EIGHTIES LETTERS AND FAN DIARY
7: LATE MAY 1983Wednesday 18th May
Met Greg at lunchtime and gave him most of the eighty-five MEXICON flyers I'd run off last night. The pub we went to was The Blackfriars. It was the first time I'd ever been inside, despite it being a few minutes walk from the Ludgate Cellars, but its excellent selection of real ales make it one I'm certain to return to. Greg showed me the draft flyer the Newcastle contingent had composed.
"I much prefer yours," he said.
I had to agree. As we talked it became apparent that Greg was starting to get cold feet now that we're committed. I think his aim of getting a hundred members by the end of June just isn't feasible, but he may well be tempted to call the whole thing off if he doesn't reach it. Must try to get figures from organisers of earlier conventions of how many members they'd achieved at a similar stage and put these to Greg.
Thursday 19th May
Phoned old Newport SF Group buddy Bryn Fortey in the evening to arrange to meet up when I visit Wales this coming weekend but was cut off before anything was resolved. It may well prove academic anyway given the calls that came in after this.
First call was from local Cardiff friend Geoff C, returning the call I'd left on his answering machine a few days ago, and it effectively committed me for all of Saturday. Second was from Mum, who told me my brother Richard had arranged to have Friday evening off work so that the whole family could get together for a drink. Which means I have to arrange things Sunday or for Monday lunchtime if Bryn and I are to see each other at all. And then there's Nana of course, who I must see while I'm down.
Final call of the evening was from Leroy Kettle who has an idea for a comic strip and wants to put together a package with me and try to sell it. I travel over to his place on Tuesday evening to discuss it. Things are starting to look very interesting all of a sudden.
20th May 1983 - letter to Jimmy Robertson
Since you were at the last One Tun you couldn't have failed to have heard about MEXICON, and you may well have figured out that something was going on beforehand. Unless I really did drink more than I thought I did I seem to remember you reacting favourably to the idea. Anyway, what all this preamble is leading up to is the fact that we've got around to producing our first flyer/registration form, as you've doubtless noticed. We're sending them out to fan groups we think will be interested and were wondering if you'd mind passing a few out at your next meeting up in Glasgow?
The crucial thing about the MEXICON is that bit in the flyer where we say it is "...aimed at fans both old and new..." since what we're hoping to do is bring together groups that may not usually have a lot of contact with each other - from my viewpoint, at least, British fandom seems sort of fragmented at the moment - and getting they to participate rather than just sitting there. To this end we've appointed Linda as a sort of roving ambassador and she'll be attending various local conventions up and down the country in the next few months, drumming up support.
Linda mentioned some ideas you people had for RA-CON but weren't allowed to put on. Let us know what they are! We want as much input as possible from people likely to attend and can promise you a more sympathetic ear for your plans. We really are trying something different here because, within the parameters outlined in the flyer, we want to put on a convention that will appeal to as many people as possible and to that end we want to involve those attending rather than just handing this stuff down from on high.
At the moment we're hoping we got a lot of early registrations since, this being a new convention, we don't have any figures from previous years to show the hotel manager and we need some sort of indication of the likely level of interest to put to him.
Anyway, hope you can help....and don't forget those ideas you put together for RA-CON.
Friday 20th May
After visiting the local council offices to investigate my eligibility for a home improvement grant, I rushed back home and dashed off a covering letter to Jimmy Robertson to go with the MEXICON flyers I want him to distribute, then headed out to Victoria coach station where my journey to Wales would start.
In Cardiff, while waiting for my father to pick me up, I bought copies of New Order's 'Blue Monday' and the Italo Calvino books 'Our Ancestors' and 'Castle of Crossed Destinies'. Seven and a half quid spent in twenty minutes! Just as well Dad didn't take any longer.
Highlight of the day was drinking Brains' Dark Ale in the Hollybush Inn with Mum, Dad, Rich, his wife Jan, and my sister Julie. I found myself getting all wistful and nostalgic as the evening wore on proving, I suppose, that absence really does make the heart grow fonder. After drinks Rich, Jan, Julie and I went to an Indian restaurant in Whitchurch Road where I had my first ever Madras. This is a step up in ferocity from my usual medium curry, but I handled it OK.
