Sunday, July 24, 2005

Houlgate Revisited

It’s that time again. Time to dig out that Dark Age kit and head on up to Yorkshire with a large knitting needle, a secret stash of Café Direct, a ball of hairy string, a pouch of salt, my cooking belt and some stoic Northern determinism.

Murton Park Yorkshire Museum of Farming & Houlgate Village are hosts to 40 or 50 role-players once or twice a year. We descend and (Mr. Kershaw and I, sometimes Ellen too) cook a pig, make some bread (Kirsten), hang around whittling sticks, dye and weave (that’s the good lady wife and Claire), play some Cubb (so long as Adam remebers the Cubb set), someone (probably Adam) might pick up some kind of musical instrument and people will try and harmonise through a haze of cider and mead (not I, I hasten to bed at that point cringing inwardly).

For me, it’s up at 6 to get the pig ready for the evening. The day consists of a good degree of sitting around in the sun “lookin’ after the pig” including the supervising of others as they chop wood, the occasional rearranging the fire, hand rotation (not for the faint hearted), the semi-deliberate terrifying of children, the intricate and imaginative use of string, avoiding the public (by pulling my hat down over my eyes and grunting), the heavy consummation of fermented apple juice, plus other essential and highly important stuff to make sure 'Babe' makes it to the table by dinner time.

All that basting can be surprisingly tricky, and it invariably requires my undivided attention, which after all these years I can now do with my eyes closed and, in this state of Taoist porcine and culinary oneness, some have even mistaken my zen-like trance as the mere act of sleeping.

Oh foolish mortals, how little they know of the mystic ways of spit management and the manufacture of perfect crackling, the arrangement and intensity of the burn to compliment the intricacies of the placement of flesh cooling fluids. Kershaw and I have this to a fine art.

‘Families’ cook all day for a big nosh up in the evening. We’re The Weavers. This year we had some plot (which was a bit weird and I hope we don’t get any again) and some seriously sub standard bacon 'pieces' and (something they refared to as) 'cheese', but it’s a grin and mainly an excuse to see mates and to eat cheesy leaks.

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