PPC Gathering: York, 2008


A Gathering! It feels like far too long since I've reported on one of these; that's because I never actually got round to writing up the Bath 2007 Gathering, which means it's been two years. So I'll put in two years' worth of effort this time and hope no one notices. Which would be easier if I hadn't just brought it up. Oh, well.

As usual with PPC Gatherings, I had to get up early for this one (held on Saturday 14th June AD 2008). In fact, although the Gathering was scheduled to start at 1 pm, I had to get up earlier than ever before. This is because the Gathering was in York. I live in Essex.

That's quite a bit further away than London. So I had to get up at 7am, and be out of the house by 8. I was quite tired at that point.

Not too tired to show off my brand new, home-made t-shirt, though. With the SO on the front and my credentials on the back (stating 'I survived MSTing Celebrian (this may explain a lot)') I felt I was going to be fairly recognisable. Of course, if that wasn't enough, I always had some Gathering Goodies to hand out:

'PPC: The Radio Plays. The Gathering Collection'. Which JulyFlame had finished up in a great rush in time for the Gathering, so thanks are due to her.

To cut a long and tedious story short, I eventually arrived in York at around midday. It was sunny when my train pulled into the station. When I made it to the exit, it was raining. When I'd walked to the National Railway Museum, our designated meeting point, it was sunny again. Five minutes later, the rain was back. Sigh.

No one was there yet (sensible people), so I waited. And waited. And waited. At around twenty to one I wandered off down the road to see if they were at the other entrance, but that was closed due to random soldiers, so I came back, and lo and behold, there were PPCers. Apparently 'a watched pot never boils' is accurate even when the PPC is involved. Oh, well. Obligatory group photo!

So you're sitting there thinking 'I recognise hS, but who are all those other people?'. Well, I won't tell you yet, because as it turned out, not everyone was there. We waited until one, and no one else had turned up. We waited another twenty minutes to half an hour -- in the intermittent rain -- and lo! Who should approach us but another member of the Board!

From left to right we are: Laburnum, Huinesoron, Serra, Cassie Cameron-Young, Ansela, and Paddlebrains. Cassie was the organiser of this Gathering, inasmuch as they can be organised, and in the previous shot held the sign she made for it. This makes a nice change for me, as it's the first UK Gathering I haven't been running. Glee!

Having decided that six people was all we were getting (and looking over the Board, that was all we were expecting), we set off into the depths of York. Some of our number wanted to find a pub to settle in, but given that we'd need to set the Department of Technical Errors on the first one we found before we'd be comfortable in there...

... this course of action was quickly abandoned. Instead, we kept walking (and walking and walking...) until we came to... well. Given that I've already invoked the DTE, it would be remiss of me not to say that the place we reached looks like something the Department of Geographical Aberrations would be interested in.

It just... sticks up in the middle of the city. Very strange. And apparently, the staff were worried about DOGA, too.

It's a bare stone castle; even DOGA would have a hard time setting fire to it.

Actually, as we found out inside, the castle had been burnt at least once before -- that was when the roof had fallen in. A while after, in AD 1190, it had been the scene of a great tragedy, in which the entire Jewish population of the city was wiped out. There's a plaque on the site to memorialise this.

The line of Hebrew at the bottom is referenced to Isaiah 42:12, and most likely reads 'Let them give glory unto the Lord'.

Well, that was cheerful. But I'm getting slightly ahead of myself; before we went up the long flight of stairs to the castle itself, we were viciously attacked.

All right, they didn't get so far as to actually attack us, but there were about twenty geese (mostly Canada Geese) sitting around a tree, and just before we started up, they all began to walk towards us. Very scary. So we fled up the stairs. And then further up to the top of the castle walls. There's quite a view from up there.

No, I wasn't the only one looking at the view. Everyone wanted to see!

So we walked around the top of the wall and went back down into the castle proper. We visited the shop. It had swords. And longbows. And crossbows. For the most part these were of course toy versions, although they did stock steel swords... and I did want a crossbow. But I refrained. Some of our number bought sugary sweets, but this is the PPC, what did you expect?

We then went down and bought lunch, which we ate in the shadow of the castle. But not alone...

This is Monty. Monty was very fond of us. Particularly Serra.

