I remember New Year’s Eve evenings when I was growing up as balmy evenings when we kids couldn’t wait for midnight to light up the ‘osiri’ (mature coconut palm fronds) which we would have prepared during the day of 31 December. We’d go to bed early in the evening, so that we could be up at midnight on 31 December to run to the beach and light up the ‘osiri’ and add to the cacophony of noise from people beating 44 gallon drums, saucepans, which could be heard on the neighbouring island of Logea.
Ordinarily, ‘osiri’ is used as kindling for cooking fires, barbeques and so on.
Fast forward to London, 31 December, 2006. On the evening of NewYear’s Eve 2006, it was raining cats and dogs outside. I didn’t really want to hang around my flat although it was comfortable, warm and dry and of course I could have found some interesting New Year’s Eve programme on the telly or watch a video. Anyway, whilst wondering what to do on that rainy evening, a friend of mine called and asked if I’d heard of a medieval banquet at St Katherine’s Docks that evening and whether I’d be interested to go with her to one. Well, it did not take me long to decide that going along to a medieval banquet would be an exciting thing to do that evening and naturally, the prospect of learning something new, prevailed. The rain was of no consequence then as I prepared for my first ever medieval banquet in England – the land of medieval banquets.
The weather seemed to have changed for the worst, was so heavy and torrential-like that evening! We waded through running water on the streets and our umbrellas were absolutely inadequate in the heavy slanting downpour. We braved it and found the nearest tube station. The dry carriage – away from the wet, cold and heavy rain outside was most comforting.
Getting to the venue of the medieval banquet was rather long and in the wet I felt uncomfortable. Nonetheless we soldiered along. I was quite excited and wondered what a medival banquet was all about and whether we were going to see anything significantly interesting. We finally found the place after a very long walk…phew! However, after getting there we were told to hang around for another 20 minutes or so. Apparently, we arrived too early for the event. After waiting around and admiring the boats in the mariner I think, it was time to head towards the banquet. We filed into a larger hall with lots of tables, balloons etc.
We hung up our coats and proceeded towards our tables. We were served soft drinks, wine and I think champagne. The place was a buzz. I took a look around as the tables filled up with people – one by one. Some people came in elegant evening gowns, others dressed to kill and others like myself were, let’s just say, decent enough for another night out on the town.
After what seemed like ages, the food arrived. I enjoyed the food when it arrived…the dishes were like 30 minutes, or perhaps more, in between as we ate our way towards midnight. The food was fine but was so long coming that I slowly felt less of being in a banquet and more like being in a high school mess hall!
When the entertainment began I felt a flicker of excitement then that gradually died. The show was good but they must have been doing it for lots and lots of tourists over and over again. I could tell from the results of the performance and the set up that perhaps this was a case of too much too often. Somehow I didn’t find the ‘wenches’ very convincing either.
But I was glad to have done something exciting on New Year’s Eve and was so grateful to my friend. All in all, the meal took forever to be served and a rather mediocre performance didn’t really do it for me that evening. I think there were too many people – too crowded!
The best thing I took away from the evening was a healthy appetite to find another medieval banquet that even if half authentic would be loads of fun. I’d prefer a smaller group of people with the dinner served on time. I reckon that is always 99% of the enjoyment – speaking from experience!
Last but not least, thank you e hoa for introducing me to my first ever medieval banquet in England.