The Widower's Tale

Some years ago Judith volunteered herself (and the rest of humanity) to help with running the next Blake's 7 convention - the rest as they say is history.

One month to go: Judith is having kittens, her nerves are in shreds and if anyone does anything less than super perfect - she bites.

The first week of February has no noteworthy incidents. At the end of this week Judith and I put a list of zines together that we will get from Linda on spec and attempt to sell at the convention. We did this before at Deliverance and it was a great success. The order for 3 boxes of zines goes in, to be posted to me in the US next week, I plan to take these home with me in my luggage.

Second week of February: I arrive in Atlanta. No sign of boxes. Work for the week, and before leaving give forwarding instructions at the Hotel, should the boxes turn up.

Third week of February: A quiet week? It seems one of the boxes has reached Atlanta taking only 10 days to cross the US on an overnight delivery - it is forwarded on a 3 day delivery never to be seen again. Fortunately they were insured. One of Judith's new Zines comes back from the printers. And I make the Gareth standee. One sheet of hardboard, one jig-saw, photocopies of hands, face and hair, and some clothing from Oxfam.

One week to go: Judith is now slightly easier to live with.

Sunday: Go to Dallas, work into the evening

Monday: Work from early morning well into the evening. The evening meal was spent with someone I know from some time ago whom I last saw at a conference in Cambridge, then he had an idea, which I thought was worthy at the time, but was slightly flawed and spent several hours discussing it with him in the bar. He has refined the idea, and now has his own company pursuing it - good luck to him.

Tuesday: Work from early morning, until I leave the hotel at 3pm to catch flight home. (If it was not for Redemption I would have stayed another day).

Wednesday: 7am arrive at Gatwick, get driven home and arrive at about 10:30am (thereby ends the simple and "relaxed" part of the week). Start packing boxes with zines, boxes with junk, the Puppet theatre and Puppets, two bags of junk for the chaos workshops, zine stands, stuff Judith wants to pickup at the hotel to take with her to Wales, the Standee of Gareth, boxes of stuff for the Auction, the raffle, things to return to Julia, things for Val, clothes, the Decima costume, cameras, price lists. Pause: need to print some new books of words for the filk tape. The last new zine comes back from the printers. Resume packing: zines for zine Library, more zines for sale, T-shirts, more junk. Pause to pickup Henry from school, working into the evening. Zzzzzz (No time allowed for Jet Lag).

Thursday: Take Henry to school, and Judith to the station and so to work. Fill in expense claims for both trips to the US. Sort out with Rob as to when we can start on Friday. It is later than I had hopped. Pickup Henry from school, bring the zine flyer up to date and print 50 copies. Go online and get some new updates - tough they will have to wait to next issue. Zzzzzz.


Get boys to schools, go to post office to pick up a parcel they tried to deliver yesterday. Don't know what it is but it looks relevant and decide it is added to the pile. (Two other expected parcels don't make it). Go to work for half a day, borrow the digital camera from the web publishing group and pickup the DIY club trailer at midday and go home. Pack zine boxes in bin liners, rest a while. At 3pm I go and collect Henry early from school (he will only miss sport). On returning home I get both boys working dedicatedly on their homework while I, in the rain, load the trailer and part of the car. Somehow it all fits, but the trailer cover does not completely cover the mound. A 15 minute pause until Rob and Christopher arrive. Their bags are added to the total and finally we are ready. The car starts and although somewhat retarded manages to leave the drive. Its 4:45 and we are off, It does not look like we will make the original target of "6:30-7:00" that I had hopped for but we shall see.

Steady but damp progress is made until we reach J9 of the M25. It then takes nearly an hour to reach J8 grrr. Then progress resumes and it looks as if we might get to the Hotel just around 8pm at the start of the opening ceremony. Quick case of replanning as we approach Ashford - Judith almost certainly wants "Gareth" for the ceremony as soon as we get there - Kelvin is told to check with Judith, Henry to stay with the car and I will check in. Rob and Chris will help out as well. Zoom - at 8:05 we are there...

Action stations: Kelvin to Judith, Henry to Toilet, Rob and I register and pick up room keys. Kelvin is back, and yes G is needed. Unpack enough to get at him, put him together and Kelvin delivers him. We start unloading car to bedroom. All carefully planned destinations for boxes ("Ops", "Judith", "Zine Library", "Dealers", etc) are ignored and it all goes to the hotel bedroom. Unloading the zine boxes, these seem a little "soggy" oppps! Warning - East Dorset Council bin liners must be porous. When all are unloaded and the car parked, all the zine boxes are very rapidly emptied and sorted into "Ok", "damp" and "lost cause". The "OK" zines are piled up on all available surfaces, the "damp" ones spread out on the beds and floor and the few "lost cause" ones put aside. All the soggy boxes and bin liners were piled up here and there around the room. The "damp" zines were carefully flipped through to allow each page to be free and to enhance the drying. The room was a mess, a total mess. The "lost causes" where then attacked with strips of toilet roll and all that could be done was done. In the end only three zines look as if they will have to be sold cheap as damaged goods. Its now 10 pm and after that "leisurely" introduction to the con, we give up and go downstairs to find out what is going on.

