Springingtiger's Blog

Gratefully Alarmed


I was reading interviews with the new Strictly Come Dancing contestants the Radio Times earlier. Daisy Lowe’s interview was interrupted by an alarm going off. She explained that she has an alarm set for every day to remind her to be grateful for the doors that have opened for her. I love the idea of setting am alarm to remind oneself to be grateful.

I don’t set an alarm because the practice of gratitude is an integral pert of my morning journalling. However for anyone not following a daily journalling process, in fact for everyone, a daily practice of gratitude is an excellent idea. Deliberately looking at one’s life to find things for which to be grateful puts the whole day into a positive perspective.

It is very easy to focus on the negative things in our lives, loss of job, loss of income, aching joints, the cost of food and heating, yadi yada…Faced with a catalogue of problems there is a temptation to see the world and life in a very gloomy light. However when we look at our lives we have much for which to be grateful, I have my wife and our long and amusing marriage, family, my daughter, grandchildren, a brother who invited me to base myself in his house during the Asylum in Leicester. If I cast my focus further afield I can be grateful for my free bus pass and all sorts of age related concessions. At the very least I can be grateful for being alive. Richard Wilkins says that every day he reaches out to his sides with his elbows and as long as they are not encountering the wood of his coffin he is grateful because there is always the possibility of a great day.

Most of us forget to take time to ‘count our blessings’, we probably don’t even take the advice to count our blessings seriously. In my experience taking time to be grateful in the morning provides hope for the day and a reason for living. Being grateful at the end of the day gives me cause to look forward to waking tomorrow. I once posted on Facebook that I didn’t want to wake up tomorrow morning. I didn’t mean I wanted to die, just that I wanted to remain in bed asleep rather than get up and go to work. The reaction from my friends on Facebook was quite wonderful in the concern they showed for me. Although I suppose I should be grateful for worrying them I am not. Since I started deliberately practising gratitude every day my bouts of depression have become infrequent and rarely take a proper hold any more and that makes a huge difference to the way I live my life. Of all the components of my daily journalling and all the spiritual practices and personal development exercises I have practised over the years I have found none as simple or powerful as the daily practice of gratitude. It works for me and for that I am grateful.


I Was An Asylum Virgin

Rercord breaking

I have come home after my first ever Asylum Steampunk Festival and now I am processing my experiences. In another context they say ‘you never forget your first time’, I am sure that it is true of Asylum. I am a little sad that my next Asylum won’t be my first because, I think, there is something special about the first Asylum. I dare say that those who have been to all eight Asylums may have a different point of view, it must have changed a lot in the process of going from less than five hundred attendees to the world’s biggest Steampunk festival, but I expect that even for the stalwarts, the first time was special.

My blog yesterday was entitled ‘Thoughtfulness’ and it is a quality that distinguishes the Victorian Steampunk Society’s running of Asylum. Although it was my first time I was made to feel both comfortable and welcome, and they make a particular effort to put ‘Asylum Virgins’ at their ease. This was helped by an excellent Souvenir Programme that included not only the schedule of events but lots of information.20160901_212924

That thoughtfulness was evidenced even before the festival began. Because so many people travel from far afield and arrive on the Thursday there is now an event on Thursday night in the Assembly Rooms, The Advance Guard. I came to the Asylum on my own, but I did not feel lonely because everyone was so friendly. I have Aspergers and generally avoid the whole socialising with strangers thing, but at the Asylum, even on the first night no one treats anyone else like a stranger. I quickly found myself chatting with people and ended up sitting with a group of folk I had never met before.

I didn’t really need any entertainment as I was having fun just observing the amazing outfits around me. However the entertainment was excellent with comedy from Andrew O’Neill and some very interesting songs from the off coloratura soprano Lady Violet Hugh whose lyrics may be taken in two ways. The beer was cheap too!

On Friday there was a special session for first timers the ‘Virgins Meet’ in fact a lot of the attendees were not first timers at all, but just there for the enjoyment of it. It is a useful session to get a grasp of what’s on offer and the principles of etiquette for the weekend. The major theme (or should that be the Major’s theme) was fun and mutual respect. He emphasised that in Steampunk there is no right and wrong something I heard echoed by a Lincoln antiques shop owner on the Sunday when he told me that he loved the steampunks because they weren’t as precious about small historical uniform details as re-enactors. Of course we don’t have to be because we are making it up, but he thought we were more fun. He stressed that we should just talk to people and he was right. I learned so much over the weekend by merely complimenting people on their outfits and accessories because most of them loved explaining how they had made things.

The Asylum was like certain conferences I have attended where there are more things I wanted to go to than I could get to, Many things overlapped or were in venues too far apart to get to quickly. However, although I couldn’t get to everything I wanted, I didn’t feel a second was wasted. When I say the venues were too far apart to get to quickly, I don’t mean that they were far apart just that it takes longer to walk between venues at the Asylum. Steampunks don’t tend to rush, they stroll, promenade or bimble the better to appreciate the sights and sounds around them. Any walk through Lincoln during Asylum is likely to be punctuated by requests to pose for a photograph and it is considered good manners to do so, this is a factor to take into account when planning to go anywhere.

