Friday, July 31, 2009
Canada III: If You Go Down to the Woods Today...
"What is this like, silver foil or something?"
The first-timer shrugs apologetically as the man in a chain mail vest flicks the floppy end of his home-made sword.
Even from my vantage point at the edge of the clearing I can see what the battle-hardened warrior is thinking: this guy and his pansy-ass weapon won't last two minutes in there. But he lets him play anyway. Him, and the two overexcited American kids who keep refusing to die like they're supposed to.
We'd been told about the strange world of Montreal medieval battling at the youth hostel in Taddoussac, by the Ottowan guy who reminded everyone of somebody.
"Yeah, if you're there on a Sunday go to Mont Royal - you know, the big park in the Plateau - and there's drumming and strange people shooting arrows from trees. No one understands the rules. Maybe not even the players."
Either there are no tree-hugging archers the week we are there, or they've become ever more skilled in the arts of guerrilla warfare, because all the action seemed to be on the ground. Pitched battles splintered off into intense one-on-one or (in the case of a particularly stout fighter) four-on-one confrontations. Loyal girlfriends cheered from the sidelines. The thuds of foam clubs on metal armour made me feel for the nervous, bearded newcomer and his shiny, useless Blue-Peter, sticky-back-plasticked sword.
So while down by the memorial statue the city's bohemians and ragamuffins drummed and danced and smoked, up here the white, anglophone boys (and one double-sworded girl) battled it out for glory and bonus points.
"They've got no tactics. They've just got no tactics at all." Chris muttered as I finally dragged him away from yet another mass collision.
As we passed the drummers and tramps he stared back up the hill wistfully.
"What they need is a leader..."