February 21st – The Festival of the Kane Broadcasts

On February the 21st 1975, a woman called Xanthe Kane graced the screens of Buentoilliçan televisions for the first time. Everyone knew she was called Xanthe Kane, because she said so, but besides that nobody seemed to know much else; nobody had even seen her before, as far as we are aware. Only her silhouette was visible at first, tall and thin, with a very long neck; it would be years before she revealed her face on her annual broadcast. She said, in her quavering voice with its strange accent, that the Aliens had asked her to talk.

The broadcast, which has come to be known as the ‘Kane broadcast,’ lasted for exactly five minutes, and ran at the same time every year for eleven years. Every broadcast would begin part way through the most popular television programme of the time, Kitchen Talk, with a sudden jump of static and a squeal that became progressively high pitched as the static began to coalesce into recognisable shapes. When the squeal hit an inaudible pitch the static dispersed, revealing Kane, who was mid way through a sentence. She kept talking for the entire five minutes, strange visual and audio aberrations and moments of static interrupting her randomly, when she was suddenly cut off and the original programming resumed. There were many complaints to the Buentoilliçan Broadcasting Service (BBS) after the original Kane broadcast, as it caused thousands to miss five crucial minutes of their favourite TV show.

Regardless of the fact that it hasn’t been on television for so long, the broadcast held such mystery for so many that it is remembered each year in a conference-style gathering. Hundreds of people, mostly Buentoillitants, but also citizens of other nearby cities who have become obsessed with the broadcasts after being sent recordings in the post, will gather in the conference room of the Grand Central Hotel, where talks about the Kane broadcasts will be hosted. These usually revolve around academic theories about the origin of the broadcasts, though they often degrade into conspiracy theories instead. The BBS has consistently and resolutely denied any involvement whatsoever in the creation or deliberate broadcasting of the strange televisual artefacts, and have conducted several internal investigations, all of which concluded that the television channel must have been ‘temporarily hijacked’ by a prankster with some specialist equipment. No persons by the name of ‘Xanthe Kane,’ or any other similar spellings have ever been recorded to have lived in the City.

Many recordings of the Kane broadcasts will be pored over at the conference today by academics and technicians from various fields of expertise. The images and sounds will be run through spectrographers and audio-visual synthesisers, slowed down, sped up, played backwards, zoomed in upon, pulled out of synch, laid over one another. The static and audio-visual aberrations are particular areas of focus for these disciplines. Whilst they have produced a few interesting theories, few of them are truly convincing. Poets, psychologists, linguists and historians have also studied Kane’s speech patterns, cadence, and vocabulary, alongside the historical veracity and emotional impact of her words. Various scientists of all creeds have been consulted as to the accuracy of the scientific understanding that Kane seems to show. Much of this work will be shared today.

Whilst most at the conference treat the claims that Kane makes in her broadcasts with scientific detachment, many are true believers, and can be seen wearing poori hats; tight-fitting caps which are woven from threads of silver and poori fern fronds, held together with colourful cotton cords. Kane explains, across the eleven broadcasts which all seem to be muddled up sections of one larger recording, that the combination of these factors is enough to keep ‘God’ from entering your mind and controlling your actions, allowing you to truly be free. This information was apparently given to her by an alien species known as the Cassiat, who have found more esoteric ways in which to see this god and remain unseen by it, and are therefore invisible to us as well. Somehow they were apparently able to communicate with her, choosing her as their spokesperson to share these techniques. Often her exact meaning is unclear, due to the various static interruptions, the muddled nature of the broadcasts (there seems to be at least five ways of arranging the broadcasts, each giving a slightly different meaning to Kane’s words), and the way in which she seems to flit between subjects like a bee between flowers.

Most of the broadcasts seem to be focused around the construction of a ‘matter converter’ which will supposedly allow humans to change their corporeal forms into something ‘other than corporeal,’ as the Cassiat did. Whilst attempts have been made to actually build the fabled machine, it seems that Kane never finishes what she is trying to communicate, and few have made anything more than a pile of scrap. An attempt in 1993 was widely reported as a success, but under further investigation it was found to be a hoax; the machine was nothing more than a mirror box that gave the appearance of its subject disappearing.

Of all the theories at the festival today, the most popular surrounds an orphan called Kirio, found to have a 93% facial match to Kane, whose face can be seen when she steps out of the shadows in the later broadcasts. The orphan in question never knew her mother, and was left on a doorstep as a newborn. Now 45 years of age, it’s thought that Kane could be her mother, such is the similarity in appearance. Unsurprisingly, Kirio has denied all involvement, and has asked to be left alone. She has refused to consent to have her DNA sampled, to see if any matches can be found, but the theory suggests that it would be a close match for an ‘Elizabeth Care,’ a woman who, according to the ‘Odd Occurrences’ section of the Ranaclois Herald, made an impassioned speech at parliament square about ‘the ungodly powers of a mysterious alien race’ with a babe in her arms, whilst wearing a black mourning veil.

