5: APRIL 1983

Sunday 10th April

Visited Chris Atkinson in the Annie Zunz Ward at Middlesex Hospital this afternoon after checking times and like that with Malcolm.

Phoned my parents for the first time since before ALBACON and got the good news that Dad has been given a job in another GKN department, thus avoiding redundancy. This is a huge relief!

I'm just starting to plough my way through the fanzines I received at the con, my brain having been too sleep-deprived to be up to the task prior to this, and found much of interest in Harry and Kev's OUT OF THE BLUE #5. Greg suggested at the Tun on Thursday that their proposed TYNECON '85 should be TYNECON'84 and run opposite the Eurocon, and after reading Kev Williams piece I'm inclined to agree with him.

Later, I phoned Harry and asked if he could do illos for ETA #2 by David Bridges' party next weekend. He hemmed and hawed and refused to commit himself.

Monday 11th April

It's not everyday that you can blame the Luftwaffe for making you late for work, but that certainly happened today. When my tube train reached Tower Hill this morning we were told it wouldn't be stopping at Blackfriars or Temple stations due to an unexploded bomb. Blackfriars is the station I usually alight at, so I got off instead at Mansion House, where I bumped into Steve J. Since Blackfriars Bridge had also been closed, we crossed the Thames via Southwark Bridge instead. Once across we were prevented from proceeding down Southwark Street by a police cordon, a cordon that contained Rennie House, where we worked. I asked the policeman standing behind the yellow tape about the bomb.

"Is it Irish or Arab?" I enquired.
"Neither; it's German.
"Yeah," he said, laughing at my expression, "from world war two. They scooped it up last night during routine dredging operations on the Thames. When they spotted the bomb, they stopped what they were doing, parked the dredger, and called in the army bomb disposal boys. They're working on disarming it now."

Steve J, Tony B, and I hung around in 115 Southwark for a while, the only one of the company's cluster of head office buildings outside the cordon, before I decided to try my luck and got into Rennie House via the rear unloading bay.

Tuesday 12th April

Abi Frost called around to run off a fanzine tonight, one whose title is a sort of french version of her usual NEW RIVER BLUES.

Wednesday 13th April

North London pool night and Phil Palmer was the first to show up at the Salisbury after I got there, though I had passed Pat Charnock in the street outside, she and Graham having moved into the area five days earlier.

I beat Phil in five straight games, and Jeff Suter in two after he showed up. I astounded Malcolm later by putting down three of my balls with one shot, and myself by losing to Rob Holdstock. Pat Charnock joined us for the early part of the evening, to be replaced by Graham later as they took turns baby-sitting. The only other attendee was Leroy Kettle, fresh from his Italian vacation.

Friday 15th April

Met Greg, Linda, and John Jarrold straight from work at the eaterie opposite Farringdon tube station. I had a Risotto Bolognaise instead of the Spaghetti Bolognaise, a mistake I'll try not to repeat.

We got to the King of Diamonds for the BSFA meeting by 7.00pm but the upstairs room wasn't yet open, so we went into the downstairs bar where we encountered Dave Langford, Roz Kaveney, Kate Davies and someone whose name I didn't record, and were soon joined by Rob Holdstock and Chris Evans. I tried not to listen as Roz described her gender reassignment surgery to Kate in graphically nauseating detail.

A surprise awaited us when we got upstairs, an unpleasant one as the featured speaker - WARRIOR editor Dez Skinn - had been unable to make it. Greg was not very happy about this but made the best of things by talking organiser Jeff Suter into arranging an impromptu panel consisting of Greg, Chris Evans, Lilian Edwards and myself discussing comics with particular reference to why we still read them. It seemed to go off quite well.

Greg was unimpressed with Suter's organizational ability and suggested I take over, a suggestion I was not wholly sympathetic towards.

Saturday 16th April

Catching a train at the ungodly hour of 9.00am on a Saturday when any sane individual would still be abed is an almost unheard of occurence for me, but a situation I found myself in on this damp and cold morning. I was first on the train, but Greg, Linda, and John Jarrold arrived shortly after and we were soon heading north.

We met Harry Bell at Sheffield station and the five of us journeyed on together to the home of David Bridges. Making our way up the hill to our final destination, I started whistling the tune from the Hovis ad, the one featuring a child rattling down cobblestoned streets on an old bicycle, much to Greg's amusement. Ah, stereotypes!

