Why I Didn’t Write All Weekend

Kage Baker always took writing to Fairs. And she even usually worked on it, which is a miracle of astonishing proportions.

Those of you, Dear Readers, who have indulged in the mania of historical re-creation know that we all bring real world tasks to Faire at times. We have the very best intentions of working on them between gigs or after hours – and we usually end up precisely where good intentions classically lead one, with an armful of ungraded papers, unfinished essays, unhemmed garments or (one memorable weekend) a surplus sheep left in my Innyard by someone who didn’t find the person they were selling it to.

Kage was different. She brought her writing, and she actually wrote. Before she began to acquire portable devices, she had special notebooks that would fit in a reticule or belt pouch, and could be used in spare moments under the oaks. She even managed to make a gig of it, writing sections of Iden on rough paper with a quill pen at the side of the Innyard; she sat by the straw bale playpen where we kept the toddlers, and we told people she was running a Dame School …

When she graduated to laptops, we’d sometimes run an extension cord from some power box (bolted to an oak tree so the Beverage Stands could run soda pop pumps), and she’d spend evenings composing furiously in electronic ink by the light of a Coleman lantern. The rest of us sat about trading shoes (very engrossing; you should try it) drinking port and reading poetry aloud, and occasionally going over quietly to top up her rum and chocolate milk.

Or she’d just retreat to some spare bedroom after a day at Dickens Fair, and write while consuming the whomp biscuits that are our chosen after-hours nursery dinners. Lots of Nell Gwynne was written like that, while my “daughters” and I wandered in and out in various stages of Victorian deshabille. That may have influenced the plot somewhat …

Me, I don’t have Kage’s concentration. And I am usually orchestrating whatever chaos she was ignoring in her determined way. So, while I do manage to let the world in general know I survived yet another transit of the Dubious Lands, by the time I get home after a day at Dickens I am too exhausted to write. Certainly too exhausted to compose; but also, too tired to move my fingers on the keyboard. They just lie there like sad little Vienna sausages. I was so tired this Sunday that we were nearly to the car before someone (thank you, Kelly!) pointed out gently that I was still wearing my lace gloves …

So this is why daily accounts of my weekend adventures have not been forthcoming. I’m carrying both halves of the weight Kage and I used to share – and while I love every bit of it, sometimes I just can’t walk into the Hall of Tales that was always her special purview. I am stuck in the door, asleep on my feet, having dealt with too many foamy kegs, too many ripped-out hems, too many gentlemen with inexplicable chickens under their arms …

But Dickens continues in its parti-coloured, sparkling, singing, shouting, dancing glory! The streets are full of drifted snow – it’s some alchemical concoction of corn starch, but it’s white and sparkly and piles up on windowsills most charmingly. This weekend past, most of the armed might of the Empire was visiting in my Parlour. Such vistas of scarlet and gold and blue, so many medals, and plumes and knife-sharp creases! So many Loyal Toasts roared out as champagne glasses flashed!

The customers pour past in a constant torrent of wide eyes and happy smiles; and they come in to play, too, sitting cautiously among us in front of my lace-curtained windows. After a few songs or cheery greetings, they relax into proper Londoners, and are soon singing along and calling out to less-fortunate pedestrians still out in the streets. There’s a continual game of Musical Chairs going on as people snitch seats from one another to accommodate another guest, or sit closer to the fire, or get nearer to Charles Dickens or The Pickwick Club or the singing groups. Once the guests have seen us moving chairs to where they are needed, they suddenly lose all shyness and join right in.

There are paying guests who have come to share Extreme Christmas with me and mine in the Green Man Parlour for 10 years now. We know their faces; they know ours. We greet one another with happy familiarity, as if it were a week since our last meeting instead of a year. The magic of Dickens Fair just expands to embrace everyone who comes inside.

And I go home every night drunk on it. Which is why, Dear Readers, you get recaps a day or two later – I’ve been sleeping off gingerbread and snowflakes and Rule Britannia and the Last Waltz of the Evening every night. I’ve been having lunch with Sugar Plum Faeries and dreaming of the long road – it’s not confections dancing in my head, it’s miles of walnut trees naked and white as nymphs in the winter twilight, or sundogs in the icy clouds that ring the moon.

But I’ll still report faithfully back from all the edges where I dance these days. As faithfully as I can manage, anyway. I’m faithful, as they say, in my fashion …

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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5 Responses to Why I Didn’t Write All Weekend

  1. Neassa says:

    She’s serious about the gentleman with inexplicable chickens under his arms.

  2. Lynn Downward says:

    I missed your Chicken Gentleman, but it was lovely to see you Sunday morning, Kathleen. And I got to see the Last Waltz and sing the alto part of the Halleluja Chorus Sunday and thought of you and Kage singing behind me one year. I stopped singing to listen. The Chorus is another piece of Dickens magic.

    • Kate says:

      It was wonderful to see you, too! Meeting old friends each year at Dickens is the best part of the season for me.

      Ah, the Hallelujah Chorus … we always stood on the border between the altos and the sopranos, because neither of us could sing her part without hearing the other. Last year, I never did make it all the way through – just stood and listened to the beautiful sound all around me, and missed Kage. This year, I am managing to sing again, though!

      The Chicken Gentleman was almost indescribable and certainly indescribably funny. The chickens did not seem too amused, but then – chickens never do.

      Kathleen kbco.wordpress.com

  3. Luisa Puig Duchaineau says:

    Lovely to see you, M’Dear, amidst the awesome crush of paying patrons. Sorry my friends and I couldn’t stay in the Green Man Inn for longer than we did, but having introduced them to Dickens Fair last year, I couldn’t very well not allow them to see as much of it as they could on their one day visit. Me, I hope to visit again this season, with (or without) my family gentlemen. We’ll just have to see.

    In the meantime, I have to say that even visiting one day (so far) was exhausting to me, too. Can’t believe I used to drive up from LA, do *both* days, drive back Sunday night *and* work nine-to-five during the week. Every weekend! How was that possible, or, more to the point, how is it that only one day is so exhausting now? It took all day Sunday *and* Monday for me to recover.

    I assume The Chicken Man was Drew Letchworth, with his amazing Rooster Brothers, Guy-Guy and Buffy. Wild looking exotic chickens, with wild, punk-like head plumage. I know I missed them as they were not going to be there on Saturday, but Sunday instead. I’m hoping that they will be back on that day (which I don’t know yet) that I’ll be able to return.

    Dickens is even better this year than last, which is saying quite a bit. Awesome how much energy, creativity, and enthusiasum (sp?) all the performers are giving the public.

    Best Christmas Gift *ever*

    I believe that Kage is there, too; smiling over it all; and taking many, many notes.

    Write when you can, Dear Kathleen: rest when you can, too.


    • Kate says:

      I saw you flitting about once or twice, Luisa – you looked like a happy kid with $10 in her pocket and toy store in front of her. And yes, that must have been Drew Letchworth, because those chickens had the funniest hairdos I’ve ever seen on a chicken. And the most disapproving expressions, too.

      Kathleen kbco.wordpress.com

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