Here’s a piece I wrote for St Christopher’s Inn’s about 5 years ago, shortly after arriving in the UK. I had all but forgotten about it but a Google alert reminded me and I still think it’s pretty funny, even if it is a long read.
Warwick Castle near Birmingham
If you have access to a car for a day, then a good adventure is to be had at Warwick Castle. It appears to be Britain’s greatest medieval experience and even has live jousting. From my initial understanding of jousting, it’s only live for both of the competitors at the beginning of the competition. Thereafter things typically took a bit of a deathward turn for one of the competitors. Sadly local health and safety regulations prevented this turn of events and all jousters managed to survive the day’s activities. That would never have happened if an AK47 or a machete was used, but these English have their own ways and I am still trying not to impose my South African mindset.
The castle claims to be one of only 5 licensed jousting venues in Britain. This claim, in and of itself, was very funny to me. As far as I’m concerned, if loonies want to charge each other at full gallop with pointy sticks, then they should be allowed to do so. Purveyors of British culture will know that in Monty Python, army recruits were denied pointy stick training. Even with rampant unemployment in Britain, I can’t imagine there be too many random bouts of jousting taking place. Anyway, in this place, everything is licensed, and jousting is no exception. In the same way that it is important for my tax dollar (pound) to support developing legislation to provide medication to the sick and housing to the homeless, it is no doubt equally important to draft detailed legislation supporting all 5 jousting licensees. I am tempted to write to my local council to find out how one applies for a jousting license because I suspect it would make for interesting conversation when asked for photo-ID. It might make sense to get on the property ladder first, because I can’t imagine one’s landlord allowing jousting in our lounge. And financially, it probably makes more sense to buy a tv stand before investing in jousting infrastructure.
But back to Warwick Castle. Observation suggests that the castle is about the size of a Johannesburg townhouse complex, with walls about as impenetrable. I noticed that electric fences have not been installed, but it does have the world’s largest trebuchet. Something which will no doubt act as a deterrent to the most optimistic affirmative wealth re-distributor.
For those not in the know – such as myself just a few short days ago – a trebuchet is a large medieval catapult designed to hurl large iron balls, copies of Heat magazine and other WMD into enemy castles. The Warwick castle people took it upon themselves to build a new trebuchet, ostensibly for ‘display purposes’ but I believe that if the boys down at UN weapons control see this bad boy, they’ll go mental.
The place was really interesting, with lots to explore, see and do. We watched some live jousting, saw the trebuchet fire and mucked it up in the mediaeval carnival. As the castle is managed by Madame Tussauds, there’s also a waxworks demonstration of how life would’ve been lived when the castle was still inhabited. The town or Warwick, alongside the castle, is full of Tudor architecture and quite pretty. That’s all an aside really, what I wanted to about the jousting licenses, were there only 5 licensed venues? How could I get a jousting license. They say when in Rome, do as the Romans do, so did as the British do and wrote a letter to their publicity people.
Enquiry to Windsor Castle about live jousting
I recently visited the castle and I was really amazed by the live jousting. As someone new to the UK, it was something to behold. With the fighting spirit that was shown, I can understand why we managed to beat the Jerry’s at both WWI and WWII. In fact, if it wasn’t for this whole European Union malarky, I’d be suggesting we sharpen our lances and build a series of jousting forts along the Eastern frontier.
Anyway, one of the things the compere said was that Warwick Castle was one of only five licensed jousting venues in the country. I cannot remember if he specified England or all of Great Britain. Admittedly, I’ve not seen much of Wales, Scotland or Ireland yet, but all indications are that they are above-average countries so I will use the term Great Britain rather than just Britain. But I digress.
I thought this jousting license business was quite something. Only a truly advanced nation would’ve made time in their legislative agenda to ensure that jousting facilities were compliant with all relevant health and safety type requirements. In fact, I suspect that had this licensing process been in place in mediaeval times, there would’ve been a great reduction in jousting related deaths. In turn, that would’ve saved the NHS considerable amounts of money suggesting that perhaps a tax cut could’ve been expected.
A little bit in awe, I decided to research this further. I was dismayed to find a website which listed no less than 7 different places which hosted jousting events. I was completely gobsmacked. The guy at your facility seemed so trustworthy that I am taken to doubting these sources. Further research identified even more places where jousting takes place…
So I wanted to ask, how does one qualify as a live jousting venue? How can you make the claim to be one of only five when just a few minutes on Google turned up at least eight other venues where jousting is taking place? I’d hate to be considered a doubting Thomas, and I’ve specially not given you my address for fear of a trebuchet attack, but I was hoping you’d be able to provide clarity on this matter.
Yours in jousting
The response, when it came, shocked me. In medieval times, there were only 5 licensed jousting venues in Britain. Today, there are many. This seemed a little strange as I had thought the desire to joust had decreased over the centuries rather than increased, but this is not my culture and I will not be judgemental. I can certainly say that Warwick Castle is a great day out.