Pipers & Plaid: My Trip to Scotland and Intersection

NOTE: This document contains personal detail, as it serves as a diary of my trip.
Read at your own risk!

In the months before Intersection, Eve and I discussed just how to pack to keep warm in Scotland, where the average temperature in August is about 60 degrees. We were all set with which jackets and sweaters to bring when we started getting reports in the weeks before the con that the United Kingdom was experiencing a record-breaking heat wave. So, the days before the con were spent anxiously watching the weather and discussing alternatives: short-sleeve shirts that could be layered? Sandals?

Amazingly enough, even with having to allow for radical temperature changes, I still managed to fit everything into a wheeled suitcase of carry-on dimensions and a matching large shoulder bag. However, on arriving at the airport, I discovered that the person answering my preliminary call to British Airways to find out their carry-on restrictions had neglected to mention the crucial fact that there was a weight as well as a size restriction. So, my careful packing had gone for nil: the heavy shoulder bag I'd planned to carry strapped to the wheeled suitcase had to be carried on my shoulder, since the wheeled suitcase had to be checked. Within a few minutes of waving those wheels goodbye, my injured shoulder began screaming from the weight, so I managed to beg a heavy-duty shopping bag from a nearby duty-free shop. It effectively became my third piece of luggage throughout the trip.

To take advantage of the con's arranged discount with British Air, Eve and I had to fly round-trip in and out of Glasgow, even though our destination on arrival was really Edinburgh. On asking on the net about the best way to get from Glasgow airport to Edinburgh, we found out that a direct bus from the airport was better than a train from the more distant train station, and one correspondent mentioned that the fare on the air shuttle from Heathrow to Glasgow was the same as Heathrow to Edinburgh, and perhaps we could convince them to change the destination. The lady at the ticket counter in San Francisco said she couldn't change the ticket because of the fare restriction but suggested that I only check the luggage as far as Heathrow in case the shuttle people would approve a change. I must have looked sufficiently pathetic when I arrived in Heathrow after the 10-hour flight, because I did indeed convince them to let me fly stand-by to Edinburgh. (Eve was not so lucky and had to take the bus.)

On arriving by taxi at the Terrace Hotel, I discovered that our room was up four flights of stairs and no bellboys in sight! I managed in my stupor to shlep the luggage up the stairs to a fairly nice room with a great shower, good beds, and barely any hangers. I then collapsed for a nap, during which Eve arrived. We got up at around dinner time and went to a vegetarian place recommended in Frommer, which turned out to be really nice. We walked around for a little while and picked up some tourist info and then walked uphill and upstairs back to our room, where traffic noises impinged on my sleep but bothered Eve not at all.

Wednesday, August 16

Breakfast turned out to be a typical UK variety, and although I was armed with decaf teabags from home, I was pleasantly surprised to find they offered decaf coffee. (This would be true throughout the trip -- the only place I couldn't get decaf tea or coffee was on the plane!) We had decided to buy all-day tickets on a double-decker tour bus that allowed you to get off at tourist sights and then pick up another bus later on. This worked out fine as we saw the sights in the morning interspersed with errands at nearby stops in the afternoon. We got to be pretty keen critics of the various guides we heard on the different buses, with one being the Scottish equivalent of a Valley girl.

The town is beautiful, featuring Georgian architecture and hill-top vistas. The Castle dominates the city, especially while you're in the old part of town. Little twisting alleys (called "wynds") abound off the main street and the feeling of history is everywhere. The main drag in the old part of town is the Royal Mile, which goes back for generations and features the church made famous by Greyfriars Bobby. The main street in the new part of town, where most of the tourist activity in relation to the Festival takes place, is Princes Street.

On/Off Bus Tour

Our first hop off the bus was at Holyrood Palace, the Queen's residence when she's in town, a beautifully proportioned building with an older cathedral in the back. Portraits of various Scots royalty line the walls, and we decided that the appearance of James V lived up to his reputation as a rake. In the Old Town, we went to a Writers Museum dedicated to Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Burns, and Sir Walter Scott, and saw various artifacts from their houses and careers. The Stevenson story was especially interesting. Then we crossed the street to the Museum of Childhood, supposedly the only museum of its subject anywhere. Some of the contents were interesting but the presentation wasn't great and some of the stuff tended to be pretty modern. Old school primers and material geared to British children during WWII were the most interesting exhibits to me.

We then used the on/off bus system to go to the Festival and Festival Fringe box offices to get tickets for the shows we'd decided to see. We were disappointed to find that a highly recommended comedy was sold out but took the advice of the ticket vendor and went directly to the venue, which still had some left. Pre-trip reports on the cramming of venues into any available space were borne out by the venue map we got, which showed various churches, schools, and parks being pressed into service. Near the ticket office, attempts to use the ATMs were fruitless, which was somewhat alarming since we both had decided to depend on them for cash outlays based on advice from the net and our credit unions/banks.

After shlepping up and down the Royal Mile, we decided to head back to a tea shop recommended in one of the guidebooks for late lunch/early dinner. It was further down the street than we expected and was not really worth the shlep when we got there, since they were out of almost everything. However, the restoring tea was worth it! We then took the tourist bus as close as we could back to our hotel to rest up a little before our first show of the trip: "Strictly Scottish." I pushed my protesting leg muscles about halfway to the venue when I suddenly realized that I'd left the carefully culled ticket to the show on the bed when changing purses. I told Eve I'd go back and then meet her at the theatre but after about a block of walking I decided that the $11 replacement ticket charge would be well worth not having to walk back to the hotel and up the four flights of stairs, so I turned around and went to the venue.

Strictly Scottish

The show was in a church and was pretty uneven: the dancers were from the local Scottish Country Dance Society and seemed very nervous about performing, plus the stage was a little small for set dancing. The tenor doing the songs didn't enunciate very well but he was more than made up for by the woman declaiming the Scottish verse, who was great. The dancing got a little better as the evening wore on and we got an unexpected treat: they performed the dance after which our hotel in Glasgow was named, the Babbity Bowster!

I was fairly wiped out when we got back to the hotel but Eve was still raring to go so she went off exploring while I crawled into bed. She returned a while later to report on a nifty neighborhood bar she'd discovered on our street. And, bless her cooperative heart, she agreed to shut the window against the traffic noises, so I slept a little better than the night before.

Thursday, August 17

In search of bottled water for Eve and possible food shops to stock up on supplies for the Sabbath, we headed downhill from our hotel in the opposite direction from town and discovered an actual local neighborhood. We also staked out a laundromat. On the way to the first show of the day, we passed a Barclays Bank and were greatly relieved when we were able to extract some cash (my credit union card didn't work but my regular bank card did). The main key on the ATM was labeled "Proceed" instead of the more familiar American English "Enter"!

The comedy at noon was "The Complete History of America" by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, and was the ticket we'd gone to the venue the day before to get. And it was well worth the extra trip. The three actors whiz through American history, with several hysterically funny vignettes. They start with Amerigo Vespucci convincing his cranky wife that he will too invigorate his mapmaking business. (His current world map is shown on a frisbee, since the world is believed to be flat.) Proceeding onward through the American Revolution, the "shot heard round the world" on Boston Common is presented with a re-creation from a grassy knoll and a large bullet showing the trajectory -- Oliver Stone must be proud. One of the funniest bits was for the Civil War, when they supposedly have lost the slides for that segment and do a series of costume poses from the period as if they are part of the slides. (In response to shouts of "Focus! Focus!," they stepped a little bit forward and then a little bit backward again.) A Christmas on the battlefield vignette featured the line "Dyslexics sell their soul to Santa") and a WWI battlefield scene results in the first few rows of the audience getting drenched from SuperSoakers. (Eve and I only got a little wet.) The finale was an extended Sam Spade episode and a long Dr. Seuss parody.

