Samhuinn this year saw me as both head steward and head torchie. Wonderful combination. I won't bore people with the details of organisers meetings or trying to find rehearsal space at zero notice, because I've ranted about it before. Instead, I'm just going to concern myself with the run-up and night itself.
Saturday was a strange day. Not hungover from Friday night's revelries, I was up ludicrously early. After the usual Saturday stuff (wandering to set my head in weekend mode, scanning for new books/GNs, and so on), it was off to the second H&S briefing, where I was able to recruit more stewards, then fireproofing, and the unending quest for a place to sit and a drink. Given Friday's excesses, I thought sobriety might be a good idea. This strange idea carried on through theauldhoose's Haloween party, ending at around eleven when I ended up engaged in catch-up drinking. Then on to a party that I escaped at 7:30 in the morning after changing the clocks, for some reason without my zippo.
Up before midday on Sunday, when I remembered that I'd left my AJ (adjustable spanner) back down in Hull after lending it to my dad. This did give me a reason to run to Homebase and grab a set of AJs and a foot-and-a-half wrecking bar. I didn't need the latter, but fuck it. I've wanted something to replace Mr. Happy ever since I had to leave my last crowbar in Munich. Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a day off when you've four new stewards to train. I sorted washing and all such as that, and generally busied myself before attending parliament square and scaring the ghost tours. Apparently I didn't scare the stewards, as they all turned up on the night. Which was nice. I took an hour or two to work on the start of Artemis Hemmingway and the Science Zombies of JCMB before a simple stress relief session with scattergather and gominokouhai followed, playing Hapland until early o'clock.
: Nothing to do with original_aj. Nothing. The jokes are crap and old and I'm sick of hearing them from people who have never done any kind of production work before.
: Crowbar/prybar/jimmy depending on where you're from. To me it's a crowbar, but several people know them as around 3' long, which I never have encountered as common parlance before.
Monday. Out of bed at ten. Empty out bag of everything, including the VSI Anarchism that's been living there since I was last in the US. Repack with paperwork, gloves, spare gloves, fluorescent tabards, crowbar, gaffer tape, AJs, hammer, spirit level, notepad, bottled water, and flyers. Scarily enough, everything but the crowbar and spirit level ended up seeing use. Sorted the torchballs, met up with figg and carried the balls to Parliament Square in order that we could start making a stage. Sod office jobs, I want to work in production. There's something about getting things right and balanced and putting things together, thinking about the job and the fag you're smoking and the next couple of steps, and then just doing it that has a distinct appeal. In three hours, we'd put together a stage and got it stable and level, put the torches back together, readied the torchballs, and generally made the whole thing right. There was even the near-traditional Tef miracle, fixing the chains into the square after one decided to fall down inside a bollard.
After that, getting people organised. The production line for facepainting went incredibly well. We'd been asked to pick up the torches at 8, and people started arriving at 6. It was almost worrying to see all thirty-six people turning up where I asked them, when I asked them. I must admit to stressing out badly during the first half-hour or so, leading me to give my brain to grendelsmere to answer so that I didn't throw a lump of very useful electronics across the room while swearing loudly. In the end, everyone had facepaint, everyone knew what they were doing, and it actually looked like we would be ready and on time. And we were. Not just that, we were on time for the stewards, whom the council had wanted on site from 8pm. Despite the torchies being later due to collecting their balls, we were still formed up on the castle esplanade at ten past eight. For a procession setting off at nine, that's bloody good going.
One thing I will always remember to ask long before starting is how we're lighting the torches. The presence of neidfire had been mentioned at a couple of organisers meetings, but nobody had gone through with sorting anything out for it. Fortunately, akicif's jet-propelled lighter saved us from having distinctly non-flaming torches. From there, it was a case of hurry up and wait.
Of the procession itself I didn't see much. scunthorpe and I were marking the front rank, which doesn't get to see much at all. On the other hand, the punters actually moved when we glared at them or asked them to move (depending on role). Nobody got burned, and we were able to get into the square without a problem.
I could now go in to my few gripes about the night, focus on the three incidents that I know about and the endless niggly shite that hit after the performance was over and the whole thing broke up into pre-takedown chaos. But I won't. Focusing on that won't help anything. Instead, I'll say that the performances themselves were great, the final swordfight itself was bloody good, and when all was said and done the stewards and torchies holding the cordon had lost less room than I'd thought possible. The performance was great, and even when I did see one incident I knew with certainty that the people dealing with it could deal with it. It's nice to have that faith in people and see that it's justified. There's things we could have done better but there's things that we always could do better. That's for the debrief. Right now, I'm sticking to the positives.
From there, the traditional half hour of chaos and desperate nicotine, then on to demolishing the stage. What went up in three hours came down in less than one. Never doubt the speed, skill, and efficiency of people who want to get something done right so they can head off for a beer. Once all was done and loaded and we weren't needed, off to the club (after a brief sit-down and smoke in Hunter Square). There's something strangely gratifying about staggering past the line of people waiting to get in, waving that holiest of holies — a production pass.
The club itself was mixed. Darker than I'd have preferred, far too loud, and with damnedly expensive beer — but it was still enjoyable. After all the stress, all the tension, all the worries and the fears and everything else going on, there's something to be said for downing two beers and spacking out to the drummers without a care in the world. Even if figg and I did have to steward to get the drummers in...
I stuck around until people left, but didn't bother with the afterparty. Getting outside flipped something in my brain, and I just wanted a chance to calm down, sit down on some steps, and smoke a cigarette without lots of people around. So I did.
: If you're going to wear a tall, flammable hat with feathers stiicking out of it then might I suggest you not stick it right into a flaming torch? Is that not obvious to most people?