How to enjoy a convention without really planning to...

By Una McCormack

Well, since everyone else is adding their con reviews, I thought I'd put my own tuppence worth in. Unlike me, and unlike my visit to Deliverance, it's not very short!

I only decided to go to Deliverance right at the last minute because the costumes that I'd been selling were going to people from outside the UK, and it seemed the best way to swap goodies without currency / postage hassles. And then I was still planning only to go up for the day from Cambridge (4 hours each way - yes, I'm stupid).

Then I saw about Jenni's Space City room party, and I thought - 'I just can't miss this!' So I decided to go for the Friday night as well. Now to find somewhere to stay...

I rang the Moat House to get some details of local B&Bs, and they gave me the number of the Stakis - 'It's only 500 yards away!' they said cheerfully. I gave the Stakis a ring, and found out that they were one of the convention hotels - and that they still had a room free for the Friday! (I was ringing them about a week before the convention, so this was bloody lucky!). They put me onto the organizers who were extremely helpful and fixed me up with a room.

The chain of aimless coincidences continued... Ambling round Cambridge the following Saturday, I bumped into my good friend and fellow fan Caroline (OK, we were in a cake shop). 'I'm going to Deliverance!' said I. 'Brilliant!' said she. 'Want a lift down?!?' 'Too damn right!!' said I.

Some e-mails passed round that week between myself and Caroline's boyfriend as we anxiously wondered whether his car would be fixed in time... Come Friday all was well, and I started to wonder how best to pack four original B7 costumes, eventually settling on the 'stuff them in plastic bags and hope the creases come out' approach. I knocked back some travel pills, strapped myself in the back of the Peugeot, and we were off!

The journeys to events are usually good fun, and this was no exception. Caroline and I hadn't seen each other for about a month, and we were straight back into swapping plots for fanfiction. She has been torturing me with the non-appearance of her magnum opus whilst giving me *no* plot hints, and I am just lazy about writing up the zillion story ideas which I have floating round my head.

We left Cambridge at 3pm, just in time to hit the Birmingham rush hour traffic. Never mind - it gave us longer to chat, and we hit Stoke about 7pm. Finding the Moat House was suprisingly easy, tho' on entering the hotel we were startled by an *extremely* long queue. God knows what for. At the registration desk I was pleased to see Carol Keogh again, whom I hadn't seen since a very pleasant dinner in London about seven years ago. She gave me the full set of shoe laces and badges - so I could smuggle myself into Friday night events. Everyone else had a smartly printed piece of card with their name on. True to form, I had a nasty little Post-it Note.

Caroline and Andrew then did a valiant job of trying to take me to the Stakis. 20 minutes later we admitted defeat, came back to the Moat House, and I arranged for a taxi to come and get me! You can't beat local knowledge... Then it was hello Stakis, goodbye Stakis! You aren't where the convention is, so I'm not interested in you! I walked back to the Moat House. A 'yard' is clearly something different in Stoke... ;)

8pm, Friday. Starving. Met, as planned, with Caroline in reception. Also met her friends Madeleine and Jeremy, about whom I'd heard so much. It transpires that the best thing about a convention is finally meeting people that you've heard so much about. On the way into the little restaurant I caught up with Gary Russell. I didn't know that he was MCing. Really great to see him again.

FOOD!!! Then the bar. We went to the wrong bar and utterly missed the quiz. Never mind - there was sufficient alcohol for all and lemonade for sundry (i.e. me) and we had the fan questionnaire to fill in, which was enormous fun once people were sufficiently tanked up.

I was guessing when the quiz would end for the SC room party to begin, and hazarded a guess that it would be about 11pm. So I dutifully headed upstairs, costume bags clutched in both hands.

Found the room by virtue of the poster. Knocked on the door. No-one there. AARGH!! Hideous moment of existential angst!! Panic stations!! Unloved and cast adrift in a hotel full of people having fun whilst I sob miserably into the acres of velour that make up Carnell's robe!!

