Reading Were Meet, 2-4 April 1999
This meet was originally conceived around Christmas 1998 as a chance for people who couldn't make the original Eurohowl 99 date (in May). At this point only four or five Weres were going to come. At the Portsmouth meet in February 1999 Lone Wolf, Lunaria, Solulo and myself decided that a short meeting in the Easter break would be a good idea. It was at this point that I decided paintballing might be a good activity to base a meet around, and we 'acquired' a few more attendees in March. Luckily the date turned out to be within the period in which my parents were away, and the numbers stayed low enough to accommodate everyone for free at Dashwood (my parent's house). The final change was prompted by Megadog's need to be at a wolf show and Solulo's need to be at home on Easter Sunday; the meet was moved back one day and a few people stayed a second night to go and see the wolves on Sunday.
The morning brought an immediate although small problem in that one of the friends my sister had arranged to stay with had fallen ill, meaning that she would have to be picked up and dropped off again in the afternoon. We left at about 10:30 to pick up Sci Fox from Calcot Coach Station, somewhat delayed by my sister deciding at the last moment that her hair needed washing again. Luckily the coach was also twenty minutes late and we arrived just after Sci Fox at 11:10. I'd been stocking up on food and drink on Thursday but I'd forgotten to obtain any supplies of Nutella; as the good Dr Brown would say "How could I have been so careless?". Luckily there's a large Sainsbury's store in Calcot, which we relieved of three jars of the essential substance.
The next problem was the lack of small bouncy rubber balls with which to play yif(f)bal(l). We tried a toy store in the middle of Reading, but alas no balls of a suibtable nature were to be found. Although Polenth had been delayed by an hour we still needed to be back to Wokingham by 12:00, where we deposited my sister at a friend's dwelling. Trying not to be late picking up Utlah, Sci Fox and myself raced into Wokingham and set upon the staff of Woolworths, demanding that they yield all their small bouncy spheroids to us. They claimed to have none, but directed us to a small and eccentric toy shop next door, which succeeded in providing us with ten of the required balls.
Racing back into Reading as fast as one can in a car with a 1300 engine, we were only marginally late in arriving at the station. Sadly Lone Wolf was unable to make the rendezvous and had to postpone his arrival until the next morning, but another wolf was prowling about the establishment in search of prey. Despite being forewarned and alert I was successfully stalked and pounced by the Utlah beast; I must advise all waterfowl who find themselves in similar situations that wearing "Feathered Forever" t-shirts is not a good idea if you want to avoid predators.
With two canines on-board it was off back to Wokingham and the arrival of a 14-foot purple dragon. Unfortunately we had no idea what the appearance of Polenth's human alter-ego might be, but luckily the gratuitously tasteless "Stormrider" signs on the vehicle made the reverse recognition easy. With the retrieval from three different forms of transport complete, we headed back to the meet site.
Unfortunately we were about fifteen minutes late arriving, but Chikki, Megadog, Solulo and Swampy had all already arrived and were conversing agreeably. After the mandatory greetings, hugs and refreshments it was time for "Lunch with the Whippets". Pausing only to deposit sleeping bags and listen to the CD "Silky Fur" (by Chama, Sayh, Nightcat and Fairlight) we proceeded to Bracknell forest. Since they hadn't had a decently long walk in the period of my parent's absence I took along Boot (a whippet) and Phoebe (a bichon).
We then proceeded to spend a little over two hours wandering about in Bracknell Forest, a fairly large piece of woodland composed mainly of pines. Megadog kindly offered to walk Phoebe, and I must say the bichon seemed delighted by an owner so in tune with the canine mind :). As well as traversing a lot of identical seeming paths and rides we made a brief visit to Ceaser's Camp, an iron-age hill fort. Unfortunately I had to leave at this point to go and collect my sister from her friend's residence, but the group but the time to good use at the cafe in the Look Out and had no problem making it back to Dashwood afterwards.
Another slight problem occurred while everyone was relaxing later, in that the bowling was booked out in such a way that we had to turn up either very early or quite late. No one minded going straight away though, and we all headed off for a couple of games at the local bowling alley. The first game certainly had it's moments and although I had to miss the second one dropping my sister off again I'm told it proved to be quite amusing too.