Other theories focus on the snippet of song that can be heard in the background of end of the final Kane broadcast. It’s difficult to make out, but it seems to be a male voice, singing ‘different types of love’. There are no songs known to Buentoillitant scholars that share these lyrics.

Other festivals happening today:

  • A Quiet Gathering

  • All the Little Mice are Lost in the Attic

February 22nd – The Window Cleaners’ Festival

There’s a lot you see whilst window cleaning, or so the saying goes, but whereas in their popular culture other nearby cities treat window cleaners as bawdy voyeurs, in Buentoille they have a far more positive and political slant. In the City they are revered, because if it were not for the actions of two window cleaners, many believe the Revolution would not have been successful.

Today, across the City, windows will be made sparklingly clean. Whether the cleaning itself should happen today or beforehand to ensure that they sparkle from the beginning of the day is much argued over in more pedantic sections of society. Many also hang black sheets behind their windows, to give them a mirror-like quality. With any luck it will be a bright sunny day today, to accentuate the shine. For those who favour the act of cleaning over the end result, today is an opportunity to get up early and chat to the neighbours. Many show communal spirit by bringing hot cups of coffee and breakfast sandwiches out for their neighbours, squeegeeing in the cold morning air.

Around the base of the Organisational Offices in Parliament Square many onlookers will gather to either point at the window cleaners invariably employed there today, or at the statues of the two famous window cleaners, Yasinda Umer and Wassily Herman, that themselves hang on a suspended platform on the side of the tall building (there are no skyscrapers in Buentoille, but at 146 feet tall, it is large enough to require a platform). Often there is some confusion over which are real, especially as the flesh and blood cleaners will often pose stiffly when they see enough onlookers. The statues are there all year around, although they usually aren’t noticed by most passers-by, a quality that was used to great advantage by their subjects.

Towards the end of the Monarchy Umer and Herman became more politically active than they had before. They started to attend secretive meetings organised by revolutionaries, and saw that the brutalisation and degradation of the City they so dearly loved was by no means inevitable. They had both been employed for some time as cleaners of official government buildings, since before the Monarchy came about. They realised that in the course of their work they had access to secret information held in these buildings, often scrawled on blackboards, clearly visible from the window. Like all high-visibility jacket wearers they knew that the best place to hide was in plain sight; nobody had ever paid them any attention before, why would they now?

Throughout the course of their espionage, the two workers managed to alert revolutionaries to various planned raids, leaks in their security and informants. In one instance, they supplied photographs which led to the identification of no fewer than six monarchist spies, and one agent provocateur. They carried small specially adapted cameras with them that would suction to the glass, improving the clarity of the shot, cleverly disguised as cleaning equipment. They needn’t have been so crafty; they were were only noticed by the buildings occupants very occasionally, when their shadow crossed their desks, for example, and then they were roundly ignored.

In their finest moment, they came across an opened window with nobody in the room inside. They were cleaning the Organisational Offices (then called the Admiralty Building, despite the fact that Buentoille had all of three ships in its navy), which at the time were used for military planning. Inside the room they found documents which detailed the movements of almost all the monarchic security forces and troops, as well as detailed security appraisals of the Traitor King’s residences, weapon caches and other high-level targets. The photographs they took of this information ensured the success of the Revolution, when it came later that year.

The celebrations have been held on that day ever since the window cleaners went public with their contribution (this wasn’t for a few years after the end of the Monarchy, as their tactics were used successfully after on the monarchist remnant who went underground in the wake of the Revolution), but they haven’t always gone smoothly; in 1979 a monarchist mob went about smashing freshly cleaned windows, and in 1953 a new cleaning product called ‘Clenzor’ was widely used in conjunction with other window cleaning sprays, leading to the accidental melting of 38 window panes.

