Tag Archives: story

Ken of the Sealed Knot

Whilst most of us enjoy visits from the British Gas Man and offer numerous cups of tea, I like to find out a little more about the stranger walking through my door, examining the heating system and giving nods of approval. Today was a little different though. I never imagined meeting and individual so full of interesting stories with a hobby that would be the envy of most of my historian friends. His name is Ken and with his wife, they are members of a historical re-enactment society called the Sealed Knot.

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Portrait of Brigadier Peter Young (1915 – 1988), Great Britain
http://www.generals.dk

The idea of the Sealed Knot came from a dinner party at the founder’s house, Brigadier Peter Young, in 1968. He was launching his book on the Battle of Edgehill and threw a costume party to publicise it. Once the organisation was formed, over the next few years it attracted over a thousand members. Today this re-enactment society has grown even further with groups formed under different names to cover areas across the UK; the Army of Ireland and Scotland and the Army of Parliament. Although the history of the name, Sealed Knot, comes from the time of the Protectorate when royalists were fighting to restore the monarchy, this society has another more pressing agenda than political affiliations – to educate and encourage interest in British history through re-enactments.

Back to Ken. He started out by sharing his story of how he joined British Gas (every engineer has an interesting tale to tell) and as an elderly gentleman, why he chose such a different career path from his previous IT background. Watching my brood waltz through the house, he started describing how he took his (favourite) grandchild out to re-enactment days and my interest was piqued. With a wife who has a deep love of history, they used to attend historical events around the country. It was only after his daughter with three children decided to move back home so that she could buy a house pushed the idea to the forefront.

They needed somewhere to go to find their own time and space and of course give their daughter and family their own breathing space in close quarters. The perfect solution was to join the Sealed Knot! Dressing up as musketeers or cavaliers, travelling to incredibly beautiful parts of the country and re-enacting history seemed a far cry better than getting on each other’s nerves.

I watched Ken as he described the amount of effort and devotion they put into these special events. A great deal of time, money and energy is spent not only travelling to venues across the United Kingdom, but setting up days before the actual event to ensure perfection once visitors arrive.

With his long golden hair tied back (for work) in a ponytail and a rather long pointed goatie with matching handlebar moustache, I could see what might have been an escape was now a serious part of his life. His twinkling blue eyes hidden under bushy brows leant an air of nonchalance and I could see the cavalier hidden inside marching across the open grounds of Castle Fraser in Scotland!

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This weekend the society will be down in Dorset, the south of England for those who don’t live here. They are presenting at Sherborne Castle and he will be running a tavern for the locals. His lovely wife has just returned from Wings (a big Scouts event here in the UK) and is now preparing food for her customers this weekend. They have taken Friday off from work so that they arrive by twelve, ready to spend seven hours setting up their marquees and tables. I told him I would send out a special message to all of you who have never seen a re-enactment. Please take the time to visit Sherbourne and see a fantastic society in action.

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Sherbourne Castle
Picture from hha.org.uk

Later on this year they have an appointment at a school up North where they will be performing for the children, showing them history in action. The benefits are enormous and, of course, bringing historic moments to life for children to see, touch and feel will teach far more than a day in class. I hope more schools take up the idea of hiring the society to visit them. A big thank you to Ken the engineer and member of the Sealed Knot for inspiring this post.

Scat the Black Cat

Let me introduce you to the character behind Scat the Black Cat, a bright button-eyed loveable rogue! Always curious and happy to visit neighbour’s houses, he will swish his beautiful tail and rub against you hoping for tasty tidbits. At the end of a long day, we know a little black body with bright yellow eyes is always waiting in the car park for our car to pull up. Roly-polying on the ground, he meows his warm purry hello and skips along next to us as we walk the short distance home. He knows dinner will be served soon and waits patiently with his three brothers and older surrogate uncle, Tarzan.
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The story of Scat was inspired by events involving a neighbour’s cat who constantly bullied our little black Scat. Every morning we would put out fresh food and water in Scat’s kennel. Scat and his brothers were forced to live outside for a while as my husband was severely allergic to them. We couldn’t bear getting rid of them and found a safe solution for co-existence between animals and man…kennels! Scat would meow at the door, complaining bitterly that his food had been eaten. At first we assumed he was very hungry and put out more food. Then one cold frosty morning, we noticed a fat ginger cat walk straight into Scat’s kennel, only leaving once his food bowl was empty. We nick-named him Bruiser and watched over the next few weeks as Scat tried to deal with the situation.

