Back home at last! One of the last travellers to depart and one of the last to return. I presume that everyone else has told their story so if you're bored senseless with travel stories and Deliverance con reports, just hit the DELETE key okay?
WARNING: Blatant name dropping! Hope I've spelt everybody's name correctly! The whole thing is written from memory weeks after the event, so there is a chance that some people have been misnamed, misspelled or miscredited. Sorry 'bout that.
I didn't actually have any money for the trip, so down paid for it with a combination of loading up credit cards, IOUs and rubber cheques, some of which spectacularly bounced roof high but only after I was safely out of the country.* Originally I was going to travel about England with someone else who also had no money and who therefore, reluctantly, dropped out. This caused the British phase to be reduced and a rather less expensive American holiday to be substituted. On an earlier voyage, I had circumnavigated the globe travelling east. This time, I would circumnavigate travelling west.
* Whenever I need moral advice on matters like this, I ask myself: "What would Avon do in this situation?"
Melbourne to London is a long flight. First there was a six hour flight to Singapore, mostly over Australia. An hour stop over there was consumed watching the X-Files on the big screen. When we reboarded the aircraft to take off again, there was a delay. In loading containers on the plane, the last one did not fit. There was a lot of third world types milling about trying to understand the problem. Airplane containers are shaped to fit neatly in the hold and clearly the last remaining container was a forward container and they were trying to load it into the rear hold. The only thing for it was to unload and reload. This took about 30 minutes. However, it would exert a butterfly effect over the first phase of my Autumn holiday. The immediate effect was a 30 minute delay waiting for a new takeoff slot.
Singapore to London is 16 air hours, making it a 22 hour flight in all. Arrived at about half past seven local time. The delay meant that I had missed my connecting flight to Manchester. Heathrow Airport is a very confusing place and the area outside the terminal in particular is absolutely chaotic due to construction work. The next flight to Manchester was overbooked, so they put me on the one after in two hours time.
I bought some batteries for the mobile phone. It must've been accidentally switched on at some point because the main battery was flat. This proved to be a very useful accessory in England, although of course it was merely dead weight in the United States. I hadn't brought the recharger for this reason. I always travel with some cash for the destination at hand, including some coins for vending machines. Changing money at airports is always a bad idea but you often need to buy things there, especially if one is laid over. Nowadays, the best source of cash is the ATM. You can draw money straight from your account in Australia! In Seattle, I could even get a balance on the account back home (in US dollars).
I've never been through the domestic terminal at Heathrow before and with careful planning, I hope to avoid ever having to go through it again. The place is old fashioned, dirty and why anyone wastes a fag lighting up is beyond me when you can simply breathe and thereby inhale a whole packet full for nothing.
On arrival in Manchester, my bags are missing. So is 20 other people's. As a body, we go over to the counter and fill in our missing luggage forms. Is it reassuring that British Airways have a lost luggage hotline number? Missing is my sleeping bag and bag containing (mainly) changes of clothes. With me is my airline regulation sized carry bag containing my camera, films, tickets, passport, toiletries and clothes for the weekend. Theoretically, I can live out of the carry bag for the weekend.
There's nothing for it though, but to press on. I collect my transport, a shiny, red Fiat Pinto*. It's a manual, automatic transmission not having been invented in England yet. Annoyingly, there is no street directory either. However the staff at the rental car company provide a sketch map with pencilled in directions. These prove to be fairly useless but I do find the M6 motorway. It goes in two directions: "Preston" and "Birmingham". The directions say to take "Birmingham" so I do. Every time I have to stop, I scan my motorway map of England until I found Preston north-west of Manchester. To navigate the motorways, you need to have at least some idea where all the towns are.
* Holden Barina
The motorway is very busy. I'm used to having a quarter mile to myself on the Hume back home. There is a lot of traffic. It takes me a while to realise that the road signs are in miles and miles per hour. The trucks all seem to have "long vehicle" signs on them whether they are long or not. Most are small but there are also full sized singles and doubles plying the motorway. I soon find Stoke and go into the town centre.
I've no idea where the Moat House is, so I stop at Tourist Information. A local asks me for directions, which I provide. Just once I'd like to go to Europe and not be asked for directions by the locals. Australian tourists seem to have carved out a reputation for knowing where everything is. I get directions to the Moat House, but I still have a hard time finding it, because it takes me a few minutes to realise that Festival Park is a shopping mall rather than a park with trees!
I should explain here that so as to arrive at Deliverance ready to party, I asked my travel agent to book me a room in Stoke on the Thursday night. He normally only does conventions but did the bookings for me as a friend. So it did not come as a complete surprise that I should be booked into the Moat House for Thursday night as well, at a rate somewhat higher than the convention rate but much lower than the posted room rates. Naturally, the fact that you've just spent 26 hours travelling and are dead tired doesn't alter the fact that the Moat House has a 3pm check in.* I have to wait an hour. So I went shopping in Festival Park. Every time a shop assistant spoke I was forced to ask them to repeat themselves.
* Considered generous in England, where even 4pm check ins are not uncommon.
The Moat House room was excellent. Clean, neatly furnished, reasonably large, with great facilities. Just the same as a top notch room back home except that there was no minibar but I've never been in an English hotel that had one. I had a brief nap, shave and shower and set out to explore the hotel. There was no sign of other convention goers but the organisers were setting up in the office equipment area. I had to phone British Airways from the lobby because the Moat House charges 30p per minute for local calls from the room!* They had no news on the fate of my bags, but were confident that they would find them. I found the gym and pool. Open from 6am to 10pm! Unfortunately, I then realised that my gym gear was in the bag. However, I bought a pair of bathers at the desk and swam 50 laps. In the spa afterwards, I chatted with some of the other clientele, all locals rather than guests.
* You can call England from Australia for less**
** The mobile phone(!) was also cheaper so I used that a couple of times
"Fandom is friendship" --- Sheelagh Wells
Bounced out of bed early and had a morning swim, then went to breakfast. There was this good looking blonde American there. Mustering all my courage, I went over and introduced myself. She turned out to be Alicia Ann Fox. Joined by Yolande Rufiange and Cathie from Montreal, we had a thoroughly enjoyable breakfast. By sheer good fortune I had run straight into three of the friendliest people in the whole world. I'd never been to a media con before and this greatly increased my confidence in approaching my fellow fans and eased a few worries about whether I would enjoy the experience.
Not much to do except call British Airways. They had found my bags and were sending them to the Moat House! I let the desk know. Spent most of that morning chatting to two new faces, Paul Vought and Elaine Nichols. Elaine is from Armadale, Scotland and has this wonderful, musical accent. A length, we went and registered. The id cards were really good, with names on them writ large so you could read them from a respectable distance. Shoe laces were used to hang the id cards around your neck.* The velcro on mine immediately failed so I had to tie it. Elaine showed me how to restring the card so it hung straight. The kit contained a programming guide, a brochure and a fanzine.
* David Maloney had the organisers issue him with two ids so that he had a pair of shoe laces.
In the registration area I met Deborah Rose, Julia Jones, Steve Rogerson and Val Westall for the first time. Then I went and had a look through the dealers' tables, meeting Louise Rutter and her SO, Tom Forsyth, who recognised my name from the net! We spoke for a time there. Most of the stuff on sale was outrageously priced but I bought some Dr Who tapes for 6 pounds each and copies of the radio plays "The Mark of Kane", "The Logic of Empire" and "Sevenfold Crown".
I went to the first session of the day, David Maloney's "An Actor's Day on Location". It was held in the "Alternate Program", a small room holding about 60 in this heritage house attached to the hotel. I'd never really thought much about the actor's craft. I'd much rather write or direct, it better suits my temperment.*
A crowd started to for up outside, so I minded Mary O'Connor's seat while she fetched her autograph book and then she minded mine while I went back to my room to get my video covers. I'd come up with the idea of getting them signed while talking to Kathryn Andersen last Christmas. On leaving the room I discovered that Gareth had somehow gotten stuck in the lift! I couldn't quite grasp why he was using it when we were only two floors up but no doubt incidents like this were adding a few grey hairs to the organisers' locks. When Gareth finally made his appearance, beer in one hand, he protested "It wasn't me! I didn't touch a thing!" Gareth was very witty, leaving most of the talking to David Maloney and then jumping in with the one liners.
Afterwards, there was an autograph session. I collected autographs from Jacqueline Pearce, David Jackson, Peter Tuddenham, Chris Boucher, David Maloney and Gareth Thomas. The guests were arranged along the side and the front of the small room. You filed past each guest, collecting autographs. Unfortunately, Gareth just loved to chat to every fan he met. He was a really wonderful guy, and great to talk to, but this tended to slow things down a bit. Gareth, seconded by the other guests, volunteered to stay for as long as it took to get through the whole crowd but the organisers wanted the room for something else and would not hear of it.
Afterwards, I went back, collected my long lost bags from the porter and moved them into my room. I found I was sharing with two other guys rather than one, which surprised them as much as me! Callum lost the toss and got to sleep in the fold up bed.
In the main hall, Stuart Fell, dressed as the most colourful jester you ever saw, had a great time juggling and performing various tricks, including some from Blake's 7 "The Keeper" that he had taught to Michael Keating. It was a sheer delight! Nobody can play the fool like Stuart Fell!* *During a later session he did a back flip just to prove he still had it as a stunt man!
Had supper with Mary O'Connor, still dressed as Jenna. Mary makes her own costumes and wore a different one each day of the conference: the black and white Jenna one, the white Servalan number from "Deliverance" and the green and white Cally. Mary is an incredible talent. In addition to the costume making, Mary can write, draw and paint! (She also looks even better in the Jenna costume than Sally Knyvette did.)
Afterwards, we ambled down to the bar area behind the office where the Quiz was being held. Most of the online contingent was assembled down there in a fairly crowded area. For the first time I saw a familiar face, the ever-cheerful one of Kathryn Andersen, and also several new ones, include Harriet Monkhouse, Jenni (dressed in Avon's silver top), Sarah Thompson and Alison Page. I'd been a bit nervous about running into Alison and Sarah, but they were great. For some reason Alison was dressed in full colour while the rest of Space City was in black and white.
And, standing in the centre of it all was an authoritative figure with short sandy hair dressed in Avon's black and white cossie from the 4th Season. Even though we'd never met, I somehow knew that I was face to face with Judith Proctor. She seemed genuinely pleased to see me and gave me my Space City button.
The quiz itself was incredibly hard! I can't remember the questions* except the one to name the whole crew of the spaceship in "Mission to Destiny" in the order that they died. This had a lot of people exchanging "I thought *you* were the expert" looks. People had a lot of difficulty hearing the compere so Servalan impersonator Dave Walsh (in his white outfit) took over. Can you believe he thought I dyed my roots?
* I hope someone else has posted them.
After the quiz, the Space City contingent kicked on to Jenni's room. At the entrance I found Una McCormack with the costumes I had ordered from her. I gave Una, who is sweet and petite, a 50 pound note and she whistled and proclaimed that she'd never seen one before.* Incredibly, Jarvik's cossie from "Harvest of Kairos" fits me perfectly! It's a blue-grey overall, with big, blue shoulder pads, short sleeves, breast and side pockets and a front zip that comes only halfway up so you can see my chest hair. I wore it several times over the next two days** but kept taking it off for fear I'd spill something on it.
* Every time I hand anyone in England a 20 or 50 pound note they hold it up to the light.
