EIGHTIES LETTERS AND FAN DIARY
23: JULY 1985Monday 1st July
Met Avedon after work and we went to see WITNESS, An ace film. Avedon declared it the best she'd seen in ages
Thursday 4th July
Night of the One Tun, where I was surprised to see Alexis Gilliland was still in the country. It was very hot (in contrast to June, when it was very *cold*) so the pub was pretty empty with everyone outside on the pavement. Avedon had taken me to the My Old Dutch pancake house for a meal beforehand so we were at the Tun before 7 o'clock - an hour or so earlier than usual - but we were soon joined by Daves Wood, Langford, and Price. All in all one of the better Tuns.
Sunday 7th July
Avedon and I travelled over to Mike Dickinson and Jackie Gresham's pad in Putney and were both much taken with the area. It was the occasion of a gathering to "cheer Abi Frost up" - or so we'd been told by Mike at the Tun. What he hadn't told us was that it was also Abi's birthday. I was a little embarrassed that others had brought cards and presents and we hadn't. Unfortunately, the event didn't succeed too well in cheering Abi up and after seeing her crying rather a lot lately - including at our wedding - and hearing how depressed and almost suicidal she's been feeling, I'm worried for her.
Also present were Greg, Chris Priest & Lisa Tuttle, Geoff Ryman, Kate & Malcolm Davies, John & Judith Clute, and Kate Jeary. At the Tun, Chris had told me how he'd received a phone call the previous evening from a woman at "the office of Harlan Ellison" asking for Lisa. Given that Ellison had cancelled his signing session at FORBIDDEN PLANET Chris assumed, as I did, that he was going to cancel on ALBACON again, and further, that he was going to ask Lisa to be GoH in his stead. Now Chris informed me that he'd had another call from "the office of Harlan Ellison" on Friday. Once again the woman asked for Lisa, and once again Chris informed her Lisa wasn't in and asked if he could take a message:
" 'Hang on a minute,' said the woman, who then conferred with someone off-phone who was clearly Harlan. I'm stood there thinking 'What a little prat!'. So when she came back to ask me to tell Lisa that Harlan would be flying in tomorrow I said I would, then asked 'who shall I say was calling again?' 'Harlan Ellison' she replied. So I asked her to spell the name for me. And she did! I could just imagine Harlan sitting there fuming."Greg and I both hugely appreciated this tale, as did Avedon when I related it to her.
Wednesday 10th July
Pool night. After work I met Avedon and Greg outside FORBIDDEN PLANET. Avedon told me they'd been comparing notes and chuckling over how 'well-balanced' I was. Hmmph. Nothing in FP, so we checked out COMICS SHOWCASE (nothing again), then headed to The Royal George. After a few jars, we had chicken-in-a-bun at an Oxford Street Wimpey's then Avedon and I headed over to Harringey.
We were the first to arrive at the Salisbury, but were soon joined by Phil Palmer, Jimmy Robertson and Anne Warren, Dai Price, Rob Holdstock, Chris Priest, and Graham Charnock, but not Malcolm Edwards. He was at some publisher's party was party over in Harrow. Since Chris was giving us his fanzine collection and the first chunk was in the boot of his car, he drove us back to East Ham afterwards.
Friday 12th July
A party at Kate & Malcolm Davies' flat, somewhere we've never visited before. Since Kidbrooke is south of the river I was wondering how in hell to get there, so I was delighted to discover the 108 bus has a stop outside Bromley-by-Bow tube station, travels under the Thames via the Blackwall Tunnel, and deposits us within walking distance.
The party was low-key but OK, though the only fan types we knew when we arrived were Steve Lawson, Brian Ameringen, Caroline Mullan, and Hugh Maschetti. As we were leaving, Roz Kaveney, Lilian Edwards, and Alex Stewart arrived to swell fannish numbers. Avedon and I left early because all evening my eyes had been hurting. I'm fairly certain I know what this means.
