drop into that ocean of media. It’s midwinter. The word that sums up life for me right now is ‘Quiet’.

That’s not to say things have been quiet. I’ve been battling hard over recent months, and making it through is not always a certainty. But I’m still here.

The latest fight has been against inner voices telling me that nothing I do makes a difference. That my own voice may as well be silent, for it adds nothing. I’m not wanted. I’m not here.

I pause as I write these words. They may seem mad – well, they are! They are irrational, provably false. When you’re in your own dark places, these words ring so loud, it’s almost impossible to block or even attempt to dispute them.

But I hold on. I take a deep breath. I speak.

I call out for help as best I can, and while I’ve been notably ignored by the systems that should be in place to assist (an overwhelmed NHS), friends have more than proved their love by listening, sharing, sending gifts and kindness across the miles. More than anything, I’ve wanted to post myself somehow to where they are, to show my gratitude in person! Because I want them to know how much they  have helped in my fight.

It’s easy to feel isolated when it’s dark. You can’t see anyone around, can’t hear them… you feel so alone. But even a whisper will be picked up by someone. Friends care enough to listen, to hold space (even across the Interweb), to join you in the wish for peace and healing.

A dear friend provided much needed humour and distraction this week, reminding me of a quote from a favourite TV show: ‘Family don’t end with blood.’ She didn’t realize at the time, but that brought me to tears – because it’s deeply true. Your family are those who are there for you, who step up fearlessly because they love you and will fight alongside you without a second thought. They don’t hide when times get tough; they sneak into the blanket fort alongside you (and bring snacks).

A shared image or phrase. A simple ‘hey, how’s it going?’ The touch of a virtual hand at your shoulder. These things cost so little, yet can mean everything.

So I sit, quiet and alone. But still breathing. Still able to reach out to those who are there. I try my best to use my word-powers for good, after all, so the least I can do is honour those who listen – and help in return, as much as I can.

For me, this midwinter is about cutting through the noise to find the inner truth. Hold that quiet space within, just sit and be. You can do this; even if you need to take yourself physically away for a while, to take a break from the seasonal busyness. Seek out that light burning inside you, and let it warm you for a little while. Remember what’s important – and feel those who love you for it be with you, be it in body or spirit.

Deep in the darkness, the fire burns, and with it the bravery and strength needed to move forward in Yourself.

Try to feel the Truth of this time of year. The lights and the laughter, the sharing and gifts (not always tangible!). We do our best, whatever that may be. We set our space, hold ourselves firm, stretch out with our roots and prepare for the months ahead. We’ve adventures to face together.

Season’s blessings, dear ones.

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Addendum: For those of you who’ve been kind enough to support me on Patreon, I’m sending a little seasonal gift – a small rite just for you, in the spirit of the season but also in the light of my thoughts here.

I can’t thank you enough for supporting me, lovely friends. I’ve definitely got plans for you all next year!

Yuletide blessings x

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