** And again later in Seattle
Boy, does Jenni know how to run a room party! There was a whole bathtub full of beer and ice and a whole spread of cocktails. About two dozen of us packed into Jenni's room, with the guys tending to be up the back, near the beer. Well, somebody had to guard it! I had some swell conversations with Tom Forsyth, Iain Coleman and Val Westall. Val had a portfolio of some of her racier pieces. Looking at the output of artists like Mary and Val, I felt (apart from sheer admiration for their talent) that I have neglected drawing in favour of writing and made a quiet resolution to provide some artwork to go with "Salvage" although of course it can't be posted to Space City, there being (I think) a prohibition on the distribution of binaries. The party ended somewhat early at about 2am and we left Jenni to clean up, her SO Colin having long since passed out.
Despite the late night, I bounced out of bed the next morning, not in the least tired or hung over. Went to the gym, showered and had a hearty free breakfast. Went to the opening ceremony in the Main Hall where I met Una McCormack again. Such a fascinating person! A pity that she could only attend for the one day.
At the opening ceremony,* it was announced that Brian Croucher had an automobile accident and, although unhurt, was so shaken that he would not be attending. This necessitated a series of changes to the schedule. The afternoon session on "The Federation" was brought forward, so we got Jacqueline Pierce and Stephen Greif** in "The Federation". Jacqueline was enjoying playing Servalan, calling everyone "darling" and generally carrying on outrageously. She told a hilarious story about how she had been piked up by UK Customs for possession of cannabis resin. Asked for their favourite episodes, Jackie nominated "Sand" because Servalan got to fool around with Tarrant, while Stephen Greif (who did only 5 episodes although it seems like more!) nominated "Duel".
* Would you believe that Gareth had a beer in his hand at 10am?
** Rhymes with knife.
There was this Aussie in the hall near to me who remembered Stephen Greif from armchair thriller! Remember the episode where the guy picks up his daughter from the airport, but it turns out that he's not her father, he's killed her father and hid the body? Yeah, that one! Well, that was Stephen Greif. Yes, really! Hell, I thought I was going well to remember the episode at all, let alone who was in it. Greif had a grin from ear to ear.
Afterwards, I went to see the exhibition. I bought a copy of the catalogue, a very good buy indeed. It had a kewl painting of the Liberator on the cover. It was very cramped for space and could have done with a much larger hall. There was some sensational stuff there. The Liberator was there, almost unrecognisable after being blown up in "Terminal" but in four bits. Almost all the space ships from the show were there, including The London ("Way Back", "Space Fall", "Cygnus Alpha", "Moloch"), the Nova Queen and Ore Carrier ("Star One"), Servalan's ship ("Animals","Assassin","Warlord") and Keller's ("Sand").* Both the big and tiny ("Gambit") versions of Orac were there, the big version the worse for wear as the batteries had been built into it and had long since deteriorated. There were various guns and teleport bracelets, including the gun that Avon used to kill Blake!
* The souvenir brochure contains a fine shot of an Alien spacecraft that looks suspiciously like two hair driers glued together.
Overshadowing this was the costume display! Oh, for a proper layout where we could oggle them all close up. There were many beautiful originals there, some just on a rack for lack of space. Jenna's blue dress (Jenni looked great in a fine of copy of this one) and red leathers ("Trial","Keeper", "Star One", etc), Avon's silver ("Shadow","Horizon", etc), red leather ("Weapon","Pressure Point",etc), grey leather ("Trial","Hostage",etc) and black (", Cally's grey suede ("Dawn of the Gods"), Soolin's grey jump suit ("Games","Gold",etc) and Servalan's red ("Gambit") and some black and white outfits. A sheer delight!
Went and saw the Blooper reel, quite by accident. Allegedly Sheelagh Wells has the only copy. It was an absolute scream. There was lots of shots of the Liberator falling out of space, of the crew hilariously trying to pile into the vehicle (in "Stardrive"?) but the damn thing refusing to move! (Or moving too early and leaving Avon and Soolin to chase after it), of the Federation troopers unable to get out of a blockhouse (in "Volcano"?) and many other rip snorters.