A good time was had by all: my stomach actually hurt from laughing and Eve was in tears for part of the show from laughing so hard. We bumped into Bay Area fan Ed Rush after the show but left him to go off to lunch at the James Thin Booksellers Tearoom, which we'd been told by someone on the net featured "elderly blue-haired Edinburgh ladies in their native habitat." The smoked salmon sandwiches and strawberry tart dessert were great and not too pricey and we enjoyed the ambience, which was less touristy and more local than other places we'd been.

During the show, I'd noticed some pain in the fourth toe of my left foot, and I'd awkwardly slapped a bandaid on it at the time. Back at the hotel, I investigated further and found a large blister, which I attempted to treat. I decided that I'd better save my pain threshold for walking back from the Castle after the Tattoo scheduled for that evening, so we took a cab to the next show: "Ken & Barb: The Life of a Supermodel." This ambitious undertaking took place in a tiny theatre. Although the actors were pretty good, and the costumes great (voiceovers for all of Barb's changes announced the designer and his/her age, just like the comics, and the fashions were similar to what you might see in an Archie comic), the material tried too hard and there were way too many songs in proportion to the dialogue. Plus the play wasn't internally consistent: sometimes the characters could move their arms, sometimes they couldn't, etc. It wasn't awful, but it was bad enough that most of the audience were looking at their watches by about halfway through.

Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Dinner was at a restaurant highly recommended by our guidebooks and previous guests at our hotel. The prices weren't as low as we'd been led to expect and although the food was good, the service wasn't, as they lost our reservation and barely checked back at our table for water or bringing the bill. However, we still made it out of there in time to hike up to the Castle for the famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

We'd taken the precaution of getting tickets while still in the States, and the seats we got repaid our planning: the 11th row up near the center of the section of the stands that all the bands face. The seats were so narrow that the guy next to me couldn't straighten out his knees and was partially in my space, but that was the only flaw to an incredible evening. Local Scouts were everywhere selling tickets to a Tattoo lottery with tickets including a souvenir pin. (We found out later it was won by a local 16-year-old Edinburgh girl.) The setting was spectacular; all through the evening I had to remind myself that the impressive castle was not just a special effect but the Real Thing, built in the 1100s, that contributed to the stereotype on which modern castle imitations are based.

The first band to perform was an Egyptian military band that was laughably bad. They had a fake chariot with a guy holding an ankh, and were dressed in bad Pharaoh headdresses. They never did manage to start or stop any tunes on time and their marching was worse than any randomly chosen American college marching band. However, the next "foreign" band up, a French unit, made up for that with some nifty routines, including one where the snare drum players circled each other in twos, banging each other's sticks in rhythm while still playing their drums. The theme of the evening was the Stuart dynasty, in honor of the 250th anniversary of the Jacobite uprising, and I had to laugh when the crowd applauded every time one of the actors playing a monarch was announced, as if they were applauding the real historic figure! The highland bands were really good, even if they did feature fewer pipes and Scottish airs than we were expecting. A dance section was great, and the massed finale was very impressive as well. (We were greatly relieved when we realized the Egyptians wouldn't be, as they say locally, cocking it up, but were kept behind the conductor adding color but luckily no sound.) A lone piper up on the castle ramparts playing a lament for those dead in battle was very moving (despite the &*#(@s who insisted on using flash photography) and the finale of Auld Lang Syne brought the whole audience together (especially the older Canadian gentleman on Eve's right who insisted on squeezing her hand for the whole number).

After walking down from the Castle rampart, we stopped in at the Superloos (20 pence entrance) in the bus station and on our way in were greeting by an ear-piercing alarm that went on for a full five minutes. We wondered what noise they'd make if someone had stolen the cash box instead of just jumping the line. On our way back to the hotel, Eve introduced me to her "neighborhood bar," Chesterfields, and I got to try a non-alcoholic but non-wimpy-sounding ginger beer before we trudged up to bed.

Friday, August 30

Investigation of my toe blister resulted in discovery of another nascent one, so on our way in to town, we stopped at a mall so I could get some treatment: miraculous Dr Scholl blister bandages, which I put on my toes on the spot. We then headed down to the tourist office to find out whether we could get a one-day bus pass for Shabbat a day in advance, to which the answer was a welcome yes.

After that was a seemingly endless hunt for the location of an Arts & Crafts Faire that Eve had spotted but that we had a lot of trouble finding, trekking through most of Princes Street Gardens, for one stretch being entertained by a passing pipe band. I scored a nifty wool cap for my brother and Eve found the perfect gift for her babysitter. I also spotted some Festival T-shirts with some nifty Celtic knotwork on them but passed when I saw the price of 10 pounds (about $16), convinced I could find other versions. In search of lunch, we went through a pedestrian mall but didn't spot anything inspiring so (after dodging a person on stilts handing out handbills), we headed back to our calm, faded James Thin tearoom again.

My search for a grey V-neck sweater (unsuccessful for over a year in the States) and Eve's for a nice Scottish heavy sweater led us through most of the large shops and department stores on Princes Street. Finally, in upper-class Jenners department store, Eve braved the heat to try on a gorgeous blue knit while talking me into trying on a gorgeous black beaded blouse I pointed out to her. Two purchases later, we went upstairs to their food hall, where I found exotic decaf tea flavors like Banana & Cinnamon and Orange & Grapefruit. We returned to the hotel to drop off our purchases and go to the neighborhood near our hotel to stock up on food for the Sabbath. Cheeses, crackers, and bread were the main staples, along with treats like Devon Cream and caramel rice pudding. The aisles were stocked with odd offerings including ham-flavored potato chips (other flavors we saw included brown gravy, prawn, and pork).

"Eamonn: Older Brother of Jesus"

Back at the hotel, I tried to contact NY fan Moshe Feder and got his SO, Lise, who told me that although Moshe was pretty much dead to the world, he had been planning on seeing our show for the evening anyway, and would try to meet us at the theater. That settled, we changed and went off to a local Italian restaurant named Giuliano's, which had been recommended by previous guests at our hotel. The food and prices were fine but the real star was the ice-cream desserts. (Eve said hers was so sensuous it almost made up for Howard not being with her on the trip! There are some advantages to being in a country where no one worries about cholesterol and they use real cream.)

Soothed, we took a taxi to the venue of the play I'd most looked forward to seeing: "Eamonn: Older Brother of Jesus." Sure enough, Moshe was in the courtyard and we went upstairs to the crowded hot theatre. This was the biggest disappointment of the trip, since the "Eamonn" conceit was just an excuse for popular Irish comedian Michael Redmond to do bits from his standard routines. Chronology shifted back and forth (Catholic school jokes featuring Jesus as still alive) and there was little Biblical humor in it but plenty of bathroom/masturbation jokes, some of which he played off a loud, giggling female near the front. Probably the best Biblical bit was on the Virgin Mary as proud mother on the day of the Crucifixion: buying a new outfit for the occasion and introducing Jesus to passersby "That's my son the Messiah -- `Jesus, don't slouch'." Although things could have been worse with a completely untalented lead, still the show was a great disappointment.