I meet Judith for 8.7 seconds, tell her about the damp zines, but she is philosophical about it and is more concerned that the con is going well. I slump into a chair. A few seconds later Jenni-Alison says hi, and I find myself at the Space City room party. Now this is not the largest hotel room, and 85% of the mailing list tried to fit in the room (as well as hangers-on like me). It was crowded, and fun. If anything was said it has long been forgotten, though I do remember a "small world effect" - I know about a dozen people in Cambridge, one of whom is Una's landlord...

Around 2am I went to bed (boys already there).


Up early (head a bit rough) and have breakfast. And then off to the room to pack up the stuff for the dealers room. See Judith for nearly two minutes as she collects some of her stuff from our room. Start setting table up, but this is not as easy as it should be, all the zines were by now shuffled and had no known order, the only possible solution was to get them all out and sort onto the table. People came wanting zines as I unpacked - a good sign. Half an hour's frantic activity later and the table is sort of ready, though the final enhancements have to wait until Sunday. Initial sales are brisk and furious - is this a good sign? As well as selling our zines, I am also selling some for Julia and looking after Sheelagh Wells's table most of the time. I even get to see Judith for 18.3 seconds briefly. The morning continues, the trade is fairly hectic until midday - then where have all the people gone?

During the afternoon only eight people bought anything from us! The dealers room was empty! This was not because there was no one at the con, it was rather that there was so much going on that the dealers room was empty. At the close of the dealers room that day, 2 dealers went home. I then went and repaired Gareth, using masking tape and pliers and a spanner (as a hammer).

A short breather, then Calle and I have a session on web page design we have been volunteered for - an interesting discussion with novices and some relatively experienced people about what to do and not do when designing web sites. Calle and I are both anti-Microsoft and edit our web pages in ordinary editors. The basic message is keep it simple. In the middle of this Kelvin returned the Digital Camera, so here is part of the audience.

After the discussion, I sorted a few things out and ended up with a drink and then saw most of the fancy dress/cabaret. I see Judith there, but then she is on stage and I am in the crowd. Then had a look round a few things, repaired Gareth again (this time with heavier duty tape) and came back to the disco. Now since about the age of 19-20 I have only been to a couple of discos, so this is a rarity. But dancing on the left were many of the same crowd as had been at the Space City party the night before. Eventually I joined in with Una, Stephen, Jenni, Steve, Kat, Chris, Alison and the others - phew! This was warming up nicely when in came Robert and Ellie. These pictures do not do Robert justice.

Around 1 am I thought I had better get the boys to bed. This was not easy "another ten minutes please", "Can I just do this?", "It's too early"... They went and so did I. I would have liked to have stayed but I had the tables to man in a few hours time, and I had to be awake enough to drive the boys home.


Up earlier than I had expected to be, so I had a nice leisurely breakfast - it was quite quiet, though Judith did turn up half way through. Then sorted a few things out and meandered to the dealers room. At about ten to 10 I took an executive decision and opened the doors and put the notice outside. Three of the existing dealers had expanded into the vacated spaces and we waited the rush of both customers. Ok, it was not a rush but at least it was a steady trickle all morning with people who had obviously just got up after last night. These show the state of the delears room some time this morning (during a very busy period).

Eventually saw Kelvin and got him to pack up as much of the room as he could and get it into the car. He did quite a good job, I only found a few things he had left. Rob also puts his things into the car.

The morning gave way to the afternoon, and trade crawled in. Around midday another dealer left. And at 3pm many others started packing. I kept everything open until past the closing ceremony, but gradually reduced the stocks and packed things away. Wait for a turn with the luggage trolley - the most unstearable beast I have ever met. Put everything in the car; I would move things into the trailer later.

I then go to the stewards party, Ok I am not a steward but who cares, I certainly helped in other areas, a few nibbles a few hellos and goodbyes, a raffle - I let Judith pick something for herself, there is nothing I want there. Then get everything left (Puppets, Judiths unwanted cases, etc) into the front of the hotel and bring the car to the canopy at the front so I can pack every thing protected and in the light. Where have these "extra" boxes come from? You want me to take "that" home - oh well. Pack the trailer and the car - it is easier than on the way there, I also ensure that the zines are not the bottom layer in the trailer, if any water gets in it will end up beneath the puppet theatre. Gather by front desk to say goodbyes. Lots of goodbyes, but then there is a Children shortage, Henry goes off in search of Kelvin. Christopher (Rob's son) turns up and also goes off looking for Kelvin. Kelvin appears and goes in search of Henry. Henry appears and goes in search of Christopher... Eventually bang on target of 7pm at about quarter to eight we are off - bye Judith.

An uneventful drive home - I am the only one awake. Arrive home at about 10:20 unload car and trailer and boys go to bed. I am too exhausted to sleep and sit at the computer for an hour. Zzzzzz.

Monday: Get boys to school and me to work, returning the trailer and camera - but too tired to achieve much. In the evening very little is done.

Tuesday: Get the money to the bank and unpack most of the zines and some of the other junk - there is a lot of it!

Wednesday: For the first time in 10 years I am struck down by a bad case of flu. Henry also is down with it. Sleep most of the day with a high temperature. Judith returns about 9pm. Thursday and Friday do not exist - I was awake for nearly two hours on Friday. On Saturday I get up - but don't do much.

Sunday: Finally tidy away the rest of the junk in the lounge

Its over!

The good points: The people, the parties and the discussions.

The bad points: It's over, the con was so good the dealers room was empty, and having to get back on Sunday.

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