Pennsic 2016 Diary: Post-Pennsic Brain Dump

I’ve been home for about twenty-four hours now. In that time, I’ve had a shower, kissed my husband, put my wedding rings back on, played a game of Star Wars, and slept in my own bed. So now that I’m back and have access to a proper keyboard again, it must be time for the ever-traditional…

Post-Pennsic Brain Dump


I know that I usually start with bardic, but there is really no other way to begin this year except with the heat. It was hot and brutal this year. I know I’ve been gone for a while, but it wasn’t just me complaining; everyone seemed to agree that while the temperature itself wasn’t so awful, the humidity made it unbearable. No one was doing as much as they normally do, and I believe “weather” actually won the most War Points by a tidy margin. I didn’t do nearly as much visiting as normal and only made it down to the Bog on two occasions. Sorry, Bog friends! I’ll try to make it up to you next year!

There wasn’t that much rain, but what there was came at inopportune times. The deluge on set-up Sunday was particularly notable, coming as it did before many people had set up their tents. That storm, alongside the humidity, pushed back set-up by days for many camps, including mine. I didn’t feel like we were “really” set up until about Thursday of Peace Week, a solid 2-3 days later than normal.

While I myself try to stay-on site for the whole of War, I am starting to very much understand the people who take an “off-site” day in the middle to spend some time in the air conditioning or to have a good bed and a shower on occasion. Maybe it’s just because I’m now 34 instead of 21 (as I was when I first came to War), but the idea of a mid-War air-conditioned day is sounding better and better.


Now that weather’s out of the way, we can go to the really fun stuff: bardic. I wrote two new songs this year and got to attend some truly excellent circles, among them Calontir’s “welcome home” bardic, Atlantia, Haakon’s at Aethelmearc (and then at High Rafters afterwards), and of course our very own “Maraude at Home V” circle, aka the chocolate bardic. Thank you to everyone who helped make it a success! I stayed up way past my bedtime to host, but it was definitely worth it!

Also, despite not planning on going on stage this year, I wound up there three times: for the Lorelei/Emer show (which has been recorded and I’m very much looking forward to seeing footage), doing an intermezzi for i Verdi Confusi, and as one of the “and friends” at the Marian of Heatherdale show. All three appearances were unexpected but a lot of fun.

Speaking of the unexpected, I also got my second silver bracelet from Duke Cariadoc at Enchanted Ground. I hadn’t been planning on it, and indeed I don’t think I was that much better this year than the last time I was at his circle doing saint stories, three years ago. But it is a wonderful token regardless and I will cherish it.

Finally, I was very happy to be able to spread my saint stories and, indeed, to finally hear someone other than me telling one of them. It may have taken five years, but my cunning plan is finally starting to see results!

As is always the case, I only performed a small fraction of the pieces I’d prepared for War, and that’s okay. I like having the large repertoire so I can dig in and find the perfect piece when it’s needed, even though I mostly stick to about 20% of the list.

Other Highlights

A few other things that I loved but that don’t really fit into the category of bardic:

  • Family night at Casa Bardicci, especially watching the private performance by i Verdi Confusi
  • Singing for fresh bread at Crook’d Cat
  • Meeting new people, especially new bardic people
  • The Bardicci coin collectors afternoon
  • Seeing Marian (my Laurel) and Pierro (her husband), as well as Ernst (my Pelican), and all my other Pennsic friends that I hadn’t seen in three years
  • Performing the story of King Conrad for Their Majesties Avacal
  • Buying lots and lots of new CDs
  • Being able to sleep it until 8:30 every day!

Experiments That Worked

On the up-side, a few of my experiments this year really paid off. First, taking an antihistamine every morning worked wonders. I only had to take my inhaler once all War (when I accidentally found myself in a tent with someone who was smoking). Amazing! Unheard of!

Second, my crocs. I’d intended to use them only as shower shoes, but for much of War, they were the only shoes my feet could tolerate (slight rub-welts on the sides of my feet notwithstanding). Yes, they were obvious and bright purple. But on the other hand, they let me heal my blisters. Perhaps for next year I’ll get a set in a more neutral color.

