Beltane 20

Well, Beltane was very fine. I got up roughly on time and made the hill (It smelled of summer - a hint of warm humidity and growing plants. The sort of thing you get more strongly in a greenhouse) by about twenty past whenIwassupposed to, which was OK because it turned out that the bits we'd laboriously carried into and off a trailer on Saturday were most of, but not all of, the bits we'd need. In particular, we'd brought three left sides ("tusks" - curved scaffold sections that look a bit like oversized . . .) for the fire arch and only one right side.

Whoops. That's something we'll be checking more carefully next year.

We shifted barriers around and assembled the front half of the arch and then twiddled our thumbs, chatted, did odd jobs and came up with wonderful ideas for quick-release fastenings for our scrotumsball-bags - what, you mean you wouldn't want to be tied firmly to a bag of paraffin-impregnated cloth balls while you and everyone around you plays with fire? What are you, some sort of bedwetting leftist? Yes, thanks to Sarah for that one, even though nobody's yet needed them, nor hopefully ever will.

The final walkthrough went very well, with nearly everyone present, and we were told we'd sold 5000 tickets by that morning. Not bad for a schoolnight. The final tusk had arrived just before that, so we raced through finishing the arch and decided that as this year it was going to have loads of bespoke woodware attached to it, all cut into interesting patterns, it didn't need to be any straighter. This was good as I needed dinner and to pick up a couple of things. I raced home, changed from a canary yellow Elephant shirt into something more appropriate and pre-fireproofed and came out again carrying only a hat, some gloves and a newspaper. I had decided to travel light and wear contacts this year rather than wear glasses and have a bag of Useful Stuff as before, so I was a little nervous about the tactic. We got ready in the Postal Workers' union building as before, and it went very quickly. We were supposed to be on the hill by nine at the latest, but most of the way through the painting I realised that if we pushed it we could be there not just for eight, but maybe even for seven. We stayed until nearly eight because somebody was unavoidably - and I mean really unavoidably - delayed, but we were still there in plenty of time. We went to the production area by the observatory to pick up our torches, to be told that they were behind the monument, so we went over there and couldn't find them, and were told that they'd last been seen in the production area, so we went back for them and were told that they were indeed over behind the monument, but cunningly hidden where we wouldn't be able to see them from pretty much anywhere. Oh, how we laughed.

So we had a few last-minute words, filled our scrota with torchballs, took a group photo . . . and still had about forty-five minutes to kill. Eventually everyone else turned up and we went up to wait by the steps. And waited. And waited. And eventually had Pete give us the five-minute call. The walking hedge waited at the bottom of the steps, put a foot on . . . took it off again, waited some more . . . get the idea yet?

I do love that moment. The anticipation, the sound of the crowd (and wondering how many of them there are out there), the esprit de corps, the culmination and application of months' work . . . quite fantastic. A golden sunset had turned to rose, and we were facing Arthur's Seat and the crags, set on fire by the red light. A single planet - fair Hesperus, of course - shone in the western sky. Lots of beautiful little details. No camera, of course. Oh well.

Finally, Mr Green went over the top, with Amy, Jim, and a couple of Blues. The knelt preparation seemed to take forever. After what seemed like ten or fifteen minutes - but almost certainly wasn't - they were sawing away with the bow at what seemed like an almost arrogantly relaxed pace. I wasn't as nervous about it as I expected to be; I hadn't seen Jim do it before, but I already knew Amy was reliable. Soon the ball was swinging, and when it went up it did so with staggering speed. The first hint of visible light, a cheer from the crowd (a very loud and hearty cheer form the crowd) and suddenly it was a blazing fireball. Jim reckons he stopped too soon - he certainly went back to spinning it for a couple more turns - but it was excellently done.

I got my torch lit before we went out, and then tried to help light up a couple of guys from Air point, but I had to rush off with Stu to catch up with everyone else as they went over. One of them was lit, though, so they'll have been fine. It was obvious from between the pillars that there were fewer punters than last year, but still a bloody large crowd (best guesses seem to be 8-10 thousand, against last year's 12k)

[I've just been reading someone on Indymedia carping about Beltane being ticketed. Just reminds me how disappointed I was by Indymedia. I wanted to like it, but when you know exactly how a source is going to react to every story before you read it, it's a bit superfluous)

It went very well. Very well indeed. It being quieter meant that we all had more space to work. Getting through the crowd wasn't the terrifying business it was last year, and everyone seemed to be very affable. It was crawling with photgraphers, of course, but most of these were Our Photographers and had a better idea of how not to be under our feet. I reckon we were pretty sorted on ther monument itself, and with less cueing than before too. The fire arch looked great with the wooden facing, and felt really fierce as we went through it. The points looked excellent, Red were suitably libidinous, the stage performance was solid and the bonfire was huge. the bower seemed to take longer than before, but had particularly good music. It was, overall, a very good one. It's easy to pick out people to praise and difficult to think of anyone to criticise, which is probably about as positive as it's possible to be.

It had started as a lovely clear sunny day, but during the night the mist came in until by the end it looked like we'd wreathed the hill in our smoke, and the light from the fires and torches and flashguns was lighting it up like something out of Close Encounters. Another magical sight.

After we got stood down - I seem to make a habit of getting the jobs that are stood down last - went back to the stage and caught the processional drummers for a while before following them down to the club. They, in particular, were so good that even Sandy (who normally misses no opportunity to have reservations about his own performances) admits that they were fantastic. I wandered around the club for an hour or two chatting to folk and then walked home, thinking. As usual, thinking turned out to be a bad idea, but after washing most of the paint off I got a good night's sleep and then got up to go to work in time to meet people getting back from the party-that-doesn't-happen. Ho hum.

The contacts, incidentally, were fine, and so was not having a jacket or heavy top. For future reference.

Anyway, for those of you who don't want to plough through my ramblings, here are some pictures, some more pictures, even more pictures, and even some video. Top comedy moment was probably the two Lauras hearing some punter behind them say that they hadn't expected all the sexual innuendo1 and were going to make an official complaint.

[1] Isn't innuendo such a wonderfully self-descriptive word?
I miss going up the hill.

Start nudging me in January next year, and I'll try to make it up to Edinburgh for next Beltane.
A year passes like nothing...

I must try to be in Edinburgh for one of these one time. It all sounds so weird from your (and others') description.

with less cueing than before
as I don't think you were DJing or playing pool, I suspect you mean "queuing".
i took it as 'they remembered their places etc, and required fewer cues from the director'.

oh and g, regarding the complaints about it being a ticketed event... try it as a paying punter some time. it does change the feel of the evening somewhat, and i could see how it could make a person a bit less forgiving...
I think if he'd said that it was better before it was ticketed and he wished it still wasn't, I'd have agreed with him, but I didn't get the impression that he'd been to it ticketed. He just said that it had sold out by selling tickets and he'd rather everyone had just given up because then he could have a quiet drink on Calton Hill with his mates. It's a point of view, but given the way he said it it's a very self-righteous point of view.
it was a fun night, and the drummers *were* amazing!
But there wasn't any sexual innuendo -- what the Red Men did was far too blatant to be called innuendo.