Turning up for Chris Boucher's session, I was shocked to see a huge queue. At first I thought that Chris' session must be incredibly popular but it was in fact the autograph queue. The stewards gave priority to day visitors over those with three day passes. You could see the pros and cons to this. On the one hand the day visitors had only one day to get their autographs. On the other hand, they were invariably pommies who therefore could collect autographs at any time anyway. The poor stewards took a lot of flak over this but it wasn't their fault, they didn't make up the rules. While waiting I chatted with Calle, our esteemed list administrator and Nikkii, the perennial steward. I didn't volunteer for steward duty because this was my first con. I may do some next time.
I never bothered to get tickets for the workshops because you had to queue up for them and the stewards never once checked them.
I also got Sheelagh Wells' signature on my video cover by going up to her and asking direct. This proved a more effective method than queuing for the sessions.*
* Later I got one off Stephen Greif the same way.
Chris Boucher's session on being a script editor was great! Sadly, Chris is unemployed at the moment and not doing at all well. Seems to have something to do with a personal slight. However, he was very entertaining indeed. "Actors," he explained, "do not read the script. They don't even read their own lines. What they do is count them. So I wind up getting a note from David Jackson that simply says: '6'".
He explained why Avon got all the best lines. "Because Paul Darrow always reads his lines, and never changes them. Am I going to sweat blood writing lines for people who just throw them away? No, I put the minimum effort into those parts, let them write them themselves if they think they're so good at it. I gave Paul all my best lines because I knew that he'd say them."
Alicia Ann Fox asked about the creation of "the episodes we like so much". "Er, which ones are those?" asks Boucher. "All of them!" cried Victoria, swooning. I wanted to reach over and give her a big hug.
Chris went on to talk about "Star One", how he had crafted the episode so Brian Croucher could say "I am Travis", and about his favourite, "Death Watch", because it was like a Western. I couldn't work up the courage to ask about my personal favourite, "Rumours of Death".
The Main Hall was reorganised with a series of tables for the cabaret. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough table space for everybody. First we had the fancy dress, with, amongst others, David Walsh (in black Servalan costume), Mary O'Connor and Judith Proctor and Kathryn Andersen. Prior to the event, Harriet Monkhouse told me that Kathryn (as Avon) would sing a song to Judith (as Blake) and when she got to the word "die", we were to spring up and die. I was sort of stunned. Kathryn Andersen can sing too?
Well can she ever! The word came up with little warning however and I had but moments to spring up, go "gggglllddppp" and sink back into my seat. I would say however, that Kathryn has more followers than Avon, on the face of it. Another class act was David Walsh, who did a great drag show as Servalan in "Priscilla" style.
As for the guests, well actors are not entertainers per say. Jackie told a ripper of a joke involving Cinderella and a melon.* David Jackson did some old time musical hall stuff. Peter Tuddenham had a clever Benny Hill style piece of a politician who never finished his sentences, Stephen Greif read out a children's short story by Oscar Wilde and a WWI poem from Siegfried Sassoon. Sheelagh Wells showed us a video of Blake (Gareth) giving an award to JMS at a con in America. Gareth can sure still play Blake!
* The next day several people could be seen with melons signed by Jackie.
Afterwards a few people roped me into the "Love and Lust on the Liberator" session. Unfortunately, it was cancelled by the organisers at the last minute without warning.
Once again I got up at sparrow fart* and this time went for a run through the surrounding parklands. After breakfast I saw Pat Fenech, Sarah Berry and Sandy Douglas. A long way to travel to meet fans from down under to be sure! Pat was shocked that anyone might want to meet her, and thought I might be on drugs or something.
* Assuming they have sparrows in England.**
** And they have morning flatulence
After breakfast, grabbed my video covers and went along to queue with about 500 others for those elusive autographs. Actually, the ones I wanted were Jan Chappell and Sally Knyvette. Michael wasn't available and I already had all the others. However, the key point was that there wasn't anything to due at this point but hang around and talk to the other fans and I was already doing that! I made a careful count of the number of people in line and the rate of processing and worked out that it would take until past one for us to get our autographs from this far back -- a whole floor below the action! So I would get in, but there was a little doubt that the people I needed would still be there. After a three hour wait, things went right down to the line but Jan and Sally signed my videos on their way out of the room! My calculations were spot on.
Met Reba Bandyopadhyay, who turns out to be a short, feisty American living in exile in England. She had some fun attempting to defend the indefensible.* Paul came along and obviously thought I was being too far soft on Reba, so he gave her a blast with both barrels. Reba battled on gallantly and in the end I think she won our very cheerful and civilised debate.
* ie, Star Trek
We found Elaine inside being interviewed by an English journo. He was incredulous that she had travelled **all the way from Scotland** for the event. I burst out laughing. There was a photo session outside. I went outside with Paul and Elaine and got some pictures of the guests.*
* Gareth is the one with the beer
Listened to the sessions in the Main Hall. "The Women of B7" had Jan, Sally and Jackie. They were of the impression that the female roles in B7 would be better if the show was made today. I wish I could be so sure. They were very frank about it all. "Of course the men had it easier" Jan told us. "Sure the guys look older and fatter and we don't," Sally answered another question. "If we let ourselves go we'd be out of work." Jan and Sally also matter-of-factly acknowledged Jenna's romantic relationship with Blake and Cally's with Avon. "Of course there was sex on the Liberator", Sally quipped. Jackie, however, denied that Servalan was responsible for the Spice Girls. They joked about how David Maloney had problems with their names, as Jan and Sally played Jenna and Cally.
The boys version was fun but less informative. Peter Tuddenham gave Zen, Orac and Slave impersonations and confessed that he'd always wanted to play Doctor Who. Gareth (beer in hand) kept up the one liners, particularly aimed at the absent Paul Darrow while Michael Keating, without saying a word, cleverly played off him with a series of low key facial expressions.
The closing ceremony gave everyone a chance to thank the organisers. Gareth gave a great speech in which he thanked us for being fans and said that they'd be nothing without us fans. It was from the heart and well received, but he was upstaged by Sheelagh Wells, who came up with the perfect sound bite: "Fandom is Friendship". The final entertainment was provided by David Walsh again, this time in the red Servalan outfit.
I ducked out and found Jessica Kindzierski outside. I bought a round of beers and she told me about her work as a comic book colourist. At some point Michael Keating came over and joined us, bumming a cigarette.* He had to make a quick exit when an autograph queue started to form! For the first time, the Main Hall was thrown open to autographs and there were multiple queues for different guests. I would have liked to have gotten duplicates of Jan and Sally's autographs but the queues were too long. However, there was a call for Chris Boucher and David Maloney fans and I went in and had a chat with Chris and David, who, with Terry, were the true creators of the show. At one point the topic of rewriting scripts came up and Chris declined to comment on the rewriting of others' work. I told him that I always attribute the one-liners to him regardless of whose name was on the credits and he beamed and said "Could be!"
Out in the bar area was Nicole van den Berg, dressed as a PsiCorps agent. She didn't recognise my name and asked me if I was online. I said yes and she asked me on which list. Carefully I explained that I was on both lists, plus b7spin. Hmmm, name didn't ring a bell. Then she finally remembered! Slid straight back into my char opposite Jessica. Later Michael quietly rejoined us. He was just wonderful to talk to.
* He's given them up. Well, he's given up buying them anyway.
The next morning, I enjoyed the gym for the last time and had breakfast with Harriet Monkhouse and Ellie Baskerville. Ellie had this really cute little baby boy with her. Harriet wanted to know if I was signed up for "Redemption". Not yet, but it's very tempting. I did order a t-shirt. I asked her why it was called "Redemption" and she said that "Redemption" comes after "Deliverance". But "Orac" comes after "Deliverance"! Well, "Redemption" is the next episode with a snappy title. Anyway, I'd like to go, but I'm kind of committed to travel to the US in September 1999. However, I may be able to make it anyway.
Said goodbye to everyone I could and loaded my bags into the boot of my little red Pinto, parked in the Moat House car park since Thursday. Gareth Thomas wished me good luck from the car park. I slipped "The Logic of Empire" into the car cassette player and headed off for the North.
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