October 5th.,6th.& 7th, 2007. Edinburgh, Scotland.
|Overview by Leslie Melville:
Just back from Scotland and the Charles Cameron Gathering (4th. to 8th October). Around fifty people attended, some for the first time, others returning after a two or three year break.
It was nice to see David and Jan Goodsell. I understand that David will be writing a more in-depth review for The Oracle magazine. Another visitor from across the pond who last came to Edinburgh three or four years ago was Ed Loveland who this time brought his wife, Sandy.
Rich Lavengood, with companion Marge, plus Joe Cabral and John Henry (visiting for the first time) made up the other U.S. attendees. Regular overseas supporter, Hugo Vesper (President of F.I.S.M) was also with us for the entire weekend and he brought Christian Charisma, a charming Bizarrist friend from Sweden who was making his first visit. My following general observations are just an overview of the people and events that registered with me during an enjoyable five days.
I travelled up on Wednesday with an agitated Karl Bartoni. Those who know Karl well, will understand that agitated' is his natural state! He was particularly worried that our new venue for Saturday was not going to be suitable. For reasons that are uninteresting and therefore unnecessary to dwell upon, the original location had fallen through at the last minute. At very short notice, Alex & Margaret (Karl's on-site organisers) had managed to establish a new venue for us at the Liberton Bowling Club, about five miles from our hotel locations.
Karl's constant mantra, "I don't think it will be big enough " The bar is in the wrong place " there won't be room for the dealers!" etc. kept me amused and entertained for the three and a half hour's journey from Blackpool. We called in at the club en-route to our digs' and the place was fine " no - the place was magnificent! The Club President and Vice-President were there to meet us and couldn't do enough to please! Brian Maxwell had already found the bowling club before we arrived and was busy baffling them both with close-up magic as we entered the club room! The club management were delighted to have us and if anything was not to our liking, they would personally put it right! Karl was relieved and we continued our journey into Edinburgh.
Having deposited Karl at Margaret's house. I
went to my own B.& B .
Whilst the majority of those attending are there from Thursday (some earlier than that!), the actual organised' event is at best, two and a half days " Friday until Sunday, with Saturday being the main activity day. And so most of the early arrivals make their own arrangements and often fragment' off into the City.
Edinburgh, while being the capital city of
Scotland, is also quite compact, and access to The Old Town' " the historical and most
interesting part " is relatively easy.
The Royal Mile (stretching from Edinburgh Castle, high up at the west and descending quite steeply towards Holyrood House and the new Scottish Parliament Buildings in the east) is the popular place for tourists, with creepy narrow closes' (back streets and alleyways), cafes, bars and cheap touristy shops " expensive ones as well! There are also one or two spooky New Age' shops, selling crystal balls, Wicca pendants, and other miscellaneous mystical paraphernalia. A few of our male attendees (no names!) were sometimes to be observed furtively entering and leaving these premises with mysterious parcels hidden under their jackets!
Alex Wallace (the late Charles Cameron's partner and along with Margaret Clark, one of the on-site organisers referred to previously) lives at the lower end of the Royal Mile and on Thursday evening, invited to visit (as she always does) those who were not too tired, after perhaps very long journeys. There are invariably around twenty-five to thirty people who attend Alex's apartment, mostly crammed into one room, although there is always an overflow into a smaller lounge and the kitchen!
These evenings at Alex's home are always
highlight events of every Gathering. The drinks flow, conversation never
stops and occasionally one or two tricks are shown! This is usually the
first time everyone gets to see each other.
The weekend hasn't yet started!
Following breakfast, the first location
where there might be something happening was the nearby Unionist Club.
Several of us arrived early and laid out a few tasty morsels that we hoped might induce a few others to
purchase. There was little likelihood of that happening though, since
most of the ladies had spent all of the money on the previous day!
I brought along my Higley body parts, i.e. The Dark Museum set (Ear, Toe and Monkey's paw), The Demented All-seeing Eye, and my much talked about Hand of Glory. I'll bring the Hand of Glory to Hartford, next month. Lots of you will already have the other items. Roni showed some stuff and in a desperate effort to sell some of my Holographic spectacles, I performed my Cagliostro Lives' routine. I'll bring them to Hartford too! You have been warned!
Michael Diamond arrived for the weekend with his Dad, and Brian Maxwell took a number of attendees, including Rich Lavengood, to Greyfriars Churchyard and the notorious Black Mausoleum. Rich later told us of having had a weird, cold experience while there, compatible with the reported experiences of others who have encountered The 'Mackenzie Poltergeist' over the last ten years! More about this place later.
In the evening many of us went to Saigon-Siagon' for an evening meal. This is another Chinese buffet restaurant where you can eat as much as you like for relatively very little cost! It is a place annually visited by the Cameron Gatherers!. After that, it was back to Margaret's or Alex's. Also I heard tell of a number who did a tour of the drinking establishments around the Royal Mile, but I don't believe a word of it!
Saturday! The main event. Those of us with items for sale (laughingly called The Dealers'!) were asked to be at The Liberton Bowling Club for 9.00 a.m. to set up our tables. The day was scheduled to commence at 10.00 a.m . and we had about three hours in which to sell our wares. Michael Diamond kindly offered to transport me and my bits and pieces in his van.
