March 5, 2011 | Author: John Tufts
Meet Robin Spencer. He loves the Lancasters, and hates the Yorks. The Germans don’t bother him so much: half our heritage is Saxon, you know. Americans are okay, so long as they’re not too whiny and needy; but the French--don’t get him started on the French. For the French, he imagines nothing short of massive, humiliating destruction by iron-tipped arrows, spinning through the air, and raining down on those cheese-eating bastards in a typhoon of medieval catastrophe.
He’s a funny guy, because for all his yelling and shouting and grunting about the pansiness of warfare today as opposed to 600 years ago, he does, after all, wake up on weekends, don his linen pants, floppy, homemade leather shoes, quilted jacket, and forged metal helmet to go and shoot arrows at the grass. Oh, and he has a small white terrier, Arthur, who chases after chickens.
Arthur and Robin have a lot in common, come to think of it. They are both certainly males in their species, long separated from the warriors in their past, forced to live in a time of World of Warcraft and Beggin’ Strips, instead of true chivalry and calculated hunting for prey.
The second I saw Robin, I thought, “Oh my God, he dresses up and carries around a bow and arrow to historical sites all over England.” It’s an easy thought for someone to think. The current, popular comedy of better-than-thou cynicism never ceases to attempt to coupé people like Robin into caricature. But the thing is, Robin was an amazing person, a revelation on this journey; and these cynical so-called comics probably haven’t seen a medieval longbow, constructed of tight-grained yew, over a 190cm in length. He gave me a demonstration of how a longbowman could, in the absence of his namesake weapon, slam a blunt dagger through a visor into the bridge of the enemy’s nose, hammering it in, and severing the nervous system of the now very-dead foe.
And if that wasn’t enough I thought I’d just give the bow string a pull while he turned the other way, and the draw-weight of over 70 lbs (half the draw-weight of an actual medieval bow) nearly ripped the tendons from my back.
And if that wasn’t enough he then demonstrated shooting 8 or so arrows in rapid succession with consistent accuracy of over 150 yards. I was impressed to say the least, but he told me that a true medieval bowman could nearly double that in quantity and distance, shooting within a radius of a few feet in just over a minute.
And if that wasn’t enough, he then introduced me to Tom and James, 13 and 10 respectively, both very polite and shy, but no less imposing archers, completely showing me up in a volley on the battlefield.
I could keep going and so I will.
And if that wasn’t enough, not only was Robin a bass drum in descriptions of the brutality of medieval warfare, but he was practically a history professor as well, knowing nearly every aspect of battle tactics, loyalties, back story, and the ultimate human cost of a type of fighting that has only been eclipsed by the slaughter of World War I.
Although Robin is a medieval war re-enactor and Arthur a legendary King in name only, they are both giants to reckoned with--hilarious, imposing, completely likable and amazing giants. I could have stood there all day, awestruck, as he and his pals bantered back and forth, and fired arrows into the Shrewsbury sky.