Event Report: War of the Roses

All right, it might be a few days late, but it’s time for my War of the Roses event report! *Kermit arm flail*

This report is late because Roses was ridiculously hot and completely knocked me off my feet. Daytime humidex on Saturday was about 40 degrees (Celsius, obviously), and it never really cooled off at night. It was Pennsic weather without any chance to get used to it. It was so bad that I’m still tired, two days later.

But! That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy myself. Heat aside, I had a great time. Here’s how I spent it:


I managed to leave Montreal right around when I was expecting, about 2:15. Might I say, it’s extremely nice to finish work at 1:00 pm on Fridays. Even allowing for lunch and some errands, I was on the road in good time. There was quite a bit of traffic leaving the island, but after that it was smooth sailing and the fastest border crossing I’ve ever experienced in all my years of crossing the border. Not a single car in front of me, to the point where the border guard had to remind me that I needed to stop at the stop sign before approaching his booth. (In my defence, this is a situation that has never happened before to me and likely will never happen again. Usually I have to stop by default due to the presence of other cars.)

Also for the first time, I’m on a phone plan that allows me to use my phone and data while in the States, which was super-handy when I got a bit lost. Made life much easier, pretty much for the entire weekend. (Even if my phone did overheat in my non air-conditioned car before I realized I needed to put it out of the sun.)

Anyway, arrived on-site and had checked in, greeted my campmates, and set up my tent by about 7:00 pm. I’d borrowed a tent from my father-in-law, a scout leader. I’m sure that by scouting standards, a 4-person tent is nice and spacious. By SCA standards it was miniscule and the second-smallest tent in camp. I couldn’t stand up in it, which made getting dressed in the sticky heat kinda… challenging. But it was better than no tent at all, I suppose.

Friday night was mostly set-up in the heat. The person bringing the camp shade tent, kitchen stuff, and various other important bits was running late and we wound up setting up all that stuff in the dark well into the night. I admit I wasn’t much help in the whole “carry and hold heavy things” department, but I did what I could. After the bulk of the setup was done, I wound up doing a mini-performance in camp for a few people who were hanging out, and then I went to bed slightly after midnight.

Or rather, I tried to. First, when trying to put a few more pumps of air into my air mattress, I wound up knocking loose the valve and deflating the entire thing, requiring about 70 pumps on my manual air pump since I hadn’t brought my electric one with me. Did I mention that I couldn’t stand up in my tent and needed to use the air pump while hunched over? That was… not fun. If I wasn’t asthmatic before that, I certainly was afterwards. Then, between the heat, the fear of bugs (I had a Lyme disease scare at my last Pennsic and was terrified of being bitten by a tick), some raucous celebrating at the camp next to ours, and a full bladder from all the water I’d been drinking, I think I finally only got to sleep around 2:00 am.

Saturday Morning:

The thing about sleeping in a nylon tent in ridiculously hot weather and direct sunlight is that you wake up at Ungodly Early O’clock. I tried to get a little more sleep, but it was for naught. I was out of my tent and groaning by 6:45 am. I bumbled my way around camp for a while before I went off with Harvey to get breakfast at the merchant area. By the time I came back and had caffeinated and ate, it was getting on mid-morning.

Thereupon I pulled out my bardic books and tried very, very hard to cram stuff back into my brain. See, it’s been three years since I’ve really done any bardic. I have my “request sheet” of stuff that used to be easily accessible in my brain, but I had no idea how much of that was still kicking around in the grey matter. So I spent three hours just running through the list, singing softly to myself and whichever campmates happened to be close enough to overhear. The good news is that of the songs I tried to remember, I still have most of them either memorized or close to it. (I might forget the beginning of a verse, but once I’ve got the first few words, I’m fine.) Sometimes I’d start singing a piece I was pretty sure I’d forgotten and then just fall into words as they flowed one into another. I think I got through about 2/3 of my songs, though I hadn’t really touched the stories or poetry. Still, not bad for a morning of work.

Around noon I decided to head over to Liam St. Liam’s “Teaching in the SCA” class, which mostly covered how to set out a proper lesson plan and how it could be applied to some SCA topics. I realized that my classes are absolutely not laid out this way at all, but I do tend to do some of the stuff instinctively. I might have been a little overzealous in my heckling, but hopefully Liam didn’t mind too much.

Saturday Afternoon:

I had about an hour between Liam’s class and the one I was teaching, which was just enough time to trudge back to camp, pick up my handouts, get some food in me, and trudge back. I wasn’t really hungry, you understand. It was too hot for that. But I ate anyway because that’s the sorta thing you’re supposed to do.

At 2:00 I taught a session of “Sexy, Silly, Scheming Saints.” Partly this was just so I could get some of the stories back into my head before Pennsic and partly it was to give people who don’t go to Pennsic an opportunity to take it. It went… about as well as could be expected, given the circumstances. I was overheated, my students were overheated, I hadn’t really practiced any of the pieces in three years or so… I think it went okay. People seemed to enjoy it, and my objective – see, Liam, I’m learning! – of having my students realize that there are period examples of fun and funny saint stories seemed to be a success. So at least there’s that.

Went back to camp with an hour and a half until court. At least in theory. I was very hot and very tired. I spent some time sitting in a chair, and then some more time lying on the ground on a towel. I was seriously tempted just to not go to court at all, but in the end I put on some minimal bling (apprentice belt, maunche medallion, wooden necklace) and headed over. A lord who’d attended Liam’s class with me earlier that day very kindly let me sit on his bench-like camping chair, so I would have a good view of the proceedings.

