My break started on Thursday night, when Robert and I attended a small late opening of the refurbished Plague and Fire of London exhibit at the Museum of London. Our splendid Lady Ynes had contributed some new pieces so we dutifully admired the display, and listened as edith_hedingham leaked fascinating facts about the Great Fire, gathered in the process of training as a registered city guide.
There's a very handsome 'wealthy domestic home' display set up in one corner, where you can picture sitting in the chair, by the fire, and listening to someone play the virginal.
The Cheapside Hoard is unfortunately back under wraps until 2012, when it will *all* be available, every last piece, or so the sign promised.
Beer afterward was somewhat overtaken by discussing plans for the coming Coronet feast, but Ynes and I still got to natter about the role of bliauts in costume history.
Friday AM was relatively leisurely, before the 1pm train. I was very glad I'd booked a seat, as the train was packed, and I had to eject someone from my seat. I only told off one repeat offender for using her phone in the quiet carriage but generally I prefer to say something than sit and steam. (The return trip, by comparison, was very quiet, and not nearly as busy.)
Mistress Cait met me and we walked to her and Otto's very fine Georgian tenement near the centre of town. I learned the difference between a tenement and any other kind of flat or apartment: a tenement is a multi-story building with purpose-built flats on different floors, as opposed to a former large single dwelling home that has been subdivided.
Theirs dates from the end of the Georgian era, one of the last that was built in a particular round of planned building of New Town. Cait showed me their row of homes on a map dated 1827, that showed planned future buildings that never materialised.
I was amazed how well their home suits them: centrally located, with 18" thick stone walls, and similarly thick floors, with space between ceilings and floors apparently filled with wood ash as sound proofing. Indoors, hardwood floors and 12-foot ceilings provide splendid settings to practice even the loudest instruments like shawms and bagpipes.
Unsurprisingly, one large room is dedicated to music, with their many instruments on the walls, and a large open space for dancing. This is the heart of Harplestane's Friday evening dance practice, followed up with wine and cheap pizza and chat in the lounge, with the fire going.
Dance practice was delightful, giving me a chance to meet some of the local SCA/reenactor types, including the lovely Leonor Martin from Alcazar de Brioga who is currently living in Edinburgh. She's a splendid knowledgeable lady who helped found the Spanish shire, and I'd had no idea she was living abroad!
The one great drawback I observed of living in a vintage tenement is its vintage insulation and heat-retention qualities. Both Otto and Cait wear a lot of sweaters.
Saturday had a leisurely start - hurrah for local events (well, local to where you start from), with just a 20-min drive to Queensferry. Since I've learned most of my Scottish geography from reading Ian Rankin, this was a useful (they live close to the Gay Square police station). Just as well - it takes 45 minutes to climb into the 16th c German gown layers.
The site is a lovely small priory church refurbished in the 19th century to support a neo-Gothic look. (I don't know how they got a Grade A listing, when they've added underfloor heating, and a glass interior wall to separate the tearoom from the rest of the site though.) The worship area has moveable seating, so the musicians set up near the altar, and everyone else stashed their goods in the tearoom.
I got to catch up with sismith42 and her husband JL, and meet their baby E. for the first time. I can honestly say that JL looked the happiest I'd ever seen him while caring for the baby, and it was a pleasure to see. Other folks like Torrkil and Estrid took a turn at bouncing the baby too - she's got lots of honorary family around the shire.
I also got to meet several newcomers - students from St. Andrews particularly, who I think have been rustled up by Aylanna (sp?), Robert Torrkilson's lady - and I tried to make sure they'd met nz_bookwyrm before they left, as he's the newest experienced SCA arrival at that school. It would be wonderful if that school once more became a source of newcomers and fresh and enthusiastic faces in Harplestane.
Lady Estrid and her family organised a hearty potluck meal, mostly prepared in advance, or warmed in crockpots, because there was only a 'coffee kitchen' at the site. As their family members have a selection of food sensitivities between them, every thing was very carefully labelled as to its contents. I especially liked thebeef in red wine, but really everything was yummy.
For the evening's dancing, Otto and Cait asked me to take names from the registration list and ask folks at random to choose a partner and a dance they wanted to hear and dance - this way, everyone got a chance for a favourite (or at least something they recognised!).
It also saved the musicians having to set the programme - they could simply be the amazing medieval dance band they are, playing the range of instruments and across varied styles of dance. We're spoiled rotten by them!
It also allowed a few 'performance' dances, that weren't taught but were on the playlist. So I spent most of the evening on my feet, going over my list, and talking to people. It made an excellent icebreaker.
I found that I knew more dances than I realised - teaching a few more brawles, and getting a firmer grip on some familiar tunes and pieces that I now want to teach at our revels. And I found that one of the very first dances I learned, the war brawle, had not left me, and I could still dance it with Leonor and a wonderful sweet lady named Caelin, a reenactor from Poland.
Bless Dame Sarra for teaching us all brawles in Greyfells all those years ago.
Sunday was spent in part on a walking tour of Edinburgh courtesy of my hosts - Otto says he prefers cities with hills, and by god, Edinburgh has them, having a great deep glacial groove cut around the hard rock peak that the castle sits on.
It seemed a long series of stairs and steps to reach Nelson's memorial, the exterior of Holyrood palace, the old Observatory, tourist-tat Princess Street (full of be-kilted rugby fans: Cait said, 'noone really walks around in kilts every day, honest'), the university grounds, including the medical school where Sir Arthur Conan Doyle studied.
I got a walking and talking run-down on the late-Georgian development of the city, with its distinctive style of housing; on one corner stood a 4-storey 19th c building right next to a 6-storey modern building. The exteriors were similar and the rooflines were the same...which means that where the Georgians enjoyed their high-ceilinged spaces, modern builders squeezed in two more storeys of offices.
Like London, Edinburgh has some small gems - hidden gardens, enclosed tenement yards, narrow walkways leading to open spaces. We decided against the tourist tour of the famously enclosed street, Mary King's Close. I think I could learn to love such a city, if I could find a place to live there.
Otto and I breezed through the city museum, but were a bit disappointed by the collection; it was thematic rather than by period, so for example, we found Bronze Age and medieval artifacts together, under 'burial goods', and early Celtic and later medieval church decor together under 'Christianity'. Something of the sequence of occupation of the Isles was lost in this approach.
nz_bookwyrm sent me a pic of myself, showing off my excellent 16thc shoes. I have to pass this onto the shoemaker... you'll have to ask him for other pics, I forgot my camera completely again.