When I was looking for the photograph of me dressed up as a brewer’s wife, I came across this one – me with a brain damaged knight!
I was asked if I would help to launch a book about walks around Staffordshire Castles, which was to take place at Tutbury Castle. I was to present the book to the Warden, and then a group of Wars of the Roses re-enactors were going to stage a battle. When I arrived, I was introduced to the Warden, and then taken off to dress up in a costume borrowed from a librarian.
I went out on to the castle green, where there was a large crowd made up of warriors swinging terrifying looking weapons, and their camp followers and children, all in beautiful medieval costumes, as well as local VIPs. I gave a short speech which went down well, and then turned to present the book to the Warden. He’d vanished!
I looked round bewildered, while everyone else laughed. Then I realised that while I was getting changed, he had transformed himself into John of Gaunt, complete with swarthy complexion, wig, chainmail and tights!
The knight in the picture was one of the warriors, and he’d travelled all the way down from the North East that evening to take part in the battle. It was the days of Maggie Thatcher, and he was unemployed. The DHS refused to believe he received no pay or expenses for the re-enactments, and they had docked his unemployment benefit. He told me he spent his winter evenings clipping together his chain mail! His character was based on a real person, a brain damaged knight – I wasn’t surprised, looking at some of the weapons, especially the ball and chain.
The picture begs a caption – at the time, councils were very short of money, and my suggestion was ‘Staffordshire Libraries – years behind the times’ ‘ – but that would have been cruel and unfair!