Sunday April 2ndERIC BENTCLIFFE:
I didn't really feel like getting up for breakfast on the Sunday morning, but I did...probably because I don't like paying for something and not getting it. Britain can learn from America on the matter of Hotel Breakfasts; in the UK you pay for it whether you get it or not, and you have to be in the dining room by ten at the latest to ensure you do get it. I became addicted to the American fan habit of getting breakfast in the afternoon when I was at Pittsburgh and it's sort of hard to break the habit. One thing you can say that the British Method breeds a race of hardy conventioneers...even Norman Shorrock has been known to get up for breakfast at a convention!
Sunday saw me up not so early, and definitely not so bright as Saturday. I was nearly put off my breakfast by the entry of Ina Shorrock, who bounced in looklng disgustingly fresh and cheerful. I did get some consolation from seeing Norman, who looked as if he had crawled painfully from his coffin for the day. Bang on time Ina, as Chairman, got the BSFA General meeting started.
We had a disappointingly small audience for this but those who were present showed they were actively interested in what the Association were doing and had many suggestions to make for an improved service. I don't want to give the appearance of gloating even if I am, but all the suggestions are now the business of Joe Patrizio who is this years Secretary. Good luck, Joe! Ken Slater, Ted Carnell, Eric Bentcliffe and Norman Shorrock came up with some pretty good ideas and were most helpful and encouraging in what they had to say about the Association's affairs. I think it was a most successful meeting. Further on in the magazine you will see a notice mentioning a fund which was launched during this session. As most of you have heard by now Doc Weir died just a couple of weeks before the Convention. Doc was actively interested in the BSFA and has done a lot of constructive work for us in the form of writing for our official magazine VECTOR among other things. We have launched the "Doc Weir Memorial Fund" to buy books for the BSFA library which was a part of the Association which was very nearly his prime interest. You donít have to be a member of the BSFA to help in this worthy project and I'd like to see us with something well worth his memory.
One item of general interest was the choosing of the 1962 Consite. After having suffered the disappointment two years in succession of being given the con for Harrogate, only to have it snatched away again, it was the general consensus of opinion that the 1962 con should be given to Ron Bennett. Everyone seemed agreed on this, the only one who would not give an opinion was Ron himself. Someone nominated Harrogate. People started to get up and say why they thought this was a good idea. Then some bright person came up with the bright idea of asking Ron if he was willing to take the con. Ron made the most of this, his moment. He slowly rose to his feet and waited for everyone to be quiet. Then he went into along dramatisation of how for years he had nurtured the idea of holding a con in his home town, but nobody would listen. How at last it was reluctantly agreed that he could have it but finding his dreams snatched away, and this happening not once but two years in succession. By now, nearly everyone was in tears at poor Ron's plight, and it was now that he brought his speech to a brilliant climax by accepting the 1962 con, and then naming the committee which he had already formed. This being Easter Sunday, after lunch the SFCoL started to distribute Easter eggs. Ethel stood at the door with a basket and, as far as we know, nobody escaped. They all got an egg whether they liked it or not, on the whole they were rather taken with the idea.
After the business of the meeting had been completed we were free to go to lunch and Ethel and those who were acting in our club's (SFoL) playlet written and produced by Bruce Burn, were also free to get the shakes and a bad case of butterfly stomach. This they did. We had a slight delay which is after all in the fannish tradition, and which did nothing to make our actors and actress feel any better, and then they were off - or do I mean on! Jimmy Groves and Bruce Burn had the stage to themselves for the opening and as they got into their parts it began to sound quite good to me out in the wings. Ethel, who had a song to sing in her part, was standing waiting to make her entrance and I hope I never again meet anyone with such a bad attack of the shakes. Never mind; once on-stage she did us and herself credit. Congratulations, you three.
The first item on the afternoon programme was the SFCoL sketch. This had been written by Bruce Burn, around his pet fixation of Scotland taking over Anglofandom. The theme, briefly, was that Bruce and Jimmie Groves were prisoners in a fanzine factory (I seem to have heard this before somewhere) and were under the charge of Ethel who brought them fmz to collate, and occasionally something to eat. This plot was the vehicle for a few song parodies which seemed to go down pretty. well At the end Ella came on and gave me orders to shoot the pair, which I did with great pleasure, they being only Englishmen. Unfortunately, as this was put on soon after lunch, there was only a small audience, which was a pity considering the amount of work put into it by Ethel, Bruce and Jimmie, who had even rehearsed on the journey to Gloucester.
As is becoming traditional, Eric Bentcliffe put on another THIS IS YOUR FAN LIFE. After Eric's usual red herrings it turned out the victim was Eric Jones, and a more surprised man you never saw.
