Vinegar Hill 2011

vhillchairI lay there in the darkness, wrapped tightly in my sleeping bag. My hips ached from sleeping on the softening inflatable mattress. I shifted my weight, making sure not to lie on the saturated bit. The sound of rain hitting taught canvas came at me in three dimensions. It had been raining solid these past three days, so much so that a number of people had upped and left camp yesterday. I’d stayed on with the others to see in the New Year with all the stubbornness of someone who had driven half a day just to be there.

Everything was pitch black. Well, not quite. My discarded left shoe glowed internally with an eerie green fire. That must be the glow sticks I’d left there after crawling in from a night around the brazier. It’s unseemly to go to bed immediately after midnight on New Years Eve, so we braved the cold and drizzles to do a proper job of it.

DinnerSomewhere to my right I heard a muted moaning and somewhere behind me someone yelled after a missing friend. I shifted again, my own unwanted morning wood pressed painfully against my jeans and I mocked myself. The moaning continued in the distance. I guess that’s what everyone thinks of when they hear about “gay” camp: lots of sex in tents. I suppose that’s what it’s like for many people. Even I had a free condom thrown into my tent by Calum, the condom fairy.

“Oh, you made me lose the bet” Craig had admonished me when a couple vanished a little guiltily into the dark. Apparently, his money was on me being one of the guys to go. “I don’t really like sex in tents” I dismissed tactfully. It’s not just that though. The two had met earlier that day, I know them both but one is a pretty good friend. whose happiness is important to me The other cheerfully confided: “the last time I had sex was this time last year, here in fact”.

DSC_8588I smirked knowingly at the time. There are few secrets at Vinegar Hill. The awkward thing about gay dating is that everyone who is a potential date is also a potential rival and if not a rival then surely one of a tightly knit web of gossips. I have to admit my heart sank just a little when they left. What was that feeling, jealousy? I tested my emotions yet again.

“Sex in tents is better than no sex in tents” Craig declared confidently. I’m not entirely sure. After all, another friend of mine, recently single, found himself in an intimate situation with a new person, only to learn that sex was where it ended. I had just smiled at the time, surmising at how it would end, hoping it wouldn’t.

So, what are we here for, if not for the sex? Why brave days of rain and cold? Well, there is the bonfire and dance party at the stroke of midnight. “The only New Years party not rained out” the drag queen proudly announced from stage as she crowned the next Queen of Vinegar Hill.

DSC_8601The dance music of the night’s festivities droned on in the distance, I gingerly stretched my cramped legs out. I had to lay my bed down diagonally so that I could stretch out properly. My tent closed in around me like an inverted lamp shade, as I waited, the coming dawn slowly leaked in through the semi-transparent doorway. I guessed it must be around 5am now. I’d only spent a short while at the actual event. I mean it’s all good fun, but I can dance in Auckland any time I want.

So what was I here for, if not for the sex and the party? Well, for me gay camp is lounging around, avoiding sun and rain, exchanging easy words with those around you. This year I armed myself with a book which allowed me to indulge my introversion while no one else wanted to talk, but I could drop the book at a moment’s notice if an extrovert cared for idle conversation.

I make new friends and catch up with people I haven’t seen since this time last year. I don’t go to gay camp to have sex or to party. I go to gay camp just to be.