Next moment I was knocked over by a wave of highly excited people returning victorious from knocking the stuffing out of the rest of the convention in the quiz. Well done, guys!!

What a terrific evening I then had! How kind of Jenni and Colin to surrender their room, what a fantastic spread they put on, and how paltry we all were in eating it!

Again, enjoyed the best thing about a convention, this time en masse. How fantastic to finally see so many of you face to face!! Also got to enjoy the other best thing about a convention - seeing people you haven't seen for ages. Caught up with Louise, who went to college with me, and whom I turned from a perfectly respectable vet student into a slavering B7 fan sometime in 1993!! She admitted to the heinous crime of filching my copy of 'A Mind of a Man is a Double Edged Sword' and I admitted to the equally heinous crime of doing a vanishing act so that she wasn't able to return it to me anyway! Louise then took great pleasure in pointing out to everyone that she and Tom were *all my fault*. This is a responsibility too great for any one mortal to bear ;)

Handed over the costumes to their rightful owners, which meant I spent the rest of the convention with the best part of 300 quid on me. Nailed it to my thigh!!

Who else did I meet?!? Sarah Thompson showed me her truly remarkable work on collating fanzines, and I was able to promise that on the Saturday she would be able to maul the collection of early 80s zines which I had brought with me. Val Westall had brought an astonishing set of artwork which was duly pored over, and later re-examined in the slightly startled presence of Iain and Tom. Alison very kindly told me that I looked *nothing* like she'd imagined on the grounds that I looked younger and instantly became my favourite person at the entire convention! So many new people who felt like old friends - how wonderful. I'm just sorry that I didn't have time to talk to you all one by one for hours each. COME TO REDEMPTION!!!

An unruffled Colin passed out sometime during the proceedings, as the chat continued into the wee small hours. Foolishly expressed my fondness for 'Animals' to Russ, Steve and Tom and somehow wasn't stoned as a heretic. A group of Stakis Space Citizens identified themselves, and we duly headed off about half two. Braved the ranks of teenage Stoke-on-Trenters exiting night clubs and reached the Stakis alive.

Hello bed for a magnificent four hours sleep. Woke bright and early at 7:30 and *felt absolutely fine* which is just unnatural, quite frankly. Well, felt fine apart from my early morning desperation for COFFEE... Wandered downstairs to get my fix, and bumped into Russ and Steve who were happy to have a third person tag along for breakfast. Steve was very persuasive about Redemption; alas! my current account is less persuasive! I *promise* that I shall register within the next couple of months, Steve!

Then off to the Moat House. I had now checked out and had a whacking great bag of zines with me, which I stashed at reception. Picked up the convention zine and glanced through to see if anyone I knew had won. Wandered in to the opening ceremony and bumped into Ross who was happy for me to tag along and chat, and then greatly enjoyed the opening video and the initial chatter from the guests. Was *very* impressed to see that Gareth already had a pint with him at 10:15am!

Ambled off about 10:45 to check out the dealers' room. I had come to Deliverance with a plan - and the plan was to spend dosh on zines. I'd fallen quite badly behind with the Horizon zines, and picked up the last 5 plus 'Power' which is one of the most attractively produced A5 zines I've seen. #18 worth of reading material which I knew would last me about four hours <sigh!> I'd also been tasked to get presents for a variety of people who lurve B7 but won't admit it, so spent some happy time shopping.

Spotted on someone's name badge that she was the winner of the fiction competition in the con zine, so stopped to congratulate her. She was understandably confused at this complete stranger burbling at her as she had had no idea she'd won!! This was when I discovered the third best thing about conventions - complete strangers will be happy to start chatting to you and suggest that you tag along for a bit! We went into the Jackie Pierce and Stephen Greif panel.

I think everyone's heard the main bits of these: JP told a truly hilarious story about cannabis and SG appears to be no older than he was in 1978. Scary stuff...

When the panel ended I headed off to do a little wandering round and bumped into Caroline! 'Come to the best and worst of B7 panel!' she said. So off we went.

