WHAT follows is a very provisional, off the cuff, strictly from memory account (more a chronology with little extra bits put in) of my TAFF trip. But first: Before the trip itself, I began keeping a computer diary of the stuff that happened starting from when I heard I'd won the trip:
January 16 When I came home from work this evening, there was a lengthy message from Jeanne Gomoll on my answering machine. She advised me that I won TAFF handily (something like 2½-1 in the overall popular vote) and would call again. I phoned up Paul Williams and told his answering machine. I also called up Jeanne Bowman and let her know.
January 17 I let people know at work today that I'd indeed won the trip of which I'd been speaking all these months. A good reception there. Jeanne Gomoll called again at about 8:40 p.m. She told me she would be sending me a package shortly with a folder of TAFF history and customs prepared by P&T and a check for at least $1,000 so I could get started on making my arrangements. She said the rest of the fund would follow after she closed out its books on her end. The fund now totals around $3,800, she informed me, prior to closing out the books. She made $2,000 on the mail auction. Later she will send me five boxes of leftover TAFF auction stuff. She filled me in on some of the ongoing baggage TAFF is carrying: controversy in the U.K. over which convention venue a TAFF delegate should attend. I guess I started this one with my Eastercon/Mexicon talk last year. Also raised the question of where a TAFF winner should go in 1990. The worldcon will be in Holland that year and presumably full of Americans without any TAFF winner. Should TAFF winner go to a British convention or what? Sticky part of this is that some European fans have been feeling disgruntled about what they consider Brit domination of European half of TAFF. However, no Europeans voted in this race. Blah blah blah. I'll sort all this out later.
January 19 Hour long call from Lucy Huntzinger, who asks first if I won TAFF. Tells me some stuff regarding weather in U.K. that time of year. Also informs me of Chuch Harris' fall and new steel pin, and of ATom being in hospital due out about now. Hope he's going to be okay. I'd really like to meet him.
January 22 Surprised by a phone call at about 11:00 a.m. from one of the European TAFF administrators, Christina Lake, who congratulates me and asks me what I want to do about various travel and convention things. She agrees to make travel arrangements for me from London to Jersey and back, to make hotel and convention arrangements, to let people know I'm vegetarian.
January 23 Money order for $1,000 received today from Jeanne Gomoll, who briefly writes that 5 boxes and a tube of TAFF sale stuff is also on its way via UPS. A pink slip in my box: probably the TAFF folder from Jeanne. Now that I'm bankrolled, I'm going to fill out my passport application tonight and get that rolling.
January 24 Picked up the TAFF folder at the P.O. on the way to work, leaving it unopened all day on the floor of the car. At lunch, went in and applied for my passport. After dinner, opened package eagerly and spent several hours going through it all. Patrick & Teresa did a wonderful job of gathering up a good chunk of TAFF history, including sections from Harry Warner Jr.'s history of the '50s, Fancy II, and even Ted White's article about TAFF from (whenever it was). Needs to have Greg Pickersgill's article from STOP BREAKING DOWN ca. 1980 added.
January 25 The TAFF sale stuff arrived today. I managed to intercept the UPS driver before he brought it all in the lobby of the office and plunked it into the back of the car. In the evening, all other fanac (and everything else) is off after dinner while I open and sort through the five boxes (10-ream paper box size). Most of it is fanzines and about half of them are unnoteworthy or commonly available. These fill nearly two of the boxes, which then go to the bottom of the stack. Two other boxes get filled, rather fuller, with what's left: mostly more fanzines (including some old apa mailings of dubious value in my opinion but Jeanne Gomoll said they'd supposedly valuable to "the right people," whoever that might be), but also the famous Brighton sugar teeth, Conspiracy two-tone pen, a Nolacon 2 Staff t-shirt (size large), and other odds and ends. There are a handful of books and magazines of mostly dubious value. A full box of stuff gets offed: photocopied galley proofs of books by unknown authors which probably never sold and which were offered for bargain basement prices in the JGTaff catalog (and didn't sell) hit the dumpster for tomorrow's trash pick up. Other paperbacks, including bound uncorrected galley proofs of books that are similar to the unbound ones mentioned above, and including a good selection of French stf books by prominent American authors (Agberg, Benford, Asimov, etc.), get put into the fifth box and back into the rear of the car to take to Santa Rosa to the used book store tomorrow. The last fanzines of the evening are the EGOBOOs that didn't sell from JGTaff. Since these contain numerous mentions of me and even a letter or two from me, I relax by reading through them. It's satisfying to have five boxes of kipple sorted. As to the two boxes of unnotable fanzines, I intend to try to get them off to Noreascon or some other major convention to be offered on a sale table for donations. Thanks to a call from Peggy Pavlat earlier in the evening about other matters, I learn that Mike Glyer is my contact person for pulling this off. I will write him soon.
