Arrived in the UK at the end of January, and commenced Britrail Pass tour of the UK. First port of call was Judith Proctor, who was tarantula-sitting. It's an interesting experience sleeping with a couple of large hairy spiders next to the bed. It was even more interesting for one of the spiders, whose tank got kicked over by accident. Poor little beggar had to be fished out from under his soil. Imagine two grown women cooing "There, there," over a distressed tarantula...
Further forays resulted in me ending up in Manchester at the Monkhouse bed & breakfast establishment immediately prior to Redemption. As it turned out, Harriet was able to go to Redemption, but had to go to a meeting in Basingstoke first. This involved a completely different train to the one I needed to get on. Fortunately I still had Val and Linda for company. It turned out to be useful to travel as a group - one person to guard the luggage at the top of the stairs, one to guard it at the bottom of the stairs, and one to carry it between levels. Gosh, I love the London rail network and its complete lack of contact with the concept of lifts.
Reasonable train to London only flawed by the seat reservation tickets bearing no relationship to the physical seat numbers or indeed carriages; followed by antiquated junk ten years past its scrapping date on the route to Ashford. No luggage space whatsoever on antiquated junk - apparently only commuters are expected to travel between Ashford and London. The train crew were jolly nice about having to manoeuvre the drinks trolley around several large suitcases, they're obviously used to this nonsense. I thought privatisation was supposed to provide cheaper better service, not dearer worse service.
In spite of which we arrived safely at Ashford in the late afternoon. Flung myself on various friends not seen in the flesh for two years, checked in, dumped Suitcase From Hell in my room, and went downstairs to fling myself on more friends not seen in the flesh for two years. Was introduced to guest Damian London and asked to explain to him how Britrail passes work, as he was on his first ever trip to the UK and was going off on a tour after the con. In the middle of this, flung myself on friend not ever seen in the flesh before - somebody asked about the rosette I was wearing on behalf of the "Jarriere for ruler of the universe" campaign, and turned out to be official campaign mismanager Sally Manton.
Damian was rather bemused by the idea of very good friends who just happened to not have a clue what each other looked like...
Assorted wandering around socialising, until most people wandered off for dinner. I'd eaten on the train, and I was feeling somewhat the worse for wear after the amount of travelling in the previous few days, so I asked the restaurant if I could just have a dessert, assuming I felt up to it. Yes, as long as I had a standard room charge dessert, as the special cheap con dinner didn't include one. Wandered over to look at dessert and decided that I'd regret it if I tried to eat even dessert, and walked out, telling the staff that I'd decided not to eat anything. They still charged me for the con dinner, and it took two complaints before it was removed from my bill. I wouldn't have blamed them for billing me for the dessert I'd said I was going to have, but I'm not impressed with being charged for dinner when I had told them what I was doing and wasn't even there long enough to have sneakily eaten dinner without paying for it.
Met Nova and Ika in reception, and it turned out that they didn't want a full dinner either. So we went on a Sainsbury's expedition. Nobody could remember exactly how to get to the gate in the fence between the car parks, so we walked along the road. Unfortunately the evil shrubbery is now right up to the edge of the road, necessitating walking *on* the road at one point, but we made it in one piece in spite of being in traditional fannish black, at night. The gate was easy to find from the Sainsbury's side of the fence, so no walking along the road on the way back.
The yoghurt with clotted cream was very nice, and I felt a bit better afterwards, so more socialising, then I was good and had an early night. A pity that I only got four hours sleep. Too many beds in one week (stop sniggering at the back), and the chap in the next room deciding to make a phone call at quarter to one, then turning on the TV and talking over the sound of the TV...
I have to be *really* unwell to miss breakfast, but I'd have preferred not to be awake in time to be one of the first ones down to the restaurant. The Ashford does a nice cooked breakfast, including scrambled eggs that actually taste freshly made (most of the time). Edible breakfast is important when a) it's paid for anyway, b) you know you might not find time for lunch. Friday morning was passed in something of a daze - the con hadn't even officially started, and I was already four hours down on sleep. Good thing Judith and I had the assistance of one of the junior members while we were sorting out the auction and raffle prizes, as I only had two brain cells to rub together. The prizes were then moved down to the dealers' room, and arranged in a tasteful display intended to entice people to buy, buy, buy. More items were added during the next couple of days, including scripts donated by Chris Boucher. More on those later...