If I am honest I missed several things because I was distracted there is just so much to see and do. Getting to and from the Castle and the Cathedral Centre involves passing wonderful stalls, treasure troves of Steampunkery and so instead of rushing to interesting talks or entertainments I was browsing while repeatedly exclaiming ‘Shiny!’. There were four excellent markets at the festival and they do a roaring trade, so if you hesitate over buying that ‘must have’ you will find it’s a ‘don’t have’. It is a fabulous opportunity to add to your Steampunk clothes and accessories and prices range from ridiculously cheap to ‘Ouch, where would I find that sort of money?’ Having said which expensive doesn’t equate to bad value, in many cases it simply indicates hours of painstaking craftsmanship with quality materials. There is something for everyone and every pocket and if you can’t find it on the markets all the antiques and charity shops in the area are also making every effort to accommodate the needs of the Steampunks. My brother suggested the Asylum should have an event where people start off in just their Y Fronts at the Cathedral then proceed by all the stalls making purchases until they arrive at the Judge’s House fully dressed and Steampunked, I believe it would be possible.

I have yet to write about all the events and entertainments on offer. One thing I have learned is that it is a good idea to purchase tickets early. On the other hand once one has one’s wristband there is much to do during the day free of additional charge and there’s plenty to do in Lincoln outside of the official evening entertainments. There were entertainments I would have gone to had I been in time to buy tickets for them, but I never once lacked for things to do.

There is much more to write about and I will. For anyone who hasn’t been to the Asylum and is thinking about it I say, GO! I very much doubt whether anyone’s first Asylum is their last, certainly not by choice. This was my first Asylum and I am still ridiculously happy, so happy that even Virgin Rail messing up my journey home and making me several hours late couldn’t stop me smiling!


Another Day
August 28, 2016, 00:31
Filed under: food, Steampunk, Travel | Tags: , ,

Perhaps I should say another great day. I am not at all biased by meeting Steam Powered Giraffe and getting my photo taken standing between Rabbit and The Spine…okay, yes I’m totally biased, but it would have been a great day anyway. Perhaps not as great, but none the less, a great day.

Lincolnshire is a beautiful county and my day began with a drive through it, along rural roads, to get to Lincoln. Lincoln was awash with Steampunks of all shapes and sizes and all ages from all over the world. I was well impressed by one gentleman from the Gambia who managed to stand out in a crowd of Steampunks by wearing Steampunked African traditional dress. I did manage to get to some sessions, but I could so easily have spent the whole day just walking around watching people. 

The festival appears to have become a tourist attraction also for non-Steampunks who were having a great time watching the Steampunks and taking photos. They were also wandering around the stalls on the various Steampunk markets and I noticed a significant number adding hats and goggles to their t-shirts and jeans. I overheard two young ladies looking at the stalls outside the castle as one described to the other the type of Steampunk look she was going to put together.

I could so easily have spent a couple of hundred pounds on a magnificent gun cleaning with polished brass and copper, unfortunately I didn’t have that kind of cash in my wallet and passed on the opportunity. Asylum presents some serious shopping opportunities with items to suit every budget and some to exceed most budgets. I found myself more than once smiling stupidly and exclaiming “Shiny!”. My favourite overheard comment was, “I don’t know what to do, take photos or shop!” I could appreciate her dilemma. 

Were we still compelled to use film in our cameras, I could have exhausted by budget entirely on film stock without exhausting the photo opportunities. There were just so many amazing sights I eventually found I was suffering Camera fatigue.I might have wanted to capture everything, I had reached a state of overwhelm and stopped.

The day didn’t conclude with getting my photo taken with SPG. My younger brother took me to Ethan’s Japanese Steak House to celebrate my birthday (No it’s not my birthday yet, but I won’t be in Lincoln on my birthday). I won’t write more here as it deserves its own post as well as a glowing review on Trip Advisor. Can life get any better than this? Oh yes, tomorrow I’m going to see SPG in concert! For now I’m just going to look at my photo with SPG them go to sleep.

What a Day, WOW!

The Poppy Wave

It was Sam Luke I spotted first and I was confirmed it was him when I saw Bunny Bennett to his left, she is a pretty young girl. Where did I see them? On the Steep Hill in Lincoln down from the Bailgate. Sadly I was too gobsmacked to speak. However by the time David Bennett came, shortly behind them I had found my voice and what did I say? “Look irs the Spine!” 
My brother replied, “What?”

“The Spine!” I exclaimed too loudly. However David heard and gave me a wave. I am chuffed. That was just one high spot in a day of high spots.

Last night, having at last, made it to Lincoln I went to the Advanced Guard, a party for Asylum weekend ticket holders who had turned up early. (Guinness £3.00 a pint) A crazy transvestite comedian and a soprano mistress of Off Coloratura Innuendo. Good start.

