Chris is on the left of this Photo, Janet is on the right (Neil Faulkner is in the middle).
See also Chris's Limericks and Poems.
Rumour has it that a Klingon splinter group from Wales overran the Ashford branch of Sainsbury's on Saturday afternoon, taking their severed arm with them. They claimed to have got it from the frozen meat compartment, but the cashier couldn't find a bar code.
There was so much going on at Redemption that reports are bound to differ, but I doubt anyone who witnessed it could fail to remark on the balletic grace demonstrated by Steve and his dancing partner when they took to the floor at Servalan's behest on Saturday night. John Travolta, eat your heart out. I also doubt whether there were many people who didn't themselves raid Sainsbury's and its cash machines over the weekend. It really is very thoughtful of the hotel to have a hypermarket built next door.
My memory of the con is hazy and I didn't write anything down at the time, so please forgive me if I've misrepresented anyone or anything.
Fell out of bed at 5.15am as I was attending a seminar (work, not pleasure) in London before going on to Ashford. An hour later I was sitting with a polystyrene cup of instant coffee on a windy railway station platform, contemplating a sign that warned me to "stand back as high speed trains pass this platform." This was bad news as I had hoped they would stop.
Aha, they do, that's a relief. Travel tip for North Easterners - always book a seat on a train that starts in Newcastle rather than in Scotland. There is geographically less chance of encountering all those common hazards; highland cattle on the line, vandals digging up the track at Alnwick, running out of electricity.... I lugged my bags over to the train door and pressed the sign when illuminated, as requested by the notice. Grammar is not train companies' strong point, is it? I was not illuminated and as far as I know, never have been. Sounds like a Hendrix song - "Have you ever been illuminated?"
The sun rose over Doncaster and the train stopped. A stern voice reminiscent of Space Commander Travis came over the intercom, "This train is NOT the West Country Express - I repeat.." Okay, okay. I read my seminar notes, then dug out the convention update and read it properly for the first time. What's a Drazi? At Stevenage the train stopped again but only to allow customers to alight (railspeak for let passengers get off). Travis warned people daring to get on that they would be charged the full fare from York, so there!
Walking to the seminar I passed a fish mongers with a whole halibut displayed. I love halibut but had never seen a whole one before. What a shame I couldn't buy it, but I didn't think anyone at the Space City party would have thought to bring a fish kettle. I got to Ashford mid-afternoon and having checked in, dived out to Sainsbury's for party comestibles. If you're read my account of the Hosts of Rebecca trip, you'll understand why I got a fit of the giggles at the cheese counter when a woman standing next to me said reproachfully that she had been going to buy the remaining lump of Farmhouse Leicester I'd just asked for. As she was younger and better looking than me, I bought it regardless.
I dumped the shopping and went to do a spell on the registration desk but Val alerted me to some photos in the dealers room and kindly said she would stay put while I went for a look. What's more, when I got back - without having bought anything but looking is nice - she gave me a chocolate biscuit. Registration wasn't overly onerous with three of us. Val crossed out names, Linda found badges, I handed out bags and sold the odd raffle ticket. We didn't know what the prize was but people paid up anyway.
The badges were green or purple (lilac really but don't let Steve and Judith hear you) according to the team of Drazi to which you belonged. A glance at the list showed that almost all the people I wanted to meet had either already arrived or would arrive the following day. Some turned up to chat - you would have thought they'd have something more exciting to do as the programme was already rolling. I think they were really en route to Sainsbury's and too polite to hurtle through the door without saying hi.
Julia put in an appearance in dashing evening dress, coat tails and all, no less. Perfect for the registration desk, where the doors made life a touch chilly, but as is usually the case some of the other rooms were overly hot. Deborah departed to do her stint in a workshop entitled An American in Ashford (Kent, not Middlesex) What do Brits and Americans like in each other's tv? I would have liked to hear this, but there are always clashes in interesting con timetables.
