Friday, 2 September 2016

Blob Thing Meets Story Tellers And Goths In His First Hours At #Greenbelt

Blob's person was anxious.  She had been quite scared of attending Greenbelt and having to cope with both a festival and a place where people might talk about Christianity quite a bit.  But she walked through the entrance with a smile on her face.  The sun shone and things didn't seem overly scary.

Walking into the festival everyone could see that it was big.  Lots of tents.  Lots of activity.  Lots of people.  Blob's person wasn't able to just throw herself into the activity.  First she would need to find her way around and learn where everything was.  She had been worried that there might be nothing at Greenbelt she would want to be involved in - or be able to be involved in - but was hopeful that there would be at least something.

First things first.  Walk the grounds.  Explore.  The four companions walked past the main big top.  John Bell of Iona had been discussing reading only the bits of the Bible that contain women.  Pretty soon the Archbishop of Canterbury would be having a chat with someone.  But Blob's person wasn't relaxed enough to try entering that big tent and listen.  They walked on.

They came across a yurt - if it was actually a yurt.  This was the Christian Aid Storytelling Yurt.  The people there were giving away a very good magazine.  It was filled with stories of people.  Blob looks forward to reading it all when he gets time.  Blob's person and creator took time there to have temporary tattoos attached to their arms.  Six days later and they haven't outlasted their temporaryness.  The tattoos were words:  brother, sister, sibling.  They are meant to express that all people are connected, that all people are one family.  It's doubtful that anyone has seen Blob's person's words and understood but they're quite pretty.  And the people at the yurt were very friendly.  They were part of the Christian Aid Collective, a group who make the claim that we are "bound together by our stories."  You can read about the story yurt here.

Blob's person and his creator went to a presentation by members of Actors for Human Rights, a group of more than 700 actors across the country.  It was called Asylum Dialogues and consisted of transcripts of the words of asylum seekers and people who helped them.  The stories were interweaved.  Three stories.  All of them moving and powerful.

As the people spoke, beyond their voices everyone could hear that trouble was coming.  In the distance was the sound of thunder.  At that moment in another tent people were taking part in an event called "Shelter From The Storm."  Nobody knew how much shelter would be needed in the next hours.

The dialogues were over and Blob left the tent.  It was no longer sunny.  The sky was filled with cloud and it was getting darker.  Blob was glad that he wouldn't get wet if it rained because he could hide in the rucksack his person was carrying.  Blob's person had no such advantage because she was much too big to fit in the rucksack.  Blob was amused by the thought of watching his person trying to climb into the bag and zip it up over her head.

And then, knowing their connection could never be broken, the four companions split up.

Blob and his person went one way.  Winefride and Blob's creator went another way to go and be involved in something.  It was okay.  They knew that they would meet again.

Blob continued exploring and wanted to walk all the way to the far corners of the Greenbelt site.  He passed lots more tents and saw even more tents and areas on the edges of the field.  Quieter areas.  Very noisy areas.  Blob was very glad that there wasn't a noisy fairground like there had been the last time he went to something on a big field.  He didn't think that he or anyone with him would have coped with that kind of noise for long.  He was glad that the noisy bits were related to people playing live music rather than to six different big beats playing at the same time.  Such an environment is very hard to tolerate for Blob because being autistic makes lots of sensory environments a massive struggle.  Tiring.  Painful.  Yes, Greenbelt had some noisy things.  But they were all meaningful and Blob wouldn't have to be near them if he didn't want to.  Later in the weekend his person would surprise him and surprise herself and they would be very close to some very loud music.  Winefride enjoyed that more than anyone could have imagined.

At the far end of the field, near a very large tent containing a theatre - a tent that Blob would have a lot of fun in later - Blob found a couple of friends.  They said that they were residents of a country called Jordan.  It's a long way away.  They weren't dressed the same way that most people Blob had seen were dressed.  But that didn't matter.  People are people and a different style of clothing shouldn't make us think people are scary, or not part of the family and connectedness that the people in the yurt had talked about.  The only time clothes should make us wary of people is if they have words written on them like, "I am a mass murderer and have a bloody axe in my carrier bag."  That would be scary.  But clothing from around the world isn't scary.  Religious clothing isn't scary.  Cultural clothing isn't scary.  A woman isn't scary for wearing a headdress.  A man isn't scary for wearing a particular style of hat.  That's what Blob thinks.

So here were some people who were dressed a bit funny.  They told him that in Jordan lots of people dressed like them and that there were historic, cultural, and practical reasons for that kind of clothing.  Blob was happy to learn about another culture.  These people had stories of their own to tell of a place much further away than Blob has visited.  Behind the stories they were people.  Just people.  Trying to do their best and trying to live lives of kindness.  Blob was very pleased to meet them.  Blob's person was pleased too - especially as they brought gifts from Jordan with them.  She likes gifts!

