Friday -Hour after hour we crawl. Endless lines of slow, lurching vehicles accompany us as we move tortuously northwards, eventually to be deposited at the Cedar Court hotel in Bradford. It’s cold in Bradford but registration and room allocation is easy. Only moments after our arrival we are signed up, checked in and dragging large bags of t-shirts and Beeblebears into the dealer room. We are jammed into one of the centre tables and have to trample our way across bodies and bags galore but we are focussed and strong and nothing shall stand in our way (well if it does we will shall say in the strongest possible terms, “Excuse me please, can we just squeeze past”). Nesa Sivagnanam appears almost immediately with a hopeful look in her eyes. She’s a woman that knows what she wants, and what she wants is Beeblebears.
We have so few. Alex McLintock has all the rest and we haven’t seen him yet. She’s not sure she believes us and prods about under the table just to check.
Upstairs I hear loud noises coming from the boardroom. Soon afterwards several Zulus leave the boardroom. Well that explains that then.
Later there’s a TAFF panel item. Theresa and I are there. Several audience members wait patiently expecting us to do something. The moderator, John Coxon doesn’t appear. We wait several minutes and he still doesn’t appear. We decide drastic action is needed and so begin talking about him. It does the trick. He arrives shortly afterwards to ensure he can talk about himself also.
John complains that he didn’t get any free beer at the Worldcon. Crystal, in the audience protests loudly that he got an abundance of free meals. John accepts this but assures her that food is not beer and therefore doesn’t count.
We were all introduced and then John probed us thoroughly as to our fan fund feelings and intentions. Theresa and I assured everyone in the audience that we loved them all and thought fan funds were fine and wonderful. We both pointed out what a simply super idea it would be if people decided to vote for us. The probing continued but at some point it mysteriously veered off into a discussion of the Worldcon rules about site selection. The panel threatened to run into the next hour but Doug Spencer, myself and Carrie were scheduled for the Milliways Frolics down in the main programme room and so we requested that John close the proceedings so that we may run away.
In the main hall the tech crew are frantically running around putting things on desks and moving items hither and thither. They’ve set up Carrie’s foley table and she has stationed herself behind it. My microphones are all ready and waiting for me.
The music starts and I edge my way toward the stage. Unfortunately I’ve given them the long version of the music and so it takes bloody ages to get going. I wait but Carrie is making eye rolling motions at me and is wondering whether I’ve abandoned her. I decide to go before the climax and wearing my tux, replete with gold sparkly bow tie and gold cane I leap onto the stage. I introduce the evening Max Quordlepleen style and begin to describe the end of the universe.
“And as the photon storms gather in swirling crowds around us” – Carrie waves two torches around.
“The skies begin to boil” – Carrie plonks a kettle onto the table and tech play the boiling water effect. “See where the light of infinity bursts in upon us” Carrie turns on a small wind-up lantern.
I’m trying not to look at Carrie as she’s demonstrating the end of the universe so that I don’t laugh and so make strange puffing noises into my microphone. I don’t entirely succeed. A few seconds later we finish off the universe for good with a party popper, some fairy lights and the room lights being extinguished. That’s the end of everything – except of course for the sweet trolley and a fine selection of Aldebaran liqueurs.
Next we call up some prospective Vogons. Well, actually I drag them up onto the stage and ask them desperately searching questions about administration. This is just a prelude as the real skills of a Vogon lie in their stamping, shouting and throwing humans out of airlocks abilities. There was some fine stomping and shouting and an extremely brutal airlock incident, but one person excelled and was recruited as that evening’s Vogon. She was a tiny little person but had a fearsome expression, a ferocious stamp, and a voice that could boil an ocean. A very useful ally indeed to have during a games evening, so I persuaded the Vogon to lurk at the back of the stage ready to pounce upon any miscreants. She came in particularly useful for ejecting Doug Spencer from the stage later on. He does enjoy himself rather does Doug and sometimes a Vogon is the only thing that will shift him.
Next was Runaround. There were fiendish questions supplied to me by David Haddock. Frankly though, some people just enjoyed the running around bit. Yes, Crazy Dave, I’m looking at you.
An example of one of the fiendish questions – The building that Douglas Adams was born in was built in which year?
Next, Doug Spencer took to the stage to fire off a bunch of devilishly cunning questions at we poor innocent fools inhabiting the first row. These questions were designed to expose our opinions on such weighty matters as our preference for the radio or TV version of Neverwhere or the film or TV version of Hitchhiker’s. Where we planted our arses on the line of chairs indicated our strength of feeling. Doug would then pick out some hapless victim and ask them to justify the position of their posterior. Eventually though I had the Vogon remove him from the stage and we played a game of Towels of Hanoi. Two teams endeavoured to move 4 towels of ascending size from point A to point C. A smaller towel could only be placed upon a larger one. There was a slow and confused start but one team figured out the solution and so shifted towels along at a brisk rate. This fine performance carried off first prize, which consisted of being pointed at and told you had won.
Lastly we had Disaster Area Stuntship. I handed out large numbers of A4 sheets of black paper and people manufactured a ship capable of sundiving. Instead of a sun though we used our ‘Light of Infinity’ that had played such a vital role earlier, during the end of the universe. A fascinating variety of stuntships were made. To prove their worth, the ships battling it out for the title of Supreme Sundive Stuntship were launched toward our Light of Infinity. There were many dismal failures and an alarming number of stuntships that flew backwards. However two came within singeing distance of our surrogate sun. One craft was a slim dart type affair and the other had been folded into a circle (of sorts) by Malcolm Hutchison.
Frantic messages were being passed to me now that tech crew were more than a little weary and would like to go to bed if at all possible. We finished up and retired to the bar. We were, however, very tired so had just one more drink and went to bed.
Saturday – Disaster – I was undone by physics! I had put a rather splendid chocolate egg on the window sill to keep it cool. Unfortunately the morning sun had other ideas and melted it into an unseemly mass. Oh well, consolation downstairs in the shape of breakfast – sausages, egg, bacon, mushrooms and lots of coffee. Doug and Julia joined us and we heard that there was a young lady of Devizes. This was a limerick of course, and it seems that Doug has a habit of reciting limericks during times when his partner might be expecting him to be whispering sweet nothings. Most disconcerting said Julia.
Bought a Womack and a Benford for Carrie and me respectively.
Then had a bath
Then had a Beeblebears’ picnic.
Then spent an hour on the ZZ9 dealer table.
Talked to Tobes and James Shields. Handed out Beam. James said that Irish fandom didn’t really do fanzines at the moment. Tobes said, “ah yes, they do lego instead don’t they.”
Another hour on the dealers table and then into the canteen-style dining room thing where we met up with Bill and Mary Burns, stuffed food into our faces and had a pleasant chat.
Doctor Who has become an Eastercon institution that is both hated and loved. Everything stops for the Easter broadcast of Doctor Who and we all attempt to crowd into the main hall to watch it together. I was convinced I would hate this shared experience but have grown to love it and adore witnessing my own appreciation of the program magnified by all those around me. There were also large amounts of jelly babies handed out courtesy of the concom. Very welcome indeed. Unfortunately there were problems with the internet feed. Many groans were heard from the audience as the gremlins snuck in and stole away vital seconds from the program – Deborah_c from tech tweeted
“Scariest Doctor Who Episode Ever. Content immaterial. Sorry, guys… “
A splendid episode that kept us hooked with the Doctor’s desire to learn something about Souffle Girl.
Exiting the Doctor Who screening we relaxed and chatted with Nicholas Jackson and Dave Haddock. Both of them are ‘doing things’ for exhibits at Worldcon.There are Banks things, Hitchhiker’s things and sciencey things. It all sounds quite intriguing.
Then Carrie went to an item on Law and New Technology – Carrie’s review – funnier than the title suggests. Sounds fine but I’m not doing any wailing or gnashing of teeth over having missed it.
