CAROL and I arrived about 6.30 and had just enough time to go to our rooms before I was on the first panel, on 'Superfluous technology the dark side'. I'd thought it was frivolous but Julian Headlong had some serious points about surveillance tech etc, and between him and Caroline Mullan (from the audience) I didn't have much to say, which was probably just as well. Julian wound me up something wicked by talking about 'cognitive engineering' as if he'd just read about it in New Scientist, instead of in A Deepness in the Sky.
At the opening ceremony we were all urged to drink the real ale, which the cabal had underwritten. We made a start. Dave Hicks wandered around with Ian Sorensen's name badge, which must have been very confusing to nobody. After a drink or two Carol and I went out to get dinner, and after a short tour of Leicester arrived at the nearest restaurant to the con, the Alhambra, which served Middle Eastern/North African food and was great. By the time we returned it was quite late and after another drink or two we went to bed.
The following morning we got up bright and early around ten and had breakfast about eleven. Breakfasts at the Holiday Inn were very good indeed and got lots of appreciative comment. I managed to miss their most appreciated feature enormous waffles with maple syrup.
Just before the con, one of Carol's friends had wangled her a free ticket for a live televised show by her favourite band, so she left for London early in the afternoon. I went to the rescheduled presentation of Thog's Masterclass a fine performance, which had all eyes and ears glued to Dave Langford.
Amanda Baker and friends impressed everyone with their tactical shopping in Leicester, returning in gorgeous salwar kameez.
After a quick scoot around Leicester town centre to stock up on cigarettes I had another pint or two of real ale and did my GoH speech. 'The Secret Histories' was just an account of some of the real events I'd distorted and exaggerated for my novels, and was structured around a trip I made in the 70s to Prague and my much later discovery that the CIA had (probably) been running the show. As I said when I finished (putting down an empty glass of real ale) 'The drink was on you, folks, but the joke was on me.'
The highlight of that evening was a panel featuring what only seemed like a large fraction of the women present, called 'How to be a complete bitch'. Lilian Edwards, Alison Freebairn, Sue Mason, Alison Scott, Naomi Saunders, Kari, Sue Dawson and Christina Lake staked their claims to be quite nice, really.
At the UFF auction Guy Dawson paid £45 for the privilege of giving his name to a political or religious faction in one of my novels. The Dawson Heresy, an effigy of whose gruesomely-martyred founder and prophet is still ceremonially burned every winter on a certain imaginary planet, may well have been born right there.
After that it was more drinking until after 2, when Carol returned. Alison Freebairn told me about her Direct Aid trip to Bosnia, which was much scarier than my trip to Prague.
I saved a G&T for Carol, and after that we went to bed, passing up the offer of the Swedish room-party, for which Alison Freebairn was recruited as hostess.
The following morning the Swedish room-party was exposed in gory detail, a sort of instant News of the World scoop, as Alison Scott passed around a digital camera with pictures of Tobes in Alison Freebairn's dress, a little red frock covered with black lace, which had looked a lot better on her than it did on Tobes. Earnest discussion followed on to how to help Tobes with Sunday night's theme, cleavage.
'You need some sticky tape and a triple-A cup,' Alison Scott explained. The possibility was mooted of auctioning for a fan fund the privilege of subsequently ripping the sticky tape off. Fortunately nothing came of the 'Tits for Tobes' project.
By Sunday lunchtime the four barrels of real ale and the forty-eight bottles of Scrumpy Jack were finished. As the cabal had guaranteed to buy any that was left this was a good thing, but it's still funny to see that even fans can underestimate the fannish capacity for beer.
After another cigarette expedition and a little more drinking I did a reading of the first few pages of Cosmonaut Keep, and answered a few questions.
The cabal took me out to dinner in the same Chinese restaurant I'd been in the previous night, the Alhambra (their first choice) being shut. Thus, courtesy of the Plokta cabal, I had possibly the second-biggest dinner I've ever had. (They took me to the biggest already, at Novacon.)
At 10 there was a fan-artists' competition between Sue Mason, Dave Hicks and Steve Jeffrey. The audience was divided into four groups, the first to supply a name, the second a verb phrase, the third and adjective phrase and the fourth some kind of additional modifier. Well, something like that. We all wrote our phrases on bits of paper and handed them in, whereupon they were shuffled and recombined.
I wrote 'dripping fetid, blasphemous ichor from every pore' which must have caught someone's fancy, because Dave Hicks had to produce a lightning sketch of: Ken Livingstone having a sauna in a corset dripping fetid, blasphemous ichor from every pore.
All good clean fun. Sue won, with a tour de force so dazzling that I can't remember the details: hiccups, diving-boards, and Jackie Chan's stunt team all featured, and all made sense.
The next item was the Cleavage Panel, which had been much built up beforehand and which came well up to expectations. Sue Mason explained how she discovered corsetry through English Civil War re-enactments. ('As a loose woman, it's my duty to give the pox to as many Papists as possible.' A number of listeners immediately proclaimed their allegiance to the Bishop of Rome.) Yvonne Rowse described a method for reviving a chilled duckling.
After the Cleavage Panel drew to a close so did the con bar, though fortunately the hotel bar remained open. Less fortunately, in the absence of real ale I drank less wholesome beverages.
I went to bed at 2.30. Gallons of real ale had left me fresh as a slightly trodden daisy on Saturday and Sunday mornings, but on Monday I woke to the worst hangover I've had since the General Election of 1997. I struggled through a bowl of fruit and a bucket of coffee for breakfast.
A panel at 11, a closing ceremony at one, a totally unexpected and much appreciated gift of a Galileo thermometer, lots of goodbyes, a taxi to the station with Tanya Brown and then a train journey home, delayed at Newcastle by lightning hitting a signal.
I've left out lots of interesting conversations, but I enjoyed them all.