PPC Gathering: London, 2005

WARNING: May Contain...


As everyone knows, it is essential to allow enough time to reach Gatherings, especially when they're in London. That is why I found myself leaving the house at ten past nine in the morning:

My journey took me to Fenchurch Street station, and then to Tower Hill and the District Line. Along the way, I took a moment to visit a familiar landmark:

As can be seen, British weather was in top form. It was wet.

Taking the District Line to Embankment, I wandered up the road to where I finally came in sight of the statue we were meeting under:

The gathering started at noon. I reached Trafalgar Square at half past ten. To waste away that hour and a half, I wandered around a bit, taking occasional - well, okay, one - photo:

Having nothing else left to do, I then sat down and read The Letters of JRR Tolkien. Eventually, the rest of the Gathering showed up - only Ekwy, Milano and Newmoon, certainly not as many as I'd've liked, but we waited long enough that we were sure no one else was coming - and we set off into London.

On the way down Whitehall, we met a horse. With a man on it. Yes.

Then, belatedly, I took a photo of Ekwy's bag, in which the Sunflower Official was hanging out.

We got to St. James' Park, but before we went in, we found a statue. A statue of Clive.

Then we went into the park and found something almost as baffling. A pelican. In London.

No, I'm not entirely sure why there's a pelican in St. James' Park, but it certainly wasn't the oddest thing there. No, that honour goes to this bunch:

The one in the red coat is Newmoon. The other one you can see is Ekwy. The one hiding in the first photo and off in the background of the second is Milano. Don't worry if you can't identify them all, there are more photos coming.

Before that, however, we met a duck. A very odd duck. You see, the ends of its wings were sticking out at very strange angles:

It's around this time that we decided something really weird was going on with the waterfowl in London. Before we found more evidence of that, though, the SO's head fell off:

Fortunately, he healed up just fine. Flowers are amazingly resiliant - probably how they withstand all the flamethrowering. So off we went again, until we found... more pelicans!

And alongside them, more weird waterfowl: A duck with mutated feet.

Still not sure what was up with that.

Anyway, we continued on through the park - holding Ekwy and Newmoon back from running away to the playground, much to their disappointment - and came to the end of the Mall. There, massive stone pillars celebrated... something. I'm not sure what. However, I am sure of one thing: Some of what they were celebrating took place in the country of Wafrica.

Now, for those not familiar with London's geography, the end of the Mall is the location of a certain rather large house. A woman with a funny hat lives there. Yes, it's Buck House.

We stopped there, having run out of things to do, and I took the opportunity to get a photo of Milano:

There was a really funny story associated with that photo, I'm sure, but I haven't a clue what it was.

I do, however, know the story attached to the next one. Ekwy had brought with her some Swedish candy - sugar-highs all round - but, outside Buckingham Palace, to her intense mortification, she dropped some! Weeping, she fell to her knees to mourn the loss:

Surprisingly, no one stared. Crazy Londoners.

Abandoning Buckingham Palace, we wandered around a bit until, deciding we were hungry, we went to Starbucks. Ekwy and Milano were delighted.

The SO was also quite pleased, as he found a photo of a cousin.

Leaving Starbucks, eventually, we wandered over the river. On the way, we saw the London Eye:

It was about this time I felt in a touristy mood, so when we reached Westminster Bridge... well.

We crossed, and made our way back to Trafalgar Square, stopping only to take a slightly relevant photo:

And that, my dear Agents, was the end of the first day. Take a tea break.


Done that? Right. On day two, learning from my mistake, I set off at... um... ten past nine, apparently.

Only I think I took a diversion to the library on the way. Either way, I arrived in London to discover that I wasn't first there. I think. Bear in mind that I'm reconstructing this after the fact. Anyway, according to the photos, Newmoon was there first!

And so were Ekwy and Milano! (Actually, I'm fairly sure they weren't)

And so was-- no, sorry, that's an art gallery.

A pigeon was there, though. (See, this is why I should write these reports as I go along - I have no idea why there's a photo of a pigeon here)

Now, this was a Thursday, I think two weeks after the Thursday on which London got bombed. So there were lots of policemen around, but also, this flag, on top of aforementioned art gallery:

Yes, it's at half-mast.

Anyway, we stuck around until at least half past twelve:

But no one else came. Just us three, like the day before. Sigh. Deprived of the company of our fellow PPCers, we decided to visit the London Dungeons. This required a rather long journey, but eventually we arrived. We got into the line to begin the long wait, and then, from behind us, a voice:

"Are you with the PPC?"

After getting over our shock at being recognised, we studied the girl (isn't it always?) who had asked:

None of us recognised her, but I knew her, and she had recognised me from my photo I posted on the Board. She was, in fact, none other than Vemi, co-author of The Reorganisation, who was doing work experience in London at the time of the Gathering. It was a one-in-a-million chance her being there and recognising us, but it happened. Consequentially, we got a group photo taken:

Then one of the guards from the dungeon decided to join in:

And then, tragically, Vemi had to go. We did try to make her stay, but her dedication to work - and to lunch - was too strong. She left us, and we rejoined the queue.