After it finished we meandered across town to our next venue, a large church with several shows in it, ours, the Jiving Lindy Hoppers, being in a tiny basement crammed full of small tables and chairs. We debated for a while whether the curtain in back would open to reveal a larger stage but finally realized that the small cleared wooden floor below our upstairs seats was all the dancers would have to work with. They managed quite well, however, with disappointing solo renditions of lindy steps but absolutely great tap and softshoe routines. One was a re-creation of an old 40s tap short to music from Duke Ellington, of which I hope to find the original some day. At one point, the audience was invited up to dance and the lead dancers stuck around to dance with some audience members. On Eve's urging I went down to the floor and, despite my sore toes, managed a creditable few minutes of swing dancing with the lead male dancer.

The Lindy Hoppers show was an example of how well Eve and I traveled together: she would never have thought of seeing it although she enjoyed it; neither would I have thought of seeing "Strictly Scottish" the first night although I enjoyed it.

Saturday, August 19

Eve and I had cobbled together some strategies for how to deal with Sabbath restrictions, deciding to do the free art galleries rather than ticketed shows, and were counting on eating a large breakfast at the hotel so that all we'd need for the rest of the day was a late lunch. As I'd been getting up early in the morning anyway, I assured her I'd be up in time to wake us up for breakfast, which ended at 9, so she didn't need to set the alarm. Imagine my chagrin the next morning when I went to the bathroom, looked at my watch, and saw that it was 9:40! I panicked and told Eve we were in deep trouble. She sleepily said that she didn't think it felt like we'd slept that long, nor was it very light outside. She checked her watch and informed me that it was 5:40 in the morning and what the hell was I talking about. I finally realized that, as is my custom, I'd switched from my Timex Indiglo watch Friday night (for fear I might forget it was the Sabbath in the middle of the night and turn the glow feature on) to my other watch, which I'd never reset to Scottish time. Oops.

Eve was remarkably forbearing about this and we finally did get up in time to make breakfast and get to the bus stop to go to the local synagogue. It was interesting to see the subtle differences in the prayerbook (in place of the prayer we're used to seeing for the government, that asks for guidance for "the President, the Vice President, and all officers of the country..." theirs prayed for "The Royal Family" and named them all in order!) and the synagogue architecture. Unfortunately, they had a visiting prayer leader who didn't do very many tunes, and we were very surprised after services when no one came up to us to say hello and ask where we were from, as is the norm for most synagogues when strangers show up. And, probably the most disappointing to Eve, the cups we saw being filled up at the small reception after services contained coffee not tea!

Back at the hotel, we decided to gather the food we'd bought the day before and go down to Princes Street Garden for a picnic rather than eating in the room. We got to watch people on the putting green below us and the crowds of people walking by. Getting to the National Gallery for their exhibit of the original statue of the Three Graces was an adventure as for the first time we encountered the mobs of people we'd expected would be in town for the Festival. The Gallery had some interesting Titians and the most informative signs explaining works that I've ever seen. From there, Eve went to the National Portrait Gallery and I went to the Tourist Office to try to gather some info on possible day tours to Stirling Castle. Unfortunately, all tours to Stirling were two-day affairs, and I met Eve back at the Gallery and did a whirlwind tour of their Stuart portraits.

Then it was nap-time for a little while before we finished our snacks and took a bus to the older part of town in the neighborhood of our evening event. I found some souvenirs to take back to work and a great Celtic-knot Edinburgh T-shirt. (One of the more surprising aspects of the Festival was the almost total absence of souvenir T-shirt vendors!) One of the most interesting buildings we saw was a round two-story tower with griffins and unicorns at the top but no entrance. Turns out it is the place where, even to this day, royal proclamations are announced. (And they still do them four days after they're announced in London, as that is the time it took the original couriers to get there!)

Folk Songs of North-East Scotland

Our late-night show was the only authentic Festival (as opposed to Fringe Festival) event we went to: Folk Songs of North-East Scotland. The venue was an impressive concert hall that was featuring the Kirov Ballet. After hanging out in the lobby bar until that show let out, we assumed we'd be going into the main hall, but it turned out that chairs were set up on one of the wide grand stairwell landings and we were lucky to grab one, since some people ended up sitting on the stairs. The three participants were two academics (one man who delivered what I thought were the most authentic sounding renditions and a woman with a beautiful voice and pronunciation but not much "soul") and an elderly MC, who turned out to be the person who wrote "The Banks of Sicily," a WWII ballad that has been turned into a filksong! Imagine our surprise. The three of them took turns singing, with less academic explanation in between than I'd expected. My favorite Scottish touch to the evening was the choice of beverages to wet the artists throats, since the elderly MC did the whole show with a pint of lager by his side, not exactly what you'd picture an American performer imbibing at a show costing the audience $16 a ticket!

Sunday, August 20

We started the day by doing our laundry at a laundromat with machines run from a central console off change we had to give the guy in charge. (When we had asked whether there was a cold wash setting available, he asked if we were American or Australian since only those two nationalities seem to want that setting!) Then, we split up for the rest of the morning to do our separate errands. I went back to the Portrait Gallery to pick up a pin I'd spotted for Charles the day before, plus my endless search for a grey sweater and gifts for the family. Someone had mentioned a store on Princes Street that might have a sweater so I made the mistake of heading down there, completely forgetting about the scheduled Mass Pipe & Drum event taking place on that street, the largest gathering of such bands ever. I gamely fought through the crowd for several blocks (discovering at the end that someone had tried to get into my backpack but failed) and finally emerged at the farthest end of the street I'd been thus far in the trip.

I ended up eating lunch at a Pancake House that featured Florida pancakes -- with peaches! I went around the deserted park end of the steep side of the castle, which exercised my sore toesies to the limit, to get to Old Town. After buying a so-so grey sweater, the best I could find, I entered another store only to discover they were having a sale on plain-color V-neck Pringle sweaters (which we'd seen for big bucks at other stores) and had a grey one in my size! My cheer at this good fortune was somewhat abated when I discovered the previous store had no policy for returns, only exchanges. Twenty minutes of searching through their stock later, I ended up with a beautiful if pricey Black Watch scarf, and met Eve at the designated rendezvous for a "ceilidh jam" ("ceilidh" being a Scottish get-together, as we'd both learned -- and learned how to spell it -- from the Meet the Guests party at ConFrancisco in 1993.) The performers were decidedly mixed, with one guy doing Beatles tunes, and a finale of an astounding guitar player, fiddle player, and flutist.

Our first choice for a restaurant turned out to be closed, but we ended up lucking into a table at a veggie place, eating a puff pastry and some decent tarts. From there, we meandered across town to our evening show: American political comedian Will Durst, whom I'd heard in the Bay Area where he's based but whom Eve had never heard. His "set" was a giant map of the United States, and he started off with a whirlwind tour of the country. Some of his material is more angry than funny, but it contains some gems:

Monday, August 21

We'd done some packing the day before, but this morning was our final push. We left our packed suitcases downstairs, settled our bill, and went off to our final errands in Edinburgh. Eve had generously agreed to delay our departure to Glasgow until later in the afternoon so I could go to a noon ceilidh dance workshop only offered on weekdays. Before that, I wanted to pick up a Festival T-shirt, hopefully the Celtic knot one we'd seen at the Craft Faire. Unfortunately, the only shirts left were Extra Large. This turned out to be true at every Festival T-shirt outlet I found, until finally I stumbled across the only "iron-on" T-shirt place we'd seen, and managed to get a non-official Festival design (nicer than the official one I might add) put on a medium shirt.

The dance session turned out to be in a cellar, and with the temperature outside being about 80, you can imagine what the temperature was like downstairs in a small room with no ventilation and about 50 people dancing! My first partner was a completely uncoordinated guy and my second an overweight girl, so I was beginning to wonder if I'd ever be able to really dance when I spotted a very tall guy who seemed to know the dance instructor by name and also was pretty coordinated. Luckily for me, the next dance was a waltz and I managed to snag him for a partner. Once he saw I could dance, we partnered each other for the rest of the session. He also told me that the dance instructor, a guy in his probably early 60s with a white goatee, had a daughter who lives in the Bay Area so he introduced me. On my way out at the end of the session, I bumped into Bay Area fans Allen Baum and his wife.

