The second MLAmeetup took place at Milton Keynes from 21st till 23rd of July 2006. After a visit to a few places of 'pataphysical intrest in London (more about that later on on this blog) I headed West.
I got down at MK central at about 3.30 PM. With a full backpack with tent and everything I needed to go camping, I asked at the station where the tourist bureau was. "Eeeeew my, I duuun't think we gat one of thooose here luv" was the answer of the lady behind the desk. So I walked the walk. After about half an hour with 30 kg on my shoulders, soaking wet from the sweat, dehydrated from the sun and loosing my way more than once, I found a shopping mall. Inside I finally found the "i" flag for tourist info. Beneath it a small desk, a few flyers and a little old lady. I asked where the nearest camping site was. "Eeeeew my, I duuun't think it will be eeeeasy reeeally luv" was her answer. There seemed to exist a camping lot at about ten miles from MK. She had no idea whatsoever if there was a bus and anyway couldn't find one. The camping I had in mind, the Old Diary Farm, she never heard of. So I asked whether I could find a bike to rent. I was lucky: she thought there was one bus driving towards the bike rental at 7.15 PM. But I'd better phone first to be sure they were still open. Finally she gave me a card from the - I kid you not - "Fallty Towers Bed & Breakfast". I took a silly walk in the burning sun towards it when Chris called on my mobile. I finally agreed it was a better idea - as originally planned - to share a room with Fuzzbuddy. Whose car by the way had broken down. The hotel was in front of a huge lake, surrounded by a park.
So we had a few drinks already and started our dinner when FB finally arrived and smuggled my backpack to the room. The three of us ended with a chat till about 2 am looking out at the lake, all drinks outside were in strange plastic glasses. (To me the beers in Britain look quite 'dead' as we say when they lack a collar. In Belgium the collar is two fingers. No belgian would think of drinking a beer that looks like it lost all its bubbles because it lacks a collar. In Britain I probably would be lynched if I was a barman) Chris got more and more Stella'd and me more and more Guinness'd. I think the conversations involved Finnegans Wake, The Cantos, angry rhino's and the maybe forced politeness on our forum. The birds on the pond were not restrained by any social rules and had some heavy arguments, probably because our talking kept them awake. The only white goose on the premises strangely looked at us, fascinated, for the entire late evening without making any sound. A spy for the illuminati no doubt.
Later on I would photograph the weird sculpture above, showing a huge hand, a naked goddess and a goose kissing her. Geese that do not cackle would show up later on in another context…
Pain! My! Head! Hurts! Fuzzbuddy dreamt of the cantos. I didn't dream of anything. Tonight at midnight Sirius should reveal itself and give start to the dog days. Yet I chose not to get "another bite of the dog" (is that correct) but sober up and make use of a tiny bottle of aromatherapy my girlfriend made. Relief it's called and it worked fine, Chris said it worked for him too. It seemed unsure if Acrillick would make it, even less concerning Bogusmagus, but Benedict was to join us with his girlfriend. I considered the possibility to call her honorary member to reach the magickal number of five as we did last year in Dublin. But then again, Chris had brought with him MiniProp, since Propaganda had been at every MLAmeeting (though in Far Amurikey it usually involved two persons).
Although this was a gloomy horribly sunny day - it seems Chris is no fan for warmth and sun (nor for silly puns, fan, heat, got it?) - we decided to take walk around the lake. It turned out quite larger than we thought. I only took a few pictures of our fourth member enjoying summer in MK :
MiniProp climbing up a tree to see to watch the lake
MiniProp feeding the birdies
MiniProp in a circle of stones, unaware that this place would prove fatal to him that night!
The Stone Circle would become the Stoned Circle later that evening; but first Doctor Chris and Professor Fuzzbuddy tried to quanticize the energy coming from the center.
"The Milton Keynes Millenium Sculpture represents a coming together of North American Indian Medicine Wheels and the ancient stone circles of Britain.
The Circle of Hearts Medicine Wheel was buit by people from Milton Keynes to welcome the new millenium and blablablablah
The two concentric rings of stones symbolise stages of spiritual focus. Tall gateway stones at the north, south, east and west cardinal points invite participation and spread the spiritual influence from the Wheel. The grass space inside the circle has four sectors representing the elements: fire, water, earth and air. The Wheel brings together the races of humankind around the fire pit and the healing ashes from ceremonies here and in other parts of the world are kept at the Buddhist Temple nearby. The lesser gatewas and the Needle stone mark the Midsummer energy line which extends from Midsummer Boulevard, through Campbell Park, Belvedere and the Tree Cathedral to the island in Willen North Lake."