Saturday 20th May - marking 35 days of rain in London.
Geoff C called for me just before 2.00pm and drove us over to the Crown Inn where we had drinks with others of his car-loving buddies, all of whom I'd met in years gone by but none of whom I could now put names to. It's frightening how fast I'm starting to lose names, both of people and places.
Later Geoff, his friend Roland and I headed for Risca and John C 's place. (John like Geoff was a former work colleague.) We had a speedboat in tow since Geoff intended going water skiing and wanted John to come along. John however had planned an evening in with his lady-love and so was unable to come with us. How are the mighty fallen!
We drove through some beautiful countryside on our way to Llangorse lake and I found myself being quite moved by it, another example of absence making the heart grow fonder perhaps, or maybe a case of absence removing the contempt that familiarity breeds and opening my eyes to what a truly beautiful country Wales is.
Though the weather was..ah..erratic the clouds parted as we hit the lake and it
was clear and bright most of the time we were there. We had some trouble with
the boat not developing enough power at first, but Geoff eventually managed two
long runs. By the time we left the lake it was pissing down, and at speed that
(My role in all this was as a spotter, meaning I sat in the rear of
the boat facing the person skiing. When he came off his skis it was the job
of the spotter to tell the person driving the boat so they could turn and retrieve
the skiier. It used to be the case that the person driving would also be the spotter,
but turning your head every few seconds while driving a fast moving boat when others
were in the water had led to injuries and deaths, hence you were now required to have
a spotter. If the water was choppy - and it usually was - you would be bounced up and
down on the plank that was the spotters seat. All those blows resulted not in a sore
arse but a sore head as the shock was transferred up your spine. As a result of my
association with Geoff C, I also got to go up in a glider - an amazing experience -
and at one point was scheduled to do a parachute jump for charity. This was, alas,
cancelled at the last moment.)
(My role in all this was as a spotter, meaning I sat in the rear of the boat facing the person skiing. When he came off his skis it was the job of the spotter to tell the person driving the boat so they could turn and retrieve the skiier. It used to be the case that the person driving would also be the spotter, but turning your head every few seconds while driving a fast moving boat when others were in the water had led to injuries and deaths, hence you were now required to have a spotter. If the water was choppy - and it usually was - you would be bounced up and down on the plank that was the spotters seat. All those blows resulted not in a sore arse but a sore head as the shock was transferred up your spine. As a result of my association with Geoff C, I also got to go up in a glider - an amazing experience - and at one point was scheduled to do a parachute jump for charity. This was, alas, cancelled at the last moment.)
When we got back to Cardiff we went to the Casablanca Club in the old Tiger Bay area, getting there around 11.30pm. I was a bit dubious about being in such a ..ah.. colourful part of town, particularly since someone tried to sell me a bag of marijuana as we were walking along, but it was a great club. I'd happily visit it again.
Sunday 22nd May
Went to see Nana this afternoon and she greeted me with the words: "I expected you yesterday!"
She's getting more and more confused these days and I was shocked by her loss of mobility since I'd last seen her even though Mum had prepared me. Every time I go down to Cardiff I wonder if this is the last time I'll see her. One day it will be.
Monday 23rd May
Saw Bryn Fortey for the first time since Christmas of 1981 today at lunchtime, the only time we were both available. We met in the Drovers Arms in Caerleon and he looked much the same as always. He was cheery, though his domestic problems seem little better. His wife wasn't happy when she found out about him and Lisa Conesa.
Later, I travelled back to London on the coach.
Tuesday 24th May
In the evening I popped over to North London and had a session with Leroy Kettle on this strip he's proposing to try and sell. We talked through the characters and the basic situation and left it at that until Leroy gets his shit together on the writing end. I'm somewhat dubious as to whether my artwork is of professional quality or not but you never find out unless you try and doing this with Leroy does at least mean that he will be pushing me. This way, something will actually get done.
