|DW Con '04
Friday Saturday Sunday
My trip down to my first CCDE was not a happy one. Having to get up at an ungodly early hour of the morning was only slightly tempered by the fact that I hadn't been to sleep yet. Getting on a slower train than the usual one at Leeds due to it breaking down was also not good. Having it arrive 14 minutes late at Peterborough, one minute after my connecting train was due to leave was downright inconsiderate. And that was before I found out that it had been cancelled anyway, and I would have to wait an hour, get a train to Ely, wait there for another 90 minutes, then get a train to Bury St. Edmunds, where I could either hop a train to Elmswell (yeah, right!), or get a taxi to CCDE from there.
Fortunately, I heard a voice I recognised on the train from Ely, and met up with Andrew Neville and a hyperactive 15 year-old called Mark, who promptly declared he and his mate could hack AFP, and that he could beat anyone with a lightsabre. Much amusement met this statement, but even after Andrew and I explained that I happened to be a qualified fencing coach and stage combat instructor, who had, actually, fought with a lightsabre in a Star Wars spoof, he seemed to think he could still beat me. Andrew predicted less than three minutes for the confrontation, which was set for "tomorrow, at dawn. Dawn being 9 o'clock." When I asked Mark why, he told me it was because he was staying at a Travelodge, and wouldn't be able to get over to Warren Farm before tomorrow. "Good," I said, "dawn's far too early."
Anyway - we got off at Bury St. Edmunds, looked around in horror at the isolation, and noted that the next train to Elmswell was in twenty minutes. Good. Then there was an anouncement that the next train to Elmswell was delayed by 40 minutes. Bad. Then we met Skeggie, who was well down the path of official complaint, and we realised that with three of us now going straight to the camp site, a taxi was economical. So we ordered one, trundled off to the exit, spotted a taxi pulling up, put our bags and tents in - and another taxi turned up. It turned out that this one was ours, so we transferred the bags, and off we went.
Arrived at Warren Farm, checked in (Skeggie disappeared), and agreed to help each other put each others' tents up. Andrew spotted Vincent Oberheim's tent, and so we decided to pitch next to him. It took us less than an hour to get both tents up, even when it was found I had less pegs and more guy ropes than were needed for my borrowed tent, and then I decided I needed photos of the first tents I had put up in 20 years.
It now being 5pm, and I having intended arriving at 1:30pm, now seemed like a good time to have a quick look around, followed by some food. I toured the campsite, I took a photo of it from the top of the hill (and later deleted it because it wasn't very interesting), I wandered over to the bar, bought a drink, and texted someone who should have been here three hours ago.
Tried to text. Out of credit, and the systems for topping up were down until 6pm, so I'd just have to wait. Food - sausage and chips. Sausage not bad, chips rather good, price hideous. Still, food is food, especially when it's covered in ketchup. Bit of talking ("Andrew's got a very penetrative voice, hasn't he?" "Yes - you can always tell where he is. He's like a GPS system."), bit of lying on the grass, bit of spending 15 minutes convincing the phone people that yes that is my credit card now please top me up. Topped up, texted Heather, went back to lounging next to Vincent and Andrew.
Fifteen minutes later I got a call, and met Heather, who had brought Taz with her, Tors being at a completely different event. The merchants' shed had just shut, so we probably went to the bar. I do know that I was on Dragonslayer all weekend, which was good. Anyway - bar, lounging around, barbecue meet under the trees with singing. Alcohol, music, food (including sausages that some lunatic had put bits of peanut in), more music. Up to the bar for more alcohol, and there I stayed. There was more singing, including all the drunken singalong favourites like "Springtime for Hitler and Germany" (Heather's current favourite) and other show tunes, a bit of Abba IIRC, and folk songs.
And this is where it gets interesting - well, a bit anyway. A memory block over something to sing next had been reached due to a surplus of beer, and I suggested Over the Hills and Far Away, partly because I thought it was appropriate, and partly because I wanted to sing something I at least partially knew. No-one could remember the first couple of lines, though, until Heather remembered that she had them all on her PDA, and brought it out for people to squint at as we sang. We finished, and started again, trying to give it new lyrics that fitted Monstrous Regiment better. We did a few verses, and I had brainwave of writing down the words. I shot off to my tent, but I couldn't find anything to write on or with. I bumped into Andrew (nearly scaring him half to death) and asked if he had a pen and paper. "Why?" "Because we're making up words for Over the Hills and Far Away." "The Sharpe theme? Where?" "Up at the bar," and I was off again, with Andrew making best speed for the bar with no paper either. I managed to borrow a pencil and some post-it notes, and ran back to the bar, where slight progress had been made. I handed the writing implements to someone who still looked capable of writing, and promptly started thinking of replacements for "Flanders, Portugal and Spain". I got it! And then I forgot the middle one. There was a breathless silence as I tried to remember what came between, and then I remembered again - "Uberwald!". The chorus was scribbled down, and I was passed back the post-it notes. I scribbled down the first lines of the verses that were being churned out by Heather. She stopped, and seemed annoyed that we weren't taking it in turns. "We're pissed!" was the general excuse. "Not good enough!" she said. And this is where the amnesia kicks in - I can't remember much after that, except a brief conversation with Andrew in the door of his tent, then crawling into mine.
I woke up hideously early and cold. I checked my mobile, and it was 5am. I went back to sleep for a couple of hours, but didn't get any warmer. I gave in, and got up.
It was a lovely bright new morning, the sun was shining, it wasn't raining, but it was still bloody cold. The reason being, the sun was behind the trees that were barely twenty yards from my tent. I also had a headache. So did Andrew, emerging from his tent with a groan. I got us both a drink of water while Andrew attempted to make himself human again. I decided to wait until it was a bit warmer before attempting anything like that, so I watched Andrew making tea on his camping stove, and spill all the water onto his porch. Second time lucky, and tinned breakfast followed. I retired to my tent for a bite, and to transcribe some more lyrics for Over the Hills..., and when I emerged, a beautiful sight met my eyes from roughly two hundred yards in front of my tent. Those of you who know where my tent was in relation to certain bits of campsite furniture may be able to guess what it was. Anyway, I was still hungry, so I went to get a bite to eat, and was charged £1 a rasher for a bacon butty. I came back, and Andrew was once again emerging from his tent, this time in uniform.
Before me stood Major Andrew Neville, Military Observer from the Confederated Sto Armies - or the Child Suport Agency, as someone remarked when they saw what his buttons were marked with. We decided to inspect the camp. We wandered up to the noisy end and back again, and got to the junction with the big field just in time to see Heather walking back to her tent in a bikini. I showed my appreciation as we followed, and Andrew started muttering to me about "Gentlemanly behaviour."
We arrived at Taz and Heather's tent, where Heather was about to put some clothes on. "Nice outfit," I said. "Thanks," she replied, "I've already had five photos and a wolf-whistle." "Yeah, that was him," Andrew told her, which led to a discussion about why an officer didn't really need to behave like a gentleman. (I probably should have asked her whether she'd had any proposals, but I didn't think of it until I wrote this)
Andrew and I continued our inspection of the camp, keeping an eye out for anyone who might have lightsabres they'd be willing to loan us for the showdown with Mark. We didn't find any, although Andrew pointed out that if he didn't turn up before five past nine anyway, I'd win by default. We finished our walk, Andrew headed off to find another Brian (who also had a CSA uniform), and I headed off to the canteen to try and find people who might know if I was wanted to help with the fencing later. I wanted to enter, but as I'd had precious little sleep, I'd let Kian know that I probably wouldn't be in a fit state to do so. However, when I talked to him he assured me it would be alright for me to enter, which I thought was very fair indeed.
It still wasn't ten o'clock yet, so nothing was open. I had another wander up towards Heather's tent, and met her and Taz coming down for post-breakfast drinks. More experienced campers than I (who'd brought just enough for two days short rations), they'd brought their own food, but no tea or anything to cook with. Anyway - wander. Ten o'clock! Straight to the merchants' shed. Browse, drink beer, sample chilli-powder flavour chocolate, get Taz signed up for DWCon06, play with miniature swords, buy Ankh-Morpork Post Office bags, back up to Taz and Heather's tent, where their flag had fallen down. We fixed up another, slightly taller and more stable flagpole.
Burble, snack, back towards the Dysk, where I checked on the imminence of the fencing. Nothing, so I tried to spot where Heather and Taz and disappeared to. Heather had joined the juggling workshop, and was making a fair mess of it. I'll admit that I couldn't have done better, but here was an opportunity to prove that I wasn't the worst at absolutely everything. So after a few minutes of watching with faint amusement, on the third try, I videoed her for a few seconds. Minutes later, I saw someone wheeling a trailer towards the Dysk, and I knew that that must be the beginnings of the fencing competition. I grinned, said, "see you," and hurried off.
I grabbed my kit, got changed, and started to prepare myself. After a short introductory talk and demonstration to the gathering hordes by Kian, we were split into pools for the first round of the epee tournament. I wasn't expecting to do too well, as I hadn't fenced for four years, and everyone in my pool looked like they had some sort of advantage - height, lack-of-height, a "GBR" on their jacket. Plus I was tired, but frankly, it's de rigeur to enter a fencing competition either hungover or knackered. I was pleasantly surprised when I realised that I had beaten all of my opponents in the pool, and they had made me work for it as well. That was the first time I have ever won a fencing pool - I usually end up second or third, but this was the first time I won. Anyway, we waited for the other pool to finish, whereupon Mark found me, and rested his arm on my fencing arm. He explained that he had only just arrived, and he was ready to face me. I told him to find some lightsabres, and I'd deal with him later. He wanted to use swords. I told him he wouldn't be allowed, so go and find some lightsabres.
The other pool finished, and while people were working out the scoresheet and the elimation matches, I refereed a sabre match between Kian and Cat, which Kian won by a large margin. He then persuaded me to face him at sabre. I knew it was a bad idea, as I was tired, still in epee mode, and my style relies heavily on the stop-hit, which doesn't work in the face of someone as fast or as skilled as yourself. I am a good technical fencer, it's just I go to pieces in an actual fight. I got beaten 15-4. I did slightly better in the first elimination round, against Gideon, the only left-hander there. As I learned against an unusually high number of left-handers, I am usually quite good when facing them. However, it does kind of help if your hand isn't shaking, and you've kept in practice for the last four years. I lost 15-8, which was only a bit worse than what I expected. I didn't really expect to win, but I had hoped that, after my good first round, I'd make it to at least the second round of elimination. Dispirited, I left to get changed and have some lunch.
On my way up to the bar after I'd changed, Mark spotted me. "No-one's got any lightsabres - let's use sticks!" "Sticks can be just as dangerous as swords!" I called back, and hurried on. I got myself a drink, and went to have a look around. I spotted Heather flinging herself at Cohen the Barbarian (with a cry of "Daddy!" I learnt later - she was in her Conina dress) near the merchants' shed. I went to join her as Taz took the photo. I've no idea what we did for the next hour and a half, but I do know we got to PTerry's interview after it started, and we squeezed in to watch from the side. Among the pearls of wisdom he dispensed on such subjects as bestselling authors writing about wizards, Vetinari's past and future, and translations, he hinted heavily that a certain Death book was very close to being confirmed for production. As the interview ended and we all started to slope off, Marco gave me a Borogravian shilling for taking part in the fencing.
After that, I've no idea what we did, although we must have been doing something, because we arrived late for the Maskerade. We were just in time to see the Borogravian Foreign Legion leave the stage. There some more entries, most notably William de Worde giving a "war report" on the Event, and Pam as the Spirit of Duchess Annagovia. She won, and that is where the problems started. You see, while the judges were out, someone from Clarecraft realised that they didn't actually have the big silver statue of the Discworld that Heather and I (along with Tors and Teddy) had won at last year's Convention, and that we were supposed to bring back for the CCDE. And so, while I was loitering with intent to gawp at costumes, Heather was mugged by someone frantic asking where the statue was. "Tors has it," she told them, and was soon explaining that no-one had actually told them that the trophy was supposed to be back for CCDE, they had assumed they meant DWCon06. While she was doing this, Vincent came up to me and asked me about the whereabouts of the trophy. I told him, and pointed out that I had never had it, and that Heather was being asked about it right now. The general reaction was "Oh dear," and pretty soon, everybody within a five yard radius knew what had happened. PTerry and the other judges came back and mingled for a few minutes. During these few minutes, I was forced to produce the Borogravian lyrics to Over the Hills and Far Away so that we could sing it. At this point we only had verses one and three and the chorus. As we started singing, I noticed PTerry a few yards away. By the time we got to "The Sergeant has an iron ass," Martyn had pointed out that there was someone who wanted to talk to us. I turned. Heather turned, but kept singing, "Even though she is a...", and stopped suddenly when she realised it was PTerry. It turned out our lyrics were somewhat different to those Stephen Briggs had written for the version used in his production of Monstrous Regiment.
Anyway, a few minutes later, the judges officially returned, and PTerry got up on stage and started awarding the lesser prizes. Winners included William de Worde, The Duck Man, Graycat in the Borogravian Women's Army Uniform, and, finally, the overall winner The Spirit of Duchess Annagovia. "Now, normally at this point," PTerry was saying, "I would be presenting a rather large silver statue of the Discworld." I tried to look nonchalant. Heather started to cringe. "But unfortunately, since it was last awarded to some sheep-stealing Nac Mac Feegles last year..." (Heather was half-turning away and trying to hide her face in her hands. I followed her.) "... it hasn't been returned. I remember, when I presented it to them, they said 'Ye'll niver see this agin!', which turned out to be prophetic." By now Heather was trying desperately to hide, and I was trying to tell her not to worry. But worse was to come. "So, rather than just standing here like a lemon, I'm going to have to present you with this rather smaller model of the Discworld, until the Feegles can be persuaded to return the real one." He presented a smaller model of the Discworld, hurriedly borrowed from Bernard's stall, no doubt, then turned back to the front. "As for the Feegles... Where are you? Ah, there. Don't worry - there is such a thing as Death by Word Processor." I stopped listening at this point, partly because Heather was practically shrieking in embarrassment, and partly because I was trying not to laugh.
