You can also support the show at Patreon.com/TheSwordGuy Patrons get access to the episode transcriptions as they are produced, the opportunity to suggest questions for upcoming guests, and even some outtakes from the interviews. Join us!

Share this episode:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on telegram
Share on email

Show Notes:

Elizabeth Champion is an arms and armour historian specialising in high medieval Round Table tournaments and the Merlin legends. She’s also a historical fencer, co-founder of Stratford Swords and an ex-cage fighter.

In our conversation we discuss what was a Round Table Tournament. Is it to do with King Arthur, or the arrangement of the tables, or both? If you have come across anything to do with Round Tables in your reading, if you think you might know something, check if it’s in Elizabeth’s appendix here: Appendix – Round Tables of England, Scotland, and Wales (1230-1330) E.Champion Final If it’s already there, Elizabeth already knows about it. And if it isn’t there, send it to me and I’ll pass it on to her. Let’s crowdsource this and get to the bottom of it!

Elizabeth tells us about her cage fighting days, and the injury she sustained that led to fibromyalgia and chronic pain. She also has autism and ADHD, and is able to give us some useful advice for fellow instructors and practitioners to help make our clubs as inclusive and supportive as possible.

As well as all that, listen to this episode for top tips like why you need to put a sock on the end of a stick, how to make an axe safe to carry around the streets using just a brown paper bag, how to bear to watch terrible sword fights in films, and how many Dyson vacuum cleaners a cuirass is worth.

GW:  I’m here today with Elizabeth Champion, who is an arms and armour historian specialising in high medieval Round Table tournaments and the Merlin legends. She’s also a historical fencer and co-founder of Stratford Swords and an ex cage fighter. We’re definitely going to be talking about that. So without further ado, Elizabeth, welcome to the show.

 

EC:  Guy, thank you so much for having me. It’s just I feel like a proper HEMA practitioner now I’ve got a slot on your podcast, I’m very excited.

 

GW:  Well, I mean, you could have asked for it a year ago and I would have given it to you.

 

EC:  Never! No.

 

GW:  People don’t ask. It’s the strangest thing. I was expecting to be inundated with pitches. And I think I’ve had about five.

 

EC:  Really? But that doesn’t really surprise me, because you don’t want to say I am worthy enough for a slot on a podcast, give me a space. You wait for them to come to you to see if you’re worthy enough.

 

GW:  I mean, I actually have a publicist who goes around telling people, you’ve got to get Guy on your podcast. People who produce books and they need to get word of the book out to a wider audience. I mean, I get why someone who is running a local historical martial arts club, for instance, and that’s their sword thing, and then maybe they work for a games company programming games on the side. That’s their day job, because the swords for me are always the main thing, okay, so there’s a game designer here, who runs a historical martial arts club of something. They may not realise that actually their perspective is interesting and useful. You don’t have to be a full time professional sword person.

 

EC:  Yeah.

 

GW:  How many of my guests have been so?

 

EC:  Now, that’s, that’s a really good point. And it also prevents people from being super gatekeeping. So the only people who can speak about this, are the people who swords are their life, which I’m completely against. So yeah, that’s a really good point, actually, I hadn’t considered that.

 

GW:  If it was a technical discussion every time it would be different. I’m not going to invite someone who’s been doing historical martial arts for two years after the show to discuss their interpretation of Capoferro.

 

EC:  Oh, thank goodness.

 

GW:  That would be pointless. But I might ask them what it’s like to be a beginner in a particular part of the world we haven’t heard from yet, or from a culture we haven’t heard from yet, or what have you.

 

EC:  It’s not common in a lot of podcasts to give those people space at all. So it’s brilliant.

 

GW:  Well, it’s the point of the show. We have to, otherwise I am failing in my brief. Okay, now let me actually ask you a question, which I ask pretty much everyone, although, funnily enough, this is one question, which a surprising proportion. All my guests get to see the questions in advance and say, Well, let’s not talk about this, or let’s definitely talk about this other thing I’ve mentioned. Quite a few people don’t want to answer the question where in the world they are.

 

EC:  Really? That’s very interesting. But you could be so broad with this as well.

 

GW:  So where in the world are you?

 

EC:  I’m in Oxford at the moment, which is lovely. I’ve just recently finished my Masters in medieval history and got my first proper full time grown up job at the University of Oxford. Which is a shame to say because I’m 25 and it’s my first full time proper job.

 

GW:  I don’t think I’ve ever had a proper job. That’s not strictly fair. I got a full time job as an antiques restorer when I left university.

 

EC:  That’s the dream, being a full time antiques restorer. That’s incredible.

 

GW:  Okay, be wary of dreams. I had that dream, and I went and I did it, and it didn’t work for me at all.

 

EC:  You know, I say exactly the same thing to people who want to become booksellers. You think it’s going to be amazing and so romantic and lovely. And in reality, it’s just retail and it comes with all the stress that all retail does, except it looks fancier.

 

GW:  Have you been a bookseller?

 

EC:  Yeah, I have. I was a bookseller for about a year and a half. Then the pandemic hit.

 

GW:  That’s a proper job.

 

EC:  Yeah, but it was a weekend job I was studying, so this is my first proper 9 to 5 and in all places, Oxford. An amazing place to start out in it.

 

GW:  Yeah, Cambridge is better.

 

EC:  See, I am from just outside Cambridge, so.

 

GW: Really? I was born in Cambridge.

 

EC: Oh, well, I was not. No, I’m from Bedford, but my partner’s from Cambridge so I’m very well acquainted. But I think Oxford is a lot more spread out, whereas in Cambridge everything’s really squished together. And then there’s cows and there’s no there’s no like gradual fading out. In Oxford there’s a lot of lovely sort of little villages outside. Yeah, it’s very nice place, as is Cambridge, of course.

 

GW:  So what do you do in Oxford?

 

EC:  I’m an admin assistant actually, for the Oxford Market School, which is part of the Department of Economics. Nothing to do with my studies at all.

 

GW:  Is there scope to get into some medieval stuff?

 

EC:  Absolutely none. None whatsoever. But I’m a personal assistant to the ex-Director who loves to tell people that I study swords. So we get some very important people coming in who are not even a little bit interested. And he goes, “This is my personal assistant, Elizabeth. She studies swords.” I’m like, it’s really okay. You don’t have to bring that into every conversation you have. But they really do encourage me to sort of in my own time, work on my own research. And they celebrate that just as much as the research for the actual employed researchers. That’s lovely.

 

GW:  So you have access to libraries and stuff?

 

EC:  I got given manuscript access. I know, I know.

 

GW:  I knew we’d be friends.

 

EC:  Which I rub in the face of my poor partner of seven years. He’s starting his BA in Philosophy and Theology. But even he doesn’t get manuscript access. And I rub it in his face all the time because all I had to do for my job application, this there’s a little box that says, “Will you be needing manuscript access?” And I put a whole written note saying, “Well, not technically my job, but for my research and I’m going to submit a whole application I’m in the middle of doing a whole proposal for, because you’ve got to go through so many hoops.” And the person interviewing me said, “Oh, okay, we’ll just tick it and then we’ll just give you the access.” It was a bit bittersweet though, because I was given the job literally 3 hours after I submitted my dissertation and they were the most three most boring hours of my life. I was so bored. Literally just finished my Master’s and I was like, I don’t know what to do, I’m super bored. So I got given this job with this access. Then I was like, amazing. So I made the mistake of looking at all the access I could get. And it turns out I spent maybe six months of my Master’s trying to find these manuscripts on Google Books, trying to get a page of anything. And the second I got given this job, all the doors opened and I thought how much better my Master’s dissertation could have been had I been given this access from the start.

 

GW:  I have a thought for you. Now that you have the access, you should rewrite your thesis as a book, and publish that.

 

EC:  Well, I have been speaking with a few people who recommended that I maybe submit it to Arthurian journals and things, so I need to get on it. But when you take a break, you just you lose that momentum, don’t you?

 

GW:  Yes, I lost momentum on a book recently. And yes, I find any excuse to do something else, like go in the garden and shoot some Jaegerstock videos or something.

 

EC:  It’s so difficult to stay on track, especially in things like humanities, where there’s no, I don’t want to say there isn’t a pressing need because of course there is. And research is just as important as the sciences, but there’s not really as tight deadlines.

 

GW:  Okay. It’s a useful life skill to distinguish between important and urgent.

 

EC:  Oh, I like that.

 

GW:  Right. Lots of emails are very urgent, but not important at all. And things like the next book is actually quite important but not urgent.

 

EC:  I love that. I’m so nicking that.

 

GW:  You can have it. It is a really useful life skills like okay, this thing is urgent but not important. I can skip it. This thing is urgent and important, I’ll do it right now. This thing is important, but not urgent, I need to make time to do it because it’s important. I have kids and it is very, very important to spend time with my kids. But on any given day, it’s rarely urgent. But over the last 15 years of regularly making time to spend with the kids because it’s important. Also great fun, but important. I never waited for it to become urgent, which means that my 15 year old actually talks to me. Still. Because we’ve always had the habit and never lost it.

 

EC:  Yeah. I love that distinction. I think it’s something I try and tell people so often. I’m always going, no, what you do is really, really important. And then people say, what you do is important as well. I’m like, Oh no, this doesn’t apply to me. This applies to everyone else but me and my own research.

 

GW:  I mean, compared to like brain surgery or paediatric intensive care work, what we’re doing is not very important or even. But if everyone in the world was a paediatric intensive care person there would be no one to build the hospital.

 

EC:  Yeah, that’s a really good point. It’s something that I’ve personally been struggling a lot with in my job because the people, the research they’re doing is desperately urgent. What they’re working on in so many developing countries are very, very urgent projects they’ve got going on basically. But it’s lovely because they also still make time to celebrate my own research about swords from 700 years ago and treat it just as importantly, maybe not as urgent. But, it’s difficult to keep perspective that your research is important when you’re surrounded by this very pressing, urgent research.

 

GW:  But, you know, we all have  our specific niches, our specific gifts.

 

EC:  Very true.

 

GW:  Like I have had a kid in intensive care when they were born and like, swords are so incredibly unimportant in that moment. But actually, really, our culture requires people with lots of different skills and lots of different interests. You know, without artists, there’ll be no point in keeping people alive with the science. Because what would these people do?

