Sam suggested recently that I should do a post on how life has changed over the years, and I've decided to take up the suggestion, focussing specifically on the seven years since I first went to Root Hill.
I'd just finished sixth form, back in 2006. I didn't know what I wanted to do next. I'd barely started work on my giant mosaic project. Cylinder and Miserable had only just started, and Grace and Caffeine wasn't even a twinkle in my eye yet. I still had Arthur & the Punk in post-production, and the likes of Day-Glo! and The Probe Has Succeeded hadn't been so much as storyboarded. Yateley Baptist was just two years into Adrian Reynolds' pastoral tenure, and the end wasn't remotely in sight.
In myself, I knew there was something wrong with me in terms of a chronic inability to empathise, but I had no idea what caused it or what to do about it.
And Root Hill? New, bit scary... we had Andrew 'Moneybags' Sadler as one of the leaders, and we went to Guildford for the Tuesday outing, with Laserquest, boating and other things. Other leader Dave Hollands was sometimes seen waving a tape-writing camcorder around, and the resultant video was available on either VHS (yes, really!) or DVD.
Fast forward seven years to 2013: I've been on the Root Hill camp eight times. Andrew has been replaced by Jim Sayers (after a transition period in 2009 / 2010), and Guildford has been replaced on the timetable by Horsham, from 2011 onwards, because they shut down the Laserquest in Guildford. The choice of churches on the Sunday morning remains largely the same, although I've switched my habits from Chilworth to Dorking in the interests of a shortened commute. I took over as the videographer in 2008, and killed off the VHS option; my temporary successor went widescreen the next year; this year the video was shot by another newcomer, using a DSLR, and will be released exclusively online.
The people have nearly all changed - almost nobody else from the 2006 camp was still there for 2013 (one or two exceptions, but not many), but I'm not complaining. I came into Root Hill as one of the youngsters, and felt a bit lost among the established friendships between the older campers; now, I am the older campers, and it's a lot easier taking on the younger ones as they arrive rather than trying to make my way around the whole new camp all in one go. For me, the 2013 crowd feels much more like home - and feeling like home is, in my books, a very good thing.
But in spite of all the changes, Root Hill remains very much as it always was. There's still a big pile of wood chippings next to the bonfire area each year, which I like to go and perch on top of to chew over things on some of the evenings. The timetable and the menu barely change at all, in their major components at least. And that's where the title of this post comes from: Root Hill is largely cyclical - it's ended up being a bit same-old-same-old, but it's a good kind of same-old-same-old, which is precisely what I keep going back for - but the cycle never repeats itself perfectly. There's a degree of circularity, but it's never twice quite the same circle as any of the previous times.
This whole 'people' thing leads into another point of change over the last 7 years: the shift in my understanding of myself. Five years ago, I was presented with the answer to why I struggle so much with people: it's a high-functioning autistic-spectrum condition, most likely a variant of Asperger's Syndrome. In the half a decade since July 2008, the diagnosis has gone from new and shocking (I kinda wish my old Tailcast blog posts hadn't got wiped off the internet, as the one I did about my initial reaction would be good to link to for back-reference) to being fully accepted and normalised (as I mentioned a couple of posts back).
Adrian left Yateley Baptist four years ago after five years as our pastor. We found and called his successor Andrew Wigham a few months ago, and he has moved in and started his work over the last two or three weeks.
I've passed my driving test, and been driving for long enough to pick up all sorts of terrible habits - palming the wheel more frequently than the gearstick, for example - and I've had a younger sibling get married, since 2006.
Cylinder and Miserable has run for 2126 episodes (1920 of them published, and counting); Grace and Caffeine has long since folded (after 178); cross-continuity spin-off Fort Paradox has had time to appear from nowhere, make strides, get forgotten, and get revived; the mosaic got completed, moved, damaged, repaired... I don't even know if it still exists, to be honest; Portal and its sequel got released, I got into them, and I found my other niche in life as a Portal 2 test chamber architect; The Probe Has Succeeded is very old news indeed, and my animation efforts have more recently been focussed on the likes of Papercuts and The Murkum Show. What's next? Who knows.
I probably missed a lot of stuff. But you'd get bored if I went over everything.
Sam: thanks for the suggestion.
- The Colclough