January 26 Took the books to the used book store in downtown Santa Rosa during lunch. They took all the French ones and a handful of others. Net income for TAFF of $7.00. This is the first money TAFF has made during my administration. Though an inauspicious start, the fact that it's so soon bodes well. Brought the other books home and will try them at OCoH in due course.
January 29 Conceived the idea of selling off the two boxes of miscellaneous fanzines by writing up an ad, camera-ready, for LOCUS, SFC and FILE 770, offering to sell miscellaneous fanzines by the pound, proceeds to benefit TAFF. Wrote to Glyer, Porter and Brown about running ad for fanzines by the pound, sending the ad along with the letters.
February 4 Received from Jeanne Gomoll: her final financial report and a certified check for $2,523.34.
February 7 Picked up air and rail tickets at CSAA today: $950.00. $611 for air and $339 for rail. Hoohaw! We go! I send a letter to Lilian and Christina about my travel arrangements and other matters.
February 15 A letter from Christina today reporting my travel arrangements to and from the convention. I leave from Heathrow on Friday the 24th at 0805 and return on Monday the 27th to Gatwick at 2035. I'm writing her again tonight acknowledging this and discussing when to visit Bristol.
This particular diary leaves off here. In the month between February 15th and my departure date of March 18th, I engaged in considerable trans-Atlantic correspondence arranging an itinerary of people to see and places to go. While I was actually on the trip, I recorded a total of about two hours of tapes filling myself in on a daily basis as to the outline of the day and noteworthy events that occurred. I haven't played that back yet, so what follows is strictly from memory and lacks a level of detail that will be later filled in for the full report.
March 18 Plane out of San Francisco later afternoon via Seattle to London. A highly uncomfortable seat (minimal leg room), very packed flight especially after Seattle. One good thing: before the flight I'd been told by various travel agents and British Air staff people that no exit was allowed from the plane when it stopped in Seattle. This turned out not to be true, so I had a whole twenty minutes. I phoned up Kristi Austin (daughter of old-time Seattle fan William Austin) at her bookstore and spoke with her and with Jerry Kaufman. Eventually I had to go back to the plane and they (and others also there) had to leave to go see "Baron Munchausen," and we were soon once again in the sky. General excitement about being on my way kept me from getting more than 1½-2 hours of sleep during the flight. By being on the wrong side of the airplane, I missed seeing some northern lights that were announced at one point. British Air vegetarian airline food was actually fairly palatable.
March 19 Arrived in London at around 1:30 p.m. their time (5:30 a.m. California time). Met at airport by Rob Hansen, Avedon Carol, Owen Whiteoak, Dave and Hazel Langford, and Martin Smith, and off on the London Underground to Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden (except for Langfords, who return to Reading), where had first meal in England at a crepes house in a cellar below Covent Garden. I have asparagus and cheese crepes; the asparagus is canned and the cheese is a white medium cheddar. But they are large, topped with lavish handful of cress sprouts, and fairly tasty. Then taken by Underground out to East Ham (Rob and Avedon's house) where I based myself during most of my ensuing time in London. I am glad to land and stop schlepping my huge (and to get huger) bag around. I stay up until around 1:00 a.m. their time and don't wake up again until around 2:00 p.m. the following day. I guess that's serious jet lag, eh?
