|DW Con '04
(And what a bloody awful con it was too!)
Before Friday Saturday Sunday Monday After
Since Ryanair had dropped the flight from Manchester to Shannon, and didn't let on about where they moving it to until too late, I had booked my flight from Birmingham, so I got up at six to get the train at 6.30 to Leeds, have breakfast (except I didn't have time to get it), get the 7.08 train to Manchester Piccadilly, then the 10.28 to Bournemouth, which stopped at Birmingham International. Now, because we had a deal with the local bookshop to come in and sell books, I had been allowed to bring some of my books over and have them sell them for me on commission - except the local bookshop pulled out at the last minute, and we got a chain bookstore in to replace them, and they wouldn't sell my books without an entry on their stock database - which, of course, I didn't have, and didn't know about. So my suitcase was full of books, making it 2kg overweight. Not only was there not a single trolley available at Birmingham International, the damn case nearly ripped my fingers off and arm out at the shoulder with all the carrying I had to do.
Anyway, got into Shannon more-or-less on time, where there were trolleys, and Nicola was waiting for me. We went off to a nearby shopping centre to have lunch (and already I was getting bad vibes), then on to Ennis, for her to pick up some stuff for the Con, and a couple of pairs of glasses for herself (as her contacts were hurting her eyes with all the computer work she had been doing lately). Then we went back to hers and did Con stuff, mostly printing out the UU Challenge questions.
After a sleepless night on the couch, Nic and most of her family spent most of the day ferrying Con-goers from their various arrival points to the hotel. So that left me (a foreigner), Mary-Ellen (couldn't drive) and Simon (still at school) stuck at home, arranging various bits of artwork, and failing to find various bits of information, as the internet died completely mid-morning. In the afternoon, stuff started being ferried to the Hotel for the tech setup and Ops. The last load went some 40 minutes before myself and Mary-Ellen did, and we only just got there in time for the shceduled 4pm meeting. Unfortunately, things had been going wrong, and we had to postpone the meeting until after tech was finished setting up. Sully and I helped with setting up the tech, while the girls went and talked to the hotel's event manager, and have a brief radio interview. So then the meeting was delayed until after dinner, and when I asked, was assured, "we're going to have the meeting, don't worry." Of course, dinner took a while, and there was the lure of the pub quiz, and so the chairs decided that the meeting would be held tomorrow at 1pm. I only found out when I asked, "Are we gonna have the meeting now?", and was answered with, "Oh, that's happening tomorrow, now," with no further explanation. This was a meeting whose purpose was to find and iron out problems before they arose, and to make sure that every event would have the necessary kit and gophers. Holding it at 1pm would seriously reduce our ability to do any of the above, so I went to Ops and did some actual work, and prepared a letter of resignation, as I felt that they had fucked me over for the last time. Afterwards, I did some work on my NaNoWriMo, until Nic came and told me she was going home.
After another sleepless night on the couch, I was woken mere minutes before my alarm was due to go off by Sheila. I got up and dressed, had breakfast, then asked Sheila if I would be going with her. Apparently not, as she had to pick up Sully, and the back of her car was full. Nicola and Mary-Ellen were nowhere in sight. Over the course of the next 40 minutes that it took for them to appear and get everything ready and in the car, I wondered if it would be quicker to walk, and whether it would have been wise to hijack Sully's ride and let Nic pick him up. Still, we got going eventually.
We got to the hotel in reasonably good time, to find almost nothing changed from the night before. I set about preparing things as best I could - I handed out the radios, put up the day sheets, and quietly hid my letter of resignation, since a night's half-sleep had done wonders for my temperament.
We had the meeting at 11am at my insistence, where we did go over everything, and still we missed stuff (the crossbow, for instance). Then we got on with trying to get things running, despite the printer(s) running out of ink, refusing to function completely, and a lack of batteries (among other things).
Next up was a series of wanderings around the hotel (where there was wifi), interspersed with sitting in the fridge that was Ops (where there wasn't wifi, but there was a printer), and organising the Klatch sign-ups for Jack Cohen that afternoon. I became aware of the Twitter feed. Yes gods, the tweets! I had my first event at 5.30, when I was in charge of the first of the NaNoWriMo write-ins over the weekend. I was the only to turn up, and the Orchard was bloody freezing all by myself.
