|DW Con '04
Friday Saturday Maskerade Sunday Monday
An early start meant I was able to get to the station in plenty of time, and begin a journey that would end at Hinckley Island Hotel somewhat later than hoped, and checked in still later. On the way I met Heather and Taz, who mostly ignored me. Upon arrival at the newly-rebuilt hotel, the slow computers on reception meant I spent nearly an hour in the check-in queue. After check-in, I dropped off my stuff, got changed, registered, went to Ops, and began getting frustrated.
Apart from the fact that whenever I walked at a decent speed (and I was usually walking everywhere at a very fast pace) my hat would blow off, things seemed to be conspiring to be difficult for me. Drop things off at Ops, given the runaround about Deputy duties, quick drink, Deputies meeting, wander, eat, opening ceremony, Guild meeting, the bedtime stories. All not very enjoyable for me, so I won't go into detail. Suffice it to say that I found the whole thing very nebulous and wishy-washy, and imposing of responsibility without authority, which is not something the type of person I am finds easy or enjoyable. I shall not be Deputying again, nor maybe even joining a Guild.
Friday night was horrible - I couldn't get to sleep, and scenarios where I snapped, lost it or had a breakdown, and I would spend the rest of the Con in my room, kept running through my head.
Happy birthday to me!
First thing I did after getting up was shave my beard off. This was necessary for the costume change from Rincewind to Nijel/Walter Plinge (Nijel was my hall costume, Walter my Maskerade entry). After some more running around after Ops, and a swift breakfast, I went to the Maskerade tech run, which was running late - which was fine, because so was I. This worried me, though, as I had an event to run at 10.
Anyway, I got seen, I gave them my scripts (and apologised if they sounded rude, "but I'm paranoid about that sort of stuff" - with good reason), and my minidisc with my soundtrack on, and asked for a level test, which I never got.
Then it was off to the first round of the Unseen University Challenge, which I was running. We didn't as yet have any teams, so the first part of the hour was spent signing up teams. Then we got on with the quiz, the first two teams being UU Internal and Kzad Blat. UU won by about 50 points, and details of the next round would be placed on the notice board. After that, it was off to the first hour of the Writers' Workshop at the other end of the hotel. I had to slip out after the first hour, as I had to go to our Guild Entertainment Hour at Small Gods, where we were helping the children make protective amulets. I watched a little boy make one to protect him against pineapples, and a little girl made one to protect against sunburn. Then it was off to the Clarecraft event, which I left when they started showing the pictures so I could get some lunch, because at 2pm, we had a Guild meeting.
Er, no I didn't. The maskerade tech head found me and told me there was a problem with my minidisc not playing. I went and got my player and the jack-to-jack lead which I'd brought for such eventualities, and spent about 20 minutes copying it onto a tech laptop to be copied onto a system they could play. Then I went to the Guild meeting. It finished as soon as reasonably possible, and we joined the queue for the Guest of Honour interview, which was already extensive at half-past. By five-to, it ran twice the length of the corridor. Anyway, we got in, got seats, and listened to The Man In The Hat talk amusingly on various subject, all of which I have completely forgotten. Near the end, in response to a question, he asked the audience "What do you get out of it?" Most of the replies were along the lines of "Fun!", but Stacie called out that she got money for writing about PTerry, and I said, "We love the books!"
Then I went to Orjan's How to Buckle a Swash, and watched him and a few friends have fun with spears, battleaxes, swords, and all manner of interesting ways of using them.
Then it was off to the Weapons Photo Shoot, which would have gone better if it was in the same place as the Swashbuckling, but as there was a Sculpture Workshop in Treacle Mines, that wasn't possible, so we got The Cavern instead.
Here, Nijel the Destroyer got fully equipped (with a sword that was beaten around and with the clay cladding falling off), and stood around for twenty minutes posing for photos, along with sundry other armed people. I was disappointed that more of the Silver Horde didn't show up - Butcher was at the Con at least - and Heather as Conina would have added to our numbers as well.
So, after that failure, I went back to my room to get changed, rehearse, and eat.
Problem 1: I had forgotten to pack a white shirt. T-shirt and trousers donned, I hurried to Chaos Costuming to see if they could do anything. Teddy quickly ran me up a fake collar attached to a cravat. This was also where Heather had been, and it was where I told her about the cake. So, back to my room with the fake collar, ready to go.