 

EC:  Could not agree more. I could not agree more.

 

GW:  My brother did a Ph.D. in biology, and at that time I was doing an MA in English Lit, and he was like, Yeah, Guy without a scientists, you artists would all be dead. I’d say yes, but Richard, without art, there’s no point being alive anyway.

 

EC:  Exactly. It’s so true. And I found that so many of the skills that you learn in these kind of degrees, so you can transpose in so many different industries. I use so many of the skills I developed throughout my English Literature undergraduate, my History Masters, in my job, in an economics department, and so many people come to me because of the particular skills I have.

 

GW:  So what made you apply for that particular job?

 

EC:  Well, it was actually because my partner was relocating, so I just chucked out a load of CV’s. And I remember thinking, there is no way I’m going to get this job actually, because the person who was interviewing me, the ex-director of the school who I was going to be personal assistant for, I took on a little bit in the interview because basically I was coming to it from an internship that I did at the International Medieval Bibliography at Leeds, which is just such an amazing job. And he said, I see you’ve got a lot of experience in dealing with academics. Absolutely I do, I’m one myself. We’re all absolutely mental. And he said, but the economics field, you’ll find economists very, very different to the usual academics. And I said, I’m sorry, I have to stop you there because that’s not even a little bit true. Every single field likes to think they’re the kooky ones. They’re the crazy, the dead mad ones who are working wacky hours and how they’re so different to other fields. And I said, I’m sorry. I said, It’s just it’s not true. Your brand of quirky might be different to different fields, but everyone’s just as insane. And I was like, Anyway, I’ve taken him on a bit too much so I’m not going to get the job.

 

GW:  So tell me about the job you were doing before. That sounds very much on brand.

 

EC:  It is very on brand. I was offered a position there when I was doing my Masters at Leeds. It was a very odd position to be in because my boss was also my supervisor for my dissertation and it is an incredible resource, the International Medieval Bibliography and I was using it so much for my undergraduate. So it was incredible to me that I could be given an opportunity.

 

GW:  For listeners who might not have heard of it. What is it?

 

EC:  It’s basically a repository for articles from about… There are going to be people shaking their fists at me. I already know it. I believe it’s 300 B.C. to 1700 A.D. and it’s about articles that refer to across all these years, all these different periods of study. So if you look up a certain index term like Memento Mori in France in the 16th century, and it’ll come up with all the research and articles that’s recorded within the bibliography. And it will give you links.

 

GW:  Is available outside of universities? Can anybody use it?

 

EC:  I believe it’s mainly institutional access you require, unfortunately.

 

GW:  That’s the kind of thing that your average historical martial arts practitioner does not have access to, but really should.

 

EC:  Yes. What’s important to say is that it doesn’t give you access to the articles.

 

GW:  No, but it tells you that they exist.

 

EC:  Right.

 

GW:  That is not a small thing. That is a very large thing.

 

EC:  That’s very true. So a lot of that job involved being given journals and miscellanies before they were published. And you basically, I have to go through every single article, read it from beginning to end. Work out implied index terms. So, for instance, it might not be mentioned in the article, but it generally refers to X, Y, Z. And I had to categorise all of these articles basically, in French, German and English. I had one in Bulgarian once and I was given it and I said, I don’t speak Bulgarian. And they said, Yeah, none of us do. So one of us has got to work out. So, good luck! That was amazing. Unfortunately, I had to leave it because, not unfortunately, fortunately, they keep the internship just for students of the University of Leeds, which I think is incredible and really important. So as I left the uni, I of course had to give up that position. But it was really wonderful.

 

GW:  So you had to read all of those articles.

 

EC:  Yes, yes.

 

GW:  That’s a lot of reading.

 

EC:  Yeah, well, it was great because I got to my boss had a book he had to read and he was given a pdf of it. So in an afternoon I just read the whole book, this is in economics and highlighted all the context or the oh, this might be a useful point, all of this and it came from a lot of my training in history.

 

GW:  So you can read extremely fast.

 

EC:  Well, I can read extremely fast. I can’t necessarily take in all the information I’m reading, but it’s a very useful skill, especially if I’m looking through a lot of manuscripts in quick succession, trying to get the gist of everything. It was a great opportunity to practise that. Very high pressure.

 

GW:  Wow. That sounds like a really good sort of apprenticeship for being a medieval historian.

 

EC:  It was an amazing apprenticeship for that. Not only just for the access and all the articles you can then sort of keep a copy of it. But it’s you discover things you don’t even know exists. So you don’t know to look for them. Because you don’t know it’s a thing, you don’t know anyone’s writing on it. That was a little bit like what it was my undergrad. I wrote on what I wrote my dissertation because someone brought it up. I wouldn’t have known it was a thing to write about had it not been mentioned to me.

 

GW:  So we’re talking about Round Table tournaments.

 

EC:  Round table tournaments, yes.

 

GW:  What is a Round Table tournament?

 

EC:  Oh, my gosh, that’s a really good question.

 

GW:  I’m assuming you’re qualified to answer.

 

EC:  Well, I still don’t have an answer. I was researching the style of tournament because it’s not quite clear as to what it is. Actually, before I carry on, I have to give a shout out to Dr. Christopher Berard because he very generously sent me copies of his work on Round Tables, which gave me a lot of leads for my masters. He’s like one of the very few people that’s doing work on these at the moment. So I have to just give a quick shout out to him. I can’t possibly carry on without doing that.

 

GW:  We do like giving credit.

 

EC:  I was studying under Dr. Alan V. Murray and his amazing tournaments model. It’s why I chose Leeds in the first place because of the Early Medieval Tournaments module. And it’s so difficult to find a module on something that specific. And I remember doing a lot of the background reading for the course and my back-background in my undergraduate is Arthurian literature. I kept on seeing these things called Round Table tournaments. All these researchers and scholars are giving very brief definitions, very general overviews, but they weren’t really explaining exactly what they were. Many articles, for instance, define the event as clearly Arthurian, and though it’s a tempting and likely true definition, it’s led to historians overstating the Arthurian elements of the event.

 

GW:  By Arthurian, you mean related to Arthurian legends or related to the historical King Arthur? Or both?

 

EC:  More so the legends and the literature, the courtly romance, etc. I mean, Round Tables were very likely inspired by the literature. So I think the definition of sort of an Arthurian framework is perhaps more accurate. And a number of things take place at a Round Table. You’ve got feasting, dancing, feats of arms, hastiludes, etc., but that can be attributed.

 

GW:  What’s a hastilude?

 

EC:  A hastilude is basically it’s spear play. So a joust is a type of hastilude, but sort of any martial arts with the spear but it’s predominately a joust but it’s a term that’s useful to use just in case.

 

GW:  I did want in the beginning. If I think you say anything the average listener won’t understand, I will ask for a definition.

 

EC:  And it’s useful to brush up myself because sometimes it’s a term you use. This is my point. This is what I was like with the Round Table. People just use the term and then years and years later, you’re like, hang on, wait, what was it exactly that I’m talking about?

 

GW:  What did they actually mean back then?

 

EC:  Yeah, exactly.

 

GW:  So a Round Table tournament is some kind of event where there’s definitely some tournament fighting going on, but also party time.

 

EC:  Yes, also party time.

 

GW:  I would guess from the name that the participants are treated equally as in not hierarchical.

 

EC:  That’s really interesting. At least to my mind, please, nobody come attack me. To my mind, that’s not true at all. But see, this is this was what I was getting so frustrated at and I’ve brought to my supervisor, everyone brings a different meaning to what “Round Table” means. It’s really important that we actually work out what they meant by a Round Table tournament. There’s a problem with it hugely in the chronicles of Round Tables, because each person who is writing about a Round Table has a different relationship to joust. So, for instance, those from court readily understand the distinction between various tournaments because they’re more acquainted with the practise. So they can record these events with very specific terminology, whereas clergy members who write tons of chronicles usually generalise and truncate the accounts. They’ll say a Round Table took place in Kenilworth. You’re like, Okay, great. And then there’s no other information but that that manuscript is recorded as having a reference to a Round Table. So, so much of my masters was going through these manuscripts and realising hang on, it’s just a sentence that says a Round Table took place. There was no other information. It’s really, really difficult. Another difficulty is that contemporary sources regularly labelled Round Tables as just “tournaments”, because I thought that terminology was sufficient enough in annals where specifics are essential. Even modern historians,= use shorthand. So a lot of them will just say “a feast”. So they’ll start off their chapter talking about Round Tables, and then just revert to using the term “feast”. So again, I was like, does it focus more on the party aspect? Is it nothing to do with the tournament as much as it is the feasting and the dancing? And in doing that and using that shorthand, they follow a lot of contemporary sources. So, for instance, Jean La Belle refers to the 1344 Windsor Round Table as a great feast that was modelled upon the Round Table. Fossard describes them as a feast. The translator/compiler of Le Gran Conquista de Ultramar also calls them “a great feast, followed jousting”. So again, is the jousting paired with the feast? Is it both a Round Table? Is it one or the other? It’s really difficult to really get down to what it actually is. But most historians seem satisfied that that combination of events amounts to a Round Table. What I’ve realised is that people were saying things like, oh, lots of costumes are used, Arthurian costumes. There is one, maybe two references, at least in British Round Tables that talk about people dressing up as Arthurian characters for a Round Table tournament. That’s not a common occurrence, unless they were occurring so regularly…

 

GW:  That no one mentioned it.

 

EC:  Exactly. So it’s really difficult. What’s quite interesting, I found, because I then compared Round Tables to Continental Round Tables and found that in Continental sources they tend to talk more about placement and arrangement of tables. So for instance, the translation compiler of Le Gran Conquista de Ultramar calls it El Juego de la Tabla Rotunda, but distinguishes it from the Round Table of King Arthur. And he says the game is called this, he says, because they bring out tables and these tables are set all around. And for that reason, they call it a game with the Round Table and not by the other that was in the time of King Arthur. So does that mean Round Table tournaments were Arthurian? Does it mean they’re not? It’s so difficult.

 

GW:  Well, what you just said to me would suggest that it is called a Round Table because of this arrangement of tables. It’s got nothing to do with Arthur at all. That what he seems to think. He might be wrong.

