Shad’s Steampunk Weekend

Everyone in the world has the potential to be a little quirky.  Goodness knows John has his peculiar ways and he would no doubt describe my quizzical expressions and episodes of gambolling about the living room like a frisky spring lamb as somewhat perplexing.  But the guys and gals at the Steampunk event John and I attended the other week elevated quirky to a whole new level.  We travelled beyond unconventional into the Victorian era and entered a realm of surprising and enigmatic characters who could have just stepped off the set of Doctor Who or the 1954 movie 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.  The Subaquatic Steampunk Weekend at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport was my first experience of the eccentric world of Victorian science fiction but hopefully not my last.

I was like a child in a sweetshop all wide-eyed and with a gormless grin on my face.  Not the usual unflappable and sophisticated style I normally portray.  But there was a lady there who looked like an emerald green dragon with bright orange hair and a boy who looked like a cyborg from the 1950’s in a tarnished metal face mask embellished with cog wheels and rusted springs.  I couldn’t help but be mesmerised by the gadgets and gizmos, boutique fashion shows and dynamic performances of the singers and musicians that entertained us.  Ichabod Steam and his Animatronic Band were especially fascinating and became the source of a lengthy quizzical expression on my face while I tried to work out if he was a pirate, one of the Three Musketeers or the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland.  Eventually I realised that it didn’t matter if he was a romantic goth or a post-apocalyptic soldier.  The occasion was full of fun and the people warm and welcoming – a fitting tribute to the Victorian era, the American Wild West and the innovation of the mechanical and digital world all rolled into one.  Nowhere else would you see parasols and ray guns paired up with bowler hats and corsets.  I might ask Father Christmas for a pair of aviator goggles this year!

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Shad goes to Innsbruck

I am very proud of my fur coat.  It’s glossy, black and silky soft to the touch.  A cloak like that must have provided my ancestors with a great camouflage in the forests and John tells me I blend in quite nicely on a dark carpet which must be why I can stalk my mousey so well.  But on the crispy white snow of Innsbruck I stood out like a sore thumb.  With my jet black fur and John’s tomato red ski jacket we looked a right pair!  Luckily most peoples’ attention was focussed on the sturdy metal bathtubs that kept sliding at full velocity down a sloped twisting ice chute.  John said it was the 2017 World Cup Bobsled competition and the humans dressed in shiny Lycra cat suits with protective helmets were deliberately descending the ice chute to see who could do it the best.

 

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Bobsleigh or bobsled (not sure what the difference is) involves teams of two or four people pushing the sled down a narrow, banked ice track before leaping into it just as gravity powers it along and they rocket down the track at around 120mph.  This is a popular winter sport in Innsbruck which is known fondly as the Capital of the Alps.  It’s the fourth largest city in Austria yet its small enough to get around on foot.  The Olympic Winter Games in 1964 and 1976 were held here and it is a hub of snow-based activity including skiing, snowboarding, skating, mountaineering and snowshoeing.  The bravest of all compete in the luge competition where one or two people lay face up on a skateboard literally inches from the hard ribbon of concrete beneath them and thunder down the track without even being able to see where they’re going.

Innsbruck is known for its imperial architecture with gothic attributes like the Goldenes Dachl (Golden Roof) building, a landmark structure completed in 1500 and decorated with 2,738 fire-gilded copper tiles for Emperor Maximillian 1 who was King of the Romans from 1486. We also did a bit of celebrity spotting when we went out for dinner and saw some of the cast of reality TV show The Jump relaxing in an Austrian restaurant in the old town.  One of them kept rubbing John’s hair which is admittedly extremely bouncy and curly and grows at an alarming rate.  One time I heard tweeting coming from his head and a twig fell out!  Anyway, I’m not sure if this is an Austrian tradition or simply a quirk of this particular eating establishment but as we got to the end of the meal, there was a commotion.  Apparently one of the photographers on the trip, didn’t finish all her food and was punished with a smack on the bottom with a fish!  Everyone roared with laughter but I thought it was a waste of a perfectly good sea bass!

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