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Practical Site Heraldry

by Seamas Mac Daibhid

Last Updated April XLII (2008)
First presented at A Midsummer Knight's Dream —
either MSKD V, AS XXVIII (1993) or MSKD VI, AS XXIX (1994)
Copyright © 2000, 2002, 2008, Seamas Mac Daibhid; all rights reserved.
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Part III: Wake-Up Without Fear

Yes, it is possible to do wake-up calls without being knifed, mauled, or pelted with bottles; you may even earn thanks for your wake-up calls. (I have, many times; I've even been recognized for them in Royal Court.) But wake-ups are special, and require more planning than other announcements.

The Night Before

Check with the autocrat for last-minute changes to the morning schedule. If you haven't already, consult with the autocrat about when to start wake-up calls.

Find out who is doing breakfast, and whether the breakfast crew needs a wake-up call. Since breakfast usually starts cooking at least as early as you'll start wake-up calls, it's usually best if the breakfast crew make their own arrangements to get out of bed.

If the Crowns are on site, go ask Them when They want to get up, and what arrangements they wish for breakfast. If they are not on site but are expected, make sure the troll knows to ask them about breakfast and wake-up when they arrive. If your troll booth closes down overnight, ask the troll to leave written instructions for you regarding the Crowns.

If you're not certain how reliable you'll be yourself, leave instructions with the troll booth to check on you if you don't appear by a certain time.

If your troll booth includes sign-up sheets for cabins or camping areas, check to see which cabins or campsites are definitely in use. An cabin unused at 10:00 p.m. may not be empty by morning, but you can at least get an idea of how fast things are filling up.

Take a turn around the site in the dark—look for ditches or fences or fallen trees that you never noticed in daylight. Count the cabins again—do you get the same number in the dark that you got in daylight? Search out the cabins that get lost in the shadows, so you don't miss them in the morning. Check your route through the campsites, to make sure you can find your way in the dark. Watch for hazards imported by your guests, such as ice chests or tent ropes—if something is blocking a major trail then politely ask the guests if they will move it.

Make sure your alarm clock is wound and set, then make sure your flashlight works. Lay out pouch, watch, paper, pens, flashlight, clothes, and so on where you can find them in the dark. Then go to bed—you need your sleep.

In The Morning

Get up about an hour early. I'm serious; this allows you to be wide awake when you start calls (the better to dodge missiles), gives you a margin for error in event of alarm clock meltdown or drastic schedule changes, and gives you needed time to warm up your voice. As soon as you are up and dressed, check the troll booth to see which cabins, rooms, or campsites have people in them, and whether anyone left special wake-up directions overnight. Check with breakfast people to make sure breakfast will start on time.

Write down a list of everything to announce. If you're inexperienced, write out the announcement word for word. Test your flashlight again. You want a small flashlight, a pocket LED light or penlight, not a big dry-cell unit that will fill a cabin with glare and shine through the walls of tents. Get something to drink (plain water is best), or a bite to eat. If it's cold outside, go in the hall and warm up your voice by humming. Say your entire announcement aloud at least once, to time how long it is (and to make sure you can read your notes).

Wake-up is the wettest time of day. If your regular shoes or boots are not thoroughly waterproof, don't wear them for wake-up calls, or your feet will never again get dry. Bring a second pair of shoes (any comfortable shoes at all—nobody will see them) and extra socks especially for wake-up calls, then put on your regular shoes (with fresh dry socks) after breakfast.

What To Say

Wake-up calls must cover everything that begins the day. They should begin and end with the current time, and should give the time and location of all activities that start early in the day, not just breakfast. Omit the Oyez! Oyez! and begin with My lords and ladies. Your complete wake-up call should be something like:

My lords and ladies, the time is 6:25. Breakfast begins in the hall in 35 minutes, at 7:00, and runs until 8:30. Armor inspection begins at 8:00 on the field; the tourney begins at 9:00 on the field. Entry in the Arts & Sciences competition begins at 9:00 in the pavilion. Master Ian's armor class begins at 9:00 in Cabin 2. Again, the time is 6:25. Thank you.

