So I’ve been working long hours and trying to fit life in around it. I’m just mildly concerned that I’m forgetting everything that has happened because I haven’t had time to reflect. A wander though my work diary reminds me of all sorts of wonderful things that we have done.
In March I had almost a week of work in the south, delivering two Waste Awareness courses to a construction company (Vinci plc) in London, doing a legal audit for Canon UK in Reigate and fitting in a sales meeting in Harrow. As these things spanned a weekend we took the opportunity to visit the wonderful Reeds. Ian, who is a very generous chap, introduced me to his friend Jilly Reed a long time ago. We’d love to see more of her but as she no longer comes to conventions and as Moat’s Tye is a long way for us the meetings are rare, and treasured all the more for that. Jilly puts me in mind of a splendid head girl from any of the books I read as a young teen; the terrifically enthusiastic and effortlessly ethical girl that we all tried to emulate and had tremendously passionate crushes on. Sigh. Chris, Ian points out, would have been an ideal District Commissioner from the days of empire, sitting on the veranda dispensing justice and gin. I adore them both. Through the haze of days passed I remember being mercilessly pampered, wined and dined, and long periods relaxing on the sofa in front of the fire chatting late into the evening. I’d like to live like this more often.
The next journey away from home was much less relaxing, the trip to Eastercon. Ian had found us a deal with the Sheraton, two hotels away from the Radisson, where we were on the club floor. Sally had a sofa bed and so the cost was lower than I feared especially as it was possible to get by on the food from the Club Lounge and the two hours worth of free drinks in the evening. The wine was surprisingly palatable for the price.
As Christina Lake and Doug Bell were running the fan programme all three of us were on prog. I enjoyed this part of the con immensely. We were also performing in one of Ian’s fannish musicals, ‘Oliver with a Twist’. As always with these things, the month leading up to the show was saturated with oliver. We wandered over to Julia and Doug’s to read through and pick up suggestions, Ian iterated and reiterated songs and jokes, rewriting feverishly, we prowled the aisles of Poundland looking for props and costumes, Ian dealt with Tech and marshalled cast, averting disaster and, at the con itself, publicised the thing relentlessly.
Much of the rewriting was caused by the change of venue. We were expecting to put on a little show in the fanroom and found we were actually scheduled for the main hall on the Sunday evening. Horrors! Ian’s little fannish production would have meant nothing to the wider con attendees and so a whole new show had to be constructed with minimal in-jokes but the same number of bad puns.
Something like this certainly gives a focus to a weekend, looming terrifyingly, rushing towards one like a juggernaut, performed in a complete funk and then gone, leaving us slightly deflated and relieved that things had not been worse. The usual post show examination of reviews and tweets was rather overshadowed by John Meaney’s performance at the BSFA awards and the gender parity row (of which more in the next Journey Planet). I hadn’t realised that the whole thing was going out live on UStream. I’d have gone on a diet. Well, no, I wouldn’t, but I’d have held my belly in more.
The very next weekend we had Julia’s hen party. She refused to wear the L-plates and silly veil and none of us were allowed to wear ‘Hen Party on Tour’ tshirts. What we did was go to Brown’s for cocktails and then to the Showroom where Julia had hired a cinema to show Ladyhawk. Oh the wonder! Whilst we were doing this in a very civilised manner Doug was crawling around the many pubs of Sheffield, tweeting his progress. Ian, not a beer drinker, became on honourary hen for the film. Of course he’s as lovely as Rutger Hauer. Ian and I abandoned the party as they trooped off for a curry and then for late night drinks at Julia’s.
We had a prior appointment with the Everly Pregnant Brothers at the City Hall.
I’m fairly new to the Everlys. My introduction was at last year’s street party where a bit of them performed for us. Richard lived on our road at the time and had his arm twisted mercilessly until he agreed to perform. There are lots of examples of their fine work on YouTube. You should look at it. They are a very localised phenomenon, selling out in Sheffield almost as soon as tickets go on sale. We had failed to get tickets to a concert earlier in the year and had arranged to go with my sister Sue and her chap, Robin, to see them in Leeds but the gig was cancelled due to lack of sales. This evening, in Sheffield, they had sold out the Irwin Mitchell Hall, a 2000 seat venue. The show was amazing, electric and at the end we wandered away dazed, singing ‘No Oven No Pie!’
Lots of work followed, nights away in Travelodges and Premier Inns, so unlike my stay in Harrow at the Grim’s Dyke Hotel, former home of WS Gilbert, but other than a picture of the satyr holding up the marble fireplace in the main hall I’m not going to mention this fine place again (though if you are in the area you should definitely stay there).