March 20 A selective walking tour of London with Rob Hansen. This starts out being the fannish walking tour, past various pubs in which the London Circle has met over the decades (some of which are no longer pubs – one is, fittingly, a computer store), various other fan residences and hotels, including the Bonnington in which TAFF was thought up in 1953. After this, we walked past the street on which the evial Margaret Thatcher lives. I would hear much during my visit to the U.K. about the evils this woman has wrought, and how she is not constrained by the sort of "checks and balances" we enjoy in the U.S. We also went past Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and other more conventional tourist attractions. This was followed by getting lost trying to find Denbigh Street, where we did finally have dinner with Avedon (who shows up from work), Joseph Nicholas and Judith Hanna in an Indian restaurant across the street from their flat that evening. Returning home to East Ham from that, I stayed up talking with Avedon at the kitchen table until 3:30 a.m. Still adjusting to Mean Time.
March 21 Off by train (travelling 125 MPH!!!) to Bristol to visit with Peter-Fred and Christina. Because I got to Paddington Station too late to call ahead (as I'd agreed to do), I buy a phone card (used for so many message units per card and purchased at numerous outlets) and call from the train. Because of my need to use the phones, which are available only in the first class seating, I simply stayed where I'd landed, supposedly only temporarily, in the first class area. Even when my ticket was checked later on, I wasn't required to move out. It is a pleasure to get out of London and see some actual countryside. Christina met me at the train station as we'd arranged and I got into my first British car and was driven down my first British street. Eek! It feels Very Different. More Indian food that evening (takeaway this time instead of going out) and visiting with Peter-Fred, Christina and Mike Christie, who comes around.
March 22 Peter-Fred and Christina lend me their car for the day and I go out on British roadways – driving on the "wrong" side of the road and learning rapidly about "roundabouts," or traffic circles. Even on the big motorways (the equivalent of our freeways) most junctions of major roads are by these roundabouts, not by divided, multi-level cloverleafs (these latter mostly exist on their equivalent of the U.S. Interstates, the "M" series roads). Takes some getting used to. I head out to a remote section of Wales (Llangorse, in the Brecon Beacons area) to visit Mike Christie, who is living in a 120-year-old house in a town of about 100 people. On the way, stop at various laybys (rest areas) and take pictures of scenery. Also get thirsty and stop in small, picturesque town of Crickhowell to buy something to drink. More pictures. Soon after arriving, Mike walks me across the street and down about 100 feet to a local establishment, where I am introduced to pub food (I have a lentil and buckwheat "crumble") and the local homebrew, which is excellent – the best of my entire trip! Later, climb a tall hill in high wind to get pictures of the lake and farmland below. The winds are at least 70-80 miles per hour and buffet me around a lot. I escape the full brunt of them wherever possible by being over the edge of the hill. An ice storm cuts short my ascent, but I do get the pictures before it hits. (I can hear it coming in from the west.) On the way back, to break up the trip, stop in Welsh town of Abervagenny and walk around the central town area. Find a Safeway with Glen Ellen wines on sale. Safeways don't seem very Welsh to me; it's a surprise to run into one. By the time I make it back to Bristol, I feel pretty comfortable on the roads. I'm in Bristol rush hour, but it's mostly all going the other way. That evening, Peter-Fred cooks his own version of Indian food for dinner. It is quite good. Christina and Peter-Fred take me to a pub in an area of Bristol near the bus station. There I meet for the first time the legendary Dave Wood, a well known and popular BAFF. (Does Lilapa know the term? In "mainstream" fanzine fandom in the earlier '80s, many long disappeared fans returned to activity, both here and in the U.K. Over there the lot became known as Born Again Fifties Fans, thus the acronym.) There are other local fans there, but I've not listened to my tapes yet so their names, if recorded, are so far unrecorded in print. A good evening. My first and second pub visits in Britain in the same day. How different they were.
March 23 Take train back to London and then take the Underground out to South Ealing station to spend the evening with Greg and Linda Pickersgill. I am staying the night there because it's closer to the airport for an early morning flight to Jersey, Channel Islands, for the convention I am to attend, and mostly because I want to spend an evening visiting with Greg and Linda, whom I got to know a little when they were in San Francisco on their TAFF trip. When I got there, Greg was there alone, cooking a prawn gumbo for dinner. With my permission, he added some cod as well to stretch it a little further, as a few other possible dinner candidates were in the offing. Alun Harries and Abi Frost eventually did come around during the evening, the former getting so totally pissed that late in the evening he lurches around so that we are concerned for his safety. This is caused by a steady succession of pints of lager followed late at night by his breaking out a sizable lump of some excellent hash and continuing to light rounds of it until I begged him off. "It worked, it worked!" was about the way I put it. He finally puts himself to bed and when I go up to the adjoining room later, I hear him groaning and tossing. After that, Greg, Linda and I all agree that it's been an extraordinary evening, but as we mostly have to be up in the early morning, we call it a night around 1:30 a.m.
