MR BENNETT & MRS BROWN IN SPACE or WHAT A WAY TO SPEND EASTER
'Ho hum! What shall we do tomorrow? -- Let's go to Yorcon -- Oh -- will I enjoy it? -- Wait and see.........' This or something like it was the start of the weekend -- and is of course distinguished by its singular lack of grasp of the practical implications for Andrew of transporting Abigail and a quantity of her luggage up to Leeds. The coach was at 2, so he knew there was time to read a few books, go for a painful filling, talk to some men at the BBC and have lunch before meeting Abi at the coach station; she insisted there was no point in his picking her up from work. Two minutes before the coach pulled out, after he had had her paged several times, and been insulted by the driver, Andrew started to panic; needlessly, for at that moment Abi sauntered up, clutching her luggage and a bag of little Easter eggs she had broken her journey to buy. The journey was uneventful, except for the rudeness of the driver to everyone; Abi failed to sweeten his temper, even with an Easter egg.
DUNGEONS AND DRAGONARAS: FIRST ATTACK OF PIZZA HORROR
Abi and Andrew went and looked at the Hotel Metropole, one of Leeds' more interesting redbrick fantasias, which either is or isn't in Pevsner, and then we went on to the Dragonara, a boring plate glass extravaganza, which certainly isn't in Pevsner. It had a Cyril Stein casino, which probably isn't there anymore and which had no effect on the con at all. We were somewhat bemused by the curious non-foyer downstairs and upstairs by a vast desert of beige carpet which combined reception, bar and shopping precinct. It was littered with chairs like giant recumbent teddybear torsos or possibly non-prickly cacti. We paged Mike, and eventually he lumbered across the horizon. His attempts to buy us a drink were foiled briefly by an author, whose name we will not now drop, and who wanted to know where to eat. Dickinson told him and then we went to the Cockteel Leounge where Pringle was sitting being the Man at the Helm and summoning waiters with a lordly mien and the occasional note of small denomination.
A pianist started to play -- he softly and silently vanished for the rest of the con, which prevents Andrew using any 'Do you know The Man with Absolute Motion' -- 'No, but if you hum it...' jokes. Pringle officiated off somewhere and we and Mike went to the coffeeshop for what was called a Dragonburger and for all we know may have been. Abi had a Chinese Dragonburger which was smothered in overcooked Sweet'n'Sour bamboo shoots; Grahame England got the nastiest cardboard pizza anyone has ever seen.
DICKINSON REVEALED AS ORIENTAL DEITY
We want to Mike's flat on the bus (he told us to ask for the Sikh temple). No key would unlock his front door and we panicked until a phone call revealed that it wasn't locked; we are literary, not practical, people. Abi, who lives in a small, damp hole in the ground and was at that time forced to share it with Andrew, took a deep breath at the palatial, not to say echo-ridden, Dickinson pad and thought about the advantages of Nike as a life-partner; she then went to bed with Andrew.
CRITIC'S MOLL WINCES: THE SMILE ON THE FACE OF THE PRINGLE
Atomic Submarine is quite the silliest film anyone has ever seen on Good Friday. Flying Saucer Beings did nasties to a submarine out of a cornflake packet. Pacifist son of admiral made long boring speeches until he did the Decent Thing. Explorers of saucer were destroyed by that useful alien weapon which goes ZZZZZ and turns you into a negative (Want one -- Andrew). Then Mike's opening address in which the bitch described Andrew as a celebrity. Sardonic nucleocrat Langford enthralled the masses with the joys of the horrors of war. The future must be worse even than he made out -- he probably knows but isn't allowed to say. In bar Gabbitas Pringle came down with an Assyrian smile and said 'Andrew, be on a panel' -- he forced me by placing a drink in my hand. Andrew on a panel is one of the most embarrassing experiences Abi has ever had. She knew that everyone in the room could tell that she was involved with this grisly personage. When he was introduced by chairbody Nicholls, Andrew simpered inanely and flapped his hand about in the air. When it was his turn to comment on a question, he would gulp audibly into the microphone, pause for a very long time and then let fly with an extraordinary booming stutter. While other panellists confined their answers to two or three lightweight sentences, Andrew found it necessary to go in for whole paragraphs of Very Serious Stuff, pronouncing the punctuation. The others didn't lynch him, so he can't have been all that bad; perhaps Abi is blinded by the eye of love.