Window cleaners can expect to have their drinks bought for them at drinking establishments tonight, and small edible treats are often placed in buckets hanging below their platforms, then hoisted up at lunch time.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Seventh Witch

  • The Industrial Buentoillitant’s Festival of Design

February 23rd – The Festival of Saint Gilyant

Buentoille was barely formed when Saint Gilyant, born Jes Meredyth, walked the earth. The Chastise Church, too, was newborn, having only a few hundred followers. Gilyant was born on this day, shortly after the Great Chastisement – the event that formed the Chastise Church from a wing of the Church of Our Great Lord (COGL). According to the Chastise Church’s holy book, the Sanctotemporal Index or Libertem, the Church was founded after a monastery caught fire and, instead of putting out the fire with the water from the well, the monks decided to pray for it to be extinguished. Obviously they were unsuccessful and many monks were burned alive. Those who survived lost their faith in the personal god of the COGL, who they had previously believed to be all powerful. Instead they founded a new religion, in which there is no god, only the world itself, of which we are all a part.

Gilyant was born in an early holy commune that now lies inside the bounds of the City, and there she lived out the first twenty years of her life. She grew up with the teachings of this new church, which had not yet been set in stone; prayer became not a call to god, but an attempt to Attune oneself to the mysteries of the world, of its infinite complexity, so that the ultimate direction of events is perceivable and therefore steerable. This remains the core of the Church today, although over the years dogma has changed significantly. Methods of achieving his understanding outside of prayer have always been welcomed, so that the Church has always been a strange mix of the religious and scientific.

Saint Gilyant is still revered to this day because they thoroughly tested and disproved another method of achieving this understanding: extreme pain. When she was nineteen, Gilyant gave birth to her first child, Juilliame, in what was an extremely long and painful labour. She mused over the experience for a year whilst nursing the child; somehow, in the most painful moments, she had felt a kind of calm and understanding sweep over her, and perhaps this was a delirious kind of Attunement? When her child turned one she left it with its father, setting out to test her theory.

Having heard of fire-walkers to the east, Gilyant set out to test this new method of receiving pain. Unfortunately it did not work; despite wanting to Gilyant was unable to keep her bare feet on the coals for long enough to achieve that same calm and understanding. She stabbed herself with ritualistic needles, she walked through pestilent mashes with enormous mosquitoes that disfigured her with their bites, she deliberately shook bee hives and hornets nests, she gave herself excruciating sunburn. She had some minor success at achieving the calm state, but it never seemed to last. She concluded that it must be the inability to escape the pain, rather than the pain itself, that brought about the state of Attunement.

Pilgrims will return from the Maritch forest today, where they have been walking in emulation of Saint Gilyant. The forest was the last place Gilyant went on her journey before she returned to her commune. She was seeking out the infamous Tree of Anguish, a tall plant (technically not a tree) with furry-looking leaves. The ‘fur’ is actually millions of tiny needles, all covered in a chemical that creates extreme pain when it comes into contact with the body. The pain is said to last for at least three months, but much longer with higher doses. Gilyant spread the leaves over her entire body, and walked the arduous journey back to her commune.

When she returned she sat for three days in conversation with the Heirarch, in which time she fully explained the calm and understanding she had managed to achieve through the inescapable pain. The Heirarch compared it with his own understanding of Attunement, and questioned her on pieces of knowledge she should have gained if indeed she had become Attuned. Ultimately she came to realise that what she felt was not Attunement, and at that moment the pain vanished, as if by magic.

Gilyant’s extreme devotion to experimentation has led her to be much revered by the scientists who follow the Church’s teachings, and she is thought to have saved many others huge amounts of pain through her efforts. Her casket, not kept in the Unfathomed Archive, is placed on the central altar of The Church of the Holy Host, where, despite the fact it will not lead to Attunement, they will inflict some small amount of pain on themselves as a gesture of respect. Donations are taken, and given to the Buentoilliçan Health Service in her name. Respect for Saints and the Dead is a central tenet of the Church, and through these acts followers hope to relieve themselves of sin, avoiding their ultimate chastisement. To this effect, followers will also paint their feet black and paint their faces as if they had been disfigured by thousands of hungry mosquitoes or badly sunburned. They will leave small bottles of painkillers by the foot of the altar, in the hope that in her afterlife Saint Gilyant will feel no more pain.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Crystallisation

  • The Last Day of the Dignified Roll

February 24th – The Felling of the Wych Oak Remembrance Festival

The Wych Oak was felled on this day in 1635, by royal degree. In previous decades it had been a popular gathering place for the people of Buentoille, being then placed on the closest edge of Monarch’s Park, a deer hunting estate that has since been incorporated into the City proper. Each summer the Oak was adorned with colourful ribbons, and danced around in fertility rituals. The tree’s gnarled trunk was shaped roughly like a ‘T’, and served as the perfect spot to watch the springtime mummer’s plays that were shown on that edge of the park. In the winter unmarried women would climb atop it and gather buds from the highest branches they could reach, using them as part of love potions to attract a partner.