March 24-27 Fly to Jersey, getting to the airport around 7:00 a.m. for a flight scheduled for shortly after 8:00. Jersey is one of the Channel Islands, located about 150 miles south of London and only 15 miles from the French Coast. A 35-minute flight, but it's delayed 50 minutes (!) in departing because the Heathrow Airport computer is down. The convention is in the Hotel de France, the largest hotel on Jersey located in Jersey's largest town, St. Helier, up on a hill overlooking the town. During the convention, I manage to get away several of the days to visit places like Elizabeth Castle, the Occupation Museum (the Channel Islands were the only British territory occupied by the Nazis during WW2), and many walks around the neighborhoods and shopping districts to stretch my legs after serious conventioneering. The convention itself is quite enjoyable in its own unassuming way. At over 1,000 registered, it's the second largest Eastercon ever. (Does anyone here not know that the Eastercon is British fandom's annual "national" convention?) Over 850 were in attendance. There were multiple tracks of programming, a sales room (thankfully mostly books), an art show I never got to see (the times I tried, it was locked), a fan room of sizable proportions with excellent displays, and two bars, one of them directly across the hallway from the fan room and which never closed, to my knowledge, during the entire convention. I was told by one of the hotel staff that, except for a few "permanent guests," the entire hotel had been turned over to the convention. It was a Victorian hotel, strangely reminiscent of Berkeley's Hotel Claremont. Among these 850 there were perhaps 30-40 fanzine fans and people who fellow travel with fanzine fans, including some more well known as conrunners. This gave me a steady variety of company to keep. Of the convention itself I don't wish to make a full report beyond that it was, as I said above, pleasantly enjoyable. Even the banquet was good, so good in fact that the chef was brought out to a standing ovation. On early Monday evening, fly back to London, this trip to Gatwick Airport. Take the Gatwick Express train to Victoria Station. Exiting Victoria Station I walk around a little bit to see what restaurants are in the area. There are two Indian establishments. I didn't have any Indian food while in Jersey, though there were a number of Indian restaurants, so I am ready. I compare their menus, choose one of the restaurants, and have an excellent vegetable biryani with half a pint of lager. Thus satisfied, I catch the Underground to East Ham.
March 28: Because I'd arrived back in London quite late the previous evening from the Eastercon (held on Jersey in the Channel Islands, 14 miles off the coast of France), I ended up sleeping in rather late. In the dwindling moments of this Monday morning, on a sunny, clear day in London, I caught a train to Cambridge to visit with Duffy, an old friend from my university days. (We saw each other for the first time since 1968 when she visited Berkeley in 1987.) (A few readers may remember her as the tall, slender but not skinny lady with long, straight dark hair I brought to one of the Southern California Westercons of the late 1960s.) Forgetting what I'd been repeatedly told – that it's always somewhat warmer in London because of a temperature inversion – I went off wearing only a medium-weight flannel shirt and unlined Levi jacket. As the train headed towards Cambridge, the skies clouded up (I had brought along my umbrella having learned my lesson on several occasions back in London before going off to Jersey) and it turned breezy. It was sprinkling lightly, off and on, by the time I arrived in Cambridge. Duffy met me at the station in a left-hand drive VW Jetta! As we drove away and I commented on this, she said that she'd had it brought over from California years ago. It felt weird to be in such a car in the U.K. She took me to see various cathedrals and universities in and around Cambridge. This included a lengthy stop at King's College Chapel, an architectural wonder amply supplied with huge stained glass windows. We took in an exhibit explaining the amazing engineering design of the building and the nature of some of the materials of which it is constructed (huge virgin oak beams). The display went into considerable detail about the difficulty of doing restoration.
