Back From BiCon

Just got back the The Cottage after the drive home from BiCon. Where’d we get to at the end of the previous post…? Ah, yes…

Naked Lunch Saturday was amazingly oversubscribed. One attendee, a regular to Naked Lunches for the last 10 years or so, described his experience of coming into the room and, at the sight of so many people, briefly thought he’d come into the wrong room up until he noticed that everybody was naked. I skipped the next workshop slot for a nookie-and-nap break, because both Claire and I were beginning to suffer from the heat and exhaustion, as well as being in anticipation of having to be more wakeful for the journey up to Manchester and the party that’d be waiting for us there.

The run up to Manchester could have gone better. Sure, the M6 Toll was zippy as always, but two minor fuck-ups slowed us down. Firstly, I made a miserable failure of navigating our way to Beth‘s house (the map didn’t show all the no-right-turns on Leicester’s ring road). Secondly, we got caught only about 35 metres behind a five-car pile-up on the M6. All the lanes were completely closed and people were outside their vehicles, milling about on the motorway. Eventually the emergency services, having rocketed along the hard shoulder past us, were able to clear a lane for us, and we were able to carry on. I’ve got a fab picture of the tailback with people standing around on the carriageway.

We finally reached the airfield where Penny and Gareth‘s party was being held. I’m not sure, but somehow a flying school with a fully-stocked bar seems like a bad idea to me. In any case, we drank a lot and ate barbecued food and did a “pub quiz” and ate fabulous cake.

It was really nice to be able to catch up with folks like Liz, Bryn, Matt R, Matt P, Jimmy (although he’s coming back to Aber soon!), Beth, and – of course – Gareth and Penny. I don’t see enough of these guys these days. It was really great to catch up and share drinks and stories with them.

Being at BiCon had rubbed off on me, of course, and a side-effect of this was that I kept looking for the name badges (and accompanying “sticker code”) of strangers at the party, which of course they didn’t have.

We made great time on the motorway back down to BiCon, rocketing our way back down the M6 and reaching Leicester at almost 2am. We dropped off Beth at her house (far easier to find with her in the car giving directions, although still not as simple as you’d expect given that she’s lived in the town since she was 2 years old), because we couldn’t manage to persuade her to accompany us back to BiCon, pay for a day pass, and see if we couldn’t all find a party to go to – she said she had some kind of family thing to do in the morning.

The BiCon Ball had finished well before we arrived back on campus, but people were still doing their thing: lounging out on the grass singing, sitting around in or outdoors chatting, and wallowing in a paddling pool full of tiny toy lions (the “lion pit”), among other things, with copious quantities of food and alcohol strewen around and being shared freely with just about everybody. Fair play to the staff at the conference centre, who had no problem whatsoever with the fact that their venue was chock-a-block with people at various levels of sobriety hanging around not just around the campus but also in the bar and accompanying buildings, which by rights they probably could have locked up hours earlier.

Eventually, Claire and I found ourselves – at 5am – among a pile of people in a the “lion pit”, drinking mead and beer and an awful bottle of wine that somebody donated to us simply to get it off their hands. I’m a little fuzzy, but I’m pretty sure that we had some kind of “lion pit rule” about pillow-beatings (and occasional whippings) for participants who made particularly bad puns, performed experiments in trying to get a circle or people each using the one to their left (or their right) as a pillow, and exposed breasts. By the time we went to bed, the sky was beginning to get light – apparently some of the folks we left behind were still chatting and throwing toy lions at one another right up until the sunrise.

Sunday morning brought me into workshops in Housing Law (this was actually a really fascinating lecture on the legal aspects of different kinds of tenancy and non-tenancy agreements such as being a lodger, the definition of homelessness and being threatened with homelessness, and an easy-to-understand summary of the rights and responsibilities of tenants and of landlords), and in Conflict Management. This second workshop was a follow-up to the previous one, and actually gave us as a group an opportunity to try out a variety of different techniques for resolving jealousy, domestic disagreements, and more. I took a lot away from the session, both imminently useful (for example, a better understanding of my own feelings about some of the inevitable complications that have come out of Claire and I’s unusual [well, unusual in general – at BiCon we were among a large minority] relationship structure) and a selection of great ways to ensure that I’m expressing those feelings and getting the best compromise possible in general. I remember, shortly afterward, talking to another participant who’d said how much he wished that more monogamous couples had the kinds of negotiation skills that poly-people end up having to learn, and I agreed (and, to be fair, this has been my thinking exactly when I’ve lent my copy of The Ethical Slut to monogamous friends).

There was time for one more Naked Lunch between trips to pack all of our stuff back into the car, and the Twister board came out again, so I got to play a game of Naked Twister in the end (and I’d have won, too, if it weren’t for a particular young lady who tripped me, the dirty cheater!). In hindsight, playing Naked Twister then stopping for a ice cream and a chat about software engineering with a pair of geeks, completely nude, could be remembered as at least a little unusual, but at the time nothing felt less weird. By the time a group of disrobed people have gotten beyond their “hey, we’re naked!” moment, they mostly act just like clothed people. But with marginally more perving.

The closing plenary was it’s usual collection of thank you and goodbye messages, as well as an offer by the organisers to the guests to loot any food, beer, and training materials that remained at the centre. After this came the traditional ritual of dozens or personal goodbyes, hugs, and exchanges of e-mail addresses, social networking usernames and weblog URLs, and phone numbers. Yet again, I’ve met a ludicrous number of fascinating people, and I’m hoping to catch up with some of them at events like PolyDay, if I can make it to it.

So, just like last year, BiCon rocked. Huge thanks to everybody who made it great for me, whether that was by running one of the fabulous workshops, drinking with and chatting to me at the bar or at any other gathering, showing me what a dirty slut you were at the purity party (have I got plans for next year – oh yes!), bringing and playing board games, stripping off, or just being there and being fabulous. See you next year!

Edit: Corrected spelling of “pasty” to “party”. Most of this entry was written using my phone, while in a moving car, and so my use of predictive text was less-than perfect. Let me know if you find any more typos like that!

Edit: Fixed more spellings; thanks Sarah!