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Saturday, 23 April 2011

Happy Saint George's Day!

As well as being Shakespeare's birthday (and, we're reliably informed, his death day), it's the day on which all English honour their patron saint George the Dragonslayer - or not. Saint George's Day certainly doesn't get the same level of recognition that, say, Saint Andrew's Day does in Scotland and America, or Saint Patrick's Day does pretty much anywhere. I mean Google has recently created new logos to celebrate the first man in space and Trevithick's steam engine, but what have they got up today?

I can't help thinking that they missed a great opportunity there. The start of the word could have been Saint George on his horse and the end forming the body of the dragon. But then I'm patriotic, a monarchist, and an Englishman through and through. Besides, I love the story of Saint George. I mean, dragons, knights... what's there not to love about the story for a fantasy writer?

And the true story of the man we now know as George the Dragonslayer is, if anything, even more incredible and certainly much more gruesome. For example, did you know that George (who was a native of Libya, not England) was forced to endured various torture sessions, including laceration on a wheel of swords (during which he was resuscitated three times) before finally being executed by decapitation?

Now I don’t know about you, but for me, the definitive dramatisation of the Robin Hood story is Robin of Sherwood, created by Richard Carpenter in the 1980s. (Yes, this is still a post about Saint George. Just hang on in there and all will become clear in a moment.)

In one of the episodes from the second series, entitled Lord of the Trees, Robin and his merry men act out part of a mummer’s play, in order to capture a band of dangerous mercenaries. (They can’t simply kill them because it’s the Time of the Blessing, an annual forest tradition during which no blood can be shed, or the pagan fertility ritual will fail.)

Some years ago now, I wrote a play about the origins of Christmas (funnily enough) for the school I was working in at the time. For one scene I wanted a simple mummers’ play. I returned to Robin of Sherwood for inspiration and have to admit that I used Richard Carpenter’s creation from the Lord of the Trees episode. However, in the TV story, the play isn’t actually completed, so I had to write the end of it in the same style as the rest.

Presented here are my efforts, combined with those of Richard Carpenter, of course. If you’ve thought about putting on your own mummers’ play this year, why not use this one? Just let me know how you get on!

A Mummers’ Play
By Richard Carpenter and Jonathan Green

Cast of Characters

Saint George’s MOTHER
A mysterious DOCTOR

Enter the Mummers.

In comes I, Saint George is my name.
With my great sword, I mean to win this game.
If I could meet the Saracen Knight here,
I’d fight him and bit him, and stick my sword in his ear.

Then in comes I, the Saracen Knight.
I come from the farthest lands to fight.
I’ve come to fight Saint George the Bold,
And if his blood runs hot, I’ll make it cold.

Battle to battle, to you I call,
To see who on this ground shall fall.

Battle to battle, to thee I pray,
To see who on this ground shall lay.

They fight. Saint George is slain.

O Doctor, Doctor! Where can a doctor be,
To cure my son who lies like a fallen tree?

In comes I, a doctor good,
And with his hand shall stop the scarlet blood.

How will you cure him? With potions and pills?

With this bag I can cure all ills –
The itch, stitch, palsy and gout –
Pains within and pains without.

The Doctor shakes his bag over Saint George’s body.

Rise up!

Saint George gets up.

Once I was dead and now I am alive!
Blessed be the Doctor, who did me revive!

What’s this? I thought I struck you dead!
I chopped and I lopped, and I hit you on the head.

Once I was dead but now I’m all right,
And now I’ll slay you, the Saracen Knight!

I have shed your blood before,
And now I’ll have to spill some more.
Battle to battle, to you I call,
To see who on this ground shall fall.

Battle to battle, to thee I pray,
To see who on this ground shall lay.

They fight again. The Saracen Knight is slain.
Behold! The Saracen Knight lies dead,
The ground now with his blood turned red.
Remember me, Saint George is my name!
With my great sword, I have won this game.
He will not fight another day.
And so now ends our Mummers’ play.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

How much do you really know about Scotland the Brave?

Perhaps you're here because you've already bought and read Scottish Miscellany: Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Scotland the Brave or maybe you've just stumbled across this site because you have an interest in Scottish culture. But whatever the reason, how much do you really know about Scotland the Brave?

To test your knowledge of all things Scottish, why not try out this fun Scottish quiz?

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Scotland Week

Scotland Week is in full swing in America at the moment. It runs from April 3 – 10, and is a week long celebration of all things Scottish in the USA and Canada, with Tartan Day happening on April 6. It is a tribute to the 4.9 million Americans who claim Scottish heritage, and kicked off, this year, with the celeb-studded "Dressed to Kilt" fund-raiser at the Hammerstein Ballroom on April 5. The celebration of Caledonian culture, fabric, art, music, whisky and, most notably, fashion, was hosted by Sean Connery and featured many famed Scots.

Additionally, throughout Scotland Week, a pop-up shop showcasing hot trends from Scottish designers will be open at 939 Madison Ave.

But it will be “Braveheart” meets the hills of Central Park on April 10 as hordes of tartan-wearing runners take part in the eighth annual Scotland Run, which forms the finale to Scotland Week. The war paint and swords will be replaced by bagpipers, kilts and drums as they lead the charge for the 10K run through Central Park, which kicks off at 9 a.m. and serves as a qualifier for the ING New York City Marathon.

This year's event also will include a Scottish festival at Mineral Springs, featuring live music from Scottish band Skerryvore; smoothie bikes, a nod to Scotland's renewable energy credentials that allows participants to power their own blended smoothie, and traditional Scottish dancers performing Gaelic dances.

Other events worth exploring this week include:

* The U.S. premiere of award-winning Scottish playwright Douglas Maxwell's production, "The Promise," at the 59E59 Theater. The play, which runs through April 17, features one of Scotland's most well-known actresses, Joanna Tope, in the lead role.

* The Tartan Day Parade, on April 9 - yes, that's today! - brings together pipers, drummers and members of Scottish organizations and clans from across North America for a march down the Avenue of the Americas.

* The city's handful of Scottish restaurants will be running specials for those looking to get a taste of the highlands. For example, St. Andrews Restaurant & Bar will be running Scotch and Scottish fare pairings throughout the week. Also, Highlands, a Scottish gastro-pub, and Mary Queen of Scots, provide a taste of modern-day Scotland.