Thursday 31 March 2011


One of the surprise hits of the last Ffiesta was 'Hunt the Lobster'.

The hotel was very accommodating about our request to scatter approximately 100 small plastic crustaceans about the place and many of the staff gave us helpful suggestions about where to put them (actually on re-reading that it sounds as if they were being impolite, but they were genuinely engaged with the lobster spotting)  The chap in charge of the cleaners could be heard explaining that they shouldn't be moved and I think the lady on the reception desk grew quite attached to Burnie.  Mind you he is quite cuddly!

Ffiesta goers got quite enthusiastic about the hunt and I believe there was a bit of sabotage going on with lobsters being moved and hidden elsewhere.  In fact quite a number of them went missing altogether..tut, tut!  If you want a genuine Swindon lobster you will be able to buy a signed one this year,  but those taking part in the game are not domesticated and will not make good pets, - if you handle them they may bite! (or something).

The non Ffiesta guests at the De Vere however were rather bemused by the plethora of small plastic lobsters.  Well, actually I suppose it's fair to say that they were bemused by more than just the lobsters -  the shrine to President for Life Formby drew a few puzzled stares and we had quite an audience for March of the Danvers and Space Invaders, but the lobsters in particular seemed to attract attention, perhaps because it began to feel as if you couldn't escape them...everywhere you went there was likely to be a lobster with its name on a big brown label, like a displaced evacuee.  Maybe that's why so many went missing, people felt sorry for them and wanted to give them a good home - was the label  a bit too reminiscent of Paddington and 'Please take care of this bear'?  Anyway, I can assure you that they are well looked after and already have a good home here with me.

They are back again this year, and they have all been renamed and relabelled, just in case anybody had committed the list of about 100 names and the corresponding numbers to memory!  We are dispensing with the quiz element of the hunt though - mist poeple seemed to ignore that bit.

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Swindon's only jogger

The bus tour has always been a popular event - an opportunity to visit some Ffordian landmarks.

The first tour was the year of the Ffestival.  We had an open topped double decker and fortunately it didn't rain. 

Highlights included Goliath headquarters, the SpecOps building, the Brunel Tower and the Double Helix of Carfax.  We also stopped at the site of the Cathderal of St Zvylkx.  We caused a bit of a stir, about thirty of us piling off the bus in the carpark and taking pictures of Tescos.  We also took in Thursday's mum's house...only a drive past, but I can just imagine a rather bemused householder having a stream of tourists wander into his garden like migrating mammoths, peer through the windows and examine the garden shed.  Although he did miss out on the opportunity to get some extra electricity generated to run his TV as we went through the gate.

Somewhere between the roundabout nursery (where they grow baby roundabouts) and Goliath we passed a jogger.  'Oh look' said Jasper 'there's Michelle - Swindon's only jogger'  Of course, who should we pass just around the next corner, but another jogger - apparently Michelle's understudy.  For some reason we passed a seemingly unending stream of joggers and Jasper's explanations for their presence grew wilder and more desperate.  We had the understudy's understudy, an imposter, a rival from another town and so on.  I think he was extremely relieved when we arrived back at the hotel.

At the 2008 Ffiesta we had relocated to the De Vere and the tour followed a somewhat different route although we managed to take in many of the same sites.  We had a much snazzier bus though - a vintage model which was very reminiscent of the Austen Rover on the cover of 'First Among Sequels'  In fact it drew quite a lot of attention - especially when we circled the magic roundabout several times.

Last year, due in part to the absence of a Fforganiser on the ground in Swindon and in part to our inabiliy to source a suitable affordable vehicle we didn't run the tour.  This year, due to popular demand, it is returning.  Derek is busily working out a suitable route and checking it out for timings (I wonder if he's jogging round it?) and to make it all that bit more enjoyable we shall be selling refreshments on the coach.

I'm looking forward to it.  At least it's an opportunity for me to sit down!

