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Vinegar Hill: The Queen Mother's Diary

Thu 6 Jan 2005 In: Events

We left a sunny and balmy Wellington at about 1pm on 22 December for Vinegar Hill, arriving about 4pm in the damp, with short and intermittent drizzly showers. Just after getting out of the van we were met by a radio controlled car sent from John from Whangarei asking for tea with milk and two sugars. Hmm, he obviously had high hopes that the Queen Mother would do such a thing, but he did make up for his, ah, lese-majesty, by offering to make waffles for breakfast the following morning. Chris and Toni, Ewen, and Ken were also present when we arrived. However, the drizzle did hold off long enough for us to get both our tents up, though we didn't attach the sunrooms. We did however, arrange our tents so the entrances faced each other and we had a tarp placed over a ridge pole between them. Getting this right did mean we had to move my tent, and with the micro-changes to the terrain, it meant my tent had to be on a slight angle to Marc's to avoid being in a dip that could fill with water. It being quite late in the day by the time we had finished setting up our tents, including our beds, and all those things that make life in camp more comfortable, John (from Rotorua) and Steve (from Auckland) made dinner for us as they had arrived earlier that day, and were part of our greater campsite. After previous years' experiences with feeling the chill come up through the air mattress I came prepared with queen size self-inflatable mattresses to place on the fold up bed, rather than the air mattress I had last year - an air mattress that seemed to go down ever more rapidly overnight as the camp progressed. It was a very wise investment, as I have never been so warm in bed by myself in all my years at Vinegar Hill. The next morning dawned slightly better, and the dawn chorus was wonderful to hear - tui, bellbirds, and other songbirds competing for their voice to be heard over the others. But alas, when we went to put up the gazebo, we discovered that we had left the elbows in Wellington! I had to return to get them! Non-stop, the trip south took slightly less than the trip up, and there were no hold-ups in the traffic. Returning to Vinegar Hill was another story though. It took me two hours to get from Wellington to Paraparaumu - a trip that is normally an hour - and it wasn't even rush hour. Upon my return, it was to find that the weather had changed from the promising dawn to a day of near continual drizzle. As a result, it was not possible for us to put up the gazebos after I got back. Richard, Grant, and Allan had arrived while I had been away, and had been able to set up their site between showers. Without gazebos, we had no place to cook, and Steve and John again came to our rescue with dinner. Afterwards, over a gin or two, we played Nitty Gritties and Articulate with them as well as Toni and Chris. Christmas Eve dawned slightly better again, but having had the experience of a lovely early morning followed by near continuous showers the day before, we were a bit more cautious. I had the task of going into Palmerston North to get food for Christmas Day and do some other errands, which included the dubious task of going to the Warehouse and looking for specific things, including extra decorations. Not exactly a nice place to be, and they didn't have everything I wanted, or was required to return with. I also took the opportunity to visit my sister and her family. Because the Warehouse in PN did not have everything needed, I risked life and limb by visiting Fielding. That town has only tried to drown or poison me in the past, so it was with reluctance I took that route back to camp. Fortunately, they did have what I needed, but, yet again, Fielding tried to drown me. Fortunately the van has a higher wheel-base than the car we had that year, and they failed to strand me - this time. By the time I returned to camp, Marc, Steve and John had put up the 6m x 3m gazebo, and had arranged the kitchen and cooking areas in it. Marc and I put the 3m x 4m gazebo up which was to be used as a socialising area. Jenn and her son, BJ (Mr Chuckles) and Dee, Doug, Owen, and some others had arrived while I was away. After dinner, cooked by Marc, we had a few drinks and played Nitty Gritties again with Toni and Chris, and Steve and John. As darkness fell distracting and probably unintentional shadow puppets were being played on the tent wall opposite the Queen Mother's residence. Christmas Day dawned ominously grey, although, by the time Marc and I left for PN to visit family it hadn't rained. It rained quite heavily on the way there, and was raining in PN when we arrived. We didn't hold up much hope for the campsite. After returning, we completed the Christmas decorations, tidied up, and prepared the seating, etc., for that night's pot luck dinner. Mal and Scotty, Dion, Lee (more about them later), Luke and Kevin, and Franzi the cute, 23-year old German tourist arrived, as did Andrea and her son. Dinner went well, although not everyone turned up, but those that did enjoyed themselves. I reminded the boys opposite to keep the light between them and the tent, not the other way round. It was, after all, the Queen Motherly thing to do. After dinner and drinks, and more drinks, I made the rounds visiting and catching up with people I hadn't seen in a while over yet more drinks. Franzi didn't believe us that there really were glow-worms to be seen by the track on the way in, and several of us went with him. Apparently he was under the impression that we were either (a) having him on and sending him on a fruitless trek; or (b) having other intentions. While (b) is an often-used way to, ah, get to know special someone a little better, that was not our intention this time, and a groups of us went with him to prove to him that it was neither (a) nor (b). They seemed brighter than in previous years. On Boxing Day, it was a wonderful sunny hot day, and lots of people arrived- Matty and Bart, Iria and Lynette, Phil and Roger, two lots of lesbians I don't know, and, of course, the reigning Queen and partner Barry, Princess Bouncy Bounce, Princess Kunikuni and partner, Princesses Blabbermouth and Boynipples, Mika, and Doug. There were several others I didn't know, including a str8 couple who arrived and set up camp before realising and left very early the next morning. The 27th saw us visit Marton to try and pick up a lantern glass to replace a broken one, but it was mostly closed due to the public holiday. When we got back, lots of people had arrived, and the place was beginning to fill up. Again, a beautiful sunny hot day, that saw the river fall quite a lot, giving the promise of rafting the following day. When Secret Santa had visited, I acquired a pair of red horns, and these were put to use when I did my first condom round that evening: “Hi, my name's Calum, and I am your condom fairy for the duration of the camp. Would you like some safety packets? And would you like a Horny Bastard to go with that?” Part of the package I had to deliver included the “Horny Bastard” newsletter from the NZAF, so the horns added that special little something that got a laugh. Over the whole camp, there was only one evil queen who said “I hope it's not you?”. The 28th saw yet more arrive, including the Palmy Boys, Neil, Paul, and Rachel and her partner, but Doug left. Peter, Peter and David arrived for the day to go rafting, before returning to Wellington. My sister and her family visited, and the kids went for a swim, enjoying the mud and silt of the riverbank as only kids can. Marc had disappeared shortly after they arrived so that he could construct the maze, which was duly opened by the Queen, wielding a chainsaw later that evening. Her majesty had also prepared a video evening, with the side of the truck being used as screen, and seating available on the sand at the beach. The screening for that evening was “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”. The following day, we again went to Marton to fill up gas tanks and again try to get a lantern glass, but their Hunting and Camping store was mainly hunting and fishing, with little in the way of camping equipment. We did, however, obtain a small pallet to support the kitchen sink, which was just that little too low for comfort. While the morning had started off lovely and hot, with just a gentle zephyr, and rafting looked promising, after-lunch chores and a change in the weather to slightly overcast meant this was delayed until the following day. Nevertheless, I made good use of the day, encouraging people to take part in the entertainment on the night of the 31st, and even had one of the Palmy moths, or Vinegar Hill Virgins, offer to do drag for the first time in his life. The little run through we had in his campsite, to encouraging words from his mates, made it look like he would be up there, with the search-light, sorry, spotlight on him. Doug had visited, bearing a gift of scones from Her Majesty, while I was out socialising, and these were gratefully received and eaten. BJ and Dee had left earlier that day due to work commitments, and Paddy and Phil arrived, setting up where they had left. The only bit of trouble for the campsite occurred during this day. It was the young son - about 7 or 8- of one of the people camping down the str8 end, who, when his father was driving him and his brothers and sister to the toilets (there were none at their end), yelled out the window “Burn in hell faggots” as they passed the Palmy boys. Someone as young as that does not learn such words from nowhere. It should also be noted that the same kid was happy to walk down by himself, and play with the kids from our end, and talk to those he had earlier shouted abuse at, so it seems unlikely he knew what he was actually saying. That night's film was “Sum of Us”. The 30th dawned dreary, and became worse and worse as the day passed. By mid-afternoon, showers were regular, and getting stronger, until by evening they had all but merged into one long shower with lighter patches. The Queen's Cocktail Party was to have been held on the sandy part of the beach, but was moved instead in the Royal Compound, ably protected by many large tarps. Originally planned for the afternoon, it had been delayed by the weather till about 8pm, just as I arrived doing the condom round. Rain, hail or shine, those condoms will be delivered! The 31st dawned precariously wet. The dawn chorus was subdued, and rain continued almost through the day, with fine patches becoming more