Great fun. Since Matthew is a die-hard Dr Who fan and *doesn't like* 'Rumours' (sick! sick!) I don't get to chat at length about B7 all that often. It was great to have the opportunity to talk with people who were absolutely on the same wave-length - even if some didn't like 'Sarcophagus': the anti-fantasy 'elf-haters' (you know who you are!!)

As the panel wound up I once again admitted in public that I like 'Animals'. I really must stop doing this. Those of you who subscribe to 'Altazine' will get to read the pathetic defence surrounding this as one of the people I bumped into was Neil Faulkner, and I promised that I would write something for him. Honest, guv! ;)

I was getting a little worried by this time as I *still* hadn't found Sarah and my zines were burning a hole behind reception. Fortunately the gods were smiling on Una this weekend, and I walked straight out of the panel and straight into Sarah. A luncheon party consisting of Sarah, myself, and Alison and Iain somehow convened and we duly buggered off to get some grub and chat.

Iain and I had been carrying on some long correspondence off the lists about science and truth (like you do!) and I was able to apologize for not replying to his most recent missive on the grounds that I was lazy and that he'd floored me. Don't worry, Iain, an offensive is being prepared! Talk moved from plasma physics to politics to Scotland to why are we suddenly not hungry? Iain disappeared off to go to Chris Boucher's workshop which I had assumed was going to be packed and hadn't bothered to try and get a ticket for. D'OH!! But this meant that I had time to have a proper chat with Alison and Sarah.

I retrieved my zines from reception once we'd admitted defeat over the food and we spent some happy time pawing copies of LPF newsletters, convention programmes from EdgeCon (1982), IMIPAK newsletters, and other little gems from the early 1980s, which my brother had kindly given to me about 3 or 4 years ago. Sarah was transfixed! I shimmied off briefly whilst she was in a trance-like state to pick up some final goodies, and contrived to bump into more people who until now had been only names; this time Kathryn Andersen, who had once very kindly printed some of my poetry. As we chatted about what else I'd done I mentioned 'The Aquitar Files'. Kathryn said that she'd seen someone wearing an 'Aquitar Files' T-shirt. 'That would be me!' said a third voice - Reba Bandyopadhyay! Talk about serendipity! Reba was someone else that I had wanted to actually meet across the weekend! I was now reaching a stage of sensory overload!!

The three of us talked fanfic shop for a little while - likes, dislikes, opinions. Again, how brilliant to be able to talk to people that you've only known by repute or electronically. How sorry I am that I only had time for such brief yet intensely fascinating conversations. Kathryn had to disappear off, and Reba and I continued our talk as we moved out to the photoshoot. Outside I caught up with Pita and her family and Crispin Bateman, the hugely impressively literary Oxford B7 contingent!! How galling to have to admit Oxford superiority! Time for some Cambridge reprisals, I think!

It was getting close to being time for my taxi to the station, so I snuck quickly into the exhibition and had a quick foray round. My final pleasant surprise of the day - also taking in the exhibition was a friend whom I hadn't seen since 1989 when we were both members of the Horizon North West Local Group, and who recalled my appalling performance at a New Year's Eve Party now too long ago... How wonderful to see old friends. I then scurried back to the restaurant where Sarah, slightly dazed, was coming to the end of cataloguing my 80s zines. We packed up and headed towards the bar where I stocked up on supplies for my trip home and indulged in some final chat with some Space Citizens including Jenni in a beautiful version of Jenna's blue gown, and who filled me in on Brian Lighthill's talk. Got to take some snaps of people to remember them by, and then it was time for my taxi! :(

Over to Stoke station. Felt tired but elated. What a wonderful 24 hours. How friendly and interesting people are. How much I look forward to seeing people again and spending more time in your company. This was my first B7 convention, and the first convention that I've been to by myself, and I *loved* every minute of it!

Next stop Redemption!

BTW, the zines did only last me 4 hours. This monster needs permanent feeding!!

Una ;)

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