Saturday 13th July
I wake and can't open my right eye. I have a beaut of a sty and look as if I've been punched about. This was the day of the Live Aid Concert, so Avedon and I spent most of the day watching it until it was time to travel over to Roz Kaveney's flat for her party.
When we arrived, Nick Lowe, Margaret Wellbank, and Colin Greenland were already there. The fannish contingent increasing later with the arrival of Steve Lawson, Kate Davies, Mike Dickinson (but not Jackie, who was recovering from an operation), Abi Frost, and John Clute. Among the non-fans present was an attractive and alert 20 year-old Avedon referred to as "the lipstick lesbian" and her "structuralist depressive" roommate Tom.
(Not sure what I meant by 'alert', but I do recall "the lipstick lesbian" had long blonde hair and was very femme. For some reason - maybe it was the eye - she decided I was the person to pour her heart out to and I listened sympathetically as she described her excitement about coming to London and coming out, and her disappointment that everyone was pressuring her to cut her hair, ditch the make-up, and dress in a manner they considered androgynous - but which just looked 'butch' to my untrained hetero eye - for political reasons, which was a thing back then. This wasn't who she was, and she was so depressed about the situation she was thinking of packing it in and moving back to her home town. The 1980s were a weird time for lesbian drama in London and, mainly because of our connection to Roz, Avedon and I got to hear a lot about it. One of the odder events was when a group of anti-S&M lesbians broke up a meeting of S&M lesbians because S&M was "violence against women". In so doing they broke the arm of one of the S&M lesbians, and this was in protest against the S&M lesbians allegedly promoting violence against women, remember. You couldn't make this shit up.)
Under other circumstances I would have enjoyed the party more, but thanks to my eye trouble I was pretty out of it, so we split early. Back at 9A, we watched another hour or so of Live Aid then crashed out.
Sunday 14th July
Oh joyous day!! As anticipated the sty, while still present, had shrunk some by the time I woke, and it was to trouble me a lot less than it had the previous day. Greg Pickersgill and Pam Wells came over in the evening to run off part of the next NUTZ. During their visit we got a phone call from Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden, with Patrick chasing me over getting approval for our proposed TAFF rule changes from previous administrators.
Monday 15th July
During the day I donated £10 to Live Aid at my bank then, early in the evening, travelled into town and to The Cambridge, a pub on Cambridge Circus, for the great Harlan Ellison meet. An impressive list of people had turned up to meet him including Brian Aldiss, Bob Shaw, John Clute, Colin Greenland, Malcolm Edwards, Tanith Lee, Rob Holdstock, Lisa Tuttle (but *not* Chris), Clive Barker (author of BOOKS OF BLOOD and a friendly guy), Dave Langford, Geoff Ryman, John Brosnan, Gamma, Nick Landau of Forbidden Planet, Roz Kaveney, Chris Atkinson, Joseph Nicholas, Judith Hanna, and Tise Unpronounceable.
Ellison was shorter than I'd expected, neatly dressed, and wearing a great, black bomber jacket with a tiger on the back and the slogan: OVER THE HUMP TO BURMA - 1941, presumably a reference to Claire Chennault's Flying Tigers. He played darts, made a point of talking at least once to everyone there, and though a little superficial seemed like a personable enough guy. Bob Shaw had just that day finished a 400 page novel and this trip down to London was a treat to himself. When the pub closed at 11pm he still had a 180 mile drive ahead of him.
Avedon and I left for a meal the same time Ellison did, but unlike him we retired to a local Wendy's for baked potatoes, returning to the pub for a while afterwards before heading home.
(Back when I used to draw I didn't do many straight portraits, but that one of Ellison is probably the best of them. It saddens me that I allowed my skills to atrophy to the point where producing something like that is probably beyond me now.)
Tuesday 16th July
Chris Priest and Pam Wells came over this evening, Chris to deliver another stack of fanzines and Pam to run off some more of NUTZ on my duplicator. Unfortunately, she ran into all manner of trouble and had to give up so as to allow the over-inked drum to dry out for a few days.