In fact, he was so fond of us that we figured out what he was doing there: he's a PPC Agent. Speculatively, he was from Intelligence, keeping an eye on us with his partners.

On the left is Bob, the first pigeon Agent we met. On the right are Tod, above, and Deidre, below; they arrived around the same time as one another.

Of course, we know how hungry Agents are, hard working souls that they are, so we were kind and fed them. It might also have made Monty and co more well-disposed towards us; if they were there to monitor us (and considering the trouble we caused back in 2004 when we visited Tolkien's grave, that wouldn't be unreasonanble) this could only be a good thing. Of course, we didn't feed him everything... like my drinks. I needed those.

They're up to the right of Ansela. They also feature in our fantastic group photo!

From left to right: Laburnum, Serra, Cassie, Monty, Ansela and Paddlebrains. In the second version, Monty gives a lovely profile, while Bob and Deidre also make their appearences.

Well, that was nice and relaxing. But we're the PPC -- we don't just do 'relaxing'. No, we need to add a side order of 'insane'. As it turned out, not only one, but two of our number had had the same idea: they had brought along copies of the famous badfic legolas by laura, 'just in case'. Well, we're not the sort to let an opportunity like that pass, and so I am proud to present for your dubious enjoyment, the PPC's first ever audio-visual group reading of... 'legolas by laura'.

I hope you, er, "enjoyed" that. And I apologise for the low quality of the video; my camera's not really set up for it.

Lunch being over, we wandered off to find somewhere else to explore and mock. And yes, we found it, in the York Dungeons.

Veteran readers of these Gathering Reports may recall that we also visited the London Dungeons back in 2005. As I said that time, "A lot of the time, we were mocking things." Well, they're run by the same company, and they don't change... right down to the low-quality corpses. Unlike last time, no one got executed for contempt of court. This time, however, one of our own was put on trial.

This is Laburnum being tried for graffiti-ing a cart, then pushing an old woman over and stealing her hat. She was sentenced to be flogged, and after such a despicable crime, she certainly deserved it.

Unfortunately for the bloodthirsty amongst us, the expected flogging didn't actually happen, and we all made it out (after an encounter with the famous highwayman Dick Turpin, who had something to do with York, I forget what). And then, as it was nearly five o'clock, we resumed our search for a pub. Preferably one with good spelling.

We wandered in the general direction of the train station, and since it was time (ish) for us to part, we took one last group photo. With the Gathering Goodies.

(Huinesoron, Paddlebrains, Ansela, Serra, Cassie, Laburnum. It's not that I assume you've forgotten, but that I'm likely to lose track of who's who if I don't keep listing their names)

And then... well, we were all going home, so I went into something of a photography frenzy:

But it wasn't just me who was taking photos, I promise!

So there we were. We reached the station at around twenty past five, and I discovered that my next train home was at around ten to six. So where did we go? Where do you think we went?

Yes, the quest for the pub was finally over. Rejoice and be thankful, etc etc. My bottle of water just makes its appearence on the right hand side of the picture. And yes, for those of you who've been asking since the beginning of the Report, Paddlebrains does indeed wear her flashpatch on a dog collar around her neck. This is the PPC, what did you expect?

It's usually a lonesome affair being Huinesoron at a Gathering. Wherever they are, I always seem to be leaving in a completely different direction to everyone else, so while they're all riding the same trains, I'm wandering away by myself. But not this time! By a complete stroke of luck (and a little persuasion on my part -- it meant they left York five minutes after they would have otherwise) Ansela and Serra ended up getting the same train as me. They didn't go nearly as far, of course, but I didn't have to spend the entire journey with no one to talk to.

For the observant among you, the book Ansela is holding is the source of this year's Gathering tagline, 'Our Shoes Making Walking Tiring'. And after that day, who can argue with it?

Still, all good things must come to an end. We reached their stop, and, taking their hot drinks with them, the last PPCers (except me, of course) had to go. Say goodbye through the window, people.

Then it was all over for another year.

Well, all except the mind-numbingly long journey back to London, which got me into St. Pancras at 10 pm. Then, just as I was trying to make my way out of the station and continue my journey home, I saw... this:

ATM Machines. Automated Teller Machine... Machines.

Sigh. A PPCer's work is never done.

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