Monday 3rd April
PAT & MIKE MEARA:
The Monday morning film programme was cancelled due to the absence of Harry Nadler, so we missed the planned repeat of "Godzilla vs. the Thing". Ah well, maybe 'twas a good thing after all. Instead, we bought some more fanzines, took some more Con. registrations, and sat in the lounge talking to various fen including Eric Bentcliffe, who very kindly invited us to pay him a visit sometime. Apparently Pete Weston was looking for us, wanting to talk about using some of our photos for his SPECULATION photopages, but we saw him not. Eventually we said goodbye at about 11am, loaded the fanzines into the car around Pat, and set off for a leisurely drive home, this time avoiding Stoke, musing the while on an enjoyable Con., though one which lacked an indefinable something which the Worcestercon had in abundance. Maybe we're losing our sense of fannish wonder already.
The now vacant Monday morning I used for a quick look at the walls of Chester. Returning to the Blossoms I helped pack the books in the van — there was more room now with those sold gone, but especially without Fred's costume. I found trouble brewing with Ted wanting to make a massive detour, with an extra passenger, to buy fan mags from him. There was considerable displeasure by all at the time this would take and talk of returning to London by train, this wound up with everyone threatening to leave the van, even Dave, Ted's partner. Outvoted 7-1 Ted gave in and told the bloke, only to be roundly abused and told that there weren't really any zines for sale; it had only been a trick to get a lift home.
The final period at the hotel was enlivened by Fred going round and dunning everybody in sight into signing up for next year's Con, from which holy work he had to be forcibly dragged.
Monday brought the usual sinking feeling associated with going home, and a resolve to go and read some of the books that everyone seems to talk of at Conventions, and that you've never heard of, let alone read. Something that I missed during lunchtime that day was free beer, apparently donated by Harry Harrison, to practically anyone in sight, or at least in the bar, which was a great shame.
After lunch; down to the station and onto the train to take me back to the centre of the universe (London of course, not Birmingham).
By the way, if anyone reading this has never been to a Con and thinks, from my report, that most of the time is spent drinking, I can only say you might be right! I wonder what teetotallers do?
Other pleasant memories are of Chuck Partington producing four bottles of an excellent beer called "Oh Be Joyful" and giving them to me as a gift. Incredibly, he had remembered hearing me praising this beer (I used to drink it when living in Bolton but it is unobtainable in Northern Ireland) at the previous con and had brought them specially all the way down to Chester. What an example to other committee men on how to win friends and keep your conventions happy! What a credit to British Fandom Chuck Partington is!
A similar pleasant memory is of Brendan McHugh producing a full bottle of 180 proof spirit which, in his profession as a food chemist, he can distil with yeast, sugar and impunity. (He always keeps a bottle at home - plus a number of little phials of flavouring such as peppermint, aniseed, etc. - and has earned a reputation as a lavish host by offering his guests a choice of any liqueur they desire. When somebody asks for, say, Pernod, he dashes into the bedroom, adds a drop of aniseed flavouring to his almost tasteless spirit and hands them a large glass of it.) Somehow the convention bottle came into my keeping at the end of the con, so Sadie, George Hay, Sam Lundwall and I went into a bar near Chester Station, ordered four gin and tonics and discreetly boosted their contents with it for about thirty minutes. And there was still enough left for a modest booze-up in London a couple of days later! What a valuable addition to fandom is Brendan McHugh!
The Blossoms Hotel was far too small for the con but had the most good-natured and extravagantly helpful staff I've ever encountered. The cocktail bar stayed open from 9 a.m. to 6 a.m. (hence, incidentally, the lack of room-parties) and was the setting for late-singing, the (fool)hardier fans being supplemented by early breakfast-eaters. Have you ever heard Pete "SPECULATION" Weston singing "Danny Boy"...? Could make it a regular programme item.
The Buttery Bar downstairs was the watering-place of Chester's gay population, despite the presence of the Oddfellows pub nearby. Apart from one or two minor incidents, the regulars kept to themselves, although provoked by some idiot who persisted in carrying a whip around.
