Have you ever remarked, “Remember: Hannibal never won a battle with his elephants?” I use the phrase as a metaphor for our status as outsiders, such are the consequences of thinking different. Hannibal and his elephants appear at least twice in my recent book, “Raccoons Respect My Piss But Watch Out For Skunks.”
So here I was, earlier this week, with someone very close to me, someone I felt very comfortable with, and suddenly I find myself talking about the Battle of Hastings. I know, I know - it happens to you all the time, too.
Anyway, I said, William the Conqueror had to be the beneficiary of the dumbest luck imaginable. First, his English Channel crossing gets delayed for about six weeks. So, just as he is about to invade England, the Scandinavians decide to invade England first. So here’s Harold, Saxon King of England, expecting William from the south, having to hightail his army way to the north near York. He duly defeats the forces of Hardrada and Tostig at the Battle of Stamford Bridge, only to discover a few days later that William and his Normans have landed.
Talk about impeccable timing (if you happen to be William).
So Harold marches his battered and depleted army back south. They form a shield wall on a ridge in Hastings. William unleashes his bowmen. Their arrows have no affect. He sends in his infantry and cavalry. Nothing doing. The shield wall holds. Then some of William’s forces break off the battle and start retreating down the hill. A panic ensues, especially when word breaks out that their leader is dead.
Harold’s men, sensing victory, break formation to chase after the William’s apparently routed forces. This is the time that William happens to announce, that no, he is not in fact dead. The news gives the Normans a second wind. The Saxons - on foot and out of formation and without the protection of their shield wall - are easy pickings for the mounted Normans. This time, the arrows find their mark. Harold goes down. Battle over.
The reason I’m not writing this post in some form of Scandinavian Old English is because of what happened that one October day nearly a thousand years ago.
Back to the present. Here I was, working up a good head of steam, enthusiastically recounting my irony-rich narrative, when I caught myself. Crap! I thought. Here I go, again. I keep forgetting that most people prefer to talk about sports or the next American Idol or what Aunt Matilda showed up in at the family barbecue. The Battle of Hastings - or for that matter Hannibal’s elephants - simply doesn’t come up in the normal course of conversation.
I’m never going to fit in. Why don’t I just wear a huge sign that says, “I’m crazy, stay away.”
I looked at my partner. She wasn’t rolling her eyes. She wasn’t inching toward the exit. She was fully engaged, taking it all in. I established that she was actually interested in what I was saying, then I resumed my narrative. Ah - the joys of being with the right person.