We set off early from Wetherby, in semi-costume, to save on luggage. Our fancy waistcoats don't draw too much attention in the train, though I know I look good in mine (red with silver braid), black trousers and shirt. Arriving at London Bridge after successfully negotiating the Underground which Lesley compares to Down Below. My companion dons her frock coat and tries to persuade me to put on mine. I may be getting more daring, but not that daring. Wetherby in the dark, yes. London, in daylight - no way!.
Ashford International Station - big name for a small place. Lesley disappears in the ladies loo, and then Londo emerges and strides down the walkway, looking a little stiff and very upright, trying to balance the weight of the crest. Odd looks from the taxi driver, Lesley explains we're going to a con. Even odder looks. When we get to the hotel I fluff up my little crest in a howling gale then get into poor put upon "Vir" mode. I stagger into the hotel carrying two suitcases and two holdalls, while my Ambassador makes an entrance trundling her trolleycase. Val Westall and friend were on desk duty and recognised us. They'd seen Lesley's first attempt at Mollari, much more subdued, at Neutral Zone summer party. We are given our badges and find that Judith (evil grin) has picked Lesley as Purple Drazi Leader. Well, she wouldn't have given her green would she?. I'm relieved that I'm in the purple team - I wouldn't have put it past her to give me green just for devilment. Lesley dashes off with Steve to change her badge to "Mollari", insisting she won't do the Drazi war and the elections under her own name because it will get too confusing. A likely excuse. A young man named Mark, whom I remember from NZ summer party, comes up to us and volunteers to be Londo's campaign manager. He helps carry our luggage and is our first guest for hot jala. Lesley got her priorities right and unpacked the booze first (well, I did). Mark is a bit doubtful about Jala (it does look like Antifreeze) but sips bravely and gets to like it. I'm intending to go to the Croucher and Proctor panel at 4.00 but get sidetracked - too much work putting up posters, with my artwork, for Londo's campaign. Lesley marches round, Jala glass in hand and gets into flow but that coat must be warm - and will The Voice last?. I can just see this turning into Hurricane Lesley with "Vir" clearing up in its wake.
Stewarding - Sacha and Ivan are the ideal bosses, they really want us to enjoy ourselves. Much more relaxed than the stewarding at Deliverance - but I suppose they had to police a bigger site. Guess who's managed to be late. And she seems to have acquired a bodyguard, Dr Who writer David McIntee, alias Urza Jaddo. She's talked him into a Centauri costume, and he's now kitted out in purple painted waistcoat and big shirt. Opening ceremony and the candidates for Ruler of the Universe make themselves known to the Electorate. Londo has to wing his speech but does it with panache; Cartagia (with a beard!) is magnificent; Sandmann is strange, Buck Rogers loopy, and Servalan - well, Servalan is just Servalan, every inch the Supreme Commander. After a couple of "getting to know you" games we head for the bar where we're attacked by a drunken Welsh Klingon (aka Matt Mollari ??) in a Scream mask. I go off to get a purple plastic sword for Urza, and Sacha spots my "lethal weapon" and checks it to see if it's ok!. While our Centauri swordsmen play around, two "presences" arrive, and give a proper martial arts demonstration, letting interested observers join in. "Presence" is an odd word to use but Gary and Linda Stratmann are so graceful, so assured, that it seems the only appropriate one. I'm given a lesson in using a staff (at last - a real Minbari pike!). I'm not scared at all, and trust Gary even though by then Londo is plying him with Brivari.
By now I was getting pretty tired. Funny moment when Lesley thinks she's asked me,in her own voice, if I'm feeling ok. I'm not but I fall about laughing because Londo has just swung round, peered intently into my face and thundered "Vir - are you alright?". Maybe she's more tired than she thinks.
Managed a brief trip to the dealers room (usually my first stop) to buy a tape from my "relative", Sheelagh Wells. I had to interrupt her as I was due to steward in 2 minutes but she took pity on me - she's always so nice!. Had to choose between "Martial Arts in B5" And "Servalan" - "Servalan" won, and Dave's stories about how he became her almost by accident, on a birthday trip to Who's 7, were fascinating. There was a hilarious story about him going to the loo at a con, in full costume, and finding Gareth Thomas already in there, with his back to him. DW dived into a cubicle and stayed there until the coast was clear. (NB think "Londo" experienced this kind of situation at Redemption, though thankfully "he" escaped without meeting any guests). DW sometimes sees Paul Darrow at a London Station, but somehow Paul never has time for a cup of tea.