I dragged myself back to the hotel, tired and sweaty but happy, and Eve and I toddled off to the train station just in time to catch the 3:30 to Glasgow. I spent the trip starting Eve's copy of Greyfriars Bobby, the story of a Skye terrier who in the 1880s slept on his master's grave every night for 14 years in an Edinburgh churchyard. She had been astounded that I'd never read the book and lent me the copy, complete with Scots dialect, that she was bringing back for the kids. Our first view of the city was across St. George's Square (displaying a large banner featuring a smiling giant yellow tourist-board creature and the slogan GLASGOW: IT'S MILES BETTER with the middle "s" in yellow. Get it?).


The Babbity Bowster, our first hotel in Glasgow, turned out to be everything we'd imagined. A pub on the ground floor, a well-known (and pricey) Scottish restaurant on the second floor, and six hotel rooms on the top. This time, however, we had help from the very friendly staff in getting our luggage up the stairs. (We also already had a message waiting, from old LASFAPA buddies David Schlosser and Kay McKutcheon.) The room was smaller than the room at the Terrace but still charming, and after showers in somewhat reduced water pressure, we went off to explore the city. Barely understood directions in a heavy Glasgow accent resulted in our barely making it to the Tourist Office before it closed, and after dealing with a few different clerks, we finally got the information we needed on a trip to the island of Arran. Eve was very set on getting out of the cities for at least one day, and I was hoping through my exhaustion that I'd be able to join her the next day.

Unlike Edinburgh, Glasgow is a working city with heavy Victorian architecture and the feel of the industrial age. We passed very few tourist spots, and the area of the city in which we were staying appeared to be the Wall Street of Glasgow, with most buildings silent in the evening and not many restaurants in the immediate vicinity. Back at the Babbity, I spotted someone by the bar as we walked in who looked a lot like the dance instructor at the ceilidh workshop back in Edinburgh. I first passed this off as a coincidence but when I snuck a glance at him again he was staring at me, too, and finally he asked if I'd been in his class that afternoon! He was there with two musician friends and we spent the next half-hour or so boring Eve to tears with a discussion of Scottish folkdancing. After a bit of negotiating with the hotel keys, which were necessary to open the fire door before one even got to the room, I collapsed into bed while Eve stayed downstairs to check out the local cider.

Tuesday, August 22

At about 5 a.m., I was awakened by an unusual noise outside the window: what sounded like at least two dozen raucously screaming seagulls. I noticed with envy Eve's ability to go back to sleep after this attack, but I was up for the duration. Despite this rude awakening, I decided I'd try to do the trip to Arran, and after coaxing some breakfast out of the Babbity's morning staff before they were quite ready, we headed off to the nearby train station with about 20 minutes to spare to catch the hourly train. Unfortunately, as we discovered when we got there, it was the wrong nearby train station, and we rushed off to the other station, making the train there by minutes.

Because we had no television in the room, unlike at the Terrace, we had been unable to do our morning check of the weather. On the way to the train station, we'd felt a few drops of rain, and the morning overcast did not clear up as it had on other mornings. Sure enough, the heat had finally broken and on our only day of country sightseeing! Eve's Minnesota blood served her in good stead as she was only dressed in shorts; luckily, I'd shoved my jacket in my backpack and was in fairly good shape.

At the end of the hour-long train ride, we boarded the humongous ferry to Arran, where we found a seat next to a chatty elderly Arran lady who apologized profusely for the weather every ten minutes or so. The port windows on the ferry were much higher than the seats, and we wondered for a while why the ferry was so late in leaving. Finally, I realized that even if the ferry had taken off we might not have felt it and sure enough, when I stood up to look out the window, we were already out to sea! There was a handy tourist office table on the ferry and after reading through several of the brochures, we finally decided that if the weather didn't clear, we'd skip the tour of the whole island and settle for the one that went partway down the coast.


The ferry lands at Brodick, the main city of Arran, which features an interesting castle that belonged to the same family for generations until they had to give it to the Crown in 1957 for death taxes. It was by far the most homey of all the castles and buildings we'd visited, and we really got a feel for how it must have been for a family to actually live in a large estate like this -- and it was only their hunting lodge! Eve and I both read Regency romances and Brodick Castle gave us a real feel for the period: hunting trophies and pictures of the family from the 18th and 19th century, furniture from the period, and small family objects. (On entering the castle I'd pointed out a sign to Eve that said "Do not touch cases. Objects are alarmed.")

The gardens outside were equally beautiful and after taking some pictures and eating lunch in the somewhat limited cafeteria, we took the bus back to the center of town, checking out several of the small shops on the way. Then we barely caught the on/off tourist bus that takes you down the coast. The bus driver warned those of us sitting on the upper deck to watch out for low-hanging tree branches. First we thought he was joking but the joke was on us! Instead of the live guides we'd had on the tour buses in Edinburgh, this "guide" was recorded and the sights we passed were equally low-key. (The local high school being located on the site of one of the first "famous Arran potato fields" was good for a few laughs as we pondered the name of the high school's sports teams.) Whiting Bay, our final destination, was a small seaside resort town where Eve was finally successful in her quest for a sweater bought on Arran.

Back in Glasgow, we went on the Underground train to get to a vegetarian restaurant recommended on the net, and finally discovered why we had been seeing OU symbols on maps (we knew they couldn't be standing for the usual kosher approval sign OU): the circled U stood for Underground! The restaurant turned out to be a small deli-type place, not what we'd had in mind after a hard day's sightseeing, so we wandered down the street to see what we could find. The neighborhood turned out to be relatively close to the main university and a lot livelier than the neighborhood in which we were staying. We eventually hit on a somewhat pretentious but decent Italian place. Back to the Babbity, we relaxed outside and talked to Stevie, the night bar manager, who, after we told him why we were in Glasgow, informed us in great detail about the differences between the book and movie of 2001. Eve stayed up to call home while I went off to bed.

Wednesday, August 23

Who should walk into breakfast the next morning but Colorado fan Kent Bloom, staying next door in a hotel with no breakfast room. We passed him the article on the con we'd found in the local paper that morning, and went off to the tourist center to catch the on/off tour bus. Our first stop was an art museum that had an exhibit on "Bonnie Prince Charlie: Fact and Fiction" in honor of the anniversary of the Jacobite rebellion. The exhibit was strangely laid out but had a number of interesting artifacts, and the same attention to detail in the explanatory panels that we'd noticed in other museums. The sponsor had representatives asking survey questions about the exhibit on the way out, and we barely made the bus after stopping to give our opinions. From there, we'd planned to see the Glasgow School of Art, featuring one of my favorite artists and architects, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Unfortunately, the guided tour of his works was not until later on in the afternoon. We went up the street to see the old Garnethill Synagogue but couldn't figure out how to get into the locked gate. From there, we went down the street to the Mackintosh-designed and recently restored Willow Tea Room.

We'd been wanting to have a real British cream tea throughout the trip but hadn't quite managed it. After we saw the Willow Tea Room, we were glad we had waited. The Mackintosh designs were incredible, from the purple leaded glass windows and entry doors to the Art Deco fireplace to the heads of the purple-and-silver chairs containing small squares of light-catching pink plastic. Not to mention the food: loose tea, clotted cream with the scones, and thin tea sandwiches. Heaven.

