Back from a weekend in Oxfordshire. First to Oxford itself and nice drinks with the Beloved Ex, his partner and her child. The poor BE had me and his partner discussing his mother by about the fourth pint. I seem very good at finding gentlemen friends whose mothers feature way too much in their lives. Clearly, if I give up on the idea of being a secular nun I shall have to ensure I only date orphans. Luckily we also discussed imperialism, the British opium trade, and that the BE has given up smoking due to a scary "not breathing" moment. I was smoking happily all day.
Then on to Faringdon, for the festival there, in the surprisingly titled council area of The Vale of the White Horse. More beer. Spent some time talking to an RAF bomb disposal chap (and you really have to use the word 'chap' when talking about the RAF).
Sunday morning I woke early and had my own rather alarming "not breathing" moment. I've had a slight hitch in my breath for a while now, which comes on when stressed. Feeling a little 'tired' from all the beer, the hitch came back the precise moment when I was being 'unwell' in the toilet. I spent several seconds discovering that I could not draw a breath at all, as if the windpipe was utterly blocked. After the notion of being found dead in a pub bathroom and how embarassingly Bernard-esque it would be*, I got under control and finally got some air. So no more smoking for me either.
(* "Fran will fail, you'll toil your life away and I'll die alone upside down on the floor of a pub toilet." -Bernard Black, Black Books.)
After a shaky breakfast, and being excessively vague at Paul Cornell in the street, I walked up to the Faringdon Folly and did climb it (unlike all the lightweights I knew who took one look at the Vertigo-esque stairs and bottled it). You can see the Uffingdon horse from the leads of the Folly, but not very well. I always like the notion that the horse is actually a cat. Looking over the Ridgeway from the Folly, I made a mental note to get around to walking it in some future summer. I've been promising to do that for many years and never do. I could take a ppk of Riddley Walker as well. Maybe next year, since Faringdon is having the festival again.
Sunday afternoon I felt well enough to attend talks. The Battle of Britain: The Most Dangerous Enemy by Dr. Stephen Bungay was enthralling. I was especially interested in the mythologising of the battle and the fact you can parallel the events as they are normally recounted with Homer's Illyaid. Dr Bungay then went on to examine how the story of the Battle of Britain is different to the history. Fascinating stuff. Then Richard from CFZ on dragons in myth and reality. Again, interesting ideas about how we create our own monsters, but tied to
paleon paeleo prehistoric food chains. Straight after that was the Writing comedy for television panel, with Steve Moffat (Press Gang, Coupling), Nev Fountain (Dead Ringers) and Paul Mayhew-Archer (My Hero, Vicar of Dibley). This was entertaining simply because all of them are good at the quick response stuff - you imagine they rarely suffer from treppenwitz. Nev will, obviously, be getting in trouble with the Nation estate for the moment when his throat mike made him do a Dalek impression.
Then the pub again, where I foolishly read out a couple of poems at the poetry slam, but not "in competition". Shelley's Ozymandias (I panicked and looked for something short and familiar) and TSEliot's Macavity (in honour of moosifer who was also known as Mac). Reading out poems after a couple of drinks is a lot more fun that it was in school. Possibly due to the fact that even during A-levels when many lunchtimes were spent in the pub, we never just read them for fun. Ended up arguing that people ought to read TSEliot's non-cat stuff as well, such as The Waste Land, the Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock and Rhapsody on a Windy Night because of the evocation of urban night reality in them:
Every street lamp that I pass
Beats like a fatalistic drum
Finally back via a late train.
Photos later. Although not of the Bernard Black moment.