I also had props with which I would be
performing later in the evening show, so I was grateful for the offer. Karl Bartoni, Ed Loveland, Andy
Normansell, Christian Charisma, The Preacherman (Stefan Brown), Michael Diamond and
myself set up an impressive array of goods for sale, and compared with
some of the others, I did very well in the time allowed ....I took $12
A nice additional touch to this ceremony was when Karl suggested a display of Sympathetic Magic' from us all and called for a hearty round of applause while we mentally transmitted our wishes to Brother Larry White for his continued recovery. You were often in our thoughts, Larry " get well soon.
Attendees then began to socialise and show each other their latest miraculous offerings. Others began to arrive, briefly cast their eyes over the dealers tables and, with undue haste (we thought), moved on into the clubroom proper. The bar was open so people were soon relaxed and chatting away.
Following a snack lunch of tasty Forfar Bridies' (don't ask), Karl Bartoni performed a Work in Progress presentation. It was his interpretation of a Christian Chelman piece based on the Hindenberg Airship Disaster, complete with the famously emotional radio commentary (delivered from a 1920's style radio) as the airship burst into flames. I hadn't seen this presentation before and found it quite impressive.
This was followed by more socialising and not buying from the dealers, so we admitted defeat and closed shop! Around 4.00 p.m. Margaret Clark arrived with the buffet. Miscellaneous sandwiches, pastries and quiches, followed by gateaux, cheesecake, fruit salads and cream etc. This is something she does every year. She prepares it, delivers it and serves it! And we are all very grateful. You may have noticed that a lot of eating goes on at The Cameron Gathering " some drinking too!
Performers in the evening show were: Bernard Anderson (B.J.Powers), John Henry, Joe Cabral, Rich Lavengood, Roni Shachnaey, Brian Maxwell, Ian Milton, Michael Diamond (who hosted the second half) and myself. I M.C.'d the first half and performed a spot in the second, so spent most of the evening backstage. For that reason it is difficult for me to describe who performed what, but everyone did well.
The club management had asked if it was o.k. to allow some of their members in to see the show. Of course it was, the more the merrier! And the result was a great success! Overall, the best received of all of the shows that I have seen since my first attendance, five years ago. I am sure that David Goodsell will give a more detailed account of the show when he writes it up in The Oracle. If YOU don't get The Oracle, shame on you! It really is a great magazine, so subscribe now and you will be able to read about the show!
The Mackenzie Poltergeist.
The tour began at the last resting place of the most famous of the churchyard's residents, Greyfriars Bobby'. The little Skye terrier, who, for fourteen years, nightly slept at the foot of his late master's grave, so the story goes. We were informed that the statue to the little dog, which stands just outside the graveyard gates, is the most photographed statue in Scotland!
Andy then, with a non-stop delivery of great stories, escorted us around the various graves and headstones that were dedicated to some of the more famous and infamous inmates of the graveyard. One read, "John Porteous, a captain of the City Guard of Edinburgh, murdered September 7, 1736. All Passion Spent, 1973". The 1973 headstone replaced the original 200 year old, small square stone which had merely read: "P 1736". Porteous was killed by a crowd in the street, following a famous riot. The story is a well documented one and there were many more tales, expertly delivered and with much dark humour before Andy led us to the main attraction, i.e. The Covenanter's Prison and The Black Mausoleum.
The entrance to the Prison' was blocked by two high iron gates, chained and padlocked. Andy had the keys, but before allowing us access, verbally prepared us for the possibility of attack by the notorious Mackenzie Poltergeist'.
I don't propose to go into details here,
there is an excellent book entitled, "The Ghost that Haunted
Itself!" obtainable quite cheaply at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ghost-That-Haunted-Itself-Poltergeist/dp/1840184825
Following Andy's serious warning about
entering the prison area and mausoleum, Jim Critchlow's young lady,
Eleanor, decided that she would give it a miss and she and Jim both
stayed outside the gates while the rest of us went in.
The final day for me was Sunday. I know that
several stayed over for a few more days and that Alex took them out for a meal on Monday evening.
There you go, eating again!
After that, it was time to head for The
White Horse public house, where Roni was to present the final programmed event of the weekend. It was his
celebrated Seance' lecture, and very good it was.
I shall remember this Gathering for many
things. The welcome received at the outset from the principals at The
Liberton Bowling Club, their hospitality was overwhelming. Alex Wallace
and Margaret Clark, whose organising skills are unparalleled and whose
hospitality also knows no bounds, Thank you, ladies!
We all rejoiced for Brian Maxwell, who on
the Saturday Show, finally laid to rest, "The Curse of Yig!"
(an in-joke that only regular Cameron Gatherers will understand!)
" but Brian, we did miss your "Psychic Sausage!"
From my point of view, for fun and camaraderie, this was the best Cameron Gathering that I have attended. Thank you Karl for five years ago, introducing me to this event and for all of the new friends that I have made as a consequence. Thanks also for the hard work that YOU put in to make it all happen! I am already looking forward to the next one!
The whole weekend WAS a party and had Charles been there it would have made his 80th. memorable.
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