Later that evening there’s a room birthday party for Julie McMurray. What seemed like several hundred people (but was actually about 20) all crammed into one hotel bedroom. I gave Julie my offering of a melted Easter Egg. She received it with much grace and suggested it was a fine SFnal offering conjuring up visions of some horrendous beast having emerged from it and now roaming loose amongst the unsuspecting conventioneers. Someone at the party had brought along a splendid green drink called Cloosterbitter. A sweet substance but with a fine kick inside that warmed your throat nicely. Yum said I and had another. I learned many things that night such as how many spin offs there have been from Happy Days (Laverne and Shirley, Mork and Mindy and Joanie Loves Chachi although Yahoo Answers lists several more). Pat McMurray passed out on the bed.
The room party was only 20 yards down the corridor from our own room, so crawling back was a quest of only difficulty grading 1. Easily accomplished, and then falling unconscious once we had reached our beds was even easier.
Sunday – Aaaargh! Someone has stolen one of my hours. It’s an hour I needed for slobbing about and doing nothing. Instead I am showering rather than bathing and shovelling in mushrooms and sausages at a rate most unseemly. I rush to the dealer table so Alex can go off and check upon potential Art Show purchases. There seems to be some arcane ritual that involves forms, bidder numbers, visiting the room and negotiations with other bidders who also spend a lot of time visiting the art show to see who else has been bidding against them. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye (as my mother used to say for no apparent reason).
I spend quite a while at the dealer table today. Nice to be able to sit there, type on my laptop and chat as the world goes by. I write a little bit about the beer to send to the newsletter. It appears in issue #5:
Beer! Beer! Beer!
We are blessed with several beers at the convention which all complement each other rather well. There are some light drinkable little numbers such as the Clark’s Traditional and
the Clark’s Blonde. Both of them taste very blonde indeed and slide down the throat with much ease. These beers are nice but oftentimes nice isn’t enough and some actual flavour is required. A beer with character, attitude and taste. A beer that you wouldn’t want to take home to meet your mother (unless she was a mean, ass-kicking biker woman). Ruby Mild and the Chocolate Stout will fulfil these requirements. Ruby Mild has a strong dark taste with bags of character and the Chocolate Stout takes this and makes it just a tad sweeter. Mine’s a Ruby Mild please Jim looks hopeful as he peers into an empty bottle.
While I am sat in the dealer room I am also able to remind people that those nice Fishlifters are just over there and will accept TAFF ballot forms and donations to the fund. I see Liam Proven and suggest he votes in TAFF. He shouts ‘no money’
At 20:00 that evening there’s a panel in which I have an interest. It’s called 21st Century Fanzine Fan so has already scored many points in my psyche for putting the earworm, 21st Century Schizoid Man into my brain. Bill Burns, John Coxon, Sarah Groenewegen, Steve Davies and Mark Plummer are holding forth on what fanzines have been getting up to lately. It seems that fanzines are still around and are teetering on the edge of a fully fledged electronic existence. Just around the corner is a brave new world. It’ll be kind of like the old one but with a little less physicality, it seems.and flees from the room.
Hot on the heels of the 21st Century Fanzine Fan is the Fan Fund auction starring Flick, Claire and Mark, John Coxon, Theresa and myself. We have large amounts of weird things, clothes and books to offload on to charitable minded folks who have come along to throw money at us. The auctioneers begin to parade their wares and the happy crowd shout out their bids. Lots of Jesus action figures change hands and an invisible Jim (completely devoid of darting eyes). Theresa launches into bawdy wench mode and Flick leans back to me saying, “If the TAFF vote were now then she’d win this.” Theresa did a fine job coaxing money out of the bidders and passed around a collecting tin for people who wanted to see Fran do something with cats. I’m not quite sure what Fran is expected to do but lots of people paid pots of cash for whatever it was. It’s quite possible they didn’t know what they were giving us money for either but the generosity was certainly not strained. Thank you, thank you everyone who gave so generously during the Fan Funds auction. We raised over 800 quid which was split equally between TAFF and GUFF.
