Trip report from Sandy Douglas

Find it hard to believe I'm finally back home. I am definately in love with my pillow- not those rocks pretending to be pillows in some B&Bs I stayed in. I know there have been plenty of other con reports but please indulge. I've only been back a few days and I still haven't been able to read all the backlog of mail. My esteemed travelling companions were Pat Fenech and Christine Lacey.

B7 highlights In order of appearance:

Bought Seven Fold Crown in Canterbury

Bought from Smiths to listen to on our soujourn around England. I listened on my walkman first. All excited listening to the theme music. That was the best part!! First I didn't believe what I was listening to. It was rather cringe making in places. Then I made Pat listen to it in the car. Her opinion was the same. Actually on 2nd hearing it was still bad but not as bad. The anticipation made it seem seem worse somehow. Hopefully the second tape to be made later this year will be an improvement.

Trip to Betchworth Quarry

Call yourself a fan if you don't go and visit THE sacred sight. Cheapest souvenir of the entire trip was a piece of the quarry- now a land fill. I don't know what the poor man in his little hut thought of these 2 Australian ladies wanting to walk up to the quarry let alone what all the truckies thought. But we could imagine Xenon, Exbar etc

Trip to Wookey Hole

Not a bad place to go even if it hadn't been the site of the filming of Project Avalon. Rembered Michael Keating's story about having to stop filming every half hour to let the tourists through. Couldn't imagine the techs carrying all the gear down the caves!

Guards Guards Blackpool

Gave up trying to explain to people why anyone would be going to Blackpool just to see a play. There has to be some reason why anybody would go to Blackpool voluntarily no matter what time of year. In my case it was to see PD. It was such a relief to have really enjoyed it for the production's sake. I do not think it is necessary to be a Pratchett fan to understand what was going on even though I am have read the book as well as the 3 Guard sequels. Sometimes reading it beforehand can be a handicap as you start to think that the character should have done this or been more like that etc instead of accepting it for the entertainment that it is. Back to the show. Right from the start PD had established a rapport with the audience and showed a talent for light comedy that I had not seen before. I especially like the scene with the Patrician discussing what the possible cause of the death of the 2 robbers could be 'A wading bird!!!" then his little chat with the camera.

Felt extremely sorry for the 2 extras who were trying to shift scenery when the revolving stage decided to go on strike.

Followed Harriet to the stage door. This was definately a case of being a follower rather than leader. Christine and I said "I will if you will". Waited outside thinking "Sandy what the hell do you think you are doing. You are standing outside in an alley with a pen and program wanting someone's autograph (Rephrase that -wanting HIS autograph). This is what teenagers do and I didn't even do it then". Then the doorman came out and said that the cast had all been invited up to the bar and that we could go up there. Much more civilized way of waiting. So we waited while all the other actors came up the stairs and then Paul arrived. I know that people have said how charming he is and I took that with a small grain of salt. But if anything people have understated his personal appeal. We could have just watched him being nice to people all night. Harriet had to rush to catch her train but we let others go ahead of us. Method in our madness!! The only thing I would have changed was that in learning we came from Australia he did an Aussie accent which in a word was dreadful. Just an aside is that most actors I heard cannot do an Australian accent to save themselves.

Neutral Zone

This was not originally on the agenda but if you are going to come all the way from Australia you may as well make the most of it. First of all I will say that I enjoyed it immensely but this had a great deal to do with the people than the actual con. If I hadn't had been with friends this was not a good con to start with. First of all being multi-media there were guests there that I had never heard of with a show that I had never heard of- Space Above & Beyond as well as Stephen Furst from B5. Again due to crazy TV programming a show I'd heard of but never really seen. This was not a fault of the con. I am not so presumptious that they can only have guests that I want to see!! However the problem was lack of an alternative program. If it wasn't the guest panels it was watching videos.

But as I said it was the people who made the con so much fun. Travelled over with Pat (Fenech) and Christine (Lacey) and met Judith, Julia, Val , Chris, Linda and Harriet. Putting faces to names was one of the highlights. Another thing I loved as an Australian was being able to buy things without worrying about the bloody postage- although when it came time to pack it was a problem. Worked out that I would post my clothes home and keep the important stuff in the suitcase <g> One of the good points about being surrounded by like minded people is when you should them something the replies were more on the line "I want it as well" or the classic "You bitch you bought the last one" rather than at home "you spent that much on that".

One of the highlights of Neutral Zone was the room party. Thankfully my children have gone past "Pin the Tail" so I will not have to explain why I am bursting into fits of hysterical laughter when each little darling would be having their go. As well being exceedingly grateful that I am no longer a Gr 2 classroom teacher instead a computer and music teacher and do not have to read out aloud. Reading excerpts from Forbidden Star was enough to put me off reading for an audience for a long time. It is amazing how offputting saying the words let alone trying to put expression into it can be.

Meeting Gareth was very interesting. I was very pleasantly surprised that when he stopped "performing" he could hold interesting discussions about on a wide variety of topics.The other guests that I enjoyed listening and talking to were Sheelagh Wells and Joe Nazzaro. I was listening to their panel with Gareth and felt brave enough to ask a question about how they started making their very enjoyable "Together Again" tapes. I must state this was not a paid political advertisment- I really was interested! But at the end of the answer Joe asked who asked the question and I put my hand up to which he then came down from the stage and gave me a pound. One thing that they did say was that all the profits from making the cassettes went back into making new ones. So using Joe's money and more of my own I went back and bought Elements. We were going to buy one volume each and tape for the others but because we want them to continue went and bought them individually.