Further on there's a Buddhist temple and a Stupa
on top of which two crows considered Life, the Universe and Everything.
I recalled in "Tintin in Tibet" people had to walk in a certain direction or it was considered bad luck. I thought counter-clockwise was advised, and although Chris and Nick warned me about the mangas being read from right to left, we walked around it from the right. Today I just discovered to my horror how walking to the right of these proved bad luck to captain Haddock
(it should be noted that in this case a 'chorten' is involved, not a stupa. A chorten is a burial place for the ashes of lamas, and the devils get angried when people walk to the right of them)
Still further on we searched for the labyrinth. It seemed almost invisible. At the centre of it was a scary dead oak tree. I remember in another comic (bande dessinée in French, stripverhaal in Dutch) by germano-belgian artist Andreas this time (in 'Rork - le mystère des cathédrales'), the characters were supposed to follow the path on the floor of a cathedral which was build upon ley lines. One of them walked straight to the middle without following the path and got burnt to ashes. We took the risk.
"There are many ancient traditions connected with the Labyrinth.
One such myth is that a virgin stood at its centre and any suitor had to follow the tortuous path and overcome her guardian before a meeting could be arranged with her.
Another is that fisherfolk from the Scandinavian lakes and seashores traditionally believe that evil little people who brought bad luck could be confused and lost in the Labyrinth, while the fishermen escaped and had successful fishing.
The journey to the centre of the labyrinth involves frustrations, false hopes of fulfilment and many changes of perspective. Even though it is a strange and perplexing experience it can release you from stress, worries and ties.
Try this metaphorical journey of life alone, or as a crocodile, or simply enjoy the beautiful forms of this labyrinth and relax beneath its sheltering oak tree or on the surrounding slopes.
The Labyrinth was made in 1985 as one of the main features of the Willen Peace Park. Its design is similar to the ancient turf maze at Saffron Walden in Essex, which is said to be Christian, but may be pre-Christian in origin.
the network of the labyrinth brings us all together around the oak tree Querces Robur. Traditionally, pagan marriages would take place under an oak. It is known as the king of the forrest and as a symbol of strength and security. The oak tree supports more species of bird, insect, mammal, plant, lichen and fungal life than any other European tree.
"There is no crown to mark the forest's king for in his leaves shine full the summer's bliss. As sun, storm, rain and dew to him their tribute bring."
So we made two deadly mistakes against both the buddhist and the celtic tradition. Luckily later on we were able to divert the bad vibes towards our little twig and pineapple friend… hehehehe
Nick got a call from Benedict who just left home by car heading for MK. Chris got one by Acrilick using public transports. Although Acrillick probably lives much closer to MK, my British friends assumed it would take him a much longer time to get there.
Returning from the long walk we decided to go searching for Britain's best kept secret.
Indeed in an older town outside of MK, Winston Churchill decided to organise a center for cryptography in the middle of countryside Britain. He chose a building in Benchley Park to bring together the best matematicians in britain, France and Poland to start working on decrypting the famous German "Enigma" code. He used to call this secret team "the goose that laid the golden egg, but didn't cackle". The first Turing machine was one of the results. Nowadays it's a museum which we went visiting. Since the weather improved greatly (according to Chris, which basically means it started to rain buckets of icy water, cooled down and started to thunder) we weren't able to visit all the barracks without getting soaking wet. The main building reminded me of Portmeiron, and indeed many of the weird apparatus on display could have appeared in some scenes in Patrick McGoohan's 'The Prisoner'.
Here I secretly shot a few funny posters from WWII. What we saw inside is classified, top-secret material only meant for Illuminati so obviously no pictures were taken.
Below some scans of a book I bought at the Benchley shop.
We decided to head back to try to find out if the rest of the gang had arrived. Acrilick should have arrived at one of the several bus stations. Nick thought he didn't carry a mobile, so it would prove interesting to try to find him.
Luckily back at the hotel Benedict arrived after getting a bit stuck in traffic, together with his Aussie girlfriend Erin. At the same time Acril phoned that he had arrived at the bus station. At about Five-ish we finally had the complete gang gathered. Pictured below are (but in random order to keep each member's secret identity): Benedict, Chris, Borsky, Fuzzbuddy, Acrillick and Erin.
