Last night I found myself in the back of a taxi — a legit South African minibus, minus the filth and missing floor panels. The taxi driver’s name was Shadrack. I nodded to the rap tunes blasting from the sound system beneath my feet as we hurtled out of Joburg and toward the Cradle of Humankind.

It was dark. I couldn’t make out the faces of the seven other taxi passengers, which didn’t really matter because I’d never met any of them before (except one, who I’d met once several months ago). I didn’t even know anyone’s name yet. It was difficult to talk above the sound of the stereo.

I wasn’t worried though. We would get to know each other soon enough. Shadrack’s taxi was transporting us on a journey back in time.

Disembarking from Shadrack’s taxi at Greensleeves Medieval Kingdom. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of Shadrack. The name has a medieval ring to it, don’t you think?

Our destination was the Greensleeves Medieval Kingdom. I won’t bother explaining what it is; the name is self-explanatory and the photos will speak for themselves. But I had driven past this place several times before and always felt an itch to check it out. I’m a fan of the medieval and renaissance eras — Shakespeare, King Arthur, and all that. The Mists of Avalon is my favorite book and I was a regular attendee at the Maryland Renaissance Festival back home. So when I received an invitation to participate in a group outing to Greensleeves, I eagerly accepted.

Upon arrival at Greensleeves, our first task was to don medieval garb. I was nervous, fearing that I’d struggle to find the right size and the outfits would be fussy and uncomfortable. These fears were unfounded. The costume staff operated like a well-oiled machine, directing us to the racks with our sizes and making suggestions. They also called me “milady”, which I appreciated. I found the perfect frock in less than ten minutes.

The Greensleeves dressing room. Pardon the terrible photograph — best I could muster under the circumstances.

Once our group was properly attired, we headed to the main building for dinner and entertainment. We were seated with the rest of our party at a long wooden table.

This blurry self-portrait is the only shot I have of my awesome medieval hat.

We were introduced to our entertainer, a man named “the Baron” who did bawdy medieval schtick and forced members of the audience to engage in a myriad of embarrassing behaviors. The Baron was funny, albeit a bit too loquacious in my opinion. By the end of the evening I had had quite enough of him.

The Baron informed us of several rules. First, there was to be no clapping. We were to display our approval by banging our wooden mallets upon the table. Second, the Baron reminded us that we had traveled back to an era before women’s liberation, when ladies existed solely to please their lords. If a lord at the table required salt for his food (a necessity because the food was on the bland side), a lady at the table must get up and go to the table of the Archbishop, curtsy, and say, “Please sire, I require salt for my squire.” The Archbishop would then bequeath thee a pinch of salt. I think I was the only lady at my table who actually did this.

Laughing at the Baron over a steaming iron pot of soup. Note that the Greensleeves signature drink (at left) is something called “Ye Half Yard”. Not very medieval-looking. I was also disappointed that beer was served in regular glasses rather than medieval-style steins.

I don’t know how to caption this photo but had to include it.

Dinner was served in several courses.

Course #1: vegetable soup and bread. The soup tasted like Campbell’s.

Another rule: No utensils allowed, except knives. We slurped the soup.

Greg prepares to slurp. He’s not happy about it.

There was embarrassing, audience-participatory entertainment between each course. At one point I found myself dancing the can-can with a line of women at the front of the hall, kicking up my velvet skirt and sashaying in a circle. I should have worn more lady-like shoes than my Dansko clogs.

At long last, the main course was served.

Matt is excited about the massive platter of meat.

The evening wound down quickly after dinner, as it was close to 11:00 p.m. by the time we finished. But for those wanting to continue the mirth, a disco opened in the chamber next door. There was also a big screen showing photos taken of the evening’s events. I was afraid to look and see if I was featured.

A jester and his wench check out the slide show.

A couple of us did a quick twirl around the deserted disco floor before leaving. Here is Jackie, whose medieval street name is Cinderella, shimmying to “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang.

Alas, all too soon it was time to change out of our magical clothes and catch our carriage home before it turned into a pumpkin. Shadrack awaited.

I enjoyed my evening at Greesleeves, mostly for the costumes and the cool people I was with. I must say though, I expected more. There was no jousting or swordplay, and the food was lacking for the price — somewhere around R300 (about $40) per person, excluding drinks and tip. Costume rental was an additional R75 ($10), but that part was totally worth it.

I’m now in the market for a medieval-style velvet dress.

%d bloggers like this: