Have you ever found yourself amongst a group of very agreeable people who all have similar beliefs that you do not share?
The sort of harmless, mainly inoffensive people that are too easy a target to make it any fun making fun of them?
No? Me neither, usually.
This was the situation I had assumed that I would find myself in for the last few days, as I have been attending the annual Weird Weekend, hosted by the Centre for Fortean Zoology in Woolfardisworthy, North Devon.
I was to be pleasantly surprised.
Abandon cynicism all ye who enter here.
This is the annual pilgrimage for all those interested in phenomenon such as yetis, ufos, ghosts, crop circles, sea serpents, and even some real animals that have previously been thought extinct, or live in unusual environments.
I had been informed that the event was taking place in a community centre, which brought to mind images of a cold breezeblock structure with hard wooden chairs.
However, when I arrived, what I discovered was Woolsery Sports and Community Centre, a large timber structure with green credentials – wind turbine and solar panels for electricity, underground geothermal heat pump for heating – incorporating a sports / lecture hall, exhibition space, kitchens and canteen, showers, and a social club bar!
This was an improvement already.
I was camping for the weekend, in the field behind the hall, and in contrast to my recent Glamping experience, this time I was roughing it in my car.
Still, no reason to be uncomfortable, so I rigged up an outdoor veranda too.
I was there, primarily, to support my good friend and ex-flatmate Zippy (Richard Thorns), who was to give a lecture on his specialist subject, the Pink Headed Duck, on Friday night.
And, up until now, that was the only reason that I would have chosen to spend the weekend with the sort of people who think nothing of starting a conversation with “Did you see my article about the flying snake of Namibia?”
Speaking of snakes and serpents, the first lecture was from Richard Freeman; “20 cryptids you have never heard of” describing a bewildering selection of giant reptiles, unremarkable birds, and frankly terrifying monster killer worms that apparently “explode if you poke them with a stick”.
After a fairly lengthy break in the exceedingly comfortable bar, chatting to a number of fellow attendees and other speakers, it was time for Zippy’s moment of glory.
He took to the floor of the auditorium with all the confidence of a man with all his ducks in a row, so to speak, and delivered a genuinely absorbing and assured talk on his trips to Burma, alone, in the search for his elusive quarry. His amiable delivery, and obvious knowledge off his subject, plus his ability to answer questions afterwards, impressed the crowd and organizers alike.
All the world is Zippy’s stage.
Jonathon Downes even made a special point of congratulating him on his exploits, and asked him to come back after his next expedition.
Zip was delighted with all the attention in the bar afterwards, and even got booked to do a radio interview on Saturday morning.
After another pleasant hour or two in the bar, I retired to my car for a surprisingly good nights sleep.
Tomorrow was to be another day of weirdness…