Book Review: "I Believe in Yesterday"

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Book Review: "I Believe in Yesterday"

Postby the_power on Sun Jan 24, 2010 9:45 pm

It's a while since I laughed out loud at a non fiction book. However, the 'Fly on the Wall' style documentary
"I Believe In Yesterday" had me annoying my Julie for days. The author, Tim Moore is a travel writer, who was brought to a Viking re-enactment by his Icelandic wife, and he wonders "What would it be like to go travelling with these guys? "...so he contacts a series of different types of re-enactors and spends a week with them.

The book starts off with his first "gig". As he has no friends who do re-enactment, he has to head some dodgy iron-age village built 25 years ago somewhere in southern England. His description of a run-down, under-funded decaying historic shit-hole, pimped out by the guy who bought the place for nothing off a re-enactor who had more passion than business sense really struck a note with me. He talks about sitting in a roundhouse with refrigerator full of beer (covered in hession sacking, so it's authentic!) with a disgruntled guy in army boots and wool tunics giving him the history of it, while they wait for random members of the public to get an 'iron age' experience, replete with burgers and Budweiser. He learns that 'authenticity' is the goal of every re-enactor, so decides he'll try the whole scale.

He gets some combat experience with a bunch of French Roman Legionaries in Denmark. The Romans are pretty serious about authenticity, from their food to their armour-repair tools. The Danish celts who beat the shite out of them twice a day all summer, aren't as authentic and are more interested in injuring people. Sound familiar ? By the end of his time with them, he finally feels The Rage on the battlefield (despite smashed knuckles), he gets to *like* sleeping 8 to a tiny roman tent with an arse in his face all night, and understands the feeling of "family" you can't avoid after spending time with jovial re-enactors 24 hours a day.

He manages to get a gig as Chamberlain at "The Great Recreation" in Kentwell (and screws it up completely, much to the disdain of the dozens of re-enactors who have been there five years and are still only serving wenches). It sounds amazing. His accounts of a French castle taken over by seriously-authentic guys who make him sleep in the attic (with 40 others) is great, especially as he realises that it's the beer that makes sleeping at re-enactments so pleasant.

He realises to get to the REAL authentic experience, he has to go to the USA where they started large-scale reenactments over 30 years ago. I was a little skeptical until he details a vietnam vet who has a team of wagon-oxen. Apart from his survivalist bent (more than once he's had to remove his own teeth while reenacting), his sole 'modern' equipment is a Colt 45 with 4 bullets in it - in case he has an accident with the animals. It seems his favourite hobby is finding new insanely difficult terrain, and seeing how far he can go in a week.

The final chapter of the book is a reenactment of an American Civil War battle where Confederates chased Federals over 45 miles of rough terrain. It was one of the last great hurrahs for the confederates - and given that they outnumber federal reenactors 2:1, you can imagine how popular it is. Apart from being ultra-authentic, it's also invite only, and really hard to get an invite. So, when a limey turns up pretending to be a journalist for the "Times of London" they give him stories to 'stick in your paper'. He seems almost disappointed when he finds out that the pace of the rout is slackened because a few guys are air-lifted out by helicopter. Office-jockeys who think they can march ten miles in rough country with 90lb of a backpack in 100F heat, it seems. I swear I've never seen those...

Anyway, in summary - thoroughly entertaining read. Strongly recommended for any family or friends who don't understand what you do with your weekends, or just if you need a belly-laugh or two.

You can buy this on Amazon, and help fund this website by clicking here.

John
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Re: Book Review: "I Believe in Yesterday"

Postby brendan on Mon Jan 25, 2010 12:32 am

He manages to get a gig as Chamberlain at "The Great Recreation" in Kentwell (and screws it up completely, much to the disdain of the dozens of re-enactors who have been there five years and are still only serving wenches)

I am really interested in hearing what the 'serving wenches' might have to say about that....

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Re: Book Review: "I Believe in Yesterday"

Postby finnobreanan on Mon Jan 25, 2010 5:00 pm

John,

Thanks for the "Heads Up" on this book. It sounds like a real hoot, and I could use a good laugh during this long, gray, cold Wisconsin Winter. I'll have to pick it up.

On a similar note, Tony Horwitz published a book a number of years ago called, Confederates in the Attic, which recounts his experiences hanging out with "Hard Core" authentic Civil War reenactors: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0679 ... 067975833X

The guy he hangs with is an old buddy of mine and is depicted on the cover. The book is a good laugh, but gets a little scary in the final chapters as he tours the un-reconstructed South.
Finn O'Breanan
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Re: Book Review: "I Believe in Yesterday"

Postby finnobreanan on Fri Jan 07, 2011 9:56 pm

I finished reading this book last year, but forgot to post how absolutely hilarious this book was. Anyone who has done any kind of Living History can idenify with the writer and will find it funny. Highly recommended! :lol:
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