Problem 2: When I checked my broom, the supporting plasticard had severed completely. T-shirt on over the collar, off to Ops for some sellotape. Right.
Plug minidisc into laptop, play the music, and rehearse. At first I pinned the cloak up under the back of my overcoat, but that didn't work too well, so I hit on the idea of stuffing it through the pocket-hole on the left - it would appear to be little more than a rag sticking out of my pocket. I practised several times, and eventually I was satisfied. I ate, watched a couple of music videos on TV to relax, then headed off to the Green Room.
Once there, it was swelteringly hot. I had to add more sellotape round the join in the broom handle to keep it steady, and I had to jam the damn thing into the floor to keep it in position, so I couldn't lean against the wall to relax. I was sixth in the running order, so it wasn't long before I was called, thankfully. I went out into the corridor, then into the wing, and waited. I was very tense - after all, I was still fluffing the start of the second verse. I wiped the problem from my mind.
I should have begun to worry that things weren't going quite right, when the ASM had to repeat the "number six, go!" cue. Anyway, I went on in general illumination, as requested. And that was as far as the script went. I was left standing in the middle of the stage in gen. illum. for 15 seconds, when I had stated that as soon as I reach centre stage, the lights can change and the track can start. There was a hissing sound over the speakers. I waited. The lights changed to single spot, and the music began. I sung, I seperated the broom head from the handle and put the silver top on it. I unbuttoned my overcoat, took it off, and flung it away. The first verse finished in perfect time, and I could hear the music. Then the audience started clapping, and the music disappeared under it. I counted along the time in my head, and began the second verse (perfectly) about half a bar after I should have. I managed the verse, and the flourishing of the cloak, and when the second verse ended, I paused to find the music again. Applause completely drowned it. I waited. They stopped clapping. The music was somewhere in the middle of the third verse. I waited to the end of the sequence, then removed my beret, put on my mask, replaced the beret, and sang the final line. No blackout as requested, so I picked up my broom and exited in a fury. I stormed down to the second Green Room, angry at myself for not making more sure of the broom's fitness, and angry at the techies for ballsing up a simple set of instructions.
A few minutes later, someone came and told me that I could go again at the end, because of the fuck-up, if I wanted. Believe it or not, my first thought was to say "That's not fair on the others," or "I had my shot, blew it," but they were quickly wiped away. My thought was now "How?", as I had scrunched up my mask pretty badly, and the successive repair jobs, not to mention the construction, of the broom practically ensured I would never be able to insert the handle in the slot again. I voiced this concern, and they led me back to the main Green Room where the remains of the broom had been taken. Some thin gaffer tape and more brown sellotape on top did an admirable job, and, technically, I was ready to go again at the end.
There was a problem, however, in that now, not only was I still immensly hot, I was also shaking with fury, and had gone completely blank on anything after the first verse. I swallowed my pride, and my dreams, and informed them I would forfeit my second chance. They tried to dissuade me, but I told them I was in no condition to go on. I went to the second Green Room again and deposited my stuff, then headed to the bar where I downed a neat vodka in one. I came back to the second Green Room.
After a short while, we were told the judges had adjourned, and almost immediately afterwards, the head of the entire tech crew, Tim, and his #2, came and apologised to me. I had by now calmed down somewhat, and could accept his apology with the knowledge from personal experience (on both sides of the curtain) that sometimes things get fucked up and there is nothing you can do about them. As Random was going for drinks anyway, they sent her to get me a Hobgoblin for them. Thanking them, I sat down and began cursing idiot prop-makers who didn't forsee simple problems, and idiot sound recorders who can't get a minidisc to record in the right format (both me!)
Everyone there had kind words for me, which I thanked them for and brushed off. I was cheering up a little. I went round taking photos and being photographed. Reacher Gilt and Lily Weatherwax (Pam) looked so fitting together, that Heather suggested they would make a good bride and groom. She (in her Ginger from Moving Pictures costume) acted as bridesmaid, and carried Pam's train, while I held her orangutan (not only to give her both hands free, but also because the librarian is the Opera House's substitue organist) as we went into The Dysk to get the results.