It was the rituals and potions that did for the Wych Oak, along with its name, that is. The early 1630s were a time of witch hunting, and of destroying anything that sounded at all occult of witch-like. The name ‘Wych Oak’ does not even derive from the word ‘witch’, but rather from ‘wish’ as the ancient tree was often called upon to grant wishes. A legend surrounded the tree that it was a forest god, a greene man who had been seen by human eyes abroad at night, and had turned into an oak to hide. It could be kept captive in tree-form as long as a specific springtide festival known as ‘The Earthing’ (still celebrated with other trees to this day) was conducted. In its captive form the greene man slept, and its powers were potentially leveraged by suggestions slipped into its dreams.

The Monarch of the time, Queen Matilda Bathenhurst, was herself accused of witchcraft, and sought to do anything to distance herself from it and maintain political power. The existence of the Oak on her own royal hunting grounds was obviously contentious, and unfortunately it had to go. Matilda, actually a great lover of trees, reconciled herself with the thought of the political kudos she would receive from the felling; she even took the first swing with the axe herself. Unfortunately, the felling did little to help her cause.

The tree was thick, over eleven feet wide, and took a gang of men to cut down. It should have been done with a two-man saw, really, but the Queen liked the image of using axes. When they had reached about half way, and about half of the crowd had dispersed from boredom, one of the woodsmen called out ‘stop!’ There, in the core of the Wych Oak, was a white bone. As the surrounding wood was stripped back, a complete human skeleton was revealed, probably male given the measurements of the skull. The skeleton seemed to inhabit a small hollow in the centre of the tree that divided the central thirty rings. It would seem that the body had been there a very long time.

Nobody has ever been able to propose a scientific explanation for how the skeleton got there, and it certainly did the Queen no favours. She was captured by a witch-hunting mob later that night, purportedly found crafting a potion of disguise, or organising transport to Strigaxia, depending on which story you believe. The body and tree were burned together where they lay, leaving only a black mark in their place. In Garrik’s Museum of Infernal and Occult Curiosities there is a piece of wood that was allegedly taken from the tree before the burning. It is convex and smooth, as if polished, and is inscribed with a number of runes and glyphs that have never been translated. According to the glass cabinet it sits in, the piece was part of the wall of the hollow that held the skeleton.

Celebrations for this festival are small and considered. Delegations of occultist groups are given free entry into Garrik’s Museum to view the piece of wood, though they are forbidden to get too close to the cabinet. Three burly security guards are stationed around the piece. On the site of the tree-burning (now a clearing in an overgrown derelict zone behind a newsagents) the soil is still black, and nothing grows there. An acorn is planted there today, in the vain hope that it will grow. Only once has the acorn sprouted, and the sapling turned black and died two years down the line. Different rituals and incantations are performed each year, along with different care tips gathered from prestigious gardeners and dendrologists. In one common ritual. wood alcohol derived from oak is poured out, whilst oaken boughs are laid over the blackened soil.

The guards have been stationed around the piece of wood in the Museum since 1946, when a group of occultists attempted to steal it, citing a prophecy that suggested they should try planting the wood to regrow the mythical tree as their motivations.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Capsaicin Freak

  • Long Distance Relationship Day

  • The Best Freehand Circle of Enlightenment Competition

February 25th – The Festival of the Bridge Returned

When the Gable Bridge was destroyed by record flooding in the winter of 1793, it took seven months for Parliament to approve planning permission for a new one, and a further five for them to select an ‘approved contractor’ to carry out the works. Dandy Burlyman and Sons were eventually awarded the contract (historians broadly agree that this was in no small part influenced by the fact that Burlyman was the father-in-law to an influential parliamentarian), which unfortunately had no provision for enforcing a maximum time limit on the construction. This meant that so long as they made some small progress on the bridge each day they would get paid their, exceedingly generous, ‘labour fee’.

After an additional two months of waiting for the bridge, the local people had had enough. The bridge had been one of the main links between either side of the Moway river, then a busy industrial hub. Residents of the south west of the City had to either travel for over half an hour out of their way, or spend a fortune on ferries, to reach the City centre. The brick-makers whose yards spilled out onto the riverside had to hire specialist barges to keep business flowing efficiently. Chophouses, restaurants and pubs on either side of the destroyed bridge that could once have had a few thousand potential punters walking by each day, now had hundred at most.

Things came to a head when Old Man Hawthorn, a well known storyteller and alcoholic walked out of his favourite pub, The Bell Doth Ring True, and caught a severe case of hypothermia after falling in the river, having ‘jus’ plain forgot’ the bridge was no longer there. Protests were held by the bridge, and the brothers Burlyman were threatened with violence, but unfortunately this had the effect of giving them a good excuse to put down tools. The locals were truly in a bind, that was until Jon Clockshore arrived on the scene.