There wasn't much time after that until the opening ceremony, and then I had to go and do UU Challenge - which went very well, according to most sources. Because we had enough teams sign up immediately after the opening ceremony, I didn't have to spend time doing a sign-up session at the start. The teams for all the rounds were arranged, and then we had round one, the Tooth Fairy Franchise vs Unseen Academicals. Halfway through, it was tied at 55 each. Then things hotted up, and at the end, the final score was Tooth Fairy Franchise 105, Unseen Academicals 65. And that was it, until the chéilí, and food. In theory, the chéilí started at 9pm, and food was to be available, but neither occurred, so after collecting radios and returning them to Ops, I went to my room and channel-hopped for a few minutes before returning to the main hall at about 9.30 to see if food was there. It wasn't, so I waited on the sidelines until it was. And then, having had dinner, came back to the room to feel miserable and write this. And then I finished, and decided I'd have another go at the chéilí. It was dead, so I went to bed.
Saturday started at the same time as Friday, the only difference being we could get straight to work. For me, this mainly involved picking Klatch attendees and putting up notices, before arranging for Peter & Diane to do a talk instead of the planned folklore lecture, as the person who was doing it was incommunicado, and we didn't know if he was actually going to turn up. Finally, it was time for rounds 2 & 3 of UU Challege. Two of the teams were missing, so we started with round three, which McDs won handily. By the end, one of the remaining teams had turned up, so runners were sent to find The Thing and the Whole of the Thing. They couldn't be found, so four people in the audience volunteered to take their place. And so we played round two, which ended in the Educated Rodents going through. Unfortunately, The Fools' Guild and the Lancre Mountaineers had tied for the highest-scoring loser slot, so one person from each team came up for a tie-break question. Or, as it turned out, three tie-break questions, which the representative of the Lancre Mountaineers got right.
Next was supposed to be a NaNo write-in, but as no-one had turned up for the last one, I had decided to shorten it to one hour, and have an official session of DW Twister instead. I didn't do the write-in anyway, as news came through that PTerry was arriving soon. Pretty soon, most people were hanging around the front doors, and a welcoming party of costumed people had been arranged for the benefit of the cameras. A couple of minutes before he arrived, the sun started shining for the first time that day. It had until about an hour ago been pissing it down in various strengths, and now the sun had come out. It stayed out for just long enough to allow PTerry inside, and then it started pissing down again. This was when we found out that Rob might not be able to make his talk tomorrow, so we cancelled DW & TV Tropes, and put him in that place. Then there was just enough time for PTerry to be interviewed by the TV people, and for all the people to meet and greet him and Colin (and Rob) before it was time for the Early Afternoon Show, a Parkinson-style interview with Mary-Ellen and Sheila as Parkinson, and Bernard Pearson, Colin Smythe and Jack Cohen as the guests. It went really well, and Jack even did an experiment for the audience. Then it was my turn to interview Diane & Peter, so first I had to pull them out of the bar. Despite the small audience numbers, I think it went well. Next was the reading of The Eye of Argon, which Peter & Diane wanted to stay for and watch Colin's head explode, but they had to go and do a signing session with PTerry.
Then it was time to hang around and have dinner (toasted sandwich), and be useful. Then the Maskerade started, and I was officially Not In Charge for an hour or so, so I did door duty and found other things to do. After the Maskerade, I took photos of the entrants, until my camera batteries died, so I rushed upstairs to change them, and by the time I came back, the photo shoot had finished. Then there was dead time while the judges finished deliberating, and eventually they came back and the prizes were announced. Then we had to have an emergency committee meeting, as PTerry wanted the auction moved to Sunday, so that he would be able to go to it. And immediately afterwards, Nicola dumped me. She had been alternately and randomly affectionate and distant with me since I arrived, and after a month of general coldness, she dropped the bomb. So I made quick arrangements to move my stuff out of her room, and went to the bar to start getting drunk. I was just pondering the relative merits of getting a second pint when Beth surprised me with a hug and a massage, and persuaded me to come down to the disco, with the promise of having my drink bought for me. And after The Timewarp, I actually started enjoying myself, for maybe the third time in the convention (the previous two times being the UU Challenge). I ended up dancing with Méabh for most of the evening, and ended up securing promises to sign copies of my books that she and a few others had bought, including someone whose birthday it might have been, who was three sheets to the wind, and planted a smacker on me after I showed off my Feegle tattoo. And at some point near the end of the night, PTerry decided he would be staying until Tuesday. Yaay!
Sunday began with me being woken up by a car alarm. I staggered, somewhat hungover, to breakfast, where I managed half a bowl of rice krispies and a slice of toast. Then I began the business of the day, putting up day sheets and deciding that, unlike previous days, I would no longer be helpful and pro-active and so on, I would just do the bare minimum necessary that my duties required to keep the convention going.
