The fantastic cloisters and herb garden of Schaffhausen

When I arrived on-site I was a little shocked to find, upon entering the camp, that all was quiet. A few shapes moved in the shadows – none I recognised. The setting is superb: medieval cloisters and garden. The camp was set up and the kitchen in place, operational but abandoned. But where was everybody? No noise, no bustle, no soldiery, no guards or traders or public. It was a bit unnerving.

Chit-chat in the kitchen (photo by Eliane Caramanna)

Then I saw Tom E, and I relaxed (Company is excellent in fostering good fellowship. A true Brotherhood – and Sisterhood. There isn't a word in English that describes the buzz you get seeing a good friend for the first time in months and months. Is there one in your language?). All was explained. I knew I'd arrived halfway through the event, but not that on Monday  the Museum was closed and it was a rest-day for the Company. Most had taken advantage of the respite and gone into town to see the sights (best from the Tower), or maybe have a swim (just a stones throw from the camp), or to check out if the ice creams (with flavours to suit every palate) tasted as good as people said. They did.

I didn't know this. I'd only been in Schaffhausen a short while. I'd bumped into Jo and John Mallet before I got to camp. They had found a vegetarian restaurant (a good one) and were happily tucking in. You should have seen their little vegetarian faces. So content. A few fellows passed by in kit. A wave and a “Helloo”, and already I was feeling at home, among friends. I was back with my 'gang'.

But what was the Company doing here? Apart from maintaining it's high standards of authenticity, it's dedication to experimenting in ways to get closer to the medieval experience – Brother Harry with his grin of righteous develment as he loomed over the butter at Friday meals daring anyone to ask for, it is a sight I will not forget easily – and it's knack of providing truly amazing venues, we were there to provide medieval support for the jousting team(s) adding to the display by providing marching halbardiers marching, adding/removing the central tilt boards and some stoic wilting in the heat. We even provided high-born Ladies (poshed up with their best bling) for the Royal Box. You all looked wonderful. Shame you couldn't sit down.

Back at camp, people started drifting back and I heard some of the new – the high tower; the nuclear bunker (a Company first) that was home to some over the course of the event;  the swimming pool In the Rhine. I had missed the rainy days. Lots of rain. Spirits were dampened, but never extinguished! I was told of the toilet key-in-a-pot-in a bag. A key for two doors. A key that had to be returned or others couldn't use it. Oh, what fun we had. I caught up with the (Shssss) secret dizaine news – acts of subversion, talk of secret distillation attempts. I was told of Seegras, a disreputable and unsavoury character, apparently guilty of several offences, but impossible to find. Not you, Seegras, but another.

Anyway, choosing to sleep on site, I was offered a sleeping sack (pre-filled. I felt so decadent) and a space in Cloister Row, and the next night I found my sleeping place for the rest of my time here. The neighbors were great, although one did insist I snored. Maybe I did. I was ill, but didn't know it at the time. I was too busy trying to banish toothache. I had limited success, but my thanks go to those to came forward with 'cures', the most interesting being Transalvanian schnapps (by all narrative rights it should have worked). The potion which did work came from an apothecary in Poland via the-man-formerly-known-as-Sweetie. Thank you. No, I mean it – Thank You.

Tuesday morning – it was comforting to see the camp 'doing its thing'. The kitchen was humming (and sometimes, if Floor was around, it was singing) with activity, with Lars proving to be an excellent leader (and a genuinely lovely man). He had with him a strong, organised and hard-working team, and the food came thick and fast. And wasn't it tasty. Full marks, boys and girls.

Ah, the daily routine...

It is early in the morning. Six-thirty, to be precise. A slim,shadowy figure prowls the cloister walkways. He brings with him Death! With a single “Good morning” he murders inactivity, and heralds the death of sleep, dreams and snuggled comfort, a greeting which is echoed again and again. How do you say “Five more minutes” in Swiss?

Then it's 'up an' at 'em'. Wake. Stretch. Dress. Deny you were snoring (or is that just me?). Loo visit. Contemplate the concept of breakfast. Queue. Chat. Munch. Chat. Morning prayers (which I attended religeously – Yeah, Yeah, except once. Get over it!). Breakfast, then “Muster!”- news, dos (“Remember to put the key back in the kitchen”) and don'ts (someone wasn't using a lantern last night, tch tch and night-duty as a punishment has been mentioned),  what's on today (more Ladies needed). And, of course, the latest scheme by our leaders to keep the troops entertained: the competition for Dizainier (or a way to demean two people so seventy or so can have a laugh). Right, the official line was: We need a dizainier. Ben and Andy have applied. We must test these men to see if they have 'the right stuff'. Points were given.There was a score board. Challenges were announced daily (Three days of tests for one day of command. Go figure): Shouting orders; 'psychic' bowls; eating at the high table, whilst making polite conversation; making a night-duty roster (the one vital skill a good dizainier needs); a race round the cloisters (a la 'Chariots of Fire'); the issuing of appropriate punishments when needed.

Playing medieval Pac-Man in the garden (photo by John Mallett)

The most memorable task was the marching orders task. As usual, something amazing and unforgettable happened (you'll find this occurs quite a lot at Company events). Men, marching to order, around the pathways of a medieval herb garden whilst being guided by orders relayed (well, shouted). Innocent enough. Add some clever sound effects, squeezed from medieval instruments, and a woman with a stick in her hand and violence in mind, and you get... 'Pac-Man Marching' in The Garden of Doom!

 I do apologise. This is less a report, more a seies of rambling reminiscences. Our thanks go to Harry who was a fine Dizainier, and to Ben who took over. Well done, Ben, you were a gentleman and deserved to win the competition. There are so many people who made this a successful event that I cannot name you all, but you have our gratitude.

Andy playing the Bones (photo by Andreas Petitjean)
Andy playing the Bones (photo by Andreas Petitjean)

To finish, the things I remember most are: Playing the Bones (and winning): the array of Ordnance that literally shook both banks of the Rhine (and a happy Lars, recent purchaser of a bombard) – a big Huzzah for Rolf (whose team did brilliantly considering this was a new group who hadn't worked together) and who deserved the title of Master Gunner; The guards 'special' dance (we know who we are); the Banquet, on Saturday eve – what can I say? A lovely gesture from the Company to celebrate the forthcoming wedding of our very own Guillaume (sorry if thats wrong) and Claudine. It was beautiful. Being attended on by Christian, played to by John M., and being fed the best tasting food had our lovely couple grinning with a lot of joy and only a little embarrassment throughout the evening, nicely finished off with a bedtime storytelling that had many snoozing even before they'd got to their beds. Well, everyone was quite tired by then.

By Andy Jennings, Veteran Company member