CHESSMANCON was a fairly big convention as they go - I'm told that at least 240 people were recorded as having attended. It certainly was enjoyable and successful and, with the various European visitors, goes towards proving my belief that the British Eastercon bears the same relationship to other European (& UK) conventions that the US Worldcon bears to the US regional events. In other words, no real need to start separate Eurocons - we already have them! Despite the forebodings held by almost everyone, due to the ever-shifting hotel and almost total lack of communication from the Convention Committee, CHESSMANCON was a very good convention. As things turned out, The Blossoms was an excellent hotel and was nearly incredible for the way in which it welcomed the most eccentric of its guests... Better, certainly, than even The Giffard last year (and I think the guest/staff relationship there was pretty good). The staff of the Blossoms must go on record as being about the friendliest and most professional of any hotel that I have seen.
The little barman who cheerfully served singlehandedly until five in the morning, only to reappear at half-past nine to polish his glasses before the next onslaught... The porters who - far from hounding fans away from their little pursuits, actually helped them to put insulting messages on to the hotel notice-board, and gleefully took part in the Mammoth Paper Aeroplane Contest down the stairwell.
You don't get that sort of cooperation very often and we were all suitably grateful to the hotel management and the ConCom for a job well done. Of course the hotel was really too small for the size of the event - that hall just could not accommodate the numbers who wanted to cram in, especially for the Saturday evening Fancy Dress Parade.
The physical geography of the place was unfortunate, too, because the presence of three small bars and at least two separate lounges meant that there was no real centre point (like that magnificent lounge at the Giffard) where you could be sure of meeting the people you wanted. I spent a lot of time wandering from one room to another, looking... that, and too many late-night films must have contributed to the general dearth of room parties, at least of the number and standard usually enjoyed at a British convention.
For once in his life Brian Aldiss completely miscalculated the extent of his popularity. In an advertisement in the Programme Booklet, and on lots of little postcards which appeared strategically on every flat surface, following message was printed:
Friends, I solicit your vote to help me represent Britain in the Eurocon Awards (Trieste in July). My suggestion for voting in the novel category is BAREFOOT IN THE HEADs A European Fantasia (Faber £1.50 and Corgi 30p) - A modern-style novel about the Acid-Head War which covers the Continent, from Belgium right down to Southern Italy and Jugoslavia, My name is known in Italy. My books are translated there, and I've been both Guest of Honour and Judge at the Trieste Film Festival. Please vote for BAREFOOT - or Aldiss novel of your choice! - Brian W Aldiss.
Rarely can any campaign have been so counter-productive. "Peter", said Ethel Lindsay to me, "Is Brian really serious? It's a joke, isn't it?" She could not understand, and neither could anyone else, how Brian could have had the bare-faced (bare-footed?) nerve to so blatantly promote himself. It was generally felt that this was a bit much even for 'lovable' Brian, and in a fairly spontaneous reaction a lot of people voted instead for an author who deserved to be nominated just as much as Brian Aldiss, and who would never, under any circumstances, even dream of soliciting votes. And as a result of course; James White's ALL JUDGEMENT FLED was nominated as the British entrant for the Europa Award.
(I'm happy to add as a postscript that to my complete surprise Speculation was also nominated as the UK's entrant in the fanzine category; something I had not expected. That helps to compensate for the fact that this year Spec has not been nominated for the Hugo - and no wonder! - losing its place, deservedly, to that same SFC from Australia. Just a reminder, though, that Spec has in fact now been nominated for the Hugo on five separate occasions - hardly a record, however, for Yandro established the all-time distinction so far of being nominated SEVEN times before getting an Award.)
Apart from the '65 Worldcon, it was my first English con. I liked it, want to go again, recommend them to anyone who is as fed up as I am with the enormous and indigestible American bashes.
Below is a listing of the original reports used in compiling this composite report, and others that weren't, with
links to the full versions:
My thanks to Greg Pickersgill for scanning and OCRing most of these
Below is a listing of the original reports used in compiling this composite report, and others that weren't, with links to the full versions:
My thanks to Greg Pickersgill for scanning and OCRing most of these