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?


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