 

EC:  Exactly. He might be wrong. And there’s also, for instance, I found a manuscript in the Berkeley manuscript that’s regularly missed, actually, because they use the term round play, not Round Table. And it was talking about the Kenilworth Round Table in 1279 and it says that it was called a Round Table because they say where the Knights sport is, they were encompassed around with a strong enclosure of timber, which supports the theory that Round Tables are called that due to their physical structure, not due to Arthurian content. So it’s really difficult. It is so, so difficult to sum up.

 

GW:  Is there any reason to believe that over the course of like four centuries and many different countries, it meant the same thing anyway.

 

EC:  Exactly. Exactly.

 

GW:  And if we say “tournament” now, it means one thing. But historical martial arts tournaments 15, 20 years ago were very different things to what they are now. But we still just call them longsword tournaments.

 

EC:  Exactly. Exactly. And sometimes it’s because we sort of think, well, there’s not really much point in distinguishing it, because if you said to anyone on the street, I’m going to do a tournament with swords, they’re going to pretty much work. It’s not something that really needs lots more explanation because I like it. You clearly have a sword. You’re clearly going to fight. It’s like they’ve got the majority of information they think they need. And the problem is with lot of these chronicles, they’re being written by clergy members, in annals where it’s like really short bits of information. So it’s really hard to find descriptions. And for me, I get very frustrated when everyone’s assumed some kind of knowledge and then just moves on. And there’s very few studies that have been done saying that this is what they were, or here’s the manuscripts to prove it. It’s very difficult.

 

GW:  Okay. So you didn’t actually come to any firm conclusion?

 

EC:  That’s correct, no. It’s something I really want to do for maybe a PhD, because I have kept all the research. I had to cut so much information whilst also trying to get the point across. And it’s very difficult to say, there’s a really long history of people saying that the Round Table was based on round enclosures, but I only have time to give you one example. Just trust me. You’re not going to do very well with that. So I’d love to be able to really expand that and get into it.

 

GW:  Are there any illustrations from contemporary manuscripts?

 

EC:  None that I could find.

 

GW:  There are loads and loads of like illustrations in manuscripts of all different kinds, including Bibles, of people fighting with swords and having tournament type activities. But there isn’t there isn’t one. There isn’t a picture of.

 

EC:  Not that I could find. There’s a lot of pictures of jousts and feasts and people sitting around tables, but there’s nothing that says, here it is. Here’s a drawing of it. And then, even if there was, you’ve got to ask, well, is it because it’s a British one? Is it because it’s a continental one? Was there anything distinguishing this? Why are they drawn in the first place?

 

GW:  I have a thought. There are loads of people who are dead into medieval stuff who listen to this show, loads of them, and some of them may have come across some source that may be useful. Would you like them to send it to me so that I can send it on to you, would that be helpful?

 

EC:  Hell yes. I have a whole appendix. I need to show you this. I have a whole appendix I need to publish at some point of every single reference to a Round Table in the manuscript. The Latin for it. What it actually translates to, the context of it. I’ve got this whole big spread of it, so I’d love to see if there’s any more sources I’ve missed.

 

GW:  Okay. Yeah. So that would be really helpful if you. Okay, feel free you say no and I can cut this bit out if you like, why don’t you send it to me and I’ll stick it in the show notes?

 

EC:  Of course. Of course. It’s all knowledge that can be helped. And if anyone can help us build on that knowledge, amazing. I’m not panicking that someone’s going to beat me to the punch, because if so, I want to know about them so we can talk about it, so we can build on the research. Definitely.

 

GW:  So the appendix will be in the show notes. And so if you think you might know something, check if it’s in the appendix, if it’s already there, you already know about it. And if it isn’t there, send it to me and I’ll pass it on to you.

 

EC:  Please, please, please.

 

GW:  Let’s crowdsource this. Excellent. Okay, so my very simple question. What exactly is a Round Table tournament is, well, after maybe eight PhDs, we’ll have some idea.

 

EC:  Yes, exactly. Exactly. Okay.

 

GW:  Sounds like the best questions, actually.

 

EC:  Well, that’s why I knew I was taking a real risk with it, because I couldn’t come up with a really nice, neat answer for my examiner for my Masters. But I really back the research that I did. I really I just have a gut feeling that this is important. And even if at the end of the day, going through all of it, we say, oh, no, the historians were right when they sort of roughly assumed this, great at least we’ve confirmed it.

 

GW:  Now we know. And they gave you your MA, right?

 

EC:  Yes.

 

GW:  Yeah. Because you don’t have to actually answer the question necessarily. You have to push the research forward.

 

EC:  Well, exactly. Exactly. And I’m very happy overall with at least I’ve got that box ticked.

 

GW:  Excellent. Yeah. Run on the PhD.

 

EC:  Yeah.

 

GW:  Or if not the PhD, just write the book. I mean, if you want a career in mainstream university academia stuff, then you need a PhD.

 

EC:  I did. I really, really did. But I know so many academics who are so far in their career doing exactly what I want to do in ten, 20 years time. And not all of them, of course. And it’s very, very fulfilling work. But it’s hard, hard, hard work for very little pay. It reminds me a bit of bookselling. It was really hard work for minimal wage, whereas the job I do now is a really nice 9 to 5. I can leave my work at the office, come back and spend all that time writing and not having to push for any kind of particular deadline or funding. So I don’t know. I did think I really wanted an academic job and now I’m doing this really lovely 9 to 5 in a nice, lovely office with a sparkling water tap. I’m like, I don’t know. Do I want to go into Humanities? I turned up on the first day and I said, right, so I’m going to bring in my pencils, I’ll bring in my sticky notes. And they said, no, no, no, there’s a there’s a stationery cupboard. I said, oh, but that’s not for me? And they said, yeah, just get a notepad. So I was like, the resources here are insane.

 

GW:  They have actual pencils that you can use.

 

EC:  I know.

 

GW:  That’s amazing. And sparkling water.

 

EC:  Yeah. Sparkling water tap. Hot water tap.

 

GW:  Honestly, that’s econ, right. Well I doubt the English lit department has the same.

 

EC:  Well, exactly. So a lot of my co-workers say, oh, maybe you should look for jobs in the humanities department. Yes, but I’m very attached to the Illy family personally donated a whole cafe to the economist department I work at so it’s gorgeous.

 

GW:  The Illy coffee you can get in supermarkets. They just donated a cafe to your econ department. The arts are not sufficiently appreciated.

 

EC:  They’re really not. So you can imagine I’ve got at my work a whole board I found like a historical map of Oxford, all these pictures of medieval stuff and I’m trying to really represent hard. And one thing I do, I do a lot proofreading for the researchers and I remember one of them in a recent study they did said, we’re looking at X, Y, Z in science based articles, but we’re not going to look at humanities based articles for the study because of reasons X, Y, and Z. I just put a little sad face next to it. They said that next time they’ll include it. But, yes, change your whole study just to make me happy.

 

GW:  Seems fair to me. Okay, so who was Merlin?

 

EC:  Oh, what a question. I I’m afraid it’s another Round Table question. Actually, you know what? It’s almost the opposite in the sense that there is so much information that we don’t really know where to begin. I studied this for my undergraduate. I remember in my very first year I had to do a module called Medieval to Renaissance Literature. And I was like, Oh, because I was there for Renaissance literature, was not even a little bit. I hated medieval stuff. It’s the one with the flat drawings. Super boring. Not interested. I want to do Shakespeare and all of that. And we had a very first lecture and the lecturer was talking to us about we were reading Sir Gawain and in the Green Knight, we got to talk about Dragons and Merlin. I was like, “This isn’t an actual field of research, is it? We’re just doing this practise our middle English and everything.” He said, you can actually. There’s lots of scholarship for Merlin, so it’s like mind blown, are you kidding me? This is insane. This is the person that grew up reading like Eragon and all of this. And I’m like, you’re telling me that I can write a dissertation on Dragons and Merlin? Yeah. So that’s why I started to look into Merlin and I realised looking into Merlin, my supervisor said to me, okay, so which Merlin? Like, what period are you going to look at? I said, Oh, I don’t know, just the middle English one I suppose. And then I realised looking into it there are so many editions of Merlin, he’s just so many characters, so many people. My personal favourite is a version of a story where he’s effectively like a young Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory, except he’s really cruel and keeps on predicting people’s death and laughing at them. You wouldn’t think of that when you think of like the Disney Merlin or the BBC Merlin. He’s a really nasty little boy that terrifies all these soldiers because he’s like, I don’t know why this guy’s bought shoes. He’s going to be dead before he gets home, stupid. He’s a combination and an appropriation of a whole cast of characters. You’ve got like Lylakin, Emrys and Merlin Sylvestris, Merlin Caledonensis. But not only this, he has such a wide variety of roles. So each version of that character has so many versions within that character. So for instance, when I was studying, I personally defined Merlin as a prophet, political advisor and at times a battle strategist. And I thought that was the best way to define Merlin, because you can see these qualities going way back into Merlin’s literary history. So Merlin begins, we think, as Myrddin Wyllt in a pre 12th century Welsh poem, he’s a sixth century Welsh madman, which some people say is where the word Myrddin comes from. He’s blessed with the gift of foresight. So some describe him as a bard, some as a prophet, others as a warrior. But most sources agree that he had a traumatic experience at the battle of Arfderydd, I think, I’m sure mispronouncing that. But in about 575AD, which consequently drove him into the forest of Celadon and poems about this go back centuries before this was written down. For instance, there’s a poem called The Dialogue of Myrddin and Taliesin, which acknowledges Myrddin’s capacity as a Seer. So he begins as a soldier and a prophet. He’s sort of got these prophecies through this kind of PTSD that he’s developed after this battle. And the Merlin that most people will be familiar with in terms of medieval literature is the one developed by Geoffrey of Monmouth. He was bishop of St Asaph, who’s credited as the first author to really shape the modern Merlin. He takes a lot of this sort of mad element of Merlin, and he explores that prophecy in his book, I think it is Prophetiae Merlini, which is his earliest work. And then he expands and expands through Historia Regum Britanniae, through Vita Merlini, and he keeps on trying to smooth out a lot of contradictions in his character. So it’s really the Merlin we know is an amalgamation of a couple of different Myrddins that Geoffrey had heard about and wanted to kind of smash into one character. To me he’s predominantly like a trickster, which is evidenced in Robert de Boron’s text, but his prophecies are taken super seriously for centuries after Geoffrey of Monmouth. I mean, people go to prison for reading about Merlin in the Tudor times and things and taking it seriously. So there was a historical Merlin in the sense of there was probably a soldier at this battle, just as we think that there was probably an Arthur who was maybe three different people that we sort of amalgamated into one person. But it’s again, someone with a lot of iterations, so it’s very difficult to pin down, in the opposite way to a Round Table tournament, there’s just no information.

