Friday 27th March - [Programme]


Good Friday and I (we're just good friends) board a Bristol Greyhound containing three blue suits from whose depths floats a dull and constant drone of football, cars, the office, cars, cup ties... I stare out of the window and read At Swim-Two-Birds with chuckles.

London comes crushing in, swarming around the road which rears up and over it to a high safety then loses heart and hides in the mass. Eventually at Victoria, I take a yellow-ticket Underground and must feed it to a machine with fierce jaws cunningly located to cause acute pain and lifelong embarrassment with their sudden shutting. I walk around for a while in liquid terror, watching the tame commuters ignore the beast. The con calls faintly, do or die, forward, clunk - it ejects me on the other side and I flee downward, without stopping to ogle the adverts. The fear evaporates only in the daylight of Russell Square.

Turn left to the con hotel. Walk. A mile and an hour later, I take bearings and look up addresses in phone booths. I retrace my steps, then veer to the left. The National Hotel looms over building-sites. I walk and take roads - it looms still. Side streets and alleys, round and round - tantalizing glimpses in a maze of streets. Half an hour later, I gain the hotel. Nod at Bram Stokes outside and mutter greetings. He doesn't know me. Crushed, too timid to pursue, I enter the Royal.

The lounge (lo)

A cheer - Gray Boak, John Hall, Alan Chorley, and others fill the air with fannish cries:

"You look exactly the same as last in Bristol, waving farewell on the bus."
"Naturally, John - the bus has been circling in a fannish limbo ever since...."

I pay cash, in advance and receive a nose flute with key attached. The result is so uncomfortable and awkward that I never forget my key - good thinking, batmen. I encounter bearded Brian Hampton with stereo camera. Hmmm. Hello Brian.

Registration: Hello to Rambling Jake Grigg in wig of obvious falsity. He thanks me for paper pushed occasionally through his door. Hokay, Spider, you'll pay for this Egg!

Mike Ashley, Poj Hough, cloaked and tasselled company wander past the bookstalls and recommend fantasy covers, Pink Floyd umma-gumming from portable tape recorder.

"Hello Mike, I'd like a Fanzine Index (1952)."

He has been trying to sell one for eons and collapses giggling.

Dave Rowe, Dave Gibson, unknowns, at dealer table (lo)

I buy NON STOP (Brian W. Aldiss - Digit - 1/6), look up, and with a deafening laugh and thick cigar smoke, enter John Hall; also Roy Kettle with constant chatter, and a surly Greg Pickersgill, looking macabrely amused at all surroundings. Keith Bridges in gross and sagging pullover enquires after magazine. I donate;

"But Keith, I am weary - I've spent days stuffing toilet paper into EGGs...."

He moves away.

Sneaking past the BSFA Registration table, but Jill Adams is alert, crying "Mr.Lostwithiel Checkpoint" and I grovel in impecunity and inability to sustain membership. Dismissal (Third Class without honour). I return to the Con Hall itself, filled with chairs of curious kind and people, similar. Hello to Darroll & Rosemary Pardoe and collect a Seagull. Sit down and:

"Hail, I am Sam Long who enjoyed your article on Celts in said SEAGULL."

Stunned astonishment and gratitude; I gain QWERTYUIOP and an Anglo-American friendship.

I retire to room for EGGs. No. 266 is somewhat larger than an APA-45 mailing. I squeeze in and perform ablutions. Outside stretches the corridor - "Long enough for B-29s..." quips aeronautical Gray Boak. It is dangerous to trek its length without supplies of liquid, anyway.

con audience (key to audience members here)

((The convention officially opened with the 'Chairman's Welcome' at 3pm. This was given by George Hay - Rob))

Back to Con Hall; announcement of hunger. A group of fans is formed; John Hall brays contentedly at Roy Kettle who is still talking, Greg Pickersgill watches; Alan Chorley smiling quietly and wisely, and David Redd clutching a Deegan Grey Mouser with wide grin of anticipation. We walk four times around London in search of a Chinese Restaurant which turns out to be invisible. A mock Wimpey Bar is found eventually and claimed. Eating takes place (of egg & chips and apple strudel for extravagance).

Back to the commencement of drinking and choking dismay at lack of Draught Guinness. I gracefully accept a bottled variety from Coke-fiend John Hall, however. Then to the Registration room for Mercatorial arrival and meeting with, youthful comic-fan, Dave Womack (clutching a brief-case, later discovered to be full of old ZENITHs and FANTASY COMMENTATORs - destiny unknown). Rob Holdstock towers over me and talks of future goodies for MOR-FARCH. Promises, promises... I amble outside and into the entrance hall where John Brunner is chatting audibly and expressively in French. Brian Aldiss arrives and is fairly surrounded.

Poet Jeni Couzyn (mb)

Jeni Couzyn, John Brunner

((At 5pm, Professor Willis McNelly gives a talk on SF - Rob))

Drinking is resumed. Hello to newcomer Philip Cooper resulting in copy of MULT, also to Howard Rosenblum with pipe, camera, and SoNF, Talking to Gray Boak who disappears with whoop to embrace newly arrived Pat Henderson of boots, long hair, and large American smile. Jack Marsh enters with lady wife and, smiling wryly, buys John Hall another Coke - I accept a Guinness with true fannish spirit (corflu, naturally).

Drinking and convivial talk fills the evening - Bob Rickard with grin, Dave Berg rolling cigarettes, Geoffrey Cowie looming with uneasy happiness, Hartley Patterson quietly amused under beard... Too soon the need for urgent retiring hits stomach and head; I clutch nose-flute and stumble out.


Apart from a couple of visits to the Globe -- this was my first fan event outside Cambridge. I spent an evening in 1970 talking to Perry Chapdelaine and George Hay (well, no one else would talk to me) and was amazed and disheartened to discover at my first sf convention someone who seemed to share the most rebarbative attitudes of my parents' most conservative friends.

Christine Hay, Perry Chapdelaine, George Hay


Great word, 'rebarbative', I must try and work it into the conversation down at the Rotary club.

Mention of Perry Chapdelaine (with whom I was NOT impressed back in 1970; he latched on to me, too) reminds me that he spent a lot of time telling me about the 'conspiracy' that was preventing work by authors like him from being published.


I must have known enough even then to avoid the poetry reading, and thus missed the infamous glass-throwing incident.

According to the programme, the final item at 11pm was a poetry reading by Edward Lucie-Smith. In his memoir WITH STARS IN MY EYES - p.190 - Peter Weston says of this incident that the session was led by John Brunner, who had a glass thrown at him when he complained of rowdiness in the audience. Weston writes that the glass:

...shattered noisily on the floor in front of the speakers' table, the fragments cutting open Brunner's shin and drawing copious amounts of blood, leaving John "with a scar I shall carry for the rest of my life."

There was an exchange between Mike Moorcock and Peter Weston about the incident in SPECULATION #27, and an account by John Brunner and commentary by James Blish in the following issue: