Musings from The High Bridge

God help us all I’ve been asked to contribute to my local SCA newsletter. Here is what I came up with for November. I feel like I owe Sir Amos a royalty check or something….I need to get off my butt and write up some historical stuff anyway, that would certainly make me feel better. Maybe that will be a good winter time project….

What do you love most about the SCA? For some it the whole package…the costumes, the history (or lack there of). For others a small part: The Arts, the Fighting…

No, for me it is a simple thing. It is a camp fire at night where the only light is from flame. Everything is muted and has that warm glow that flame imparts. I close my eyes and hear a friend start a familiar song of bravery and battle. I revel in the sounds of clinking bottles and the laughter of another friend. The stars shine down on me and I feel “home” for lack of a better word. All is right in the world and I am just where I need to be.

Too often these days these golden moments are lost to us. Events are hectic and stressful. We have too much to do in too little time. We are so focused on whatever our interest is that we don’t have time to visit with friends, or make new ones.

Camping events have become less and less over the years as the Society grays. One reason is that maturation. We all seem so ‘busy’ now in our daily lives and that has bleed into the Society. We are too busy running from errand to errand, checking Facebook on our phones to take a few quiet minutes and enjoy the company of good friends. Many of us have children now, and that adds a whole other level of responsibility.

Another reason is the rising cost for event sites. These often make it too much of a hassle to have camping.   There is a counter to that though. One reason our sites are more expensive is that we require more and more of them. I remember when a common event site would be a field or two, perhaps some trees, and if we were lucky, water and a portajohn.  Bring tents, a fire bowl, and a cooler or two. Voila!

Now we have made all of our little niche activities so vital and important that they threaten to choke out the primary reason for gathering in the first place. Each of them needs space, each of them is so important to ‘draw’ people together that it is almost heresy to say “Hey, let’s have a little event, maybe a tourney, maybe some handcrafts. Let’s break bread together and then relax to song afterwards. Better yet, look there are already 12 events on the calendar, so let’s car pool as a group to a neighbor’s event. Let’s take some of these new folks along with us while we are at it!”

I didn’t join the SCA, or stay in the SCA for so many years so that I could do just one thing: Fight, learn an art or craft, what have you.  I joined because of the people, and I stayed because of the people. When folks talk to me about losing the “Magic of the SCA” or “The Dream” often what I hear from them is that the SCA has changed, and their life has changed, and they don’t feel a part of what is going on.  Not included, but excluded. Their friends don’t play anymore. The good thing about the SCA is that there is always a chance to make new friends. You have to be the one to stick out our hand though. After all, didn’t some one do that for you when you were new?

Any organization that does not focus on new members and retention of its old members is certainly doomed to failure. The strength and longevity of the SCA has always been that it has been a haven for people to step away from the modern, even if only for a minute and indulge in a little well earned down time, in the company of good friends.

So, I have two challenges for you dear readers:

  1. Work to Slow Down at events.  Do less, enjoy more. If you are in charge try making smaller more focused events that can welcome everyone, young and old. Don’t try and please everyone, you simply can’t. Give folks a place to have a good time, and a good time will ensue. …it’s like any other party.
  2. If you are an older member, please take a moment at a fighter practice or A&S gather to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. If you are a new member, do the same. Veterans should be inviting the newer members out for social gathering, but especially to events. Events are where the SCA shines, where it’s magic can glow. I promise you a better glow at a campfire than you get from your IPAD.

As usual all opinions are mine alone. Feel free to comment at, or over on Facebook. (IRONY!!!) Better yet, hit me up at an event some time. Beers are on me.


Sir Bryce de Byram, OL, OP

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Thoughts on the Cross and Lily

Our local Chronicler asked me to contribute something to the Baronial newsletter regarding the Practice Tourney of the Cross and Lily, since we have reached this first milestone. Since I’m trying to get better about blogging, I’m cross-posting this here as well.

Thoughts on the Cross & Lily Practice Tourney: One Year Later.

For many years in the West Kingdom there has been a monthly practice tourney named The Crapaud ( The purpose of this practice tourney is to help fighters sharpen their tournament skills. Inspired by this idea I decided last February to bring this concept to our baronial fighter practice. I decided to call this the Tourney of the Cross and Lily (a reference to Melisent and I’s heraldry).

