Greenbelt reflections, part 1.

And so, here we are, the other side of Greenbelt. My weekend was completely different from the one I was anticipating.

I heard Billy Bragg talk about his Jail Guitar Doors project. I laughed until my sides hurt at Adrian Plass. I cried buckets in Soul Space as I had predicted: although the tears weren’t as bitter as I’d anticipated. I talked to people in queues, and I made crap jokes (first one in the car on the way there involving Rev Counters). I laughed at teargas, and was silenced, by Mark Thomas’ storytelling (Extreme Rambling). I presented my own thoughts on social media and helped out with the surgeries. I made new friends in the Communion service and last but not least, I tested Bath Ales’ promise that the Jesus Arms would not run out of beer (it didn’t; I tried really hard). I will write more on the things I thought and learned when I’ve had a chance to think more.

I met many people in person that I had followed on Twitter. That in itself was lovely; a sense of knowing people to stop and chat to when often I’ve felt quite alone. In the last two years I’ve also got to know many more people from the conferences I’ve attended and they were around the place two. Some folk from the North had a huge part to play in calming pre-Greenbelt worries and were just lovely lovely people – tolerating my strange southern ways alongside genuine concern and building a new friendship. A friend of longer standing, Susanna, was at her first Greenbelt – warned she may be in for a fairly damp time, what with the weather and the crying. Turned out mostly dry (weather) but she was marvellously on hand for one or two moments where I did find myself overwhelmed and tearful. OK, maybe more than one or two. And a friend of even longer standing, Andrew, provided me with transport, tent space and great company. I had a conversation with a friend I thought I had lost which showed me a lot about grace and humility (and led to a few of the unexpected leaky eyed moments over the weekend). Lastly, there are some anonymous people that helped me…

The man who gave me several tissues in Soul Space after I had given mine away earlier
The person who handed my purse in
The bar staff of the Jesus Arms

Greenbelt had loomed large on the horizon for a few weeks, and it feels odd to be home and thinking about work, chores and normal life. I’ve loved following people’s journeys home via Twitter and it’s helping me adjust back to life in the quiet here at Batty Towers.

Greenbelt wobbles.

It’s Greenbelt 2011 in a couple of days. There’s a growing pile of camping stuff and waterproof clothing in my study. I’ve stocked up on snacks and fruit juice as well as meths and waxed matches. Got the ingredients for a huge batch of breakfast flapjacks.

I’ve got really mixed feelings about going away. There are all sorts of reasons why. Staying fit for the Great North Run is one worry. My new job is making serious demands on me. I’m not complaining – this is a great opportunity for me – after 6 fairly full-on weeks I need a bit of brain space. Particularly as it’ll be even busier when I go back. But this’ll be the first Greenbelt I’ve needed to worry about powering a BlackBerry as well as my phone. Several of my recently tweeted problems have been holiday & travel related as a consequence of the job move. One is related to the need for a tent with a power supply.

I’m really excited about being part of the programme, even though I’m not listed – at 3.30 on Saturday I’ll be part of a panel with Bex and Simon talking about the future of social media in the church. And I’m helping with social media surgeries during the weekend. In fact, of the last six Greenbelts I’ve attended, I’ve contributed in some way to five of them. So it’s not the idea of working that’s causing me to wobble.

I’m going to this Greenbelt knowing practically shedloads of people – some only via Twitter, some I’ve actually met more than once. So it won’t be like the year when my two friends paired off and left me practically alone. Or the year I more or less was on my own, on purpose. (At least if I know I’m on my own there’s no disappointment from being without company). Or the year I’d just been dumped and divided time equally between beer and prayer to numb the awfulness. There’s the times when the people I camped with, friends of a friend, have unwittingly excluded me from their sociability & piled on the loneliness.

I just know Greenbelt is a place that I have cried a lot, and I don’t see that any of the things I’ve cried over in the past have gone away. Or that the tears, some of which have been tears of relief and thanks for a space, are any less welcome. But what if I make it to Soul Space, start crying and can’t stop?

I’ve been a bit unhappy lately because I messed something up quite badly. The sore spot has been covered up a bit by time, kind friends and the busyness of work, but I am scared about revisiting it in Cheltenham. I’m scared about meeting Twitter folk. And I am scared about not meeting Twitter folk… that awkwardness of not recognising someone you’ve bantered with online. I’m a bit frustrated about my session being buried in amongst the social media stuff – frankly completely bemused as to what the arrangements are – and worry about talking to an empty room.

The #gb11 hashtag is hotting up over on Twitter – and ratcheting the worry.

But you know, I’m going to be in the same space as some awesomely creative people. New ideas, new folk, new perspectives, new dreams perhaps. I’ll get inspired to action by all the campaigning that is showcased and I’ll find a new charity to support. I’ll buy a couple of books on entirely new topics. I’ll drink in the Jesus Arms – probably more than is good for me (see above re Great North Run). I will talk to people in queues, crack rubbish jokes, wear wellies and get wet. I’ll eat pie. If I’m given the chance, I’ll eat humble pie. I’ll remind myself when I’m in a crowd, not quite sure what’s going on, that this is probably what it was like being at the back when Jesus was talking.

I’ll find my space. I’ll have fun. I’ll cry. Will I see you there?