The next big event was, of course, the wedding of Julia Daly to Douglas Spencer at the Hilton Hotel, Sheffield. What can I say? Unlike one of Ian’s plays this day had been powering towards us for years, it seems. Julia looked fabulous in her lovely red dress, the setting was good and the cakes were amazing. It was very like a one day SF convention with a single programme stream, a number of normal people wondering what was going on and the same old fans in the bar. A huge thank you to Julia, Doug and, of course, Julia’s Dad, for a day to remember. Many photos were taken. Ian's are here (see parrot). Fran Dowd's are here (see cake). I’ve since asked the happy couple what they are going to do now the event is in the past and they haven’t given me a totally believable answer. Doug says he’s cleaning the house.
My last big event was our holiday in France. A Pete Atkin concert was organised in St Germain En Laye and, of course, we had to attend. As I say, Ian is very generous and one of the things he has shared with me is his musical enthusiasms. I’m not sure whether I am most grateful for Pete Atkin or Justin Currie. Justin has a sublime voice, good tunes and excellent lyrics, Pete has a fairly average voice, amazing tunes and Clive James lyrics.
The concert was performed in a room in the lovely chateau but before that we had to get there (East Midlands Trains, Eurostar & RER), book into our very pleasant hotel and go to a garden party at Oliver’s jolly nice house. It was sunny and hot and quite delightful because of the surrounding greenery and fresh breeze. And the rather nice wine. There was a quiz which I utterly failed at. I have no idea what songs are on what albums and the singles were way before my time. Everything is on iTunes and plays randomly. I couldn’t tell you what the B side of Beware of the Beautiful Stranger is. Never mind. There were enough people sitting in the shade under the trees who could so embarrassment was avoided, not that Pete could answer all the questions when asked to give a final judgement.
The concert was, as always, great, worth the distance travelled and in a delightful setting. The room was rather hot and Pete struggled to keep the guitar in tune but the songs never fail to inspire and there were some new ones to make us hope for a further CD release in the not too far distant future. Ian put a set list up but it will mean little to most people reading this. You should just go listen to at least one song. He’s on YouTube. And then buy all his CDs.
The day after the gig we packed up and headed for Le Bourg Dun and the Harveys. These fine people picked us up from Dieppe station, fed us and put me to bed. I’d developed a sore throat and lost my voice for a few days the week before the holiday so we also spent some time tracking down French pharmacies over the week. Again, a lot of the holiday was spent with me sleeping. I’m hoping that sooner or later I will have enough time and energy to do justice to a holiday with John and Eve. Eve cooked wonderful meals, we drank beer sitting in the garden in the afternoons in the shade of the peach tree (I was allowed to hang up washing - a nice little job that kept me from feeling completely useless) and wine in the evenings over dinner and later in the sitting room as we chatted until I headed for an early bed. John and Ian talked computers and played with Garageband. Poor Eve!
Having recently sold their house in England they are finally able to look for another house in Normandy, maybe off the main road, and most mornings Eve spent some time looking at what was available. Both John and Eve had work to do so we had plenty of time to laze around, something for which I was very grateful.
They packed us up in the car on Friday and we all headed back for the ferry to Dover so that John could play a Jubilee gig and we could have the bank holiday weekend at my house, see Ruddigore at the Lyceum (not one of the standout operettas - and we were probably the youngest couple there) and Prometheus (goodish), Moonrise Kingdom (excellent) and Men in Black III (surprisingly good).
Ian went home on Wednesday morning and I managed to break a bone in my foot the same morning. I’ve got crutches!
And this weekend I, and my crutches, came up to visit Ian, mainly because we had tickets to see the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show in Glasgow. This was a delight with most of the original radio cast, a splendid band and Billy Boyd as The Book. This latter did not work so well. We wondered if he had ever heard the show and whether he had done a read though of the script. This was particularly jarring for Ian who knows the show by heart and, like a religious experience gone wrong, was jerked out of his blissful state with each mispronounced word. For me it was less problematic. I’ve listened to the show a fair number of times, watched it on TV and read the books but I don’t remember things. The guy playing Slartibartfast was excellent, an aging Arthur Dent was actually better, Trillian and Ford were the proper radio characters and Phil Pope was simply wonderful. However the star of the show, as always, was Marvin and his diodes. Oh Marvin! This is still such a wonderful show, undulled by time and repetition and at the end, when Douglas Adam’s picture was projected on the screen above the actors I felt tears in my eyes. Oh Douglas!