Once a month, roughly around the middle of the month (when possible) we told the tourney. When everyone is in armour and warmed up we gather all the fighters around and explain the concept behind what we are doing and what the format of the tourney is going to be (Each month it changes based on considerations like how many fighters we have in attendance, etc.) The idea is to let fighters practice all aspects of an SCA tournament in the hopes that through repetition, we remove ‘tourney jitters’, and also to broaden our own experiences in the culture of arms. In addition to the winner of the Cross Prize (Winner of the tourney) we also award, by and amongst ourselves, a Chivalry Prize (The Lily). We are striving not only to display the highest level of skill, but also of courtliness and honor. Often we have the newer fighters challenge the more experienced and encourage everyone to speak noble challenges as well as display great feats of arms. Most often we fight a double elimination style of tourney known as “Atlantian Speed” (we have had up to 30 attendees) if our numbers are large, or some type of “Round Robin” if our numbers are smaller (less than 8).

One thing that is very different from how this tourney is run compared to most Atlantian tourneys is that there is a great deal more communication in the fights. (This is on purpose since we are practicing first and foremost.) Also, we highly encourage single fights whenever possible so that everyone can attentively watch the fighting. Not only to study their opponents and stay focused, but also to observe acts of Chivalry, as practiced within our Society so that they can offer that council to me for the Lily Prize. Also, the knights of the practice had made a commitment to make sure that while the competition is very high, it is also fair. We do not wish to have the stain of dishonor from high acknowledgement or sloppy fighting taint this event.

Immediately after the tourney we gather all the fighters in a round table discussion and go around sharing what we liked and didn’t like our fighting in the tourney. We offer frank discussion and discourse at this time as well.

A few traditions have already formed by this time. For one thing it became obvious right away that even though we encourage everyone to come and attend, there would be many of the same faces there each month. To encourage new winners, especially our unbelts, a tradition has been started where if you win two of these tourneys in a row you come and volunteer to marshall the next C&L. Also, I have decided that the December tourney each year will be a fun and unusual tourney format (2011’s was Daggers). In the future I expect there will be off-weapon tourneys, matched forms, barrier fights, etc.

After a year I have noticed a great increase in the tournament skills of the monthly participants (especially of our newer members), and we have seen some good results so far in larger tourneys. It has been a true joy to shepherd this concept along and I hope as we start the second year that it will continue to prosper and grow. I honestly believe that within the ranks of our companions will be the next knights and royal peers of the Kingdom. Overall I believe we have been extremely successful adhering to the Cross and Lily Ideal of a Hard Fight, Chivalrously fought. May it continue so!

This is the roll of the winners of the tourney to date:

Cross (Winner of the Tourney):

  1. William Thomas
  2. William Thomas
  3. Bryce de Byram
  4. Aldrydd Ffestiniog
  5. Bryce de Byram
  6. Bryce de Byram
  7. William Thomas
  8. Mattheu de Torriden
  9. William Thomas
  10. Abran de la Barras
  11. Amos the Pious
  12. Amos the Pious

Lily Chivalry Prize:

  1.  Aldrydd Ffestiniog
  2.   Augustine le Blinde
  3.   Amos the Pious
  4.   Mattheu de Torriden
  5.   Nathan Flammepoing
  6.  Donal macRuiseart
  7. Amos the Pious
  8. Abran de la Barros
  9. William Shoprat
  10. Henricus Guotman
  11. Abran de la Barras
  12. John Peregrine of Restormel
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Possible 2012 SCA Schedule

So this isn’t really a blog post so much as a brain dump of events I want to go to this year. Some will happen, some won’t.  This is mostly here so that my long suffering wife can know what I am thinking about.

All of this is subject to things like one of Kim’s races that I am forgetting, cash on hand, etc. etc. coming up. I also really want to get up to the East Realm this year for an event or two. It is silly that I have never been since I briefly lived up there in the 90’s. I need to fix that.


Ice Castles 1/27-29: Blacksburg. Guys rode trip, crashing with Master Thomas. I think Fennic is going to try and come  to the event too.


