WAR! What is it good for?! Seeing the stars and trees and fog, hanging out with friends, eating wonderful period food, seeing people I love and admire being honored with awards… HUH say it again, y’all…
An Tir / West War is a glorious experience, but one you should be prepared for. Rather than give you all the practical advice* you find in the usual event-prep articles, I’m going to pull back the curtain and give you the real skinny.
*But for reals, bring baby wipes. They are essential for everything from foot-cleaning before bed to biffies without TP. And a French shower in the afternoon is surprisingly refreshing.
- Remember your tent poles. All of them. If you are one short, you will have to do this!
- Feed your neighbor. It’s a great way to make friends (especially when he’s a cute new vendor with a delightfully historic inventory and an epic beard), and it means that you weren’t crazy when you packed enough to provision an army when there’s just two of you.
- Take a class and learn how to make a thing, or about how grinding up gems and drinking them will cure your epilepsy. Also, you can make nearly anything out of pee.
- No trailing hems! Save your finery for hotel events: This is your big chance to go lower-class and be comfortable. When you’re standing in a wet biffy you’ll be super glad your persona couldn’t afford silk sleeves that bell to your ankles.
- Extroverts: Go to parties and meet people!
- Introverts: Go to parties and meet dogs!
Some people like to bring booze. I’m more likely to be bearing cheese.
- Use furs and thrift shop wool blankets to keep warm. My personal favorite discovery is the draft-blocking wonder of a sheepskin that I got cheap due to a big hole in the center. When turned fur-side down and arranged to allow snorkel breathing through the hole, the bottom half tucks under the covers in a ridiculously satisfying and cozy manner.
- See the War! I hear it’s great. Despite attending this event 7 times I have yet to make it down to the field. Oops. Don’t worry, you’ll get to see the fighters slogging around before and after in their shiny getups. It’s both impressive and musical.
- Support your local merchants. Remember, our hobby is packing, driving, and unpacking a household TWICE per event. You need to buy lots of period stuff so this is as big a job as possible. Don’t worry if your car is full, including the nooks and crannies under your seat. Soon you’ll buy an old van or trailer and fill that, too.
- Visit the Cook’s Playdate! These talented gourmets cook all day over open fires and temporary brick ovens. In the evening they set up a long table by the main road. When they’re done eating, they start verbally lassoing passersby, handing them a paper plate, and forcing them to try historic dishes. These poor victims often wind up holding up the line because they are standing, eyes closed, savoring the amazing alchemy in their mouths. “Period food is yummy!” is the Playdate motto, and all I can say is “WITNESS!!”
- Find some hot bardic action. There’s not much better in life than sitting around a campfire, telling stories, singing songs, and blaming someone else for farting. The only hard part about this for me is staying up late enough for the no-kids part of the party. Warning: 9pm naps are too late, and result in the alarm being turned off and the hole in the sheepskin being put to good use (not a euphemism).
- After dark, don’t be alarmed by the sounds of a ravaging pack of howling rabid wolves taking down a large animal, probably a horse. It’s actually just a chorus of children and 2 small dogs.
- When you do a midnight biffy run, stop on the way back and look at the stars. Just stand there… the longer you look, the more your eyes will adjust and the shy ones will come out, too. Pretty soon you’re floating in a sea of velvet and diamonds, with the Milky Way as a great swath across the world. This was the primal human experience for millennia, and we have robbed ourselves of this pleasure with light pollution. Soak it up. It’s good for your soul.
In all seriousness, getting away from my modern life and taking time to smell the campfire is a superb way to recharge. Even though I’m working every day, I come back more relaxed than my usual vacations. I know this isn’t what Publius meant when he wrote “Si vis pacem, para bellum (If you want peace, prepare for war),” but it works for this Roman.