Estimated reading time:7 minutes, 28 seconds
Everyone has a story. Hez Jamil has always enjoyed history, but it was thanks to Islington friends that he discovered that he really enjoyed being a 13th century mercenary fighter. Here Hez introducesÂ his character Sala Hu DinÂ and chats aboutÂ the good times he has asÂ a reenactor who loves to fight. Interview by Nicola Baird
Hez Jamil grabs an ice coffee at Blighty CafĂ© on Blackstock Road and in the sunny garden starts explaining what being a 13th century reenactor involves – fights, injuries (wellÂ massive bruises) and chunks of meat eaten off your knife…
In his real life Hez is working at Argos, and studying for a renewable energies engineering qualification at Watford with ATL. Heâ€™s also a busy dad with three children so it is hard for him to take the time to join reeneactments although heâ€™s planning to join one at the Forest of Dean in August.
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His troop, Drudion, are specialists in 13th century living history offering a camp with skilled craftspeople, trader, cook and fighters giving demonstrations based on the time Richard the Lionheart was King.
Thereâ€™s also the LARP events (live action role play) where foam weapons are used – but there are far fewer rules when it comes to fighting. â€śWe really go for it,â€ť says Hez who at 33 is now an old hand – the average age of death for a mercenary in the 13th century was 19 years. â€śIt wasnâ€™t just fighting that made them die,” explains Hez. “Hygiene was poor. And if there was a big battle with bodies then diseases spread like wildfire. I donâ€™t imagine many of our troop can read or write, or play chess thatâ€™s for the high class people. We specialise in fightingâ€¦â€ť
At either event first the tent has to be put up and food organised.
â€śWe eat a lot of meat!â€ť grins Hez. â€śStew and vegetables take too long for mercenaries on the move, so meat is easier. We cook everything, and eat from wooden bowls with our hands. There are stabbing instruments, but no cutlery.â€ť He also admits that the meat might come from the supermarket â€“ though once on the showground itâ€™s treated as if it has been freshly caught and will all be cooked straightawayÂ as there is no refrigeration.
When I ask if any of the troop sneak in tomato sauce Hez looks horrified. I suspect his son Callum, 13, who has been a few times with his Dad, but not enjoyed it much, might have found the food a bit strange. Plus, as Hez points out, his teenager might have found: â€śItâ€™s a lot of hard work setting up and putting down the camp in one day,â€ť although sometimes Dominic, 11, joins his Dad at the troop.
Because reenactment is mostly done for the public demonstrations, Hez is used to explaining the intricacies of 13th century life. â€śI always find it surprising what surprises the public. They try on helmets and armour. They are always shocked by how heavy the chain mail is, but we explain that the boys will have been wearing this since they were about eight-years-old, so chain mail feels normal to them.â€ť
Places Hez Jamil likes in Islington (and close by)
I love finding the little gems in Islington â€“ like Blighty. Youâ€™d never know from the outside of Blackstock Road that the cafeÂ had a big garden.
Rowans Bowling in Finsbury Park has the same name as our troop leaderâ€™s wifeâ€™s reenactment name, Rowan. Itâ€™s an old name, and a tree. People donâ€™t make the connection with signs.
I like the parks around here. Clissold Park and Finsbury Park both have skate ramps for my son. With a paddling pool and animals you can have an enjoyable day outside.
The Faltering Fullback pub off Stroud Green Road has a beer garden which is like Narnia. Youâ€™d never know it was there.
Life as Sal Hu Din
â€śMy character Sal Hu Din is a Muslim Saracen. He was born in the Middle East and did something wrong with someone of positionâ€™s daughter, so he was banished and forbidden to return to the Holy Lands. During his travels he met a band of mercenaries. At first they challenged him and then when he impressed them by his fighting skills they asked him to join them. Heâ€™s quiet, not friendly.â€ť
â€śBack in those days I would have been picked on, and called an infidel, but we do the shows in front of lots of children, itâ€™s meant to be fun. I do read about the 13th century. On site we are all in character,â€ť explains Hez.
â€śThe last fight I did with Joel/Bran was a truly epic battle. We use real weapons (though they are blunt) and the rules are no head shots or below the knee but we just went for it. Itâ€™s pretty brutal, but I heal quite easily. You get massive bruises. If you havenâ€™t come away with a huge bruise you havenâ€™t done it properly. Our troop leader Simon/Callum does the commentary so it keeps him on his toes â€“ and itâ€™s good fun,â€ť says Hez clearly looking forward to his next battle.
Back to Islington
Hezâ€™s family are from Malaysia, but moved to Islington when he was around a year old. He went to nursery at Ambler, then school at Gillespie Primary and finally Highbury Grove. â€śMy oldest son is at Highbury Grove now and I was surprised that I knew some of the teachers â€“ and that they recognised me,â€ť says Hez genuinely.
Hezâ€™s mum now lives in Enfield, but very sadly his father died when he was a teenager. â€śMy birthday is the same day as my parentsâ€™ anniversary and was the same dad my dad had a heart attack and died when I was 15. He was in Malaysia â€“ the other side of the planet. I still really miss him. Most young boys think their dad is an incredible super hero and try to emulate him. Itâ€™s the influence of my Dad that makes me try to teach my children the difference between right and wrong, and morality and how to have some fun,â€ť says Hez.
Hez still lives close to where he grew up in Islington, but now heâ€™s married to Natasha, best friend of the old school friend whose boyfriend first introduced him to historical reenactment years ago. Natasha has joined the reenactments, but so far baby Thalia has not. Maybe this summer will see her introduction to the troop?
- Living history (shows you the scope of reenacting, where the next events are and even info on accommodation)
- Renactor.netÂ (mostly American)
Over to you
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This blog is inspired byÂ Spitalfields LifeÂ written by the Gentle Author.
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