regular. Lots of people arrived - there would have been about 500 in total by now. Down on last year, but many people were put off by reports of what had happened in the February 2004 floods, and others were put off by the weather. I must admit, this was the wettest Vinegar Hill camp I have been to. However, this usually means the following one is going to be really sunny. Marc spent most of the day finalising decorations, and had all but finished when the Queens Convocation was held. As things were happening in the Royal Compound in preparation for that evening, it was held at the Queen Mother's residence. Marc had to clear out while we discussed who would be the next Queen, and where the prizes would go. Because of outstanding efforts by two people, it was decided to roll best lighting and best use of technology into one prize, and best decorations and best campsite into another. I agreed with this, but could not vote for one of the prizes - the reason would become clear later. Despite the weather, the evening started off almost on time - the rain clearing about 30 minutes before the party. The shows started more or less on time, with Mika as compere and the first and last act. I can't remember who the other acts were, but one was put on by some of the children in the camp, and was very well done for young children who had never appeared on stage before. There was a lack of acts this year because of the weather. The boy from Palmy who had intended doing drag was, unfortunately, talked out of it by his boyfriend, who had arrived earlier that day. The Palmy boy had a lot of raw talent, and would have put on a good show. The prizes were then announced, and everyone seemed to agree with them, given the large applause that was given when they were announced. Because of events the previous year, when the leading nominee for Miss Hospitality was nearly pipped at the post by a new arrival, final judging for that, and it's sister award was delayed until 9pm that evening. The prizes went to: Best lighting and best use of technology: John from Whangarei. Best campsite and best decorations: Marc (my flatmate, which was why I couldn't vote). Miss Hospitality: Jay and Damian Ms Hospitality: Amber (although, as she didn't turn up to collect the prizes, they were later given to another contender, Jenn). The party continued, and the New Year was seen in, with lots of kissing and hugging and toasts. Then the moment people were waiting for. The New Queen was announced: Toni Farrow of Auckland. The lesbians in the crowd went wild. It had been several years since a woman was Queen. There were some naysayers, but that is not unusual - when I was elected, someone said “what service has he done” while holding a condom pack I had given him 10 minutes earlier, then looking suitably embarrassed when it was pointed out to him. The year Colin was elected, someone complained that they had been coming a lot longer than him, and what had he ever done, until the fact that he was dancing to the music and enjoying the lights, etc., supplied by the techy boys, was pointed out. One complaint this year was from a person who claimed his partner had been coming for 19 years and had never been queen. The problem is, if they had been coming for 19 years, they must have done something that would have attracted the attention of the former queens - some service to the camp of some sort. But if the former queens haven't noticed them, and some go back to when the camp started, then they couldn't have done some useful service that made them noticeable. The party ended about 4.30am, and the following morning dawned, not brightly, but not rainy either. As usual, there was the Morning After exodus, and about 1pm, the new Queen made her Progress around camp. After this, most people had little nanny naps, unless they were preparing to leave. The rain set in again about 5pm, and as a result, the competitions planned for that evening, postponed from the 30th, were cancelled. People made their own fun that evening, either staying in their own sites and entertaining visitors, or visiting other sites and having drinks with them. On the 2nd, we made our initial preparations to leave, taking down all but Marc's tent and the large gazebo. Fortunately, the weather held all day, and tents and sites were able to dry out. That evening, with Mal and Scotty returning from Wellington after the function at their bar, £, and bringing with them a couple of drag queens from Australia, an impromptu show was devised, and Her Majesty took part in her second official role as Queen, acting as compere for the evening, and officiating at the ceremony to mark the blossoming romance between Dion and Lee. Fortunately the 3rd dawned clear, and we were able to complete our packing without getting wet. Our drive back to Wellington was long and tedious with numerous hold-ups due to traffic and road works, although the sun became more visible the further south we went. We left Vinegar Hill at 1pm, and made it back to Wellington by 6pm. Despite this year's weather I am definitely looking forward to next year. Calum Bennachie Queen Mother Vinegar Hill Calum Bennachie - 6th January 2005    

Credit: Calum Bennachie

First published: Thursday, 6th January 2005 - 12:00pm

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