A check of the bus route showed us that we could go back to the hotel to dump our cameras and collected tourist data before heading on to St Mungo's Museum of Religious Life, so we crossed St. Georges Square yet again. I'd wanted to see the museum for the name alone, since I'd always loved Danny Kaye's song about 50s Dodgers ballplayer Van Lingo Mungo, and it was hard to believe that St Mungo was actually the name of Glasgow's patron saint. However, the museum turned out to be worth the trip by any name: supposedly the only museum dedicated to explaining all of the major religions, it had many artifacts in lifecycle exhibits, and seemed to do a credible job of explaining basic tenets. It also had marvelous stained glass window exhibits and one of Dali's Christs.

Back on the tour bus, we finally headed off to the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), the site of this year's worldcon, where Eve had a Green Room meeting at 4:30 and I was tagging along to see if the absence of any notification of when or where I was expected to work was because they didn't need me or, the more likely scenario, because Program Operations was totally disorganized. On the way, we noticed a tour bus stop around the corner from our hotel. *sigh*


Needless to say, the guess that Program Operations was totally disorganized was the correct answer. On entering the Program Ops room, I was immediately pulled into a nearby hallway by Boston fan Priscilla Olson, who filled me in on the chaos the database was in, the heroic efforts by a few people working most of the night to fix it, and the total disorganization of the operations end of things, which was being run by a nice but totally ineffectual friend of the head of Programming named Stuart Hedren. The head of Programming herself, a woman named Tina Hewitt whom I'd never met but whom I already didn't like as she'd adamantly refused to get on email and also to staff a separate program participant table, insisting that program participants register through the regular lines because she didn't have enough people, despite us telling her it would slow down registration and wouldn't take that much staff.

Priscilla with her usual energy had already bullied the programming people into letting her set up a separate program participant registration which they only gave in to now because they hadn't had the individual program schedules ready for participants by Wednesday registration and were now frantically working to have them in time to give out the next day, with no time left to integrate them with regular registration badges. She kept telling people they would be working for me, and I kept telling all and sundry that it wasn't my Program Ops, but this position was undercut still more by the local who had organized the literary program track, Colin Harris. He, Priscilla, and I had been working together through email before the con and had exchanged some *ahem* testy email, but that had all been straightened out before we arrived. He, too, urged me to take over Program Ops but I was adamant in waiting to see just how awful things were, and just how much the con chair and committee would authorize me to do.

The Program Ops room was connected to two other rooms, one being used for the Green Room and the other, unusually, as the SFWA Lounge. Usually, SFWA has a suite in a nearby hotel which they stock with supplies but since British hotels do not give complimentary suites to large conventions like American hotels do, this was evidently the best the committee could do. We didn't think SFWA would be amused -- and we were proved right later.

A check of the Voodoo Message Board downstairs revealed a waiting message from the organizers of the Hugo ceremony, who were wondering why they hadn't heard from me, next year's organizer, about observing them. They had: I'd written email through a friend of theirs months before asking if I could tag around with them the afternoon and evening of the event. So much for message-passing. I posted a note back to them and noted their huckster table name to try to get them in person. Then it was back to the Babbity to meet David and Kay for dinner.

We chose a casual Italian place relatively near our hotel and caught up on old times. So involved was our conversation that it took us about half an hour to realize that our "No, we're through" answer to a query about dessert or coffee hadn't had the desired effect of them bringing us our check. So, we tried more direct methods after finally catching the waiter's eye. Still, it was another 25 minutes or so before the bill finally arrived. Luckily, we were enjoying the company and so this became laughable rather than irritating. We broke off relatively early so we could pack and enjoy a final drink at the pub, but football night meant a larger crowd and more smoke than usual so I gave up early.

Thursday, August 24

The shuttles to the SECC ran from the major con hotels every hour, and I was hoping to get moved over to the hotel we'd chosen, the Forte Crest, in time to check in and catch the 8:50 bus, although we weren't sure we'd make it out that early. Fate intervened in the early morning hours, when Eve woke me up at what she claimed was 6:30 am but my watch insisted was 5:30. She got up and got her watch out of her suitcase and claimed it agreed with 6:30, so we groaned and got ready for the morning, finishing our last-minute packing. Downstairs, I immediately noticed the wallclock, which said 7:30 and agreed with my watch, rather than 8:30. Eve checked hers again and sure enough, she'd read it wrong earlier. This didn't quite make up for my 5-hour faux pas on Saturday morning but it did take the edge off :->

Needless to say, we made it to the Forte Crest in plenty of time to check our bags (no vacant room was available for check-in yet) and catch the early bus. Amazingly enough, the driver agreed to let most of us on without having to pay, on the promise that we intended to buy passes once inside the SECC. Try to find an American organization willing to do that! This morning featured the first real rain of our trip, and we were glad to get inside the SECC. Eve went off to the Green Room and I hung around the Program Ops room, trying to get a feel for things before the 11 o'clock "all department head" meeting. I was appalled at the lack of preparation for the department: no forms, no sign-up sheets or job descriptions for volunteers, no written procedures, nada. I started doing triage at the front of the room for program participants who wanted to change their schedules, and was very grateful that Priscilla had found enough people to staff program participant registration downstairs near regular registration.

Program Ops -- The Meeting

The people who'd organized the tracks of programming showed up for the 11 o'clock meeting and Tina proceeded to let everyone know that she did have a booklet of procedures that they hadn't been able to photocopy yet (I never did see it), they'd have forms tomorrow but hadn't had a chance to design them yet because of the problems with the database, and that everyone was expected to keep checking in to Program Ops to authorize changes to their part of the program and find out what was going on if there were problems. I hadn't thought that at this stage of the convention they would still let the individual track people deal with their own panels, since it just invited confusion and delays for participants who wanted answers about a requested change, but when I asked a mild question about this, I was assured that everything would work out fine, that all track heads had beepers and would be checking in periodically to make decisions, and would in any case be taking turns working the room. Tina also made it clear that either she, Stuart, or another guy named James Steele would always be on duty and would be the supreme authority for all questions. However, that was about the only staffing that was set.

After the meeting,we got a call from the Information Desk asking about sign-up sheets for the kaffeeklatsches. Eve and I volunteered to bring them down since we wanted to get our bus passes anyway, and then discovered that despite a briefing from Green Room head Jacky Grueter-Andrew (one of the most organized people at the con) who was also responsible for kaffeeklatsches, the Info Desk had no idea how they were supposed to deal with the sign-up sheets, what to do about the more popular authors who were supposed to be assigned kaffeeklatsch participants by lottery, and so on. We told them to wait until we could give them exact information, got the poop from Jacky (who was thoroughly disgusted) and passed it on. After that, we took a well-deserved lunch break in the nice restaurant right outside our area with Florida fans Joe Siclari, his newly slim wife Edie Stern, and their son Danny. It was nice to be able to recount the foibles of our departments to people who would understand what we were talking about, and we even managed to talk about subjects other than the convention!

The afternoon passed in predictable chaos: I discovered there were no forms for change requests to the program, that the panel IDs for the database, instead of featuring a clue as to the subject matter of the panel, were in rough numerical order so you had no idea from the ID what the panel was about, and that there was no report arranged by title so you could look up a panel when all the panelist knew was what the panel was called or roughly what it was about. *sigh* I was supposed to stay around until a meeting at 6 but as 6 became 7, I decided to duck out and meet a dinner group from the CompuServe Science Fiction Forum. A large unwieldy group wended its way to the only decent restaurant within walking distance of the convention centre, a not-bad Italian place. Despite our intent to go to this dinner to meet people whom we only knew by their posts on CompuServe, we ended up sitting with Bay Area fan David Gallaher (with whom Eve had worked at MagiCon) and his Seattle girlfriend Spring. We left the dinner early to catch the shuttle back to the hotel, and barely made it through the heavy rain in time.