Lunched on pre-packed sandwiches from the bar - edible, reasonably priced, and the longest I ever had to wait for them during the weekend was five minutes. Not the world's most exciting meal, but wonderful when you don't have time to wait for the alleged fast food from the bar, and I'm glad the hotel did something along those lines. Passed a pleasant couple of hours helping Richard on the dealers' table in what turned out not to be the opening feeding frenzy. Even my poor bewildered brain was capable of adding up prices on the charity book stall. Since it didn't look as if Richard was about to be trampled by a stampede of zine buyers, went off to the panel on hunks. It seems that women are turned by personality more than looks. Big surprise there. Interestingly, the majority of the men in the audience also said that personality was more important, although it was felt that one was likely to check out the personalities of the best lookers first:-) At this point the inbuilt memory store cut out, and I'm not sure what I was doing until Opening Ceremony other than it didn't involve panels and did involve food. I think I decided that dinner was more important than the Man of Iron reading, a decision I still stand by. The plan had been to use my shiny new dictaphone to record a diary (I can talk faster than I can write, as some have noticed), but the Ashford's air-conditioning had got to my throat even earlier than usual and I didn't risk it. Interesting conversation over the dinner table with Lexin, Gloria, the Dybedahls, and a couple of people I didn't know as well and cannot remember the names of.
The opening ceremony had the usual mixer games, which resulted in mild amusement at our table where at least three people qualified for the "travelled from overseas" item. Was seriously tempted to put down for the "black underwear" item on one or two forms, just to show off my socks if called upon to prove it, but decided not to be that silly this early in the con. Not quite sure what I did after that, although it definitely involved dropping in on the Evolution of Slash panel and having to not say a word because I couldn't actually speak without my throat hurting. Went off to dose up on codeine in order that I might get a decent night's sleep, thinking rude things to myself about it being nice to be back in a country where one can actually *get* codeine. The codeine had taken effect by the time I got to the new zines launch, so I do hope that what I said about the new issues of Tales was intelligible, if not entirely coherent. Exchanged zines with Gina, whose zine has a pretty ribbon binding that strikes me as just the thing to send her up the wall by the time she's done a hundred of them:-> I was not so drunk on codeine and lack of sleep that I didn't notice Steve R's comment about my zines being like busses - you wait ages and then four come along at once. I hadn't actually intended to do four, it just sort of happened. Also pushed the pro novel that Predatrix and I have written, which is being published shortly but unfortunately didn't have the publication details finalised before I went to the con.
Harriet had finally escaped from the pruf-reeding meeting, so I was able to turn in for another attempt at an early night without worrying about being woken up by suitcases being dumped on the floor. It's possible to come in quietly from panels and room parties, it's not possible to come in quietly when accompanied by luggage. As it happened, I had another night of four hours' sleep, but it's amazing what a difference the *quality* of the non-sleep makes, as I felt a lot better on Saturday morning than I had on Friday morning. Harriet toddled off to the FC room party, which must have been good as I don't think she came back until about 2 am. I was in a happy not-asleep-but-not-caring blur at this point, courtesy of codeine and having worked out to make hot milk with the somewhat limited facilities in a hotel room. I'm glad I didn't try to go to the room party, as I was fairly blitzed by then. This happened in 01 as well. Sigh. Maybe I'll actually make it to the room party in 05.
Breakfast was a little later this time, but still based on the concept of "Might not have time to eat lunch." The scrambled eggs were still good:-) Sainsbury's run was next on the agenda. If anyone's wondering why I was running around with a pint bottle of milk strapped to me, it's because of the air-conditioning in that hotel. The fat in full-cream milk made for a better throat lubricant than plain water. And yes, I can think up the disgusting jokes myself, thank you.
Missed the first fifteen minutes of Tanith Lee's interview because I was registering for Redemption 05. Tried out my new dictaphone when I did get to the talk, and it seems to have been adequate as an aide-memoir - notes to follow. It was very obvious that Tanith had been and still is a great fan of Blake's 7, and she spent much of the interview happily wibbling about it.
No way was I moving from my front row seat for the next panel. Our very own Una McCormack was interviewing God, aka Chris Boucher. Church membership was well represented in the front two rows, and there were some interesting questions from the audience. Excellent panel (and Una didn't look in the least bit nervous, an impressive performance). More details when I've had a chance to listen to the tape to jog my memory.
Just had time to grab another sandwich pack from the bar and notate the latest donations for the auction before sorting out the stuff for the autograph table. Cleverly, I forgot to bring my *own* things for signing down to the table, and had to go back and get them. I sat behind the table taking money and practising "being nice to people for a whole *hour*", while Judith went down the line selling them raffle tickets. Managed to get my own goodies signed during quiet moments, so am now the proud owner of a Daw edition Kill the Dead inscribed "At Ashford - Redemption - one of the very best cons".