It soon was early afternoon and we began speaking seriously of lunch. Along the way, Duffy conducted a little necessary banking business. (Though I don't recall specifics, the way the banks went about their business seemed a little different than in the U.S.) The bank was adjacent to the Cambridge open market. This was the first of a number of such markets I was to see during my stay in the U.K. One could buy all manner of bulk and packaged food, from spring onions to fresh fish, as well as a variety of other non-food items including clothing. Because I was underdressed (it was definitely colder and windier than in London, and more rain looked threatening) I ventured into the market to find a teeshirt to augment my wardrobe. I located a stylish gray Cambridge University teeshirt, purchased it, and put it on right there. (It later became a present for my oldest son, Ben, who seems to treasure it. At least, he wears it frequently.) Duffy humorously pretended not to know me temporarily while I stripped off my flannel shirt, put on the teeshirt, and put back on my flannel shirt and Levi jacket. Ah, warmth!
We had lunch at a Mexican restaurant located in a newish shopping area not far from the open market. My London friends had warned me about Mexican restaurants in London (not that there are many) so I was somewhat suspicious of having Mexican food. But since Duffy is a native Californian, I knew she wouldn't lead me astray. To my great enjoyment and relief, the food was very good. I had chimichangas stuffed with mushrooms sauteed in white wine. It was excellent. (For those who may be nonconversant in the many varieties of Mexican food, I should explain that a chimichanga is essentially a lightly deep-fried burrito, its flour tortilla outer shell thus rendered somewhat crunchy but not crispy.)
After lunch we went walking around the colleges some more. Because she is a student there, Duffy was able to take me to some areas I wouldn't otherwise be permitted to see. After a while, at her suggestion, we rented a punt boat for a ride up and down the River Cam in the "back yards" of the various colleges. Since I am no water person, I let Duffy do all the punting – she's good at it, though she says she hasn't done it for five years. In addition to seeing a lot of impressive buildings and some attractive landscaping, we got to go under a number of old stone bridges. Some were quite low over the river and we could reach up and touch the undersides. One was called the Bridge of Sighs, though I haven't a clue as to why. After about 20 minutes we stopped because the weather was getting colder and more rain was strongly threatening and because her hands were breaking out in a rash. We discussed this and decided it was from polluted Cam water soaked up by the porous wood of the punt stick.
Leaving the river and the area of the colleges, we walked up some narrow back roads and pedestrian pathways, finally reaching a row of attractive shops. On the wall of one of them was a small sign reading "My Little Tea Room." Duffy recommended it as a good place to go for afternoon tea because it hasn't been discovered by the tourists as yet. To get there, we walked into the door of the building, which took us into a gift shop full of hand stitchery and other home crafts, plus an assortment of cards and note paper. At the rear of the gift shop was an unmarked staircase down to a basement, where the tea room was located. It was moderately full and at first we had to share a table with a couple who were finishing up. Soon they departed and we ordered tea. Each of us also enjoyed a thick, rich slice of a white cake well-drenched in a delicate lemon sauce. Time passed far too quickly but wholly enjoyably as we each spoke of our old times and our new times.
Finally it became time to pick up her daughter, Clare, from a farm outside of Cambridge. The ride was doubly enjoyable to me, for anticipation of seeing Clare again (she was now six and had been just four when I first met her in 1987) and because I got to see more countryside from a closer and slower vantage point than a train. Clare remembered me and when we arrived back at their home, she asked me upstairs to see the doll house that was being built into a former fireplace space in a wall of her room. Somewhat later we all had tea together and afterwards Clare climbed up in my lap and quietly cuddled while Duffy and I conversed some more. For someone who has four boys, this was new and nice.
Eventually it became time to leave, since Duffy had a prior engagement that evening. We all piled into her car again and drove me back to the train station. Back to London and then out to East Ham for the evening. At this point, one thing I'm beginning to notice is that Britain seems a lot cleaner from the roads than it does from the trains. Although the trains were a marvelous convenience and ran pretty much on time and frequently, the tracks seem to be bordered by dump site, repair yards, side tracks full of decaying and/or damaged coaches, and stacks of spare track and gravel. The London Underground, where it's not down in a tunnel, is much the same way, only even grottier. I certainly can't make any claims for America being any better in this regard. However, I tend to expect Americans to be slobs, but not (in my mental fantasy) orderly Brits. So much for my long-held image of a tidy Britain.
