Between the 30th of June and the 2nd of July I attended a Science Fiction convention called Aliens Stole My Handbag, just outside London. I arrived at the hotel at around three in the afternoon, having been driven there by a number of friends who had come to visit. We had previously spent a day in London, where my Glaswegian friends began to pine for rain, wind and all the other attractions of the West Coast of Scotland. We did get to the British Museum and I accidently found the British Board of Film Classification Offices, so we deemed that day to be worthwhile.
Anyway, we arrived at the hotel, checked in and, the convention not yet officially open, went to the bar. Luckily my friend recovered without a call to an ambulance, but the bar prices did give him a nasty turn. We had a pint or two, however, invented the first in-joke of the convention1 and passed the time until things began.
We have come to the realisation that all conventions can be differentiated by their in-jokes. There is always something stupid that someone will say during the weekend that sticks in your mind, come hell, high water or alcohol induced liver failure. One of our previous favorites being:
'I believe the fudge was Wicket'.
This weekend, whilst not having one particular saying stand out, did produce a number of mild efforts.
The opening ceremony, lots of naked beer bellies and the commitee dressed as grannies, was followed by an ice-breaking game, which involved jumping on peoples toes as far as I could tell. Then the guest of honour, Mr. Robert Rankin, a fine writer and talker of twaddle, was wheeled out and told to ramble at us for a while, which he did rather well. Then things degenerated into a pseudo-seventies disco and more beer and talking of twaddle.
I dragged myself to breakfast the following morning by nine o'clock and then sank into a torpor, remeniscent of a dead sloth. In this state I missed a hangover workshop (oh the irony!), juggling, the beginners guide to drugs and/or religion and only really got moving in time to watch various people soak each other with water pistols and/or get coated in baked beans. Deciding this was a bad place to hang around too long I retired to the 'Guest of Honour Talk'... This turned out to be a half hour discussion on the problems of getting decent covers for your books and how your publisher just does not appreciate art when he sees a handbag made of dough and covered in three week's worth of mold, 'The Call of the Wild Used Book Stall', and then finally eating something sensible kept me from watching a whip expert in action, but did allow me to mentally prepare for the daftest thing I did all weekend!
On the Saturday evening, I partook of an offer to play Hurling. Hurling is the ancient Irish sport of beating the bejeesus out of each other with big sticks. Strangly, even though we were all dangerously unfit; StAN was playing in his slippers, Jamie had already broken one stick during the introductory practise and Grant had an unnerving ability to just miss your face, no injuries were caused. Of course Simon had to go off, but that was his juggling injury of earlier playing up. This idiocy was then followed by a live action version of a card game which, as we requested the non-messy version, only involved the creme pieing of five people.
That evening was a 'Fetish Disco' but, as our grass skirts and shrunken heads did not go down overly well, and we wished to talk more twaddle, we retired to the bar, where I, apparently, drank half a bottle of whisky. Oops!
I crawled from my bed at eight o'clock on Sunday morning, the little guy in my head redecorating from inside with a pneumatic drill, and dressed in my finest Eighteenth Century military dress. For, that morning, we were to take part in a military convoy to Horsell Common in Woking, to celebrate H.G. Well's 'War of the Worlds'. We shuffled round the common for a while, inspected the very sandpit where the Martians landed, and returned to the convention, feeling strangly happy to have taken part, even if we didn't have a permit.
After this I decided, attired as I was, that the piercing and tatooing workshops were not for me, and thus raided the second hand book stalls again. I eventually acquired too many books to fit in my bag to take home, but hey, I was bumming a lift. After an auction where far too much money was paid for a hardback book with ten pages missing, the convention wound down, finally ending with an arguement over whether or not the 'Pull Back and Go Friction Toy' was of a Dugong or a Walrus. Then we went to the bar, again, and were last seen singing Tom Lehrer and Monty Python songs at the top of our lungs.
Returning to my house by Monday lunchtime, we finished our weekend with a passable impression of the end of the Battle of The Somme.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable weekend, the convention was great fun, and I intend to hunt down any other ones that these people run. If you have never been to a convention, you really ought to. It is a great opportunity to act the fool and fully enjoy your chosen fan-thing without anyone thinking you are weird or telling you to stop.