Inside the dungeon, I executed the others:

They didn't stay dead, however, and we went round the dungeons together. A lot of the time, we were mocking things. There was a moment of excitement when the Sunflower Official's head fell off, but Ekwy found it again, and we all rejoiced. Then there was the man from the tour group who got executed for contempt of court... but enough of this. Suffice to say that, despite the low quality of the corpses, it was an experience. We left in the end, though, and took a photo to prove that we were all alive:

Hungry, we wandered the south bank of the Thames until Newmoon spotted something familiar:

Two food breaks, two American companies. I'm beginning to suspect a conspiracy.

Striding forth along the south bank, we found the world. Then we all went home:

We continued walking, stopping only for an ice cream kindly provided by Newmoon's mother - who's been taking most of the group photos, by the way - and passed over Tower Bridge. In the end, we came to that landmark I mentioned back at the beginning of Day One, and met a bird that inspired our pity:

On reflection, I seem to recall meeting the same bird at the previous Gathering. It certainly looked at home.

So did the others. We fed them:

We fed them bread, just to clarify. Then we ran out, and the one-footed one sat down and sulked:

Really! It stayed there for a few minutes, then stood up, turned around, and sat down again. It was sulking, and making sure we knew it.

We failed to take pity, though, and went home for another night. The next day, I got to the station just too late:

The previous train left at 10:27. I arrived just as it left the station. Needless to say, I was annoyed. Fortunately, however, there was another train on a different platform. So I went through the tunnel to the other platform. It reminded me somewhat of HQ, only more colourful:

I finally arrived in London (late, late...) and found that being delayed is a good thing. More people turn up!

All right, a more people. PureDeadThingy, to be precise (PDT, really). With her in tow, we made our way to the Tower of London. It's always good for a laugh, that place, and we got our first in the shop outside the Tower, where we encountered Sparkly Mary-Sue Ekwy:

Make that Homicidal Sparkly Mary-Sue Ekwy. Then we located King/Queen Ekwy and Princess PDT:

We eventually made it into the Tower, and encountered an old friend: Grima Wormtongue in an Urple robe.

Oh, and Jesus. In Not-Quite-So-Urple:

And Grima again, this time disguised as the Gentleman Porter/Chief Yeoman Warder. He gets everywhere.

And some very strange people who reminded us of assassins:

We finally left that tower - yes, all the urple clothing was in the same tower - and wandered into the White Tower. Arms and Armour, yes indeed. However, we were too busy ogling to take photos until the end, when we put PDT in some:

And Ekwy got her arm stuck in a vambrace and gauntlet:

And then we visited the shop, where Mary-Sue met a unicorn:

The unicorn didn't like Mary-Sue:

Nor did the Mini-Balrog:

Then we were told that we weren't allowed to play with the merchandise, and that we weren't allowed to take photos of it. Presumably this is because evil rival agencies will use the photos to steal the secret of tacky ornaments. However, we were evil, and on discovering that the route out of the tower led over a balcony above the shop...

But we left, and went to find some food. While the others were eating, I got a phone call, and went to the front gate to pick up someone we recognised... this time:

Being a PPC Gathering, we just had to have a group photo, provided as usual by Newmoon's mother:

From left to right: hS, PDT, Milano, Newmoon, Vemi, Ekwy. Oh, and Newmoon's raven and Ekwy's owl.

Shortly after this, I got bullied by the others, who threw popcorn at me:

Sadly, our day at the Tower had to end, so we returned to the Tower Hill Sundial for a bit more pigeon feeding. Our one-footed friend was there again:

And the bird at the back of the next photo is not a pigeon - it's a dove:

And the dove again, side-on, near the back. Note also that we were running out of bread, so at the bottom right are our attempts to feed the birds on Swedish candy.

Group photo time: PPC And The Pigeons.

And the pigeons came marching in...

But eventually they marched off again, leaving behind something of a debris field of uneaten candy. Ungrateful wretches.

And so, the time drew near for us to part. Just time for one more group photo (which Vemi apparently didn't know about)...

... and one quick shot of the pigeons getting high on the sugar we left behind...

... and one more group photo, this one including Newmoon's mother, PDT's poseable man, and Vemi's notebook (and my bag)...

... and a quick dance from the girls...

... and a quick one of the Tower, just to prove it was there...

... and oh, why not, another group photo, taken by me and featuring for the first (and last) time PDT's father in the background...

... and we were done!

And then we all went home. I gather the girls had exciting adventures on the trains, but I wasn't there, so there's no photos. I waved a sad farewell and got on a train of my own, but I'm sure we'll meet again. Probably next summer.

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