After our meal, where we discovered the carnivorous characteristics of Benedict were true, some of us had a few dark brewskies, an ideal playground for other substances later on. Let me just mention that Mr Acrillick lived up to his DJ patronym, and Chris added some excellent Herbes De Provence to the whole. then we all started our quest precisely one year after the first MLAmeeting in a pub in Dublin, together with MiniProp who didn't know what was coming to him but who was highly improved by Erin to stop his head falling off. Using Ducktape he kinda started to look cross-dressed, but we're all broad-minded.
In the circle of stones we all gathered, performed some magick rituals and decided to give the very first burning man festival at Milton Keynes. Miniprop was drugged by Acrillick (which he enjoyed), gagged and prepared by Chris and put on fire by Nick. Below some pics of the festival. Music by DJ Fly Agaric. At around midnight greenwich time he was fully ablaze. Wonder if the animal Propaganda was influenced by the vegetal MiniProp adventures. Click on the link below to have an impression.
We decided to continue our ritual journey and somehow one of us had the stupid idea 'why don't we walk the labyrinth'.
Click on the above and a sound file documents a bit of more than an hour when the six of us got lost. It should be noted that the labyrinth is just a sand path in the grass. It should also be noted that this happened at night, without any streetlights helping us. So I'd plea for temporary insanity. Finally we all gave up (although chris and I were about to uncover the truth) and reached the dead tree in the middle.
We climbed the hill up to the stupa, which had a huge white slab of white marble surrounded by an eerie fog. Further ideas for Erin to imagine us in a horror movie (where Benedict strangely kept getting stabbed first). We decided to finish the day at about 2.30 in the morning gathering around a tree we discovered before. It seems the MK council planted a tree for world peace and someone got the idea to use it to remember someone close who had died. Today the tree is full with ribbons, plastified cards, bits of string, I even thought I saw some socks tied to the branches. Gives a very strange impression. Especially because some bits are attached quite high, so we had to assume either some people came to there with a large ladder, either the tree grew very very fast, either the giant from Twin Peaks helped them a bit. Strangely upon closer examination, it seems a face is grinning in the dark…
We finally went to sleep it all off.
Acrillick wanted to swim, so questioning authority we walked around the lake. A bit too far from Big (Why)Bother's all-seeing blind eye.
I couldn't catch up to his speed, so below is all I got from his athletic performance:
He said there were long algae in the water which could catch a swimmer and drag him down.
Later on we decided to go pedalo'ing. On Acril's inquiry whether swimming was permitted, the cutie behind the counter answered "no you can't and anyway it's disgusting". Probably company policy. You cannot walk on the grass, it's disgusting. You cannot pay with euros, it's disgusting. You cannot drink in a glass outside, it's disgusting.
The pedaling went quite well untill our two pedalos were in the middle of the water. I guess MiniPropGhost somehow fiddled with it, because in Erin, Chris and Benedict's boat one set of pedals kept shoving to the side, and in Nick, Acrillick and borsky's boat the steering knob seemed to do whatever it pleased. We had thoughts of getting attacked by huge white blobs like in The Prisoner when reaching the limits indicated by green buoys (outside of them it's probably disgusting). We tried to help each other getting back but I guess it looked a bit silly for bystanders. We kept on turning around moving inch by inch somehow in the direction we all wanted. Sounds a bit like the MLAforum.
I took off, happy from the past beautiful days but exhausted. At the station another surprise waited for me: the train to London didn't ride. Happily they just had decided to let a bus drive people to Sutton. Unhappily it took quite awhile. Happily the train got easily in London. Unhappily it was in St Pancras, a gigantic station being build. Unhappily the subway was out of the station, at the end of two streets in King's Cross. Happily I got my first sub to Warren Street Easily. Unhappily I had to wait in Warren Street to get my sub to Waterloo. Happily I arrived in Waterloo just 30 minustes before my reserved Eurostar train took off through the Chunnel. Unhappily I got stopped at customs and had to empty everything. Finally they were happy as a small child to discover a small deadly knife. It got confiscated, I had to sign I gave up on it and had to wait for a photocopy. Then they got me waiting at the wrong boarding door… Happily I got my train, just 5 minutes before it left.
If we wanna meet next year in Santa Cruz we'll need lots and lots of ca$$$h… So maybe we'll meet a bit closer in Europe.