Having decided to ‘let the train take the strain’ again, Sue Moorcroft & I arrived in York at 12.30 but couldn’t work out where the hotel was. The picture on the website showed Downton Abbey standing in acres of land but we discovered it was a clever camera angle (it was Downton Abbey but the photographer crouched low, cut out some cars and road and so the lawns looked like acres of land - cunning!). Deciding we’d head straight to get something for lunch, I was drawing out money from the cash machine and Bryn Fortey spotted me. It was lovely to finally meet him and we had a chat, before James Everington briefly joined us, then Bryn took us to the hotel to get checked in. Informed our rooms wouldn’t be ready until 3pm, Sue & I walked into the city and had lunch at a café near the Minster, sitting out on the square (where Sue managed to smash the lid of the teapot she had…).
|Chris Teague with copies of "Drive" on prominent display...|
|Friends meet up - from left, Steven Chapman, Phil Sloman, Jim Mcleod, me, Sue Moorcroft, Neil Williams, Chris Teague|
Back upstairs, we found Neil Williams - it was his first con and although he & I have been communicating regularly for years (he is one of the original ‘ill at ease’ gang), it was our first time of meeting - and then, on a trip to the dealer room (where Chris Teague had copies of “Drive” on prominent display), we bumped into Jim Mcleod, Mr Ginger Nuts Of Horror himself. It was brilliant to meet him finally, as he’s been hugely supportive of me and my work, so I got to shake his hand heartily and tell him what I thought of him.
|Adam Nevill indulges in his "smell my finger" game - l to r - Phil Sloman, Adam, me, Steven Chapman|
|Ackbars Indian Restaurant - me, Paul Edwards and the|
biggest naan breads ever. A bemused Sue Moorcroft looks on
Since the hotel bar prices were so high (ridiculously so - a glass of diet coke that, if you took the ice out of, wouldn’t have held half a can of drink, cost £3.50), we alighted to the York Tap next door and took over a big corner table. Jasper Bark, Jim Mcleod, Lisa Jenkins and a couple I didn’t catch the name of (the acoustics were terrible) joined us and we talked and laughed and talked some more. Then Johnny Mains turned up and came over to say hello and that’s always a treat. By the end of the evening, I had a really bad case of heartburn (from my spicy Tikka Massala I assumed), which worried me slightly and I sat up for a while and it put me off the idea of going for another curry run tomorrow.
Saturday 6th September
Saturday was supposed to start bright and early but following my late night, sitting up wondering if it was heartburn and a travel alarm that was reluctant to do its job, I was re-woken by Sue ringing me to make sure everything was okay. It was, of course, so I got sorted and met her in the lobby and we went in for the (very nice) buffet breakfast. We then met Neil and Steve in the lobby and planned out our day. Sue went off for a panel, as did Neil and Steve & I, along with Paul & Mandy Edwards, went to the Film Show (run, as ever, by Martin Roberts and Helen Hopley) and saw a reading of an M R James story (everyone else liked it, I thought it was too stagey) and a short from Spain called “Home Sweet Home” which I loved, with its apparent echoes of “Repulsion” and “The Tenant”. Into the next room for the Spectral Press launch of Mark Morris’ “The Spectral Book Of Horror Stories”, which had a tremendous turn-out - we queued for ages, chatting with Lynda, Simon, Ross, Simon & Lizzie Marshall-Jones and plenty of others. The signing panel was great too, with Alison Littlewood mentioning the naughty corner in her inscription. Sue went to her room to watch the F1 qualifying, so Steve & I went back into the Film Show as they were presenting “The Jacket” (adapted from a Johnny Mains short story - his introduction was amusing and very much on point to what we saw - I want to see it again though with his commentary) and “Ascension” (which I’ve seen before and written about here) with Dave Jeffery (writer) and James Underhill Hart (director) in attendance. I’ve known Dave for a few years and really like him, James I met briefly at a Comic Con at the NEC a year or so ago and it was great to watch the film with them. It stands up very well on a bigger screen too and Dave gave me a DVD copy for my support, which I really appreciated. After a chat with Martin and another with James Barclay in the corridor, we met Neil and Sue in the lobby (fifteen minutes late but it's such a regular occurrence by now that Sue doesn’t mention it) and wandered out into the York rain for lunch at Bailey’s Café and Tea Room, which was nice. Over our sandwiches we talked about how we all met, what we were working on and plans for the future.
|Friends in an expensive bar - Fiona Ni Ealaighthe, Jim Mcleod, me, John Travis|
We ended up at Silvano’s Pizzeria & Ristorante and had a great meal and chat. We’d intended to get back for the Boo Books launch but missed it and, as I’d been convincing everyone all afternoon how great the FCon disco was two years ago, we headed for that. Paul & Mandy joined us there and I think I danced pretty much solidly (both in terms of time and dancing style) from 9pm through until 1am (by which time Sue had given up and gone to bed and Steve Bacon had unfortunately had to go home. Neil & I walked him to the door and said our goodbyes and I gave him a big hug). Paul & Mandy also went - my dancing partners in crime - so there was a lot of hugging there too. Back on the dance-floor, I was (I was going to say co-erced but that definitely isn’t true) convinced to twerk, along with Steven Chapman, Donna Bond and Peter Mark May and - unfortunately - that’s the only part of the evening that Jim Mcleod filmed. The twerking I was doing in my head didn’t match what Jim captured on his phone, I can tell you…
|With the Edwards at the disco - a quieter moment with Mandy and letting rip with Paul|
Sunday 7th September
|Neil, Sue & I on the wall, outside of the hotel enjoying the glorious sunshine|
As always, the banquet was running late so we stood in the bar with Neil & Donna Bond and Lucy and had a laugh before they let us into the events hall. There wasn’t enough seating so Neil & I, like a pair of the most unstealthy ninja’s ever, went on a chair raid so we could sit down. The ceremony went well, the results were well received and it’s great to see such a strong genre represented.
By then it was 4pm and time to go. We said goodbye to Neil, bumped into Chris Teague and Lisa Jenkins just outside the hotel and said goodbye to them, then caught our train and talked all the way back to Kettering until, at 7.05pm, Sue & I said goodbye to each other.
|In the Tap on Friday night - from left, Stephen Bacon, Sue Moorcroft, me, Mandy Edwards, Paul Edwards, Neil Williams, Chris Teague, Jasper Bark|
The other nice thing, for me, came from seeing old friends and their genuine concern and love following my mini-heart attack a month or so ago. To have my friends come over and ask how I was, tell me how much I scared them and make sure I was okay before hugging me (or, in Gary McMahon’s case, flicking his mane of luxurious locks and then patting me on the chest), was wonderful. Thank you, thank you all.
|On the terrace. I am centre bottom, then clockwise left - Steven Chapman, Neil Williams, Sue Moorcroft, Stephen Bacon, John Travis, Terry Grimwood, James Everington, Steve Harris|
|The "ill at ease" boys - Stephen Bacon, me, Neil Williams - finally we all meet up|
edit - I posted this on Tuesday morning and we found out that Graham Joyce passed away on Tuesday afternoon. He was a genuinely wonderful bloke, who loved life and genre and hated inequality and he always made time to stop and chat whenever we ran into each other at Con's (except for the burlesque incident!). He will be sadly missed.