Sunday, 6 May 2007

History day

We're off to Rockingham Castle today for the multi-period history show. We like history. We are amateur historians. We have even been members of the Sealed Knot. How cool is that?

Actually we were rubbish at it. We never showed up to meetings, musters or anything else. I got as far as buying some cotton for the kirtles. The cotton's still in the box where I keep the rest of the fabric I've bought to make period costumes with.

Anyway, I thought we would do well, being amateur historians. Squirrel, Shark and Tiger sometimes correct me when I get my Henry 2's mixed up with my Edward 1's. So you'd think that a multi-period history show in Rockingham Castle would be a good place to show off.

So that's just what I do. I try to show off with Squirrel, Shark and Tiger. Tiger's been in bad mood all day long but I ignore it. I reckon I could manage a loud, casual, unplanned conversation with Shark in front of the woman selling 15th century styled dresses, like, 'Do you think Eleanor of Aquitaine would wear this?' And I'll point to a Tudor style dress and Shark will say 'Oh no! She would wear something different!'

(At this point I would like something like 'dearest mamma' tagged onto the end, but I'm still working on that.) Then the woman selling 15th century styled dresses would say, 'Oh my goodness, your children know about Henry II?' 'Oh yes', I'll say with a little smug smile, 'They're home educated.' All the children will glow and I will be very proud indeed.

At this point in my unplanned conversation, if I'm feeling on sure ground, and the woman selling 15th century styled dresses doesn't actually look like a history teacher in her day job and won't end up fighting with me over the National Curriculum, then I'll add, 'We think the history curriculum in school is appalling. After fifteen years of Henry VIII and Adolf Hitler, what do schoolchildren know about history?' And then I'll raise my eyebrows and share a knowing, sympathetic smile with the woman selling 15th century styled dresses, who will nod in an understanding and supportive way.

OK, well it didn't go like that.

We get to the tent where the woman selling 15th century styled dresses is standing. Tiger's still in a sulk. I deliver my opening gambit to Shark. But Shark's not listening, because over the other side of the field Shark has seen an irish wolfhound, the size of a Shetland pony, being led about by a couple of women trying not to look windswept circa the 1350s, and Shark immediately starts to back away with that frozen look on her face under the 15th century clothes rail.

I step back too, but unfortunately I'm wearing a backpack about as large as can be possibly strapped to a human being, and I knock over the tailor's dummy that the woman selling 15th century styled dresses is using to display a velvet cream hand-stitched glory that costs £75 for the outer garment alone. While she's picking it up with a not altogether happy look on her face and I'm apologising for that, Squirrel starts on her prosecuting lawyer routine.

'Why do you always say that?' she whines, ignorant of the faux pax and not having seen the wolfhound, but having heard the injustice of me using Shark's name.
'Not now', I say, under my breath, trying to shoo Squirrel out towards the sulky Tiger, nod continuing apologies to the woman selling 15th century styled dresses, and reassure Shark that actually the wolfhound is a mile away and not looking at her. But Squirrel's having none of it.
'You always only ask my sisters to look at things. You never ask me!'
'That's not true' I whisper. This is foolish: at this point I should ignore her.
'Did you just ask Shark to come and look at the costume? she shouts, not moving, finger raised.
'Yes' I say.
'Did you think I would like to look at the costume?' comes Squirrel's quick reply.
'Do you mind?' I retort in my best hoity-toity voice. I am not in the dock after all, and right now I am trying to get everyone out the tent towards the savage wolfhound that's a mile away before the woman selling 15th century styled dresses notices the mud stain I've probably added to her velvet cream confection.
'Mummy! You always ask Shark and you did not ask me!' shouts Squirrel in her loudest, most hard-done-by voice.

Now, this is the point of disaster. Because I give in. I say, 'OK then, Shark and Tiger and Squirrel, would you all like to look at the costumes?'
'Yes!' shouts Squirrel, and Tiger stares at the grass, glumly. Shark's only too glad to get back into the tent.

I start to walk back slowly to the woman selling 15th century styled dresses who's watching me a bit more carefully now. I turn around to face Squirrel, and what happens? I give the newly re-erected velvet cream confection another bash with the backpack. As it's teetering from side to side and the woman selling her 15th century styled dresses lunges towards it to save it from crashing to the ground, all is failure once more, and there's only one thing I can say.

'Oh bloody hell, I've done it again.'

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