KASF 2/4: Daytrip, Spotsvania. Arts and Sciences and stuff.

YMIR 2/17-19: Reidsville, NC. We have a cabin reserved for “Hotel de Byram”. Household please pre-reg! Going to a Pot Luck for dinner on Saturday.


Siege of the Black Tower 3/10: Petersburg, Daytrip

Possible (Either) 3/24:

Seven Hills Skirmishes, Lynchburg, VA. Daytrip?

St. Paddy’s Day Bloodbath, NOVA. Daytrip


Tourney of the Pretentious Name/ (heh) Friends, WindyHills: 3/31 J I’ve been asked to be a “Warlord” for the North for the mêlée portion of this. (I won’t get into NC’s delusion that they are some how the “Central Region” and that I’m from the North…. 😉 I’m not sure that I can afford the trip down. March is going to be busy anyway with Kim’s Half Marathon. …I certainly will not be making all these events. I’m just keeping my options open. Ah but to go to Gulf Wars instead. Sadface.


Easter 4/7: No traveling or fighting during Triduum for me, thanks.

Coronation 4/14: Jacksonville? Eh. I do like that site and I’d love to go back to the Aquarium but….money will be tight by then.

TYD Baronial Investiture 4/28, Red-Fishland: Sigh. This is up against Blackstone Raids, which has become my favorite event. Depending on who gets the nod I will be making the short daytrip to TYD. If not, BSR. I just hope I find out before the Hotel at BSR fills up. This is also the day of the CASA Superhero o Run that we participated in as a family last year and we had planned on doing it again. Grace would love it. I would need a new costume. Kim is non-plussed since  a 5K isn’t like a short lunch run for her now. Lots of decisions on this.


Spring Crown 5/5, Upper Marlboro: Eh. Not feeing it right now. Who knows.

AE War Practice 5/18-20: YES! YES! YES! Road trip to the Pennsic site. Hells, yeah, that is my Birthday Gift right there. Also, check on trailer and take measurements for shower stalls.

Ruby Joust I 5/25-28: Where else would I be? Hotel Encampment in the Glade, food plan, yada yada. If it wasn’t for the snoring I would say lets just set up the Star Chamber and all sleep in that. No jobs for me this year that I am aware of (NOR WANT). Fighting might be fun for a change. I hope to run the Novice Tourney thought, you know……TRADITION and all. Haha.


Assessment 6/29: Planning on making it like usual. Mêlée Training in the hawt, hawt sun.


Pennsic 7/27-8/12: Yup. No way I can do 2 weeks this year because of my work schedule and how it falls. I expect I will do the marathon set up weekend, and then go back at some point during Peace Week, assuming we have someone to mind the camp.


Somewhere in here needs to be some serious work weekends to get stuff done for Pennsic Camp. We threw away about 40 feet of privacy walls due to mold and scrapped the entire flooring/tent system for the Shower. I’m sure other stuff will come up too.

I  refuse to think beyond Pennsic, though Melisent has another half-marathon in mid November I think and a Mud Run or two through out the year.


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2011 – SCA

For many years, back when I blogged regularly I would, at the start of each new year write a post about the SCA Events I attended in the previous year. I did this so I could see trends over time, and to hold myself to accountable on certain goals. I’m not sure if I’ve done it in a while, but I thought I would try for 2011.

In total it looks like I attended seventeen events overall, with one being a major War (Pennsic). I also attended roughly 30-35 fighter practices about on par with 2010 (I’m most proud of getting the Practice Tourney of the Cross and Lily started in February of this year). Fighting wise, I fought at only eight of those events (Stickjock that I am, haha!) Pennsic was the ONLY mêlée event I fought at all year (SHAMEFUL!). I fought in only four tourneys, and four TOC/teaching type events, so nine fighting events all year. I marshaled at six events, and I MIC’ed two large events (and one tourney at Pennsic).  I helped Cooked at two events (three if you count the smoked chickens I made for Yule), Autocratted one event, and helped a couple/three more autocrats with their events, being staff of some sort. I spent a lot of free time doing mostly fruitless research for the Kingdom on possible new event sites in Central VA. I co-taught one class on the history of the Tournament with the amazing Theo. I actually did one event where I did nothing but swing in a hammock after set up. I did very little fighting at Pennsic and MIC’ed a tourney there on my ‘day off’.

