SKYCON, London Heathrow, 1978


by Rob Hansen

(first published in Epsilon 4, edited by Rob Hansen)

IF YOU GO TO SKYCON DISCO... (you're sure to meet some drunken people there)

For me the Eastercon was a five day event, Thursday to Monda, as usual. I arose at the ungodly time of a quarter to seven, finished off all the food likely to go bad, ablated, and headed for the bus station. Being the keen young fan that I am I'd been looking forward to the con for weeks but as the bus pulled out it somehow didn't feel as if the time had come.

Be there before noon, Greg had said, so I was. Through the frosted glass of the 7A front door I could see a small and hairy figure bounding down the stair. It opened, I looked down, he looked up.

"Christ you're fuckin' early ain'tcha?" I had the distinct feeling we'd played this scene somewhere before.

"Got yer beans for the con, then?"

"Yeah, some cans of rice pudding as well."

"Rice pudding?"

"That's right, the food of the gods. It's Ambrosia after all."

Harry Bell, Rob Holdstock, Mike Collins, Brian Parker and friend, Terri, Peter Roberts and the Harveys were all staying the night so as most of these had arrived we set off for the hotel. On arriving the first shock was the bar prices. 60p a pint!!! It looked like being a dry, dry weekend. However we discovered a pleasant pub down the road called 'The Air Hostess' and a good time was had by all. Somehow drinking in a pub didn't seem to be the right type of thing to do at a con but suffused by inner glows we decided it was gonna be a good one.

Friday arrived and those staying at 7A were given a breakfast equal to the task of keeping them full all day. Someone of course had to go back for a second helping of beans.

"I intend to be jet-propelled at this con," I said, in explanation.

A short journey and we were there. I was sharing a room with Mike Collins, hence the large cork I'd packed with my effects, but I didn't let that worry me as I hurried on down to the huckster's room only to find very little I actually wanted to buy.

Anyway the day wore on and the night wore out and I'd use that line if D. West hadn't got there first. So on to the evening when strange things happened, things like all the toilets being locked - but before that was the punch. Ian Maule, it was reported, had gone out to buy cider for a punch to be served in the fan room, so down to the fan room trooped a fair slice of active British fandom to partake of this free lubricant. However after sitting outside said room for an hour or so some doubts were aired.

"Christ where the fuck is Maule?" said Greg.

Rumbles of discontent, and of stomachs, grew louder and offers were made to separate Mauler from various parts of his anatomy. Two hours had passed and the cleaners came down to clean the fan room whereupon Greg leapt to his feet (he didn't have far to go) and followed the hapless women into the room. Soon an argument was in full flow and one of the cleaners was sent for reinforcements and soon a fearsome apparition, not unlike the Hulk in drag arrived. She too disappeared into the room, a room locked from the inside. What was going on in that room? Soon more reinforcements arrived in the form of the under-manager and a flunky who also went in. After a short time these left and after a hell of a time Greg emerged with the Hulk almost eating out of his hand.

"They won't let us use the fan room without Maule and the little fucker's gone to bed!"

Not long after this, to everyone's disgust, the toilets were locked but there was a reaction to this. Sometime later a hairy London-based Ratfan was seen leaving the vicinity of a large wet stain on the stairs whilst doing his fly up. Who says the art of protest is dead?

Saturday saw me staggering down to the con-hall wide-eyed and legless (more wide-legged and eyeless if the truth be known) to see a panel entitled 'Organisations in SF' which featured Leroy Kettle as chairman, Keith Freeman as Keith Freeman, Dave Cobbledick as token BSFA spokesoerson, Greg Pickersgill as token inanimate object and Malcolm Edwards as token token. It was boring so I left. In no time hardly at all I was back to see the Bob Shaw speech along with most of the con attendees. Not as good as Bob usually is but still good.

Dinner meant a trip to the Air Hostess with Gra Poole, Paul Kincaid, and Joseph Nicholas where I ordered a large pizza.

"No large 'uns left, will two small 'uns do?"

"Fine by me," I replied.

After a godawful long time they arrived and I discovered that I had the last two in the place, so, not unnaturally, I garnered some hostile looks from the others. Obviously, you realise, I cut each pizza in half and shared them out. No chance. I scoffed the lot without a pang of guilt and thoroughly enjoyed it. Still, there were always toasties on hand for the lads. Later I called in at the PickersWalsh hotel room where about ten people were eating smuggled-in food and where, in time, a number of crude jokes about plastic inflatable sex-dolls and Come dancing were squeezed out of me.