The hotel got a little confused when we asked to register separately for different frequent flyer programs but we finally waded through the confusion and were assigned a room on the 10th floor. On entering the room, we waxed ecstatic over the bath mat, shower caps, and multitude of hangers in the closet; commonplaces had this been the first hotel we'd stayed at in Scotland, being accustomed to American hotels, but sheer luxury after the somewhat more modest establishments we'd been staying at recently!

Once we partially unpacked, we were torn between going out to explore the parties downstairs in the official party ballroom, or treat our exhausted bodies to a quiet night. The hotel-supplied tea set was the clinching factor, and we put our feet up, sat back and watched satellite television and sipped tea. All was not as peaceful and quiet as we might have liked, however: somehow, despite hearing for weeks before the con that there would be no room parties because British fans aren't used to them because UK hotels don't ever waive corkage, Eve and I had managed to land a room next to the elevator on the floor hosting the SFWA Suite!

Friday, August 25

After a lavish buffet breakfast at the hotel, I managed to catch the early shuttle bus to the SECC. While taking off my coat in the Program Ops room, I was greeted by a gopher with the news that author John Brunner had had a stroke in his hotel room the previous night and was in the hospital. This occasioned all sorts of frantic running around to try to figure out how to cover Brunner's panels. I'd been assuring participants that I'd have answers for them about requested changes in their schedules early that afternoon since I expected the track heads to be at the scheduled 11 a.m. meeting. By 11:15, though, only the fan programming folks, Steve and Jenny Glover, and the person in charge of gay programming had bothered to show up; everyone else, I was told, was too busy. Another instance where my expectations about how a department ought to run were out of touch with current reality -- I'd have thought they'd be more productive checking messages and solving problems centrally than running around on their own.

At noon, I went off to my own panel in the next-door Moat House Hotel. The panel was called "A Riband for Your Coat," and I'd been placed on it by a desperate Jenny Glover, who'd written me fawning email before the con asking if I'd please appear on this panel on fannish awards even if I didn't know anything about them because she could tell from my email that I was articulate and informed! Needless to say, the flattery had worked, and I was very glad it had. My fellow panelists were British fanzine fans Simon Ounsley and Christina Lake, and our audience consisted of a lone friend of theirs! However, I was glad of the opportunity to shmooze with some British fans, especially such pleasant and articulate ones, and we even talked about the subject of the panel before digressing onto the ever-popular topic of how to keep all these media Philistines out of our conventions :->

Back at the SECC, I stopped by the dealers table where the Moirs, organizers of the Hugo ceremony, said they'd be helping out. Luckily, they were there, and we agreed that I'd shadow them on Sunday. They also asked if I'd be interested in being an on-stage usher, and I asked if Eve could participate also, so they gave me a schedule of meetings for the ushering crew. I then decided I'd better eat lunch before disappearing into the Program Ops cave, so I ducked into the same restaurant at which I'd had lunch the day before.

Con co-chair Martin Easterbrook stopped by my table for a little while, telling me that a few people in programming (including him) now realized that some of the procedures we'd recommended before the con, and some of the protocols we'd had some reservations about, were really not just the American way to do things but were really the only way to handle a program for that many people. He also said that Stuart had told him that I was holding the whole office together, which I appreciated since I wasn't sure how Stuart had reacted to my basically taking over the entire front of the room. (I also got one of my biggest laughs of the con when Martin told me that Tina had been a military policewoman.) Unfortunately, this was to be my last laugh for a while. I returned to Program Ops to be greeted by an officious British fan, Hugh Mazetti, who insisted on drawing up too-little-too-late signup sheets (they were never used), and assigning names for the jobs the various people at the front desk had been doing, despite the fact that there were no descriptions of the jobs to go with them.

A short time later, I was asked to talk to A.C. Crispin, SFWA president, who wanted to clarify the status of the room next to Program Ops. We'd been given conflicting word about whether SFWA did or did not want the room, and she now assured us that she did want it. She also reiterated their problem with paying for the suite in the Crest Hotel, since usually worldcons provide SFWA with a free suite. I repeated our explanation that UK hotels don't provide the same comp rooms that American hotels do, and reassured her that this would not set a precedent because American worldcons would still get the comp rooms and still provide one to SFWA. She insisted that she had to "report to her membership" that Intersection was doing something about the situation, even if it was a mock exchange where the con "gave" SFWA the suite and SFWA turned around and donated the money back to the con. I told her I'd arrange a meeting with Martin and got a tentative time from her of 10 a.m. the next day.

Dealing with the Death of John Brunner

The SFWA lounge was barely used all day, which turned out to be a good thing since at 4 that afternoon, Martin called me and Tina into the room to tell us that John Brunner had passed away. Besides the initial shock, we also had to deal with how to disseminate the news, how to officially acknowledge the death at the con, and myriad other details, complicated by the fact that Brunner's wife speaks very little English. We also decided to use the putative SFWA suite as a decompression room for con staff, which turned out to be a good thing, since several of the British fans were really shellshocked at the news of Brunner's passing, more, they said, than they'd expected to be. (On the other hand, I also heard one of the most self-centered statements ever at a convention [and that's saying a lot], when the aforementioned Hugh said, "I'll never know why John valued my friendship so much." One of the more demoralized British fans luckily had the presence of mind to say "John valued everyone's friendship," or I would have said something a lot nastier than that.)

Martin and Tina asked me to put together a list of writers who might appropriately speak at a proposed memorial service or contribute to a memorial issue of the con newsletter, and to whom we should in any case try to break the news before it became widely known. I managed to run Ben Yalow down in the food area by the dealers room being comforted by friends. I quickly filled him in on the situation so far, and also told him that I'd discovered that Brian Aldiss was going to be finishing off an autographing session in 30 minutes so we'd be able to get him then. Neither Ben nor I particularly wanted to be the ones to let Brian Aldiss know, and luckily we were spared when we bumped into Martin right outside the dealers room. Once that sad task was over, we went back upstairs for another strategy session.

I left finally to meet Eve and the Lynchi for dinner. Because they were involved with another mob scene for dinner and because we'd had enough of large group dinners the previous night, Eve and I decided to see if we could find other companions. We found Mike Glyer at the LACon III bid table, and he told us about a proposed Texas group that he might glom onto, but as that group was also getting rather large, the three of us decided to make a group unto ourselves and headed back to the Hilton where Mike was staying. The bell captain couldn't recommend any restaurants that sounded all the enthralling so we let inertia take over and ate in the hotel restaurant.

Back at the Crest, we went up to the noisy 10th floor to change, and also penned some notes asking for late-night quiet around the elevators and stuck them up at the elevator and the SFWA suite, where host Rick Foss promised to leave a note for Ann Crispin confirming her meeting the next morning at 10 with Martin. Eve and I then went downstairs to hit our first parties of the con, but the temperatures, especially in the Boston in 2001 party, were so unbearably hot that we escaped to the bar, where we chatted with Boston fans Mark and Priscilla Olson until Neil Rest convinced us that after all, the drizzle outside shouldn't deter us from hitting the Tor party which was several blocks away. Luckily, the rain had let up. We talked for a while with some of the British con workers like Colin and partner Nadja until we decided we just had to stop SMOFfing for at least a little while. I ended up in an extended conversation with George RR Martin, catching up on news about the Albuquerque/Santa Fe crowd, until Eve broke it up by pointing out the time.