The arrival of Clockshore, often referred to in the papers of the time as ‘Cocksure Clockshore,’ is a central part of today’s celebrations; last night, in The Bell Doth Ring True, a Moway bitter (a strong alcohol, similar to whisky) drinking competition was held, the winner of which also won the right to become this year’s Cocksure Clockshore. This custom comes from that night, in 1794, when Clockshore, was out carousing in the local pubs, and sought to liven up proceedings with a similar competition. After he had won the competition, he decided that some kind of wager or bet was in order. None of the pub’s inhabitants, few and tired at this point of the night, were really up for that kind of tomfoolery, so one of them called out, ‘Alright, big shot, I bet my lucky cap you can’t rebuild the old Gable Bridge by the end of tomorrow!’

Clockshore was up bright and early the next morning, apparently no worse off for his night of revelry. Before the morning rush he had somehow convinced twelve of the locals to help him in his quest. By noon, forty five strong young people were in the process of construction, directed by Clockshore. They had commandeered the supplies at the Burlyman and Sons warehouse and tied the Burlyman family to their bedposts before they had risen for breakfast. Clockshore claimed that he had been apprenticed to a bridge builder in their previous life in Catrosondia, but no documentation or other evidence has ever been found to confirm this, despite concerted searching by cultural historians well before the sinking of that island. There were also only three bridges on Catrosondia, so this seems unlikely.

Today’s Cocksure Clockshore will spend most of the day travelling around the City, inviting people to the party that will be held on the bridge this evening. The quality of a Clockshore is judged by the amount of people they can gather to the party, so the presumably very hungover volunteer is usually eager to perform. The tradition and lure of the party is usually a good enough pull to gather many folks to the New Gable Bridge today, so today’s Clockshore will not have to possess the legendary seductive powers that their predecessor used to entice the locals into working on the bridge. When the building work was done, well before the end of the day, Clockshore donned his new lucky hat and cracked open a cask of champagne, one of several he had somehow contrived to have ready earlier in the day. The party that ensued was legendary, with many people having to be scooped out of the river.

Tonight’s party will commence in a similar fashion, the Clockshore spraying a bottle of champagne over the thronging crowd from a perch besides a carving of the original Jon Clockshore that he somehow had time to carve and place in the bridge stonework before the day was out. Candles and braziers cover the bridge, which has a canvas canopy placed over it to keep away rain for the night. Musicians play from specially placed plinths, as they did that first night, and the revelry continues long into the night. Stories about the original festival are passed about as if they happened only yesterday.

Jon Clockshore was never seen again after that night; according to some stories, towards the end of the party he stripped naked and dived into the river. Other say he slipped away quietly into a backstreet with a chosen lover. However, cultural historians have tracked the movements of this cult figure in the following months. According to Jacynth Mitch of the Buentoilliçan Retrospective, there is significant evidence that proves Jon Clockshore was usually known as Joan Sandtimer, a reclusive clock smith from the east of the City who eventually became one of the first Buentoillitant transgender activists in 1823.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Reading of the Castgale Demands

  • The Festival of the Luminous Man

February 26th – The Colette Garrick Appreciation Festival

In Buentoille, colourful outfits and strange dress are commonplace, especially as the City is a point at which a number of cultures converge and mix together. Yet there is no place in the City today where such dedication to odd outfits is displayed as Benthic’s Meeting Palace. Today, the Palace plays host to the Colette Garrick Appreciation Festival, and all attendees are required to dress as if they had just stepped from the world of Colette Garrick.

For those who have somehow managed to pass through life without reading or knowing about them, Colette Garrick is the eponymous character of a long-running series of books, written by Kivlii Frond. The Garrick series are the most popular fiction books to have ever been sold in Buentoille, with each title surpassing the combined sales of both Brotjolf’s Memorandum and The Death of the Yellow Dog. They introduced readers to a brilliant fantasy realm, a work of powerful strangeness and imagination, in which the possibilities for heroic actions and deeds seem endless, but that also seems to hold a mirror to Buentoille itself.

