by Graham Charnock

When I arrived at 4.00pm the reservation desk was staffed by Steve Lawson and a munchkin who proved in fact to be Dave Hick's wife/partner. I inquired about a two day membership which seemed to confuse them, and we finally struck a deal at 20.00 but I got the feeling I could have suggested anything and they would have gone along with it.

After registering and upon my first trip the bar I had that usual, God I don't know anybody here moment. Then I found Mark and Claire and Greg in the bookroom. They were holding down Andy Griffiths' stall. I have never in my life met Andy Griffiths and refuse to believe he really exists since every time I approach any his ventures all I ever meet is a proxy. I think he is merely a figment invented by Mark and Claire and others for tax avoidance purposes.

I bought two disgusting Dave Garnett paperbacks, one BIKINI PLANET on the basis of its title and cover, which had a girl in a bikini wielding a huge weapon and SPACE WASTERS on the basis of a Rob Holdstock cover quote: 'Dave Garnett puts the "ace" back into space fiction - and the "oi" back into savoir-faire". Actually BIKINI PLANET had the identical quote on its cover, so I certainly got good value for money.

As I walked out of the book room Dave Hicks walked past me yelling, 'has anybody seen Graham Charnock'. Hardly been there ten minutes and he wanted me to be on a panel at 7.00. I agreed, but later regretted it when the timing suggested that would probably be the time most of my mates were going out to dinner. Going back to the registration desk to collect my badge I met an affable John Harvey. He seemed worried that Eve had gone up to their room for a lie down already, but not too worried.

Yvonne Rowse gave me a copy of her latest ishoes, which had a picture of a tired and frankly clapped out looking pair of shoes on the cover which I hoped wasn't indicative of her current self-esteem. In fact it may have been because she appears to have given up the world of real-fanzine publishing in favour of the blogosphere, which is a shame, but understandably cheaper. I later posted something resembling a loc on her blog, but don't know if the exercise worked because it involved me setting up my own blog account on Livejournal under the name Bratwurstchops (don't ask, but it involves what I was up to with my German chamber-maid at the time). I successfully managed to avoid her other half, Ian Who Must Be Obeyed for the whole convention, although it was a close shave when Rob and Mike tried to incorporate me into a Sorensen-organized tapas outing later that day. I gather when my name was mooted Ian promptly decided the party was too big to be manageable and it should split into two, his friends and Rob's friends. Rob tells this entirely a different way of course, but I wasn't there and he was, so I should know.

While I was lurking in the lobby, trying to console a fretting John Harvey, Rob, Mike and Randy Byers returned from their pub crawl and I was able to give Randy a suitable cuddle and record a video of him saying hello to Pat C. Randy has published what he describes as a art object. In fact Randy denies authorship claiming it is simply a mash up of Van Vogt's text scrambled by a computer. Haven't read it yet but I'm looking forward to it. Randy says it has sex in it

After a while Dave Langford decided to drag himself out of whatever mire he had been slouching in and we had a good deaf drunken chat. Either I have learnt to speak louder (but not less inanely) in his presence or he is actually turning on his deaf-aid more often these days.

The panel I had volunteered for was not the high point of my fannish career and I think I saw Dave Hicks prowling at the back of the hall holding an imaginary gun to his temple while I was speaking. It was a panel ripped off from the BBC's History of the World Through Ten Million Objects, but without the attractive theme music. If only Brian Parker had been there to provide that. Knowing I was about to cut and run I persuaded them to put me on first, and launched into my anecdotes involving my selected objects. The first was D. West's duplicator made out of a washing machine which he used to print his fanzines. The blank looks that greeted me, as well as their unkempt clothing, suggested most of my audience had never heard of D. West, fanzines or indeed washing machines. My second, often told, anecdote involved when I went on holiday to Scotland with Charles Platt and Diane Lambert, and whilst crossing the borders Charles was caught short in need of a number two, hunkered down behind a dry-stone wall for a crap, and how when I discreetly wandered over to view the outcome wasn't entirely prepared for the sheer stupendous enormity of Charles' steaming fannish object. Unfortunately I had been rendered rather incoherent by my audiences' non reaction to my D. West Anecdote that I became uncharacteristically tongue-tangled and didn't tell it at all well.

I was pleased therefore when Rob appeared making 'taxi is waiting' signs and rescued me from my panel and took me out to a fine meal with John and Eve Harvey and the Mearas. It was much nicer without Ian Sorenson. Peyton also turned up at our restaurant and was ushered upstairs with due deference by the staff. I went up to say hello later and Rog did his patented 'bloody hell it's Graham Charnock' routine which means he needn't be bother to talk to me. Got to shake hands with Iain M. Banks and Chris Morgan, and congratulate Pauline Dungate on still having a massive pair of tits. Actually what I said was something like it was nice to see her attributes hadn't diminished with age. She laughed and so did Chris Morgan, and everybody else, I think. Of course what they said when I left I'll never know. Probably 'who was that drunken fart...'

Out on the streets in the city centre afterwards Mike and I agreed that Nottingham girls had the longest legs and the shortest skirts imaginable and that this was not fair for the heart rates of people of our elderly disposition. We bundled into a taxi for six and I fell down when I realized I was supposed to pull out an extended chair. These bloody modern taxis are also not good for the heart rates of people of our elderly disposition.

Next day, I videoed practically all of the nova awards which as usual involved either Mark Plummer (best fanzine writer) and Claire Brialey (don't ask me) going up receive awards. Vernon Brown was awarded the award for the most boring person still alive from Birmingham fandom and I was pleased to see he hadn't changed a jot over the forty years since I last met him. Except to possibly become even more boring. At times I felt I should at least go up and talk to him, but I knew that that way madness lay.

I'd woken up too late on Sunday morning to get round to buying as food token for the banquet, so was quite pleased to have had the opportunity to line my stomach with a steak previously courtesy of Chris Priest and the Lovely Leigh Kennedy in the pub across the road. Chris was quite forthcoming about the details of his relationship with Brian Aldiss over the years, but I wouldn't dare disclose any details.

When we got back to the hotel the banquet had yet to really kick off, so I sat in on it.

Rob went up to help himself and returned with a plate laden with several tons of cholesterol and a furtive guilty expression. I think I saw a little imp-shaped Coral sitting on his shoulder prodding him with a three-pronged fork. I had earlier teased him about stealing one or two of his bhajis, but Rob said that nobody was checking food tickets so I could probably help myself if I wanted too. The eagle-eared Dave Hicks sitting nearby immediately scowled at me and said that would be stealing from the convention, and I whole-heartedly agreed with him and watched Rob and many others eagerly help themselves to seconds form the steaming bowls of superfluous food.

Dave's charming little six-year old was sitting across the table from us, and his daughter as well, and I took several photos of her cheeky toothless grin (too much sugar in the diet obviously) before realizing I might be mistaken for a pederast if I went on flashing at her. Fortunately that idea never occurred to the less-than-eagle eyed Hicks. During the banquet David Lalley brought out a card for Harry Harrison which people were in the process of signing with suitable condolences for his illness and wishes for a quick recovery etc. John Harvey and I considered signing it for a moment as Rob Holdstock and John Brosnan, with a message' Looking forward to seeing you here soon,' but thought, for some reason it might be considered in bad taste.

Later that night I cemented my relationship with Doug Bell whose partner Christina Lake didn't seem to mind in the least my lusting after him and the idea (he is very pretty) of me taking him away for a weekend in San Francisco (Sorry Pat). I feel I have made a new friend here. Isn't that what fandom is all about.

Graham Charnock

15th November 2010