Friday 31st March


In the early hours of Good Friday I set forth towards Manchester, the springs of the Paddy Wagon already groaning with the weight of John Muir's old fanzines. Pausing to collect further baggage in the shape of Pete Colley and Bri Robinson, I did collect one more (more shapely too), and that was Jill Adams from Piccadilly Station, so after picking Jill up (phew) we at last headed for Chester.

Brian Robinson, Pete Colley

We arrived at Chester without any mishaps, which was surprising, and quickly dumping Biro, Jill, complete with their survival gear Pete and myself shout round the corner, to drop off our stuff at a small Bed and Breakfast place we had booked by phone, no foolish prices at Conv hotels for us.


My 1972 Eastercon had an unhappy start — I had to get up early on the Friday morning. (what self-respecting person is even conscious at 6.30am?). After this there came a rush to Kings Cross where the van hired by Ted Ball and Dave Gibson had to be met. As it happened I was almost on time but didn't spot the van at first as I was expecting something much bigger. However, that little surprise was nothing to my feelings when I saw the inside. There was the expected large volume of books from Ted and Dave's shop, Bookends, but quite apart from this, piled on the books were now five passengers and I was told I needn't have worried about being late because, as everyone else expected, Ted was still to come. In addition to all this was the largest single item, filling the entire left hand side of the van, a contraption of painted cardboard. This, Fred smilingly informed me, was his fancy dress costume. When I wondered how a grandfather clock painted all colours was a fancy dress costume I forgot Fred's addiction to puns: Technicolour Time Machine indeed. The lad has a twisted mind.

FRED HEMMINGS: Rubbish! I am just not appreciated, still, I hope you were all waiting for the punch line.


Since everywhere else was occupied, Fred arranged for me to sit in the middle on my own case. I was rather dubious about this because it wasn't built to take that kind of treatment, and became even more so when Ted arrived and was shoehorned in to join me on top of it. The van now had its full load of eight people, their luggage, loads of books, and, of course, Fred's costume.

Off we went and a snag soon became apparent. Every time Fred, who was driving, turned right, Ted and I slid left and mangled the costume a bit more.


Wreckers, the both of them; it took John and I a couple of hours to do the repairs. It was almost a rebuild job.

Fred Hemmings with prize certificate


Another snag was the navigation, however, we didn't drive round in a circle more than once before turning up the Edgware Road. This had a special meaning for me because I live near it but when we drove practically past my house the resultant loud and bitter complaints that if I'd known I could not only have had a longer lie in but also saved the fare to Kings Cross, were met with the answer that they hadn't known either!

Eventually we got onto the M1 and Fred really opened up. I was surprised that the van was capable of such speed as it maintained a steady 70, but then I don't know much about them. I was simply grateful that the straight road meant no turns and I wasn't sliding onto the costume every few minutes. All I had to do now was worry about what the combined weight of Ted and myself was doing to my case.

We were moving faster than 90% of the other traffic. Some of the sports cars appeared resentful at being overtaken by a dumpy little van and one sat firmly in front of our hooter and flashing lights for several miles before finally being left behind. There were a few detours through back lanes to avoid jams and one of the places so passed had the unlikely name of Weston-under-Lizard. There were a lot of comments to the effect that we hadn't known that about him before...

The most important thing inside the van, it transpired, was lack of provision for cigarette butt disposal and the contortions Dave Rowe got into dropping them out of the little ventilator slots were something to watch. They became even more so when he missed and dropped one among the books. This gave an opportunity to get my case out from under but too late, it will never be the same case again.

Arriving at the Con hotel, after a quicker journey than expected, we all pitched in to unload the books and were then given lifts to our various hotels. Brian Hampton, the other driver, and I were staying at the same one, though not together. Naturally it was literally miles from the Con. Further difficulty was that the map provided by the Committee had very little resemblance to the roads provided by Chester. All too obviously the developers had got there first.


One thing that lets me know how old I am getting is the way time telescopes to a fraction of its former self. It always seems to be Convention Time. Almost before the pleasant memories of the bar closing early at Worcester, and the pointless boat trip from one muddy slum-surrounded end of the river to the other sand-banked and ruin-infested end, almost before these recollections of EasterCon 71 had been filed away, Chester was upon me.

I found thirty quid by a great, deal of cunning, saving and a loan of twenty-eight. I found a travelling companion in Leroy Kettle (it was difficult getting him out) and put a reel of colour film into my camera. I found a train in Euston station that happened to be going my way and I stole a ride in the cattle wagon. I have been watching too many Westerns too.

I booked in at the 'Riverside' Hotel and spent a secretive five minutes casing the joint from top to bottom, searching for the easy ways in and out, because I anticipated having an illegal guest (gasp-of-horror). As it happened a two-storey high garage lead almost to the outside of the bathroom. Before the Convention was over I would be stretched out across the void, in the rainy, cloud infested midnight hours, thinking through the haze of liquor that not even an ape would have been mad enough to try and get into the hotel THIS way. I'm not sure, even now, that I made it, I just have no recollection of the fall and subsequent bruising.


About 12.15, Good Friday afternoon under cloudy skies, outside my flat at Oxford, I got into my car and started north northwestward.

The tale continues, three and a half hours later, as I got out at the Blossoms hotel, Chester, having had no trouble at all — no broken fan belt or blown cylinder head gasket, no, not even a flat tire — during the 145 mile trip. It was raining, a not unusual state of affairs, though I, as a forecaster, was keenly aware that the two previous Eastercons had been bright and sunny and that people would doubtless rail at me for not having got them better weather. In fact nobody mentioned it at all.

Marge Edwards, Ina Shorrock, Tony Edwards at registration desk (l-o)

I went into The Blossoms and almost ran into the unpreposessing figure of Brian Hampton, with whom I was to share a room at the Green Bough Hotel. "Where," I asked, "do I register?" "Upstairs. Can you find it or do I have to draw you a picture?" said a voice behind me, none other than Dave Rowe, British Fandom's blond bearded Buonarotti, whose arm was curled around the waist of his current innamorata, Hazel (or Hazle, pronounced Haze-ley), Reynolds. I have no doubt that the billing and cooing of this couple over the weekend aroused as much envy in less fortunate fannish breasts as John Brunner did when he came in to watch Barbarella with his current girlfriend, she wearing only a pair of knickers and a long diaphanous gown. Mind you, it was so hot, stuffy and smoky in the Con hall that it was soon obvious she was the most sensibly dressed girl in the room.


The Blossoms, chosen for the Convention hotel, stands neatly, in white and wood on a corner in Chester's Foregate Street, just outside the walls. Inside steps on the left lead directly down to the buttery and the bar while a little further on, still on the left, lies another bar. To the right a flight of stairs. At the head of these money changes hands, badges are claimed and you emerge a part of Chessmancon. Consultation of the programme booklet indicates time to locate alcohol, seek food and discover the whereabouts of the bookroom before the first item.

Chris Bursey in bookroom


I eventually tracked down the hotel and Con registered. Having done that I decided that the most important constituent of any Con required investigation; the bar(s)! Disappointment reigned, there were only two, and small ones at that. One was at ground level, long thin and very noisy; the other in the subterranean depths. I only visited it once and finding you could, almost literally, cut the atmosphere with a knife, quickly retreated. I didn't go down there again.


We made our way over to the Blossoms, where Greg and I found we'd been double-booked. Great. Last straw, and all that. Anyway, much of Friday was spent in long and tedious arguments and a great deal of trudging around; the monsoon came to Chester, the Peacock opened an hour late, and the police waited watching us, whilst we waited watching hamsters in a rat-race. If Greg and I looked sour and more than usually dishevelled on Friday, you now know why. The con committee later cleared things up and we parted fairly amicably, but the first two days of the con turned out to be a dismal and unlovely introduction to Chester.

The con hall. Philip Strick, Ramsey Campbell on stage


I made my way into the bar where I was confronted by Lisa Conesa and other Manchester fans. Lisa, whose charm and beauty were marred only by the leering presence of Rob Holdstock nearby, at once gave me a fanzine to keep me quiet. Whereupon Holdstock made to give me one of his, but he rapidly desisted when he realised I had no intention of paying for it. (He let me have one for free eventually, though.) Nearby sat Brian Robinson, who surprised Greg by being twenty-five instead of fifteen, Pete Presford, a cheerful eighteen-looking six-year-old who surprised everyone by being thirty, and Pete Colley, who looks sixteen and, as far as I know, is. Fans are weird. Despite warnings I bought myself my first vodka and lime of the con, and I really needed it after finding out the price! But by this time, a downstairs bar with slightly lower prices was reputed to be open, so I accompanied Rat and Gannet fandom on their way down there. I swilled back vodkas with a certain amount of contentment, in the company of Bob Rickard, Glaswegian Peter Campbell, Hartley Patterson and others.


I assaulted 'The Blossoms' at approximately midday of Friday. I didn't expect a hail of 'It's ROB HOLDSTOCK!'s or even the bar lady enthusing over my magazine and offering to sell it across the bar, and people coming up to me and saying 'I've been waiting to meet you'... I expected none of this, so when it actually happened I was confident it was my imagination keeping me happy. Does anybody know?

Into the downstairs bar with Roy Kettle. There, sitting already well soaked, around a slopped-on table was a motley crew of unpleasant-looking toughies who welcomed us with cries of joy and shouts of 'Buy us a pint of cider, you parasite'. I declined the invitations and spread copious numbers of MACROCOSM among the various Greg Pickersgills, Peter Darlings and Peter Roberts who were sitting there.

When I went to the bar (as soon as I realised no-one was going to buy me a drink) I sold a copy of the magazine to the bar lady and she said she'd sell six copies for me. She sold them, too AND I got the money.


The hotel seemed rather devoid of fans on arriving back, but we said hello to the few we knew then dived down stairs to the bar. Ratfandom was already there and met us with their standard catch phrase "Hello, we'll have a pint each," to which we replied with our "Hi Roy hi Greg, Piss off."

Ian Williams, Roy Kettle, Pete Presford, Greg Pickersgill, at the bar


We got to the Blossoms about half an hour before the afternoon programme was due to start, collected our literature, and sat down in the bar to read it. We happened to overhear Ken Bulmer and Ted Tubb at the next; table discussing the way to their hotel with Tony Edwards. Since they were also at the Riverside, and we'd forgotten the camera, we offered to show them the way. Returning to the Blossoms, we agreed that the afternoon's films looked pretty boring, so instead we made a preliminary survey of the bookroom, open pleasantly early compared with the Worcestercon, Returning to the bar, we were confronted with Pete Presford, Pete Colley, Brian Robinson, Ian Maule, John Piggott, Greg Pickersgill etc. etc. We and Brian took various photos of the assembled drinkers, amid many protests and offensive gestures.

Terry Jeeves, Pete Colley, Pete Presford


The afternoon and evening, until the Grand Gala Opening, I spent meeting old fannish friends and new. There were Leroy Kettle, Jonn Brosnan, Ye Gerbish (tie longer than ever), Ethel Lindsay, Vernon Brown, Pauline Dungate, Fred Hemmings, Peter Weston (of whom one enthusiastic French femmefan is supposed to have said to her mother "Weston super, mere!", the Pardeaux, Hartley Son of Patter, Peter 'Egg' Roberts, Arthur Cruttenden and Kench Eslin, amongst others. Then there were the less familiar, like those undifferentiated bunch of Northumberfen, all of whom seemed to be named Ian (like Ian Maule and Ian Williams, by whose collective existence fandom is assured freedom from persecution, because, if the authorities tried to burn fen at the stake they would have too many lans in the fire and have to give over), the redoubtable Joanne Burger, the surpassingly beautiful Lisa Conesa, the fannish B. T. Jeeves, Esq., (with whom I had a long and fruitful conversation, and the Mearas (or Mearae). i sorely missed the faces of Arthur G Boak, The Leggs, The Mercers, Frank Arnold, and Rambling Jake Grigg, among others who were absent.