Entry to the Meeting Palace today is conducted in a manner based upon how Garrick gains entry to this strange fantastic land, appropriately called the Mirror World, in the first book in the series, Colette Garrick and the Land Beyond the Mirror; over the doorway are hung two extremely reflective pieces of fabric that look akin to a large mirror when completely still. Revellers pass through the mirror before them, although they probably don’t have quite the same experience described in the book:

‘And looking at the mirror, Colette noticed something she hadn’t before; here there was a small crack in its surface, a thin black line. She reached out to feel it, and noticed, right before she touched it and cut her finger on the sharp glass in the process, that the line fell right across her face, and followed her when she moved. As the blood began to flow, smearing across the glass, the crack opened up further, and further, and before she knew it there was nothing but that dark line, as if she had stepped into the mirror yet she had not moved an inch. She pulled her finger away and sucked it to stop the blood, then looked about her; in place of that old room in her grandmother’s house there was now that same darkness, yet out of it jumped strange shapes and angles that seemed less possible the more you thought about them and yet they were right there.’

Once they have passed through the ‘mirror’ revellers act as if they are inhabitants of the Mirror World until the end of the day. Those dressed as birdwomen peck daintily at the canapés laid out for them, whilst others try to adjust their wrinkly coltrein masks to a more comfortable position whilst nobody is watching. Anyone brave enough to come dressed as a Jinimaster somehow manage to keep their bodies contorted in that strange manner for the entire day. Perhaps it is because the relationships between the characters of the books are so poignant and realistic that the world is so attractive for so many. Perhaps it is merely an escapism to a place so richly described and fantastical; a desire for the different and the exotic. Maybe the more a place seems real, the more the gap between this world at that fictional place is narrowed, the more the desire to narrow it grows.

For many Buentoillitants, the levels of adoration and dedication to a place that is, at its heart, a fabrication, a beautiful lie, seem dangerously obsessive or ridiculous. Many think-pieces have been written for the Buentoilliçan papers which deride the festival-goers as ‘obsessive weirdos’ who need to ‘take a long look at their ridiculous lives.’ Supporters of the fans in turn deride the ‘moral panic’ and ‘hand-wringing’ sentiments of those who speak out against the festival, which is, after all, just ‘harmless fun.’ Incidents like the ‘Garrick murders’ are frequently used ammunition for critics of obsessive fans. More left-leaning publications, usually more understanding and kind towards folks who are generally considered strange have also criticised obsessive fandom of the books, as many frequently see all political events through the lens of the Garrick series. According to the Red Buentoillitant, ‘this perverse reliance on the political viewpoint and philosophy of one individual[, the author,] is tantamount to monarchism.’

In the Meeting Place a number of activities will take place today, including a Underflet championship (a mysterious card game played by many characters in the books) and a Mirrored Ball, similar to the one at the end of Colette Garrick and the Esteemed Scholar, where Garrick famously flirts with the Aimudarian ambassador, her first foray into the romantic, an exciting precedent for those who grew up alongside her.

Perhaps the greatest legacy of the Garrick series is not the celebrations that happen today, nor its impact upon modern political discourse, but the fact that almost ninety percent of Buentoillitants under the age of thirty have grown up reading the same books. It is an important cultural touchstone, a common experience in a City that is so diverse; it is a book about a girl who is so different and alien to the world that surrounds her, yet who slowly learns to find her place, to accept that she is not alone.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Heated Debate

  • Carespun Acvilites’ Festival of Worldly Suffering

  • Tinker’s Day

  • A Quiet Gathering for the Songs of Late Linda

February 27th – Jane Matreack’s Day

Today all across Buentoille, you’ll see people pawing through their rubbish, picking out the occasional item, throwing most of it back in. Recycling collections are a particular focus of activity. Today is also the day Jane Matreack, the famous artist and bin collector, was born. The vast majority of her works can be viewed in The Collection, a large publicly owned gallery in the City centre, although some are kept on the walls of the Union of Refuse and Associated Workers’ kitchen, which is today opened to non-members for lunch.

Born in 1825, Matreack is one of those sad cases where the artist did not achieve the praise and notoriety they deserved until after death. Indeed, Matreack suffered great abuse at the hands of the art community, who refused to accept her work as ‘true’ art. Her mother and grandmother were both bin collectors, both part of the Union of Refuse and Associated Workers (URAW), and so she followed in their footsteps, but it is clear that, from a young age, her true passion was art. At the time becoming an artist was less easy; the art schools all charged extortionate fees, and almost all of the galleries would only accept submissions from people with a degree, no mater the quality of the artwork. Had Matreack been born a hundred years later she would no doubt have been immediately offered a place at one of the (now publicly owned) art schools. As it was she lived with rejection all her life.

Whilst her most identifiable works are collage, there are some early examples of sculptural mobiles made from bones she collected during a short stint as a rag and bone woman. The bones are stark white, with contrasting black stripes painted onto them in bone-black paint she made herself. In some of her paintings, coffee grinds and other such natural refuse are also used as pigment; there is a clear theme of reuse running through Matreack’s work, indicating a different view of the City from her contemporaries. Her subjects were often of famous buildings in the City, but of their servants entrances, bin storage areas, the back door of the kitchen where the plongeurs smoke.

