Nicola Collie's Report

Nicole is on the right of this picture.

A fortnight on and memories are fading somewhat. Time to stop procrastinating. Thanks to all the reports posted so far, and frequent reference to my little orange booklet, I should be able to give reasonably lucid impressions of a brilliant weekend.

Friday - a rather long day. Up in time to catch a bus through Leeds rush-hour traffic to the coach station, getting there with minutes to spare. If I hadn't gone back for the London A-Z (more on that later) I'd have caught an earlier bus, had a much less nerve-wracking margin, and probably wouldn't have spent the 40-odd minute trip planning contingencies. Once on the coach all was cool and froody, we zipped down the motorway to London, and the A-Z proved unexpectedly useful as I traced our route past various landmarks to Victoria Coach station. A brief wait for the onwards coach, and I was heading for Ashford. Having expected to arrive in Ashford at 4:30, I was a little disconcerted to find myself still on the Old Kent Road at that hour, stuck in London's Friday afternoon traffic. Finally hit Ashford at 6:00. As the coach driver refused to drop me before the town centre, I had a bracing 15-minute walk to the hotel - which at least allowed me to stretch my legs and identify the route to the coach stop for Monday. Silver linings, yadda yadda... ;)

On arrival I was pleased to see the smiling faces of Chris, Val and Linda at the reg. desk. I checked in, and discovered that my two roomies had already arrived and nabbed the keys. This three-bod/two-key combination was to keep the reception staff on their toes all weekend - in the meantime my main concern was to identify one of my roomies and deposit my clobber. Chris graciously agreed to babysit my backpack while I settled in. While checking in I met Judith, and remarked upon the petite blonde named Dayna behind the desk. "Don't go on about it," said the lass who was serving me. "She got enough of that last time you lot were here." (Or words to that effect.)

In an effort to find another familiar face, I headed for the bar. There I spotted a Space City Badge adorning a hat, which turned out to be adorning Harriet. I joined her and Calle for a beer, and was introduced to Hanneke and Nelly. A half of something later, Harriet and I trotted off to find Katharine, who was stewarding, and we also encountered Una. Katharine introduced me to Predatrix (roomie 1) who gave me the means to dump my stuff. I was also able to meet Louise (roomie 2), by the simple expedient of trying to walk in on her in our loo.

Once de-luggaged, I rejoined some of the above-mentioned in the bar. After a rather underwear-oriented conversation with a pair of Klingons, it was time for the opening ceremony. The mixer games were great, but I don't remember much about the rest! Next, the bar quiz. Servalan did jolly well, and I didn't dare comment _too_ loud about the inaccurate pronounciation of some of the B5 names. Well, Neil had the answers sewn up, there wasn't much else to do but barrack ;)

There was a stewards' meeting at some point during the above, at which I volunteered to wear a red badge and stand around for a couple of hours. I was given a slot on Sunday evening, and sent to sell the rest of my soul to the reg. desk.

 Off to the Space City party next. Many thanks to Alison and Una for their hospitality. How many people did we manage to cram in there? It was a great get-together, a chance for me to put lots of faces to names and have my name faced likewise. I can't remember who told me they thought I was tall and blond (or where they told me) but here seems like a convenient spot to mention it. Jolly hot, I lost my water bottle under mysterious circumstances, and no-one could hear the music that Alison and I had brought, but who cares?! I sampled Avon's Blue Balls (or something like that), and was close by when Steve tongued Og's Arsehole, but completely missed Nelly's drawing and was only peripherally aware of email via Robert's phone. I think this gives a good indication of just how much was going on in that little room. The party wound down about 2, I think, and it was time for bed.


Despite the late night, I was awake at a reasonably early hour on Saturday. Shower, dress, down to the restaurant for as much breakfast as I could face at that hour (which was quite a lot ;) ). Headed for a table mostly full of con badges and introduced myself. I think Chris and Janet turned up later on, and I remember discussing depilatories and dressmaking with David Walsh.

Once the fuel tanks had been topped up, it was off to see the reg. folks to organise when I'd be helping out, then off to play cricket. This turned out to be lots of fun, although it looked like a lot of hard work for Harriet, who was keeping score. Found myself representing Sinclair at the toss, won, and elected to bowl. Spent an entertaining period rolling dice and rationalising events in terms of B7/B5 canon, then off to see the one video I had to see this weekend: the blooper reel. This was great fun, Sheelagh introduced it beautifully and told some lovely stories. I had heard a great deal about the blooper reel, especially the teddy-bear incident, and I wasn't disappointed.

Ducked into Una, Neil and Chris' panel next, discussing which 13 B7 episodes we'd keep. Much lively discussion, but I can't recall if we came to any conclusions :)

Next - an hour at reg. A surprisingly large number of people were still arriving, including a photographer with an attitude problem. He was later escorted around by Steve (not yet in Klingon costume, iirc). I think this was when I managed to lay my hands on a con t-shirt.

Once relieved from reg I whizzed up to Ellie and Robert's bring and buy. I didn't bring, but I was happy to be able to buy a Tom Holt at a knockdown price. Score! Back out to the boulevard for more cricket, and the entertaining spectacle of watching Chris describing what we were doing for the benefit of a radio audience.