First came the minor prizes - Most Promising Newcomer was Genevieve Tyrrell as Polly Oliver. As they began to announce the next one, I knew what was coming, and handed the orangutan back to Heather. Valour in the face of technical meltdown - "Brian Wakeling as The Real Walter Plinge". I went up to the front, got my handshake, and moved off to the side to wait for the others. Best Vocals went to Pat Harkin as a wizard, then came the category prizes. A slight change this year, no 2nd or 3rd prizes, just 1st. Best Rookie was Marco Villalta as Moist von Lipwig, Best Novice was Martin Wyatt as Death Gets Nicked (he was riding the hamster-powered motorbike), Best Journeyman was Alex Carlton as Mr Shine, and the Best Masters were the Oldroyds as the Hogswach Dolls at Crumleys. Then there was a bit of debate between the judges, and they awarded the Best in Show to the Oldroyds as well, narrowly not giving it to Pam. Applause, woo, etc, and off to the Hub for a quick photoshoot. I dropped off my overcoat and broom at my room, picked up my cake, then went to bar, followed by the Hedgehog Party. I found Heather and Taz with Samantha just outside, and after pilfering some plates and a knife, we cut the cake and ate it.
At the Hedgehog party, there was food, there was music, there was dancing, there was 150 people. There was also me getting progressively drunker as the Hobgoblins mounted up, and hotter and hotter with all the dancing I was doing. I took off my tailcoat and waistcoat (I had pinned them together to help keep them in place), and continued dancing in my collar and cravat.
When the music ended, I was really feeling the effects of all the alcohol I'd had - the vodka had not been a good idea, especially with four or five Hobgoblins on top. I hung around a little to try and sober up a little, but I didn't have much luck, so I went to bed with the room spinning.
All in all, I've had better birthdays.
I awoke still pissed. I managed to drag myself out of bed, shucked on some clothes, and headed for breakfast. Outside the restaurant was a Priestess of Anoia, handing out spoons for votive offerings (Bilious, the Oh God of Hangovers would have been a more apt representative just then). I went straight past, and told the hotel maitre'd "I'm just here for toast," barely stopping. I took three slices, and headed to Ops, where I had some things to try and sort out, before heading to the Church of Om service, where I managed to slowly get the toast down my throat. I met Heather, who was unnecessarily healthy. She suggested ginger biscuits to help settle my stomach, and offered to find some for me. I got changed back into my Nijel costume, and met her in Ops, where someone took a photo of us.
As it was rather cold, and people had been complementing me on my Phantom costume last night, I got changed, and spent the rest of the day as Walter Plinge. After changing, I joined the queue for the Stephen Briggs interview, hosted by Orjan. By the end, I was flagging somewhat, so I repaired to my room yet again for a brief kip, and to retrieve my photos from my camera. I emerged at about 1.30 to get some lunch - a salad sandwich - followed by a Guild meeting at 2pm. It was at this meeting that it was first mentioned to me that the Fools' were charging tokens for laughing. Uneducated laughter is out of their remit - their job is to cause it, not prevent it. Only Fools can make jokes educatedly, anyone can laugh at them. I think I may have actually been the first person to suggest sicking the Lawyers' onto them for exceeding their remit. We were also interrupted by a couple of Alchemists, to discuss the camera tokens arrangement, and the anti-frog potion.
After that it was the UU Challenge, but on the way, I bumped into a Lawyer, who agreed to take action against the Alchemists' Guild on our behalf, due to their anti-frog potion necessarily inolving a magical component, which was clearly UU's purview, and not theirs. It cost 10 tokens. I got to the UU Challenge slightly late, but only one of the teams was there anyway. I gave the other one until quarter past to turn up, during which time, I set up. When the team didn't show, I started the second round, technically the third place playoff, between the seventh team of the first round (who got a bye), and the third-highest scoring winners, the Foolish Alchemists. They creamed Can We Get Back To You? by 230 points to 35. Then they had a go at me for not knowing the way the real University Challenge worked, at which point I went, "Oh bugger," (not for the first, or last, time that weekend) and agreed that a three-way final in light of the new information would be appropriate. I cleared it with Bruce, and began to wander round. I met Heather, and asked to join her and the other Chaos Costuming Crew on their trip to the Chinese that evening. It was agreed to meet in the atrium at six, immediately after My Favourite Big Read. I thought it probably wouldn't be a good idea to turn up in costume, and so elected to miss the event in order to change (and give my stomach more time to settle back down).
