From 5 until 11 April, Micel Folcland hosted members of Regia at what we called the Eostre Training event.
On 3 April, I had picked up Ian Uzzell, Hazel Uzzell, Jenny Uzzell-Smith and Jon Smith--we referred to them as the Regia Expeditionary Force--at O’Hare International Airport ion Chicago, Illinois, and drove them to my home in Urbana, Illinois, home of the University of Illinois and about three hours south of Chicago. They had come to speak with us about Regia, to speak to us on various subjects of interest and, ultimately, to learn a bit from us. They paid their own way, and we were greatly appreciative of their time, expenses and effort.
Wednesday was spent at leisure for them, recovering from jet lag. (Wednesday is also comic book day, when new comics arrive, and I was delighted to find out Jon was a comic fan). There was a change in the weather immediately after the REF’s arrival. Where it had been unseasonably warm the previous few days, it now became unseasonably cold, even freezing. Ian remarked that he had decided that warm weather in the States was merely a myth, and it certainly never improved much during their stay.
On Thursday, we went to the Urbana Free Library and talked. The REF wanted to know what Regia in North America were wanting, expecting and looking forward to. By the end of the day, we had representatives from Micel Folcland, Wynmerestow and Geforðian Strand, and we had a frank and honest discussion on the problems that we faced in North America, on possible solutions and on the differences in problems faced by Regia in Canada and in the United States. Afterwards, the session split up into classes for combat and living-history activities. In what became usual for the rest of the event, we retired to a local restaurant bar, took over a great deal of space and sat around talking and getting to know each other for quite a while.
On Friday, a few more persons showed up. Today, we met in the student Union--called the Illini Union. We started inspections and filled the room with pieces of kit. The separation of classes between martial and gentler pursuits continued, and eventually the fighters trekked--in full armor--across campus to the Armory, where space was reserved for Regia. Due to a confusion, fighting took place outside the Armory. Meanwhile, back at the Illini Union, they talked about textiles and hair coverings. In the evening, a fabric run was organized, where the hordes of Regia members descended on local fabric stores, and the purchase of appropriate fabrics and wools were guided by Hazel and Jenny. Members took advantage of a sale of linen fabrics at one store. Afterwards, we went to a Mexican restaurant (Jenny had said she liked Mexican food).
Still more people arrived on Saturday, which was the best-attended day of the event. Unfortunately, Hazel was ill and could not take part in the day. Troubles at the Armory had been worked out, and an area inside the Armory was found for the combatants to train. In the Illini Union, Jenny and Ian lectured on subjects that members of Micel Folcland had been especially interested in. These included music, dance, foodways and--for those who missed it the previous day--textiles. In the evening, at my house, the cooks of Micel Folcland prepared a banquet with the help of other members. The menu was “Anglo-Saxon bread; butter, cheeses, pickled herrings, boiled eggs; Beef & Barley stew with leeks & sage; Salat of Herbs, with vinegar & oil dressing; Parsnips & onions with horseradish; and Anglo-Saxon style Vegetarian Pottage. An auction to help pay incidental costs of the event was also held; and members talked and joked until after midnight. Karen Bergquist, for Micel Folcland, feted the REF with a toast--ginseng cola--to their health, and gifts were distributed to the REF.
There were no official classes scheduled for Sunday. Hazel had, by then, had fortunately recovered from Saturday’s illness, and everyone gathered for Easter brunch. Afterwards, most of the party went next door, to a Border’s book store, where people bought books and, afterwards, descended on the café, took over a large space and talked until late afternoon.
A few people had left on Saturday, and more left on Sunday. On Monday, the ranks had diminished. Because the ranks of fighters had dwindled, no combat activities were held; in the Illini Union, they talked about calligraphy, dyes and pigments. One member had brought swatches of fabric, which was reviewed and approved (or not approved) by the REF. Afterwards, everyone retired to a local pizza place, where the REF enjoyed their first taste of Chicago stuffed pizza.
On Tuesday, the REF actually outnumbered the North American members, and most of the day was spent at my house, where we talked about many things. Ian taught how to do combat weaving, and we watched a DVD put out by Connor Prairie, a nearby living history site, on the best techniques for dealing with tourists. In the evening, the REF was taken to dinner at that most American of eateries, a Cracker Barrel restaurant, where we had a lively conversation about differences in the terminology of British and American cuisines; afterwards, the REF shopped in the quintessentially American gift shop attached to the restaurant.
Wednesday saw a return to O’Hare. The weather there was twenty degrees colder than in Urbana, and it was actually snowing. The REF had their misadventures returning to the British Isles, but they thankfully made it!
In the course of the event, members of Regia from three different branches in North America gathered and made friendships, found things in common and learned of differences. In that sense, the event as very successful. Even more successful was the growth of friendships between the REF and members in North America. They were learned, educational and fun. Ian tells great stories, and everyone was cheerful and helpful. We were all sorry to see them go, and there were any number of invitations to return. They came specifically to teach, and they did that very well. But we hope that they felt warmly welcomed and had a good time as well!