 

GW:  Do you think he may have been based on stories of druids? He reminds me of a druid.

 

EC:  100%. Absolutely. He completely comes from that tradition. That would be a really, really good explanation. And to my knowledge, there was a lot of there’s a mixture of prophecy and battle and fighting in my very limited knowledge about that period of history. So it would make sense, but it’s very interesting to see.

 

GW:  Druids are bards and prophets and doctors and advisers and strategists and all sorts of things. Priests and, you know.

 

EC:  Exactly.

 

GW:  Huh. Okay. So of the modern depictions of Merlin that listeners are likely to be familiar with, which is your favourite?

 

EC:  Oh. Oh, it’s torn between. I did have a soft spot for Sword in the Stone Merlin, because I just love how grumpy he is.

 

GW:  T.H. White?

 

EC:  No, no, no. The Disney.

 

GW:  The Disney. Oh, my God.

 

EC:  You’re going far too literary.

 

GW:  Yeah, yeah. Is it T.H. White?

 

EC: Yes. So, yeah. So the Disney one, I think is so on point for so much humour. Again you see I’m going I go from 0 to 100 super quickly and go all in and then I don’t care about the grade I get because I want to do the research and I’m like, as long as I pass. I don’t care. I don’t care. I just want to do this research. So I studied specifically the text that I happened to find at the international medieval conference in Leeds. There was one book that was called The Prose Merlin, and I was like, Oh Merlin, I’m looking into Merlin, let’s grab it, see what it’s about. I could not have picker a harder text. So there is one manuscript, one unabridged transcription of the Middle English written in the 1800s, of which I have one of the very few copies in existence. It was so hard for me to get. I got it actually, after I did my undergraduate dissertation through a lot of my family members pooling together to get me the book because it was so expensive, because it was so rare.

 

GW:  Right. Oh, wow.

 

EC:  Okay. And there is one middle English, abridged transcription written in the 1990s. Apart from that, there’s nothing. So I went through. I translated the entirety of the middle English Prose Merlin into modern English, which took about half my time for writing this dissertation anyway. So again, it’s this kind of I was spending so much time looking for the resources and I leave so little time for the writing, but I’ve now got this whole edition, that’s all written up.

 

GW: Have you published it?

 

EC: No, not yet.

 

GW:  Ah, come on.

 

EC:  I know. I know, it’s written in note form and in summary. So I need to go through and really, like, choose particular words and all of this. Yeah. So I did that and there is so much humour in the text and so many nuances that modern readers don’t get. And why would you? Most people aren’t going to read middle English. It’s both the same humour and a lot of the jokes they wrote then are still very funny. But it’s also like the earliest joke ever recorded. What is it? What’s the cleanest leaf in the forest? And it’s a holly because you’re not going to wipe your backside with a holly leaf. And that’s from 6000 years ago. So I hate it when people say, Oh, the humour was very different. No, it’s exactly the same. It’s just written in different ways that are perhaps less accessible. So I would have to say sort of the stone Disney Merlin and then of course, of course it has to be BBC’s Merlin is so on point.

 

GW:  Which one?

 

EC:  The BBC, so early 2000s.

 

GW:  Who’s playing Merlin.

 

EC:  Colin. Oh wait I’m going to do a quick Google. Colin Morgan. That’s it. Colin Morgan. You sound like you’re not familiar with it, which is stressing me out a bit.

 

GW:  Now that I have, I have seen lots and lots of Merlin ones, but it’s never been a major interest of mine. And the swords are always so very, very wrong.

 

EC:  Oh they’re deeply wrong. It’s BBC budget. It’s like a Pringles can spray painted. Like, the budget is awful.

 

GW:  Yeah. And so I may have seen it, but I probably didn’t watch it more than once.

 

EC:  That’s absolutely fair enough.

 

GW:  The one that I’m most familiar with is the one that my younger daughter got madly into a few years ago. And he’s this young wizardy person, I forgot who plays him, and the Arthur character is some upperclass prick. And then Merlin is just constantly like dissing him the whole time.

 

EC:  That is basically the entirety of all literature on Merlin and Arthur. Merlin very publicly chastises Arthur on a number of occasions.

 

GW:  Okay. So that actually has some basis in the legends.

 

EC: Absolutely. There’s a battle that happens and something happens to Arthur where he does legitimately have to pull out for a moment. And Merlin’s like, what are you doing? Get back in there. What are you doing? And he’s like, Oh, okay, bye. And then it’s noted that all the other soldiers, as in all the other knights, are all just like laughing at him as he’s going back into the fight, like, yeah, you idiot. So, yeah, very much so.

 

GW:  Okay. Yeah, I can just I can feel like there are listeners going, yes, but this version of Merlin is the right one.

 

EC:  Who cares? Who cares?

 

GW:  At this point, he is fundamentally a fictional character.

 

EC:  At the point in which he was being written, he is fundamentally a fictional character that was built upon basically Welsh fan fiction. So just because it’s 800 years on from that fan fiction doesn’t make that fan fiction any more serious. It’s ridiculous. Just like what you like. That’s okay. There is not one official proper. Everything is a copy of something previous. Like if you look at a building that looks old, like, wow, that must be really old. No, it’s Victorian because they’re trying to make it look old and the things that look new are actually the really old ones. So it’s like even in daily life where people are trying to go back to the original. That one is wrong. That’s not actually original. That’s Victorian. We need to go back to the original. It’s ridiculous. Just like which version you like, Geoffrey of Monmouth is not going to come out and tell you.

 

GW:  Well you heard it here, everybody. Elizabeth says you can like what you like, and that’s fine. Brilliant. All right. Speaking of liking what you like, did you actually like cage fighting?

 

EC:  I absolutely loved it. But I did it a very, very, very young age. I mean, like 13, 14, 15. I was so into it. But I ended up taking a knee to the knee, as it were. And I was the only girl there training at the time. And it was very much a culture of, oh, get on with it, princess, get over it. You know, I now walk with a walking stick because of that injury. So it was a horrible culture that I couldn’t go back to. So I loved the sport. It was amazing. But I did it very young, so it’s not serious.

 

GW:  How did you get into it?

 

EC:  Um, through watching films like Transporter, like Jason Statham and everything. I was like, this is really a cool type of fighting. What is it? And it turns out it was lots of mixed martial arts. That’s how I got into HEMA as well. I was going, this is a really cool type of fighting, what is it? And then going off and getting into that as well.

 

GW:  Okay. So you were training MMA as a teenager? Did you actually fight in the cage at all?

 

EC:  I didn’t get a chance to. We did have a cage, so we did practise in it a lot, which was insane. But I didn’t get to compete properly. I was going to. But then I took a knee to the knee.

 

GW:  That’s unfortunate.

 

EC:  Yeah. Yeah. But it was great fun.

 

GW:  But you might have got your neck broken. So it’s safer to do that.

 

EC:  That’s true. That’s true.

 

GW:  I think that’s a better way to look at it. Yeah, it feels like really bad luck, but how do you actually know?

 

EC:  Yeah, that’s a very good point. My life’s gone in lots of other directions in terms of sports. I went into rowing and then I went into HEMA and fencing and things.

 

GW:  So you went into rowing with a dodgy knee.

 

EC:  Oh yeah. A dodgy back as well. So I damaged my L3 L4 when I was 11. I was rollerblading. I remember I couldn’t walk. And my dad thought it was because I was trying to get out of church that day. But yeah, so it then set off. It’s a very long boring story, but to summarise, it then set off something called fibromyalgia, which took me 12 years to get diagnosis, for people to believe that I was in chronic pain because who was going to believe a child and teenager going, oh it really hurts? It’s like for God’s sake, just get on with it. Which is why I’m such an advocate for disabilities now, because I had actually someone talk to me today about it and very well-meaningly and lovely, lovely woman. She said to me, oh, you’re very lucky that you got a diagnosis because for most people it takes them all their lives. But she didn’t realise that I’d actually been going for diagnosis since I was 11. It was a very hard journey and it took me 12 years, but it’s just because I started early, so yeah. So I went into rowing despite a dodgy everything because for me personally, the way I deal with my disability is I’m in pain a lot of the time. So I personally like to think if I’m going to be in pain, I want to have a reason for it, so I’m not lamenting it. That’s not the way for everyone. I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. People deal with their disability in different ways. I’m certainly not encouraging that people just go out and do that if that’s not for them. But for me it was a great way to feel like it was towards something and to feel something.

 

GW:  So how did you get into the swords exactly?

 

EC:  So the way I got into the swords was I did a lot of, um, at the time, so I was rowing at the time, but I was also doing a lot of work in theatre and a lot work in film. And I remember getting to talking with the stunt people at the time.

 

GW:  So I had a lot of work in theatre and film, how?

 

EC:  So I was, I’ve been in theatre like since I was like got eight, nine, my uncle is a TV film actor. So I got into that kind of thing from a very young age. And it was actually at the time that I was doing, you know, Disney did a remake of Dumbo?

 

GW:  Yes. I wish they hadn’t.

 

EC:  Oh, me too. I haven’t even watched it. I’m in it and I haven’t watched it.

 

GW:  My cousin is an aerialist and she worked on Dumbo and my friend James is an actor and various other things and he was a flute player in the orchestra in Dumbo.

 

EC:  I’ve met so many people who did Dumbo. It’s insane. Yes. So I was doing that and I also haven’t watched it, but I was talking to a lot of the stunt people who they did like Wonder Woman and things like that. I was thinking, well, I love what you’re doing and I wanted to work out basically, are you doing things that are historically accurate in all the stunts they were doing, or is it for re-enactment purposes, which is also absolutely a way of performing and doing the sport. But I was more inclined towards the academic side of this and I wanted to know the whole history behind these things. I was talking to a friend at the time who was part of the Warwick Knights because I’d go into his house and there’d be like swords and everything else. How can you get these in a legal capacity? Because I love them. How can you possibly get to having these and studying these? He put me on to HEMA and I just started doing it from there. It was great.

