Thursday, 28 November 2013

Human Nature

I finished a book the other night (In Our Time, a collection of transcripts of the Radio 4 programme presented by Melvyn Bragg) and as I am still binging on all things Whovian, the next book that I pulled down from my "Mons liborum legendurum" ("the mountain of books that must be read") was Human Nature by Paul Cornell.

I've been meaning to read this ever since I found out that this novel is the origin of the wonderful Tenth Doctor episodes Human Nature and The Family of Blood. It took me a while to track it down secondhand, and I felt that the moment was right to see what the Seventh Doctor is like in the story, and to meet Bernice Summerfield for the first time. Bernice is a Companion created by Paul Cornell and used by several authors during that long period when the only new Who that existed were the novels.

The basics of the story are the same - just before the First World War, the Doctor is working as a teacher at a boy's boarding school, and the Family of Blood are after him. I think, though, that as written, the story is unfilmable. There are some graphically violent deaths, including many schoolboys, and the Family of Blood turn the entire school into glass! That would use up the special effects budget pretty quick!
It made sense, too, to have Martha as one of the servants at the school on TV, rather than living in a cottage in the village as Bernice does. I did like the political touches in the novel, though - the suffragette and the Labour candidate, and the chap who runs the local museum. It was nice to see a gay couple portrayed in such a matter of fact way, too, at a time when they had to be very circumspect.
I finished it in an evening. The TV version is, I think, better - more tightly plotted and with better motivations for some of the characters - but it's a good, gripping read in its own right, too.

My favourite quotation from the book, by the way, comes from the beginning, where Bernice is waiting for the Doctor at a beer tent at a huge market.

"Now, you may well be thinking: 'Beer? What a terrible idea. That's no solution.' I would reply that you're wrong. It's a solution of hops, barley and yeast, and it is so transcendentally wonderful that I long ago made the decision to sacrifice any chance of trim thighs in favour of it."

Of course, Bernice is an archaeologist as well as a beer drinker - I think we'd get on rather well together!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Kindertransport and Kosher Food in Blackpool

I was reading Bookwitch's blog today (, on 22nd November), in which she attended a performance of a play about the Kindertransport on the concourse of Manchester Piccadilly railway station. This happened in 1938, when hundreds of Jewish children were sent out of Nazi Germany by their families to safety in England - many never saw their families again. Suitcase is being performed at ten stations around the country to mark the 75th anniversary of the Kindertransports.

It reminded me of one of my gran's stories.
She was evacuated from Manchester at the beginning of the Second World War because she was pregnant, and sent to Blackpool (the coach they were in went round and round the streets about three times before they were found somewhere to stay). She ended up in a group taken in by Mrs Colenso, who ran a boarding house - which began a friendship between them that lasted over fifty years.
Also in the group of pregnant women was an Orthodox Jewish woman - and she had a problem. None of the food Mrs Colenso was cooking was kosher. The woman was eating slices of bread and butter, but not much more than that - and one of the other women was quite deliberately eating the bread and butter first, because she didn't like Jews.
My gran was the sort of woman who couldn't stand by and do nothing - so she went to Mrs Colenso and explained the problem.
"But, I don't know how to cook Jewish food!" Mrs Colenso said. "What can we do?"
My gran suggested that they find a Jewish family in Blackpool that the woman could have her meals with, and somehow they found a couple who were willing to feed her. It all had to be done on the quiet, because Mrs Colenso was in charge of all the ration cards for her guests, and for this to work, she had to hand over the Jewish woman's ration cards to the couple who were buying the food. No-one in authority ever found out, and the Jewish woman was able to have her baby in Blackpool, safely out of range of the German bombers.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Beer to Drink While Watching Dr Who

There's a quite interesting post on Boak and Bailey's Beer Blog ( on suitable beers to choose to drink while watching the 50th Anniversary episode of Doctor Who - time travelling beers, Tennant's Lager, and so on.

I settled down with a bottle of Old Tom with Chocolate, from Robinsons, which I have been saving for a special occasion - and wow, was this a special occasion!
(and maybe when the Doctor finds Gallifrey and re-boots it, the Time Lords will give him another cycle of regenerations, to last him a further fifty years of TV time).

I've also been enjoying An Adventure in Space and Time, which was unexpectedly sad (and with some wonderful shots of the Television Centre itself, which is now no longer used by the BBC - I think this was the last thing they did there before they moved out).