We sit around in the bar that evening. We’re drinking beer and speaking of mighty matters, both worthy and wise. Dave Haddock trumps all previous conversation by whipping out his latest acquisition from the dealer room. He slaps it on the table and admiring noises increase in volume as its full wonder is revealed. For this is a book and it is no ordinary book. It is a book where future humans explore the emptiness of existence. There are 4 stories all with such delightful titles:
Armadillo of Destruction
Aardvark of Despair
Clam of Catastrophe
SMS is immediately attracted by this book and gazes wonderingly at it. We wonder many things including the possibility of similar stories featuring different animals. We and he ponder different countries having their own animal that features a national trait. I think the Badger of Queuing was a favourite in the GB stakes.
That night, the last ones in the bar are me, James Shields, Tobes, Malcolm Hutchison, Carrie and then Liam popped in for a bit.
Tobes says to Liam, “Vote in TAFF, I’ll even give you the two quid, and make sure you vote for Jim you bastard!”
It will be interesting to see whether this exhortation will have achieved any results. I suspect not (it didn’t, there was no Liam Proven vote in the TAFF election).
Monday – Breakfast.
Someone walking by sat on Carrie’s toast. Most peculiar behaviour.
“Sorry” she said, extracted it from her bum and put it back on the plate. I’m not sure that’s entirely adequate. I’m sorry, I’ll just nip off and toast you some more seems to be the required response there.
Jan van’t Ent won the Doc Weir award. I’ve voted for Jan every year. It’ll be quite odd now trying to figure out who to vote for. I may even have to do some thinking. Appalling what is expected from one at Eastercon.
SMS – talked to me in toilet. This is not done in The North and shocked me to the core. “How is it down your end,” says he. I glance down into the urinal. “Well, it’s full of pee” says I. SMS is an enthusiastic fellow. I suppose I should be grateful he didn’t try to hug me in the toilets (that is even more definitely not allowed in The North).
We are in Bradford and therefore by special decree we are required to partake of a splendid curry. Carrie and I clamber into a taxi and ask the driver to take us to Akbars. He tries to baffle us by asking which one. We tell him, the biggest, the best and the nearest. Soon we are entering the wildest, noisiest most chaotic seeming Indian restaurant I have ever visited. We can see through into the kitchen and it looks like one of these 1940’s films depicting steamship engine rooms. People rush hither and thither seemingly in a life or death struggle with machinery and steam. In the restaurant waiters are rushing by and a man who seems to be impersonating the side of a barn bellows at each and every one of them. Amidst all of these someone asks us what we want to drink. Excellent! this is the kind of thinking I can get behind. “Bring me Cobra” says I, and they do. This noise and chaos should be a kind of hell for me. Restaurant dining, I believe, should be a quiet and peaceful experience. I should be able to whisper sweet nothings to my partner as gentle jazz wafts across the open spaces and waiters shimmer in and out of existence as I require them. We are eventually seated and there is a permanent draught from the mad flurry of waiting staff rushing to yet another table with a fizzing candle as the PA system blares out the most recognisable tune of all time. I should hate this cacaphonous madness and yet am quite enjoying the experience. It all seems like a show that has been put on for my benefit. Performing waiters, strange experimental discordant music and fizzy things being rushed through the building as if they were a lighted bomb. The show is fast and furious and they top it all by bringing the most amazing creamy curry with a depth of flavour that goes on and beyond and round and around. It is flavour that hints at everything and yet brings enough full blooded mouth appeal to satisfy the most insatiably curious of palates. To partner this curry is a naan bread that could house Mum, Dad, 4 children, Auntie Ethel and dirty Uncle Bertie. This naan is brought to our table impaled upon a spike to warn any other naans what could happen if they get uppity.
Afterwards I am very full and very happy. A cab takes us back to the hotel.
Tuesday – We pop over to Leeds to see Sarah Mooring and hand over the Dave Mooring memorial book. She feeds us excellent coffee and we catch up on her life and times. In return I force my fanzines upon her. It’s delightful to see Sarah again after so long. She brought back so many happy memories of Leeds Group from the 90’s. We meet her partner, Floren. It’s fascinating hearing her speak a stream of Spanish to him (for ‘tis his native tongue) and end the exchange with the only word recognisable to me, “sweetie”. I also enjoy the clinky, clanky lift going up to her flat. The lift is a nostalgic, atmospheric and fear inducing experience that I find most pleasing.
Later we clamber back into the hire car and go home.