 

GW:  Okay. So what did you do in Dumbo?

 

EC:  I started off as a background actor, and then I remember they lined us all up and Tim Burton and then Coleen Atkins who’s doing the costumes at the time, they walk past and they picked five of us that they wanted to be sort of more prominent background people, in the background of a lot of scenes where we could be seen. So they picked out. So that was a trip, being picked out by Tim Burton. That was insane. I remember they lined us up, there were hundreds of us and they had a few jackets and they also sort of wanted to see who would fit in the jacket, I got stuck in the arm of the jacket. And he’s just there staring at me, like, are you are we sure want go with this person? I’m like, Just give me one second. Just got to get my sleeve in. I do put on jackets, I promise. I know how to do it. And I was called back for a few more scenes and I was at that time I was in uni and I could have easily done my uni work from home, which is where it was being filmed. But I just was so ridiculously bored of it. I much prefer theatre where there’s a lot of adrenaline and that live performance. It’s the most boring work in the world. Great pay, but it’s so dull. I was getting through a book a day on set because you just sit around.

 

GW:  Nothing else to do.

 

EC:  Yeah. And it’s nobody’s fault. It can’t possibly go any faster. Everyone’s working so hard, but it’s just the nature of it.

 

GW:  Yeah. It can take, like, two years to make a 90 minute movie.

 

EC:  Yeah. At least.

 

GW:  Whereas on stage, it takes 90 minutes to do a 90 minute play.

 

EC:  Yeah, exactly. Maybe 92 minutes where you guys have rehearsed for the 2 minutes. Yeah, we’ll just do that quickly.

 

GW:  Yeah there’s preparation, but it’s not years, usually. I couple of months or so. Okay. So that got you into historical arts. How did you find it having disabilities and whatnot. How did you find getting into the historical martial arts?

 

EC:  It was difficult. And I was really grateful when you sent me this this list of questions where you did bring up my disabilities because it’s something that I think is really important to me to talk about as someone that presents as very able bodied on the days that don’t have a stick. As you know, I’ve got ADHD and autism as well, and it’s really important for me to talk about these things as much as possible so that people know that they’re quite normal things to have. And I found that actually in HEMA, so many people are neurodivergent or have physical disabilities and are quite open about it. So that was a lovely environment to go into because you look at it and you think there’s no possible way I can do this if I have a myriad of disabilities. It can be quite dangerous. We’ve got swords, especially if you don’t know anything about it. You’re sort of panicking about how you’ll fit in, and especially coming from a neurodivergent point of things. There’s two main issues, I think. One, well, it mainly it all comes back down to sensory overload. So I was really, really, really worried about how was going to affect the ways I get, for want of a better word, sort of triggered with my sensory overload. So for instance, certain sounds, I can’t distinguish if everyone’s talking and someone’s calling my name, I can’t hear, I cannot pick up on different things. So I was panicked about, oh, are they going to be lots of people and I won’t be able to hear? What will the protective gear feel like? Will it kind of freak me out and throw me off my game a little bit? So there were so many factors I had to take into account, but I was very lucky in the people I was training with were very gracious and they let me try on their protective gear first. They really explained what we were going to be doing, so I didn’t feel like there be any sort of curveballs and it really enabled me to practise in an environment where I didn’t feel like I had to hide a lot of things that I personally found difficult. And I wasn’t made to feel like I was a burden to my partners. So that was great. And I haven’t found that in any sport that I’ve done apart from HEMA.

 

GW:  So I think a lot of it comes down to what the club is for. And in something like, for instance, sport fencing or cage fighting the point of the club is to produce trophies, right? That’s really how you define success in that field. And so a student who comes along to a club where what they’re really interested in is getting trophies, who is not likely to get a trophy because they have a dodgy knee or whatever. It’s like, well, why are they even here?

 

EC:  Yeah.

 

GW:  Whereas with historical martial arts, that’s one of the reasons I like historic martial arts actually, is that it’s not urgent.

 

EC:  Yeah.

 

GW:  And it doesn’t actually matter how good a person gets. It just matters whether they’re moving in the direction they want to be moving.

 

EC:  Yeah. I think as a field, we’re very lucky in that we can sort of hide behind the fact that there’s a historical reason to be doing these things as manuscripts we’re looking at. Whereas I think in a lot of sports, there’s a lot of people that perhaps don’t want to get trophies and things but enjoy the sport. But the way we built rhetoric around sports is what if you’re not doing it for the trophy, then go to the gym to work out why you. Why are you picking up the sport Just for fun? That’s not what we do here. One thing I found, for instance, in rowing is that there’s a tradition called beer boats. If you if you have enough boats, which very few universities do, so few universities do. But if you’re fortunate enough to have enough boats for rowing, usually there’s a third boat that just go out just for fun. But it’s certainly not prioritised throughout the sport. So again, with HEMA, there’s a lot of “excuses”, for want of a much better word, that you’re not having to go full out all the time. You can stop, take a breath, look at the manuscript, really dig into is this how they would have done this and how they would have carried this. There is a lot of time to take pauses and there’s not that in sport because it is all go, go, go after a trophy.

 

GW:  I mean, the way I see it is that there are many different ways to make a contribution to the art. And being a good tournament fencer isn’t actually making much of a contribution to the art, necessarily. Because, OK, so this particular person won a tournament, so what? But the contribution to the art comes from people who organise the tournament, that’s a massive contribution. And you don’t need to be any good at sword fighting yourself to do that or doing the research or taking this class. There are a million ways to push the art forward without actually having to be some kind of 22 year old physically perfect specimen.

 

EC:  Yeah. Well, you say that. And I completely agree. It’s amazing that there’s so many ways which we can contribute, although I would say, for instance, I will never be a good tournament fencer at all. I just it’s not what I’m good at. It’s like, for instance, when I was rowing, I did a lot of coaching, I didn’t really do a lot of racing because that’s just not what I was good at. But I could understand sport and I could make other people understand that it was the same with him, or I did more coaching that I perhaps did practising because I can see what people need to do and explain it. But when it comes to tournament fencing, I actually think it’s so important because we’re showing people that wouldn’t necessarily pick up HEMA, so people that aren’t interested in the medieval aspect and the academic aspect, that there is actually a place for people to join who just want to do a sport with a sword. I think a lot of people looking at HEMA think, Oh, but I don’t know about this manuscript, I don’t know about this. And that’s sort of a problem that we’re raising because as it’s amazing we want to talk about our research, but it’s I think it’s important to show new beginnings that you don’t have to know Capoferro is, you don’t have to know who Meyer is. You don’t have to know these things in order to participate in the sport. So I think it’s something that we’re suffering with at the moment because we’re such a small community and we’re trying to get as much information out there.

 

GW:  Your perspective just became a little clearer to me. I remember what it was like 25 years ago. You think the community is small now.

 

EC:  I know. I know. Everyone tells me this and it’s true.

 

GW:  The community is huge. And here’s the thing, right? I mean, I often tell my students that I have read the book so they don’t have to. I’m happy to teach students from the book and show them the book. I mean, they will have seen the book because it’s there in the salle and I point it out. But I have done sufficient research and interpretation that there is simply a practical martial arts thing that they can just go and do without ever having to even be able to read, let alone read that particular book. Because not everyone is into it. But what I found is that a lot of people, they come for the swords and they stay for the history. Or they come for the history and they stay for the martial arts.

 

EC:  Which is so true. It’s so true. So, so true. And of course, it’s much, much bigger than it was, say, 25 years ago. But it’s not mainstream, I think is the is the main point I’m getting at.

 

GW:  It’s getting there.

 

EC:  I disagree hugely. I really do. That’s not to say it’s not getting more mainstream, but the majority of people have no idea what HEMA is. Whereas a lot of people have heard about alternative martial arts that are perhaps a bit more obscure because there’s a long history to it. I think there’s an anxiety around HEMA is that people are like there isn’t a long history, they think, to practising what we practise today when actually it goes back hundreds and hundreds of years.

 

GW:  The practise of contemporary martial arts goes back hundreds and hundreds of years. The practise of historical martial arts, as in doing research from books, late 19th century is the earliest I’ve found it.

 

EC:  Because I was gonna say it’s about 1800s, isn’t it?

 

GW:  Aylward and Hutton and Castle.

 

EC:  I have to go across different counties to find one club that practises historical European martial arts. The only reason I was able to contribute to opening Stratford Swords, for instance, was not because of my qualifications, but just because there’s simply nowhere nearby that was doing it.

 

GW:  Yeah, but it is vastly more widespread than it was even a decade ago.

 

EC:  Absolutely. I agree with that.

 

GW:  And it’s because of all of the resources and whatnot that are becoming available, it’s becoming more and more common. And yeah, it’s been featured on ESPN and it’s been in the newspapers. Even. Okay, I hate to make this reference because it annoys the hell out of me when I saw it on screen. But the Ridley Scott crusader film, is it the Last Kingdom, I think, it’s got Liam Neeson and Orlando Bloom and is terrible on all sorts of fronts. But there’s this moment where Liam Neeson is giving, I think Orlando Bloom a fencing lesson with long swords. Great big swords, totally wrong for the period.

 

EC:  Yeah.

 

GW:  And he picks up his sword like this, like Vadi’s Falcone and he says, “The Italians call this the Guard of the Hawk”. And that is a reference to Vadi.

 

EC:  Yeah.

 

GW:  200 years before Vadi was born. So probably not. Actually totally wrong, but at least there was that they said something like “Never use a low guard,” which is absolute horseshit, but at least they tried and it was a moment of reference to historical martial arts in popular culture.

 

EC:  Yes.

 

GW:  And that was a long time ago now.

 

EC:  Yes. Although the best reference, as we all know, has to be Princess Bride.

 

GW:  Absolutely. There we go

 

EC:  It has to be.

 

GW:  “Naturally you expect me to attack with Capoferro.” This is genius. And that was in the seventies.

 

EC:  Yep.

 

GW:  So I mean, the film was until 1987. But the book came out in the Seventies. It’s as good as the film.

 

EC:  Yeah. Yeah.

 

GW:  Different, but.