Anyway, we spent the next hour or so mingling with Maskerade contestants, nosy attendees, and other people. Then food, and the evening's entertainment. The band didn't sound all that interesting from where we were eating, but we could hear Rachel Hayward by the bar, so that seemed a sensible place to go. With the beer, it did. With the sing-along-a-Buffy, it didn't. I just can't see the point of idolising one silly episode of a TV show just because it has musical numbers in it. I sat through it, mainly because I still had a drink in my hand, and it was starting to get bloody cold by now, but when it finished and people started doing My Fair Lady, I decided to go somewhere warmer where all you have to do is listen. So I went to the Dysk and caught the second half of the Red Hot Radiators' gig. They were good, but they had the mic balance wrong for when they switched lead singers each time they did a song with a male vocal. I didn't stay for the encore, as Mustang Sally has a bad effect on me. I went back up to the bar, where they had finished musicals and were now onto Monty Python and other random songs. It had been spotting all evening, but just after last orders, it really started pissing it down, so we all ducked inside the barn bringing our chairs with us, and carried on. But by now we were having to resort to Phantom of the Opera and other songs that no-one could remember how they started, so when the rain stopped and the bar staff turned all the lights off (with cries of "Haven't you got homes to go to?", to which we all replied "No!"), we made our way back to our tents.
Sunday morning was cold. And I mean cold. The sun wasn't shining, it was cloudy, the wind was blowing, and it was freezing. I got up, had a bit of breakfast, then slunk back inside my tent and tried to compose some notes on the weekend. I failed. But at least I was warming up. After a bit I went to the catering van (whose proprietors had been taking lessons from CMOT Dibbler about price) and bought a sausage-inna-bun. I went back to my tent, tried a bit more composition, failed again, and finally wandered over to see Heather and Taz, who I had spotted heading back to their tent. It not yet being ten o'clock again, we took a wander around the campsite, looking at the tents. We stopped off at the Borogravian Foreign Legion, and found they weren't recruiting any more. We wandered up the hill, passing a totem pole of Feegle artefacts, to the BASH tent (Borogravian Army Surgical Hospital), then back down, still bloody cold.
It was almost 10am by now, so we lurked outside the merchants' hut, and worked our way inside in minutes. More browsing, more beer tasting, and then out again, up to the bar. Heather and Taz joined the signing queue, having bought postcards to get signed. I hadn't, but I did have the lyrics to Over the Hills... in my back pocket, so I took them out and joined the queue as well. Both PTerry and Stephen signed my lyrics (PTerry writing "I am a ghast!"), and we went to look at the paint-your-owns. It was by now nearly 11:30, so I left and went to pack up my tent. I had a schedule to keep - pack up in time to watch the Maskerade re-run, walk to Elmswell station at one o'clock to be in good time to get a train to take me to Bury St. Edmunds so I could get on the train home that I had a ticket for at 2:30. So far, so good, except that I could not get the bloody rolled-up tent back into its' bag! It's all very well these modern tents being super-light and portable, but they don't pack well when damp into a bag that doesn't stretch! Aaargh!
Once I'd managed, on the third attempt, to get 90% of the tent in the bag, I went over to the Dysk and dumped my stuff next to Heather and Taz. There were quite a few people in costume around, and we were waiting for it to start, when someone pointed out that there was someone in a very good troll costume approaching, we all went to look. It was indeed a very good troll costume, and even had individually-operated fingers at the end of the arms that hung down to knee-level. As we stood around admiring it, I overheard PTerry explaining about the missing trophy again. I tapped Heather on the shoulder, "They're talking about you again." We moved over and began explaining again. "Well you can't blame me," I said at one point, "I never had the trophy." "Oh, were you a Feegle as well?" asked PTerry. "I was the one who got elbowed in the throat. The line was: 'We're gonna have tae use our heids to get out o' this wun!'" I say, moving into a fighting crouch. Then I jerked backwards, as if elbowed in the throat, "Erk!" and stood up. Heather elbowed me in the throat - she had acted along, but was just a tiny bit slow.
After a bit more mingling and conversation, during which time someone came up to PTerry to show him an original copy of The Carpet People with a promotional letter from the British Wool Association inside, it was one o'clock, and I bade goodbye to Heather and Taz, hoisted my kit on my back, and departed for Elmswell station, singing Over the Hills and Far Away. And that would have been it, except for the fact that trains from Elmswell to Bury St. Edmunds on a Sunday occur at the rate of two per day, and the next would be in three hours. I got a taxi to Bury St. Edmunds, and it cost half as much as the taxi from Bury St. Edmunds had cost two days ago, and this is therefore a quick plug for A+A cars of Elmswell, next time you're in the area.
Oh, and I somehow injured my right leg in a way that had nothing to do with the fencing.
Just wait 'til next year!