AGONY CORNER: OVENS AND MASS MURDER
Rather than sit through a boring BSFA meeting to which we were not entitled to go, we decided to leave the charmed circle of the con and go into Leeds to see Animal House which amounts to much the same thing. At this moment ten-foot non-lumberjack Canadian Geoff Ryman appeared. We jumped on him twittering and persuaded him that we were the people he really wanted to see by quick application of the interesting manual technique known as a Double Chinese Burn. Abi and Geoff laughed like blocked drains all the way through the movie -- very blushmaking -- while Andrew maintained a wellbred smirk and made genteel noises behind his hand. (This is not true -- Abi.) In the Pizzarama Abi and Geoff, suddenly soulmates and always sensible people, got off scot free with fairly standard Quattro Stagionis; Andrew had a Calzone, which roughly translates as a Heartburn Special, a lump of dough, ham and cheese disguised as a very very large Cornish Pasty. He groaned tediously for days. In the hotel, Mike had retired to bed with mysterious pains in feet -- it turned out eventually that they had been fried by underfloor heating. Abi and Andrew adjourned to his room like vultures and drank some of his liquor along with other Job's comforters like the excellent O'Ryan family and Cindy the Space Maiden. Mike groaned even louder than Andrew for several hours and eventually Abi got bored with the agonized counterpoint and announced imperiously that she was going. A nice man called Ken leaped to her assistance and drove us home sparing Abi the long walk through the heart of Ripperland. Ken's van was full of stoves which he sells secondhand -- BUY YOUR STOVES FROM KEN -- and these rattle louder than about ten steel bands if he does more than three miles per hour. Abi said that the rest of the con had better be up to that standard.
SATURDAY MORNING FEVER
On Saturday morning there was a panel -- Any Questions? Andrew once again disgraced himself by opening mouth; mainly to denounce one Doreen Rogers, who insisted on talking balls. Discussion of SF in Education led to E. Harvey saying Andrew evidently bloody awful teacher: Andrew concurs: E. Harvey leaves profession. We had a light lunch (half a pork pie each) and Abi sat with the O'Ryan clan and drank beautiful drinks enlivened with food colouring. Unfortunately green colour seems to affect the taste of either the gin or the tonic -- but what the hell, it looks tres chic. At this point our intrepid pair decided to part; Abi to explore the city where her loved one 'grew up', and seek some clue to his personality -- not to mention getting and cooking dinner -- Andrew to carry on conning. He sat and watched a panel on Being a Writer and thanked the lord he wasn't. He did not go near the bookroom, having been warned by his little fluff that if he spent any more money without permission, there would be Consequences. Abi returned in the middle of a game of Call My Bluff.
THE QUEST OF THE COSMIC EGG
It was at this point (ie 4:30) that she chose to remind him that he owed her an Easter egg. Knowing what was good for him, Andrew left at a run. But Leeds had been totally denuded of eggs some hours earlier. He went from Thornton's Chocolate Kabin to Thornton's Chocolate Kabin to Thornton's Chocolate Kabin finding only one slightly foxed diabetic mini-egg, at which he knew his loved one would sneer. He went and looked at some pearl necklaces, but gave up and bought some Expensive Chocolates instead. On his return he was let off being Beaten to a Pulp and merely forced to watch Abi scoff the lot. (Not true -- Abi.)
NAMELESS HORRORS FROM THE VOID
The fancy dress parade consisted of Martin Hoare in many penetrable disguises, various people dressed as furry barbarians, a couple of women in underwear, a jolly exciting sword fight, small children with cuddly dinosaurs (want one -- Abi), Brian Burgess and Space Maidens Cindy and Maya. For some time it looked as if the group prize would be awarded to some people brilliantly disguised as Time Travellers from 1958, but alas! they turned out to be the bourgeoisie of North Yorkshire looking for a dinnerdance in the cockteel leounge -- remember it? -- and they were disqualified. This parade was followed by what was laughingly known as a Bop in which our intrepid pair danced while others did the Lumber and the Uncoordinated Tremble. Our terpsichorean prowess did not go unremarked upon; nameless fishy drunk lurched up to Andrew muttering 'Oh -- very smooth, ducky.' Andrew, q. as a f., riposte 'Sorry I'm with her at present. Later?': piscine personage retire baffled. Rather than show off too much much of evening spent taking beer to cripple Mike; suggestions that he come down and have fun were greeted with even louder groans. Ken drove us back in a different van, even fuller of stoves and occasional fridges. This one rattled a bit even when it was standing still.
THE THIEVES' JOURNAL
On Sunday morning we called on Mike and got no answer save a very distant groan, so noticing a very slightly touched breakfast outside his door we whetted our appetites with it. Search of corridors revealed only a little toast so we dragged Geoff off to the railway station for proper brekkers and Sunday Papers. The trio discussed Cambodia. We watched an auction of books and Abi sat on Andrew's hands throughout. Little of the afternoon can be remembered because of what followed, viz we got disgustingly drunk. Sections of the evening that can be recalled include: talking to Mick Farren, who was wearing a wonderful suit (made of expensive-ski-pant-stuff) which appeared to hold him in rather than contain him. He complained that he had been talking to some people for a quarter of an hour about Burroughs, before he discovered that they meant Edgar Rice while he meant William (though he admitted it made little difference to the conversation). Feeling very penurious we decided to entertain ourselves by exploring the soft underbelly of the Dragonara. At the end of each corridor was a fire exit which led to a concrete and iron staircase with pantry attached which is where the staff put the rich people's leavings. We got several glasses of winedregs out of this exercise, and quite a lot of nearly new vodka, but drew the line at an almost full Moet bottle because the pale liquid it contained did not look like champagne to our practiced Oxonian eyes.