Ken Cheslin, Sam Long, Gerald 'Ye Gerbish' Bishop


Naturally I found Lisa dining like an aristocrat milady in the Dining Room of this extortionately expensive hotel. Naturally she was with ANDREW STEPHENSON who had sought her out beforehand knowing that she too would be dining in this inordinately pricey restaurant. I stood by the table conscious of luscious blonde Lisa sitting opposite a luscious brunette beauty who I realised with a jolt was Jill Adams. I'd have fled the Dining Room before I even got there if I'd spotted her immediately because, not surprisingly, I'd omitted to renew with the BSFA. As it was I had to stand there like a man about to die while she told me off in no uncertain terms, through a mouthful of delicious roast beef (but so prohibitively expensive!). Of course, my eyes were riveted to the green eyes and sensuously chewing lips of Miss Conesa. I thought to myself, why the hell is she staring at me like that? could it be...I hesitated over the word, lips trembling, knees going to jelly. Then I realised what it was. She hadn't a clue who I was. So I whipped out my MACROCOSM and I thrust it at her. 'For you,' I said with a flourish. Light dawned. Her full lips parted, her eyes widened, and a wisp of blonde hair fell tantalisingly across her nose. "It's YOU," she said. I nearly died. That voice. "It's me," I babbled; wishing someone would come along and massage my heart for a moment. Of course, it was the beard. Between Worcester and Chester I'd sprouted a thick and luxurious facial growth, untrimmed (because I didn't know how) and untrained (for that extra rugged manly look) it had put her off the scent.

Andrew Stephenson, Lisa Conesa (mb)

With a last wistful glance at the plates of mash and peas and meat all for the grotesquely inordinately excruciatingly prohibitive 'Blossoms' prices I fled into the open air, wiped the moisture from my face and found a Chinese for a nice cheap filling plate of sweet-and-sour nothing with soy sauce. As somebody once said, when you eat at an EasterCon you're eating handfuls of money.

My mind kept reworking: - "It's you" I said them to myself. In thousands of different combinations of tone and form (You it's. It's you. It's, you.) but alas I could not find the hidden meaning behind them.

There was a strange shape seated across the room. As I chewed nonchalantly on a particularly tasty bit of fried gristle I noticed this person watching me intently. I could see he was from the Con. I waved a piece of rice in the air to express my cameraderie. Dived back into my enthralling piece of Vonnegut (Welcome to the Monkey House... Appropriate that it should be the first book I bought at the Convention). Suddenly a gross shadow fell across my rapidly cooling cardboard rice, I tried to flick it away but no good. Looking up with trepidation I saw...

The Stranger!

'You're Rob Holdstock,' he said, and was my friend for life. I didn't ask him how he knew, sufficing myself with the explanation that everybody knew me; I felt good. "Siddown" I jawed with considerable confidence, indicating the chair opposite me. He sat down, 'I'm Jim Goddard.'

Quel surprise! I nearly choked. CYPHER, Jim's magazine, is probably the best amateur zine on the British scene - it and SPECULATION fight hand and nail for top billing and between them they do away with the necessity for any other serious-content fanzine in Britain. So here I was in the presence of a Master-amateur-editor. I picked up some good tips and became ravingly jealous, but I've never enjoyed a Chinese meal so much in all my life. I was totally unaware of what I was eating.


All the other members of NIF (New Irish Fandom) set off for the Chester convention on Friday afternoon, but because of work commitments I had to put in a full day at the office, and Sadie and I didn't leave until evening. That sort of situation always makes me rigid with despair "Here I am at work while everybody else is enjoying fabulous adventures at the Con," I kept telling myself, while knocking hell out of a brand new office typewriter (it was a mint Imperial). "I'm being Left Out. I'm Missing Things." As it turned out, all the gloom was unnecessary because the early plane - carrying Jim and Peggy White, James and Ann Lavery, Brendan and Denise McHugh, Graham Andrews and Tony Moran - went via Manchester and it took the group hours to make train connections to Chester, with the result that they didn't reach the Blossoms till mid-evening. In contrast, Sadie and I took off from Aldergrove in an elderly Viscount at 7:30, landed at Liverpool, haggled with taxi drivers until one volunteered to drive us to Chester at a reasonable fee, and we walked into the foyer of the Blossoms an incredible 115 minutes after leaving Northern Ireland. This produced such a pleasant sense of somehow having come out ahead of the game that a modest celebration was called for. So we headed for the cocktail bar and skelped back a number of gin and tonics while saying hello to old friends. It wasn't until I noticed how much we were being charged for the gin and tonics that the feeling of euphoria wore off slightly - I can assure you that at the Blossoms cocktail bar prices, alcohol is non-habit-forming.