Plans for TIYL started almost as soon as last years convention ended. After some thought I decided that Eric Jones would be a most suitable subject, and John Owen proceeded to once more turn out an excellent script. In true fannish manner nothing else was done until a few weeks before the convention. Apart from spreading a few rumours to the effect that Other People - Terry Jeeves, Ron Bennett, Wm Harrison - were actually to be the subject of the programme.I would have started in on producing the show earlier if it hadn't been for a certain journey I made last year .... however, it seemed to go over fairly well.
Bruce Burn was notable as an Indian complete with sibilant accent as good as anything done by Peter Sellars. Alan Rispin too, was surprisingly good as a deaf old man, especially when he got his programmes mixed and thought he was taking part in a give-away-show called Take Your Pick. Norman Shorrock was next to come on lugging with him a whacking great machine which when attached to Ericís person gave out with lots of flashing lights and twirling antennae. There was a clock in the front of it which whipped round at an alarming rate and a slot which lit up saying TILTED. All of it completely useless. Eric's face was a picture when he saw it being, carried in as heíd made the thing himself thinking it was for Jeeves. Later in the evening Eric Bentcliffe was heard to confess he felt a bit guilty having asked Eric to make it himself, but the mood soon vanished.
I'm greatly indebted to the cast who, unlike myself memorised their lines, and did a good job at shortish notice. Terry Jeeves took the part o£ an officer in the RAF Coastal Command Squadron which EJ . served in during the war - during the period when Eric was 'building the biggest rotary duplicator in the World, in No.3 Hangar'. Bruce Burn, who did an excellent job of portraying a Maharaja Eric had met in India, 'where he discovered Psionics and Hypnotism'. Bob Richardson, as one of the few living survivors of the s-f film made by Eric and the Cheltenham Group 'The Test'.... 'and later issued as the Student Prince' - Bob, managed to resurrect one of the costumes from the film and looked most impressive. Alan Rispin, who played the part of the Keeper of the St. Fantony Archives, and who got rather mixed up (intentionally) with 'Take Your Pick'. Norman Shorrock, appeared as himself with a wonderful box of electronics specially biult for the show by Eric Jones (who thought Terry Jeeves was the subject)....' a psionics machine which he had been using as a projector for 35mill films - which explained the picture quality he'd been getting!
Norman also helped prepare the tapes for TIYL, and John Owen lent his tonsils to the cause by impersonating Harrison, and 'Fingers Finnigan (a former school chum of Eric's now fallen on hard times',) on tape. Oh yes, and I'm indebted to the MISFIT Song Book for the, version of 'The Bradbury Hate Song' which was used to mislead the audience and Ron Bennett at the beginning of the show. I enjoyed doing the programme....
By the time TIYL was over my tonsils were feeling the need for something wet. I'd been suffering from a heavy-cold during the week and as I had a TAFF TALK to give a few hours later, I decided to humour them and went in search of Beer. Although the bar was closed I managed to find some, and with a cool glass of lager in my hand I returned to the con-hall to watch Ron do an excellent job on the TAFF AUCTION.
To follow this we had an 'Initial Quiz' conducted by Ken Slater, in which he proceeded to fire the initials of various s-f authors at a panel in the hopes that they would be able to decode them. They did pretty well, too.
As I recall it this was followed by a break for refreshment, and Bruce Burn, Ron Bennett, Bob Parkinson, Ron Buckmaster, and I went out to a Chinese Restaurant for some expresso coffee and, of all things, fruit salad!.
Strolling back to the hotel we met several groups of people who had just decided that they wanted something on their stomachs before hearing my TAFF Talk .... I was quite pleased about this for my voice was suffering badly from wow and flutter and. a few extra minutes might help. We also met Brian Aldiss, who was already crying forth slogans for next years convention, "See You In Harrogate, Mate". Brian seems to get. more fannish (if he'll forgive the word) at each convention, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him ultimately give up professional writing and start putting out a fanzine. It's about time someone reversed the usual order of things.
The con-hall didn't seem in any immediate denger of filling up and clamouring for a TAFF TALK, so Ron and I ducked off up to my room so that he could see some of the photos I'd taken in the States. We talked all too briefly, too, of the parallel's in our respective trips - which will have become apparent if you've read both COLONIAL EXCURSION and EPITAFF. "And I knew Sylvia before Ted haad cornered the market..." A pleasant interlude, and I must try to get over to Harrogate soon so that we can finish the talk.
In typical Bentcliffe manner I hadn't prepared any notes for my talk on my American Experiences, however the trip is still so clear in my mind that I can talk about it at length at the drop of a hat - and I've noticed a distinct tendency amongst my friends not to drop hats in my presense of late! I don't recall now what I said, but I briefly (I had to keep it breif otherwise I'd have equalled the running time of 'Forbidden Planet') mixed in my route with a few reminiscences, and it seemed to go over allright....apart from the fact that my voice did keep petering out on me.Keith Freeman came to my rescue with a bottle of soda-water and a glass, and this helped but as I said'at the time, I hope no one got the impression that I'm in the habit of drinking soda-water neat.