Despite these less-than-auspicious subjects and materials, Matreacks paintings manage to be truly beautiful. The figures in her paintings are almost always working people, yet they are always at rest or leisure. One of the paintings on URAW’s kitchen wall, ‘Sunburst on Franklyn Cutthrough’, is of two bin collectors, a man and woman, sitting on the edge of the bin cart, eating sandwiches and laughing. They are in a dingy street, the walls stained and mouldering, but a shaft of light falls between the tall buildings, illuminating their faces.

Unsurprisingly, an art world obsessed with wealth and grandeur, with little class consciousness, was quick to dismiss these works. Matreack learned early on that they would never display her work, but she kept making art in her spare time, and submitting it to prestigious galleries regardless. In 1856 she was collecting rubbish from a block of flats that was known to house many famous bohemian artists. In the collection she found a near-finished Esterban painting (many now will not have heard of Guilliame Esterban, but at the time he was considered one of the most influential artists of his generation), the only problem with which was a small paint splash over the central figure of the work. She took the painting home, fixed it, and submitted it to a gallery as her own work. It was not even looked at twice before it was rejected. This experience was to provide inspiration for her most famous set of works, the Collages.

The Collages are a number of figurative collages made from the discarded works of other, then more famous, artists. Artists at the time had a tendency to throw out anything they deemed ‘imperfect’, meaning that there was plenty of material for Matreack to work with. The beautiful naked figures of Esterban’s works mingle in the streets with faceless troops of workers from a Rocheau, the surrounding ornate buildings clearly cut from a Medanee canvas. These collages are frequently surreal, with floating figures and impossible architecture, and scale seems immaterial. Somehow Matreack has taken these paintings ostensibly focussed on bohemian, middle class life, and made them works that celebrate the working class. The glue used was made by Matreack herself, from bones and other such detritus.

Whilst those Buentoillitants searching through their bins today are unlikely to find a famous painting to cut up, but they do make ingenious collages from their refuse nonetheless. These are then collected at midday in the regular refuse collection, and displayed together on the ground at Heirarch’s square. At midnight they are then taken away to be destroyed, assuming they have not been collected for display elsewhere. Space is left in between each collage so that all can be viewed individually or as a whole. Whilst most of these collages take their cues from Matreack’s Collages, there are usually a few which have an entirely novel style, and others which are seemingly inspired by Matreack’s final group of works, ‘Buentoille 1868’ or the ‘Leap Year Collection’.

The Leap Year Collection are three hundred and sixty six wooden display cases of varying sizes, each showing a number of items taken from rubbish collections on each day of a leap year. All have a small bronze inscription that records the date and name of whoever threw away the items contained within. Many are anonymous, little collections of broken toothbrushes, newspapers, chicken bones, and toothpicks all appealing set out on green or red baize. Those that are named are often focused upon most, especially as a few are famous personages; the ballerina Vhika Ford is recorded with an unopened letter from a lover, a dried bunch of flowers, three empty bottles of tonic, a small gathering of toenail clippings, a box of rat poison, eight used matches and a copy of the famous romance novel Her Cadence and Breath, showing signs of extensive water damage. Some of the more strange boxes hold twelve gold teeth, a clearly loved stuffed toy, a death mask, a first edition of Samuzar’s Ravings sans cover, an exquisite pearl brooch, and a dead cat. As the original name suggests, Matreack intended the work as a recording of the City as she saw it, and in many ways it is most similar to those early works, of refuse collectors sitting on carts, of plongeurs smoking against stained walls.

To this day, Jane Matreack is remembered as a visionary, a person who saw Buentoille for what it truly was. Despite the fact that she saw little or no financial success of renown in her lifetime, Matreack died a happy woman; it seemed that the pleasure of creating the work was reward enough for her.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Dwane’s Glitch Space

  • The Counterlapsarian Society’s Gala Ball

February 28th – Saint Dondrite’s Day; The Festival of Lost Property

Today, in Saint Dondrite’s Hall, thousands of pieces of lost property will be laid out on long tables, organised according to type and the location they were found. The public are welcomed in to take anything they wish, whether they are the original owner or not. Each table has a small plaque attached to it, on which is the name of the place or transport service where the items were found.

The origin of this custom is somewhat confused. In modern times, many see it as an extension of yesterday’s festival, as a Matreack-style ‘collection’, and whilst this may account for some of the festival’s popularity and modern form, it disregards the fact that the custom has continued in some manner, seemingly for as long as the City has existed.

