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Wednesday 08 April 2009

My Vinegar Hill diary

Posted in: Events, True Stories
By Calum Bennachie - 6th January 2009

Vinegar Hill stalwart Calum Bennachie reports back with notes and gossip from his eventful stay at the Manawatu's annual LGBT New Year's camping hotspot.


Getting there

Calum, Carl & Val
The car was packed by the Saturday in anticipation, although I did not pick up the trailer until Tuesday 23rd December, at around 8.45am. We picked up the tables, chairs and other stuff from the Awhina Centre, then went back to my place to pack the rest of the trailer. That was done 10.30am, so Carl and I were off, on the road to Vinegar Hill. The trip was long, towing a trailer and all that, and we did stop in Foxton, at the Route 66 dine. We arrived at the campsite, Vinegar Hill, at around 2pm, and got my tent up, Carl's tent up, then the large green gazebo, which was used as the Kitchen tent, and got that organised. By that time, it was quite late in the afternoon, and we thought we had done enough for the day, so we relaxed a little, went up to Hunterville to get ice, etc., then returned to camp and made dinner.

Calum's tent
The 24th stated okay, and we got the large white gazebo up, to make the Dining tent, and got most of it decorated. We sat down for a cup of tea to recover, when a light shower came over, so we had finished it just in time. We went up to Hunterville for a hot shower at the Argyle Hotel, run by the friendly Ian, and then moved on to Palmerston North in order to do some last minute Christmas shopping. By the time we got back to camp, everything was drying out from the showers that were still out in the southern plains. But after dinner, they came back, a couple of times, just lightly. Not enough to stop people sitting round a camp fire.

Christmas Day

On the 25th, Carl went to Waikanae to visit his family, and I went to Palmerston North to visit my sister and her family, and have lunch- chicken, ham, corned beef, lamb, fish, a selection of vegetables, including corn, peas, carrots, brocolli, potatoes (whole and mashed), and stuffing, followed by a dessert of fruit, including strawberries and cherries, pavlova, trifle, jelly and cake. <dramatic gesture> I just forced myself to have a little of everything </drama>. I got back to the camp around 4pm, and made a smoked chicken salad as part of the dinner being made by the Vinegar Hillton. Not having to rive, I could have a beer or five there. Lovely Stella ... mmmmmm.

'The Hammock'
Carl arrived back, with his brother in tow, on the 26th, and the gayest little dog called Bonsai. By that time, I had already finished the decorations, and made a start on the sling, umm, hammock for the men to rest in when they were up in the ahhh, bush, after all that walking around. It took a lot of thought to be able to knot one up ensuring the knots would not slip when under the stress of use. With the two of them there, I was able to get the fire pit completed, and we constructed the maze- where men could go and ... ummm, observe nature. After all that work, in a hot day full of sunnyshine, we all went for a swim in the river, which had not been affected by the rain on the 24th. Bonsai wanted to follow, but her fear of wet bits kept her out of the river. We did the 1st Condom Fairy round that evening, as there were quite a number of men in camp. And the lesbians did appreciate being told that putting a condom on their toys would reduce the amount of cleaning they had to do.

Carl's brother left on the 27th, but an invite to a cocktail party at the Manor was delivered. Apparently the Lady of the Manor would be At Home that evening, welcoming people to a sleepwear party. This did present a little bit of a conundrum, as most of us sleep in very little at all, and some wear only their metal. We did attend after the opening of the ahhh, place for men to rest. I got round the sleepwear requirements by wearing a sheet. It was held up by a belt, and I was wearing footwear, which I do not wear to bed, but that, and the metal which is always there, was all. The Lovely Corey was the centre of attention of quite a few people, with Mal wanting to wear him to bed. Murray, on the other hand, wanted Corey to wear him to bed. As a result, and with a little added alcohol, Corey revealed a little more than he was expecting ...

The 28th again started sunny and bright, and we made our way back to Wellington to pick up Val. Carl made a note that when other staff are flying to Vinegar Hill in the future, they fly into Palmerston North, not Wellington. We left at 12noon after a short swim, had lunch in Sanson, and a shower at Waikanae, then arrived in Wellington by 4pm, picked up some DVDs for the movie night from home, some pillows for Val from Carl's place, and acquired an inflatable boat from the Warehouse in Wellington. We had dinner at McDonalds in Bulls on the way back, and arrived back in time to set things right for the maze, sorry, rest area, and go to watch the film. Ratatouille was the early showing, followed by Pam Ann Live in London, a stand up comic. I find that kind of humour ever so exciting and hilarious. BTW, irony is not a metallic substance. So I put up with it for about 15minutes, and then was soon off to talk to others and drink a little- Stella, of course.

On the 29th, we paid a visit to the Hunterville Public Swimming Pool, and were entertained by a group of local boys aged between 18 and 20 who were too scared to get in the pool with a couple of gay men. They sat in
'Certain services' advertised outside Simon Power's office
the stand in the shade, making comments, daring each other to be the first in, although none actually did so. Only the Pool attendant (quite cute) and one of the guys (also quite cute) would say anything directly to us without prompting, and both were friendly. The others were too when I went to retrieve my bag and said something to them, although they were a little shy.

On the 30th, we did a run to Marton to do laundry and some shopping. Simon Power, the National MP for Rangitikei, and current Minister of Justice had an office right beside the laundry, with a certain sign outside, advertising certain ... services. And I'm sure he opposed that Bill in 2003...

At 3pm, I went to the Queen's Cocktail Party, taking my camera. The vodka was very nice, and we found that by mixing the
At the Queens' Cocktail Party
Chocolate and Cherry vodka in the right quantities, we had a black forest. Some of the photos can be seen from here onwards.

That evening was the Fashion in the Field Competition, won by Shane, whose daughter and soon to be son-in-law were also at the camp, and the Grab a Purse competition, similar to It's In The Bag, where people chose a purse and had to answer three questions: one on Vinegar Hill, one on gay general knowledge, and one on general knowledge. All entrants went away with something, even if it was a funny hat in the shape of a urinal.






New Year's Eve

The 31st dawned clear and sunny, and stayed that way nearly all day. Towards evening, it began to cloud over, and by the time the fire was lit, it was hard to see the sky for the clouds. I missed the beginning of the entertainment as I was lighting candles to make it safe for those men who wanted to take a, ahem, gentle stroll around the bush later that evening. I got there just before the first round of prizes were given. Best Campsite

'Lindy Lane'
went to John and Shane from Auckland, while the tackiest went to Richard and Nigel, also from Auckland, and resident in Too Tacky Alley. Best use of Technology went to the display of best use of solar energy by Toni Farrow at Lindy Lane. More entertainment followed, followed by the announcements of the Miss Hospitality Awards. This year, the Camp Slut award was given to two guys, one from Auckland and one from Wellington.Brett and Matt, although I'm sure neither actually met each other, though they never appeared for their prize. However, the one who was most, ummm, hospitable, was Shorty, and she was named Camp Whore, although she never actually got paid for it. Unlike the two men, she was available to collect her prize. Some more entertainment followed, then the New Queen was Announced.

Rise, Queen Daniel!
Daniel Corney was crowned Queen of Vinegar Hill, and the mantle of organising the event for the next year falls on his shoulders. The Queen of Vinegar Hill is elected by the council of Former Queens, taking into consideration the length of time people have been attending and the amount of service they have provided to the camp. Some people provide a lot of service, and are helpful every time they come to camp- people like this would be in line for election. Others have been coming for years, but have provided little, if any, service. Such people would never be considered for the Queenship. Daniel has been of service for a number of years, since he first started coming to Vinegar Hill. He had provided, without being asked, prizes of L'Oreal products, and other goods, as well as provided services to a number of queens over the years, including this one as well as Marc, Toni, Jenni and others. However, he has always kept his help in the background, not expecting help or consideration. As a result he was elected Queen.

Nevertheless, around 10 minutes after the coronation, a light shower developed, and by midnight had settled in- not heavy, but enough to be annoying. Mal Vaughn, elected Queen in 1986, and having attended nearly every camp since, cannot remember it ever raining on the party in the History of Vinegar Hill. I made my way to bed around 1am after a few Stellas and a few Carlsbergs, and the rain kept going until I fell asleep around 2am, though had stopped by morning.