March 29 Train to Northampton, where I'm met by Chuch & Sue Harris. As expected, I recognize Chuch instantly from ATom cartoons of him over the years. They ask for permission to stop and get some groceries at the local superstore, a Tesco's. I gladly accede since this will be my first and perhaps only opportunity to see a British supermarket, as opposed to corner groceries, convenience stores and news agents, all of which I've already experienced out on walks. It is as large as though it were American and carried a full line of groceries, including many that are semi-strange and alien to me. It was far more exotic than being in the old Berkeley Co-op stores, which in their heyday were the food tripper's paradise. All the items in the produce section are labeled as to country of origin. The oranges were from Israel and Spain, the grapes were not from Chile. When we approach the checkstands, two clerks are talking about the upcoming price scanning devices, such as most American grocery stores for several years now. They were going to attend a training session the following week and were afraid of failure. I admitted to my Yankhood and told them how easy it was and how they would never want to go back to hand keying of prices after using scanners. They seem relieved, their apprehension level much reduced. After leaving the store, we drive across the parking lot to the petrol depot where they fill up. Imperial gallons at that station cost £1.70; given the exchange rate and the difference in the size of Imperial and American gallons, this works out to around $2.35 per gallon. But, enough of this digression... That done, we drive out into the countryside. As we cruise along, I see brick stacks protruding from the middle of fields and ask about them. It turns out that there is a canal running through this area, part of which is subterranean. The stacks are air vents. Chuch tells of how canal people make it through these tunnels by laying on the deck of their barge and "walking" along the ceiling of the tunnel. He says there's an old-time saying around there, for canal people, "Don't ever married a one-legged woman." Gross but no doubt true. I see my first thatched roof buildings and have lunch in a thatched roof pub on the banks of the canal. Later, see canal boats pass through the system of locks that moves the boats from one level to another of the canal. Take many pictures of this and the surroundings. Then drive to Daventry for the evening. Sue sets out an excellent dinner and we spend the evening socializing. At one point, Chuch gets out a run of Quinsy, a sort of fanzine he was doing, for me to look at while he watches Dallas. The show is close-captioned (though much is left out), not as common in the U.K. as here.
March 30 In the morning I spend quite some time with Chuch up at his computer, where he speaks and I type. This evolves into our fastest means of communication. The night before he was lip reading me and while he admitted I was a pretty quick and relatively easy read, still it was much slower than typing. Altogether I turn out nearly eight single spaced pages that morning. Late morning, Chuch & Sue drive me to Coventry. On the way we pass a small town where there are still functional stocks in the town square. This is in a town which has the old Roman road, Watling Street, as its main drag. At Coventry, we go to see the reconstructed Coventry cathedral. Most of the cathedral was bombed by the Germans during WW2. One of the parts they didn't get is a 320 foot tower. There's a circular staircase of some 185 steps inside the tower, much of it in near darkness. It costs £1 to make the climb, which I do with Sue; the view from the top is breathtaking. We look down and see Chuch sitting on a bench below, avidly eyeballing a young couple making out on the next bench. "Typical," says Sue. Afterwards, we go past the Lady Godiva statue (Coventry is where she took her famous ride), and I kid Chuch about climbing aboard the statue for a picture. Then off to a pub they know for lunch of quiche, chips, salad and a half-pint. Then Chuch & Sue drive me to the train station, where I catch a train to Leeds. Remembering how the economy class train from Bristol back to London was crowded, and the same class from London to Northampton was fairly uncomfortable, I get into the first class section. The conductor doesn't challenge my presence. I decide that from here on out, wherever possible, I will ride first class. From Leeds, I take a much funkier train to small town of Skipton, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales. (I am told later that these train coaches are actually old bus bodies which have been put on railroad running gear.) Met at Skipton station by Mal & Hazel Ashworth, who immediately drive me out to a pub called the Craven Heifer in small village of Addingham. Spend the evening there visiting with Mal, Hazel and Don West, who is awaiting us there, trying local brews and enjoying the pub ambience. It's "drawing" night, which means that with every drink one buys one gets a number. At 10:15 they start calling the numbers. Winners pick a slip of paper from a glass, the slip stating the prize. The four of us won three of the 20 prizes that evening. Mal won a "Genius" pint glass, D. won a Guinness bottle opener and I won a deck of playing cards. Don later left the opener for me.