It was the same lot as last time who went, with the addition of Taz and someone else who hadn't been there in 2004. Different restaurant, though. The meal passed much quicker than last time, the conversation turning to such things as The Whole Point of Panto, Eating Habits of the Curious and Ravenous, and How Cheaply Can You Get Good Food? We returned to the hotel (the car I was in ended up going north instead of south, and we arrived some time after the other car) just before nine, which was the time I had planned to join the Toast and Jam. I found Heather and Taz, made sure they were coming, and then went to Treacle Mines. On the way, Sorcha intercepted me and informed me of the latest cunning plan between the UU and the Alchemists' (whose respective heads were Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen). The plan was to merge the two into a single academic entity, and whilst the plan had originated with an Alchemists' deputy, it was approved by both Guild heads, and myself as soon as I found out about it. The merger (scheduled for 3.55pm Monday) was ratified by the Dark Clerks, so the Lawyers' Guild couldn't get involved, and the way was open for us to jointly win the Guild competition. After being informed of this fine plan, I started again towards Treacle Mines, and this time arrived. Almost immediately, I was approached by Eric, who wanted me to do a single guest line for The Monster Mash. I agreed, and after witnessing Free's All Right Now with a ukelele, and the horror of Aquarion singing Dedicated Follower of Fashion in a bright yellow shirt, the song started. I had my tailcoat on, and when the song was going, I put my cloak on as well. At a nod from Aq, I made my way up to the microphone, and when they came to the right line, the chorus parted and I leaned in to ask "Vhatever happened to my Transylvania Tvist?" as Dracula. I saw several people crease up in laughter, including Heather, who I had asked to take a photo of the magic moment for me.
One quick change into my shirt again, I was back at the Toast & Jam for the rest of the night. I asked if I would be able to sing something, and Eric let me look through the repetoire. I found Weather With You and American Pie, but in the end I got to sing neither. I did get to duet with Misha on Breakfast at Tiffany's after Eric asked for volunteers who knew all the words. Heather managed to persuade the band to play Fever for her to sing along to, and whilst she kept a better tune than we had, she kept berating herself for missing the timing (not that anyone really noticed or minded, I expect).
At some point during the evening, Tal, an insanely bouncy American-sounding woman, came after me. She had met me the night before and for some reason had been impressed. She found out I was an actor, and offered me a part in the vampire movie that was putting together. Never actually having played a vampire (apart from ninety minutes earlier for three seconds), I said it sounded like fun and agreed. The night wore on, and eventually, the band played their last number (James - Sit Down), and I departed, the plan being to try and finally shake off the effects of Saturday night, and to stay up a decent time into the morning. It didn't work. Although I did have a rather ... interesting conversation with Taz and Samantha and a scary bloke with a beard before escaping indoors, whereupon Samantha disappeared, and Taz and I sat within earshot of Peter Morwood geeking about aeroplanes to anyone who would listen - for over an hour. We were joined at points by Martyn and Misha, who began geeking about PDAs, and when Heather joined Peter's group, Misha used his to get a rather nice picture of her bum. I turned in not long afterwards, as I was frankly feeling ill, and more tired than I really had a right to be.
After a very pleasant night, I got up rather later than I should have done, and had to hurry to get to breakfast in time. A breakfast I couldn't finish, it turned out, due to Saturday's alcohol still being in there somewhere. For some reason, I had volunteered to Walk the Walk with Martyn, and had to leave most of it, and depart with the toast and some orange juice. Walking the Walk involved teams of two people, one blindfolded, wearing giant foam hands and one giant foam shoe, an oversized hat and a giant cardboard greave, being given directions to post packages into a post box after negotiating an obstacle course by the other. As we were the first people to put our names down, we were first up. We managed two parcels, with no collisions (although there was one near miss, and Martyn nearly picked up an extension cable instead of a package once). We sat down to watch the other teams attempt the course, most of whom either bumped into the obstacles, or nearly clobbered Bruce, and in a few cases, both! 'Twas most hilarious.