And one glorious extra treat was The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, where Peter Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy tried to get into the Anniversary episode, with cameos from all sorts of people, including Ian McKellan and Peter Jackson on the set of the Hobbit, Sean Pertwee, Russell T Davies and Georgia Tennant. It's wonderful that so many people who have been associated with Doctor Who through the years have such a genuine affection for it.

Friday, 22 November 2013

In Search of a Wig

My Young Man has been visiting, so I've been - a little distracted.

I went into Hereford to meet him off the train, and had a little time to do a bit of shopping. I was in need of a wig. I'm putting a costume together for next year's WorldCon of a character from Bryan Talbot's Grandville series of graphic novels. Bryan Talbot is one of the special guests of the Convention and I want to be the Divine Sarah, actress and love interest of the hero, Inspector LeBrock. She's also a badger - and so is he. My Young Man will be playing LeBrock - he likes the very big LeMat pistol that the Inspector carries.
I'm not even going to try to compete with the cosplayers who go to enormous lengths to get their costume just right, so I'm going to print off a badger mask from one of the Wildlife Trust websites for the face, but I did think I needed a wig. My natural hair colour is a sort of mousy blonde, which is not exactly a badgery colour.
I saw a likely looking wig in the local Spar shop just before Hallowe'en - black but with either a white or purple stripe running through it. Of course, they only had the purple one in stock, and the white stripe would be much better for my purposes.
So I went into a party shop just behind the building that used to be Hereford's big department store, Chadds. I'd passed it before, and thought it was quite a small shop that sold balloons and party banners and so on - but when I ventured inside, I discovered that it goes back, and back, and back, and there's an upstairs.... I came out with the perfect black and white wig, and a Robin Hood hat that I can use for my Green Arrow costume, to make it a bit more Golden Age (I'm not going for Oliver Queen's little yellow beard, though. That would be silly.)

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Thinking With My Hands: Let's do some exploring along The Catenary Trail

Thinking With My Hands: Let's do some exploring along The Catenary Trail: Stan Wagon, a mathematician at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn., had a bicycle with square wheels. It was a weird contraption,...

Hengist Pod Lives!  He was the character in Carry On Cleo who invented the square wheeled bicycle, and therefore got captured by the Romans before he could raise the alarm.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Another View of Stag Con 81

This is the con report written by Keith Cook, in which he names The Professor (writer of the other report) as Stuart McGregor:

Tiles May Fall - But Petrol Tanks?


It was with great enthusiasm that, having finished my exams, I directed my trusty automobile in the general direction of London where I was to pick up such notables as Stuart McGregor, Kathy Halsall, Carole Keogh and Paul Armour before proceeding to the first main ST Con of the year of that good old bastion of fandom - The Dragonara Hotel in Leeds.

Five hours later and I was home again feeling somewhat less enthusiastic following my car's determination to be the first Avenger with a detachable fuel tank! And so, having left the car at a garage in Ipswich for repairs (compliments of AA Relay) I faced the unpleasant fact that I was going to have to miss this Con as I couldn't afford it - right? Wrong - there was absolutely no way I was going to miss a Con (especially when I was looking forward to a meal in the charming company of Margaret Bazell, Janet Bull, Sue Berry and 'Tribble' Trent, Kathy Walton and the no less welcome company of Stuart McGregor, John Field and Keith Jackson alsong with a couple of friends of Margaret and Janet's whose names escape me at the moment and I hastily evoked contingency plan code named British Rail and in a very short time....

SD: 8104.10 was Friday and I was, following the usual insanity of getting up at 04.00hrs to catch the 06.05 to London, soon to be seen waiting at London's King's Cross (wondering what he was cross about? - presumably the lack of efficient service by BR) for the arrival of the inimitable Stuart McGregor for the journey to Leeds.

Following his attempts to lose me at the station and one train journey (punctuated by some inane American who seemed to be of the opinion that the right to speak on a train was reserved for him alone) later and we deposited ourselves at Leeds and were soon staggering into the main reception area of the Dragonara (compliments of the affects of the, by now, infamous lifts) to be greeted by the irrepressible Mike Wild, the enchanting Sue Toth, the inexplicable Steve Hatton and the surprisingly sober Martin Smith.

The hotel staff then made our day by cheerfully announcing that rooms would not be available for occupation until 14.00hrs so we decided there was only one thing to do - you guessed it we made for the bar and, following explanations as to why I hadn't driven to the Con, were soon refreshed and made our way to the nearest television to watch the launch of the Space Shuttle. It soon became apparent that at a speed of zilch miles an hour it wasn't going anywhere for a while so, upon pointing out that it was after two, we were finally allowed into our rooms.

Hurtling down from the seventh floor I went back to the bar and met up with that Doctor Who of the North - John Field and, after a cheery greeting, were soon involved in phaser battles before retreating to our room to exchange merchandise, slides and insults. Returning to reception John and I (joined shortly thereafter by Stuart) were soon helping Chris Chivers set up staging platforms, sound, lighting and chairs for all the convention attendees who valiantly ignored Chris' pleas to help in the main hall (thanks a bunch folks).

Following registration and checking up on the setting up of the sales room Stuart, John and I chatted in the reception area before being rewarded by the appearance of Margaret and, following the collection of our complete party, we embarked on, what was for some of us, our only proper meal of the Con - at a charming French restaurant.

Having left some of our party to sample the restaurant's disco we arrived back at the main hall some two hours later in time to obtain several interesting shots of the Fashion Show rehearsal (especially of John - deputising for the absent Paul Armour - and Chris rehearsing for Kath's collection as those who saw it on the Sunday can easily imagine).

Having bid a fond farewell to Margaret (who had the wise sense to go home for the evening) John, Stuart and I retired to watch Jimmy Doohan in The Outer Limits before deciding that, to survive the rigours of the Con, sleep was a wise move and so....

SD: 8104.11

....following all too little rest, an early morning alarm call and a breakfast of a couple of cheese spreads, crisp bread, tea and coffee, were soon together with Dave Whiley and a couple of other stewards, resetting the hall for the day's events.

This accomplished we hurtled (in the general direction of up) to the sales room where I parted with that little cash I had (so who needs food?) in purchasing annuals, posters and other merchandise before returning to the main hall to see (for the first time in many cons) the opening ceremony where, having renewed my acquaintance with Margaret, I along with Stuart, John and Dave were 'persuaded' by Kathy and George into helping set up the hospitality room and generally moving things about before, after substantial debate, George, John and I set out to do two things:-

i) Shop for food, films, Doctor Who hats, belts and 'flip flop' sandals
ii) terrorise, bemuse and otherwise astound the locals.

Reappearing some 11/2 hours later having obtained all bar the sandals we returned just in time for George to go upstairs for a "Binge" (his words not mine) whilst John and I, gulping down a bread roll and cup of coke each, hurtled down to the sales room to commence our stewarding duties for the day.

Following a further excursion into Leeds, (dragging a protesting Kathy Walton along for good measure) where Anne Page went in search of whatever whilst Kathy obtained the missing flip flops and persuaded me to purchase some feathers that would be used in the costume Margaret was wearing in Kathy's fashion show entry, I returned to the main hall and was pleasantly surprised to find Margaret had saved a seat so that I could settle down and, having taken sufficient photos, watch Rupert Evans' speech and the following ST episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before".

Leaving Margaret and Janet to pass their time preparing for the disco, I along with the other stewards, discovered that we had about an hour to clear the hall, set it up for the disco and then to get ourselves ready for the disco and fancy dress.

Having succeeded with about fifteen minutes to spare, John, Stuart, Dave, Margaret and Yours Truly settled down to take photos of the fancy dress contestants before they entered the main hall. Being more fortunate than most I was able to get sufficient shots (including the odd shot of Sue Toth and Margaret) and allowed Stuart to return my camera to our room having decided that I would not be repeating this photographic experiment again if only for the reason that, without being in the main hall, one has no idea as to what the costumes were meant to be. We then settled at our table (thanks to our illustrious president - that's you, Shirley - and Martin Pay for reserving them) and had soon tucked into, in my case, chicken and a chip, whilst Margaret and Janet brought us drinks (thanks ladies).

Following a brief foray onto the dance floor (where, not for the first time, I found myself taking dancing lessons) with Margaret I left her and Janet to go to their room for a meal whilst John, Steve Manning, Ian Watson and myself went on the first of many Shore Patrols to ensure the safety of the attendees, their cars and personal belongings.