 

EC:  Different. But then again, to my personal mind, that doesn’t matter because it’s a different audience. I think as long as people are enjoying it, it’s like, I know it’s awful to some people, but that’s why I’m not that frustrated about how a lot of period films depict certain weapons and things. Although to me, I will have a grumble. They’re not going out there to do a documentary. They’re going out there to make people enjoy it. It’s like the best reference I think that I use so often is when they were filming Lord of the Rings. I’m sure you know this reference, how they didn’t put the sound of swords coming “Shing” out of the sheath because it wouldn’t have made that sound. And they showed it to an audience and.

 

GW:  The audience didn’t like it.

 

EC:  Well, they just thought they were missing some sound and they said, when are you going to finish it. So they actually put that sound in because that’s what the audience were expecting. And even though it’s wrong. Yeah, who cares.

 

GW:  Yeah, it’s part of the language of cinema. It’s like an established gesture.

 

EC:  Yes.

 

GW:  If you see a person looking like this, it means that. If you see a person doing this, it means that. If they dress a certain way, it means they have this kind of job, right? That sort of thing. So I think it’s sort of fits in there. Yeah, it’s stupid. But in the same movies you might have, you know, wizards and spells.

 

EC:  Yeah, exactly. Oh, it frustrates me when people say, oh, this isn’t accurate. It is a fantasy film. I just need you to know.

 

GW:  If it is a fantasy film, I don’t care. Yep. But if it is presenting itself as historical. Based on a true story, that sort of thing. Well I couldn’t bring myself to watch the movie The Last Duel. I just couldn’t do it. It’s like everything about it is so fundamentally appallingly god awfully wrong in the trailer as like, I just couldn’t do that to myself.

 

EC:  It’s not doing it to yourself. It’s also doing it to the people who would have to be forced to watch it with you.

 

GW:  I can keep quiet.

 

EC:  That’s not a skill that I have as I’m sure you’ve learnt over this hour.

 

GW:  The trick is having popcorn. If you’re busy shovelling popcorn in you can’t speak.

 

EC:  That’s amazing. It’s like I tried Bridgerton the other day, and I couldn’t I watched 10 minutes of it, and I had to stop. I just couldn’t do it.

 

GW:  I have a wife and two daughters and that they do like their Bridgerton, particularly my wife and my youngest daughter and I started watching the first episode with my wife because she had heard that it was good, a while ago when it came out. And I just left the room after about 15 minutes because I just couldn’t. Because in my head, it was supposed to be a Regency drama. But then I actually kind of realisef it’s fantasy.

 

EC:  It is.

 

GW:  And it’s more like the SCA’s idea of the Middle Ages as they ought to have been.

 

EC:  Yes, exactly.

 

GW:  So I’ve actually watched a bunch of Bridgerton with my family and really enjoyed it because I’m seeing it as fantasy. I’m not seeing as historical.

 

EC:  Exactly, when you readjust your frame.

 

GW:  Have you seen the movie Plunkett and Maclean?

 

EC:  No.

 

GW:  It’s so good. It’s about these Highwaymen.

 

EC:  I wish the listeners could have seen your face.

 

GW:  Well, it is these highwaymen and they are actually historical characters. They existed in the 18th century London. And it’s a fantastic film. But it is in many respects, very wrong. But it’s deliberately wrong. It’s like there’s a couple of characters who sort of minor sort of comic relief type characters, these sort of foppish people. And they’re using, imagine a posh English person trying to be a rapper saying things like Geezer. It’s hysterical. And it’s just completely and totally wrong. But it is an absolutely fantastic film. If you treat it as fantasy. Get your fantasy hat on and watch it as fantasy. Like I mean the ending of the movie, I won’t give any spoliers. I mean, it’s been out for 25 years, but you should have watched it by now. But I won’t spoil any of it for you.

 

EC:  Not everybody’s been around for 25 years to watch it.

 

GW:  Good point.

 

EC:  Well, because I only say that because I was in a classics class and we were reading the Iliad, super famous book, and the teacher told us what happened at the very end. And we all went, Oh, spoilers. And she was like, It’s been out for 2000 years. It’s like, yes, but I’ve been out for 18 and I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.

 

GW:  That is fair. Okay. Historical purists would say the ending is not the way it actually happened in real life. But who cares? It’s just brilliant. It’s how I should have happened.

 

EC:  That’s the important thing. And this is, you know, we complain about all the arts doesn’t have any funding, but also we want everything. All the representations of our field to go exactly the way we want them to and we’re going to be really strict about it. It’s like it’s why re-enactment is, I think, such a phenomenal thing. It’s not something I would ever be interested in doing, but it’s so important to get the public interested in certain parts of history. And then that helps us with funding applications and studies and future research, all from getting the public involved.

 

GW:  Right. Speaking of getting involved, you should definitely publish those books we were talking about. I’ll stop talking about that. So you start historical martial arts with fibromyalgia, autism and ADHD. And a dodgy knee. That’s a tricky starting point. So do you have any advice for people in similar or related positions?

 

EC:  Oh, gosh. I think my advice is more towards instructors rather than practitioners.

 

GW:  Go on then, I can take it.

 

EC:  Well, it comes from my experience as an instructor as well, and I find that a lot of instructors are so eager and willing to help neurodivergent people but they just do not know how and they don’t want to put the burden on the new neurodivergent students going, okay, tell me everything about how I can facilitate you in this practise, because sometimes they won’t know themselves. I learnt so much about things that said parts of like my autism, my ADHD off through doing it. So I couldn’t turn up and say, here’s the list of things I need and reasonable adjustments. Go for it. So I think the best thing to do is first, if someone discloses that they have a neurodivergency is to have a brief discussion with them first about regarding whether they’d like to advocate for themselves or if they prefer the instructor to advocate for them. So a lot of my students would prefer that I say, Hi, guys, this is Ben. He’s got autism. Just make sure you give him really clear instructions when he’s your sparring partner. Others would be very happy to just talk to their partners or not at all, but leave up themselves. So different people have different preferences about that. I think it’s really important as well to discuss sensory overload. So for me personally, a lot of noise can throw me off. And very specifically the sound and smell of steel from being in the practise room too long. You know how the practise room starts to smell like metal? There was no way I could have known that was threw me off until I’d done lots of practise and got to that point in training where we’d been there for 2 hours and it made me really uncomfortable and I couldn’t focus. But fortunately my instructor at the time incorporated lots of small breaks in for me, so I knew I could just step away without worrying about having to explain to people, OK, basically stems from this and this the reason. He’d already incorporated that into training sessions for me. So sometimes I wouldn’t use them. I wouldn’t need the break. But it was nice knowing there was an opportunity where I could step away and it wouldn’t be examined or asked about.

 

GW:  Because that’s the thing. It doesn’t need to be a big deal.

 

EC:  No, no, it really doesn’t.

 

GW:  It’s just like, you know, some students, after an intense bout, need to sit and have a little cry. That’s fine. As long as you know they’re all right.

 

EC:  Exactly. Exactly.

 

GW:  If you don’t know them, you have to check they are all right. It’s not a wrong thing that’s happening. If they’re bleeding, that’s different.

 

EC:  Yeah.

 

GW:  If it’s just water leaking out their eyes because that’s how they deal with that particular kind of stress in that particular situation. That’s fine. Unless they tell you it isn’t. But for a lot of people, particularly, I would say, blokes of my generation, that’s a very difficult idea to get your head around.

 

EC:  Mm hmm. Yeah, right. Yeah.

 

GW:  Because what it would take to make somebody conditioned the way we were conditioned to cry in a space like that is so extreme that it would definitely require intervention.

 

EC:  Yeah, that’s a very good point. And that’s why these brief discussions at the beginning of sessions, it’s like for anyone that plays Dungeons and Dragons. It’s like having a session zero.

 

GW:  I think that’s like 90% of the listeners.

 

EC:  So when I’m acting as Dungeon Master, I’ll have a session zero with my players one on one so we can talk about things like any triggers they might have, any boundaries. So like some of them would prefer if I didn’t discuss blood, but that’s like a soft boundary, so I can talk about it, just not be super gory. So just having things like that means it’s not a big deal in front of everyone in the moment as well when you’re probably quite emotional, you’ve already set these boundaries in place. And that’s one reason why I talk so ridiculously openly about my own disabilities, because when I bring it up the first few times, people think that they have to really give it a lot of attention and say, I’m listening to you and tell me all the ways I can help make your life better, even though I talk to you maybe 5 minutes per day, just tell me everything. And that is so lovely. But I don’t need that all the time. Sometimes it’s just nice to know if for instance, sometimes I’ll respond something in an odd manner that is perhaps not expected socially, because they know I’m autistic. They’ll go, Oh, it’s nothing for me to take personally. It’s clearly that’s just how they operate. And sometimes, you know, I have days where I’ll come in on my walking stick, for instance. And people are very, very, very kind saying, oh my gosh, what happened to you? What injury have you sustained? And people don’t realise that it’s a chronic pain thing. And that means somedays I can be bouncing off the walls with a sword, in a boat rowing, in a cage, all of this. And other days I’ll be like under my weighted blanket going, I cannot move today. And that’s not because I’ve sustained an injury. That’s just the nature of chronic pain. So a lot of people have these discussions with starting to treat it as just an everyday thing. It’s like, oh yeah, she just, she just needs a break. When it gets a bit loud. It’s not a big it’s not a big deal thing.

 

GW:  Do you find that people have a hard time getting their head around the idea of someone who’s walking with a stick one day and seems perfectly fit and healthy the next day. And has a walking stick another day and it’s like, well, do they really need that stick? Are they actually really injured? In most people’s experience, if you hurt yourself and then you get over the point where you can move normally again, then it’s done.

 

EC:  Yeah. And it’s why I talk about it so much and personally don’t get offended when people don’t understand that because I’m aware that a lot of people would get offended and then we can’t have these conversations, if that makes any sense. So it’s a sensitive point to a lot of people and that’s absolutely their right, but then it means if it’s a sensitive point to everyone, people are not going to be able to understand chronic pain. So it’s a conversation I have a lot and it’s difficult because what I have is not well-studied. I don’t even think it’s a thing in the sense that I think in ten years’ time we’ll realise they’re three different things. One is an autoimmune thing, one’s a brain thing, because there’s so little research on it, it’s just a catch-all term. Like I went to the doctor the other day and said, I’m having this symptom and they just kind of wrote it down, like, yep, good to know. We’ll add that to the research pile.