We had a Guild meeting then, but I realised I didn't have time to oversee it as well as pack and check out, so I told Martyn the secret plan, and asked him to inform the others. I hurried off, got my packing done, and queued for to check out. I got through the business just after Vetinari's Trial started, and slid into a seat at the back to watch. PTerry's evidence for the prosecution was damning, and when cross-examined, Vetinari had him removed from the stand. There were defence witnesses, who basically said that life under Vetinari was better than life under the previous Patricians. Then the summings-up, and then came the jury (audience) vote. About twenty people stood up to vote for Vetinari to step down. Almost everybody else stood up to vote the other way. I was most amused when Briggsy exited to the Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back.
I next went to The Cavern for Lionel Fanthorpe's talk on the Mysteries and Secrets of the Templars, which I thought would be interesting. It was, FCVO interesting - but he waffled too much, he presented the subject very vaguely, and I was flagging again, so I left a little over halfway through to get some lunch. Munching away on a giant ham roll, I met Samantha in the Hub, and shortly joined her and Taz in the queue for the Reduced Discworld Company's play, which turned out to be Pyramids. I had to leave halfway through in order to get to the final of the UU Challenge in time. Half of the UU team were also late. It was Foolish Alchemists vs UU Internal vs We Don't Know. The final score was FA 230, UUI 115, WDK 45. The plan was for the winners to then play a team of Guests and ConCom, who were nowhere to be seen. I Went To Ops. I came back from Ops none the wiser and went to the bar, where I spotted Colin Smythe and Peter & Diane in conversation with a group of mostly Musicians'. I asked if they were the Guest team, they hadn't a clue what I was talking about. I went back to the Cavern, where Martyn told me that due to a communications bollocks-up twixt me and Bruce, there was no Guest/ConCom team. I would have to improvise. A promise of free drinks for the three in the bar was enough to secure their entry in the special edition final. They got creamed. Diane even turned to Peter and said, "We need to stay in more!". Standing in the bar shouting out questions on Discworld novels was quite fun, and probably an enjoyable spectacle for anyone fortunate enough to pass by and see it.
I tidied up (eventually), took stuff back to Ops, gave Bruce the scores, did a few more random things, then joined the queue for the Closing Ceremony at about twenty past. By the time it was 4pm, the start time, the queue stretched twice the length of the corridor and almost into the Hub. We filed in eventually, and I got my seat. PTerry thanked everyone, then handed over to Meg, who thanked everyone again, then announced the prizes. Mine (for the maskerade) was an American edition of The Truth and a bar of 70% Venezualan Dark Chocolate. Worbleook got a prize for having his artwork as the back cover of the programme book, although we were told that everyone who entered would be getting something for their effort.
Finally, the Guild compettion results. I had earlier been informed that the cunning merger had been prevented, so no huge combined score for UU+Alchemists, only seperate ones. As it happened, the actual scores were not read out. In last place was the Fools', followed by the Lawyers'. Then came the Priests', the Muscians', UU, the Seamstresses', the Alchemists', the Assassins', and surprise winners, the Conjurers'. Absolutely HUGE cheer and round of applause. Then a final round of thanks, a quick reveal of the next ConCom Chair (Bruce), and we all departed.
So that was it. I just had to retrieve my swords from Ops, take a few photos, congratulate and say goodbye to a few people, and bag a taxi with Heather and Taz who were getting the same train as me again. I gave my chocolate to Samantha as it was too dark for me, Heather wasn't feeling like chocolate, and Taz was allergic to it. We hung around in the atrium for a bit, and I took the opportunity to apologise to Martyn for dropping him in it earlier in the day. Heather wandered up, and when she was within earshot I grinned at her and said, "It's your two least favourite people!". A long silence followed, then, "... Thinking ...". Not entirely encouraging. Anyway, I was starting to get my appetite back, so I nipped up to Ops and borrowed an apple, then came back to the atrium for more waiting, shortly followed by the grabbing of a few free (charitable donation) US edition DW books - and then we were off. We bumped into a few more departing Con-goers on the train, and had a rather interesting conversation about chav-baiting, mobile phone indestructibility, and the fun of owning huge bladed weapons. Taz got off at Watford, and the rest of us went our seperate ways when we got to Euston, promising to see each other at the next one (and probably not getting a chance to meet before then).
I will return!
 I Have just found out that the scores were as follows: Fools 463, Lawyers 756, Priests 777, Musicians 796, Unseen University 875, Seamstresses 877, Alchemists 896, Assassins 1160, Conjurers 1250 BACK