The evening proceeded with relative calm (assuming you include the ejection of 14 or more gate crashers as "relative calm") and, after the departure of Margaret, and later Kathy who went in search of something called sleep, John, Mike Wild and I decided to complete a final "once around the Dragonara" before following their example and so by 03.30hrs I was cheerfully asleep when....

SD:8104.12 slumbers were shattered by a sadistic operator with my early morning call and so, by 07.30 we, (being John, Stuart, Dave, George, Chris and Yours Truly) were in the main hall clearing up the mess of the night's festivities (and realising just what a messy bunch the Human race is) and setting up the room for the day's events (not least of which being the Fashion Show) in under an hour and a half which, with the help of a few more gradually awakening bleary eyed stewards who were beginning to arrive, we managed to accomplish with a few minutes to spare thus allowing the first event of the day, 'Barbarella', to be shown on schedule.

There then followed the Fashion Show which had the high standard of entry that we have come to expect (and as usual I totally failed to pick the winners) and it was at this point, while taking photos of the entrants, that Stuart and I realised where all the stewards had got to - you guessed it, they were in the Fashion Show. The thing that really sticks in my mind from the Fashion Show was just how naturally John and Chris fitted into their roles (why do I get the feeling that I am going to get killed for that last remark.)

Following a reshowing of Buck Rogers interrupted only by the highlight of the decade, namely the launch of Columbia (the Space Shuttle for the uninitiated - and if you didn't know that what are you doing reading this article?) which went up like a beautiful dream (even if they did have a few tiling problems) we moved onto the first business meeting at a ST con. The rules for choosing conventions were approved and Newcastle elected as a venue for the August 82 convention (ell no-one can accuse us of not moving about) and we then settled down to listen to Susan Sackett's slide show/talk before bidding a heartfelt farewell to Janet who had to leave before the end of the Con.

The closing ceremony was brought forward and, having left both phaser and camera which Margaret with the instructions to "use as you see fit" I watched the ceremony before taking the enviable task of escorting my slave, the delectable Anne Page, onto the stage for auctioning. Having then 'persuaded' Chris Chivers to likewise be auctioned for charity (or even money) John, Stuart, myself and other stewards helped to sort out the Neville Suite for the evening's 'End of Con Party' before I returned to Margaret and watched 'City on the Edge of Forever' and the three blooper reels.

Having bid Margaret a tearful (who's he kidding?) farewell as she had to leave prematurely I emerged in reception to find myself in the middle of a pitched phaser battle between John and the delightful Klingon - Sue Berry. Having finally disarmed Sue and having shot Tribble for attempting to shoot me (well she was meant to be on MY side!) I retired to my room for a quick change of uniform and to grab my camera for the evening's festivities. John, Stuart, Kathy and I then located Anne Page and, following a brief discussion on the lack of merits of interrupting a party with a slide show, made our way to the Neville for the evening's party.

Having taken an order for photos, John, Stuart, Colin and myself had a short talk with George whilst Kathy and Anne "borrowed" my camera (I'll await with interest to see just what those photos turn out like) before chatting the night away about such diverse subjects as "The Trisha O'Neil camera jinx" to the forthcoming delights of Starcon.

Following John Field's departure and further conversation, sleep became an inescapable requirement and following a cheery (or was it bleary?) "Good Night" I was fast asleep and....

SD: 8104.13

...with the lack of alarm calls or any reason to set up the hall I did not emerge into the reception area until about 10 o'clock to say "Hi" to the assembled masses only to find that many of them had already departed (notably Kathy Walton, the Billings and all trace of Starship Excalibur - hey folks where were you - I mean it wasn't that late.)

Having exhausted any semblance to intelligent conversation by going through every "con" joke in the book (my natural regard for human life prevents me from repeating any of them here) Stuart and I finally bid farewell to the remaining friendly faces and were soon on a train heading South looking forward to Teal Vandor Con, The Empathy Day Out, Starcon and,if we can afford it, Aucon and remembering Helen McCarthy's comment to me at the weekend that I shouldn't have to go to conventions but should stay at them all year round - nice idea Helen - just one question: Where can I find an all year convention?


Friday, 1 November 2013

Stag Trek at the Dragonara Hotel, Leeds, 1981

Here's another Con report from the old file I found at the bottom of a cupboard.
This time it's not one of mine - it's by "The Professor (as opposed to the Doctor)", so I hope he won't mind me resurrecting this from the mists of time.