This morning, in beautiful sunshine, I drank tea in my brother’s garden before joining him on a short cycle ride. Then it was into Lincoln for the Asylum beginning with Virgin’s Meet for first time attendees. Some chatting with creative types before visiting the Market in The Methodist Hall. I was saved from buying a ridiculously well priced cap only by my big head. However there were some amazingly creative people peddling some amazing craftsmanship.

I bumped into my brother and his wife in the castle and so together  we went to see the Poppy Wave which had been at the Tower of London. It was as we went in search of tea that we saw the members of Steam Powered Giraffe.

The best thing about being too late to get tickets to all the evening events I’d have liked is that I get to spend more time with my brother and his wife. This evening we drove to Skegness, walked along the Front then had Fish and Chips at Tony’s before going home. The wonderful thing is that I have a whole day of fun ahead of me tomorrow so I’d better get some sleep now!

Steaming to Lincoln.
August 24, 2016, 23:38
Filed under: Steampunk, Travel, Writing | Tags: ,
  1. Tonight, just a place holder blog post because I shall be up early in the morning to catch a train to Lincoln. Technically a bus and three trains, but you know what I mean. Sadly none of those trains will be drawn by a steam locomotive which renders my title somewhat incorrect. However I am going to Lincoln to attend Asylum, Europe’s largest Steampunk Festival, hence the title is not inappropriate however inaccurate.

    Comic Con


    I do read comics and graphic novels, but it is not a major interest of mine, I am more of an enjoyer of text. However a group of us from the Glasgow Ubiquitous E Steampunk Society felt that the Glasgow Comic Convention, known to those who frequent these events as ‘Comic Con’, would provide us with an opportunity to wander around in full steampunk rig. Originally my plans went no further than that, but I’m pleased to say the Comic Con gave me far more than I was looking for.

    A big part of Comic Con is the dressing up. As I often say, ‘I don’t do Cosplay, I’m a steampunk!’. However there were a lot of cosplayers at Comic Con. Cosplayers tend to be specific in whom they are dressing as, but that doesn’t prevent some amazing flights of imagination. The winner of the C3 Cosplay Championship had reimagined a Storm Trooper from Star Wars as a Samurai warrior; several days later I am still marvelling at both his imagination and craftsmanship. On the Sunday there were a group of Disney Princesses equipped with armour and light sabres in a Disney Star Wars crossover. When I say ‘specific’ when a cosplayer dresses as a comic character frequently it will be as that character in a specific series of comics, or film or animated series as different artists redesign characters. There were a few Batmans (Batmen?) but none of them resembled Adam West. Various incarnations of Dead Pool and other characters even an ‘Oor Wullie’ stoatin aboot complete wi’s bucket. What Oor Wullie demonstrated like the guy who dressed as Shaun of the Dead is that imagination and inventiveness is more important than money. Any one can buy or hire costumes, but the cosplayers at Comic Con were creating them, building them largely from re-purposed materials or sewing their own and even those who used bought costumes were completing them with their own make up.

    comicon2Another feature of Comic Con is the shopping. There was a large hall filled with comics vendors, people selling produce related to comics, like figures T shirts, hats, masks. There were many craft stalls selling things related to the mood of the event and there was much artwork to be bought. Many of the creators of the less mainstream and more idiosyncratic comics had their own stalls promoting their work where they were happy to sign what people bought and chat about their work.

    For the serious comic aficionados meeting the creators of the comics is a major reason for attending and a number of well known stars of the comics industry were meeting their fans and signing comics.

    To my surprise the part I actually enjoyed most was the panels. I had expected the cosplay parades to have been the best part of the event. However as a writer I was fascinated to listen to comics writers and artists discussing their creative processes. What I realised was that writing for comics is very much more visual than some prose where the images have to be created by the words, or poetry where the sound is as important as the image. Never the less creativity demands work and application and if anyone thought otherwise the panels would have disabused them of it. I can’t remember whether it was Kate Leth or Marguerite Bennett who contrasted the difference between writing prose fiction, which largely depends on oneself, and writing for comics where a whole team of artists, inkers and colourists are depending on the writer so that the comic can be delivered on deadline. I really enjoyed the panel in which David Aja and Kate Leth discussed the music they listen to while writing and it made me reflect upon my own writing playlists. Of course being older mine tend to be on CD and tape rather than MP3 and I wouldn’t have the first idea about Spotify. It reminded me that there are aspects of the creative process that I don’t even think about except when they are missing.

    I am quite surprises at how quickly the time passed on both days and just how much entertainment and pleasure I got from the event. I expect serious comics buffs and cosplayers got even more. Would I go again? Hell yeah! First I’ve got Asylum and Rai Con to get past.

    Before I go one last high spot of the weekend for me was walking through town on the Saturday when a woman grabbed her friend and pointed to me with a shout of, ‘Wow look, it’s a Steampunk!’. A silly thing, but I was still smiling on the bus home.comicon4