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Marmite and Marzipan

Marzipan seems to be one of those things, like Marmite and liver, that divides people.  Either you love it or you hate it, no middle ground.  Now, I am aware that there are some perfectly nice, respectable people who don't like either marmite or marzipan but I always feel slightly disappointed when somebody I like and respect isn't a fan of one or the other as I am inordinately fond of both.  That obviously extends to fictional characters as I felt a distinct pang when I learnt that Thursday hates marzipan. 

I took cheese and marmite sandwiches to school every single day (creature of habit, me?) and still consider a cheese and marmite panini to be a real treat.  I usually have one at the Fforganiser meetings now that there is a Starbucks at the De Vere.

Marzipan makes me think of my Gran, or rather battenburg does, she always used to have one in the tin when we went round to visit.  That and seed cake.

My sister hated marzipan and I always used to have hers from the Christmas cake.  My mum always made and iced the cake and the marzipan was really thick and yummy, so it's just as well we don't all like the same things.  Which is why, if you tell me you don't like marzipan, I see it less as a minor character defect on your part, more of an oppportunity for extra marzipan for me.

And if you are sat there thinking 'She should have changed that post and called it 'Marmite, Marx and Marzipan', I think I love you.

Dressing Up

It is perfectly possible to come and enjoy the Ffiesta without dressing up at all.  In fact I have done it.  Yes, that frazzled 'hair-all-awry-looks-like-she got-dressed-in-the-dark-from-the-ragbag' look is the genuine me, and not some persona I adopt for the Ffiesta. 

However there is no doubt that for some people the opportunity to dress up in daft costumes amongst like minded folk is a big part of the Ffordian experience.  The Somerset contingent always embrace this opportunity with gusto and not a little flair.  We have had mass Danvering from them before it became quite the done thing and last year's experience of being stared at by a row of generics whilst talking about the casting for 'Hamlet, Prince of Zombies' was quite spooky and more than a bit unnerving. 

Fancy dress, even for the fancy dress gala dinner is always optional and costumes have ranged from the dramatic and elaborate (I know that for the Ffestival we had at least one wedding dress set on fire to ensure an authentic Havisham look) through the almost certainly hot and uncomfortable (a gorilla in a pinafore) to the quite frankly bizarre (cheese smugglers in false moustaches and flasher macs, Isambard Kingdom Bunuel with lobster tie).  Phil's approach has always been quite minimalist... a clerical collar and he thinks he's Joffy, whereas Gill made a fabulous Lola complete with artificial fruit.  Last year we even had Tyke in no costume at all, just a nappy, but full zombie make up!

Anyway, this year I am definitely dressing up, I just need a costume that makes me look fabulous, darling!

Friday 25 March 2011

George Formby

I think my favourite memory of the last Ffiesta came when I stepped out of the lift into the foyer.  An elderly couple had just exited the other lift a few seconds earlier.  The old boy took a few paces forwards and stopped, a look of amazement on his face....'Is that George Formby over there?' he asked his wife.  She, however, had noticed the lobster hanging from the chandelier and was gazing at it in puzzlement.   'It is, it is George Formby' he insisted.  She was still ignoring him and had walked up to stand underneath the lobster and was peering at it more closely.  He walked up to the Formby shrine and read the notice, muttering to himself.  Then he turned around and gathered up his still confused wife, shepherding her into the dining room.  'I don't know what HE's bloody doing here!'

Those of you who attended the 2010/1985 Ffiesta will be no stranger to the cult of Formby.  The shrine, complete with two eternal flames (well, semiternal, I think the battery has gone in one of them!) an aspidistra and a portrait of George in full regalia, wearing the insignia of the Ukelele and crossed oak leaves awarded to a select few, allows respectful contemplation of the great man and the opening ceremony involves community singing of 'Leaning on a Lamppost', whilst the weekend is bought to a close with a rendition of 'When I'm cleaning windows'  A fitting tribute to our President for Life, as I'm sure you will agree.

So if you are planning to come this year, you could do no better preparation than watching a few Formby videos and learning the words.

