Tuesday: After a hiatus of at least a year (probably more), the Low Company of Gamesters and Gamblers met again. I decided that the old model, of letting the site float around from month to month, really didn't work. So when the Borough of Duncharloch offered to host it at Harvard on a regular basis, I decided to take them up on it.
The new site, in Radcliffe Quad, has pros and cons. The space itself is quite comfortable -- a large and pleasant living room of the sort you only seem to find at the older colleges. Parking kind of sucks if you try to be completely legal about it, though. I eventually decided to park on Garden St., which is very convenient but not technically legal for non-residents. However, I gambled that, since it was fairly empty, they probably weren't going to bother enforcing it much, and that seems to be correct. So I commend that option when attending, if you're willing to live slightly dangerously.
The theme of the first meeting was Games Within the Tables -- ancestors of Backgammon, more or less. Things started slowly -- at 7:30, Elizabeth Cohen (the Provost of Duncharloch) and I were the only ones there. After a few awkward moments, I decided to teach her Irish, and we played that until everyone showed up in something of a rush around 8pm. In the end, we wound up with 8 people there, plus a couple who drifted through, which wasn't too bad a turnout. I taught Irish and Tick-Tack to everyone, and we all mostly played the latter for a while. Then I taught 7-Sided Astrological Tables, and we had a good game of that. Things ran a bit late, not finishing until well after 10pm. Hopefully folks will show up a little more promptly next time, and it won't run quite so late. I did get a quick 2-minute mini-game of *Star with laurion after the official end, which was fun but only mildly illuminating: the 10-point game is too small to really get a feeling for the game.
I'm mildly concerned about Duncharloch -- while there's a fair amount of ambient interest, there isn't enough driving passion to really get things rolling smoothly. Elizabeth is trying hard, but I get the distinct impression that she's trying to revive the borough as much out of a sense of obligation as anything, and that doesn't seem to ever work. I'm coming around to the opinion that deep personal passion is both the necessary and sufficient condition to get any activity seriously rolling and keep it active, whether it be a borough, a guild, or whatever. There's a posting to be written on that subject.
Wednesday: Had a bit of a health scare in the morning -- I've been having some slight but noticeable chest pains lately, and I found myself strangely shaky as well. So I hied me down to the doctor, who did an EKG, which found nothing out of the ordinary. Not really surprising -- I've been suffering from periodic mysterious chest pains for at least 15 years -- but still irritating as hell. Her opinion is that it's likely to be some mix of stress and stomach issues, so I'm back on the Prilosec. I *so* need a vacation: I normally absorb stress fairly well, but I've gone past my limits this time.
Dance practice was very small this week, only a dozen or so people, all moderately experienced. Yes, I know this would be considered large in most of the SCA, but we're very used to getting 20+, and Mara is out of practice dealing with such a small and knowledgeable group, so there was a bit of floundering. But it was decent fun, if somewhat low-energy. After a season that has been wildly female-heavy, this week was actually a bit unbalanced the other way. I'd rather have balance, but at least it meant that all the ladies got to dance some, combatting the recent tendency of many of the ladies to sit on the sidelines while others do all the dancing.
There was no single obvious reason for the low turnout this week. I suspect a combination of factors: midterm stress taking out some of the college students, and the game maybe keeping a few others away. Hopefully things will be decent-sized and balanced next week.
And oh, yes -- the Sox won the World Series. Since there wasn't a critical mass for coffee klatch this week, I wound up heading straight home, and got to see the last several innings. My feeling is more one of relief than anything else, I find: it's sort of like an irritating itch that finally goes away. But it was fun getting a little third-hand euphoria for a little while.
Thursday: We woke up to a lack of heat and hot water in the morning, so I called Taylor and Murphy and sat down to wait. In the meantime, knowing that I probably had the morning to kill, I finally dealt with getting plane tickets for our vacation, so we are committed to it. We're both hopeless procrastinators, so this was a real issue. Given my desperate need (it's been 20 months since we last had any sort of real vacation), this can't come too soon.