We had to find a safe way of feeding Scat without this ginger moggy polishing off the food. That’s when the idea for Scat’s story was born, using details of their behaviour towards each other during those cold wintry months. Strangely enough, when we tried chasing Bruiser away, we noticed Scat following him. They would amicably sit together under the hedgerow between the houses and doze off in the crisp wintry sun, awaiting the next meal.

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In the story, Scat and Bruiser have to find a way of working together, giving the book’s young audience a chance to see that there are reasons behind a bully’s behaviour. Scat gives a voice to those that face bullying in different forms and how he deals with the situation.

The illustrations are based on the real Scat and Bruiser, taking in the houses and their little hedgerow borders or grassy landscapes. Whilst not the best illustrations I’ve done, hopefully the childish quality will encourage my young audience to draw their own versions of Scat and Bruiser, bringing them to life in their own way.

Catch Scat’s story from amazon.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Scat-Black-Cat-Eloise-Sousa/dp/1291754202

The Voices

One ‘o clock in the morning and I have just logged off, unplugging myself from the world for the night. The house is silent and I’ve already performed my ghost walk; the last walk of the night checking windows, doors, children and pets before collapsing as quietly as possible next to my husband’s inert body.

My mind slowly relaxes as I drift off into…whisper whisper whisper…my nose scrunches as I squeeze my eyes shut trying to block them out.

If I could hold you just for a minute of the day Oh no! Maybe if I ignore them, they will go to sleep!

I wouldn’t waste a second without holding you close Even worse, a cheesy poem!

Someone switches on the red light and the grey chambers light up…

Holding you, touching you, loving you Their voices are stronger and someone is playing music to accompany this crap!

Suddenly a deep bassoon plays and everybody is up. Eyes wide open, I shake my head trying to shut out the music, the voices in rhyme and the annoying little voice screaming incessantly Write it down! Write it down!

Okay! I sit up, reach for my IPad and fire the bad boy up. Everyone watches in silent anticipation. I wait. Still silent. I want to scream, come on! Slowly the whispers start up again…

If you were with me now
I’d hold you tight
Love you so
With all my might

Chorus singers join in…

Darkness comes with shadows near
Time runs out so quickly here

I got up for this? It’s got to get better than that. I slowly lower my fingers, hoping the pause might give them time to rustle up something good. A monotone drip pipes up from the dark edges of the grey matter…

Every time we say good-bye,
A little part of me regrets
The moments I wasted not telling you
The love I’ve felt since we’ve met.

Every moment shared is so fleeting
Tomorrow might just be the last
So let me say before leaving…

That’s it! I save and close the app down. Voices rattle to and fro arguing the last line. I settle myself, ignoring the battle. Someone reluctantly turns out the red light and the grey chambers slowly shut down. One by one the voices grow silent, until at last, peace.

My body relaxes, limbs grow limp. Eyes feel heavy and I can feel sleep approaching.

Shall we blog it? the tiniest of voices asks. Grr.

Goodnight!

Volunteer

A PTA member walks up to you in the crowded playground, asking you to volunteer to sell cakes after school. What do you do? You know that icky sick bubble that wells up inside, forcing your eyes to look around frantically searching for an escape route? Anything, anyone to distract this lovely lady from asking you to sell cakes. You’d rather be standing on the opposite side of the metal encased table on rickety legs with a screaming throng of children surrounding you, pushing forward in the hope of choosing their favourite little cupcake before it disappears. Well that’s how i think and I have been there!

I’m not a big fan of being approached to volunteer for something. My insides turn out and I silently panic, thinking up the worst case scenarios. I will be the one that’s sets fire to the Christmas tree displayed in the school hall. Or, I will be the one that gives out the wrong change and charges extra on cups of tea. Trivial matters yes, but awfully embarrassing all the same.

Now, give me a challenge anytime. Tell me I’m not allowed or have restricted access and I want in! Says a lot about my personality, I know, but I’m being honest. I have volunteered for many different causes over the years, by choice and not force. Some are well known causes and others were for more personal reasons. The library at my children’s school for example. That was purely for my own enjoyment. Organising books, flicking through pages that might not have been turned for years and giving them a new lease of life featuring them made me happy. Volunteering to entertain children suffering from cancer. Again, a personal choice with the help of a doctor friend, but rewarding beyond anything else I’ve done since.

Some people find it easy to say, “okay, I’ll do it” and get on with the job at hand. For me, it’s a matter of fighting down the nerves; thinking, how public is this gig and hoping I can hide in the background doing the grunt work rather than serving the general public! Ever wonder what type of volunteer you are?