D West

Harry Bell

The Bridges house was a small two-up two-down affair with incredibly steep stairs and containing an amazing amount of audio equipment. Apart from Dave and his brother Mike's local friends, D. West, Simon Ounsley, and Mike Ford were already there. Much eating, drinking, and merriment followed with Greg, surprisingly, crashing out early. The rest of us went out for a meal at an Indian restaurant, before heading into town for a place called Dingwalls where the band Big Country were giving a concert. Having to wait until midnight for them to go on was a pain, but they were pretty good if ear-bleedingly loud.

Sunday 17th April

Hard kitchen floors are far from the best places to sleep, and waking up to a large lump of stale rye bread crashing to that floor near your head isn't highly reccomended either. When brother Kevin got up, Harry rolled over onto his matress, giving little squeals and moans of ecstacy as he did so. As others woke throughout the house, the kitchen soon began to resemble Clapham Junction so we decided - wisely, I think - to get up.

A fairly quiet day followed with the inevitable trip to the pub (both the White Lion and the Crown Inn), laughing about Harry's misfortune in the back garden the previous day, and a cobbled-together but hugely enjoyable lunch. Then it was time for we out of towners to depart.

On the train journey back to London, which took an hour longer than it should have, much discussion was given to the MEXICON, our proposed convention inspired by 'the Williams Manifesto' in OUT OF THE BLUE #5. God, I hope it all works out!

19th April 1983 - Letter to Larry Carmody

Yes, I'd be delighted if you or Stu were to nominate me for TAFF. I have, as I may have mentioned, already secured Ted White as a nominator (hardly difficult since he was one of those who suggested I should stand) so one of you as nominator (or both - I've forgotten how many I need at the moment) would be most welcome.

I should be able to get the next installment of my column to you for RAFFLES by the end of May as you requested and will probably start work on it later this week when I've cleared the backlog of correspondence I have to catch up on.

19th April 1983 - Letter to Avedon Carol

I've been thinking of you, and the time you spent over here, a lot since your return.

Things have been fairly hectic in the following fortnight or so, the One Tun the evening you left, for example, being the most crowded I can remember. So much so in fact that about twenty of us formed a breakaway group and walked the short distance to the King of Diamonds (usual venue for the monthly BSFA meeting) where a very enjoyable evening was had by all. It was here that Greg revealed that after he left you that Wednesday lunchtime and headed back to his office he got lost and wandered the back streets of the area for almost an hour before finding his way back. Maybe your lack of a sense of direction is contagious.

Though I don't like hospitals much I visited Chris on the Sunday, as I'd said I might, and she seemed in pretty good spirits - rather better than I'm sure I'd be in if I had to spend long in surroudings as drearily depressing as those of the Annie Zunz Ward. As you may have heard she's now out of hospital and it looks as though she'll stay out. Let's hope so.

Avedon, Ian Williams

David Bridges in 1985

Someone you didn't meet while you were over here, and have probably never even heard of, is David E.Bridges. He was once described by Ian Williams, in a guide to British fans that Williams wrote for some Brian Earl Brown fanzine or other, as "the ugliest fan in Britain". How Ian Williams of all people had the gall to write that I'll never know - though he gave me a pretty good write-up in the same piece, thus proving that he does have some taste. Anyway, Bridges invited a number of people up to Sheffield for a party this last weekend, people such as myself, the Pickersgills, West, Bell, Simon Ounsley, and John Jarrold. Lots of drink, food, and good music was provided and we even went to a rock concert on the Saturday evening, something I haven't done in a long time. During the concert West wore a permanently pained expression, Jarrold complained that the loudness of the music made conversation impossible, and Ounsley was surprised that the audience bopped about rather than sitting cross-legged on the floor and holding candles aloft as they had at the last concert he'd attended. It takes all sorts.

Funniest sight of the whole weekend came about as a result of someone suggesting we use the rusted frame of an old swing in the back garden for doing chin-ups. West went first, I went next, and others followed until, eventually it was Harry Bell's turn. The frame had shown an alarming tendency to sway prior to Harry trying a chin-up but it was Harry's mighty bulk that caused it to give up the ghost and we all fell about as Harry and the frame came crashing to the ground, Harry sprawling along the garden path. Least amusing sight of the weekend, at least to me, was the reading when I stood on a set of scales for the first time since Christmas. I've never been over my ideal weight before and have been that exact weight, to the pound, for about five years or so, but according to Bridges' scales I've gone eight pounds over since Christmas and now weigh in at 170. I need to check on more reliable scales but if this proves to be the case then it's a development I need to nip in the bud now. Complacency leads to fatness and fat is something I don't intend to get. We shall see. (I'm now 198.)