Rather than subject everyone to the horrors of my cooking we simply ordered takeaway pizza, which needless to say did not fit on the back of a moped. After that it was a rather good BBC wolf documentary which got all the dogs in the house howling back at the wolves on the screen. Finally we watched the rather hilarious Mystery Science Theatre 3000 version of "I Was A Teenage Werewolf" and engaged in a brief IRC session with Lone Wolf before turning in for the night.
Rising at about 07:45 we all staggered out of bed and consumed breakfast. Solulo and Polenth had a go on the demo (v0.8) version of Furai and managed to thoroughly confuse it. Another problem was encountered with the Viva (my vehicle) as it refused to start. This wouldn't have been a problem were it not for the fact that Ragtag still had my jump leads after the last meet. In the end we improvised using lengths of mains cable with the ends twisted together, and the huge MegaDogMobile battery proved itself superior at the task of starting the Viva. We all departed for north Reading, pausing to collect my sister and her friend from Wokingham and another carload of miscellaneous lunatics from Earleigh.
We arrived at the Weekend Warriors site north of Reading at about 9:25. Unfortunately the end car in the procession was written off in a road accident with a truck shortly before reaching the site (luckily this wasn't one of the furs' ones that were needed to get their owners home). After registering the main group proceeded to start acquiring some bruises while I returned to Reading to pick up Lone Wolf from the railway station. This task complete we got down to the serious task of blowing the hell out of the other team.
After a couple of hours of intense excitement punctuated by intense pain we broke for lunch, and between us consumed almost three whole pots of Nutella. Once the pasties made with unidentifiable meat had been consumed or discarded it was back into action for another few hours of paintball. Needless to say by the time we finally finished at around 16:00 everyone was pretty much exhausted, ruling out the possibility of any yif(f)bal(l).
Instead we set off to the Greyhound public house for a meal. Despite Utlah's chair being booby trapped the meal was reasonably pleasant and provided the opportunity for a little more discussion. Sadly then it was time for four of the group to leave, and as we soon realised well past the time that Sci Fox was meant to leave. Further confusion set in when we lost one car in the convoy on the way to Reading Station and then realised that in it was one of the Weres who we were meant to be depositing at the station.
Fortunately Swampy had no problems making it to the station on his own and after a few hugs Solulo and Lone Wolf were both safely on their trains home. Megadog and Utlah headed off towards Swindon at about 21:30 in preparation for an early morning on Sunday with the wolves. Sci Fox and myself attempted to find out about another coach, but discovered that Reading coach station had in fact been closed since my last visit. Instead the remaining Weres and furs returned to Dashwood to watch Spaceballs.
Out of the blue Sci Fox's parents rang up and told us that they'd driven from London to Calcot to collect him. Since the directions required to navigate to the house from the M4 were both long and somewhat esoteric, I arranged to meet them at Reading Service Station. Unfortunately I forgot that the service station in question was not equipped with a bridge, and Sci Fox and myself ended up doing a little hiking, climbing and trespassing making use of the next road bridge to reach the other side. He was soon back off to London though and I made it back despite almost losing a cylinder on the Viva.
Meanwhile the furs at Dashwood were watching "The Lion King II". Once the film had concluded it was one final check of newsgroups and email before turning in.
Alas, soon after rising on Sunday Megadog rang to tell us that there was no show. Due to an unfortunate mix-up with the dates the UKWCT people turned up a couple of months early to find an empty showground. Not all was lost though as the pair did get to take the wolves on a drive in the country, and Utlah said that it was great to get to see the woofs on his whelpday. After a more leisurely breakfast than the previous morning Chikki and Swampy departed and I dropped Polenth back to Wokingham Station. There was some talk of another Portsmouth meet in May but failing that hopefully most of the therians who attended will be able to make the Eurohowl in the summer.
There never seems to be enough time at these short meets, but for me at least it was certainly quality time. The group was about half the size of the Portsmouth gathering, which seemed to keep everyone in one wodge instead of two or three subgroups. I do have a tendency to try and fill every waking hour with activity (unless it's specifically designated relaxation time ;) so it was probably rather tiring, although hopefully exciting :). Finally my thanks to everyone for helping to make it a fun weekend and especially to Swampy and Megadog for providing much-needed transportation. I'll finish with a quote that really sums up these meetings for me;
"To be understood is a luxury."
All text and images Copyright © 1999
by "Lone Wolf" unless otherwise stated