Delivered Chris Boucher to his "Writing for TV" workshop, but missed the workshop as I was still working on the autograph session, so would appreciate a detailed report from those who went.
Went to "The Heroes of Tanith Lee" once I'd finished the packing up after the autograph session. Interesting session, with some more on her use of actors as physical models for her characters.
"Realism in slash" was next. Lots of useful stuff in this, and I'll be putting up my notes once I've edited them and sent a copy to various people for checking.
As far as dinner goes, Sheryl and I frog-marched Judith to Sainsbury's in search of dinner, because we didn't trust her to eat even the yoghurt she said was all she could manage. This was my first visit to the Sainsbury's cafe, and very nice it was too - especially as there turned out to be a two-for-one offer on the hot dinners after five, so Sheryl and I managed to have a nice fish and chip supper for about two quid each, served in rather less time than the bar snacks in the hotel were managing. And yes, Judith ate her yoghurt, *and* a biscuit. Dinner was interrupted by a radio call to Judith about stewards needed for the cabaret. So we volunteered, leading to one of the more, um, *interesting* stewarding experiences I've had.
The drunk wanting to join the masquerade was gently turned away by Jem, who happened to be talking to me at the time. Thanks Jem, much appreciated. The stray press photographer was a little more interesting... He was in fact expected, just earlier in the day, and when he hadn't turned up it had been assumed that he wasn't coming. So I found myself dealing with a press photographer I knew nothing about, including such little details as whether the committee had actually given him permission to be there in general and to take photos of the Masquerade in particular. I have had years of conditioning at work to be polite to the press while saying nothing and getting hold of senior management to deal with it, so that is precisely what I did. He was in fact a decent chap who did things like asking before taking photos of people who weren't actually on stage - and giving instructions on how to get copies of the photos if people wanted them.
And after I'd finally seen him off the premises, I went to Sainsbury's for chocolate. *Lots* of chocolate. <Goes off and gets bag of Maltesers from cabin bag>
After having had enough chocolate to comfort myself, I got the bright idea of bringing the con to Predatrix, who wasn't there this year. My mobile phone only costs 2p/minute for calls to landlines at the weekend, so I phoned her and then wandered around handing the phone to various people so they could say hello. And then I think I went to bed, where, Glory be, I finally got a decent night's sleep.
Wibbling with Harriet over the current cricket scores (strange things were happening in the world cup) was followed by breakfast. No leisurely breakfast for me, today was auction day. Everything had to be moved from the dealers' room to Wishart for the auction, and arranged neatly. Much thanks to those who helped Judith and me do this, and even more thanks to Daniel who also acted as our runner during the auction and item pickup.
The auction was fun, even if it did take a few minutes before the breakfast shot of caffeine reached my brain. I took great delight in paying a quid for the privilege of tearing up a novel by Ben Steed, at one point accompanied by the audience humming "The Stripper". Very brisk bidding on one or two choice items, and I was caught in the excruciating situation of having to proxy bid for Harriet on a couple of items that I wanted myself. Fortunately for my conscience, someone else was still bidding at the point where I'd have dropped out. Harriet got God's Star One script for an amount far lower than it might have fetched on ebay, so those who didn't bother to go to the auction can now gnash their teeth with envy. *I* got "Rescue" with a solitary bid of 50 quid <smirk>. It was nice to get it cheap, but I did feel rather sorry for Chris Boucher, who was sitting in the audience. I'd have liked to see them go for more, for the sake of both the con charities and Chris. I was pleased for Count Zero, who managed to get the autographed Captain Scarlet doll he'd been drooling over all weekend. He and Vicky spent a lot in the auction, and they deserved to get the specific item that was his heart's desire.
Handed over items for money, put away unclaimed items securely, and just had time to grab things from the Waveney table to sell from the autograph table. Pity I didn't think to grab the price list, it was a bit embarrassing having to explain to the Dybedahls that I knew the prices for the two Star Cops zines, but not which zine was which price. Fortunately I guessed correctly. Had to turf Mike Collins out of the chair at the end of the table, as the guests had actually got there before me <deep embarrassment>.
Tanith Lee saw the Star Cops zine being waved at Chris Boucher, and promptly bought a copy of each herself, getting Chris to autograph them for her. Damian London photo and Mike Collins original artwork ditto. Have you noticed that this woman is a fan herself?