Leeds. The Final Frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship 'Dragonara'; its five year mission, to hold Star Trek conventions, to seek out new con attendees and new science fiction programmes, to boldly go where no hotel has gone before.

by The Professor (as opposed to the Doctor)

Government Health Warning: Going to Star Trek conventions can damage your wealth.
Intergalactic Health Warning: Failure to go to Star Trek conventions can damage your sanity.

For those of you with a nervous disposition, please turn over the next few (many! - Ed) pages for, as you may have guessed, it is I, your local Time Lord reporter doing his penance in a desperate bid to avoid being eaten by your President.

Archaeologists have discovered that one of the earliest of all ST conventions was held at the Dragonara Hotel in Leeds on 11/12 April 1981. (NB for those of you who are reading this report in a different time period, please note that it is being written on 27 October 3170AS and will be passed back to you through a time portal. Since there is a chance that this will in fact fail, if it does not appear in print please accept my apologies.)

Thursday 9 April started at an early hour. It was on that day that the well-known Excalibur reporter Keith Cook was due to pick me up, along with others, for our long journey up to Leeds. Unfortunately as you may have read in his report (see last newsletter - Ed) he had slight difficulties with his petrol tank. Therefore it was on Friday 10 April that I found myself (which is not easy, particularly when there's crowds around) meeting him at Kings Cross Station. Once there we boarded the train only to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous British Rail (not to mention outrageous Americans) on our journey up to Leeds and the Dragonara Hotel.

Once at the Dragonara, we made our way to that hallowed shrine of the convention goers - yes, you've guessed it, the bar. The bars in the Dragonara are similar to bars everywhere on your planet, with one important difference - they are more expensive.

While standing in the Dragonara bar I was tempted to think of some of the great bars of the universe. One of the greatest must be Patrick's Bar in the great Hotel of Light on the planet Caprika. There, barmen, dressed in bright red (or for those of you reading in black and white, the darker colour) serve the patrons with a dazzling array of drinks from the Pan-Galactic Gargle Blaster to the infinitely more potent Beeblebrox Cocktail. By these standards the Dragonara Bar is mundane yet functional.

Unable to get into our room until 2pm a group of us, including Mike Wild, Sue Toth, Steve Hatton, Martin 'call me Zaphod' Smith, Keith and myself decided to go and watch the launch of 'Columbia'. Having watched a favourable comparison with a British Rail timetable, and with the hotel staff willing to let us unto our rooms, Keith and I took one of those well-known Dragonara lifts to the 7th floor where we deposited our gear.

Hastily returning to the bar we came across that well-known Time Lord extra-ordinaire John Field and, shortly after, it came to pass that having exchanged gifts, purchased annuals etc., we found ourselves in the main hall helping the ever-present Chris Chivers set up for the convention.

And so the day passed. That evening a group of us set out for what, for some people, has become a tradition at conventions - the pre-con meal. In this case we went to a small French restaurant-cum-disco where we remained until about 11pm. The meal itself was very good. I must admit there is something to be said for French food, though to be honest, I can't for the life of me think what.

Back to the hotel, we watched the rehearsals for the fashion show (which is even more fun than the fashion show itself, particularly when John Field and Chris Chivers are for shall I put this?....'act' on the Sunday which those of you who were there will no doubt remember as being somewhat....interesting?).* It was at this point that we noticed the staging had a distressing tendency to collapse; this was due to a marked lack of locking pins. Such are the problems of conventions.

And so to Saturday, and the convention opening. Opening ceremonies, by their nature, start proceedings, as opposed to closing ceremonies which do the opposite. This is of course not true on the planet Ursa Minor Beta where, at the Festival of Normality, events are preceded by the closing ceremony. The exact reason for this is lost in antiquity although some independent observers have speculated that it is probably of some deep religious significance. Others, however, refute this and claim simply that it is precisely what you would expect on that planet.

The opening ceremony having finished, I spent the rest of the morning helping set up various odds and ends, including the hospitality room. And so after much hard work (who's kidding? - Ed) I found myself being dragged bodily into Leeds by Keith Cook, John Field and Kathy Walton who were searching for some sandals for Sylvia Billings and some feathers for a head dress for one of the costumes in Kathy's fashion show entry. These having been duly purchased I returned to the hotel just in time for Rupert Evans' speech on stunting and stuntmen, a topic perhaps appropriate for convention attendees.

