Saturday, September 11, 2010

At Last! I have learned l'anglais!

By way of apology for my absence, let me say simply that the anglais, she is very hard to learn. But I have now the confidence to expressing myself and shall therefore relate recent occurrences.

NOTE: While we Jews don't really do resolutions for the new year, it seems a good time to try to get back on track, blogwise. L'Shana Tova! May you all have a good year, a sweet year, a year of prosperity, and be written again in the Book of Life. Have a piece of apple dipped in honey in honor of the occasion. (What?!?! It's a tradition!) Oh, yes, that's a good question, and the answer is: it is now the year 5771. Started a bit before the whole Gregorian thing.

So! Helas! It is true, Ft. Ponchetrain fell to the British. But it was a good battle, fairly fought.  Truth was, the first day of battle saw the French take the fort, and the fleur de lys was raised over the gate.  But the last day of battle (following history or some such silliness) the British took the day.  Reenactors tend to try to avoid being creative with history.

NOTE:  In my absence, Blogger made some improvements, which seem to simplify putting in pictures with captions, &c.  But I don't have the hang of it, so it may be that all the pictures are at the end;  seems like that may be the best way for the moment.

All the citizens - farmers, workmen, women and children were hurried into the fort by the French officers and militia.  When it became clear the direction of the wind - the British officers generously allowed the French to make a choice:  lay down arms, swearing fealty to the King - or leave to be returned to France.  Few chose to bend the knee to the British King, and when all was said and done....we were marched away from the fort, between columns of their soldiers.  The children were surrounded by the women and one or two of the farmers and presented brave little faces.  For my part, confused and frightened as I was, I clung to my voyageur-husband's belt and stumbled away - not knowing if we would be able to make our way back to the lands of my people at La Lac Superieur.....  All in all, very dramatic.  Judging from the faces of the observing visitors - we all performed convincingly.

The Grand Encampment was a fine, fine event.  One of the highlights for me is always The Parlez::  the French officers gather in a field near the Native Village, where they gather and put off all arms.  The guns are placed in a circle;  cartridge cases, knives &c are dropped to the ground.  Then, with an Interpreter, the Officers proceed to a clearing in the middle of the village (overlooking the lake) and seat themselves on the ground on one side of a scarlet blanket - the Native elders and shaman and warriors are on the other side.

The event being recreated did take place - often, before the major battles.  These are not scripted;  they are improvised.  (The Parlez is not on a schedule - it's really not a "performance" and no mention is made to the public.  It's a part of the "come-real" time of the event.  The Headman and his elders were so well-spoken, and matched in kind by the Officers.

The chief among the French Officers had his men produce goods which were placed on the blanket:  my recollection is of bolts of cloth, blankets, ribbons - a promise of guns and powder was made, and some coffee or tea (a little native boy was sent to fetch the bag...he ran over and took it and ran back to his grandfather, who opened it, sniffed, tasted some on his finger and then nodded his approval to the Headman).

The French declared that they wished only to treat these natives as partners in trade, and affirmed that they were not seeking land for settlement;  one of the elders said that the British had asked likewise for a parlez.  One of the young men stepped forward and said "They demanded that we go to their camp, where you come to us;  they gave us one gun and paltry goods."

Then,  the Headman  asked what the women thought of the gifts and words of  les francais  and there was a general nodding and comments of approval.  The Headman asked the same of the elders, then said,  with rich eloquence, "Our sisters and daughters are your wives.  We will fight with you as friends, and as brothers."

I know, it's a bit of acting - but so dramatic, and sitting on the wooded hill overlooking the sparkling lake, it truly is a Come-Real moment.  Hands were clasped and the French moved away, back to where they collected their weaponry, and the gifts they'd brought were passed from hand to hand and met with approval.  Love it.

And so I am back, enriched (as always) by our time spent in the 18th century.  We had occasion to camp again, this time inside the palisades on Madeline Island, - different sort of event altogether, as we were there as educational interpreters at the (stellar) museum, but we visited with good friends and I was able to wade in my beloved Lake Superior (that was a bit of luck, as circumstances were such that I was unable to accompany Mr Dearling to the gathering at Grand Portage).  

The intervening time included a wonderful "girlie weekend" wherein my good friend Donna and I travelled to Green Bay for the Tall Ships Festival - that will be described and illustrated very soon, in coming days.

Now - a couple of images from The Grand Encampment:

Some of the French Militia
(Mr Dearling, blue-and-white striped shirt)
French Marines disarm for Parlez
The Parlez begins...
Rapt Attention!
Return to Camp - Success!

Dare I say?  A good time was had by all!  And yes, we did manage to return to Ouis-con-sin and avoid being sent back to France.....I'd have been mad if learning English had all been in vain.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back (in all ways)!

CTJen said...

That sounds like so much FUN!

Alwen said...

I love those time-travelly moments. And it gives me an abiding appreciation for not having to haul water.

Northmoon said...

The photo 'Rapt Attention' is so beautiful. I feel as though I have seen one of the original events; that's what it would have looked like.

Thank you for sharing this.