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Thursday 24 March 2011

Strontium Goat

When I was seven Miss Waters told me my singing was flat and I had to stand in the back row and mime.  I also had to wear thick NHS specs and so was not allowed to take part in the Nativity play... 'Mary wouldn't wear glasses dear'  I was always an angel (back row again, so I didn't have to move about the stage tripping over things (glasses off, of course - I was blind as a bat))  Honestly you can't imagine a teacher saying that to a child these days can you?

Anyway, psychologically scarred by this as I am, I don't sing/perform in public - which I guess has saved me from appearing on X Factor to be mocked by the nation.   But then the opportunity  to be a part of the Strontium Goat pre-union tour was offered to me - and who could turn down something like that?

My first choice was to be the drummer, as virtually my only musical knowledge relates to the paradiddle (other than a rather worryingly detailed knowledge of Billy Bragg lyrics that is) but Phil bagsied that role so I opted to be the bass player.  I always thought bass players were the coolest members of the band anyway.

We had remarkably little rehearsal time (this was a pre-union tour remember - we could do all that stuff in the future) but Clara did a fabulous job with the songs, which she recorded professionally and we had some great t shirt slogans sorted.

Come the big night we even had a support band - Jordan warmed the crowd up nicely for us and we came on to rapturous applause.  We did a full set and the songs seemed to go down very well.  The Goatees looked brill and we all sounded excellent.  I didn't actually have to play you understand, and although I did sing I didn't have a microphone and you couldn't hear me.... I might as well have been standing at the back miming!

I think my kids were a bit embarrassed but I bet Lourdes wishes her mother would stop making a show of herself too.

I can quite see the attraction of super-stardom from the brief taste I had .. the fame!...the adulation!....the money!  OK, I didn't actually see any of that, but it was a great buzz whilst it lasted.  Perhaps I will try out for the X factor after all....

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Useless ConStuff

One of the joys of being a Fforganiser is that I get to share my bedroom with a load of strange stuff (oo-er missus) as I have many of the props we use for the Ffiesta cluttering up the place.

Last year I travelled down to Swindon with Marissa and Tyke (Zombie baby, yay!) in a car filled with, among other things, a crate of assorted plastic lobsters, all individually named and labelled, the wonky wheel of fruit, several hundred plastic balls, 10 plastic paddling pools and a suitcase full of t shirts.  Its a good job we didn't have a puncture and need to call out the RAC as I suspect we would have been taken somewhere nice and quiet with padded walls for a rest.  Which would have been quite pleasant actually. 

However this was probably not quite as bizarre as Laura's journey - she travelled from Oxford on the bus with a life-size George Formby cutout.  The things we do to make it a good weekend!

Anyway all of this stuff, together with jigsaws, 'Hosing the Dolly' CDs, programmes, knitted battenburg slices  and a very sinister looking knitted Mrs Danvers (a prototype that didn't quite work out) is now sat at my house waiting to be transported back again.  Ted is already moaning at the prospect of the car being cramped - he had to come down by bus last year and it was 'the worst journey in the world' (I'm not sure Capt Oates would have agreed, but hey ho! - no stamina teenagers today!)

Now I wonder who has the plastic ponchos for the Space Invader Game....

Tuesday 22 March 2011

T shirt quotes

One of my jobs for the last couple of Ffiestas has been searching out suitable quotes for the Fforganisers T shirts.  As those of you who have been before know we can not only be identified by our harried look and barely suppressed gibbering but by our t shirts with Ffordian quotes on them.  This makes us relatively easy to avoid, or, if you really need to know when human space invaders will take place, where you can find the lyrics for Leaning on a Lampost, or if there is a spare grey wig available for the Danvers Square bashing, they make us easier to spot.

Anyway, it's always fun scouring the books for quotes and I finished doing so last week so that we could sort out who was having what written on their T shirt.  I'm really pleased with mine this year, even though I did change it at the last minute from another quote that I liked almost as much.  I think everybody else is happy with theirs, and we caused much hilarity reading out snippets such as 'I'm taking next Wednesday off to have my beak oiled' and  'What would tigers and a macaroon be doing in an aviation novel?' both of which were (reluctantly) rejected in the end.

