The Swinging Eighteen Sixties


Working up the council is very much a ‘Marmite’ thing, in the sense that if you don’t hate it, there’s something fucking wrong with you. My dislike stems not from doing what I am employed to do, but rather not being able to do what I am employed to do, which would mean immediately sacking the two thirds of my staff who are presumably only kept alive for their organs and who could easily be replaced with something more useful, like a balloon with a face drawn on it. It was a shambles there long before I arrived, mind. Just prior to starting, I was invited to a team meeting as an observer. It was the first such meeting in eight months, and quickly became a platform for staff to express their preferences for the ethnic minority they would rather have living next door to them, if push came to shove. After outlining the religious and cultural differences between various ‘types of Asians’ for the purposes of clarification, I can reveal that Hindus ‘seem the nicest’. After about an hour, they got bored, stood up, and left. Minutes of the meeting were taken, but I later dispensed with them.

Then again, I’m not about to live in the woods for three weeks surviving on tree bark and squirrels I’ve shot with a catapult like the Runton Confederate re-enactors, so that’s something. I seem to remember going over this a couple of years ago but, in case you are IMG_20161119_142737.jpgunfamiliar, the Confederates (‘the South’) are popularly perceived as fighting to preserve slavery during the American Civil War, which they sort of did and sort of didn’t. They were opposed by the Union (‘the North’) who are perceived as nice for fighting to end slavery which, again, they sort of did and sort of didn’t. In fact, the assumption all round was that the slaves would simply return to Africa following emancipation and, amid the general astonishment that they did not, the victorious North treated them much same as the Confederacy had done before all the bother. I am increasingly of the opinion that the African Americans pretty much emancipated themselves, albeit with the enabling legislative power of Congressional reform and a lot of dead non-African Americans. It is a contentious arguement, and I am sure it doesn’t need me wading into it.

Even without all the slavery and incessent fucking banjo music, I could never have been a Confederate, as they are too scruffy. ‘Anton’ could never have been a Confederate because he is black which, as you can imagine, might cause awkwardness. Anyway. We helped the Runton Confederates heft their tents, guns and paraphernalia into the woods where they will remain for the duration. We had to, really, as the field next to their encampment was wet and if we’d taken Joe’s van it would’ve left tyre tracks, detracting from the authenticity of the experience. That’s how hardcore these people are.

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Indeed, one of them said, in a lovely broad Norfolk accent somewhat at odds with his portrayal of a South Carolina infantryman that he would ‘heff ter gew hewme’ if that happened. They do, incidentally, practice their accents and speak like Huckleberry Hound within ten minutes of building a fire, boiling water over it, and brewing coffee from acorns and charcoal, which is also how Marmite is made. I think I’m right in saying that all their cutlery and pots are authentic, as is much of their equipment, including their conversation. While in character, they refer to nothing known or discovered after 1863, which sounds difficult but is actually very easy to do in Norfolk. It’s an impressive bit of role playing nonetheless.

Among other social and dietary experiments, two of the Confederates are gay and intend to explore how they might have gone about that sort of thing, if at all, in a deeply religious nineteenth century military formation. It’s certainly annoying in the twenty first century free market economy, because if we’d known beforehand Joe could’ve celebrated Pride by trebling thier fee and put a tiny rainbow flag up in the car park for a couple of days. Still, despite being the only for-profit organisation to miss a dungaree and leather cap wearing party boat of an opportunity to sell a heterosexual marketing interpretation of gay culture back to gay people, I remain a big fan of the re-enactors. Leaving the Runton Confederates to coat worming tablets in Marmite so that their dog will swallow them more easily – the purpose for which it was originally invented – we withdrew to the twenty first century and let the eighteen-sixties overtake them.


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Donkeys hanging out. We do own some donkeys, although these are not they. What we should really do is open a donkey sanctuary at Runton and get rid of those ungrateful fuckers in the petting zoo.

Top inset: Running stock between markets, early morning in the East Yard, Camden Lock, a long time ago. I would often ferry stuff on the bike between Camden, Greenwich, Spitalfields and the Duke of Wellington public house, Toynbee Street, London E1. Pictured is Northern C3PO, ie Martin, a Leeds fan who sold jewellary next to us, and is currently trading in York. The Duke of Wellington fell victim to planning permission a couple of years ago, signalling the end of London.

Middle inset: Camden High Street from above the mezzanine gallery in the Lock Market. Not sure when this was taken – well, twenty six minutes past two, obviously – but the building work opposite suggests late 2016.

Lower inset: Joe during one of his occasional chubby phases when he has been able to hide food from his numerous children. This is at the Compleat Angler in Norwich, by the look of things.

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