Saturday, August 26

After chowing down a big breakfast in case I couldn't find anyone to buy me lunch, I headed off to the SECC on the early bus so I'd be sure to be there in time to get Ops to beep Martin about his 10 a.m. meeting with Crispin. Not long after I got there, the door opened and Philadelphia fan Sara Paul came in with a visibly upset Robert Silverberg, who volunteered to help eulogize John Brunner if we decided to do some sort of memorial event. I thanked him profusely, since it's not the sort of thing you want to have to ask someone to do. I then headed down to Ops to now beep Martin for two messages, but amazingly, I ran into Martin himself. We sat around Program Ops until about 10:30, but Crispin never showed.

(I found out later that Rick had never passed the note to her, but luckily I managed to grab her after a panel when Martin was in Program Ops.) The putative daily 11 a.m. area head meeting was once again canceled, as only the Glovers bothered to show up. Needless to say, the track heads weren't being very good about picking up their messages, and I really hated having to tell participants that I would have an answer for them by a certain time and then having to repeatedly explain that the person in charge of that part of the programming hadn't picked up their messages yet. I did manage to track down Connie Willis to arrange a meeting so we could talk about the Hugo Ceremony next year (she being the toastmistress and me running it) and she agreed to meet me after her 4 o'clock panel.

I left Program Ops thinking I had a Hugo ushers meeting at 12:30 but I discovered that I'd blown the day: the 12:30 meeting was on Sunday; the Saturday meeting was at 3:30. Luckily, I bumped into David and Kay, who were planning lunch with Dutch fan Kees van Toorn at the nice SECC restaurant. We had a nice time interspersing SMOF talk with explaining American right-wing politics to Kees, while watching him go back and forth between speaking English to us and Dutch to his Scandinavian poster-children blonde kids without missing a beat. Then it was off to my 2 o'clock panel called "A Con of Your Own." The other two panelists were both involved in small media conventions, and audience members ranged from an Austrian couple who run small 30-person conventions in a local castle to a bisexual woman who was trying to apply lessons from sf convention running to a large bisexual conference starting the next week. Luckily, fourth panelist John Mansfield was 30 minutes late and was therefore much subdued, thus lowering my anticipated aggravation rate considerably.

From there, I went to the Hugo ushers meeting at 3:30, luckily running into the group as they trooped to a secret room where the Hugo base was revealed. I was somewhat surprised that the Moirs had not corralled people before the con to be on-stage ushers, since they were taking a chance that any of us would have something decent to wear. After the meeting, I headed back to Program Ops for the meeting with Connie Willis, but she was a no-show. This meant I could participate in a strategy meeting regarding Brunner's death, and a few of us managed to convince the majority that a proposed memorial service for the next morning was probably not a good idea, as a small turnout wouldn't look well besides the fact that we really didn't have time to organize it properly. I was deputized to let the Moirs know that we'd decided on some sort of acknowledgment at the Hugo ceremony, probably just Silverberg speaking as he'd volunteered to do.

After dinner with Bay Area fan Dave Clarke, we changed for the ceilidh, a Scottish party that the con had scheduled in the hopes that it would lure people away from the masquerade early so the crush of the crowd getting on the buses back to the con hotels at the end of the masquerade wouldn't be as bad. They had a live band calling dances, and I was pleased to discover that they were doing some of the dances I'd learned at the Edinburgh Fringe dance class! We found seats with David and Kay and former LA fan David Butterfield and his wife, and every once in a while I got asked to dance, contenting myself at other times by critiquing other people's techniques to Eve.

A very drunk Stuart kept trying to buy me a drink to repay me for all my help in Program Ops, but as I'd already bought myself some alcoholic cider to see what Eve was so ecstatic about, I was set for the night, much to Stuart's disappointment and disbelief. ("You're just going to nurse the one drink???") I soon spotted him on the dance floor dragging Tina (who was about a head taller than him and outweighed him as well) around. At the end of the night, I was asked to do a final waltz by the organizer of the event, but his familiarity with the band and wearing of a kilt turned out to be misleading as he couldn't dance at all! Even Eve got up for the Auld Lang Syne finale and a good time was had by all.

We were still so mellow that we stopped by the SFWA suite on our way back to the room and got the word that Baltimore, which we'd been rooting for, had won the right to host the 98 worldcon. I ended up literally closing the SFWA suite down at 3 a.m., having gotten into an extended conversation with George Martin about the sad state of fandom, specifically Hugo voting and monster-size conventions, plus some attempts to see if we could think of older pros who deserved a GoHship more than announced Baltimore GoH C.J. Cherryh.

Sunday, August 27

Despite my late night, I managed to get up in time to make it to Program Ops for my 10 a.m. shift, only to be greeted by a frantic costumer needing to move the masquerade post-mortem because of a perceived mix-up in room assignments. I did as she asked and made and posted signs at both the old and new locations. I went back to Program Ops only to find another crisis: Mike Jittlov was nowhere to be found for a solo 11 a.m. panel in the large ballroom. And guess who got elected to go down and tell the masses? Luckily, the announcement was greeted with resignation rather than anger, and our guess that we could reschedule for noon luckily came true when Jittlov appeared at 10 til, but it meant another round of sign-posting and notification to the Info Desk.

The only good news of the morning was my finally being able to get together with Connie Willis in the next door Green Room, ducking out every once in a while to take care of Program Ops problems if no one else could deal with them. Despite the problems, I was shocked when glancing through the daily newszine to discover a story with a real slam at Program Ops, with an anonymous Ops person referring to the whole staff as "demented trolls."

After all that chaos, I was glad to duck out at noon to grab a quick baked potato before reporting for the Hugo ushers rehearsal at 12:30. I kept my notebook at the ready to write down notes for both good and bad aspects of the setup. Hugo nominees had been told that between noon and 4 the day of the ceremony they were encouraged to drop in for a few minutes to familiarize themselves with the layout of the stage and the ballroom. This became rather chaotic as every time a presenter or nominee came in, one of the Moirs would have to drop what they were doing to show the person around. Toastmasters Diane Duane and Peter Morwood were late arriving so I took the opportunity to do a quick tour of the dealers room (my first) before returning to help represent either presenter or winner during the run-through. Luckily, nominee Lan Laskowski, an old LASFAPA buddy, hung around for a while, my first chance to chat with him all con. Debby Moir also introduced me to Lori Wolf, a worldcon novice who was assigned to do the Hugo ceremony for the San Antonio worldcon in 1997.

The Hugo Ceremony

As the Moirs wanted someone to return by 6 pm to help organize the seating ushers, I had to duck out of a planned dinner with Eve and the Lynchi, and I took a cab back to the hotel for a quick change. (The cabbie, on hearing we'd been to Arran and liked Brodick Castle, remarked "Nice castle. The woman who owns it a prime bitch, though" and proceeded to tell me that he thought the aristocracy should be lined up against the wall and shot like they'd done in Rumania -- my first exposure to a real left-wing Glaswegian!) I was really glad to find Eve in the room since I couldn't wait to pass this story on, not to mention the fact that I wanted an opinion on what I should wear to the Hugos -- the consensus was the black blouse she'd convinced me to try on and buy at Jenners in Edinburgh.

Plans to grab a quick meal in the hotel were shot when I discovered their restaurant didn't open for dinner until 6:30, so I took a cab back to the SECC heading for the old stand-by restaurant in there. Luckily, I bumped into Amy Thomson and Neil Rest, who had just ordered and who were also trying to get out in a hurry. We had a nice if rapid meal, enlivened by Amy's revealing of plans by her women's apa to make television remotes unappealing to males by coloring them pink and purple, with heart-shaped buttons and doily cases.