Harriet very kindly went and got me sandwiches from the bar, as I hadn't had time myself. Yay for the pre-packed sandwiches...
The autograph queue was brisk initially but died down a lot more quickly than Saturday, so I had a chance to talk to God. Divine pronouncement - Blake did not betray Avon. I asked:-> Some interesting conversation, and I get the impression that Chris Boucher remembers a lot more, and more accurately, about the show than the actors do. He also told me an "actors saying the line differently" story I hadn't heard before - apparently Chris wrote the line in Star One as "It's the only way I can be sure that I was *right*," and Gareth insisted on changing the emphasis to "*I* was right".
He asked whose book I'd torn up at the auction, because he hadn't caught the name. Then he asked *why*. Er...
He also explained to me exactly what it was that I'd bought. He sent a photostat of his typescript to the BBC, and the front cover was then typed up by Daphne (whose surname I've forgotten and can't make out on the script) at the BBC. The front cover is the original typewritten sheet complete with Tippex and hand-written note in pencil "Typed + *** (completed?) 14-1-80 Daphne ***".
Having glanced at it, there are a few pencilled proof-reading notes in the main body, but the more interesting things are the Photostatted hand-written notes that must be Chris' hand-written notes on his original typescript. The end scene that's in the Hoyle novelisation but not on screen is present, largely as (Photostatted) hand-written notes. More details when I've had a chance to look through it properly.
Chris went off to a panel, leaving me sitting next to Tanith Lee for the rest of the autograph session. This should have been a wonderful opportunity for me to embarrass myself by going all fangirl at one of my favourite authors (I've met Chris before, so it's worn off a bit with him), but in fact we were too busy being fangirly together about Blake's 7. It turned out that she appreciates Gareth's acting but never met him because he'd left by the time she was writing for the show; she's also never had the chance to see him on stage. I gave her the URL of Judith's website, as the news section generally has information on when and where he's working in the near future.
The autograph panel closed, and I went off to do the reconciliation on my records of the takings in the auction and autograph session. And have the cup of tea I'd been whinging about since the auction. I was too tired to do a complete job, but was able to give Leslie a rough figure on the auction takings that I *knew* was the minimum amount of profit we'd made. It turned out to be better than that once Judith and I did a full check later that night.
On to the Closing Ceremony, where the guests all said very nice things about having enjoyed the weekend, including Chris Boucher's comment about having a little more faith in humanity after the weekend. I think from what I saw of them over the weekend that they *did* enjoy themselves, and I gather that Tanith Lee didn't want to go home on Sunday night:-)
Dinner, and still more money counting and careful checking, and eventually I went and dragged Judith off to cross-check my figures. I'd got it right on the auction, which was very pleasing. I haven't done auction record-keeping before so was petrified that I'd stuff it up. And then the money wasn't in my custody and wasn't my problem any more:-)
Sheryl fed me aspirin and liquid at some point in the evening, so I was in a fit state to enjoy the dead dog party. Had to avoid the bar area itself, as it was full of cigarette smoke and my throat was too sore to be able to talk in a smoky environment, but was able to find plenty of people to talk to. I think it was sometime that evening that I discovered that Damian is actually 72 - he's certainly a spritely 72. Ended up at the back of the Boulevard, talking about the pro novel Pred and I are about to see published, and then about lab accidents. No, the two are not related. Got to bed about one o'clock, and had a reasonable night's sleep. Why couldn't I have had a reasonable night's sleep the first night, when I needed it?
And my last full English breakfast for the year - I normally have a bowl of cereal. Breakfast with the Dybedahls, later joined by Neil. I was glad to get a chance to talk to Jenny, as I know her from alt.fan.pratchett.
It took a surprisingly long time to pack, especially as I had to go and disrupt Richard's packing by asking for copies of the zines I had completely failed to acquire any of earlier in the weekend, but I made it down to the lobby in time to acquire a cab-share with David and Leslie McIntee. They were going to London (and beyond) in the train, and I wasn't booked on any specific train, so travelled as far as London with them. Nice to have company for part of the way, and particularly nice to have the company of two friends I'd seen very little of during the weekend because they were two of the masochists actually running the con.
Got to Pred's in time for a late lunch, and had the great pleasure of *not* having to go back to Mundania on the Monday morning:-)
It was a great con, and I had a great time. I regret not seeing more of my friends, but on the other hand the slots I was working gave me a chance to talk to people whose work I admire. And Damian London is an absolute sweetie, and I'm delighted to have met him even though I've never (to my regret) seen Babylon 5. I've booked for the next one...
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