I got my first look at Londo Mollari. Not having seen B5 I didn't recognise the character but that really didn't matter. Lesley should have a special award for maintaining her performance so wonderfully throughout the con. Judith flew past at intervals. We ate more chocolate biscuits, drank more tea, and wondered how Richard (Proctor) was faring in his epic zine-laden drive from Dorset to Ashford through a filthy night. Bringing the news from Ghent to Aix - or is it the other way round? - was as nothing by comparison. A guy came up requesting his mobile phone from under the table. I was about to say eh? when the penny belatedly dropped that it was Mr Croucher. I should have looked more closely at that last con report.
Nicola turned up later that expected, bloody but unbowed (metaphorically speaking) having braved National Express through the London rush hour and got stuck behind a Plaxton coach. Fatal. But where was my room mate, Janet? Sheelagh and Joe arrived, wearing their customary friendly smiles and in Sheelagh's case, a covetable leather jacket. Alison (?) pointed out that the sandwiches had cute names. BLT = Blake loves Travis, and I think there was a Vila's surprise. What were the others?
It was getting close to opening ceremony time, so Linda closed registration. Janet was still not in evidence, but rail travel is never kind to her, especially at Wolverhampton, so I wasn't very surprised. Almost eight o'clock and I hadn't been to the bar yet; what were things coming to? Just time to get a quick half in the cheaper bar, where I bumped into Paula, then into the main hall where tables and chairs were arranged companionably around the room.
Chris O'Shea did a great job as MC, beginning with witty and brief introductions - for example, "Brian Croucher needs no introduction, so he's not getting one." Then a big cheer for the Gareth cut-out which had arrived courtesy of Richard just in time for the festivities. David Walsh aka Servalan announced that she would be revealing a new gown the following night and invited us to guess from which episode it was copied. Answers into a box at registration, the winner to get a mystery prize. Knowing Servalan, rather you than me.
We also met (it was at the opening ceremony, wasn't it?) the other contenders for Ruler of the Universe, a position that had become vacant following the unexpected demise of the Red Dalek. The tall figure of the Sandman, impressively lugubrious in his flowing coat; Londo Mollari's wonderfully throaty delivery; Buck Rogers boldly managing without a costume, and managing rather well; the exquisite Emperor Cartagia languidly wafting his scented handkerchief.
Steve introduced some mixer games. Knowing nothing of B5, it didn't take long for me to get knocked out of the first game, even if was traipsing behind someone who thought she knew the answers - ha! During the second game I spotted Janet when half way down the room in pursuit of a man not wearing trainers, a lager drinker, someone who lives north of Watford etc; I thought finding a Klingon would kill a few birds with one stone, though I didn't think asking one about black underwear would be wise.
Janet and I were a little late for the quiz as she needed a revivifying cigarette after her train journey. We knew we wouldn't know the answers to any non-B7 questions anyway, and also managed to get some of the B7 ones wrong, too. Well, who has time for trivia when you're gazing into a pair of lovely brown eyes? Not that Janet is staring into the correct ones, you understand. (Judith - Chris is a dedicated Vila fan) I keep trying to tell her Avon is a pain but she takes no notice. Drip tea on her Vila fridge magnet and she just smiles benignly. Drip tea on Avon and you're dead.
A brief visit to our room to put on my Liberator earrings and some badges - Glad to be Sad, Clouseau fans against the Beumb, Gareth's Gorillas, etc (Should fans of other actors institute similar badges, and if so, what animals shall we be? Michael's Marmosets? Paul's Platypuses? David's Deer, Brian's Boll Weevils....) I forbore to wear my honorary Tarrant Nostra badge out of respect for she who bestowed it upon me, as I am not actually a member. The Space City party, hosted by Alison and Una whom God bless, was very wonderful though as in the Past I failed to meet a number of the Space Citizens wedged into the room.
The Space City party's the place
To put each new name with a face
But we drinkers of Soma
Think the name's a misnomer
For the one thing there isn't, is space.
I seem to remember Jenni referring to a dry martini in honour of Vila - what happened? There were mysterious shrieks and assorted gurgling noises coming from the corner, but I was listening breathlessly to Hanneke's heart-rending account of the fate of the Tarrant clones. Mind you, it was probably just as well they were quarantined at Gatwick because there was absolutely no room for all seventeen in there. I would offer to retrieve them in the interests of international sisterhood but sadly I live a long way from Gatwick.
Having been awake for a very long time I found I was flagging by 12.30am, so we decided to have a comparatively early night. Must be fresh for the next morning's cricket match. The early night turned into a chat until around 2.30, but don't they always?
After breakfast we bought a tape each from Sheelagh in case they should disappear by lunchtime. Then it was time for the highlight of the weekend, the cricket match run by fandom's stern-eyed scorer, Harriet. How she could keep track of what's happening in games as action-packed as this I do not know. Sadly it was time tabled against three panels I would have enjoyed; what B7 would have been like had it been made in the USA, and B5 ditto in Britain; the relationship between Servalan and Travis; SF fans - post modern ironists or sad bastards? This last one of Una's should get the prize for best title. However, cricket has to come first, sorry guys.
At Whos7 the match had been at Central Control between B7 and the Federation, with dire results for Blakes X1. I still have nightmares about getting Blake out for a duck in the first innings. This time the match was on the Drazi homeworld between Blakes X1 and a Babylon 5 X1. The strengths and weaknesses of the Babylon 5 X1 were a mystery to me, but happily the other participants were not so ignorant. This time Harriet had cut out photos of the protagonists, which greatly added to the verisimilitude of the proceedings although the poses adopted by the cut-outs were not always quite appropriate. We, the participants, got to gallop the batspersons up and down the pitch but kept forgetting to swap the wicket keeper at the end of each over; this resulted more than once in Orac stumping an opponent from the far wicket, a considerable feat even for him. Initially only a few people watched, but as tension mounted more were drawn in, hungry for action and excitement.
Jenna and Tarrant opened the innings for Blakes X1 and did worthy service. Jenna's technique was particularly impressive, given that her hand were placed firmly on her hips all the while she batted for her 52 runs. Her hair was not tied back either; was this wise? Lyta and Ivanova opened the bowling. Lyta also did without hairbands, while Ivanova went one better and did without arms; the cut-out had a severe case of Venus de Milo syndrome, a bit of a bummer if you want to be a fast bowler.
Around us other things were happening. Londo was around looking for votes, as was the Sandman, who seen at closer quarters bore a startling resemblance to one of our number who was supposedly organising wall games in the game room. Must've been a clone. That long swishy coat had class, whatever Servalan said about her competitors' dress sense.
At midday rain or bad light or something stopped play when people went to see Sheelagh's celebrated blooper reel. Trooping through the bar we waved to the Gareth cut-out ensconced at the end of the bar. I'd seen the blooper reel before, but not at close quarters. Michael still hadn't quite got the hang of that magic trick, the Space Rats still couldn't get their bikes going, at least not at the same time, and Dayna was still struggling to get the buggy started. Obviously the Space Rats failed to their vehicles regularly serviced. Bring on Intergalactic Breakdown. Avon looks so much nicer when he giggles.
Sheelagh also told us one or two new anecdotes, the best being the daffodil saga. Back in the 70s the BBC was filming a serial based on Richard Llewelynn's novel How Green was My Valley. Filming took place near Sheelagh's south Wales home and included a pivotal scene involving a crippled boy picking daffodils on the hillside. As it was then October, getting daffodils presented a problem, so a bunch was flown all the way from Australia. On arrival the Aussie daffs were shoved in a bucket of water and driven through the night (actually Sheelagh didn't say through the night, I just thought it added to the impact of the narrative) down to Wales.
Unfortunately the bucket was sat next to the heater and the daffodils were pronounced dead on arrival. Subsequent ingenious attempts to film the scene with artificial ones foundered. Close-ups of the boy's face, hair blowing in the wind, also showed ramrod straight daffodils. Various attempts to induce bending all failed - apparently it takes a lot of nail scissors and crew to cut into the leaves of a hillside's worth. In the end miniature narcissi were used - another triumph for ingenuity.
Back in the corridor, the election flyers were proliferating. "No Sacrifice is Too Great!" announced the Emperor Cartagia, wisely not specifying whose sacrifice he had in mind. "New Centauri, New Danger! Vote Buck. Don't pass the Buck, Vote Him!" said another, issued on behalf of the official sleaze candidate by Beedlebrox Enterprises & Earth Directorate. While in the ladies' I came upon a book quiz clue on the back of the third cubicle to the left, the only one I saw in the whole weekend.
Now for "Animals - a forgotten classic?" I was allegedly running this panel with Neil and Una. It meant missing David on The Alternative Servalan, sadly. As with most panels the discussion displayed a tendency to wobble along and then lurch off into other directions, rather like a spacecraft in B7. Una, who had brought along her study results, got as far as saying "I've done some research -" Voyager was dragged into the discussion but happily discussions of Avon's feet - own up, all you foot fetishists - ultimately saved the day.
I forget precisely what else was said, but with any luck those present will either remember or will have forgotten entirely and therefore be unable to contradict me with confidence. Neil, who likes to live dangerously, suggested that Rumours of Death was a crap episode, but as far as I know rumours of his own at the hands of Avon fans are premature. While I don't actually agree with this - neither does Neil, I fancy - it seems a reasonable way to get a discussion going. Personally I think that Avon is far more fetching in his prison clothes than in all that tedious leather.
Quite a number of Avon fans found minor faults with Rumours, principally that Anna was a mistake and one of them would have been much better in the role. One even went so far as to say - though not about this episode - that Avon was dead smug and deserved an occasional smack in the mouth. Wow - radical stuff!!! Animals did get examined, the general opinion being that it lacked a certain something, in fact several certain somethings, a coherent plot for one. You almost wish for Brian the Spider to appear, in order to give the episode some depth.
Neil or Una got us talking about what makes a good B7 episode. Well now, leaving aside Avon's bare tootsies, there are certain classic features which we just cannot do without; the quarry, a wobbly robot, a nuclear power station and/or a gasworks, tunnels, a corridor (one will suffice), more tunnels, a spiral staircase, and a script by Nation, Boucher or Holmes.
I think I'll add some of my own. More Blake would be nice. Even nicer, restoration of the missing scene in City where Vila and Kerril um erhh - are there any children reading this? Closer camera shots in Horizon when Blake and Vila have their shirts off. A scene where Avon cleans out ballast tanks......
Following that I went back onto registration for an hour while in the bar the tribble hunt got under way. Things were fairly quiet except when a Klingon dash past and deposited a tribble on the table in the popular belief that the best place to hide something is in full view. This was disproved within minutes as a passing hunter swooped down and bore it off in triumph. Was the tribble bomb ever found?
Next came a visit to Robert and Ellie's bring and buy sale, ably mc'ed by young master Baskerville who also performed a neat dance on the table. Having bought some zines we went back to our room for a coffee and a quick snack before we forgot to eat again. A man passed us carrying Data's head. Returning to the fray, I noticed someone with more wit than knowledge of Latin had added "Ave Imperator tu mortorant salutant" to Cartagia's flyer. I wasn't carrying a pen but then I was fairly sure I could leave corrections to Harriet.
Next to it was "Citizens of the Universe - Want to save your homeworld? Your people? Yourself? Want it all back - how it was? Then vote for Mollari. Londo Mollari You Know it makes sense." Well, that seems to cover all eventualities and is a more entertaining alternative than Mr Blair's mysterious Third Way. Glanced briefly in the Mountbatten bar, still ably being propped up by Mr Thomas.
Back to the reconvened cricket match while Janet went off for a sauna. Next time I'll remember this hotel has a pool and bring a swimsuit. The Babylon 5 team were doing their stuff. The incapacitated Ivanova was fairly 'armless still, Sinclair wore a nice belt buckle which got in the way of his hook shot, Delenn seemed more interested in caressing her hair - maybe she was hoping to be signed for a L'Oreal Ad. Blakes X1 were looking unwontedly grim, even Vila. Gan was the only person in either team who managed a half smile.
I got so involved with the game that I forgot to go to David Walsh's panel on Realism in Slash, so I hope someone with a better memory and a reliable watch will tell us what was said. At 6pm I was down to run a filking workshop, but as only two people had turned up by 6.15, one of whom was expecting a live music rather than a filk-writing session, it didn't take place. I hope the gentleman found what he wanted at the filk proper session later. The other person was Nicola, who being a friend allowed me to return to see how my team was getting on. I did divulge the secrets of writing a filk to her - pick a tune and then fit the words in - on the way downstairs.
Later Janet and I had the turkey pie in the restaurant then went to watch the fancy dress and cabaret, joining some Space Citizens near the stage. We speedily discovered that sitting at the side table near the stage was a bad idea as some spotlights were directly opposite, but never mind. The fancy dress started very promisingly with a splendid rendition, adapted for Blake s 7, of the apt prologue (never mind the lack of decent scenery, use your imagination)to Shakespeare's Henry V. The guy delivering it bore a striking resemblance to Ian McKellen in Richard 111. All the costumes were impressive, especially to someone who doesn't know one end of a needle from the other until it's too late.
The cabaret was a hoot, particularly the BBC sketch and the "Don't follow him, have me" song - I'm sorry I can't remember all the people involved. It climaxed with Mr Walsh, resplendent in his new frock, utilising "I Just Want to make love to you." There's a man who knows how to swing his boa (as in feather, not snake). He got some couples on their feet - well, would you say Sorry luv, I'm a bit knackered after the tribble hunt, to the Supreme Commander? Steve, who had metamorphosed into a Klingon, partnered a Conspirator in flowing robes and together they tripped the light fantastic, in Steve's case literally but I gather he survived the crash.
We went back to change for the Rocky Horror/Glam rock disco, nothing too lurid you understand, as we have reached that certain age. We stopped for a drink and cigarette in the Florentine bar where such depravity is allowed, and thereby missed the Time Warp - oh dear, what a pity. Inside the hall there was plenty of evidence that Oxfam's retro rails had been raided across the land, and soon the floor was covered with bits of glitter and stray boa feathers. Space citizens were well in evidence, and just who was that ravishing platinum blonde with the great legs seated so close to Ellie?
After a few dances it was time for another cigarette so it was back to the other bar, where we chatted to Neil for a few minutes about such fannish things as slicing cabbages and hospital closures. We went back into the disco, giving Gareth a hug in passing, but the music had changed and after a few minutes we gave up on it and went back to the Florentine bar. We were still there at 2am when we were politely but firmly told it was time, ladies, please. Back in the room I fell asleep over the first story in Janet's newly acquired Avon the Terrible.
Having forgotten to put out the Do Not Disturb sigh we had to repel boarders who wanted to clean us up around 9am. My room mate was galvanised into action with minutes to go before breakfast was to be whisked away. Having dealt with the grease crisis, we panicked on seeing the fruit had been taken away. Desperate straits require desperate remedies. Janet went in pursuit of the manager, who promised to have a word with chef - I hadn't realised you needed a chef's permission to retrieve a grapefruit. Soon after a waitress appeared with two bowls of fruit, both holding about three times the amount we wanted, but we felt morally obliged to shovel it al down.
The shock news that Gareth had vanished overnight reverberated along the boulevard. Shortly afterwards a notice appeared in the Mountbatten "The Greens have Gareth and we want 500 Drazi points. Double votes scored for Servalan or we let him audition for East Enders!" My God, what sort of people were we lilac - I mean purple - Drazi dealing with here? Had they no sense of decency? Much perturbed, we had another coffee.
I'd meant to go to either Joe or Sheelagh's talk, but had left it too late, and anyway it was nearly time to continue the second innings in the cricket match. Janet opted to go to Sainsbury's for a paper and was not seen again for some time - just can't handle the excitement of Avon's fine cut. I found a bit of paper with a limerick for the wall competition that I'd forgotten to deposit, so I dropped it into the games room just in time. I forget what it said but the last line was something about visiting my villa in Spain.
I stayed put most of the morning as Blake X1 roared to an emphatic win. Vir, who had one arm more than Ivanova, and Kosh (have I spelt that correctly?) didn't last long, and even if Marcus will live for the one and die for the one, he couldn't manage to hit a 6 (I don't know what this means, actually, but I'm told it's a good B5 joke). Did I say that Vila hit a 6? The match drew some discerning support during the morning. Una grasped the need for constant supplies of chocolate, and one gentlemen rightly insisted on changing the field placings for left handed batspersons.
Noon brought the Sex in Space panel, sadly clashing with another panel I would have liked to attend, Paula's "Psycho or Sicko? Was Avon off his trolley?" I love this medical terminology, don't you? The door said over-eighteens only but young master Baskerville was allowed in on the grounds (false) that he was over eighteen months. In the event he was seen a few minutes later voting with his feet and trying to turn the door handle. This panel was great fun too, and I wish I could remember precisely what was said. I know we voted overall for off-stage rather than explicit sex scenes as it leaves more to the imagination, and you know the sort of imaginations we've got. The only specific remark I can remember is Alison proposing a Vila/Ripley story - she'll eat him for breakfast, for pity's sake!
We had a drink in the Mountbatten where a new notice was now displayed. It was the script from the projected East Enders scene in which Gareth was to appear, a scene set in the pub where the regulars were talking in eastenderese, know what I mean, like, and "Mr Blake" had the memorable line, "May I have a pint please?"
The Ruler of the Universe contest was my favourite event of the con. All the candidates did brilliantly, their prepared speeches outshone only by their ad-libbing. Again, I forget the details, except for Servalan's remarking of the Sandman that we shouldn't vote for a man who's asleep on the job.
Mollari and Cartagia were also summarily dismissed by the lady as being ineligible through lack of dress sense. The audience asked a lot of searching questions about voting systems and Frankenstein foods. On the first, Cartagia had difficulty grasping the concept of voting, and Servalan was evidently bored. On the second, if I remember rightly, the Sandman said he didn't eat anyway, Buck Rogers preferred burgers, Mollari recommended an alien cuisine - help me out here, Babylon V fans - and Servalan didn't give a damn what we ate as long as we got our nice pylene-50. What, they were asked, did they intend doing to retrieve Gareth Thomas? Was it Buck Rogers who said he'd be bound to return automatically to the bar so why bother? Servalan assured us he was awaiting her in her pleasure dungeon. Predictably Servalan was the victor, helped by her henchman Travis who pointedly pointed his finger at us as we voted. He was then ordered back to the pleasure dungeon until it was his turn.
We had a bite to eat and thus missed the first half of the auction and Gareth's triumphant return. We would've liked to bid for him, but as Janet sensibly pointed out, it would have been Hell carrying him across London on the Northern Line, and that's before I realised how heavy her case was with those curlers and Avon the Terrible. Also, although we could have just about afforded him, we couldn't afford to keep him in the beer to which he is accustomed. Alas! We shed a quiet tear later in the privacy of our room.
It can't be time for the closing ceremony already? But I don't want it to be! Well, tough. Time to say thank you and goodbye to lots of good people. Servalan and Mollari made a surprise announcement; Servalan had decided that she was much too busy shopping and having her nails sharpened to rule the universe so she was marrying Mollari and letting him get on with it.
After consultation with the committee I had cancelled my last panel, "Movie Madness" because it clashed with the stewards party. I didn't think people would be around anyway, but apparently I was wrong. Sorry, folks. Another time perhaps? I had made some notes so perhaps we can have a casting game soon. The Steward's party offered a feast of leftovers and we dined well on a Danish pastries, half a sausage and some salsa, and I wondered why nobody had opened the wine yet. There was a raffle in which just about everybody won something, none more deservedly than the incomparable head stewards Ivan and Sasha. Sheelagh, Joe and Jane appeared with Sheelagh's baby Orac, some photos and a costume head which made you very glad you were not the actor who had to wear it.
The remainder of the evening was passed in talking to those still present and in a moderately upright position, before collapsing into bed in the early hours. I was woken by car alarm around 5.30am and failed to get back to sleep. I thought putting on the reading light might disturb my friend - as if anything short of Star One exploding or Avon teleporting into our midst could manage it - so I was forced to lay back and think up a nice fantasy until daybreak.
Having not packed the previous night, it was high time to do it now. Despite acquiring only three zines, some badges and a tape, my bag seemed mysteriously heavier than when I arrived. I had also packed up all the remaining uneaten food, except for the Danish Blue which we thought really was past Redemption.
So when's Redemption II?
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