This meant I was stuck in ops until the others got back from breakfast, then I sorted out the first Klatch attendees of the day, and hoped that the promised laptop would be ready so I could print the rules of Borogravian Nugganites, which I was running at 10. It didn't get working in time, though, so I had to take my laptop into the event, which started slowly, and ended with us sat round the table laughing at trying to get out of violating abominations such as "keeping both eyes open", "wearing fewer than two badges", "cheese" (and, by extension, Ankkh-Morporkian chocolate), "the sky", "air", and "corsets". At the end, I made a quick getaway, deposited things in Ops, and went to the first hour of the Writers' Workshop. I never seem to be able to make it to the second half of this event, no matter which convention I'm at. I had to leave to sort out the Klatch attendees for Bernard's 3pm Klatch, and retrieve the white tie and tails set I would be wearing for the Oswalds, which I had forgotten to remove along with the rest of my stuff from Nicola's room. Then I had lunch and wrote this. Bloody Hell, I'm tired.
Hung around after the end of PTerry's interview, which had been going on while I had lunch. It had been arranged that in the gap between the interview ending and the auction starting, there was to be a full committee photo for a Spanish fan-newsletter. Unfortunately, no-one seemed to have told Sheila, so we were all waiting round uselessly until I got bored and radioed her. She turned up, and then because it was now five to two, we rushed to get it taken, including finding Dierdre, Michael and Beth, and the guy who wanted to take the picture. Then I had to depart and organise the last Klatch, and try and get some writing done before the UU Challenge semi-final. The teams did not turn up on time again, but we managed to get going within a few minutes, with a composite team or two (or three). The Educated Rodents won the first semi-final (which was actually semi-final two), and McDs won the other one. Unfortunately, only one of the McDs could be there on Monday, and he was a substitute. So they were combined with The Tooth Fairy Franchise (as highest-scoring losers of the semis), who were also missing a few people, to play the Educated Rodents in the final, for a chance at playing the celebrity team of Guests and Committee. Then, as Stephen's interview had been cancelled because we couldn't get in contact with him to set up, there was bugger all to do until I went to get changed into my white tie and tails for the Oswalds reception.
After borrowing a scarf to use as a cummerbund from Beth, I took a turn around the hotel (walking the battlefield), and met the professional photographers who were there to take really good pictures of people in their posh togs and costumes. Then I went to the main hall to make sure things were going okay, and I was talked through exactly what was happening. The plan was for Otto to be paparazzi for Ginger's big entrance from one of the doors onto the concourse, but as he would have to be going backwards, he would need someone to open the doors for him. I volunteered to be a flunky, and we found Haddock to be a bodyguard. This necessitated him changing from tux into uniform, so I had to retrieve his truncheon from Ops. Hung around for a bit, hobnobbing (PTerry told me I looked like David Tenant), warning Cheery about taking her helmet off when she sat down, talked to Jacqui about clearing the space around the doors for Ginger's entrance, and generally tried to make myself affable. 7.30 came, and I retrieved Haddock and Otto to get into position. John and I threw open the doors, and everythnig was go. Ginger swept in, to a chorus of cries of acclamation from her room-mates, Otto's camera flashing away, Haddock and self keeping a discreet distance behind her shoulders, as crowd control and PA. When people started taking photographs, this rapidly turned me into first Sol Dibbler, then Victor. Managed to get Ginger (Méabh) a photo with PTerry taken by the pros by saying, "excuse me, my client would like an opportunity to have a photo taken with you." More photos, more hobnobbing, quick exit into the bar to get a drink while the queue for the photographers went down. Then we got the word, I brought Ginger out of the bar, stood near the Orchard, and waited. John rang a bell and made the announcement that we were now going down to dinner, and Ms De Syn would now lead the way. So Ginger swept through the crowd on my arm, past an amazed PTerry, down the stairs, all the while with Otto in front of us snapping away (we stopped on the little landing halfway down the stairs to give Otto time to get down and take an impressive pic or two). And then we went into the main hall, which, frankly, looked awesome.
We sat down and ate a very nice meal, followed by PTerry giving a short (for him) speech about how three Mad Irish Girls invited him to come to the convention. "Rob told me he'd had an EMail, that the Mad Irish Girls wanted to do an Irish Convention, and what did we intend to do about it? And I said, 'we'll go!'". Immediately he finished, Colin whispered something in his ear. Rob had gone to Glasgow to attend the film BAFTA awards, where PTerry's Alzheimers' documentary had been nominated - Colin had told PTerry that it had, in fact, won! So after much applause and cheering, it was time to give out the actual Oswald awards. There was a moment of fear when it emerged that Sgt Colon had been nominated for Best Costume in a Supporting Role, but fortunately it was Angua who won. The Maskerade winners also got prizes handed out to them, and then it was time to clear the room, so that the hotel staff could clear the tables so we could have a dance floor for the end-of-evening dance - for which we had dance cards. However, the band was not a string quartet, or jazz ensemble, as you might expect for such an event, but a bad guitar-and-bongos covers band, with most of the melody on a backing track, unable to balance the vocal amplification properly, and who didn't know many songs that people recognised and would dance to at a convention dance. Still, I had Méabh in the #1 slot on my dance card, so dance we did. At 1am the music stopped, and I decided that I really needed to go to bed (the chocolate cake had been really nice, but also really rich, and the various combinations of liquid in my stomach weren't agreeing wih it). Méabh gave me a kiss to thank me for looking after her all evening, and we parted company. But when I got out of the lift, I noticed Ken and some others sitting in the lobby strumming a guitar, so I decided, "what the Hell," dumped my things in the room, and came back. We spent a significant amount of time plundering the L-Space filk archives for stuff to sing along to, and then, not much past two, I decided to call it a night, this time for definite.
I woke (if I slept) at 7.45 when my alarm went off, but was so tired I carried on in bed for another ten minutes before getting up. First thing, I went to Ops to do the attendees for the Colin klatch at 10, and to finalise the program for the day. Then I had breakfast in the company of Glingle Feegle and Angua again - my small appetite gave me the hint that Depresion was really starting to hit. After that, I was more-or-less at a loose end for a couple of hours, so I spent most of it in the lobby trying to update this. I didn't get too far, because at about 10.30, Rob returned from Glasgow in an un-rumpled tux, and eavesdropping on his account of the previous evening took up 20 minutes or so. After a bit of listening, I moved over to where PTerry was talking, and told him that it was five minutes until his event. He said, "well, I'd like to, but, I'm looking at my hand, there's nothing in my hand." So I asked, "What would you like in your hand?", to which he replied, "a Guinness would be nice." I told him that could be arranged, and I went to get him one. I conducted some business, then went and sat in on PTerry Goes to the Movies. Apparently, the next DW film by the Mob after Going Postal will be Sourcery. I might see about auditioning for the part of Nigel.
Then it was the UU Challenge Final, the Educated Rodents vs McDs & Tooth Fairy Franchise. McDs & TFF won by 100 points. And next came the Grand Final, with the McDs & TFF playing the Guests & Committee team. Mary-Ellen hadn't shown up, so I prepared to ask John to take her place by removing the questions he'd written from the available piles. However, just in time, Mary-Ellen did turn up, and arrived in her seat just in time for the end of one of Bernard's anecdotes that he was telling to fill in time. He would repeat the trick several times throughout the round. I even asked some questions on Night Watch (which M-E had done the questions for) to try and give them a chance, but McDs & TFF buzzed in quicker. Eventually McDs & TFF won by 130 to 70. I then had to get straight to Wizards, Witches and Watch: Group Dynamics in DW, which I was hosting - it was my idea, and I was the only one who had any idea what it was about. I hadn't done any preparation, so I completely winged it, and I think it went quite well. It was only when it finished that I realised I hadn't done anything about the Peter & Diane klatch that was on any minute now - actually, it had just finished. Fortunately, Dierdre had done the selecting for me. My first genuine mistake of the convention, and thankfully someone had covered for it.
Next was a meeting to decide what we would do and say in the closing ceremony, followed by How Did We Do? Can We Do Better? Do You Want To Have a Go? The start was delayed by an overruning Fiendishly Difficult Pub Quiz jsut outside. Eventually, we started, and again it went well, with everyone getting pluses and minuses. Overall, I, at least, am satisfied that I did a good job. Then there was an hour off while we waited for the closing ceremony. We all drifted down there as John started rounding people up - unfortunately, PTerry (and Peter & Diane who were with him), weren't rounded, so we started nearly 15 minutes late. And those were the only two times over the weekend that we had schedule slippage. Anyway, each Guest gave a short speech, praising the Convention and the hotel, prizes were given out to the winners of the Maskerade, Fiendishly Difficult Pub Quiz, The Eye of Argon reading, and UU Challenge. Méabh, being the winner of the FDPQ and on the McDs & TFF team, was the only person to get two of the winners' medals that we had. We also presented PTerry with the Oswalds banner, each of us on the core committee having signed it.