Spent the evening trying not to be underfoot, as msmemory buzzed around preparing for the weekend. Printed out some of the procession cards for her, and otherwise mainly focused on not being in the way.
Friday: Knowing that we had a 4+ hour drive to the hotel, we tried to leave a bit early, getting out of the house around 5pm. (Hey, for us this is early.) We stopped for sushi at Jay House, our pet susherie in southern NH. That turned out to be very crowded on a Friday evening, far moreso than we've ever seen there, and the service was kind of crappy -- it took the better part of two hours to have dinner. But the sushi was excellent as always, which makes up for many sins.
The drive was long, and we were both a bit tired, so I was glad we managed to get in by 11pm. The hotel was the Hampton Inn in Burlington, VT, which turned out to be quite decent -- better-appointed than I expect from a Hampton in almost every way. By sheer coincidence, we ran into ian_gunn in the hotel lobby -- he arrived just a couple of moments after us. The hotel turned out to have an indoor pool and hot tub, which didn't close until midnight, so we took the opportunity for a nice dawdle in the hot tub, soaking away the long drive.
Saturday: Crown Tourney, which was the purpose of making the trek. Crown was about half an hour north of the hotel, on an island in the middle of Lake Champlain. The weather reports were predicting rain, which would have sucked, but it mostly held off until after the tournament ended, with just a little spritzing to keep us all well huddled. However, the weather was a bit chilly and remarkably windy -- there was a prevailing wind of at least 15 mph, and the frequent gusts must have been closer to 30. I really need to get some decent sleeves to go with my wool doublet, and get the clasp sewn onto my cloak. Fortunately, there was a hot and tasty dayboard to keep the body temperature up.
We herded the cats uneventfully -- by now, msmemory, Adhemar and I have the procession pretty much down to a science. It took a fair while, because it was a big list: 59 fighters applied for the tourney, and 57 of them actually showed up. (More than I would have expected, given the distance.) Randal was pleased to not be last for once, since Gavin got to follow him in line.
The tourney itself was pretty efficient, and nicely clean: the Crown was emphasizing that they didn't want to see any problems, and didn't get any. (Except for Cai hurting his ankle late in the Tourney, which required a long conference to figure out how to re-jigger things.) Angus O'Niall did quite well, getting to the final four: I decided to root for him, for sheer entertainment value. (I'm not sure how what he'd be like on the throne, but I'm willing to wager it wouldn't be dull.) In the end, Kelson wound up winning a second reign. The finals were notable mainly in that the first round was Viking-style axes and shields. This would have worked decently, save that one of the shields did what Viking shields do -- it broke, and Thorson wasn't actually prepared with a spare. But they worked it out. And blessedly, since Crown was in October instead of November this time, it finished before dark.
The usual pre-Court wait ensued; I mainly hung out and chatted with folks, getting a chance to schmooze with the rest of Silverwing. Steffan passed out "SCA Maint. Dept." baseball caps to all of his esquires who had been Pelicaned -- I wore mine briefly before Laurel Guilt set in and I put it away.
Court was reasonably pleasant. There were three Peerages: one Knighting and two Pelicans, one of them being ian_gunn. We knew that he was in the works (it's richly deserved -- he's been one of the primary public faces of Stonemarche for ages), and had found out about the award a couple of hours in advance, by dint of schmoozing with eclectic_1 at breakfast time. The other major award was this reign's Tyger of the East, which was given to Marieke, to thunderous public acclaim. So far, I like the direction this particular tradition is taking.
Afterwards, we packed the Royal Court Stuff into Svava's truck, then over to dinner. This was head-kitchened by Lady Skye na Ruadh; I gather it was her first large feast, and she acquitted herself quite well. It was unusually good, even by Carolingian standards: lots of little dishes, well-balanced, all apparently in good period style. There were several standout dishes, including the salmon soup, the cabbage and apples, and both of the meat sauces (a sweet bilberry sauce and a knock-your-tonsils-out mustard sauce). And instead of the usual sekanjabin, the primary drink was a delightful Barley Water; we went through several pitchers of it. My only regret was that I didn't have room at the end for more of the dessert, a hazelnut porridge with fruit compote.
