Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Tudor life

We get told off. First because not everyone in our group is in costume. At this point, I am secretly relieved that five Tudor costumes emerged from the Grit sewing machine at speed.

But sadly, it's still not enough. We are not going to enjoy ourselves, and we are very disappointing, says the stern, down-the-nose lady with the Barbour and clipboard who is in charge of mustering our group, as if we couldn't recognise each other without her. I bet her grandfather was something big in the Empire. She stands very straight and tall, even in green wellies sunk into the mud, and tells us we must divide into little groups and stay there, and if we dawdle, we will be Sent Out.

I wonder if she can see that most of our home education group is aged over eight. Probably not, because she continues to reprove us, starting with the claim that never before in the history of the mid-week Kentwell Hall Tudor Reenactment programme have visitors not turned up in costume. She then says we will stop everyone from enjoying themselves, and that we have diluted the impact for everybody, so we should jolly well think about what we have done and be ashamed. And what's more, she snorts, we are not now to fool around, dawdle, straggle or spend all our time asking questions. If we do, we will be very inconvenient.

I'd like to say that was the end of the admonishments, but no. End of Empire marches us over to a weasley looking chap called Gram, who's organising regimented toilet attendance. Gram insists everyone go to the toilet, even if they say they do not want to go. 'Go now!' he orders. 'There are no toilets inside. You cannot come out' he snaps. Well, matey, I think, half of us are going to be Sent Out for dawdling, so really we could use the toilets then. When there's still resistance to using the portaloos I ask Gram if he'd try and squeeze out any wee from us, just to be sure we're not hiding any wee illegally. I don't think answers to questions like that appear on his clipboard.

After Gram we are ordered to wait until another stern lady chaperone with a clipboard can deal with us. She reprimands us for standing in the wrong place and talking, and then repeats all the rules again. How we must not wander about, how we can't use toilets ever again, how we are not to bump into the walls of the time tunnel because we will knock it over, how, if we're naughty or dawdling, we will be Sent Out.

Thank goodness we can escape the twenty-first century down the blacked-out chipboard corridor grandly called the 'time tunnel'. But at the other end, the Tudor age is wonderful. Not at all like I've feared. David Starkey has clearly got it all wrong. It's not at all smelly or dirty or incomprehensible. There are no hideous disfiguring diseases, no dismembered bodies strung up as a warning to betrayers or dawdlers, and no dangers from politicking courtiers and scheming monarchs. Just a lot of very wonderful reenactors who completely know their stuff, are immaculately dressed, perfectly mannered, wonderfully informative and generous in their time and patience.

And so, because we are in a Tudor Golden Age, we dawdle; we amuse ourselves by being foolish on the lawn; we ask too many questions and we have a wonderful few, escapist, hours. By the end of the afternoon I could almost believe I could live there forever, so long as I don't need a toilet, ever again.

What a disappointment when we're hastened out again to the twenty-first century. Not only do I have to give up being a Tudor lady larking about on the lawns, Shark, Squirrel and Tiger are much better behaved in the sixteenth century than they are in the twenty-first. That alone is a good enough reason to keep us all there.

So my message to the Kentwell Hall organising team is that you completely failed in your mission to make us have a miserable time.

And we're coming back next year.

1 comment:

Dot said...

As one of the Kentwell Tudors i am sorry you have a difficult time getting in but glad you enjoyed wandering around. Please do come back next time and ask as many questions as you like!