That's the one!
I haven't been a member for long, so haven't been to Conisborough though I am sure the Society may have been there in the past.
Good article from The Times Online about a major event the SK held at Kelmarsh Hall earlier this month - we had over 2000 members reenacting the Battle of Naseby, a spectacular sight for both members of the public and muggins here who kept getting killed in hand-to-hand fighting with the Royalist musket block...
Great way to spend the weekend - fighting, beer, singing and i even get to use explosives!
From The TimesMay 20, 2008
Muskets crack, pikes clash and I'm in Heaven
Bearded royalist musketeers berated the Gove family for their rebel sympathies while lobster-helmeted New Model Army troopers saluted us Michael Gove MP
If one theme has cropped up again and again in these columns, it has probably been my general hopelessness as a dad. From my inability to maintain order at bathtime to my spinelessness when confronted with my children's territorial demands, to my lack of style compared with the cool dads in the playground, I am a disappointment to my wife and an object of ridicule for my offspring.
But there hasn't been just one recurring theme in these columns. There have been at least three others.
My weird approach to holidays (strongly anti-sun, sea and sand, vehemently pro-Germany, opera and hanging around sepulchrally dark buildings with Gothic tracery).
My reactionary views on British history (a source of pride much to be celebrated, not least feats of arms culminating in the establishment of Britain as a beacon of liberty).
My general nerdiness (fan of Heroes, openly confessed to enjoying both 300 and Iron Man in the cinema, former wargamer who even played fantasy role-playing games as a teenager).
Now we all have different strains to our characters which, combined, go to make us who we are. Mrs G, for example, is an expert in make-up, a scholar of Italian Renaissance literature and a Star Trek fan. My friend Sebastian is a retail genius, among the best cooks I know and a speed-crazed petrolhead. Because we are all complex mixes, rarely do events conspire to press all our buttons. It's unlikely that L'Oréal is going to organise a Trekkie convention in Florence with a prize of a year's supply of mascara for the best Petrarch ode to Captain Spock. And in the absence of such a treat, the nearest my wife will ever come to a perfect day is me doing the kids' bath.
Similarly, Sebastian is unlikely to be asked to vie for the chairmanship of Wal-Mart in a celebrity cook-off with Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White, with the tie-breaker being a Ferrari versus McLaren Formula One death match. And in the absence of anyone designing such a contest for him to win in front of admiring millions, he'll have to put up with watching The Apprentice along with the rest of us.
I, however, have been vouchsafed a glimpse of the paradise denied to both my wife and my friend. It was a day that satisfied my love of history, spoke to my inner nerd and easily outpaced in weirdness any holiday on which I have ever been.
And, because I inflicted the experience on my family, this choice of leisure activity will confirm me, once and for all, beyond any reasonable doubt, as one of the saddest dads in the history of daddery.
The day in question was spent watching hundreds of grown men and women in sackcloth and leather shoving at each other while a running commentary was provided on the divine right of kings. At first sight the spectacle would have seemed like a mixture of a poll tax riot and an American football game with the action narrated by David Starkey. It was spellbinding. It was surreal. It was The Sealed Knot's re-enactment of the Battle of Naseby.
The Sealed Knot are, as you probably know, a group who re-enact battles from the English Civil War. I'm sure that, for many of you, having an English Civil War battle re-enacted for your pleasure ranks with being invited to a private screening of the new DVD of Geoff Hoon's Great Parliamentary Moments, or being offered tickets to a Numismatists of the UK gala dinner (guest speaker Michael Winner) as a treat that you could just about bring yourself to miss, on this occasion. But I would urge all sceptics who regard mass dressing-up in wildly out-of-date costumes as the sort of thing best left to Eisteddfods or the cast of Sex and the City, to suspend their cynicism.
For me, seeing hundreds of enthusiasts throw themselves into reliving a momentous day in 17th-century history was thrilling. As my children waved their (Parliamentarian) flags, the thunder of hooves from the king's cavalry, the crack and smoke of musket fire, the push of pike and the invocations from Nonconformist preachers stirring the Cromwellian forces to fight combined in a bewitching spectacle.
The volunteers inhabited their roles for as long as the battle raged, in true Stanislavsky method-acting style, with bearded royalist musketeers berating the Gove family for their rebel sympathies while lobster-helmeted New Model Army troopers saluted us. It was as though the children were transported in time. And then, when we broke for lunch, these same enthusiasts were transformed from performers to avuncular teachers, holding the children spellbound with explanations of how apothecaries worked and exhibitions of how swordplay has evolved.
The day we spent was as thoughtfully designed as any commercial endeavour and as rich in alternative attractions as a Glastonbury or Reading festival, with beer tents, organic food, archery kits for children and second-hand books for older browsers. Yet everything was the result of volunteer endeavour. Like the St John Ambulance or the WI, the RNLI or the Scouts, the Sealed Knot shows that civil society can generate wonders of which no politician or private company could conceive.
A very English combination of eccentricity, enthusiasm, passion for our past and am-dram spirit has resulted in history coming alive for thousands every year in a way that makes education entertainment. And what makes the whole cohere is an absence of self-consciousness. There is no heavy, knowing archness, no ironic sending-up of conventions, about The Sealed Knot. Even though the volunteers are recreating the past, they are totally engaged in the moment - fully present. And if there is a fifth theme to which I have returned on this page, it is that such a state is not to be mocked, but envied. So, my Lord Bishop, and impious heretic Prince, bring it on!