Sunday, 26 October 2014

Travelling in Costume

When I was eleven, my family went to the Peel Viking Festival on the Isle of Man. To get there, we went on the bus from Douglas across the island - and sitting in front of me, so close I could touch the fur on his collar, was one of the Viking re-enactors in full kit.
It was very exciting - and I wanted to be able to do that.
Thinking back on it, his kit was not all that authentic, but it didn't matter. I was sitting on a bus with a real, live Viking!
So ever since then, I've made a point of travelling in costume whenever I can.
As a student, I travelled from Lancaster to London dressed as a Lord of the Rings elf, to the fascination of a little girl sitting across the carriage from me, who plucked up the courage to ask me if I was real as we were pulling into London. "Yes, I am," I said, and she looked so delighted she could burst!
I've also, as a dare, worn my Star Trek original series miniskirt uniform on a train from Liverpool (where the convention was being held) to London. I was also being an Andorian that weekend, so I was painted blue with a white wig and antennae, too. I was with a group of friends, also in costume, for most of the journey, but not when we were crossing London on the tube on the final leg of the journey home.
It was also the weekend of the Notting Hill Carnival, and my clearest memory is of a tube train stopping at the platform, too cram packed with people for us to get on. The doors opened, people saw me and screamed, and the doors closed again.
And now I'm a historical re-enactor. The first time I wore my wimple in public, I was mistaken for a nun.
On another occasion, I was dropped off in Hereford to go home from a show, while the rest of the group went on somewhere else (I had to get home, unfortunately). I had an hour or so to wait for the bus home, so I went into the cathedral, just as a service was about to start. The chap giving hymnbooks out didn't turn a hair, even though I was lugging a suitcase with a longbow tied to it. I was very impressed.
More recently, I've been attending Hereford History Day (it's been running for three or four years now). I travel by bus locally often enough to recognise the drivers, and they recognise me, so I explained as I paid the fare where I was going, in my full medievals with a big wicker basket full of spinning and weaving supplies. "I wasn't going to say a word," he said.
This year, the emphasis was more on the First World War, so the medieval group I belong to wasn't there, and I went in dressed in a long linen skirt, Laura Ashley blouse and a solar topee - obviously just back from the Raj in time to wave goodbye to Our Brave Boys as they went to the Front. And because I wasn't part of a group that day, I could also go to the Beer on the Wye Beer Festival.

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