Injuries are a common theme each year fighting wise, and sadly, as I age the time to recover from them takes longer and longer. I believe I had three major injuries this year (two related to my back, which I am now addressing by losing weight) Our personal finances did a little better this year with me coming off furloughs but still, money being tight was a factor in some of the long breaks without events. There where a couple of events (KASF, 30YC) that we missed due to this being the year  of Auto Repairs – (which is still ongoing, even in 2011). Melisent also received her Pelican in February which took a lot of my mental energy up to that point and then autocratted the last Sapphire Joust in May, which likewise took a lot of mental and physical juice. Also, my Hotel ran Coronation after an exhaustive site search for same, and WT and I got the “In the Park” revival of TOC going again hosting two more events. Overall it was a very service focused year.

Melisent and I have vowed not to take any SCA jobs in 2012 so that we can recover, focus on our growing household, I can fight more, and we can explore other hobbies and interests.

That said, here was the year that was, 2011:


Ymir. Melisent’s Pelican dominated this whole event. After the vigil and ceremony was over I was pretty much brain dead and we just relaxed and regrouped, had ‘stone soup’ with the Hotel and friends and drank.


Winter University: Taught a class on the history of the Tourney with Mistress Theodora, which was well received… Took a great class on mustard making which got me involved in all sorts of interesting cooking adventures.

St. Paddy’s Day Bloodbath – Traditional Bear pit tourney thing, just up the road. Fought some, taught some.  (I always treat this like a fighter practice so I don’t really think of it as a real tourney, even if it is one)

TYD Baronial Birthday: Came in second in the tourney to Arrayd. Did some pick ups and then ran Front Line for Mathieu/Moe in the Kitchen. Busy day, I was injured before this event so it took a lot out of me.


Spring Coronation:  Got beat up at a demo the day before so I rested this one. Melisent and I were in the ceremony. Took off early from this one after I decided not to fight.

Siege of the Black Tower: Melisent had her first race earlier that morning so we got there late, saw court, then left.

Golden Rose: I again did Front Line with Moe/Mathieu and was the hated Buffet Police.  No really, I do really mean you can only have one of those. Haha!


Spring Crown: at HM’s request, ran a list in the tourney, and then fought in the TOC afterwards. This was at The Meadow so it was a short trip. Again, I was slightly injured at this event.

Sapphire XII: Melisent was the Autocrat, I was the MIC. Exhausting.

Warfighter: Other than help the autocrat with set up, Melisent and I were so worn out from Sapphire (it gets harder to run these things as we get older) that I really didn’t do much of anything. I fell asleep in a hammock while the fighting was going on.

Summer in the Park: Had a great time at this little fighter focused event. Marshaled, taught and fought a little.


Pennsic XL: Had a crazy schedule were I was there for land grab, then home for two days, then back. Had a lot of work to do by small groups and a lot of camp infrastructure collapse this year so I ended up working a lot more than I had thought I would, and not fighting very much. Also, I ran the Mooselodge Tourney as MIC. This was Grace’s first Pennsic and while that alone was awesome (she had such a good time!) it took a lot more of the focus on the family and camp and less on partying.


Fall Coronation. MIC’ed this event and helped the autocrat, did set up, etc.. Also took two new squires. This event was a lot of fun to pull off, but again, exhausting. Got my Non Pariel here, which was touching.


Autumn in the Park: Autocratted, fought and Marshaled this all day fighting/teaching event/TOC and hosted a rocking Post Revel at our place afterwards.


Crown: Fought for the first time in many years on a lark. Really enjoyed myself. Fought in the TOC afterwards.

Dun Carriag Investiture: Heralded and fought. Hurt my back at this event and I’m still as of now (January in PT trying to recover.) The event was fun, but the injury has clouded the event in my memory.


Yule: Smoked a couple of chickens making a medieval hybrid (used a medieval recipe on a rub for smoking chickens, which as far as I know they didn’t do in this particular way). Got a local award that I created (Merlon) for the Cross and Lily Concept. That was weird. Fun event just hanging out with friends and family.