There then followed a Star Trek episode - 'Where No Man Has Gone Before'. However since I have been there I did not watch it.

And so in what seemed like no time whatsoever I found myself, camera in hand, awaiting the start of the fancy dress which as always featured a large selection of aliens who, earlier in the day, had been masquerading as people.

Finally there was the disco. Yes, that well-known event featuring lights, music, people and hangovers. (Speak for yourself - Ed). And so, after a minor excursion to watch some blooper reels at a room party, I found myself falling into bed at about 3.30am only to be rudely awakened at 7.30am where along with Keith Cook, John Field, Dave Whiley, George Billings and Chris Chivers, I was coerced into helping to clear up the mess of the night before which, believe me, was substantial (I do - Ed) although I must confess there was not as much mess as after Zaphod's all year inauguration party.

Nevertheless, despite our lack of numbers we had 'Barbarella' ready for showing by 9am, its scheduled start time. There then followed, at 11am, the highlight of the convention events, the fashion show. As usual with these events, I totally failed to pick the winners (didn't everyone? - Ed).

It was shortly after, in a fit of insanity, which manifested itself in the reshowing of the 'Buck Rogers' film, that America's apology for the British Rail timetable was eventually launched, accompanied by an almighty cheer!

There then followed the business meeting, the first held at a Star Trek convention. It followed the pattern set by SF conventions throughout the galaxy. As a result of this Newcastle was chosen as the venue for the autumn 1982 con. (We'll keep you posted on Galileocon - Ed).

There then followed Susan Sackett's slideshow and talk before the closing ceremony, which was highlighted by a slave auction where mid fools such as Chris Chivers were auctioned off for charity though who'd want to buy some of them remains a mystery.

And then there was, finally, the end-of-con party held as always in the Neville Suite. The end-of-con party....

(TRANSLATOR'S NOTE: Here the Professor's message ends due to static in the Time Portal. We apologise to our readers for this problem which is, unfortunately, beyond our control.)

*I now have no memory of this 'act' at all, though in the margins of the report I have written "Fairycakes!"

Looking at this report now, it's not overly informative about what went on at the Convention, (what were the costumes in the fashion show? Who won?) though it does give a flavour of what was going on behind the scenes.
This was one of the first cons I went to, and I remember being quite overwhelmed - I was a shy little thing then. I remember bidding for, and winning, a new Star Trek paperback in the auction - I think it was a book of quotes from the series, and it was certainly purple. They auctioned five of them separately, and I got the second one. I paid £12 for it, which was somewhere around the same cost as the convention weekend itself - the others went for around £24. Sadly, I no longer have it, though that weekend I did get it signed by Rupert Evans, who was a friend of Gene Roddenberry's as well as a stunt man. That was why he was invited to the con, and he was fascinating. One of his early jobs was on the Errol Flynn version of Robin Hood, when Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone insisted on doing their own duel on the stairs, rather than letting the stuntmen do it. He said that Errol Flynn had a certain way of swinging the sword blade that he liked, and which he tried to get incorporated into every fight sequence. He talked about other swashbucklers, too, and being the charioteer in Ben Hur who was dragged behind his chariot (he was wearing an early version of a skateboard strapped to his chest). I'm pretty certain that the main guest was Dorothy Fontana, who was also a fascinating speaker - and I was far too shy to approach her until nearly the end of the convention for her autograph in the book.
At this convention, I knew the named people only as distant 'famous fans', though later I went out with Keith Cook for a while. John Field actually had a job as the Doctor - he dressed up as Tom Baker at the Blackpool Doctor Who exhibition, and was once mistaken for Tom Baker on a train (which he milked for all it was worth!). Martin Smith had a false Zaphod Beeblebrox head which he would wear as part of his costume - Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was really big at the time. Chris Chivers worked at Andromeda Bookshop in Birmingham, and also did the technical sound stuff at conventions.
One thing I do remember is the launch of the space shuttle Columbia. I was with friends down in a snack bar somewhere at the bottom of the hotel, and it was announced over the hotel tannoy. The woman making the announcement upgraded it from shuttle to space ship in the space of a couple of sentences. The cheer that followed the announcement must have come from every floor of the hotel! We felt as if we were at the beginning of something really special - that this was the start of the space race which would eventually get us to a 23rd century like the one imagined in Star Trek.