Hang on readers; we're about to do a four week tour in two pages. The non-stop flight from Seattle to London (or from March 18, 1964 to March 19, 1964, if you want to look at it from the fourth dimension) was pleasant and quick. London's Heathrow Airport looked freshly built for the occasion and, like most of the new construction I was to find in England, looked like any newly built fantastically expensive Stateside building. Realizing that Ella Parker would be at work on Thursday until late afternoon, I loitered for some time at the airport, then spent the rest of the day sightseeing in London. Around 7 o'clock I finally called Ella and was informed, as only Ella can inform, that she had skipped work that day to be on hand when I arrived.
To rectify this, the first mistake I've ever made in my whole life, I arranged to meet her for lunch on Friday. I shrewdly arrived an hour early and, discovering she was not there, naturally assumed I had been too late. At least I was spacing my blunders one day apart.
Friday night I witnessed one of Ella's weekly fan gatherings. She has the fans trained for neatness. For example, when Langdon Jones saw tea about to be spilled, he immediately threw himself under the falling drops to protect Ella's rug. Fans visiting Ella seem to have a fierce desire to survive.
In the interests of surviving, I tried to leave for Ireland on Saturday, March 21st, but the flights were all booked. I ended up taking a flight that left so early on Sunday morning that Ella had to go without sleep all night to be sure to get me up in time for it. You could tell, I was making life very interesting for Ella.
Walt Willis and family met me at the airport near Belfast and immediately took me on a tour of the major attractions of Northern Ireland including a quarter-of-a-million-dollar wastebasket, the giant Potato Crisp industry, and the modern M-1 super-highway.
After spending a few days with John Berry (exploring a castle, playing billiards with coins, looking over space stamps, playing records, sightseeing, and swilling Guinness because it is good for me), I returned to the Willis home. There I got to see one of the world's most interesting paper hangers since Adolph Hitler, marvel over fannish artifacts in the attic, attend a gathering of those famous Irish fans you've all read about (send now for my unexpurgated report), and witness a suspenseful procedure for acquiring airplane tickets back to London.
Eventually Madeleine and I ran away to London together, but Walt followed us after seeing his daughter safe in the hospital, and Thursday night, March 26 found Walt, Madeleine, Ethel Lindsay, Ella and myself trying to get some sleep in preparation for the Peterborough convention which was to begin the next day,
Friday morning fans gathered at the train. Arthur Thomson pushed us on our way, and soon we were checked in at the Bull Hotel in Peterborough.
The convention was about thirty fans too big for the meeting room, but they fit quite well in the corridors. Ted Tubb, the Guest of Honor, attempted to subdue his untamed wit in honor of his dignified position, but much to my delight he failed more times than he succeeded. Ethel went about as though she thought she should be worrying about how the program was going (she seemed to be in charge of it), but the programming was so light -- the way fans like -- that she finally gave up trying to worry. Probably everything was an anti-climax to her anyway after her disastrous attempt to interview James White earlier in the convention.
Ed Hamilton and Leigh Bracket were present, drawing considerable attention away from the TAFF delegate, which I thought was pretty rotten of them. Ted Forsyth divided his time between auctioneering and shooting flash pictures.
Ron Bennett lost his voice during the convention, a fate worse than death for him. Aub Marks, Harry Nadler and Tom Holt drew cheers and much appreciation from everyone for their well-done movies. They promised more such films for the London World con next year. The costume party was overcrowded, as were all the major con events, but very enjoyable, also as were all the major con events. Tony Walsh, the convention's able chairman, wore a spaceship costume so elaborate that the judges, in the course of their duties, were confounded to learn at one point that Tony had stepped out for a breath of air and they were judging an empty costume. Being Chairman, he wouldn't have been eligible for a prize anyway.
The convention ended far too soon, and early Monday morning ("early" means "before noon") I left with Terry, Val, Pauline and Sandra Jeeves. The trip to Sheffield was an introduction to such interesting subjects as Soggy-approved restaurants, lamb-herding, and expecting car trouble without actually having any.
After leaving a quote card in the menu of a Chinese restaurant in Sheffield -- something about crottled greeps I believe (remind me to tell you about the Liverpool Group and their quote-cards someday) -- we drove to the Jeeves' home where I met Bonnie (dog-type) and eventually Keith (boy-type). Bonnie stood up to meeting the fabulous TAFF delegate quite well, but Keith left for Europe the next day.
Wednesday, April 1, Terry and his family were starting their vacation to Southport, and they dropped me at Eric Bentcliffe's home near Manchester on their way. In addition to such assets as his wife, Beryl, and girl-child, Lindsay, Eric has some great fannish tapes and much knowledge of British fandom. Yes, there was much enjoyable listening to do at the Bentcliffe home -- a new and beautiful home, too -- and that night when I went to my room I found two of the many quote cards that were following me around the country since the PeterCon; these said, "PSNEER" and "STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND."
Friday, April 3, Eric managed to overcome my natural talent for getting lost, and I found the right train to Birmingham. From all the construction going on, it looked like Birmingham was just being built. Since I still wasn't convinced that my TAFF trip was real, the thought occurred that the trip really was a hoax and I made the Birmingham set before the scenery had been finished.
Saturday, April 4, a bus delivered me at Ken Cheslin's place in Stourbridge, throwing Ken into his normal state of confusion. Ken had been elected BSFA President at Peterborough, and the 1965 Easter convention was to be held in Birmingham, so Ken was all covered with responsibility and duties. He shrugged them off, however, and spent the next couple days showing me scenery, history, fans, games, Archie Mercer, and a truly magnificent break in billiards. Tony and Simone Walsh miraculously located us in the tavern during the billiards game, and before the evening was over another ever-present quote card turned up, which happened to have Norm Shorrock's address on the back. We all signed it, Tony found a stamp small enough to fit on the tiny card, and promised to mail it.
Monday, April 6 I was in Liverpool to attend the Monday evening meeting of the Liverpool Group. Their clubroom is absolutely unbelievable, but then so is the Liverpool Group. After a session of wine-tasting to get into the fannish meeting mood, a moderately wild official meeting took place during which I was appointed Seattle Chapter of the Liverpool Group. Little did we know then...
Tuesday, April 7th, I visited with Ron Bennett, who had his voice back and no longer had to communicate with the quote cards, and in the evening we watched a -- well, Ron called it football, but I don't know. Football game I mean.
Wednesday, April 8th, I had some weird notion of going to Ipswich, but I didn't want to leave as early as the train did, so about ten o'clock at night (about the time England rolls its streets up disappears until dawn) I was once again calling Mother Parker to ask for shelter. "Weber, you've got a stinking cold!" she said in her sweet way, and it was all arranged.
There followed a week in London doing indescribable things, like visiting transient managers of Worldcon hotels, attending Friday night sessions at Ella's and meetings of the Science Fiction Club of London, seeing American movies, and buying Beatles records.
Obviously the whole trip was a hoax, just as I suspected all along.