Blob and his person walked back down the field.   They passed the story yurt again and Blob stopped to play with some story cubes.  His idea was that he would roll the dice and then invent an adventure based on the order in which the nine cubes fell and the pictures on the top.  Foolishly, Blob covered up one of the cubes with his dress when he posed for a photograph.  He still wants to tell the story and is saying that maybe the ninth cube doesn't matter.  He can tell a good story with eight cubes.  Blob's person points out that he can tell a good story with no cubes at all and that she thinks that some of his recent posts contained a lot of fiction.  Blob is astounded that she might believe that some of his adventures were made up.  Blob's person says that she doesn't remember being hit on the head to wake her up after Blob's exciting chase in the library.  Blob says that's because her memory is faulty and that she shouldn't doubt him when he talks of how he eventually captured that dragon and that puffin.

Blob likes stories.  He says that stories are part of what makes us people.  To remove the stories would be to remove our personhood.  We should tell stories, write stories, read stories, share stories.  Because in the story there is life, meaning, beauty, emotion, vulnerability, strength, purpose, resolution, relaxation, and so many other things.  Story is important and it doesn't matter too much if that story is Shakespeare or Eastenders, religious myth or personal testimony.

Blob's person walked on, back to a tent called Forge.  She wanted to try a mime workshop but was a little late and missed the first few minutes.  She found it quite fun but then the workshop became working in pairs and she got anxious about that and couldn't do it - and didn't have a pair to work in anyway.  Blob's person wasn't able to approach someone to be half of a pair because she has a lot of problems initiating social interaction in some situations.  In some places she will just talk with people.  In others she can't do it.  Autscape was a wonderful place because she could wear a badge there explaining her predicament and everyone would understand - and many people would be wearing the same badge.  But that's Autscape and for the other 361 days of the year no such badges exist.

Blob could hear that the rain was very heavy and the thunder was loud.

And then the power went off.

The mime workshop continued anyway in a darker tent and without any music to move to.  Blob's person sat and watched for a while and then had to leave.  She waited until the rain sounded a little lighter and walked out of the tent door to be greeted by this sight:

The photo does not do justice to the clouds or to the way they were moving in the sky.  The sky seemed to be very different in each moment.  The rain seemed to be easing.  And then heavier.  And then easing.  Over and over.  In the end Blob and his person were forced to dodge the rain and walk into another tent even though the door was almost closed.

They discovered that they had just missed a communion service.  It wasn't quite like any communion service Blob's person had seen before in her 25 years of communion services in lots of types of church.  Everyone there was dressed in a way most people don't dress.  The entire tent was filled with a mixture of Goths and lovers of Steampunk.  Two cultures.  Coexisting at Greenbelt and living together in peace.  Blob and his person didn't quite fit in to the colour scheme because they were both wearing colour.  Apart from Blob's person's leggings they wore nothing black at all and neither of them had anything remotely Goth or anything like a cog, watch or goggles that would have suggested a steampunk influence.

But nobody minded them being there.  Nobody minded even when Blob asked to be photographed on the communion table with the chalice and the leftover bread.  Blob's person can imagine some church places where that would not be allowed.  Blob thinks that he won't sit on many altar cloths that look like this one.

Blob also believes that he wouldn't see many communion services using a chalice quite like this one:

It's a poison chalice with ivy and poison ivy berries.  The inscription says, "One poison drives out another."  The alchemists of Europe sometimes believed this.  Elsewhere there is a Sanskrit proverb that venom drives out venom and the Mahabharata contains a story about it in which Bhima was tricked into eating poison fruits.  He was then thrown into a river filled with poisonous snakes.  His captors fully expected Bhima to die quickly but he walked out of the river.  The snakes had bitten him and their poison had overcome the poison of the fruits.  Of course that's just a story and Blob Thing doesn't recommend jumping into a river full of venomous snakes if you ever get food poisoning.  He also notes that the bad guys in ancient Hindu stories commit the same mistake that the bad guys do in modern superhero tales.  They come up with some complex method of killing the good guys rather than just getting on and killing them.  Some complicated device in six stages with a chance of escape at any point rather than just a quick bullet.  Bad guys are a bit dim sometimes.  Blob Thing says so.

Blob and his person left the communion tent and continued to wander, with no set plan.  For the moment at least it wasn't raining much.  It would probably stop raining completely soon and everyone would be pleased.  Probably.  Blob was hopeful anyway.  He didn't want to have a mud bath at his first festival.  Neither did his person.  She was pleased with the Dead Sea mud given to her by Blob's Jordanian friends.  But that was all the mud she wanted to see at Greenbelt.

[2092 words]

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