Ever since Pittsburgh I'd had the idea of running an Auction Bloch at a British convention on behalf of TAFF, and this I was able to do after my talk. Authors Brian Aldiss, Ken Bulmer, and Walter Willis had previously agreed to allow their time to be sold for TAFF and I'm most grateful to them. Walt had also sent over one of the few remaining copies of the 'Harp Stateside' to be auctioned off, and Bruce Burn and Bob Parkinson had volunteered to have their beards auctioned for TAFF - I was rather amused when Alan Rispin bid for and bought Bruce Burn's beard, and can only assume that he is trying to whittle down the opposition!
The big surprise of the 'Auction Bloch session however came from Kingsley Amis. Just prior to my going he'd asked me to have a few minutes to say thank you to everyone for having him as Guest Of Honour. This I did, gladly, and immediately afterwards he volunteered to be sold for TAFF himself.
Ken Slater took Brian Aldiss for 22/6d, Norman Shorrock bought Ken Bulmer for 17/-, Alan Rispin bought Bruce Burnís Bushy Barbarian Beard. for 12/6, Ethel Lindsay acquired Walt Willis at the bargain price of £1 and. Waltís production, ďThe Harp Stateside,Ē went for even more than the man himself for 25/- to Peter Mabey. At the conclusion of the Auction Bloch, Kingsley Amis said how much he had enjoyed the convention, asked for the first membership for next yearís Harrogate con, and agreed to be auctioned off himself. A syndicate composed of members of the SFCoL (Don Geldart, Ted Forsyth, Joe Patrizio, Bruce Burn and Ron Bennett) which had been formed in the eventuality of the Guest of Honourís sale, bought Kingsley for £2. 10s and are now at a loss as to what to do with him. Readers, do you want to read Kingsley Amis in OMPA? In Skyrack?
I had to leave the hall as he started to auction off the professional authors. When I got back I was congratulated by Don Geldart and Ron Bennett for having a hand in buying Kingsley Amis, and asked to pay the 10/- that was due. I did. I must have been drunk.
The con was rapidly drawing to a close. A film show was the last item. FORBIDDEN PLANET was the main film to be shown, but of much more interest to most fans was THE MESQUITE KID, which Dave Kyle had brought over from the States. This however turned out a bit of a disappointment. The soundtrack was very bad, and we could not understand most of the dialogue. We did have the consolation of seeing some of the Amerifen and when BJo came on the screen, there was more than a few dark mutterings, all asking what fool voted for Don Ford. The films ended. The con was officially closed, and people started to pull the con hall to bits (or clear up it was called).
I sat with Bobby Gray for a while and then did the disappearing act to my room. I'd seen the film twice already and as we were making a side trip to the Cheltenham Club rooms the next day I wanted to get my packing done without having to do it in a mad rush. Archie Mercer had kindly left his record player and records in my room. Now there are some of you ,who just aren't going to believe this, but with hand on heart I swear it's the truth; to the music of the bagpipes I skipped lightly round the room lifting things and putting them down someplace else only to spend the next twenty minutes looking for them. In two hours I had finished my packing so went down to pay my bill and then into see the last half of the film. During the week end I had raffled off two copies of the ATom Anthology and after the film was over I asked Eric Jones if he'd do the draw. Dave Kyle was one of the winners and Paul Andre-was the other. Dave still thinks it was rigged. This was the end of the programmed items and we now had the desolate task of selling off all the posters which had made the hall look so gay and occupied,. I bought one and Ethel bought me another, both of which will eventually find a home on the wall of the Penitentiary when I can figure where to place them; one is a Jeeves' and one a Parkinson, both very colourful.
The room parties on this last night seemed to go very quickly, with everyone trying to talk about every thing they had forgotten at previous parties. I remember listening to Ron Bennett tearing Jhim Linwood's ideology to bits, in a very calm and reasoned manner, considering Ron has the same ideas on the subject as Jhim, while Alan Rispin mumbled drunkenly in the background. This was at a very sedate affair in Bob Ricbardson's room, which we soon left to go up to the Ethel/Ella suite. Here we found the usual boisterous mob, which this time included Amis, Aldiss, Geoff Doherty arguing in a corner about SF with Chris Miller and some other fans. Ian McAulay was becoming very intimate with Ina Shorrock at the top of the bed, while Norman was beaming benevolently at the bottom of the bed. There were dozens of others strewn about all over the room. Ethel was somewhat merry by this time, and on giving Amis a drink, proceeded to do so by pouring it all down his jacket, later she insisted that she saw a glass there.
This merrymaking went on for some time with various people coming in to make their fond farewells, and others drifting out to get some sleep. I found myself a seat on the bed, but no sooner did I get comfortable than I was pushed off by Ian. As I sat on the floor I thought that when it came to the bit that I couldn't hold my own on a bed with Ian, it was time for me to go home, which I proceeded to do by crawling along the corridor to my room. Before going to sleep I just had time to realise that my first convention was over, boy, had I enjoyed myself.