Experiments (and Experiences) That Did Not Work

There are some things that I brought with me, intending to use, but did not. First on the list is my winter boots, which are super-comfy and the only shoes I can really wear at home for extended periods of time without having foot pain. Sadly, it was just too hot. Another failed experiment were the earplugs, which I’d brought to prevent bugs from crawling into my ears. They were just too weird to wear – I kept hearing my own breathing amplified in my ears and couldn’t stand it. Kept them in for about five minutes before I threw out the box.

I was disappointed with Kafe Merhaba this year. It was a lot smaller than previous years, didn’t have any of the cushions, and tended to run out of the julab / sharbat syrups by middle of War Week. I just didn’t find it as welcoming a place as in previous years, which might explain why I only found myself there twice all War.

I was also kinda disappointed by the barter town swap meet. Yes, there were a ton of people there with a ton of different items to trade, but none of them really had what I was looking for. On the one hand, I’m glad my garb has gone to a good home, but on the other, I can’t help but feel that I traded down in a lot of the swaps. Probably won’t repeat.

I really wished I’d had my new “Gossip’s Guide to English Court” class ready for this year, but alas it was not to be. Hopefully for next year.

Technology at War

Because of a new plan, this was the first year I was able to use my phone’s minutes and data while I was in the States, and it made a big difference. I was able to check Facebook, emails, etc., much more frequently. I was able to post almost daily. I could check the weather and radar maps when we had incoming storms. On the one hand, this was all very handy. On the other, it did somewhat cut into my “medieval feeling”. Dahrien’s “bardic RSS” (i.e. text messages about what bardic stuff was happening) was both useful and glaringly modern. I’m ambivalent about the whole tech thing at Pennsic, honestly. I love it, but I’m also feeling pulled into the modern world when I want to be immersed in the medieval. One thing that was super-handy was having a phone charging station in camp. I probably used it every other day or so.

Body Issues

Pennsic isn’t Pennsic without body issues for me, and I had them this year as I have them every year. Mostly this year they revolved around my feet and ran the gamut from blisters to rub spots to hip pain. Also I had one of the worst heat rashes I’ve had in recent memory, covering my entire torso, my arms (especially my forearms), and my upper thighs. Stupid heat rashes. On the up-side, I managed to mostly avoid the heat-related constipation that generally plagues me at War, and the antihistamines meant that my lungs were much happier than normal. So at least there’s that.

On the mental side, I hit the wall twice: Wednesday of Peace Week and Thursday of War Week. I mostly blame the heat, but it wasn’t fun. Both times I found myself crying in my tent, thinking, “I can’t do this anymore. I want to go home.” It was unfun and I’m glad the moments passed, because they were really unpleasant at the time.

Random Reflections

A few things that don’t fit anywhere else:

First, I found that there was a real difference this year between first and second week. Maybe there always is, but I noticed it more this time around. The lines at the Penn Market were much longer second week. The roads were busier. And my schedule just exploded as of about middle Sunday. I’m not saying one week is better than the other, but there are definitely two different “flavors” to War.

Similarly, it was really driven home to me this year the big cultural differences between the Serengeti and the Bog. I was only down in a Bog a handful of times this year, but the sort of things I saw really aren’t the sort of things you see on the ‘Geti. Sure, we up on the barren plains have our fun, but you probably won’t see bawdy/suggestive mini-putt. For my part, I’m much more of a ‘Geti girl. The Bog is nice to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

Second, I realized that “The Pocket Bard” is a sort of persona for me, one that was occasionally difficult to maintain in the heat. To be clear, “Pocket Bard” isn’t Katharine. Katharine is a 14th-century Englishwoman from London. Pocket Bard is just me at Pennsic, I guess. The me I wish I could be all the time but don’t always succeed at when I’m home. Happy, excited, eager, outgoing, helpful… all traits that I try to put forward when I’m at War. When I feel that I can’t, I retreat to my tent to recharge. There aren’t too many people who know me both at Pennsic and in Mundania – I wonder if they’ve noticed the difference.


So those are my reflections for this year. And now to return to the modern world and my 50-week town run. See you all next year!

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