25th May 1983 - letter to Dave Langford
Thanks for your letter of the 20th (which I'm only now getting around to replying to on account of having just returned from a trip to Wales), particularly for informing me of the comments of certain northern fans regarding anything that may have occurred between Avedon and myself. Like Ms.Carol I'd prefer you not to print such..ah..rumours and being, as you so rightly put it, a 'famous voice of common sense in fandom' I believe I've come up with a solution to your dilemma. Implicit in the wording of their 'Worst Thing' nomination is the suggestion that if I hadn't allegedly monopolised Avedon's affections then she would have been available to one and all, an implication that is - as I'm sure you'll agree - rather sexist and reflects the occasionally unfortunate worldview of a particular strain of Neanderthal northern male in these matters. This being so you can, with a clear conscience, put in the poll listings an entry along the lines of:
"Certain northern fans made a nomination in this category that is unacceptably sexist for this day and age. Since this suggestion could only, of course, have been made whilst they were under the influence of alcohol I am sure they'll thank me for my decision not to embarrass them by reprinting it here.”
Words to that effect anyway - though done with your uniquely Langfordian wit, of course.
On the subject of MEXICON and John Brunner's possible (probable?) complaints thereof I have an idea. None of us on the committee want to get into any sort of slanging match with Brunner and are scrupulously avoiding mentioning the EUROCON by name in our literature but if he does write I have an idea for a cartoon that could be printed by way of reply. Basically this would consist of an elephant with EUROCON written on its side (and bearing a purely coincidental resemblance to John Brunner) shying away in terror from a mouse (looking rather like the cartoon character, Speedy Gonzales) identified as the MEXICON in some way. If you like I could do this against such an eventuality so that you could run in in the same issue as the letter (if it materialises). Like I say it avoids getting into a slanging match but is, I think, a succinct response. Let me know, maybe at the June Tun.
Friday 27th May
The day in work shot by far too fast and I had to charge out to catch my coach to Newcastle with way too much still undone. My fellow travellers on the coach were Abi Frost, John Jarrold, and Greg & Linda Pickersgill. As usual it seemed like half the M1 was being dug up, but the hour and a half delay all those roadworks caused was somewhat cushioned by the 'in-flight' video films and the on-board toilet, fairly new innovations for coaches.
We got into Newcastle at midnight - much later than scheduled - but to our surprise Kev Williams and Harry Bell were waiting for us. They were a very welcome sight. After being ferried back to the Williams residence and fed home-made pizza by Sue Williams, we spent several hours playing snooker on Kev's half full-size table, which has a room of their huge house all to itself.
Saturday 28th May
The day began with a brief and fruitless foray to a record fair followed by a trip to the Royal Station Hotel, site of the 1974 Eastercon and proposed venue for MEXICON. This was my first visit, but Greg and John wallowed in nostalgia, amazed that a full nine years had elapsed since TYNECON'74. Everything seemed fine but, as became apparent in the bar soon after, they were not. The northern contingent were unhappy about something, namely the name of the convention. After an unbelievable amount of argument and haggling we eventually settled on TYNECON II: THE MEXICON, which sounds like the title of a Hollywood film sequel.
The afternoon was dedicated to the committee meeting proper, which was held back at Kev and Sue's. Harry didn't arrive until we'd almost finished, but someone unexpected who was present was an American work colleague of Kev's named Cindy.
In the evening we all trooped out to Al Firdous and paid £8 each for a set meal that was the best Indian food I've ever tasted. Yum! Back at the Williams residence afterwards much drink was drunk and much snooker played, deep into the night.
Sunday 29th May
Today was much like yesterday with the day taking up mainly by drink, snooker, playing records, and talking until we Londoners went back with Harry Bell to his place, where we were spending the night.
Monday 30th May
As we emerged from the Metro station closest to where we were catching our coach who should we bump into but Sue Williams. She was just passing and had either she or we been fifteen seconds or so later or earlier we would have missed each other. Given the population of Newcastle the chances against us bumping into someone we knew must be quite staggering.
Our coach left Newcastle at 10.30am and the journey took precisely five and a quarter hours with us pulling into Victoria Coach Station on schedule to the minute. Having disembarked, we walked the short distance to the Victoria McDonalds and consumed the usual far from filling repast. The only time I ever eat in these places is with Greg & Linda, who seem to genuinely like their burgers. Faughh!