The Travelling Tolkienist: Coming back from COVID-19 at the Lower Rhine Regulars’ Table

About two months ago the Lower Rhine Regulars’ Table of the German Tolkien Society (GTS), a registered charity, mentioned on Facebook they would love to try and organise a “real gathering” again. They made clear this would have to follow all rules and regulations but that they would be willing to make it possible.

When I read this I was quite enthusiastic as the Tolkien Tage (Tolkien Days) of the GTS had to be cancelled due to COVID-19. To many fans from all over Germany and beyond (yes, the UK, too!) this is the annual highlight on all things Middle-earth, and it is sorely missed. So this gathering would be the chance to actually meet a couple of Tolkien nerds.

Long story short: I asked whether one could visit from afar, too. I was asking for a friend, of course 🙂

And started planning for the coming month.

Life interfered in the very best way in the days following that decision as only life can. My sister-in-law invited me to the christening of my niece, which happened two days after the regulars’ table meetup, in Cologne, which is very close to the Lower Rhine. I talked about some marketing plans with a friend in the Netherlands that would mean a couple of days’ stay at Leiden in the Netherlands. And then friends invited me to stay at their holiday home in Kempen, right up to my birthday. Which I would be celebrating at the amusement park Phantasialand, including a stay overnight at their hotel Ling Bao. Chinese architecture to Feng Shui demands included! You may get a couple of pictures from there, too.

When I hoisted two backpacks and a suitcase into the ICE in Berlin I was surprised things seemed to be working out. Please note: My logistics’ option from my home to the central railways station is a bright blue Peugeot Django Héritage. A scooter.

The journey to Geldern at the Lower Rhine went without a hitch, an absolute first. True, neither the Deutsche Bahn (the formal national railways) nor the Nordwestbahn (one of the smaller private companies competing with the DB) hindered me in any shape or form. And so Sebastian could pick me up in time, the coordinator of all middle-earthian efforts with this regulars’ table. After a few more minutes I left all stress of the metropolis behind me.

The GTS has its own club house, adjacent to a meadow the size of a football field. This space used to be home to some tennis courts which have been converted after the local tennis club went defunct. All of this is surrounded by a charmingly cute little wood. When Sebastian then offered me his camper to limit personal contact instead of being hosted by friends I was absolutely happy and made a plan: getting a shower, get a comfy chair on the veranda, a cold bottle of beer, bingo.

And that is what happened! Lovely chats with nice people, from Thursday till Saturday, a fridge stocked with 1420, the first class hobbit beer brewed locally by Fleuter, a camp fire, geniality. So when it started to rain on that camper during the night I would have gotten up for standing ovations – I love the sound of rain very much -, if I had not been so tired.

The regulars’ table on Friday had very clear orders: all ale benches and tables had to be spaced properly, masked had to be worn when closer contact had to happen – like ordering pizza for everyone -, there were sanitizers everywhere to use. In case of rain we still would have had Meduseld, a huge tent with wooden panels, that would have offered more than enough space inside. That is the reason why the regulars’ table had erected it in the first place! [More pictures of the gathering with this FB post.]

Two dirty dozen then came together, and future gatherings could go up to fourty visitors. Local volunteers have already made sure that another, even bigger tent will be available next time should so many people actually show up. I felt quite safe and people did behave! It became quite clear to me how much I had missed personal contact to other people, even though I am a bit of an introvert and rather shy myself.

The exception might be Tolkien events, though 😉 

I would love to thank Sebastian Richartz, Lucy, our little feral kitten, a bunch of very entertaining members of the Free Peoples, and everyone there who made this a fun experience well worth the effort!

OMG, A KITTY CAT!

Lucy had quietly made her way to the club house on Friday afternoon. Don’t forget, the club house is in the middle of a wood surrounded by many fields so feral cats abound.

About a dozen members of the regulars’ then proceeded for about an hour to get her into a carrier with loads of food so she could be taken to kind foster parents. I named her Lucy as she reminded me of a good friend’s cat.

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Marcel Aubron-Bülles

A Tolkien fan for twenty-five years (and more to come...)Founding chairman of the German Tolkien Society, Co-Founder of Ring*Con, Co-Founder of the ITF, host, presenter and fantasy expert