Phrase all times mundanely and straightforwardly: say seven-fifteen and eight o'clock, not quarter past seven or eight of the clock. Give the starting and ending times for breakfast, and how long until it starts. If breakfast (or any other activity) has already started, say something like, Breakfast is underway in the hall, and will continue for 45 minutes, until 8:30. Be repetitious and simple and repetitious and thorough and repetitious; remember that you are speaking to people who are just waking up.

If the weather is unpleasant, you might include a brief (but not gloomy) word to that effect. For Sunday wake-up calls, include the time the site closes as the last item before repeating the current time.

Once More Unto the Breach, Dear Friends

The important thing to remember is that some people want to wake up, and others do not. Thus, you will do three separate wake-up calls, at different volume levels. Give the complete announcement with each call; update it to the current time and changing conditions. Use your mini-flash discreetly to read your list of items; do not do your wake-up call from memory.

THE FIRST CALL: For those people lying in bed wondering, "Is it time to get up?", but not yet mobile enough to check the time. This call allows the natural early risers to get showers while the water's still hot. Do this call individually in every occupied room of each cabin, and in every small cluster of tent sites. Step just inside the cabin door; do not knock unless the door is locked or a light is on. Use a low, but normal, speaking voice—a conversational voice. If there is noise, such as a fan, loud snoring, or pouring rain, you can raise your voice slightly. The idea is to allow anyone already awake to hear you clearly, without annoying those who are still asleep. Remember to omit the usual Oyez! Oyez! opening.

THE SECOND CALL: For sleepers ready to waken, and those people lying in bed wondering, "Did I hear the herald a while ago?" Again, do this call individually in every occupied room or small camp area. Use a good firm speaking voice, such as you might use to teach a class or tell a story, but do not use your full herald's voice yet.

THE THIRD CALL: For everybody, period—at some point, the event must get moving. Do this one like a regular announcement: Call from outside the cabins, at your planned zone points, and use your full herald's voice. This time, do start with Oyez! Oyez!

When To Do Them

You and the autocrat should decide before the event when the first wake-up call should be. Plan to start about thirty minutes to an hour before breakfast opens, but be sure that the third-and-last call comes at least an hour before the start of other activities (such as armor inspection or competition entry). Ideally, the last call should start just after breakfast opens.

Space the three calls from 20 to 35 minutes apart; that is, begin the second call 20 to 35 minutes after you began the first call. Don't forget that your autocrat may want wake-up calls on Sunday to begin at a different time.

Wake-up calls take longer than other announcements, so plan extra time for each circuit. Between circuits, check for updates from the kitchen, the troll booth, and the autocrat (if he or she is awake), then go sit down in the hall or at troll booth. Relax. Hum some more. Early morning is the hardest time for your voice, so use extra care not to strain it.

Other Considerations

Your event co-workers probably expect you to wake them up, as well; ask the autocrat what time your people should be aroused. In particular, clarify in advance whether you are expected to wake up the breakfast people, something that should really be their own responsibility, or else the early-morning troll's.

If the Crowns attend, make special arrangements with Them. What time do They wish a call (if at all)? Is breakfast being delivered to Their room or cabin, and if so, should the server awaken Them or should you give them a period of warning? If the Crowns haven't appeared when you go to bed, ask your troll to request instructions of Them. On Saturday, ask Them for new instructions for Sunday morning.

In tenting areas, don't try to do the first and second calls at every individual tent; try to cover two to four tents at a time, and speak slightly louder than you would in a cabin.

Remember, your job is to communicate. If some blasted idio– that is, if some gentle lord tells you to get lost, continue your announcement unless he is the only person in earshot. On the other hand, if someone asks you to repeat yourself, do so cheerfully. For most guests, you are the first voice they hear the day of the event, so try to give them a good impression of what the rest of the day will be like.

MY FINAL WORD: If heralding isn't fun, don't do it.

More Practical Site Heraldry:

Part I: Before the Event

Part II: At the Event

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