TAFF Tales
1955 TAFF Report: H. Ken Bulmer

Chapter 8

Published Xmas 1955 in Science Fantasy News ed Vin¢ Clarke
Rekeyed by Dave Langford

8 • Toodleoo, Goodbyee!

They weren't obtrusive about it. Everything in the best of good taste. Just a big, black monster of a car, with a calm faced man at the wheel, and the sub-machine guns held out of view of any inquisitive passengers. They even let a few friends down to see us off -- the F.B.I. is quite human these days.

We'd had a party the night before in Dave Kyle's apartment, where, in the open-handed generosity we had found to be a catching phenomenon in the U.S., we had been staying during our New York visit. K.G. Kindberg, editor of Hapna; Bob Sheckley; Phil Klass; Dick Ellington (with the baulked but still eager menage of Maison Dinglesnaff); Dave Kyle, himself; Dick (The Girls) Wilson and Larry (My hero) Shaw. We'd drunk, and laughed, and watched Art Saha drink the coffee machines dry at the Broadway café we patronized. We'd fallen into bed around umptitty o'clock, and there we were, getting up at some ungodly hour, packing, leaving messages, being escorted down to Pier 90 or was it 92? in time to dash madly through red tape and scramble aboard all of a flurry and then to stand for three-quarters of an hour on the deck saying goodbye to the gang on the dockside. The two Dicks, Dave and Larry made sure we left America. The F.B.I. needn't have bothered.

Eventually ropes and things fell into the water and we noticed that the U.S. of A. had started to slide into the Pacific. We watched the buildings go by, our gasworks, the television mast, the Empire State, and even a hint of Campbell's office crouching under the Chrysler -- although that and the U.N. building were figments of my imagination, according to Pamela. The folks on the dockside dwindled and grew small and finally resolved themselves into a coloured blur. It was cold. The Hudson was a steely grey, and ferries and flat-cars made fussy soapsuds of it. A few eager-beaver gulls wheeled overhead. And then, I suppose, came the realization that we had visited America and I felt like shouting "Hey, come back -- I didn't realize where I was." But, like the sound of a supersonic jet, the fact had gone before the realization hit us.

The good ship M.V. Britannic cleared its tubes, made turn-over and plonked itself into an ungainly orbit aimed at the southern tip of Ireland. We felt miserable. Our only consolation was the warming thought that we were going to see Walter A. Willis and the Triangle -- expanded now, of course -- and be gently indoctrinated into the ways of Anglo-fandom.

The Saxonia out of Canada had run into some rough weather, so our gallant captain detoured his ship fifty miles to avoid the gales. It was a thoughtful gesture. We staggered manfully around the decks and found them too cold; the saloons were too stuffy. We heard afterwards that the ship had 57 first class passengers and 500 of us tourists. If this sort of information had leaked out during the voyage there might have been a mass invasion. As it was we made landfall in atrocious weather and various poor folk made preparations to land at Cobh. We hung outside off and on all evening, then went round in circles all night, unable to get in. The ship had a Möbius strip built into it after some of the contortions she went through. Talk about things that go bump in the night. We had a cabin directly above a screw -- we felt every damn revolution, as though our bunks were turning in sympathy. I know my stomach was.

Eventually they gave up trying to reach Eire's sunny shore and doddled along to Liverpool. We were hanging on to our bunks by this time -- Pamela was reasonably active but I was so under the weather an H-bomb wouldn't have budged me. Came Saturday morning, and after some eyelash-fluttering at the Customs we erupted on to English soil. One suitcase had been smashed in the process -- it was the case that Lee Hoffman had bought in New Orleans to take her loot back to Savannah. We felt like wrung-out dishcloths. We didn't go to see Walter -- which disappointed us all and for which I owe apologies to Walter. But we didn't have the guts to get across that ol' Irish Sea again. Our ship was 37,000 tons and was doing a mamba in the seas. The ferries are 2,000 tons and were, we were kindly informed, "standing on their heads."

After an interesting interlude wherein Eric Frank Russell was dragged out of bed in order to discuss esoteric symbols, we crawled on the train. Eric is writing this up for Hyphen, provided the censors don't catch him first, so I'll leave that account to him. But don't believe it all -- only some of it.

We went back to Tresco, travelling with an Indian nuclear physicist who was interested in sf and who pulled Dave McIlwain's "Timeslip" to pieces as juvenile -- a point we were too far gone to argue. We'd been to the U.S. of A. We'd seen Pogo. We'd been to the top of the Empire State. We'd heard Bob Bloch and Bob Tucker speak, and had played with the Tucklet. We'd finagled two fan romances. We'd heard Doc Barrett's car. Yeah, we'd lived, all right.

Right then all we wanted was a cup of tea.

The End

[This "lost" final chapter appeared in the Xmas 1955 issue of Vin¢ Clarke's Science Fantasy News long before the other segments were published in Orion. By 1997, when the material was being retyped, both Vin¢ and Ken had forgotten all about it. Thanks to Mark Plummer for unearthing and passing on the chapter -- now added to TAFF Tales, November 1999. -- Dave Langford]