One thing that I felt pleased about was the often repeated remark about the B7 cast that it was like a big happy family did appear to be true. At Blackpool I mentioned to Paul that it was disappointing that he wouldn't be able to go to Deliverance- What an understatement -devasted was more the word but that I would be seeing Gareth at Neutral Zone and he said to send his best wishes to Gareth. Then when talking to Gareth about seeing Paul in Guards he said that Paul was coming up to lunch with him and his wife when Paul was playing it in Edinburgh and then go on to see the play in the evening. Then the next Monday saw Sheelagh and Joe with Janet Darrow at Hackey Empire.

Guards Guards at London

Drove from Newcastle to East Horley (where Animals was filmed) near Gatwick on the Monday. Long drive. Book into B&B then rush to Gatwick to catch Gatwick express to Victoria Station. Then Underground to another station- Can't remember which one except that its Murphy's law. Any other station would have taxis outside not this one. Trouble is that show starts at 7.30 and its 7.25. Flag a taxi down and we get there about 7.45 , box office about to close but the gods were finally smiling on us. Just sat down and PD makes his first appearance and we were 3 rows from the front with a terrific view. The only trouble was that in the scene where he is putting on his trousers he forgot to do up his fly!! It is amazing how when you try not to look at something your eyes keep going back to it. Kept saying look up look up but wasn't working.

Interesting point about seeing a show more than once is the differences that occur. In Blackpool, there was a scene with Vimes and the Patrician in the dungeon with the Librarian. The Librarian goes through his charades routine again with Vimes having to guess word by word what was happening. Here in London they had the Librarian doing his stuff without stopping and the Patrician nodding wisely and then stating to Vimes that he must rescue Lady Ramkin. To which PD turns to the audience and asks "How the bloody hell did you work that out?"

Didn't stay for the stage door trick this time after seeing Sheelagh, Joe and Janet in the foyer.


Talk about the sublime to the ridiculous. Neutral Zone did not have enough to keep one occupied, Deliverance had too much. Not a complaint but I would have loved to have seen Stephen Grief and Jackie Pearce but went to Brian Lighthill's talk instead. As well would have loved to have seen Mike Keating's but also wanted to see the women of B7. I realise that scheduling with guests arriving at different times would be a nightmare and the old thing of you can't please all the people all the time but it would have been nice to have done both.

I heard about the autograph queues very early on and in hindsight probably did the right thing and didn't worry about it. I reasoned that I had travelled upteem kms to stand in a queue for over 2 hours for no result. As well I already had Gareth's from Neutral Zone and Paul's from stage door standing.

I have higher hopes about the second BBC tape from listening to Brian Lighthill although Barry Letts will still be writing it. He will take into account that Vila likes drinking rather than food- who else cringed at lizard burger and you have ketchup on your chin? , that Soolin & Dayna are not squealing girlie types and no way does Avon have a "home". He seemed quite interested that there was a canon clone of Blake out there. Though I wouldn't be at all surprised if it ended up being 4th season as as he admitted he knows the 4th season and feels comfortable with it. He also said that he would bypass BBc policy and get an outsider ie a B7 fan to read it to point out any glaring errors.

I must admit apart from the first evening I didn't get to see much off the list members. Between the panels, returning to the dealers to see if there was anything I missed, especially from the orphan zine table and once in a while I actually managed to eat something apart from breakfast I do not know where the time went. I think it should have been a week rather than a weekend.

What I did enjoy was listening to others- at breakfast, in queues, lifts etc and hear people discussing B7. It was heaven. You could have a conversation to someone about the deep philosophical meanings regarding the blackness of B7 to comparing good hair v bad hair episodes!

When all said and done Deliverance was a marvellous experience for me and I will be hoping for the 25th anniversary!!

Guards Guards Newcastle Thursday

Look I've never seen PD perform on stage before probably never will again so I'm making the most of it.

Again a couple of minor changes but the best part of tonight's performance was watching PD nearly lose control on stage. For those who have seen it it was when Carrot said he was going to polish his helmet and then he looked straight at Vimes. Paul just looked back started to smirk and then had to take a lengthy circular walk to get himself back under control to say "Good Lad". That night Paul had to share the limelight with Errol the dragon. Errol was in fine form , especially in the part where he is playing with Paul's hair. The management is missing out by not having stuffed toy dragons for sale or those dragon slippers- priceless.

Trip to Bamborough

Site of filming of Aftermath. Saw the white sands where Vere said Josette would stand out so nicely. Saw the grass tufts where Avon mentioned that he didn't care for water sports at the best of times. Took lots of pictures. Just as an aside this was the place where Polanski filmed Macbeth.

Guards Guards Newcastle Friday

At Neutral Zone we won tickets for Guards Guards and a meeting with Paul. I postphoned my trip home 2 days for this.

The highlight of the show was when Colon's helmet fell to pieces. Can't remember the exact words but quite a lot of very fast adlibbing went on- but very funny and perhaps not surprisingly PD had the last word by saying when another actor repeated his lines and PD said "You've already said that and we will get back to the text now" and on he went. After the show he said that he and the others were told off by the director for too much adlibbing and not sticking to the script.

Impressed by the fact that PD remembered us from Blackpool and he tried his Australian accent again. Still couldn't bring myself to say don't bother. Again I was impressed by his manner. He looks like he's lost weight if last year's Neutral Zone photos are anything to go by and I don't care about the bald patch at the back. I prefer to look at the front anyway. He happily signed a couple of photos I had bought from Deliverance since one was for my daughter who had asked me if I had met Mr Avon yet. So he signed that one Jennifer, Love from Paul Darrow (Avon). She took it to school the day after I returned for show and tell. Maybe I'll convert one of my children yet!

Maybe its just as well its another 5 years before the 25th. My visa card may have recovered by then.

As someone once said, "Thanks for the memories"


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