Sunday, December 8, 2013
The green sward stretched out before us. Ladies in fine gowns held the favours of their champions as they sat in the gallery waiting for the tourney to begin. Knights, to a man, were armoured and horsed with lances held perpendicular by their saddles. Shields protected them. Some were like Lancelot, in disguise, willing to deceive those they loved. Some were like Galahad, pure and unaffected by earthly temptations. There were no green Knights as I recall.
The jousts took place at lunch break on the village green between the school and a stone wall which became the balcony for the fair ladies of Arthur’s court – the girls in the school’s two classes. The lances were wooden vaulting poles. The shields were dustbin lids. The favours were ribbons used to denote teams in PE. The whole organization can only have come from the heated imagination of one or two children like myself who, ahead of their reading age, loved Arthurian legend. I recall winning a joust and galloping over to the balcony, turning to allow a young damsel from the first years’ class to ride upon my back as I celebrated my victory. Courtly love was everything to a nine year old.
In the winter, the battles were grimmer. No fair ladies. Feet beating the snow, woolen-wrapped, heads in balaclavas, Brussels sprouts stems in hand with their thick bulbous clay-bound roots and only the ubiquitous dustbin lids to protect us, we set about each other. The lids were dented out of shape by the barbaric onslaught of our medieval spike ball maces, never to fit their bins again.
I lived in a world of Norse Gods and Heroes, sagas such as Beowolf, children’s versions of Malory’s Morte D’arthur, Greek and Roman myths. And they seamlessly elided into the modern, the Superman and Batman comics, The Eagle, The Rover. Fantasy knew no real boundary. Superheroes populated the imagination in all shapes and sizes and with varying degrees of rational underpinning.
I wonder now whether my imagination was my universe and reality amounted only to meals and sleep.