I zipped out to the ballroom barely making it by 6, and felt needed when I noticed that no one had removed the souvenir program books from storage yet. I got the key for the secure area from Ops and we wheeled the books out, barely beating the entering fans. Joining the group of presenting ushers backstage, we lined up in award order, and then Debby realized that she needed someone to show off the base onstage, since the designer had refused to do so. She pointed to San Diego fan Ron Ontell who was sitting on the end of the row, and my horror at picturing someone in a long-sleeve striped beige cotton shirt and bolero tie ceremoniously revealing the award was so great that I tactlessly mentioned it out loud. Luckily I know Ron and he took it well, but my outspokenness resulting in my getting unanimously elected to do it myself.

We all then went off to the pre-ceremony reception and got to wish our friends good luck. The ceremony started with a nice tribute to John Brunner by Robert Silverberg, who asked for a standing ovation rather than a moment of silence, which helped the somewhat rough transition to the lighter part of the evening. Luckily, my unveiling of the Hugo went relatively well despite the lack of a follow spot when I first came on stage, and the rest of the ceremony also went fairly well with the same caveat. This made my blood run cold as I was pointedly reminded that no matter how much advance planning you do, a follow-spot operator asleep at the controls can effectively undercut all your hard work.

As is the custom, LACon III hosted the Hugo Nominees party, and the hot food provided was welcome by nominees who hadn't gotten a chance to eat before the ceremony, although the trade-off of a cash bar wasn't appreciated by everyone. I finally got to chat some with fan writer Dave Langford, whose name I was of course familiar with from numerous Hugo ceremonies. However, I had not been familiar with his work until the past year or so, when I both read a collection of his writing, NESFA Press's Let's Hear It for the Deaf Man, and got an email subscription to his fanzine Ansible. Preparatory to my having to run the ceremony next year, I'd been asking my friends among the nominees to give me their opinions of what they like and don't like about Hugo ceremonies, treatment of nominees, and the awards themselves. I was just quizzing Langford for his views when Evelyn Leeper and Lan returned to add one more suggestion: "Give more to us!"

Back at the Crest, we hit the combined bid parties, where a victorious Baltimore in 98 crew was happily passing out drinks and souvenirs. We went off to the "secret" former worldcon chairs party and fortuitously bumped into Martin getting lost on his way there, where after some searching they finally found and presented him with his official "Former Worldcon Chair" ribbon. The eats as usual were great, although there was some chaos throughout the evening when filkers who thought they had the room kept appearing and getting confused.

We were dragged from the party at one point by Colin, who said we absolutely had to go to the ballroom to see the Astral Pole, a quaint British custom involving a broomstick and twisting oneself into a pretzel. British fan (and former worldcon chair himself) Peter Weston couldn't understand why Eve and I found this, and the other athletic event going on (walking one's hands on beercans as far out as they could go and then attempting to return to the starting point while leaning on only one beercan), rather odd. Eve did make an attempt at the Astral Pole, but my knees don't bend in the right direction. Back at the party we SMOFfed for a while longer before deciding to say our goodbyes, which took all of another half hour.

Monday, September 28

I arrived for the last morning shift in Program Ops and was relieved to see that Tina had taken the story in the newsletter well: there was a sign on the door with an evil looking troll saying "Danger"! This last day of the con started out in typical fashion: Terry Bisson canceled on an already sparsely populated Humor in SF panel, GoH Samuel Delaney didn't show for his autographing session, and we discovered that Closing Ceremonies were listed in the pocket program for both the wrong time and the wrong room. James Steele and I frantically made signs and put them up everywhere we could think of. Back at Program Ops, I found out that Connie Willis was due in the Green Room for a panel and managed to coerce her into agreeing to substitute for Terry Bisson.

I also found some new boxes in the back of the room: gopher T-shirts for the staff. Although the ones we had were all large and extra large, I was assured there were smaller sizes downstairs, so Tina signed my first timecard of the con (putting "Lots more than 15" in the Hours Worked category so I could get the T-shirt) and I zipped downstairs to the gopher hole before the mediums could be grabbed up. And that's when I discovered that the Gopher Reward Tickets given out for every three hours of work, which Eve had been handing out to volunteers in the Green Room but which Program Ops hadn't bothered with, could not only be redeemed for food at the few food booths near the dealers room, but also at the handmade chocolate counter! So I got five of the coupons (as well as the T-shirt) and had a field day exchanging them for liqueur-filled chocolate for the staff in Program Ops, whisky fudge and Edinburgh rock candy to bring back to my department at work, and even a chocolate hedgehog to be the official Program Ops demented troll. I came back to Program Ops to discover Colin had canceled the panel that I'd pleaded with Connie Willis to go on, but luckily she forgave me, especially when I came bearing the bribe of a liqueur-filled chocolate.

Finally, it was off to Closing Ceremonies, after which, belying its name, I had a panel! I spotted Tim Illingworth, one of the other two panelists, in the audience and asked whether he was really planning go to the panel, and he said if I would he would, so we agreed we'd go and see if anyone showed up. The ceremony itself went very smoothly, with Mike's official accepting of the gavel being accompanied by a large Loch Ness monster (peopled with about 12 bodies underneath) peering over his shoulder. Tim and I ducked out to the panel, where we discovered an actual audience, including faithful Eve, while waiting for third panelist John Mansfield.

The panel was called "Where Do We Go From Here?" on the effect of running a worldcon on the local fans. I ended up moderating and the panel went fairly well until John misunderstood something I said as indicating United States chauvinism and ignoring Canada. John has a well-known sensitive spot about this and I would have felt badly if I had unintentionally said something to that effect, but in fact I hadn't. John turned on me with such a look of hate, and such a spiteful response, that if looks could kill Eve would have had to send my body home in a bag. I assured John I hadn't said what he thought I did, but he didn't believe me. Luckily I got moral support from Tim on my other side. The rest of the panel went ok, and I stayed afterward to tell John once again that I hadn't said what he thought he heard. By the time I got back to Program Ops, Eve was already telling the Mansfield story to a crowd of people and I was glad to have a witness that I indeed hadn't said what John thought I did.

Dinner this final night was with Jacky and her exec committee husband Oliver, and Colin and Nadja. At a very nice Italian restaurant, we SMOFfed as little as humanly possible and pigged out on our final cholesterol-laden desserts. Then we said our final farewells and returned to the hotel to pack. I'd managed to get a flight out at the reasonable hour of 10 a.m. and had been congratulating myself on not having to get up early until I found out that Eve's flight left at 8:30 a.m.!

So, room service got delivered to the room Tuesday morning at 6:15 and after a heartfelt farewell hug, she was off. She'd managed to find someone with whom to share a cab to the airport, but I was going to investigate a bus from the local bus station that someone had told me about, since the cab fare was about $25. After I'd paid the hotel bill and was waiting out front for the cab I'd called to take me to the bus station, a French Canadian fan came out and asked if I'd like to split a cab to the airport! So, I got to ride in comfort out of town.


The vacation part of our trip to Scotland was truly magical: Eve and I accomplished everything we'd planned to do, all of our travel arrangements worked out perfectly, and the country proved to be as historically fascinating and beautiful as I could have imagined. The con itself, while having some operational problems (some predictable, some not) was by far the most deserving of the "worldcon" label of any one I've ever attended, with significant representation from both Western and Eastern Europe.

Janice's Fifteenth Sorta Annual Worldcon Awards

Full award list available.

This page brought to you by Janice Gelb. Last updated November 2, 1998.