ABI ABANDONED: BALANCING ACT OF A CRITIC
At the fanroom party Abi drank a lot of gin and confessed to Mr. B. Stableford that she had never heard of him but thought he was nice anyway, We then visited the Los Angeles Con Bid Room and drank some of their beer, but they did not appreciate our attempts to pay for this by writing ever more obscure jokes to each other on their paper plates. Mr. J. Brunner was here doing his best to improve Anglo-Japanese relationships. We gathered a mob of the right-minded to distract his attention by singing 'Don't you hear the H-Bomb's Thunder' outside the room. Dickinson was up and about now, having applied Tiger Balm to the affected parts, and led this warband. In the O'Ryan room Mr. R. Holdstock told Abi that he'd never heard of her but etc. while Andrew tried to sober up by drinking most of a glass of orange juice, and then of the jug from which it had come. It is not true that vodka has no taste..... He discussed with the O'Ryans great Latin Teachers that they had shared despite being at different schools. In the corridor he was seized by the unnaturally sober Kate Jeary and Geoff and told that he was staggering and so left to sober up at the station with British Rail coffee. The trick to this is not so much drinking the vile weak stuff as carrying two beakers of it in each hand, scalding yourself every time you spill any, from British Rail, Leeds, to the Dragonara Hotel, and up and down several staircases.
PASSION IN ELEVATOR -- MORALS IN BEDROOM
Abi, meanwhile, had detected by the instinct of lovers that Andrew was no longer there. She fled nice Mr. Holdstock and ran up and down the corridor like a little mad thing wondering where her Big Fluff had got to. Some kindly providence popped into her gin-soaked brain the thought that sooner or later ho would have to come into, or out of, the lift and so put a chair which she found on a landing into the lift and rode up and down directing all who got in to the Los Angeles room. After what seemed an eternity of ascent and descent, there was a happy reunion on some landing or other and we were hauled off to bed by the moralising Miss Jeary. She then kept us awake for hours in the bed she had so kindly lent us by sitting at the other end of the room talking to Geoff about how they were the only sober people in the building.
COLD TURKEY AND FLIPPERED FRIENDS
Finally we got some sleep, Abi thinks, and in the morning the shattered twosome took themselves and all the blacksmiths in their heads to watch a film of -- oh God! --Campbell, Harrison and Dickson getting very drunk and writing Lifeboat which explains why it is a bloody terrible book. Then, oh joy, the Telegoons and a very pseud Swedish film about a man undressing in a lift. (This made Abi go pale, but she finally decided that a) she hadn't and b) the films must have been booked months before.) Another auction at which Malcolm Edwards sold an awful lot of the works of M. Moorcock and Abi didn't have to sit on Andrew's hands to stop him buying anything. Then the highlight of the con for Abi -- Peter Garrett's talk on whales. Here was someone actually informing us about a deeply fascinating subject, which gave scope for much interesting speculation from the floor, most of it from the very interesting Abi. Much to P. Garrett's relief she prevented Andrew from asking questions about the Hustler article of which more elsewhere. Garrett is a rare example of someone who understands the tricky basis of the theory of his subject but is willing to listen to and take seriously the random thoughts of the pig-ignorant like us. At this point things were breaking up and we went with Kate who appeared to have forgiven us to look for something to eat. Nothing could be found except the Station Hotel's club sandwiches which defy description but involve in some distant way sweetened mayonnaise and bits of cardboard. Kate went home to her Vikings and we spent a few days helping Mike recover in his flat.
(cont. fr. p.93). 'It can't end like this, here' he sobbed through clenched teeth. Had he struggled in vain from the ivory throne of his hundred ancestors to the crowded slave-markets of spice-scented Bokhara of the caravans, to the tinkling empty citadels of Mars, to the grizzled anonymity of a spacerat's bunk on a battered freighter on the Saturn run, to that brief lyrical pastoral interlude in the sylvan splendours of Beckenham and Penge, to a walkon in the obligatory S and M scene amid the sordid but magnificent apocalypse of the brutal Third Reich in the crumbling ruins of Berlin, to the less subtle horrors of a cocktail party in Canonbury and the yawning emptiness of the total void only to finish with a punctuation mark on page 6 of New River Blues issue ½?
New River Blues ½ (1979)