Can't remember much of Saturday afternoon, except the moment when the Ambassador was poisoned by the foul Klingon brew. Lesley staggered in, white faced, and howling for peppermint tea, and I had to go down to Urza and take some Brivari to cover her escape. Whatever that stuff was, I wouldn't like to try it - it had a terrible effect on the unflappable Londo, though I understand the Klingons found the Brivari a bit fiery too. Quits?
Enjoyed Sheelagh's talk about her work and her training in the BBC school; students practising make up on one another in class, and going to lunch dripping blood and gore; working in Wales on "How Green is My Valley", with Gareth, and having to plant daffodils for his big scene. Hope my stage make-up will pass muster.
Next the cabaret rehearsal. I'm doing an item in Servalan costume (very nervous in front of Her) and Judith's eyes light up as I announce my second entry. The Chevalier d'Orly, swordswoman from the "Scarlet Pimpernel". I ask how long I need to change between items and Judith, fancy dress pro, says 5 minutes!. Go back and accidentally wake Lesley, shortly before the infamous incident with the steward's remark. Go downstairs with my costume bags to find there's a half hour delay before the cabaret (sod's law of cons) and Dave is having trouble keeping his "falsies" in place. I answer his plea for safety pins and we go off to my room to adjust his chest. I admit my hands were shaking!. Well, how many people get their paws in the Supreme Commander's dress? (no. don't answer that) I tell him how nervous I'm feeling - this is my first proper masquerade, and he's very reassuring. Couldn't see Lesley anywhere and assumed she was rehearsing her scene. I went to the loos to change into my Frock and held my breath and was relieved to find it still fit. I put on make - up then took a long look in the mirror and was confronted with THE LADY. I have to admit it looked good. The fancy-dress entrants were gathering in the corridor and we seemed to hang around for ages.
I almost had a panic attack as I went on stage, but once out there I was fine, walking gracefully up the steps, waiting for the music to stop and miming to my costume poem. I hope my mouth matched the tape, it was difficult to tell. The lines about dressing as Avon ("It's the only way I fear, to get into that man's gear") got a good laugh, as did the quip about being cute in Oxfam leather!. Biggest laugh was for "You don't have to be a man to go dressed as Servalan" - that was a great boost. I felt confidence flowing through me. A final bow, careful descent from the stage (please God don't let me trip now) and then back to the corridor. Someone said "You were great" but I didn't stop - just grabbed my bag and raced to change into my black gear. I got back just in time - I was next on. Plastic sword gleaming in the lights, I strode confidently on stage. (Well, I'd done it once, hadn't I - and anyway this time I was wearing a mask). Lesley told me afterwards that Judith had a huge grin as the Chevalier came on. I didn't have my glasses but I could just see Londo and Cartagia at the front, right on the edge of the dark-light divide (how apt). When the judging was over I didn't care that I hadn't won. Taking part, as they say, was more than enough!. And yes, I'd do it again. I found a spare seat somewhere and settled down to enjoy the rest of the cabaret.
A wicked thought as Londo was booted up the backside by Cartagia - "I bet she enjoyed that". Helen did an excellent bellydance - you would never have known it was her first solo. Dave did his best Servalan, bringing out mismatched couples to dance and pairing Londo with Judith (grin). Duty at 10, then back to our room party - I wanted to filk but I couldn't let Lesley down. Besides somebody would have to wash up and I didn't think it would be the Ambassador. My catering - japanese rice crackers and Ferrero Rocher - went down well and I had kept us well supplied with plastic wine cups. Vir - and I - are always prepared.