Hunterville's finest
Hunterville Police were, for the first time, present on foot at the party, and stopped any trouble that may have happened. One person, not a camp camper, and not a local, was caught stealing a wallet from a tent (in Too Tacky Alley), was cornered and held until the police arrived, who carted him off to be a guest of Her Majesty, QE II, overnight in Marton.






The Morning After

The 1st day of 2009 dawned bright and sunny, drying out the results of the overnight showers. It was a rest day for most, needfully, though some were packing up and leaving. I convinced a couple of Vinegar Hill Virgins to go rafting with me. They had gone before, but only from the bridge, as there was a sign on the gate on the other side saying No Entry. They hadn't seen the writing under it though, which said day picnickers, fishers, and river access welcome. So we went almost right up to the furthest point we could go and floated down, over parts more tranquil than they had seen before, and over rapids rougher than they had seen before. Much more beautiful, and much more exciting.

That evening we had another film night - Mama Mia - which was very funny, even the 2nd time round, but there was a little added excitement in the middle. Toni Farrow, a former queen, marched in and put the player on Pause, to the dismay of some. She flashed a search light around, allowing it to land on a young guy called Shane, who had been to the camp as a child, but was now around 21. He had accompanied his mother in previous years, and is not gay. He had brought some mates in, and they had stolen two bottles of Lindauer and some other alcohol from Toni's camp. They tried to deny it, but the evidence was held up by one of the happy campers behind them. Caught red handed, they left, to the jeers and applause of those watching. The movie resumed. But we don't know what happened to young Shane and his mates. Perhaps they too spent a night with the Marton Constabulary!

The 2nd was also bright and sunny, and by the time I awoke at 8.30am, Carl and Val had demolished the maze, and were tidying things up. We had to wait on the grass drying before we could fold things up to pack, and we got their tents and the dining tent down without problems, although it had begun to threaten rain before clearing to sunnyshine again.

If I had thought about it at that point, I would have taken the kitchen tent down as well as pack everything unnecessary up. I had not heard the forecast, and being all hot and sticky, decided to go swimming instead. I had dinner with the people from Too Tacky Alley, and slept well.

Alas for not knowing the weather forecast. When I got up at 7.30am, the sky was overcast, and cool, but it did not feel like rain. I got a little more packed into the trailer, and had breakfast. Just as I finished breakfast, a light shower fell, lasting just a few minutes, but 10 minutes later, it fell in earnest. The green Gazebo and my tent were soaked through. Between really heavy showers and clear patches, I struck the rest of the campsite, and packed the car and trailer, finally leaving at 1pm.

I travelled back to Wellington, after lunch in McDs in Bulls, where I again met the lovely Shaun, (who I had met earlier, and knew a cousin and uncle of his as well), and he served me with that delightful smile of his. The rain was left behind in Foxton, and Wellington was bright and sunny on my arrival. I slept well that night, and hung the tents out the dry over the next two days.

What was of interest though, was the str8 family that camped where I had been last year. They were locals, from Marton, so knew what the situation was. They did, however, think the maze really was someplace to get lost in, and would be good for the kids, until I told them. They were also told about the adult entertainment, and there may be some nudity, yet they stayed. Afterwards, they said they had really enjoyed themselves, far more than usual, and it had opened their eyes, and broken a lot of stereotypes. Despite reports in the Dominion Post, there were only two pink lilos, and there was no skipping- talk about reinforcing stereotypes without basis. They said their son would have fun explaining his holiday at school, when they had to do a report of "What I Did On My Holidays". He goes to a catholic boy school. Wonder if they'll accept it without any problem, or if they will start indoctrinating him with the "those people" are second class citizens not deserving of rights, and the "homosexuals are intrinsically disordered" and the "homosexuals are worse for humanity than global warming" crap the pope has exclaimed about over the past few years. I wonder how much damage that would do to a child who was happy and enjoyed his holiday?

Calum Bennachie - 6th January 2009