We wound up eating with the representatives of the Village of Lochleven, and passed a pleasant time that way. I'm afraid that mundane politics got the best of us towards the end of the evening, and we wound up in an extended mundane digression that even Laurel Guilt couldn't quite shut down. OTOH, it was fascinating to note that the lot of us, covering the spectrum from hardcore liberal Democrat to lifelong conservative, were all united in absolute disdain for the recto-cranial inversion of the current administration. There are times that I'm really disconcerted by the notion that half the country supports the Great Idiot, given how few people I even come across who do so. Never have I felt such a gulf between two completely unrelated Americas.
There wasn't really anything after supper. We helped finish packing up the Royal Room, and headed back to the hotel.
Sunday: We had a pleasant drive home today -- the weather was warm and mostly clear, and Vermont is remarkably pretty.
For lunch, we detoured into Woodstock to go to Bentley's, my favorite bruncherie anywhere. This is an idiosyncratic restaurant in the center of town, at the intersection of routes 4 and 12, that we discovered many years ago and always try to go to when we're returning from events in VT. The atmosphere harkens back to a slightly decayed Wodehousian elegance, and the food is consistently excellent. msmemory had the Eggs Benedict, one of those dishes that is heavenly when prepared well and terrible when done badly; this was great, accompanied by home fries done right, rich in onion and spices. I had the Sausage Crespolini, a mix of sausage, cheese and herbs wrapped in a puff pastry, baked clean through and then sliced thin -- a mix of powerful flavors that wake me up better than any coffee can do. If you're passing through Vermont around lunchtime Sunday, it's worth the detour: we've been there several times, and never failed to be impressed.
After that came a swing through the King Arthur Flour Store -- another detour, but again not too far off our route. This is the finest baking store I've ever been in, with every imaginable variety of baking need. Every shape of pan, types of flour I've never seen anywhere else, little jars of sourdough starter (labeled "FEED ME"), ten different kinds of sugar: the place is really a hoot. I picked up several different kinds of baking chip for cookies -- cappucino, cinnamon, and Extreme Dark Chocolate (about 70%, I would guess from the taste). I also got a sampler bag of bread "kits" -- these assume that you can find your own flour and yeast and such, so they include nine different bags of just the goodies that make a loaf distinctive. So there is baking in my future.
Other than that, the drive home was uneventful -- mostly, I read bits from the Boston Globe's preposterously extensive baseball coverage. (Four extra sections dedicated to the Red Sox season.) We got home just in time to watch most of a really dreadful football game. I'm not really surprised that it was the Steelers who finally broke the Patriots' winning streak -- Pittsburgh has long been our bete noire -- but I do wish the Pats had at least put up a good fight. This was one of those games that we simply didn't deserve to win, the first really bad game that the Pats have played in a year or so. Oh, well: it was a damned good streak, and I suspect they needed a reminder of what losing feels like, to keep up the patented Belichek pessimism.
Once the game was mostly over, and the trick-or-treating was down to the high schoolers trying to scam candy with pathetic costumes, we headed into town for our annual Halloween Date. Tonight was the 20th anniversary of our first official date; as always, we went into Harvard Square. Since Halloween was on Sunday this year, we had more dinner options than some years, and decided to go to the Border Cafe. Between the Chili con Queso and Chicken Guadalajara, I undoubtedly overdid the cheese (which really isn't good for my stomach any more), but it was all yummy as always.
Upcoming Events: Two weeks. I just have to survive another two weeks without killing someone at work...
Monday: I run Council, since the rest of the Seneschalate staff is busy with Macbeth.
Tuesday: Day of Doom -- I dread Election Night. It's theoretically Accademia; we ought to chat about whether that's realistic.
This weekend: All Macbeth, All the Time. msmemory is busy with the play all weekend. I'll have to decide how many shows I'm coming to.