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Crusty Cards - Dragon Deck
Francesca Brightly &
Francesca & Poppy Brightly (Zarg & Mrs Tigglywinkle)
Emma Warren (Sprocket)
Amelia Still (Dragon Slayer)
Republic of Wales
Christie & Andy Walker
Roger & Sue Mason
Harold Danvers by Steeljam
The Fforganisers video advert for the Fforde Ffiesta 2057
Jasper Auctions a dragon by Steeljam
The Fifth Fforde Ffiesta took place at the Village Hotel Swindon this August bank holiday, and much head-scratching (for me at least) fun was had by all. I make myself available all weekend to talk to readers about books, writing and what-have-you, as the Fforganisers and I feel that the 'swan in for twenty minutes for readers to kiss the hem of my garment' approach is really not what this is all about. Indeed, out of the 92 attendees, at least forty had been before, and a good dozen have attended every Ffiesta. So although Ffordian-based, the weekend is also a chance to catch up with friends, talk about other authors (I tried to ban this, naturally) and chat about, well, stuff.
To kick off with, the ever-ingenious Fforganisers had set a devious set of puzzles throughout the weekend - codes, murder mystery, even Hunt the Lobster, which is a lot trickier than it sounds. There were stalls with T-shirts, books and other memorabilia, a garden fete full of those wonderfully banal games one endured at garden fetes in the sixties - such as the coconut shy, 'steady hand buzzer game', knock over the tin cans, a cake stall, and, of course, Croquet, with the generous assistance of the ever-patient Swindon Croquet Club.
We always have a coach tour, too, and Skippy the driver took us around Swindon while I spoke of the highlights of the town and how they related to Thursday's Swindon. The Croquet Stadium, the utterly vanished Cathedral of St Zvlkx (now Tesco's), the numerous roundabouts (one of Swindon's chief exports) and the statue of Nextian Swindon's most famous daughter, Lola Vavoom. We went around the Magic Roundabout in both directions to equalise tyre wear.
Once this was done there occurred one of the strangest events not only in Swindon that weekend, but possibly the whole of Wiltshire and maybe even this part of the galaxy - Lobster Space Invaders. Related only to my books in the fact that there is 'Lobster' in the title, the game is very like Space Invaders only played with humans, who advance down the steps in the hotel courtyard in several rows, whilst moving side to side, hands in the air making 'nipper' movements, and being pelted (politely) by water bombs. If you get hit, you're out, and there are several teams - I think. Waterproof capes provided.
Once dry, everyone sits and listens to me read a thirty-minute section from my latest (unpublished) book in the 'you heard it here first' event, then answered questions. (me, not them). There was then an auction of Ffordian-related memorabilia, including some original postcard artwork, several 'first signed' copies of my books and other assorted bits and bobs. Proceeds go to ensure the event is not run at a deficit, with any cash left over (there always is some) going to our elected charity.
Next is the Fancy Dress which is a bit like me falling inside my own head. A parade of characters from the books, met by gales of laughter from the attendees, but from me, more of a confused and whispered: 'Who are they?" as I can never remember who is actually in my books. Winners this year were Sprockett, a (very young) Dragonslayer complete with IKEA dragon skin and Emperor Zhark and a five-week old Mrs Tiggy-Winkle.
And so to bed.
Sunday was a slower start but soon got up to full swing with 'Literary Karaoke', a chance to outperfom your fellow attendees with a spirited rendition of almost anything you wanted. Radio Plays happened next which was a team event, the opening and closing lines fixed, and the play restricted to two minutes, but with several words you had to include in your play, as well as sound effects. Oddly ingenious ways around the game parameters. After this our usual poetry competition, which are always about blues of some sort. We've had Teenage Angst, Grey Angst, and this time Space Ship Blues, which centred around the difficulties faced by long term space travel, aside from one guest who claimed to have misheard and instead spoke at length about Space Ship Glues - Araldite, Bostik, and so forth.
Lunch was announced soon after the Danverising exercise class held by Bob, and after lunch (in which I held a scratch help-the-aspiring-author talk) we had the most popular event of the weekend: The Legion of the Danvers. Colonel Dave Danvers led this, and after mustering the troops - a record breaking 62 Mrs Danvers - they sang some marching songs, had an inspection by Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal Dewinter (me) and after my usual question about whether there were any men present (there weren't, or so they said) I gave them a pep talk about how any Mrs Danvers found smiling would be reduced to the ranks, and if any of them were seen to be anything but hostile to the new Mrs Dewinter, they would be up on a charge. Colonel Dave Danvers then instigated a 'Mrs Dewinter greeting check', where the first Mrs Danvers would be given an obsequious curtsey, and the second, a curt nod. This valuable work completed, the Legion of the Danvers than marched twice around the car park, chanting at full voice. (Last year they got told off for chanting too loudly and frightening some old women at Asda. This year Asda said it would be fine to come, but with no chanting. True to form, Mrs Danvers said she would: 'except no conditions unto her employment', hence the car park.
Interesting aside: Sergeant Steve Danvers had designed a 'Danvers Paybook' which is presented to each Mrs Danvers and signed and stamped at every event. The more times you attend the Legion of Danvers, the higher ranked you are. There is also a certificate of Danvering which arrives later, in the post.
Once the attendees were out of their Mrs Danvers gear (well, some of them) we carried on with 'Name That Fruit' a sort of game show with a 'Spin the Fruit' wheel which has, for as long as anyone can remember, always pointed to the pineapple. This is a general knowledge fruit-related question game, with such questions as: 'When did William of Orange invade?' and suchlike. There was a nail-biting tie-break this year too. Death followed on quickly with the Murder Mystery game, in which various attendees were given the task of being murdered and then other attendees tasked to figure out who did it. Following this was the Mrs Danvers talent show. There was balloon folding, fast-sketching, but the prize was eventually won by two Mrs Danvers cheerleaders who had taken the time and trouble to not only sing the words in unison while dancing, but also find some pom-poms and black ra-ra skirts. Inspired stuff.
We closed with thanks to all involved, especially to the Fforganisers who do all this stuff for free (I just turn up) and the prize giving, which by long tradition are 10" dinner plates with the winning category baked into the glaze - dishwasher safe prizes. (Try and put your Olympic gong in the dishwasher and see what happens. Hah!) Anyhow, all applause, all thanks and the weekend was over, and most agreed it was one of the funnest they had ever been to - and probably the most surreal. But that's the charm of the Ffiestas: A lot of people who read my books come and get involved in very random games for no very good reason except that it's fun - and that's exactly what my books are all about. Good clean surreal fun. My thanks to everyone who attended, the staff of the Village Hotel Swindon and the Fforganisers themselves, who routinely give up hours and hours of their free time to make the weekend what it is. Bravo, one and all.
Oh, did I say the weekend had ended? Not at all. Sunday Night is music night, with local Folk Band Talis Kimberly, who entertained us all into the small hours - and played for the first time their Jane Austen Tango.
Team Anglia by ? - Let me know if you want credit
Team Isle of Man by Mary Pierce
Andy with his plate by Christie Walker
My Precious by Christie Walker
It's all about the hats by Christie Walker
'The Ffiesta Radio Play' by Yvonne Reed
'Team Wales perform their radio play' by Yvonne Reed