Thursday 21st April

A belated trip to FORBIDDEN PLANET secured me my weekly four-colour fix, and also the latest issue (#80) of THE COMICS JOURNAL. Back home, I settled down to what I thought would be an evening spent consuming these literary delights, but it was not to be. The phone rang *four* times!

First up was Alun Harries, firming up his plans to visit the weekend after next, followed by Greg ringing twice about plans for the proposed MEXICON. If we can't talk the Newcastle mob - primarily Kev Williams and Harry Bell - to get it together up there it's clearly necessary for us to have a plan in reserve, virtually a whole other bid ready to go as and when and if required. I suggested the Imperial Hotel in Birmingham as a possible venue, and this is one of the things we will consider when Abi Frost and I go over to Lawrence Road on Monday.

Final call was from Malcolm. He and Chris wanted to come over amd run off their zines - DRUNKARD'S TALK #8 and WHITE ELEPHANT'S GRAVEYARD, respectively. Malcolm started doing so in my kitchen around 10.15pm, while Chris and I stayed in the lounge chatting.

"Ho bloody ho!" was my response to the small ad about lost virginity in DT #8 and its ironic description of my kitchen's 'tropical warmth'. Still, Kettle's list of steps on how to feed a cat was brilliant.

Spent ages trying to get the new stylus into my record player's cartridge and so was very late to bed.

Sunday 24th April

I shaved off my beard today, leaving the moustache, and am very ambivalent about the result. It feels really peculiar, and the flesh is unnaturally pale, while my face seems somewhat less lean than I remember. Given my age and the fact I've put on some weight since Christmas I suppose this is inevitable but that doesn't mean it feels right.

Called Mum this afternoon and heard that Nana is ill and will have to go into hospital. It doesn't sound serious, but she is 83 so you never know.

Monday 25th April

Had a meal with Greg, Linda, and Abi around at Lawrence Road this evening - lasagne and salad, for the record. We were gathered there to discuss our proposals for MEXICON - the programming, propaganda, tone, and general viability of the thing. Since I usually think better in these matters in interaction with other people I hadn't actually made a list of proposals or any notes of my thoughts about the con but instead reacted to those Greg and Abi had prepared.

We were fairly unanimous in our approach to the fannish side of things but less so with regard to the con's sercon aspects. Neither Abi nor I had actually considered the presence of pros at the con, regarding them as largely irrelevant, but Greg thought we should definitely have some there.

Here we hit a bone of contention since none of us have any real points of contact with the pro side of the SF community and thus we needed someone known to them to win them over. Greg suggested Colin Greenland, someone I have very little confidence in, while I suggested Malcolm Edwards. Given his antagonism towards Malcolm, Greg wasn't too happy with this suggestion but when we examined the matter logically he had to concede that, personal animosity aside, Malcolm probably was the best person for the job. He wasn't happy about it, though.

I've decided I look better with a beard and will accordingly grow it back as fast as my hormones can manage.

Tuesday 26th April

All in all today was mind-numbingly tedious due to a combination of tiredness on my part and a fairly boring set of tasks to be done in wotk. Blaah!

One of the few bright spots of the day was reading Chris Evans' novel THE INSIDER, a real pleasure. The ending seemed rather melodramatic however, given the tone of the book up to that point. I had to phone Chris in the evening to give him booking and registration details for SILICON and I was tempted to tell him how much I'd enjoyed the book, but didn't as I'd interrupted him in the middle of a meal and he seemed eager to return to it before it got cold.

Started article for next RAFFLES.

Thursday 28th April

When I got in from work there was a letter from Larry Carmody who kindly informed me that the next installment of my column was wanted by May 18th and offered me a RAFFLES T-shirt as a bribe against my continued cooperation. I had intended to get two installments to him this time but plainly that won't now be possible. Must get on top of this game RSN.

Saturday 30th April

Alun Harries came to stay today. Having travelled up from Newport by train, he did FORBIDDEN PLANET and a few other book shops before turning ip on my doorstep around four in the afternoon. We sat around discussing absent friends for a while - mainly Bryn Fortey and Dai Price.

In the evening we called in for a drink at the Green Man, the only decent pub in the area. Our conversation was wide-ranging initially, but the more we drank the more it became focussed on sex. My own experiences in this respect were rather more recent than Alun's, but then it must be hard when you look like Woody Allen but aren't.