..were just passing by. (A mangled song from dusty caverns in the very back of my mind, which will now likely earworm me for days. I will spare you all the link to the original)
So thing one about me: I don’t like being in the way and I’m not fond of being obvious in front of people. I am inclined towards the sort of roaring in the ears, burning of the face, swollen tongued, flannel kneed, ankle twisting awkwardness that makes public anything difficult. Thing two, I can shout reasonably well, I used to do it as a cub leader. I don’t mean aggressive shouting at people, I mean the ‘pitch your voice to carry over the accumulated noise of 30 kids wild to get out to play dodgeball or beat everyone else to the tyre swings under the beech trees’ shouting. Thing three: I can speak a little Irish. Well kind of, if I get to prepare it in advance and settle it in my head a bit and don’t have to try to dredge it from the bottom of my soul where it sadly seemed to have gone to moulder after I left school. I was going to Crown Tourney to be there for the elevations of two of my absolute most favourite people in the world, Maistir Aodh and Dame Sela, and I was asked to speak on behalf of the people for Aodh. Both Aodh and the Baronial couple were keen to have more Irish at Court. I was already, as the saying goes, bricking it. So when the Baron and Baroness asked if I would herald for their court to manage the bit of Irish it was a serious case of In for a penny, in for a pound. So I signed up to do some public speaking.
The fact that I adore Master Aodh helps a lot of course, it made it easy to find words to write down when I was thinking about the speech for the weeks ahead of the event. What I did find, and what I have found in the past, is that if I write things down and learn them off and then try to recall them in front of people .. it all goes “my braincells are burning, all I see is red and blur and all I hear is whoosh” and can go horribly, horribly wrong. I did write things to say, I thankfully made notes to prompt my way. I stood clear of the thrones to say the things I was to say …..and promptly forgot my actual speech. I still spoke, with my heart at least, and with the little prangs of forced memory the notes gave me. There was a flow and I did say things I meant to say, I think. How well I did I have no idea, it was all a bit of a blur and I can’t say I would be thrilled at having to look at myself in the recordings I know exist BUT I actually enjoyed the experience FAR more than I thought I would. I’m reasonably sure people knew I meant what I said, so that was cool.. And it was a very, very special pleasure to be able to say lovely and truly felt things about and to someone on such an amazing occasion. Never underestimate the deep, soul warming pleasure of being close enough and in the right direction to see the face of someone receiving recognition, and I got to do this not only as a speaker for Aodh, but also as a herald during Court.
I, of course, have left it far too long to be able to bring it easily back to mind, but here are a couple of newbie hints for anyone suddenly facing into heralding for the first time for the current Baron and Baroness of Eplaheimr.
The current Baronial couple are amoung the most skilled and eloquent speakers I know. They have different styles – The Baroness is exquisitely well prepared, her words are beautifully balanced and poetically chosen. The Baron will speak on his feet, with his entire body, full of quick wit and pith and nimble ability. They can both command absolute attention and entertain and move their audiences with ease. A herald’s job is just to set up the windows for them to get on with this. The Book Of Ceremonies is a must read before you go to an event to get a feel for the kind of structure you will be required to give the tasks they need to achieve in court. With it you have a good, well prepared and, most importantly of all, solid set of words that you can see before your eyes at all time, no matter how treacherous your memory becomes. The Book for Eplaheimr was prepared by an excellent and experienced herald, Lady Fianna, and the Baroness as far as I remember, and it is really good to have such a solid foothold. Make sure you attend any meetings you need to go to to get the running order of what you need to announce and TAKE NOTES. The nice thing about being a herald is you get to hide everything in a very lovely book or folder and you can speak sternly to yourself in Post-it if you need to. If you’re asked to prompt either speaker in the event they forget a thing, make sure you note that in the right section and don’t drift off and forget where you are.
One thing the Book doesn’t have and which made me panic slightly was what you call out when you are coming into court. I will suggest that you try to prepare a very short and then a slightly longer call to attention (in Irish) to call out as you announce the presence of the Baronial couple. This saves you from the hot mortification of having said a short thing and there being a whole half hall still to traverse in silence. This is basically a call to sit up, pay attention and something cool and boastful about the Baronials. If I recall correctly my long version was (translated) Attend! here come the Baron and Baroness of Eplaheimr, Protect your eyes because they shine brighter than the summer sun! Attend! It helps when most of the room don’t know if you’re screwing it up of course. But *I* know.. You also need to do the Abu! calls when leaving at the end. Luckily these are apparently getting very popular in courts and the crowd will reward you by calling them back loudly and clearly and it is *Immensely* satisfying in the way of crowd/tribe activities generally, probably worth it for that alone.
That said, the best thing about being a herald, or a lady in waiting, is being in a position to see people’s faces and reactions. It is an absolute privilege and made me happy for days.
The downside of being herald is you end up with no photos for your blog post….