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Palm Pilot at Badger Cottage

[explaination] I've just been to darkest Gloucestershire as one of thirteen comiceers on badasstronaut's amazing Midwinter Comics Retreat. The idea was to work alone, work together, do what we want as long as it was comics. What we did was jam, jam till we'd made a 16-page mini, awesomely complicated and with a cast of 1000s; also including (to my joy) autobiographical blunderings under the watchful eyes of sinister birds.

saturday, small hours - insomnia
As far back as I can remember the history of bedtime has been one of consciousness; of hours awake listening to the sound of other people breathing. In here, I can hear Damian breathing, even over the minidisc that isn't really the best for sending me to sleep but it's the best of the ones I have with me. When I turned on the music he abruptly got much louder, as if to compensate, adding further weight to my theory that people snore not on purpose but deliberately, in order to subtly reinforce dominance on social lessers through forcinq them to adapt and cope with an invasion of space (or alternatively suffer sleep deprivation) - and that this is chiefly carried out to settle dominance issues within couples. Sub/conscious assertion of social dominance through sleep behaviours. I wonder if anyone's done a study? In the corridoor, I can hear Damian, Jo and Alex, out in the main room, Ruth and Jenni. I'm in Cockshutt cottage and there is nowhere that doesn't sound of sleeping person.

I stayed up as late as I reasonably could, drank as much as I reasonably could. I've tried telling stories to myself and counting Damian's breaths. It's no good; I still can't sleep - and, as an added bonus, I'm also tired, bored, and experiencing the inexorable unfolding of a hangover. I might be able to work. But everywhere's full of sleeping people. So I'm lying here unassertively listening to music at three of three, draining the batteries on my palm by running the backlight, dark enough outside there's no loose light to go and sit in.

Dark, and full of owls.

saturday, afternoon - grey and brown world
Something about the flow of the valley turns me around and leaves me blundering between piles of poo. Sleep deprivation? Crossed energy lines? Bad karma from eating cow because I saw some nice brown ones in a field? You have to like brown to enjoy looking at December; the forest is in every shade of dun, the mud, mud-coloured. Even the green ivy and red berries look like they have brown mixed in. The wooded sides of the valleys are complicated and flat like abstract embroidery on canvas, brutal because it's subtle. We walk along the bottom of a dry valley between a dry river and a dry canal, reach a warm pub. "It's funny round here," says the man behind the bar, "Masses of water when it rains, but as soon as it stops, gone." When DEbra goes back for her hat I climb a steep bank because I'm bored, because it's there, because I like going up hills. I grab a rotten branch and nearly fall back down again. Safely over the top I find; a small pile of poo.

sunday, morning - walking from Cockshutt to Hornston
Stupidly picturesque, like a calendar collage of December on the farm; animals (kitten, chicken, farmer, cows, sheep, dog, horses) isolated in vast expanses, lit by the leant-far-back sun, gilding and shadows and a cold blue sky. Banbury Road sign. Why? Still too bright for my broken camera. Collagy, like we, creators of stuck-together story made from things we've found (pagan rites, badgers, piles of poo) things we like (monkeys, robots, David Attenborough) bits of us and aspects of here and fragments of old stuff we remember. Big breakfasts and boozy evenings. Woods are full of old man's beard.

[comment] Probably the most interesting thing about the weekend for me was working with a writer -- being presented with a series of problems, show this, portray this, include this. Curious like a logic puzzle, a problem. I played pretty fast and loose with the script -- probably bad of me. The worst thing was how I couldn't hit a comfortable working speed; the same problem as has been dogging me throughout this last month, always I'm ill, I can't focus, it's uncomfortable, I can run it for about three lines and then it's gone. Frustrating and aggravating, like constantly having to fight for balance on slippery ground. Also being called "prolific" -- always depressing. On the whole, though, I can't recommend it enough. This christmas, sod visiting the folks -- grab some mates and head off somewhere remote to make a comic (film, photos, books, collages, artworks, whatever you like to do). It's fab.


( 18 worms — Feed the birds )
7th Dec, 2003 14:49 (UTC)
I wondered about that Banbury Road sign too.
9th Dec, 2003 02:35 (UTC)
I phoned Mr Usbourne
and he said he hadn't found anything yet, but took my address to post it on if he did -- what a nice guy. He may quail a bit when he sees the size of the folder, mind ...

(if I get it back he's getting a BIG bunch of flowers!)
9th Dec, 2003 03:03 (UTC)
Re: I phoned Mr Usbourne
I'm assuming you've already checked in Ruth's car...
9th Dec, 2003 05:25 (UTC)
Re: I phoned Mr Usbourne
we didn't pack anything loose at all. This was a case of opening a closed bag and something I expected to be there, not being there.
9th Dec, 2003 15:25 (UTC)
Re: I phoned Mr Usbourne
And the maddest thing of all?
I went back into the lounge when nearly everyone was gone, checking to see if there was anything left in there, knowing nothing would have been left behind, but urged to look anyway.

If it was in there, it must have been most expertly slid under the furniture by Fate.
10th Dec, 2003 02:15 (UTC)
I had certainly realised
I was missing something subconsciously -- I was in a severe state of panic as we were tidying up. I took it as left-over badger-drawing/food dispersal anxiety.

Ho hum. I'm trying to reconstruct the folder contents from memory.
7th Dec, 2003 17:13 (UTC)
I like your theory about snoring!! and I agree.
8th Dec, 2003 01:17 (UTC)
This is a beautiful evocative piece of writing. And I agree about the snoring too!
9th Dec, 2003 02:37 (UTC)
touched a nerve there ...
8th Dec, 2003 03:25 (UTC)
Yeah, a very atmospheric read. Sounds weirdly excellent. I am, of course, envious. Pagan rites and piles of poo; bliss-
9th Dec, 2003 02:43 (UTC)
we promised to
pass on a copy of the comic to the farmers.

I'm wondering how the rich mix of pagan fearsomeness, obscure injokes, naked celebrities, teenaged lesbians and giant wicker badgers will go down, though ...

I wonder if there's a nunnery or somewhere you could do a comics retreat in London at? They're probably all fearsome conference prices, though.
9th Dec, 2003 05:34 (UTC)
Re: we promised to
Nah, I think you need to be in proper Royston Vasey-ish ' country' for a real retreat. Otherwise everyone would wander off and do displacement activities, as per usual. Of course, I suppose everyone could be locked in to the hypothetical london nunnery....
10th Dec, 2003 02:11 (UTC)
oh my god!!!!!
we're locked in the nunnery!

the nuns, the nuns ....
8th Dec, 2003 04:12 (UTC)
if i had the money i'd go off somewhere with other computermusic types and do the our version of the same as wot you done. byebye tacky xmas horridness and hello lovely improvised squiggly noises made in the countreee. sigh.
9th Dec, 2003 02:37 (UTC)
cost of weekend =

hiring a cottage out of season is about one of the cheapest hols there is. Do it!
8th Dec, 2003 06:45 (UTC)
DO you think that TV cook guy studied here?
8th Dec, 2003 07:21 (UTC)
Oh yes, I can't believe there is anywhere called Ponce! Now I'am just having visions of Lloyd Grossman as a Doctor and it's not nice.
16th Apr, 2004 09:12 (UTC)
Wow! You folk did it ! You really did it ! Congratulations belatedly.

I'm looking forward to seeing the comic.

And the 2004 session.

Andy Luke
( 18 worms — Feed the birds )