The election- Londo's got the speech and I've got the props. Wine glass, purple files and Errol the Drakh ( Drakhus Nobilis). The five candidates give their speeches in turn, with sniping from the others. Lesley opens her mouth and is straight into pure Mollari. B7 quotes in Centauri accent, ("Trust me. A man who trusts can never be betrayed, only mistaken"), get a lot of audience reaction, as does the all-important question to her public. "What - do you want ?". Is it, asks Londo, a rebirth of glory, a renaissance of power?. Or simply the head of programming at something called BBC to finally start paying attention? Huge cheer from the B7 fans. She flings Errol on the floor in rejection of the Shadows and all they stand for, and I run out and retrieve him before someone fancies him as a souvenir. Can't remember all the votes but Cartagia got 16, Londo thirty some. Then Servalan pulled her trump card and brought on Travis, and won - with 49 votes. Somehow Servalan as Ruler of the Universe just seemed right. So did Londo and Servalan marrying - Dave's suggestion - though funnily it was something Lesley and I had talked about in a mad moment some months before!
Then closing ceremony and adding up the Drazi points. Mark had volunteered to be "killed" on stage as a green Drazi sacrifice if the stolen Gareth wasn't returned, but thankfully, he was. Our team got nearly a thousand points. (Well, they would have done with the ones Lesley found in her pocket on the train). Purple rules ok!! Lesley was on duty at 5 for the start of the stewards' party and well in need of refreshment. I took her some supplies and broke the news that the stewards party was, so far, alcohol free. She was feeling a bit down at that (we even got the "ducat" word) but was cheered up by a small boy who wandered out of the video room and said, reverently, "Londo. Come and watch. You're on TV" (!).
I went back to the stewards party - Joe and Sheelagh were there and Brian Croucher, everyone sitting round chatting and Sheelagh showing her B7 photos. Joe had an original Narn head from B5, maybe even G'Kar's. Lesley turned up exactly at the same time as the wine (leftovers from the Space City party). She makes a beeline for it, and I do my Vir / mother hen act (Londo don't do this). I can't help it. She looks tired and has hardly eaten all day. Eventually, somebody gives her a badge with that Vila quote "I'm going to stop drinking or it'll be pink asteroids next!"
Back to the Zocalo for the dead dog party, but not many people around. Mr and Mrs Cartagia arrive and partake of Londo's liberated wine and when the group breaks up I'm planning to call it a day. Going back to the room, I started tidying and packing, thinking that the only thing I regretted was not doing any filking. I'd mentioned this to Lesley and I was just about to get into bed when there was a loud knock at the door - Val Westall asking me "Are you coming out to play?". Lesley had sent her to take me to the filking. At last - a chance to sing off key. Tired but happy I felt at home with my old filk friends - Judith, Val, Jenni, Helen, Julia. We sang Jenni and Fifi's brilliant "Don't follow me", my favourite Judith filks and in a moment of madness I voluntarily sang my own filk to "Bobby Shaftoe". I even led one of the songs (Kerril) when the others lost the tune. Val had said Lesley would be there - she wasn't but I realized I didn't need her back up. "Vir" was doing fine on her own! When the filking broke up I spotted Lesley in the Zocalo and with careful aim over the balcony got her with a honey roasted pecan nut. Direct hit. Hah! Then I went back to the room, desperate for a cup of tea - and for the first time in the entire con, I lost my temper. We'd started off with about 20 plastic glasses. And several cups. Over the course of the weekend, Londo had wandered off with most of them, Jala in one hand, coffee in the other - I'd retrieved some and I'd cadged a few more off the hotel staff. Despite my best efforts we now had - one tooth glass.! I stormed downstairs, less Vir than Blake on a bad hair day and bawled over the balcony "You bugger! I'll kill you!". Look of incomprehension from the sozzled culprit - so I went back and made do with the glass. Londo finally rolled in at 3.30 having been one of the three con goers left "alive" at the end. Not much chance of getting back to sleep now, so I got up and took photos of the grand removal of the crest. Talk about Medusa!
The dead dog party had apparently ended with Steve Rogerson and Lesley pouring a semi conscious Klingon into a taxi, Lesley only realizing when she looked at the driver's face that she'd been talking to him in fluent Mollari. Oh Great Maker!.
And I would point out to you. That I thoroughly enjoyed. Them both!
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