I have also found that the t shirts are great ice breakers.  The number of conversations that have been started by somebody staring at my chest in a bemused manner (OK, OK, settle down at the back there please!) and saying 'Where are we going to find a lobotomised monkey at this time of night?' in a very puzzled tone is well into double figures and has kicked off some great discussions.  I wonder if this year's quote will be quite as successful in that respect.!

Monday 21 March 2011

Gimcrack Religions

One of the things the Fforganisers are doing this year is setting up their own gimcrack religion and recruiting followers.  Now, I've long believed that I have a great many valuable  insights to share, and of course I have come up with some very important guiding principles, so many of you will no doubt be eager to join my little band as acolytes.

I'm sure that none of you would be so credulous as to fall for the blandishments of my colleagues, poor misguided fools that they are, so I won't dignify their claims by discussing them here.

Anyway, for those of you who do decide to join me there will be not only a a copy of the main tenets of the religion for your spiritual guidance, but also a special limited edition Crusty Card for your collection - available only to members of the siblinghood.

(I believe the others will be offering similar, although clearly inferior, inducements - the main difference of course being that theirs appears to be a crude attempt at a bribe, whereas mine is more of a reward for the faithful)

Sunday 20 March 2011

Extreme Spatula Makeover

Have just been out and bought the stuff for ESM.  I think the lady on the checkout thought I was slightly strange buying all of those spatulas but hey ho, we've got at least one person keen to join in - Rissa is planning a sparkly one with googly eyes I think - very tasteful of course.

Must remember to take my wig and sunglasses this year so I can take part in the Legion of the Danvers -  hey!who wouldn't want to be part of a world record event.

Saturday 19 March 2011

Ffiesta Planning

Had a great meeting with the other Fforganisers in Swindon today.  The updated de Vere/Finis, renamed the Village, is looking good.  There is now a Starbucks where you can go for the ambience a la Stubbs if you want to not buy coffee, although they do do a very tasty cheese and marmite panini as well.  And you can not buy that either if you are a not a marmite lover.  Although of course we all did.  And Gill and Laura managed to drink hot chocolate with whipped cream much more elegantly than I ever could.  I would have had a full cream moustache plus some on the end of my nose.

The next Ffiesta is coming up fast and the planning is going well.  Thanks to the efficient among us we look set to have a really brilliant, if somewhat surreal, weekend. Some old favourites (Name that Fruit, Lego Building, Lobster Space Invaders, Hunt the Lobster, Gala Dinner and Fancy dress, Poetic Angst etc) plus some new and improved stuff.  We've got an optional quiz in the bar the evening before the whole thing kicks off, and a picnic for anybody that wants to stay on the day after it ends.  Hopefully nobody will get crushed by a Hispano-Suiza.

Jasper will be giving us an exclusive reading and will be available for a Q&A session as well as being around and mingling the whole weekend.

The bus tour is returning, better than ever thanks to Derek, although he's got a lot to live up to.  I believe he's been trudging round Swindon seeking out the best route to take in all the sights

Instead of Hamlet and Zombies we have A Midsummer Night's Dream - The Panto, complete with minotaur and Damevers (Oh no we haven't... Oh yes we have!)  Hamlet will still be an important presence though and after the success of the synchronised speed soliloquy in German last year we are hoping others will take up the challenge in many different languages...including Klingon!

After the Gala dinner we have a talent contest - Ffordians Got Talent - though I think The Next Factor might be a better name.  I will only take part if you are very unlucky, but I'm certain we'll have some brilliant acts.

You can take croquet lessons from an expert (really) and there is a treasure hunt around and about, plus dodo whispering demonstrations, grow your own roundabout, knitting, extreme spatula makeover, colour by numbers and loads of other stuff.  Blimey, I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

And I mustn't forget Crusty Cards, I fully expect them to be the next big thing - can YOU collect them all?