Whilst it certainly existed before, it’s believed that the festival came to prominence alongside the advent of mass transport, as this presented many more opportunities for items to be lost. Due to the high quantity of lost property, each transport service has its own dedicated offices and officers, who are represented at the festival today, each with their own official seal and flag, hung on the walls. Before this bureaucratisation, there was no organised centre to today’s festival, and found items would be dealt with by individuals or by churches; today is, after all, Saint Dondrite’s Day, the patron saint of the lost, of treasure hunters, and of explorers.

There is little information available about the life Saint Dondrite, and many historians believe that they may never have existed at all, but were entirely fabricated by Hierarch Dunblein in a speech in 1267. The little information we do have indicates that Dondrite was a clergyman called Cintrol Egestein, who ‘lived a true and virtuous life.’ They were so virtuous, it seems, that they killed themselves in a ritual, becoming a protector-spirit for the church, a guide to ensure that the souls of the regularly dead would be able to find their way easily into the afterlife. Dondrite has since become an important figure in Church dogma; he is the antithesis to the Waylayer, the ancient adversary of the Church, ensnarer of human souls, master of sin, who wishes to mislead souls into his own version of the afterlife with false promises and claims that he is a god.

Followers of he Church who find valuable items are encouraged to hand them in to the Church, where they are usually sold to pay the clergy and upkeep the buildings. These donations would be seen as a mirroring of the actions of Saint Dondrite, and would therefore help keep them free of sin, as well as to maintain universal order, keeping the Waylayer at bay from walking abroad in the world of the living. As today is Saint Dondrite’s Day, there is a particular flurry of the donations, but this too is not the entire story of the festival’s origins; there are older folklorish associations between today and that which is lost.

The month of February has long had associations with the occult, particularly with the Grenin Waurst. It’s said that the last two or three days of February were stolen by this trickster-figure, for his own personal amusement. Over time, myths surrounding the Grenin Waurst, the Waylayer and cursed items known as ‘glimigants’ have become entwined together, leading to particular customs ascertaining to the treatment of found items today. In ancient Escotolatian folklore, an item which has been lost or disregarded for over a year gains a malevolent spirit to it, and may attempt to come back to haunt its former owners. This was originally a morality tale used to scare people from wasting resources in a scarce world, but over time this ‘malevolence’ became associated with waursts, particularly the Grenin Waurst and his ‘stolen’ days. The first known reference to this conflation is in the famous tale called ‘The Hunter and Her Lost Arrows’, where the eponymous arrows, by virtue of being lost, are able to travel into the ‘lost’ days at the end of February, where they are turned into glimigants by the Grenin Waurst, returning on a leap year to skewer the Hunter.

These ancient tales are still heeded today; after as many found items are taken from the tables as possible, the remainder are taken out of Saint Dondrite’s Hall and thrown into a large pyre in Revolution Park, just outside. The theory is that they will not be able to travel into the realm of the Grenin Waurst tomorrow, and therefore cannot become glimigants. As few today actually believe in the stories of glimigants, the burning is performed more out of a sense of tradition, and also as an opportunity to free up storage space.

Revellers are encouraged to come and peruse the tables for any souvenirs they want to take home with them. Whilst most of the truly valuable items will have been taken early in the morning (one year a Hamun Yauud opal sculpture was found, thought to be worth a fortune) by fortune-hunters and religious fanatics, there are certainly many interesting items later in the day. Indeed, the spectacle of the collection is in itself worth the visit; alongside whole rows of umbrellas in various conditions are sections full of cameras, toys, dummies, briefcases, hats, books and portable computers. Data sticks, rolls of film and written documents are quickly snapped up by artists and voyeurs alike. Stuffed toys are usually spared the fire by kind-hearted souls and any left behind are taken by the Children’s Union as a matter of course.

Alongside these pedestrian items are some real oddities. A mummified dog, a gem-encrusted human skull and a xylophone made from a number of rib bones were some of the most macabre finds on the tables of Saint Dondrite’s Day, besides the entire human body scattered about in cases in the hope that the evidence would be destroyed in the fire at the end of the day (it wasn’t and the murderer was apprehended shortly afterwards). Thieves have often been reported to use the festival as an opportunity to offload troublesome and difficult-to-shift stolen goods, and as a result there are specialised security operatives present from each of the transport agencies. Among the stranger finds were a park bench, a fake brain in a jar, a first edition copy of Hemuud’s Fantasies, a map of a fictional city and a bucket of live frogs.

Other festivals happening today:

  • Marshall Honnig’s Festival of Latecomers

  • The Feast of February