And then we waited. And waited. And waited.

Court started about an hour late. Some people from camp got awards, which is always very nifty. I just wish I’d been more awake and not nodding off.

Saturday Evening:

By the time we returned to camp from court there was an hour or so until the baronial bardic championship. Since several camp members were either participating or judging, the camp emptied out in good order. I stuck around because I was officially on supper clean-up duty and not everyone had eaten yet. But sooner or later, the bardic bug got the better of me and I decided to head over, leaving word that I’d do any clean-up that hadn’t yet been done when the circle was over.

The circle was a lot of fun! Their Excellencies Concordia of the Snows decided that the theme for the evening would be “bawdy.” Which meant that there were a lot of fun pieces, from a poeticized version of “The Widow and the Devil” to some traditional (but risqué) period stories. There were six competitors and three of us who decided to perform as exhibitors. I took up the bardic stick twice, first to do the Whiskey Bard’s “Small Miracles” and later to do Great Big Sea’s “The Jolly Butcher.” I wound up doing them in entirely the wrong key and got a little warbley, but despite that they were well received and I had a good time doing them.

As the formal competition ended and the gathering opened up into a more open circle, I decided to head back to camp to see if there were any dinner dishes still needing to be cleaned. (One day I will learn not to schedule myself for chores at the same time as or immediately after bardic events. But today is not that day.) It’s a good thing I went back, too! Some of the food hadn’t been put away and some other clean-up stuff still needed to be done. We spent a while looking for lanterns / candles because it was already past dark, but eventually we got it all done.

A half-hour later I was back at the circle. Things had thinned out a bit but we were still having an excellent time. I came back just as Grim and Aethelflied were co-performing a lovely tribute poem to Their Majesties (who were not in attendance) and Maraha performed a very funny story. So I stepped in with a quick performance of “Pennsic Blues” by Master Hector of the Black Height, and the circle closed out relatively soon after that.

I got back to camp to find – wait for it – more bardic! Yay! Finnguala and a few other campmates whose names I sadly don’t remember were doing some lovely harmonies on songs that I knew, so I joined in and hopefully didn’t screw everything up too badly. I’d been intending to take a shower from the heat, but I’ve never been terribly wise where bardic is concerned, so I stuck around until everyone drifted away around midnight.

And now it was time for a choice: take a shower or go straight to bed? I hadn’t been planning on showering over the weekend, but a 40-degree humidex made me reconsider. I’d been sweating a lot over the day. And since it was still too hot for me to really go to sleep anyway, I decided to head over to the showers and get my five minutes under the water. Yes, five minutes. The showers were coin-operated and sadly full of hot water. So I figured five minutes was plenty to rinse off the grime.

Came back to camp, avoided another air-mattress blow-out like Friday night, did not avoid another 2:30 am potty trip, and ultimately fell asleep shortly thereafter.


As with Saturday, I woke up at stupid-early o’clock. Magnus showed me how to use the camp stove so I could make tea, and I settled in to an hour or so of bleary-eyed stumbling about. Eventually, after I got some caffeine and breakfast into me, Aethelflied and I managed to sit down and do some bardic shenanigans. See, we had been trying all weekend to be in camp at the same time and it just kept not happening. So we made “absolutely firm, come hell or high water” plans to sit down Sunday morning.

We went through pretty much the entirety of my bardic books. Some of it definitely needs to be purged. Some pieces took me back down memory lane in a wonderful way. Some pieces I had completely forgotten about… including some that I’d written myself. I know I’d written them because my name was on the page, but for the life of me I couldn’t remember either the pieces or the context surrounding them. Oops.

Anyway, at 11:00 am was the baronial heavy championship, which was done in the style of a tavern brawl. The six competitors entered, sat down on stools in front of tables, raised their “cups”, and when the lay on was called, everything devolved into wonderful, hilarious mayhem. The tables, chairs, cups, and eating daggers were all considered list-legal. Everyone was engaged with everyone else at all times. I took about 200 pictures. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.

Between the brawn starting a bit late and running a bit late, an incoming storm, and the knowledge that I had a 4-6 hour drive ahead of me, I left the field before the tie-breaker sudden death match – the fight had been taken outside to the alley behind the tavern and intentions had gotten murderous – and returned to camp to strike down my tent. It was hot and tiring, but eventually I got everything packed up and into my car, got some minimal lunch into me, said my goodbyes, and hit the road around 2:15.

Driving home was tiring. Very tiring. I knew it would be, but that didn’t stop it from being true. While I didn’t take any cat-naps, I did take multiple rest stops. Driving through an on-and-off thunderstorm for an hour and a half was a little harrowing. I chose the absolute wrong line at the border; a mere three cars in front of me wound up taking 20 minutes. In the same time, most other lines had twice that number of cars pass through. Regardless, I got home around 7:00 pm and descended into sweet, sweet glorious sleep.

So, final thoughts?

  • I like the new Roses site. I think I’d like it even better if it wasn’t so bloody hot and humid.
  • My bardic repertoire is doing better than I thought it would be, but it still needs a lot of work, as do my saint stories.
  • If I’m gonna go camping regularly, I will definitely need a bigger tent.
  • I missed all my Concordia buddies. I need to see you all more often.
  • The tavern brawl heavy competition was one of the most entertaining things I’ve seen in years.
  • Going back to work the day after a hot, humid, sleep-deprived weekend is hard.

So that’s it for now. Next event… Pennsic!


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