Joining SEBEV, our local search and rescue organisation was a mixture of personal and cause. SEBEV stood for South East Berkshire Emergency Volunteers. Since I left (to have more and more babies) their name has changed to Berkshire Lowland Search and Rescue. The ethos remains the same though …to assist in finding high risk and vulnerable members of the community such as Dementia/Alzheimer sufferers, children, suicidals or anyone who may be at risk. Apart from search and rescue, they serve the community in other various ways.

Over the years, they have assisted during major floods and emergencies, charity events and supporting inter-school events by providing first aid. With incredible grit and unfailing sacrifice, they offer their time and energy to help others when the emergency services are far too stretched to reach out a helping hand. They are not paid to do this work, but do it because they feel the need to serve the community. I was proud to be a member and miss being a part of a great team.

I feel the need to share some of the fun memories of training with the team. There is a special room down in the bunker where SEBEV is based called the rat run. It is a room filled with movable floors that is used to train members on how to search damaged buildings for mispers and for team building exercises in the dark! Scouts love visiting the bunker and the highlight of the night is putting on hard hats, grabbing a torch and leading your team through the tunnels to find the mannequin hidden in one of the rooms and extracting the mannequin without losing team mates. Teamwork!

I have to add the incredibly thrilling late night walks through dense forest searching for a misper (missing person). I had to bite down my fear of spiders and focus on the search. One fine summer’s evening, something heavy and fast footed ran across my neck. My squeal of terror echoed through the night and I slapped my hand across the back of my neck, feeling an awful crunch and squelch! After examining the contents of said hand with my torch, all that remained were dark hairy legs and squished bits. My search partner matched my squeal with one of his own when he saw this and a shudder that didn’t make me feel any better! Of course, we continued with our search, hairs tingling with each passing branch and tickle wet leaves.

Back to my point of volunteering…be it small or big, every time we give a little of ourselves, the rewards for others are great. Whether it’s avoiding the cake sales and preferring to hop into the kitchens to tidy up after an event, all help is appreciated. I hope I get inspired to get off my butt and choose another cause soon. Maybe the fire brigade this time!

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Picture taken from
SEBEV official website

What Lies Beneath!

It has been a busy blustery Monday. The perfect weather to tackle DIY projects in the garden. Fixing the patio for example. I came up with the idea of using wooden pallets as a base for our patio a few years ago when we decided to raise the seating area outside our dining room. It was fast to assemble, Eco-friendly and economical as I managed to source the pallets from local builders. The downside – they don’t last as long as properly treated wood and have to be replaced every two to three years.

That was my job today. Removing the concrete slabs and piling them to one side so that I could check the solidity of each pallet. Now the job would be much easier if I were a wee bit stronger and didn’t have a fear of turning over each slab. For in the darkness, waiting with a thousand eyes, lurked my greatest fear…eight legged hairy, scary spiders! Big ones, small ones, fat, skinny, long and round. You name it, they looked it!

Using my shovel, I gently lifted a slab, hoping nothing bigger than my hand would run out. Of course, as I’m told every time in freak out, they apparently fear me and that’s why they run. Yeah right! The way I saw it they ran towards me, not away. It was a toss up between letting the slab fall and hoping my sandal clad feet would move out of the way on time, or balancing the shovel and aiming accurately! Shamefully, I did the latter and removed over twenty large, fast moving beasties. The smaller ones were easily shooed away, probably counting the days until they were big enough to exact revenge.

Naturally I had to investigate the wide variety of creepy crawlies we seem to have attracted under the patio. Thick webs cast aside, I noted the hedgehog nests in the corner snuggled up safe and sound. Snails sailed on slimy trails in abundance. My daughter would have been screaming if she had seen those. Fish moths, earwigs and ants circulating each slab pulled out. I made sure not to disturb those (big nasty) spiders that had nested further down, nor the rest of the crawlies. The hedgehogs are our resident pets who love the cat food freely provided and safe haven to raise their cute little babies. We look forward to seeing them every year and name the new arrivals with glorious names such as Mike, Basil, Spike and anything else that fits!

The patio has unfortunately been left in a torrid state. Until I find replacement pallets, the critters have been served their eviction orders and will have hopefully move away soon. Till then, the concrete slabs will remain piled in one corner of the garden – probably gathering a brethren of their own for me to find when I move them. And I will have the awful view of what lies beneath the patio slabs! Shudder!