Afterwards, I fetched the Ankh-Morpork tube map I'd done for the programme, but was cut out during editing, so I'd redone it in large scale and printed it on card, and stuck it up at the bottom of the stairs. I asked all the Guests to sign it, so it could be added to the auction at the 2010 Convention. And then it was tear-down and tidy up and so on, and I dropped things off in Ops, and then came back to the main hall, where I was occupied by trying to fold the starcloth up small enough to fit in its' bag. When we were done, I went back upstairs, and met Phazed, who was running the Dead Monkey Party. Apparently, the Orchard, where it was supposed to happen, had been accidentally double-booked by the hotel, and so the DMP had to be moved down to the main hall. Even though the chairs had been told right after the closing ceremony, no-one told me. I added a bit more to my letter of resignation, and printed it to hand to the Chairs at the debrief meeting.
I changed into my jeans and hung around in the lobby until the taxis were ready to take us to the Chinese restaurant for the farewell dinner for Committee and Guests - although I seriously considered not going. I took a wander and found Phazed, who wanted to do my job for the next IDWCon. I told him, "good luck, and give 'em Hell. You'll need the first, and I mean the second most sincerely." Glingle Feegle had changed her flight home, so now could come along as well, and as she was nervous, I offered to sit next to her and deflect stuff from the awe-inspiring ones who might talk to her. We ended up sitting in the corner, along with Simon. We three were the only ones not drinking, and yet we were the ones being silliest. There was a minor upset when the waiter told Glingle (who is heavily allergic to all fish) that there was no fish on the starter plate - but he neglected to mention that the ball-shaped things were prawn balls, thinking that shellfish were not fish. We gave Simon an excuse for being out of school - he's been on an educational field trip, including elements of English lit and lang, chemistry, biology, electronics, pottery, modelling, economics and geography. We used chopsticks as swords and had a mini-fencing match, until Peter started entertaining everybody with sound effects. It wasn't long after that that we came back to the hotel, and found the remains of the DMP in the bar. Glingle had fenced before, so I duelled her in the bar, and won. Then Simon had a go, and broke his chopstick stabbing her corset. We moved out into the lobby and fenced again. We kept getting double-touches, until on the third hit, Glingle won. Then she and Simon had another go, and he ended up on the floor. Otto was around, and he took a couple of photos of Simon lying prone with Glingle's foot on his chest, and his weapon lying broken. And then, as I was really fatigued and not feeling like staying up anyway, went up to the room to try updating this before bed.
Woken by donkeys braying madly out in the back field. Staggered down to breakfast, could hardly manage the bowl of cereal I grabbed. Nicola stopped by and told me that they were taking PTerry and Colin to Biddy Early's cottage, and wouldn't be back until lunchtime. I asked to talk to her later and she said, "yes,". I went up to the lobby and re-started writing this, and checked up on B&Bs in Shannon, just in case. Ken appeared, and I went up to finish packing, then we came back down and hung around for a while until the hotel opened the main hall for us, so we could pack the tech kit into the car. Then up to Ops, where we tidied up, binned things, and generally closed things down. Then back to the lobby for lunch and more updating this. Chris Boote took my camera to go on a walk round the town, so he could take a pic of the donkeys and the minaret for me.
Not long after, the Chairs re-appeared from clearing Ops, and had a meeting with the hotel about the bill. I left them to it, and when it was all over, I went over to check on the status of everything. Just a few more things to do, and so on. I asked about my expenses, they said they'd pay it. They asked me to pay my share of the room, and I did. They calculated what they needed to pay me, and handed me €10, saying it was change from what I owed them for the room, less the expenses. I pointed out that the baggage fee was 40 Pounds, not 40 Euros. Nicola said, with real venom in her voice, "sucks to be you." LAST STRAW. I asked Sheila for a lift into Shannon, called up the B&B to confirm my booking, retrieved my case, and got the Hell out of their sight. Twenty minutes later Michael ferried me to Shannon in the van, where I wrote a letter, transferred my photos from camera to laptop, and slept the sleep of the exhausted. Staggered out of bed at 7.30 next morning, had breakfast, walked to Shannon airport (which resulted in my socks getting soaked as I had to walk on dual-carriagway hard shoulder most of the time, so I had to change them at the airport), flew home, waited three hours at Birmingham International for my train (and changed my socks again), which turned out to be delayed so much I'd miss my connection at Birmingham New Street so I hopped on an earlier one, and eventually made it home just in time for tea.
<understatement> I've had better. </understatement>