Learning To Write: How We Are Influenced by the Civil War

So, it is some time in the 80s and the Civil War Reenactment hasn’t gone to plan in my home town. The reenactment should have gone Royalists 1 Roundheads NIL but this is my home town and the morning has been spent stitching the final costumes, padding the crotches of those firing the cannons (just in case, you never know, a few years ago one of the guys firing the cannon, the big bugger cannon as it was affectionately named discovered the laws of physics by losing his testicles as the cannon recoiled), drinking, getting the historical facts right, they came down the hill, drink, they cornered them on the peat bog, drink, they cut off their retreat, drink, they sent in the cavalry, drink, they cut them to shreds, drink. It was around this time that the Roundhead captain turned to his deputies and went, fuck that, I’m not spending an afternoon in a bog, I don’t care if it’s for fucking charity. By four in the afternoon, the fuck thatattitude has spilled out onto the new road and the remains of the Royalists, those who still have horses and wigs, those who can still run are belting it through the town for the open countryside having discovered that the Roundheads have altered the rules, most of them have sharpened their pikes, some of them have shot guns and a few who have decided to just break their beer glasses and charge at them screaming, IT’S FOR FUCKING CHARITY.

The Royalists never make it out of town, charging blindly past pubs where Roundhead reserves are having a break, a fag in smoking rooms (God, I miss them) and laughing about the look on the cavalry’s face when the pike men revealed the fact they had spent the morning digging pits in the cavalry’s path. Horse an’ all, poof, fucking gone, you should have seen the look on his face, there where nowt left but his fucking wig spiralling in the air. So, there are the poor Royalists, most of them teachers, accountants, white collared chaps with books and reading, being chased by those who worked in the works, who knew how to craft metal, forge it, twist it and make homemade weapons.

The war spirit, my Mum called it. Fucking loonies, is what my Dad called it.

So, the poor Royalists, dodge and duck and hole up in the only building they feel the Roundheads won’t attack. The ice cream parlour. Now, don’t get me wrong, they would have been right but someone points out this is an historical reenactment and didn’t Cromwell ban Christmas? Where would he stand on ice cream? There is a quick vote, using the shop steward (God, I miss those jumped up twerps) and it is decided that Cromwell wouldn’t have given a toss about ice cream, would have banned it, burnt it and buried it in a peat bog. This reminds the Roundheads that this is where they were meant to spend the afternoon and a full out attack is called, a cannon is rolled down the high street, aimed at the ice cream parlour and demands are made.

It is an endearing image, walking past the local ice cream parlour as grown men in Roundhead helmets pin down the Royalists hiding behind the soda streams, shitting themselves as the infamous big bugger cannon rolls into view. The demands are simple, the Roundheads want to alternate who wins every year, one year the Royalists, one year them. The Royalists yells back that this isn’t historically accurate. The Roundheads retort that they are sick of picking peat out of their arse cracks for three weeks of the year. There is a stalemate, during this stalemate someone smokes near the cannon, the cannon goes off, big bugger blast — don’t worry, it’s only smoke, no one is that stupid to give them real cannon balls but the cannon does recoil and it recoils on tarmac downhill and rolls out of town. Someone points out if they don’t catch the cannon, they won’t get their deposit back and the Royalists and Roundheads join forces in a bid to get their deposit back. The cannon rolls out of town and is never seen again — nicked. Don’t ask who wants to nick a cannon, but frankly if a free one rolled past you, wouldn’t you think, that’d make a nice feature in the garden.

The wonderful thing for me about all this chaos was the thought that just because it happened that way doesn’t mean they got it right. A quote that appeared in a local paper the day after, as the police tried to find the culprits and the costume shop wondered why their Civil War costumes where now historically accurate.

Maybe the Civil War needed an ice cream parlour. Maybe Cromwell needed a knickerbocker glory. Maybe Charles the first wouldn’t have been such a prat if someone had given him a 99. For me, this lunacy that comprised most of my 80s childhood is what influenced me as a writer, that and flying Elvis but that is another story.

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