The Gathering of the Horde and the Wassail
Majestically, we strode into the medieval shed at the Winter Cider Fest event at the Core Cider House, ready for an evening of fire, fable and feast.
My wench was suitably attired in a long red, flowing witch’s dress, a black, hooded shawl and a powerful, seven-chakra necklace. My hastily-assembled garb included a knitted, horned Viking hat (even though historians now say that the Vikings never wore such headgear!) a woollen poncho with a jumper beneath that looked like chain mail (if you used your imagination) and leather boots (hand-made in Mexico, but let’s call them medieval anyway).
We were greeted by about 20 staff with a cup of warm, mulled cider and surrounded by gas heaters that displayed lengthy and mesmerising flames, safely contained in a glass tube so as not to inadvertently set fire to any of the guests. Who knew they were so O,S & H-aware in the good old medieval era?
There was a bonfire outside and crowd-pleasing fire twirlers doing their thing. I know it’s artistic and probably requires a great deal of training but having seen many young trainee twirlers before in the back yard of my old backpackers’ hostel, I must confess that my attention span for that lasted about one minute. We instead set about the more important task of greeting our friends, before queuing at the restaurant bar. We did try to get a drink at the bar in the shed, but after waiting for a few minutes, we realised that nobody was manning that one at all, and even were one of the staff members-in-hiding to appear, it was cash only (definitely a medieval concept!). The venue’s management were trying hard, but I suspect they may have gone to the Australian Bankers’ training school, as they had two poor young lads, sweating and trembling under the pressure of trying to do the work that probably required at least five more staff, to cope with an onslaught of thirsty patrons (You know how banks have space for 20 tellers, but only have two positions open, while the queue stretches to the door.)
The band was lively and engaging and had you tapping your feet. The guests began to roll in and some of the costumes were spectacular. As with all fancy-dress events, some people went to amazing lengths to assume the role, whilst others either hadn’t read the event details, were simply too lazy or had decided not to risk looking ridiculous and thus just looked ridiculously boring instead.
The Spiritual Touch
A wizened lady brought forth theatrical paint and a brush and did her best to engage and persuade even the most reluctant of participants to submit to being daubed with temporary facial adornments to either make them more ferocious or simply to become part of the party. There was a mischievous sparkle in her eye that revealed a greater spiritual consciousness and a tacit awareness of what each model sub-consciously needed.
Then the aromas of pork ragout, polenta and veggies wafted the signal that it was time to join a food queue that was reminiscent of a supermarket queue in the Soviet depression. At least the band played on joyously, whilst the Spanish-speaking (minus sub-titles) manageress dragged victims at random onto the dance floor in an attempt to force them to enjoy themselves. The food was worth the wait; the music was lively and as the cider flowed, the characters of those in medieval garb began to emerge. Sometimes people need to act like a different person in order to peel back the defensive mask and allow their own true identity to escape from the shadows and into the light.
The jester played his role like an absolute natural, injecting a special brand of lunacy as the heel snapped off one of his red high heeled boots. It didn’t stop him dancing all night, so no doubt he’ll be walking with a limp today! He came second in the fancy-dress competition, beaten closely by a birthday girl, dressed as a tree. Other contestants included Fryer Tuck (always say that carefully), King Arthur, various regal maidens, Thor, a selection of knights and Vikings with swords and of course Death himself – the Grim Reaper.
The second queue for the apple crumble desert was significantly shorter. Either the crowd had suddenly been reminded of their sugar addictions and Western World obesity and were being ‘good’, or they had simply lost the will to live during the first queue or the bar queue.
All in all, the staff did their best though and if they reflect and debrief, I’m sure they’ll improve the systems for coping with a big crowd next time. The food was tasty, the cider varieties are quirky and the music from both bands and the solo artist were great. The crowd who bothered to dress up had a fantastic party and there was plenty of lively banter between strangers – that’s typical of the community spirit that pervades the Perth Hills region anyway.
The whole atmosphere of the event was jovial and good-spirited. Things might have been more smoothly-organised but I have to take my hat off to the venue managers for having a go, for creating an event that the community enjoyed. People will accept your shortcomings when they can see that at least you’re trying your best to create a good experience for them.
One special moment was provided by a lady in a wheelchair. As the band broke into a foot-stomping number, the crowd suddenly parted and formed a circle around the dance floor. This lady began to spin crazily in circles as she performed her dance routine in her own unique way. The joy on her face was self-evident. The admiration of the crowd was expressed with a thunderous round of applause and the lead singer concluded with an emotional, “Wow!”
The Fable – A Legend Hammered Home
Here’s the highlight of the story for our family though. My wife, Jo had taken many photos of the various dressed-up groups throughout the evening. The tallest man at the event was dressed as Thor and he was indeed a truly imposing presence of Hemsworthian proportions. When Jo photographed his party, she explained that the Thor’s hammer he carried was called ‘Mjolnir’. She elaborated that this was the name of our puppy, who had been bought as a trainee service dog for her son, who has a rare and aggressive, genetic form of epilepsy and autism. The theory was that, like Thor’s hammer, her son was the only one allowed to pick up Mjolnir.
Throughout the evening, various wenches tried to make off with the gentle giant’s hammer, provoking his booming bass voice to command its immediate return with phrases such as, “Bring back my hammer at once, woman’.
We don’t know the man’s name and we don’t know what he does or why Jo’s story must have resonated with him in particular, but at the end of the evening an extraordinary thing happened. In the midst of much medieval merriment, Thor made his way through the crowd to seek out Jo. “Please give this to your son” he requested. “It will give him much strength.”
Jo and I were blown away by this amazing, random gift. On a chaotic, festive night, this young man and big party reveller had reflected on what was ostensibly a simple gesture, yet had taken action in a way that had a massive impact on us with a very moving intention.
It just goes to prove that a small, simple act of unexpected human kindness can make a resounding difference to another being and could change their day in a big way. In some cases, your simple gesture might change that person’s whole future direction and impact tremendously on their life. You may never know, but one thing’s for sure, if you don’t follow that instinct, you may let that opportunity pass.
I urge us all to ‘Seize the day’ by helping another person with a random act of kindness. It may not cost you much, if anything at all, but its value may be beyond measure.