 

GW:  I think the one silver lining to the whole COVID thing is there are going to be so many people with post-viral conditions, which some represent like ME or fibromyalgia or similar sort of things, that it may stimulate a whole lot more research.

 

EC:  It would be lovely to see, because at the moment it’s just pain management. That’s what we do. But then they say we can’t do painkillers because you can’t have that for too long. So what do you want me to do? So it’s about coming up with all these little, you know, being able to manage my pain on a bad day.

You know, things like that. And it’s very similar thing to autism and ADHD. Some days I’ll have more of a neurodivergent day than I would be another day. Like I have a scrap of fabric at my desk that is the same as this blanket here, which, when I’m stressed talking, I just need to fiddle with my hands. But it’s not something that is that interesting. So I know that if I said to people, oh, I have to sit with this blanket here, they would be like, okay, that’s a normal thing to do. But if my tics present in a different way, it really throws them that I’m not needing to do it all the time. Why aren’t you stopping them? It’s difficult for the people that have it to understand. So, of course, people who don’t have it are not going to understand. That’s okay, as long as a space is being made so at the times I do need to, say, walk with the stick. For instance, we had an amazing session with a practitioner, whose name escapes me and I’ll hit myself when I remember who it is, who did a lot of work with walking sticks, fighting with walking sticks. So that was a way my club managed to incorporate just a cool, different kind of fighting that pertained to something that I use all the time and just made it super normal and it was pretty cool.

 

GW:  I had a student who used to use a stick sometimes when training and yeah, we did spend a bit of time looking at how to use a walking stick as a defensive weapon because, you know, he is a vulnerable sort of person, for various physical reasons. And you know, if he has a stick, he might as well be able to clobber someone with it.

 

EC:  Exactly. Exactly. I know of a practitioner who helped his student who couldn’t stand unless they were holding onto the wall or were in a wheelchair. So they took some time to adapt the lessons so they could hold onto the wall and just use their one hand and not use footwork. Now, is that historically accurate? No.

 

GW:  Yes. Angelo has an exercise called Thrusting at the Wall where either the master or the student, it’s been a while since I read it, stands with their shoulder touching the wall. Of course you could put your hand there as well. And so they have to be able to do everything with the blade and not rely on their feet to get out of trouble.

 

EC:  I’ve done that, you know. So I was going to make the argument that, well, I think maybe then let me change it. So a lot of people would look at it and say, you can’t swing a longsword. So therefore you can’t be part of HEMA. But it’s all about these adaptations. So yes, they take time to come up with.

 

GW:  And they are historical. There are examples of pieces of armour that can be adapted for people who have missing limbs, for instance. Disability, injury and whatnot is not a new phenomenon.

 

EC:  I was just about saying that. Exactly. Exactly.

 

GW:  Okay. So do you want to summarise what you say to instructors who are not neurodivergent themselves, but who have students showing up who are?

 

EC:  I would say that if you take away one thing from it, it’s find a way to have a brief discussion with them before you start. Give them a chance to try on protective gear, for instance, like one thing that really threw me was having the helmet on and a sword come at my face. I thought it’d be prepared for it, and I wasn’t. And you might have a student who’s really going for it and are not giving them a chance. So give them a chance to discuss whether they want to advocate for themselves or they want you to is really important. And I think giving them a chance to have a look at the space really early, look at the equipment they’ll be using early, you know, get a chance to hold it and things which might not be something that’s usually done. But it’s helpful just to understand your own area a bit more.

 

GW:  Okay. Interesting. Thank you. All right. So what is the best idea you have not acted on?

 

EC:  When you say the best idea, I’ve not acted on. Do you mean as in the best idea that I need to do but has not done yet? Or it’s good that I have not acted on it?

 

GW:  How you interpret the question is as interesting as the answer itself.

 

EC:  Interesting. I’d say the best thing I’ve never done as in something that I would like to do but have not yet done has to be the purchase a harness of armour because the amount of work I’ve seen Daniel Jaquet doing, who I just love, I have such a crush on him. He’s so cool. He’s so cool and his research is so cool. And I would just love a harness of armour.

 

GW:  So you enjoyed this week’s episode then?

 

EC:  Yeah. One thing I love actually what I talk to a lot of people about HEMA is I so often show them his video of him and the soldier and the firefighter. Do you know what was even weirder is I realised I was using gifs of him before I knew who he was. I remember seeing him. I took myself to the international medieval conference in 2019 at Leeds. I paid for it all myself. My supervisor was like, why are you going, you’re an undergraduate? Like it’s not really for you. I’ve met people that I call my sword uncles there. And I met so many HEMA people and I remember seeing Daniel Jaquet and I just had an absolute meltdown. And it was like a room of like ten, 12 people, three of whom were the presenters. And I was like, oh, I’m so grateful that I get to be here and I just get to listen. I must have looked like such a weirdo.

 

GW:  Honestly, to be any good at historical martial arts, you have to be comfortable looking like such a weirdo at times.

 

EC:  Yes.

 

GW:  You know, swinging swords around in the park, you’re a weirdo. Simple as.

 

EC:  Yeah.

 

GW:  So you going to get yourself a harness?

 

EC:  I’d love to.

 

GW: Any particular style?

 

EC: I’d love something like Maximilian-esque, that would be so cool. But I don’t know. I think I want to go for something more practical because I’d love to really get a grip for how things are moving as a standard as I can get.

 

GW:  What historical style of combat would you be doing?

 

EC:  Italian longsword.

 

GW:  Italian. Well then, you need the Avant armour.

 

EC:  Yeah, it’s really cool and it all looks so cool. I keep trying to convince my partner to get me these pieces. Like it’s not that expensive, but I just slip like random swords into the house, and daggers without him knowing. I had a friend come over the other day. She was my ex roommate. We were having coffee, but because I live in a house of roommates, I have a little station, so I have a little station set up with kettle, mugs and things. She asked where are your spoons? I was like, oh, just in that drawer there. She pulled it open and it was just knives and daggers. But she was like, I have not missed this at all because she used to live with me.

 

GW:  It’s handy having a knife in every drawer.

 

EC:  Well, I watch enough true crime to know, it’s very handy, actually.

 

GW:   But honestly, you’re better off with a stick. If you kill a burglar with a stick when you could have used a knife, obviously you were not trying to kill him.

 

EC:  Exactly. Well, a stick, I would stress to your listeners with a sock on. Really important. Because if you have a sock on the end of it, they try and grab it off of you.

 

GW:  Ah, it slips off. That’s not a bad idea. A long time ago I needed to get a stump out of my parents’ garden, and it required going and buying a big axe. So I went to the hardware store at the time where they live, and I bought a big axe and I was going to just walk out of the shop with it and down to the car like 500 yards away. And the guy in the shop, it was a classic old school, you’ve probably never seen one because they tend to disappear, where the people working there, they wear these brown lab coats and they know everything and they’re behind the counter. You tell them what you want and they go and get it and you don’t wander around the shelves because what do you know? So I said, I need a big axe and they got me a big axe. They said, you can’t walk down the street with that, it is illegal. They got a paper bag and they put it over the head of the axe and a little bit of sticky tape to keep it there. There you go. Because if it’s got a paper bag on the end of it, you can’t possibly hurt someone with it.

 

EC:  Yeah. Well, there are a lot of police of course that do HEMA and I was thinking how am I going to get my swords on the train. And he was just like it’s okay because we know you. As long as the local police know you.

 

GW:  But also honestly, it’s also OK if they are in a bag out of sight. And you have a legitimate reason for taking them from one place to another, like you are going to an event or something. It’s a bit borderline if they are sharp. I worry about my sharps so I have my travel sharps.

 

EC:  So what makes me sad is I know exactly what you mean, but that’s not a normal sentence.

 

GW:  I have friends who are very seriously into their tech security stuff and they have a travel laptop, which is just some old laptop that has the necessary minimum, but it has no access to any of their secure stuff. They will set all that up when they get to where they’re going. But if the border agents, whatever, want to look at it, they can have a look at it and it’s a legitimate laptop and it’s got emails and stuff on it and that’s that.

 

EC:  Yeah.

 

GW:  Travel sharps, if they take it away it it’s sad but replaceable.

 

EC:  Yeah. Yeah.

 

GW:  Okay so you need to get yourself some harness. It sounds like your partner is not too keen on the harness idea.

 

EC:  Well, he’s very into his martial arts. He does Thai boxing and standard boxing, so he’s very into that. I think he just worries about me because I’m so clumsy and we have a cat that can just get right under your feet.

 

GW:  And so surely you need armour to protect yourself from the cat.

 

EC:  Is completely my argument.

 

GW:  But then, for a decent suit of armour, you could also buy a car. A suit of armour is better than a car anyway.

 

EC:  Obviously, but I don’t have a licence because it’s too expensive to get lessons.

 

GW:  I take my kids out to a field and we just teach them to drive in a field.

 

EC:  I used to do that. We used to live on a farm, so I used to we had an old Range Rover, so that was fun to do. And I did my theory, but it was so long ago, and my theory has run out.

 

GW:  Oh, God.

 

EC:  But it’s just it’s a lot of money to put down at one time. I’d much rather get, like, a Dyson Hoover or a harness of armour.

 

GW:  Well, you’re not going to get a harness for the price of a Dyson. You might get your arms for the price of a top end Dyson.

 

EC:  Yeah, maybe.

 

GW:  Cuirass will be another three Dysons maybe. It’s funny, my current sort of way of looking at money is I am learning to fly planes so it’s hours in the air or Capoferros, because I have a Capoferro over there. You’ve probably heard about it on the podcast.

 

EC:  Shut your butt. That is the coolest.

 

GW:  You see? Contemporary binding.

 

EC:  Oh, my gosh.

 

GW:  Yeah, it’s lovely. My Capoferro and my car – worth about the same. One of them is worth fabulous amounts. And the other one is just a car. But in terms of money, they have an equivalent value in pounds in the current market. But yeah, priorities, right?

 

EC:  So that’s what you’d grab if your house is on fire.

 

GW:  Once the children and my wife are out.

 

EC:  That always goes without saying. Of course human life is… well, it’s equivalent.

 

GW:  My Capoferro, my Fabris, my Marozzo and my Girard are the most important books that I have.

 

EC:  That’s incredible. Incredible. Oh, I mean, the bookseller in me, the archivist in me. Yeah.

