(Held this year at Lord Siva’s Estate, Beach & Zoological Gardens)

In attendance: Siva, Amstar, Archaro (+ mate), Art, Azmodan, Beermat, Branwell, Hypatia, Mindy, Pauli, Poppy, SheDevil, Slime, Squirrel (+ daughter), Twoie, Wizzo & Zero.

Apologies: The Goddess Kali (who was indisposed & spent the afternoon in a darkened room with a succession of young men)

Our Social Correspondent writes:

Betook myself to deepest Sussex where the allegedly svelte Siva was holding an "At Home" to which, in a moment of foolhardiness, he had extended generous and welcome invitations to anyone and everyone who call themselves Shades players. It was thus no ordinary Shades Meet, as soon we found ourselves tearing chicken legs & rubbing shoulders with various locals, some of whom clearly regarded us as being sort of brave new extension to the Shetland Pony Sanctuary located within the Siva demesne.

"What exactly IS Shades?" asked more than one of these worthies, somewhat nervously. Hypatia, my Person Friday for the day, brightly essayed an explanation, but her brave efforts received only glazed-over eyes and nervous backings away. Clearly they had known we were coming and had had the vaccinations, but were nonetheless thrown by our not fitting the expected stereotype of spotty nerds with no lives to call our own: well some of us didn’t.

Being serious for just a moment, it was a pleasure and a privilege to meet, amongst all the non-Shadists, Tim & Becky, who have been doing such heroic things in Bhopal.

I had also chauffeured down Art and an ailing amstar, who looked as if someone had eaten him he disagreed with. He seemed to rally as the day wore on, relapsing only to found a new religion involving pebbles and triffids, with both of which Siva’s patio (hereinafter referred to as "The Beach") was conveniently well furnished.. This sounded crazy, but only until one remembered that en route we had passed through East Grinstead, UK home to both the Mormons & the Scientologists. I made a note to lock him in the car boot & throw a blanket over him when we drove back.

We were not the first to arrive. Already there and pouring various fluids into themselves were Archaro, Beermat, Mindy, Slime, Zero, Shedevil & Azmodan. A short while later we joined by Poppy & Pauli. These 9 then spent the bulk of the next 8 hours or so pouring said fluids into themselves. Mention must be made here of, and great respect due to, Azmodan who remained in a vertical state throughout the whole day, and was at no time spotted yawning in technicolour at a passing flower bed. It is though a sad day when NOBODY at a Shades meet ends up snoring under a sink in the loo (or worse).

Mine host meanwhile was hard at it slaving over an enormous barbeque, slapping down an assortment of burgers, ribs, chicken things, bits of veg. etc. As the crowd had swelled to about 70 in all he had little time to socialise. I treasure the memory of him leaning over the rack of burgers, fag dangling from his mouth, snatching at his glass of vin rouge as and when he could, feeding us hungry hordes. The man is a saint, but there is still far too much of him. In addition to the savouries there were located in the house further salady things, bread and an extravaganza of desserts, and we all troughed contentedly & repeatedly.

Twoie then turned up carrying a large box full of booze including Bacardi Breezers for Pauli, which she resolutely refused to touch all day. (OK so I made up that last bit). He joined the throng sprawled under the sun around The Beach area by Siva’s impressive goldfish pond, and the idle lot more or less stayed there for most of the afternoon and evening. An honourable mention though to Archaro, who took pity on Holly the Wonder Irish Wolfhound. She was enjoying her day out from the Mansion staircase but had found herself tied to a tree with a VERY long lead. This was to keep her away from the food, all of which she would have devoured in an instant given the ghost of a chance, so she welcomed Archaro’s concerned attentions with great pleasure.
It would not have been a bona fide Shades meet though without SOME sort of silliness, and this was duly provided by the invention of a game which involved tossing pebbles at Mindy with the aim of getting one down her back. Beermat won this by using a traditional Shades strategy ("cheating") and dropping one down at point blank range

A few of these losers could not resist trying to log on to Shades and Mindy was accordingly prevailed upon to whip out her mobile & Palm Pilot. We were then treated to the truly pathetic spectacle of these saddos hunkered down on the paving slabs logging on and finding no one on the game

There were more arrivals later in the afternoon. Wizzo arrived with Mrs Wizzo - a Shades Meet debutante - and five minutes or so later Squirrel too arrived with her daughter. The latter pair, Hypatia and myself were given a guided tour of the Estate by Siva himself, who turned out to be a natural rickshaw-puller.

We met the geese & the Shetland ponies, saw where the horses lived ( a field and stables, oddly enough) and admired the flowerbeds and herb garden. The promised llamas and ostrich proved elusive (as indeed did the promised Big Brother-style hot tub)

As dusk approached Siva decreed that the fire be lit in the Special Place Beneath The Trees, wherein there had been created a special brick-edged circular area, fires for the laying of, surrounded by several "stools" made slices of tree trunk. Unfortunately everything was damp and Sivas Minor & Minimus were unable to get a fire going properly. But, cometh the hour, cometh the man, and Archaro proved himself a genuine leader of men and a whiz with the axe by patiently and successfully getting a decent campfire going. Candles were lit in the surrounding trees and doubtless everyone sat around telling yarns and singing traditional campfire songs.

The gastronomic piece de resistance was then dished up to all who had any room. Siva had over the previous few days slaved over his Cassoulet de Castelnaudary au maison. It was, all who sampled it agreed, a triumph and I personally wished I had eaten less earlier in the day in order to have paid proper tribute to this creation. It certainly knocked bags of peanuts at The Sols Arms into a cocked hat!

After this (between 9pm & 10pm) people started to leave. Some had a fair way to go and others (like me!) were getting knackered. It had been an excellent day. The weather had been miraculous, given what it had been like the day before & what it was to be like on the days following, and the company stimulating. A special vote of thanks is due to Vickie for allowing Siva out to play and to invite all his weird pals to overrun her house and gardens. I am reliably informed he slept through all the clearing-up afterwards, There’s a surprise.