Chris amused us with tales of THE LAST DEADLOSS VISIONS, then told a fascinating story about seeing the Beatles perform at The Cavern in Liverpool before they were famous. Sadly, he also informed us he and Lisa were splitting up.
Friday 19th July
Since so many people were at ALBACON up in Scotland where Ellison was GoH there seemed little point going to tonight's BSFA meeting. In any case, Avedon brought Roz back with her and she stayed most of the evening.
Saturday 20th July
We met up with Avedon's friend Linda Melznik by Camden Lock shortly after noon. She was part of a travelling show giving performances of GODSPELL, one of which was to be performed that afternoon in a pavilion erected over the 'dock' by the lock. We chatted over drinks and a meal in a local pub, then Avedon and I left for town, where we bought a number of Motown compilation albums.
(I liked the Camden of the period more than I do its current version and fondly remember things like Compendium Books, the delicious Japanese red bean buns available on one of the market stalls, and the general late punk vibe of the area. I had a hand in its transformation as a member of the team who worked on the large J. Sainsbury supermarket that's now there. I really hate(d) the design of the store, particularly the way the architect used things like fish-plates and tensioning bars as surface decoration, which seemed to me to be taking the piss out of engineers. Other architects lauded it, but a tabloid newspaper compared the rear gates to those at Auschwitz. The company may not have been happy with the comparison, but I thought it was hilarious.)
In the evening, the weather having gone from glorious to cold, we travelled over to Duckett Road in Harringey where Chris Atkinson was hosting a gathering of various people not at ALBACON including Pat Charnock, John Brosnan. Leroy Kettle, Cath Mitchell, Mike Dickinson, and Jackie Gresham.
Sunday 21st July
Over to Ealing for Friends In Space and our first glimpse of Linda Pickersgill since her return from the US. She was very tanned and was as bright and chirpy as usual. A good, chatty evening all round, though it was pissing down when we left the pub. Still, we didn't that that get us down or the obnoxious Geordies making a lot of noise on the tube home.
Monday 22nd July
Took my first ever transatlantic call at work today when Patrick rang from New York to tell me he'd received a registered letter from Bergeron that morning demanding a copy of my letter of 13th December. Ho hum. Patrick was letting me know he'll be replying that if Bergeron wants any of my mail he'll have to get it from me.
Tuesday 23rd July
Kate Davies came over during the day - she and Avedon had a 'picnic' on our living room floor - to help clean my Gestetner so it's ready for Pam to run off the rest of NUTZ on Thursday.
Thursday 25th July
Pam and Kate were there when I in this evening, but Pam had only arrived an hour earlier so there was no chance of running off NUTZ. We decamped to the Boleyn at 8pm for the first meeting of what Avedon chooses to call the 'North East London Sluts'. We four are the only ones who show up. Oh well, better luck next time.
(This was a short-lived attempt to start a get together local to us that fizzled out after a handful of meetings. London fandom of the period already had plenty of regular meetings. Turns out it didn't need another.)
Saturday 27th July
Dave Ettlin and his wife Bonnie flew in today and arrived here early afternoon (old friends of Avedon's - see my TAFF report chapter 'The Man Who Laughed at Death'), and after they settled in Dave proceeded to wipe me out at backgammon. In the evening we to local restaurant the Shamir for an Indian meal. This was my first time there and I found the food a bit too mild. We tried and failed to find a decent local pub afterwards, The Boleyn failing to pass muster because of the loud live music blasting from it. The following day I did my tourist guide bit, taking Dave & Bonnie around the usual sights, getting very wet in the process.
Wednesday 31st July
We received a phone call from Teresa Nielsen Hayden this evening informing us Stu Shiffman had been on an operating table for 12 hours yesterday. Fuck. The operation appears to have been successful, but there's a lot of R&R to follow before we know for sure. Poor Stu!