Jim Lavery (mb)

From BLAZON #3:


Evidence: On arrival at hotel reception thumps down briefcase on reception desk and utters: "You've got five minutes to clear the hotel before this goes off!"

Later bids for 1973 Eastercon to be held at the Europa Hotel in Belfast "For a really bang-on convention!"


By now it was tea-time, so we journeyed again to the Riverside, dumped our accumulated purchases and went look-for food. Suitably curried, we arrived back in time for Tony "All-Talking" Edwards's opening speech, followed by Dave Kyle's introduction of personalities, i.e. about 25% of the audience.

Dave Kyle, Bill Burns, Tony Edwards


The con really got started on Friday evening with Dave Kyle's 'Meet the Celebrities', and celebrities there were: Larry Niven, Guest of Honour, author of Ringworld and other SCIENCE-fiction novels; Fred Pohl, famed author and editor, writer Harry Harrison, recent co-author with Dr. Leon Stover (who was also present) of historical novel 'Stonehenge', which he was doing a grand job of publicising. Also in evidence was Harry Harrison's straight man Brian Aldiss, plugging 'Barefoot in the Head' for the Eurocon Award in Trieste. In addition there were John Brunner, Jim Blish, Jim White, Ken Bulmer, and far too many others to mention here; the introduction were so arranged as to enable everyone in the room (including yours truly) to stand up and be counted at one point or other.

The audience. At front right: Stan and Helen Eling. In rear between windows: Andrew Stephenson, Lisa
Conesa, Rob Holdstock still together.


Despite the onset of the dreaded drooping eyelids, we stayed to see "Fahrenheit 451" which we enjoyed despite the handicap of only one working projector. This was followed by a very enlightening discussion of the film, led by Philip Strick, which went on well after midnight (we think). Pausing only to down a couple of Cokes, we staggered back to the Riverside and bed. Obviously we weren't in training yet.


Friday night turned out to be really good - the sort of night which is the main reason I go to conventions. There was a generous complement of the familiar, intelligent, interesting, knowledgeable, humorous faces of the fans I really like and - as is the way at British cons - it all seemed even better because it was Friday night and everybody knew he whole thing still lay ahead. We all had fannish fortunes in the Bank of Time. One way in which US conventions score over British is that they are spread out over more days. At the Boston con in September I was very much aware of having that extra time in hand, and so there was none of that sense of urgency which leads British fans to stay up all night and become too tired to get maximum benefit of the following day. Dave Kyle, I'm glad to say, is a leading member of a new movement to go to the Eastercons on Thursday and stay over till Tuesday. He and Ruth almost sweet-talked Sadie and me into an extra day in Chester this time, and if we hadn't had arrangements made to go to London we'd have done it. See you next year, Dave!

Pauline Dungate, Peter Weston

Marilyn (Fuzzy) and Larry Niven


Friday evening conspiracy. Vernon Brown lures away the enemy. Peter Weston and author sneak along corridors and up fire escapes. Pause; they listen. They knock. A door opens, they enter. Bodies lie strewn over the floor or perched on beds and other sundry furniture. Vernon Brown arrives, mission accomplished. Home brew flows freely. In one noisy corner, the room's owner, Doreen Parker, glamorous in her dressing gown, invaded whilst preparing for bed. The door re-opens and a captured Guest of Honour is ushered in.

In the little hours, Chester saw the revellers staggering through her streets, heading for those elusive, long forgotten, overflow hotels.