May 3rd, 2005


Catching up - Thursday and Friday

The Thursday before Beltane was that day by which we'd finished everything we actually needed to have done, and thus had time to make up another batch of coloured torch balls. It was also the evening I got balded (perpetrated by zotz in the back of the Beltane Office, and recorded on video by the inestimable Nick Fiddes).

Oh, and we heard John the creative director doing the bardic thing with a telling of the full Beltane story (he had collected stories and descriptions from the different groups and points and put them together into a seamless whole).

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The rest of Thursday night was spent at K Jackson's - the antepenultimate night of the Ancien Regime (Ronnie and Kay took the developers' offer, and Leslie will be running the bar for the next year or so).

Friday was strangely empty - almost all Beltane stuff out of the way. I wandered up to the Office anyway after work, to make sure that everything was where it needed to be (rescuing the copper oxide so we could re-dust the point balls before giving them out, and counting the torch rods and heads - mainly to ensure we had a clean head for the May Queen's gift). Then across to Favorit for nachos, and over to K Jackson's for a brief drink to say goodbye to Ronnie and Kay and welcome Leslie. it wasn't a brief drink at all, though, 'cos they had Andy Chung playing and he was bloody good.

So, home after closing time the night before Beltane - not awfully smart, really.
torch rune

Catch up. Saturday to the start of the Procession

As noted, I was up somewhat longer than was sensible on Friday night, so I didn't get all my stuff together for heading up the Hill until Saturday morning - I was still in the house when I started getting voicemails and texts from assorted torchies.

I made it to the Hill a little before eleven (but not by much), and moved a few chunks of safety barrier around before getting into the great diesel/paraffin panic of 2005. This was resolved (but not until we'd had an ambiguous test burn) as yes, there had been a wrong delivery (a drum of diesel was delivered to the Hill), but no, our torch balls hadn't been soaked in it. Instead, what had happened was some diesel had been poured into "our" drum, but it was mostly poured out again.

The next bit of panic was over a missing torchie (sorted later on - they thought they were running late, when in fact Beltane time was running even later). Suddenly it was time for organisers to get together, and this was where it turned out to be quite useful that I had a werk name badge on me, as very many people claimed that I was no longer recognisably Steve.

I delivered our Earth Point torchbearer to the appropriate point (Water and Earth had torches to mark the end of the procession - these were the ones we'd done the coloured balls for) and then got all the other torchbearers (with torches) out in front of the Acropolis (okay, the National Monument) so that we'd be visible to the Lost Torchie. At this point, it was suddenly time to go behind the Acropolis again and form up.

There was a little less space than in previous years (I suspect the shrubbery has been growing) and we had to arrange a way of lighting the appropriate torches - two "Court Torchbearers" and one for each of the gaps between the pillars we'd be standing in - in about nothing flat. We got something sorted (that wouldn't quite work on the night, but we didn't know that yet) and got into position.

We made it off the Acropolis without breaking anyone, and caught up with the rest of the procession for the truncated walkthrough (cues were left in, but actual performances were cut to the starts and finishes).

As we'd started late, we finished late, and with the post-walkthrough debrief (a few changes and comments for and from almost everyone), it was coming on for half four before I left the Hill.

Pausing only to discover my bag had got mysteriously heavy, and to dump the bottles that had appeared in it somewhere safe, I hared across town to Pianocat's (WINOLJ) to make certain preparations and eat pizza before dashing back (slightly later than intended) to the place we were getting ready.

The next couple of hours were ones of slowly increasing stress - I couldn't see anything to do to speed things up, and we were inexorably getting later. We left for the Hill at about the time we should've arrived there, and reached the bottom of the Hill to be told we had to go to the performers' entrance on the far side of the Hill. I pointed out that this was actually optional. and as we were running late, we'd go up the path we were at, thanks.

We made it up, had a few last minute panics (mainly me, I'm afraid - I don't handle last minute stress at all well), got the torchie booze to the appropriate location, sorted out torches and coloured balls for the points (we sorted the Lost Torchie, too, by swapping her to Earth in exchange for the original Earth Torchie, who'd done a walkthrough with the procession the previous Sunday), and then it was suddenly time to get in place behind the Acropolis.

At this point I was stressing over next to nothing ('course, it didn't seem like that to me at the time), and after lighting the correct torches I only started calming down as we went over the top - minding the gap between the steps and the monument, and being careful to keep torch flames away from the fire sculpture suspended overhead.

Again, we all made it into place without breaking anyone and then the lit torchbearers in each gap lit their three colleagues, and we stood more or less immobile as the ritual began and the procession eventually got under way.
oak ogham

Catching up. Procession to the end of Beltane

Standing on the Acropolis, facing the crowd and trying to see as much as possible while looking as if you're staring into the middle distance is not a time to feel serious heat on your back, smell charring and suddenly find yourself engulfed in smoke. Those fire sculptures were hot!
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The torchies stood down, dumped our torches behind the Acropolis and then hared back to the Bower for at least a token drink on the Hill.

I had time to take the flask around a few people, and then it was time to head down the Hill to the Club. This was slightly faster than it should have been, because someone had unblocked the steps to Waterloo Place (yes, the ones blocked earlier because they're unsdafe for more than a few hundred people at a time).
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