Overall, 2011 was a lot of fun but a ton of work. I’m looking forward to 2012 being a lot more laid back. I expect I’ll attend roughly the same number of events and I hope to get out of Kingdom this year for at least two of them.

Like every year,  I am going to remember the highs and the lows. There were more highs than lows, by far, and so that’s why I stick with this crazy hobby, 20+ years on.


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Eating Slowly

So challenged by this Rant: over the last couple of weeks I have been trying to change the way I eat. Specifically, slowing down, chewing more, and TASTING my food.

See, all my life I have been a fast eater. My mom tried and tried to get me to slow down at the dinner table. This was futile because the family dinner was were we all gathered together each day for the first and last time, usually. This meant that this was the place were 99% of our family bickering began. (I am very grateful to Kim, btw, that we don’t argue at the dinner table. I think our family dinners are fun, except for when Grace is refusing to eat or something and that is always a PITA.) My father and mother have argued and picked on each other my entire life, and always at the dinner table. The positive of this is that I learned from an early age how to be a good negotiator and how to argue well. (Hint, not like them)  The negative is that I always found dinner to be very unpleasant and I rushed to finish my meal as quickly as possible. (I have very fond memories of high school lunches eaten in the band and chorus room with friends, playing cards, listening to music…just relaxing. That was very different from my home life for sure!)

I remember when I first started hanging out with Anton, he very quickly noticed it. “Don’t worry, Byram, no one is going to take your food away, Slow Down!” My normal dinner posture at the time (I was in my late teens to early 20’s), learned from my dad, was to be hunched over your plate, your left arm encircling it to ward off attempts at theft, and shoveling food in as quickly as possible.

Why did my dad eat this way? He was one of 15 children growing up on a Sharecropper’s farm. If you didn’t eat quickly, and protect your food, you didn’t get seconds.

It’s amazing to me now, as a parent, all those little things that have transferred directly from my parents to me, and that I am, for better or worse transferring to Grace, whether or not those behaviours have merit now or not…

Anyway, I have always rushed through my food, never slowing down to enjoy it. That is just how I have been. As a consequence, I can tuck away a lot at a sitting. I’m also obese. (Yes I am, more on that in another post) Now I don’t blame that fact on anyone else, especially my parents (though some better genes sure would have been nice!) but I am a firm believer that consequences have actions, and the action of eating like a sow at a feeding trough has led to where I am today, pushing Forty and closer to 300 pounds than 200.

So, recently I have started to slow down and chew. Here are some observations I have gained so far:

I don’t think that after buying our shares in a grass-fed/grain finished cow that I can order anything but top of the line steak out in a restaurant anymore. I ate a steak at Chilli’s the other night (I needed protein after fighting and I didn’t think about what I was doing) and it tasted of chemicals. It didn’t taste like beef. It was gross.

Chilli’s Classic bacon cheeseburger (minus the bun, and with veggies on the side) was really, really flavorful and delicious. (I’m guessing all the cheese and bacon fat made it better…)

I over salt my food. I have always known this, but in eating my morning breakfast of a boiled egg or two the other day it really struck me just how over-salted my eggs were. Bleck. That is good to know.

I really have developed a taste for spicier food. Going back to low carb,  high protein has reduced my GERD quite a bit so I can do that without pain, I just need to eat less to not get myself into trouble.

I really, really like that ginger salad dressing you get at a Japanese Steak house. The bottle that Kim got me from the store the other day is surprisingly low carb too and very, very yummy.

After eating real cheese, mass-produced cheese does in fact taste of wax. (Which is what it is so…) I find that if I separate the long fibers of a cheese stick I can eat it but it is no longer the tasty treat I used to enjoy.

Taking a break from drinking beer has been really good for me so far. When I do go back to the occasional brew, I need to get richer beers and slow down and enjoy the malty-ness that I love.

It is shocking easy to fuck up a vegetable by overcooking it.

So, in conclusion, my little experiment in eating slowly has been very good for me, on a number of fronts. Here’s to sticking to it!

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