Five o'clock saw the Kettle interview in the fan room officially conducted by Simone Walsh but, for reasons unknown, assisted by John. Piggott. Though only attended by twenty or so fans this was undoubtedly the best item of the whole convention because not only is Roy Kettle probably the World's best fanwriter but he's also the best raconteur in British fandom. Suffice it to say that he had those twenty people falling about as he recalled various tales from his fannish past in his own highly individualistic style.

Saturday evening brought the inevitable Fancy Dress parade, this time of a high standard with a very good Vampirella (still don't know how that costume stayed on) and a young lady in black stockings, garters, black underwear and carrying a whip, much appreciated by the male contingent in the audience even though we didn't know what she was supposed to be. And then, of course. there was Brian Burgess, looking like an ad for a Chivers jelly with the rolls of fat on his overweight frame fully exposed save for a minute G-string and a pair of shoes. Arrgghh!! I was heard to bemoan the fact that no fannish fans indulge in these idiot antics, too high and mighty they, and have somehow managed talked myself into appearing in the Novacon fancy dress as Boyle's Law, a visual joke in appalling taste. Double Arrgghh!! (Edwards, you bum, if you're reading this get hold of a chemical bog and some castors 'cos I fully intend to see you in that fancy dress with or without your consent... on which ominous note...)

Following the Fancy Dress was the disco where I got hot, having a vest on under my T-shirt. For some reason me stripping to my waist to remove the offending garment caused some people to fall about laughing. Puny I may be but there's no need to hurt a guy's feelings y'know.

At some time during the proceedings Peter Weston told Greg of a discussion he'd been having earlier as to who would come out on top in an altercation between Greg and Harlan Ellison.

"We decided you'd win hands dow," said Peter. Greg was not impressed saying he liked Harlan so the siutaion was unlikely to arise.

Better not let Ellison tweak your nose next time he's over, Simone.

Sunday came, the con and my mind were slipping away at an alarming rate. I was vegetating rapidly at some nameless panel in the fanroom when the fire alarm went off. The proceedings stopped and we all looked at each other reasoning that some drunken cretin upstairs had tripped the alarm and we could ignore it . However the clanging of the alarm soon changed to the strident tones of the evacuation alert whereupon it was women and Ratfans first as we, leapt for the the fire exit. We raced along the subterranean corridors of the hotel and I half expected to emerge and see a jumbo jet protruding from the side of the hotel but outside was nothing save a cuttingly cold wind. Back inside those upstairs were carrying on as if nothing had happened. We never never did find out in the alarm was set off by a drunken cretin. In the evening came the award session where Robert Sheckley was totally overshadowed by Roy Kettle and where Greg Pickersgill won the Doc Weir Award so becoming officially recognized as being over the hill.

At the end of the awards session Chairman Kev Smith announced that there would be no charge in the bar whereon the hall miraculously emptied and your intrepid editor would havc been killed an the stampede if he had not been leading it. What a night! I can still see myself staggering from that bar laden with ale and spirits, all for me. Ah, bliss!

Monday was the parting of the ways and a group or people that consisted of Greg Pickersgill. Simone Walsh, John and Eve Harvey, Roy Kettle and Kath (whose surname I can never remember), Malcolm Edwards, Christine Atkinson, John Lowe and myself decided to have lunch at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 3. During the course of the meal Chris Atkinson had her handbag stolen and it was recovered shortly after minus keys, cheque book, cheque card, and cash. No one had seen the theft but Kath remembered seeing a couple come up to our table and leave rather quickly. A policeman was found and while giving a description of the couple Kath spotted them. They were apprehended but to no-one's great surprise were found to be clean. However they fitted the description given by other people similarly ripped-off in the past and those given by people that very day.

"We know it's them so let's beat the shit out of them when they come past," suggested Greg.

Well, it's a long time since I last put anyone in hospital so I declined, putting it down to this strange complaint I have which manifests itself as a curious yellow stain down the length of my spine.

Greg and Simone gave me a lift to the station and I noticed that Gerg seemed subdued.

"What's up, boss?" I asked.

"I'm ill," he said. "I think it's those curries I had on Saturday."

"As soon as we've dropped you off we're going to the nearest hospital," said Simone.

I laughed. It appeared that Simone had had been taken in by Greg's hypochondriac ravings. However, when I phoned London, two days after the con, it appeared Greg was ill.

"Prolapsed piles, boss," he said. Collapse of party on the Newport end of the line as he fell about laughing.

Another Eastercon gone and time to look forward to next year when it will be held in Leeds. London is renowned coutrywide as the home of lousy beer but Leeds is a real ale stronghold. It should be a good con.

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