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It is still summer 1: Congregations and Conventions 18 August 2014

Posted by Dr Moose in Faith, Geekery, Life, Role-Playing Games, Time, University.
Tags: , , ,

It is still summmer, and the autumn does not begin until Greenbelt has ended, but there are signs that a change is on the way. Continuum, my biennial summer RPG fest has been and gone. The family holiday, the homage to my undergraduate years, is over. I am back at the university albeit for a mere three days. Welcome Weekend, the annual influx of excited (and excitable) new students is barely a month away. Maybe more telling is the fact that this blog has been slumbering for a couple of months, and barely frequented much before that.

I must, and often do, confess that I’m not very good at taking opportunities. Faced with a summer including vast swathes of quiet time I still find jobs to do rather than seize the day and write the blog, even when I could clearly justify this as both personal development and even a form of ministry.

The end result is that events remain ill-documented. This post is, I suppose, an attempt to counter that tendency!

At the end of June, with a degree of trepidation (not to mention anxiety about the financial implications) I hired a car for a weekend journey to Plymouth, staying in the apartment in Saltash, for a meeting with 20 or so others who I’d studied alongside as an undergraduate at the now long-since renamed Plymouth Polytechnic. I was a little worried quite how much I’d remember: not because I’d spent the years in an alcoholic haze (I’d barely mastered the Art of Drinking), but because I hadn’t really socialised that much with folks from the course, instead being far more engaged with the Christian Union and the Elim Pentecostal Church there. I have four years of very positive memories of Plymouth and one less so. I cannot deny that upon leaving Plymouth I took the opportunity to re-invent myself somewhat, having realised in my last year there that had I met myself I wouldn’t have liked the person I met very much. Nevertheless, within a few minutes of seeing old coursemates I realised that I remembered far more than I thought, even if it had been stored in the attic of my mind for a long time. Geography, with its fieldwork, both day trips and longer residential ones, gives you a great deal of opportunity for encounter and engagement, perhaps rather more than some courses. We may have all been rather older, larger of waistline and greyer of hair, but it really didn’t feel like 25 years since our Finals and I enjoyed myself tremendously! To my shame I must admit I don’t remember visiting any of the drinking establishments as the virtuous young man I was then… so at least one thing has changed, even as I have resolved (and succeeded in starting) to cut my alcohol intake considerably!

Much of July was full and busy too. The Vice-Chancellor’s annual summer drinks reception for staff one Monday set the tone for the following days of university graduations.  Busy and fascinating as always, with free food and drink as a guest of the Vice-Chancellor in exchange for conversations with local mayors and the like over lunch. Then again, where else would you meet a Colombian leather producer and share memories of higher education in the 1980s (not to mention the differences between the HE sector in both nations now, as well as comparing English Anglicanism with Colombian Roman Catholicism?) Once again I was struck by how many graduating students I had not encountered from the main campus, and conversely by quite how many I’d served hot drinks on the Arts campus! I look forward to doing it all again, especially as I have another contract, this time for 4 years, lined up, if not actually signed! The week was rounded off by church matters. Firstly, attending a service of Thanksgiving for 50 years of ministry for a Chruch Army colleague and an enjoyable catch up with former parishioners who, 2 years after I left them to go full time at Uni have finally got a new vicar (or, more correctly, Priest-in-Charge).  Secondly I was “let loose” at St Giles, where we worship as a family, on the lively Sunday evening service to preside at Communion. Since I’m rarely active in a church setting, by nature of the Chaplaincy ministry, it was a very enjoyable change. I remain far from sure I’d want to do it every week, but it was a good reminder and refresher!

The month wound up with a good week at Uni: supporting colleagues after a staff death,  meeting one of the local Evangelical Free ministers and ordering more custom mugs for the Chaplaincy hospitality work before the school year ended and the delights of Continuum beckoned. For my seventh visit I chose a different form of transport. I’ve never needed to fly, but have usually driven, once taking the train and a local bus for the last couple of miles. This time though, with only one road-worthy car in the household and a driving GLW, I was reminded that there is a bus that passes within about half a mile of both our front door and (the rather utilitarian and lifeless Con venue that is) John Foster Hall of the University of Leicester! It cannot really be called an adventure, but it was a welcome change (and probably tells me that I should get out more!)

And, as usual, I had a blast. I’d promised both myself and the GLW that I’d drink less this year (which is a tough challenge for an RPG Con) but I did, aided by a hot and humid spell of weather that left the flat I was in only marginally habitable for much of the time, although it’s amazing what a cold shower before bed can achieve! The first night saw a rather fun game of Durance, very much a story-driven game that I understand is a refinement of Fiasco. Sadly I found myself suffering badly from the heat, which left me feeling rather unwell and less able to contribute to the extent I wished. (I think our party rather ‘broke’ the game, although through no fault of the GM, my friend and Traveller stalwart Dom Mooney).

Saturday was another hot one and the morning passed in conversation and half-serious planning for a possible game I might have run as GM. (It didn’t happen and I don’t regret it: I’ve run at least one game on every occasion I’ve been at Convulsion/Continuum bar the first I ever visited, and it was a rather nice change). In the afternoon I found myself a slot in Jeff Richard’s game: a hugely enjoyable showcase of the forthcoming Glorantha-specific book of HeroQuest 2, which will follow the epic Guide to Glorantha which is shipping even as I write, and reminds me that I have both an article submitted for publication with the irrepressible Newt Newport and one originally published in Tradetalk that must be comprehensively re-worked for Wyrm’s Footprints (the Balkoth Tribe of Sartar and the Land of Caratan, respectively). I still sometimes get the pace of HeroQuest wrong, which is eponymously heroic, when compared to the grittier and smaller scale RuneQuest. Nothing less than a full-blown heroquest to the underworld for the former, to reinforce the mythic scale upon which the players must act! As if this wasn’t enough of a reminder, the Glorantha Q & A which followed plumbed new depths of scholarly enquiry and esoteria, such as issues of quite how the Red Goddess was (re-)born and the nature of sin in Gloranthan understanding. (It’s on YouTube, and I must dedicate the time to listen.)

The evening was rounded off with a lively mix of stories of Gloranthan flavour, including Trotsky’s renditions of myths of the Vadrudi (in broad Yorkshire), Jane William’s erudite and delightful telling of the importance of the placement of the hyphen for the Humakti of the Upland Marsh and Oliver Dickinson regaling us with further tales of Griselda from Pavis.

The great city on the borders of Prax hosted Sunday morning’s game too, with Jane blending Glorantha and folk song for the detective-themed In Pavis’ Fair City and an outing, once again, for Olav Dickin’s son, among others. I will never be able to think of Yelmalions in the quite the same light though, as my Yelmalion farm boy developed a Somerset accent very early in the proceedings, which combined with the geases to Always Tell The Truth and Never Wash led to much amusement! Even more notable was the way the game was deliberately paused after an hour to allow both playing and attendance at my regular slot on Spirituality and Role-Playing. This, the fifth appearance, played with the byline for the Con on “Back to the Roots”, to at least start out by looking at the role and place of Fundamentalism in both RPGs and faith. Once again it was not recorded, though I toyed with using my phone to do it, and decided against it. I might have some notes somewhere…

The afternoon also provided a chance for vocal variety in the fun game of Call of Cthulhu entitled Are You Being Severed?, blending the game of insane gods and monsters with classic 1970s sitcom. The result, with Mr Humphrey’s being free, tales of Mrs Slocombe’s pussy and the antics of the other staff left us worthy of Mr Grace’s catchphrase, “You’ve all done very well!” Indeed, the same must be said of the other Con tradition, the great Gloranthan Singalong, which despite the absence of Nick Brooke was hosted with great aplomb and patience by Julia Rawcliffe, aided and abbetted by Daniel Fahey, and was probably the most tuneful of recent years!

All told it was a great weekend, despite the absence of a number of notables, closed by being the last person off-site (someone has to be!)

Of course, for the continuing summer, all has not been told. But that, dear reader, must wait for another day, and this unpolished post must be released into the wild, before it becomes habituated to the comfort of my hard-drive and fails to soar on the winds of the internet.

Matters are, as the cliché runs, to be continued….



1. janewilliams20 - 18 August 2014

I have to admit that some of the folk song element surprised me as well – when I listed your skills as “to plough and sow, to reap and mow” I hadn’t really expected anyone to recognise “to be a farmer’s boy”, much less to burst into song!

2. It is still summer 2: Coming Home | Life, Faith and Role-Playing Games - 28 August 2014

[…] with a good memory my recall that in my previous post I declared that “autumn does not begin until Greenbelt has ended.” This is indeed true. […]

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