Meet Paul, another one of our carers – and again one with an unusual hobby. Very unusual. Quite violent, too, it has to be said. But more about that later.
Who is Paul? Paul is one of those people who – I assume – everybody gets on with. He talks easily, is very non-pretentious, and has some very interesting turns of phrases up his sleeve that are bound to make you giggle. Just a normal, nice, and funny guy really.
He is not a Herefordshire boy, Paul. But he has come to love it over the years. Paul, “I moved to Hereford from Doncaster when I was twelve, and I hated every bit of it. It was far more rural than I was used to, it felt like stepping back in time. Like everybody was still living in the fifties. Doncaster suddenly felt like a very modern, big city to me.”
It took him a while to settle in. “I remember being at school, I still had quite a strong Yorkshire accent then. This boy came up to me and said [Paul does a fair impression of a Herefordian accent here] ‘Doncaster, is that the capital of Doncastershire?’ and I thought ‘Oh my word, because Hereford is the capital of Herefordshire this guy thinks Doncaster must be in Doncastershire – where on earth did I end up now?’ ”
Over the years he has learned to love Herefordshire though – he lives with his wife just out of town. “I love the countryside here, I can’t see us leaving in the near future.”
“I’ve never had any big goals in life really, I just stumble through it”
Paul has been a carer with us for about ten years, and boy, did he take a massive leap in changing career paths. Paul, “I was a bit of a rebel when I was younger, I didn’t want to be part of the establishment. I guess I was a bit of a ‘weekend-hippie’ - I couldn’t live the proper hippie lifestyle, so I just did that over the weekend.” After finishing school, he made himself useful in all sorts of ways, including as a dishwasher in a hotel and as a painter and decorator, before “stumbling onto stone”.
“I got into shaping headstones for graves, and learned a lot about working with stone. This was the time that granite kitchen worktops were becoming popular, and a friend and I set up a business crafting stone kitchen worktops. We did very well, we made kitchen worktops for David Beckham, Jamie Oliver, and many others. I actually managed to break the first one I made for Jamie Oliver and had to start all over again.”
“I sort of got pressured by my wife into becoming a carer”
When he left his stone business, he took a year off, doing “er… not much, really. I worked on the house, but I am also very good at just drinking tea. After a year my wife saw a job ad from Kemble looking for carers, and persuaded me to apply.”
“I had never dreamed of being a carer really, and I was a bit concerned whether I would fit in. I thought that all carers must be, how do I put it, ‘very nice people’, with endless patience and who are friendly and perfect all day. I was very glad to find out that they are just normal people, although they do rather exceptional jobs. But they spill their coffee and go out for a smoke like the rest of us.”
“We’ll bumble through this together”
And how did he find it, being a carer? After all, it is definitely something else than designing granite kitchen worktops. “When you have been with a client for a while, you build a relationship. I have got only male clients, and after a while you almost talk to each other like mates – it becomes very easy. I love hearing their stories, they’ve got so much to tell.”
“It always remains a bit nerve wrecking to meet a new client, even after ten years. I am very mindful that their home is their home, it is not my workplace. You and the client have to work it all out together. I often say to a new client, ‘you’ve got to tell me exactly how you like things done, it is your home. We’ll just bumble through this together’, and before you know it you’ve got a great relationship.”
Commanding Officer in John Birch’s Regiment
And then, there it is. That unusual hobby of his.
Because at the weekend, Paul transforms into a 17th century soldier in Cromwell’s army, fighting for his life on the battlefield with some 3.000 of his mates – hacking away at one another.
Er… he does what? Yes, that’s right.
Paul is a member of The Sealed Knot, aka ‘The Society of Cavaliers and Roundheads’, which stages battles from the English Civil Wars. Serving as the Commanding Officer in John Birch’s regiment (who captured the city of Hereford in 1645), Paul leads the charge, killing any Royalist he can get his hands on.
Some fight with muskets, others with swords, and yet others – including Paul – with Pikes, 16-20 feet long wooden speers with steel points on the end. The Pikemen are often the front line of the army (and therefore pretty darn vulnerable), and their role is to fend off the charging enemy – on foot or on horseback. Paul, “my wife and two sons also go ‘Knotting’, my sons are also Pikemen. Now that they are married, they take their own family.”
And Paul is not alone, his family is there with him. His wife and sons are also fervent ‘Knotters’, and now that his sons have grown up they bring their own families to the battlefield.
Don’t be fooled, this is not just a bunch of guys darting around in someone’s back garden. These enactments are gigantic operations. Paul, “when we stage historic battles, like Marston Moor, Edgehill, or Naseby, they can go on for days with thousands of people involved. There are drummers, horses, musketeers, and we try to follow the historic battle as much as possible – if we can, we place our canons in exactly the same spot as 300 – 400 years ago. Some of the battles are filmed for documentaries and there are often large crowds watching. They are big events.”
Does it really get quite violent then? Paul, “Oh yes, the adrenaline can really take over. I am the Commanding Officer, and I am responsible for my guys. Sometimes you can just see people’s eyes glaze over, they get so into it. I’ll have to drag them off the field sometimes so that they can snap out of it – things can get a bit silly sometimes.”
When sufficient numbers of Royalists have been captured, spears splintered and the dead and wounded have been dragged off the battlefield, the real fun begins. “It all revolves around the beer tent, really. You meet people of all ages, colours and religions, and you end up sharing a beer with the guy you speared earlier in the day.”
And then, again, there is one of these turns of phrases, and you can’t help but smile. “It is such good fun, these battles, every time again. It is like a curry, even a bad curry is always a good curry.”