 

GW:  But the Capoferro is about 30 hours in the air. Which is a lot of hours in the air. My armour, when I bought my armour, it was about one and a bit Capoferros.

 

EC:  Mm hmm.

 

GW:  It’s doable. I mean, you don’t buy it all at once.

 

EC:  No, of course.

 

GW:  You can do, but you can just save the money. I would start with a cuirass if I were you.

 

EC:  Yeah, I think the reason I haven’t picked a style or anything yet is because it’s just so far into the future of possibilities.

 

GW: Why?

 

EC: I keep on buying PlayStation five games instead of saving up for this. And buying more D&D module books.

 

GW:  So it’s a priorities thing. Okay, fair enough.

 

EC:  It’s important but not urgent to me. I’m lucky enough to have found people who will play DnD in real life who are regularly free once a week. So I’m going to buy all the books I possibly can because that is worth its weight in gold. That’s worth like three harnesses. Six of them.

 

GW:  Six people or six books.

 

EC:  Six people.

 

GW:  Okay. I haven’t played DnD since the eighties and it’s probably changed a bit since then. But what would happen is me and my friends, we would be in my house and we would start this game and then there’d be a fight and instead of rolling dice, we’d go outside and we would fight with sticks.

 

EC:  That is so cool.

 

GW:  Then one of my friends got this computer and he had this game on it where you could do kickboxing kind of stuff, right? So punch, punch, kick, kick sort of thing. And you could do spinning back kicks and what have you. And I was like, I really want to do that. So I joined a karate class.

 

EC:  I love it.

 

GW:  I don’t do virtual very well.

 

EC:  No, I’m the same. I had to leave my DnD group because I was really struggling with the Zoom format. But I think to be honest, they were very grateful. So I was playing with my DM Iason Tzouriadis who is my sword uncle. And he and his group were all making references that I didn’t get because at the time they were making them, I wasn’t even born yet. So I think I was getting a little bit irritating to them. So I think it was probably a blessing in disguise.

 

GW:  Okay. It’s good that you’re honest about your priorities. The DnD group is clearly useful and important to you and that actually you may get more benefit out of that than a suit of armour. Also, honestly, thinking about it, that suit of armour is not going to be good for your knee.

 

EC:  Knee, back, none of it.

 

GW:  I mean, particularly the knee because of the leverage. If the armour is well made, it should be right for your back and it fits properly, because most of the weight is on your hips.

 

EC:  But that’s what I’m interested in. That’s what I want to have a feel for and see where there could be issues. And, you know.

 

GW:  You’ve just got to do it.

 

EC:  Yeah, you’re right. You’re right.

 

GW:  And you’ve got a proper job.

 

EC:  I’ve got a proper job!

 

GW:  Sell some of these PlayStation games.

 

EC:  No.

 

GW:  Okay. Speaking of money, somebody gives you a million quid to spend improving historical martial arts worldwide. How would you spend that money?

 

EC:  One: breastplates in various sizes. Immediately off the bat, chest plates in various sizes.

 

GW:  Are they not currently available in various sizes?

 

EC:  Not my size. Not the majority of the women I know.

 

GW:  So we’re talking about, like, plastic plates under the classic jacket?

 

EC:  The majority of women I know do not use them because they just do not fit properly. So this is I mean, obviously, this is like you had a million loads of money to make custom everything and that would be cool.

 

GW:  It shouldn’t be that hard.

 

EC:  It shouldn’t be. And yet.

 

GW:  I have a friend who gave her husband a plaster cast of her bosom as a Christmas present once, which is a very good present to give your husband.

 

EC:  An excellent present.

 

GW:  Yes. And if you can take a plaster cast, you can just mould the plastic to the cast. And you have a perfect fit every time.

 

EC:  Yeah. Yeah.

 

GW:  It’s not that hard. It’s a process.

 

EC:  But again, it’s important, but not urgent.

 

GW:  I would say it’s urgent and important.

 

EC:  I think it’s urgent. I think it’s very urgent. But generally, people do not think it’s urgent. People think it’s just a nice thing that would be nice to have at some point.

 

GW:  Are those people thinking that blokes?

 

EC:  However did you know?

 

GW:  All right. So first thing is, you would maybe set up a company to produce plastic chest protectors in the same sort of ranges of sizes as you can get bras in.

 

EC:  So the Bravissimo of armour is what I would set up.

 

GW:  What is Bravissimo?

 

EC:  It’s a shop for lots of various bra sizes. The Bravissimo of armour is what I’d set up.

 

GW:  Should it not be the Rigby and Peller? I mean that’s very high class.

 

EC:  That is an amazing reference but again, a bit spenny. We’ve got to save up for our harnesses. But yes, the Rigby and Peller would be amazing.

 

GW:  So that is the one thing? Or do you have other things that you would spend your money on?

 

EC:  One other thing, which would be to absolutely improve online resources of manuscripts. So pay people to transcribe and translate and make it accessible for people that don’t have certain language skills or history skills. So just throw it all at online resources.

 

GW:  Okay.

 

EC:  But I think I’m slightly influenced by my experience at the Medieval Bibliography and seeing that made.

 

GW:  And that work is being done. The Wiktenauer is doing extraordinary work.

 

EC:  It absolutely is. I mean like, just give them much more money so that people don’t have to do it as a volunteer thing. People can really dedicate time to it because you’ve got so many incredible people doing this work, but it’s all just in their own time, you know, out of the goodness of their hearts.

 

GW:  Yeah. You know, I’ve published a couple of translatey-type stuff and they make no money at all. My training manuals make reasonable cash, but translations make no money.

 

EC:  No, because very few people are interested in it. So let me clarify as in translations.

 

GW:  My work is shit, I know. It’s boring, no one cares.

 

EC:  It’s as in the way like to look at a read your PhD thesis and it’s a very small group of people that want to get translations I find because they think they won’t understand it. I find a lot of people would like to read the translations because they can understand the words, completely get it, brilliant. But they don’t have the context. They don’t know why this paragraph is important.

 

GW:  Okay. I said my translations don’t do that well compared to the other ones, but I mean, they make their costs back in the first month and they make a nice, gentle little steady income after that. But I think that’s maybe because I usually include commentary and explanation. The pure translation I give it to the Wiktenauer to do with what they wish. So anyone can have it for free. But the commentary and “He says this. I think it means that and this is how it affects what you do the sword,” that seems to do ok.

 

EC:  That is absolute gold dust. It really is. It’s such an important thing to do because I think we are so fortunate in that we have so much experience with these translations and that we can do the analysis quite quickly and see why these things are important, but especially a lot of new people and to the general public, if we want to open it up a bit more, there needs to be these explanations. So that’s brilliant.

 

GW:  Okay. So money on a way of getting a variety of sizes of chest protections for women. That’s good. The Rigby and Peller of chest protection. We can go there. And paying people who know what they’re doing to actually translating these things to. There’s a lot of translations out there that are absolutely terrible. Including one of my own.

 

EC:  Why do you say that?

 

GW:  Well, my first translation of Vadi was shit. Well, it was as good as I could do at the time, but it was not really good enough. So my second one is a lot better. But I have people who because they don’t understand the academic side of things at all, they think it’s a matter of taste and they actually prefer the first one and so that’s the one they want to use. No, no. First one is wrong. I read it wrong. I misread this word and I translated it like this, or I just completely misunderstood this entire phrase. And I translated it like this. If you have no Italian and there’s nothing else out there, it’s better than nothing. But I withdrew it from publication when I published the second one because no one should have the first one anymore because it’s not right. It is in many places objectively wrong.

 

EC:  But then you can’t know that until you’ve gone through the whole process. And so it’s such a worthwhile thing to do. But it kills me that a lot of people are having to do it as a as a volunteer thing, which is it’s so worthwhile to do.

 

GW:  They’re doing it without access to good editorial oversight. I went so far as to do this whole PhD nonsense so I could get career academics to look at my work in proper depth. It’s also how I found out that my first translation of Vadi was shit. Because a career academic who knows about this stuff was kind enough to tell me so, in my first viva, which is why I had to have a second viva. But it is that hard to get oversight. To get someone who knows what they’re doing, to look at the work, go straight line by line and say, no, actually, what is written here cannot mean what you’ve written down there because this sign means this and this. This is an abbreviation of this, which means that. We do know this, or this stuff is known, but most people don’t know it. And yeah, I think actually, it might be almost as useful to throw the money at the editors.

 

EC:  Yeah. Would be my argument. But I think that’s from coming from editing. I’ve been an editor longer than I’ve been a writer, but it’s true. And it’s not something that writers. You can’t do it yourself. You just can’t. You need someone else to look at it. That’s not say what you’ve written is wrong or bad, but it is so important to get a second look at it. And people in humanities often do these things so out of the goodness of their hearts. And it’s lovely, but it would be nice to actually pay these people. Like, for instance, Christopher Berard, I couldn’t access a lot of his work at the time because of my institutional access and he does a lot of work on Round Tables. Two years before I did mine, I just missed it. But he sent me all of his work or all of his publications, which he didn’t need to do because I would have gladly bought them, although I just didn’t have the money. I was a student. I couldn’t possibly have afforded it. So it makes me sad at times he had to do that because he should be being paid for his research, very niche research that it’s not going to be like a huge bestseller that the general public are going to be reading all the time. So it’s important that we have a little funding for these things because as wonderful as it is that people want to volunteer, so much of it goes unregulated.

 

GW:  Yeah. You know, the single biggest expense for me when I’m producing a book is the editor. I pay for layout, I pay for editing. I pay for various other bits and pieces, but like maybe 70% of the entire out-of-pocket costs of producing the book is paying the editors is because generally speaking, they can edit the English language. But there aren’t people you can pay to check your translation of like some 17th century German text into English.

 

EC:  That’s why we need all this money thrown at it.

 

GW:  Yeah, because then there’s a market for it. Brilliant. Well, thank you very much indeed for joining me today, Elizabeth, it’s been lovely to meet you.

 

EC:  Thank you. So just thank you so much for having me on. And I’m sure this will need a lot of editing. The amount of rambling rabbit holes I’ve gone on. Thank you. Thank you for taking time to talk to me. Thank you for being interested in my very niche research. It’s been wonderful. And you’ve lit a fire up my butt to get onto actually publishing these things.

 

GW:  Excellent. Mission accomplished.