Chris and I excused ourselves from the cricket to see if there were any takers for her filking workshop. There weren't, so we listened to the hysterical giggling coming from the slash panel for a few minutes, then went looking for food. The cricket had drawn stumps for the day, so I found some sandwiches and headed for Richard and Calle's web design panel. I'm a complete neophyte in this area, but was able to follow the discussion and had many of my own prejudices about design confirmed :)

Cabaret/fancy dress next - so many acts, so little memory space. Deserving of a mention: Jem's brilliant Shakespeare parody (don't suppose the text of that is available?) was a hard act to follow. Stephen, Jenni and Fi filking beautifully (great voices, ladies!). Iain, Alison, Una and Matthew with the hysterical story behind B7. Judith's filk for the B7 ladies. Judith and Rachel's duet. Rachel's wonderful original song. The bellydancer. The staff-fighters. And heaps more that I'll probablly remember just after I send this.

Zoomed up to the room at some point to change into my Oxfam Orange shirt for the disco (rather more bad taste than glam rock) Sat with Katharine while she stewarded, and we enjoyed the breeze from Stephen's Sandman coat as he wafted past. Then off for a boogie (as Ivan (head steward) put it). Danced on and off until about 2, then chatting, then bed.

At some point during these events I discovered I had a rather sore throat. Put it down to trying to talk over the noise at the party on Friday night, and spent the rest of the day sucking Sainsburys lozenges.

I think it was Saturday when I found myself chatting with Sheelagh about Guards! Guards! Yes, it must have been Saturday, because I was wearing my G!G! t-shirt :) I was pleasantly surprised that she approached me, but it's just more evidence of how friendly and charming she is. Unfortunately she had to go and find Joe for a panel, so we couldn't talk as long as we would have liked, but I enjoyed the conversation we did have.

I think it may have also Saturday when I first encountered Steve dressed as a rather furry Klingon. I didn't recognise him straightaway, because I foolishly thought there were only two in the hotel and as far as I knew neither of them could have greeted me by name. As this Klingon a) knew my name; and b) didn't have a Welsh accent, I became a little confused ;) I did like the tribble on the bat'leth, though.


Another early morning despite the late night. Another large breakfast, then more cricket until it was time for Jane Killick's panel, Writing professional non-fiction. Very edifying, both on the title subject and in terms of background information about some of the personalities behind B5. Had my second guest encounter immediately afterwards, when I met Jane in the ladies. We had a quick yak about some issues I'd raised in the panel, then she had somewhere to be and I was off to Judith and Neil's Sex in space panel. This was a hoot, and also thought-provoking. Can't remember much of the discussion, but the speculation about Centauri anatomy and Londo's costume does stick in the mind. This is because I met said Centauri ambassador afterwards - in the ladies*. S/He had the grace to look embarrassed, but managed to recover character by giving me some story about being half-male, half-female. I suppose it must be tough, being an alien, trying to decide which lav to use. That was the closest to out-of-character I remember seeing Londo all weekend. (yuk, what a hideous sentence - but it's late and I want to finish this tonight or I'll put it off for another two weeks).

*Yes, it had only been one hour. I'd taken the "drink lots of water" advice seriously....

Ruler of the Universe next. Most of the candidiates were very entertaining, and I particularly liked the Sandman's platform, restful sleep being high on my priority list by that stage of the weekend :) Servalan won, with the help of Travis and a generous helping of menace, which I wasn't threatened by :)

I'm not sure what I did next. I do know I wasn't at any of the programme items. I think it involved food, and hanging around at the expensive bar waiting for them to make me some sandwiches (I think they were off killing the pig). At some point I ducked out for some more throat lozenges, the sore throat having developed into a cough and runny nose.

Closing ceremony and stewards party filled the next part of the evening. I was seriously tired by this stage, so memories are a bit jumbled. Nibblies for tea at the party with coffee (badly needed but rather weak). Raffle tickets were passed around, and I managed to immediately spill coffee all over mine. Fortunately it was sufficently readable to satisfy the authorities once my number came up. I just missed out on a copy of Machiavelli's The Prince, signed by PD, and settled for a copy of Event Horizon (still unread). Also got a B5 badge with one of my favourite Ivanova quotes on it. At some point during the evening Kat, Nickey and I staged a daring rescue of Chris, who was being coerced into unwanted conversation. My stewarding stint was cancelled, as the hall was all packed up by then, so I sat around with a small group including several guests, and got a close look at a Narn head which Sheelagh had brought.

Dinner was room service soup with Kat and Stephen, then back out to the boulevard for some rather weary (on my part) chat. Off to bed around 10, and straight to sleep.

Monday morning I awoke and found I had almost no voice. Breakfast was a bit more restrained than in previous days, but I did discover that yoghurt was very soothing, and two tubs recovered my voice enough to allow me to function. I said my goodbyes, checked out and set off for the bus, leaving the hotel to the road safety (?) seminar who were setting up in the foyer. An uneventful trip to London, then I made a pilgrimage out to Shepherd's Bush to visit the street where we had lived for a couple of years in the 70s (the reason for the A-Z). Also found my old school, then headed back to the coach station. Walked up to Buckingham Palace, took a couple of photos, walked back, caught my coach, and dozed up the motorway home. Walked in the door sometime around 10pm, croaked a hello to Kevin and collapsed onto the sofa.

I had a brilliant weekend, and I'd love to do it all again (perhaps minus the throat trouble!). I seemed to spend ages just sitting around chatting with people, and I still didn't get enough time to talk enough to everyone :) I kept very busy with programme items, and still didn't do everything I'd have liked to - plenty of scope for new experiences for the next con. Many, many thanks to the organisers for a smooth, fun, exciting weekend.


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