March 31 Mal, Hazel and I drive across the moors east to the ancient walled city of York, where we walk along a portion of the walls and then down into the narrow medieval streets, including one very narrow winding street called "The Shambles." We visit the open market and Yorkminster Cathedral. (York is second only to Canterbury in the Anglican religion and has its own archbishop.) As is becoming normal, Mal & Hazel also have a favorite pub and we go there for lunch. That evening, after dinner back in Skipton, we drive in to Leeds for a weekly gathering of locals at a hotel near the train station. Don West is there, as is the infamous Michael Ashley (not the one who did History of the S.F. Pulps but a new one) and various other Leeds fans to be listed in the Real Report. A good time is had by all. At the end of the evening, Don walks over to me and we stand back to back because Hazel has been curious as to our height differential. I'm about 1½ inches taller. Don tells me he's interested in writing me an article for TRAP DOOR "about fan history," and asks me when my next deadline might be. Later, on the way out of town, a truck throws up a rock which shatters our windshield. Driving home is like driving through a cathedral window, but manageable. I immediately offer to take over for Mal, who is quite pissed, but he handles it well the whole way. When we get there, Mal lays down for a while and then comes down with folders full of old fanzines, including a very thick one of old Burbee, Laney, Perdue and other Insurgent stuff. He also shows me, for contrast's sake, a folder full of old Norman G. Wansborough fanzines and a studio portrait of Norman himself. We locate and Mal gives me several duplicates: riders with SLANT. Talk about obscure! This takes us all nicely away from the broken windscreen trauma. We go to bed late.
April 1 The broken windshield puts a crimp on plans to visit the Yorkshire Dales more extensively (we'd driven along the edges of them on our way back from York). I help Mal smash out the rest of the windshield on their car; then he drives off to Bradford to get it replaced. He is wearing only a teeshirt and light windbreaker, and the weather is only in the low 50's and threatening rain. Hazel and I point out to him that he may be underdressed, but he cavalierly drives off. (This will not have meaning to all of you, but some of you will understand when I say that Mal Ashworth reminded me very much, both physically and in his manner, of Alan Graham.) Soon after, I walk with Hazel from the little village of Embsay, where they live, about 1½ miles to Skipton, not that big itself. On the way, we talk of Don West and how he is barely surviving on the dole despite being a brilliant writer and artist. Hazel tells me he's unable to get interested in being a professional and, in fact, when he accepted an illustrating job for Interzone, he stalled on it while fulfilling some fannish commitments and turned in artwork far inferior to that which he does for fanzines. After having a snack and tea at the coffee shop of a local store, I get back on the train from Skipton to Leeds, then on the Intercity 125 train (first class, of course!) back to London (Kings Cross Station). Upon arrival, I sightsee a little in the area round Kings Cross, find another Indian restaurant for dinner, and then head out to East Ham for the evening, where the first of two parties held for me that weekend takes place. Party report to follow in the expanded version of this.
April 2 In the afternoon, a KTF (Kent TruFandom) meeting in my honor. During this one, Chuch & Sue arrive from Daventry and drive me off to see Arthur & Olive Thomson in the Brixton area of London. The reality of the actual 17 Brockham House location is very jarring after thirty years of exotic mental imagery. They live in a stark, '50s council tower building. We visit for an hour or so, limiting ourselves to that long so as not to over-excite Arf, who was in hospital for months with complications from emphysema and by no means has a clean bill of health, though he was doing considerably better, even had been reported out driving a few weeks before I arrived. Chuch hadn't seen Art for six months or so. This was the first time I'd seen Art since 1964. For Sue and Olive, it was the first time in around twenty years. Sometimes during this hour we would all be conversing together, but much of the time it was two distinct knots. Olive kept us plied with strong English tea and biscuits. Reluctantly, it became time for us to return to the KTF party. Both coming and going from East Ham to Brixton, we crossed the Thames over Tower Bridge, so named because it's adjacent to the sprawling medieval Tower of London with its turrets and moats. The moats were not filled with water that day. The party continued into the evening. In fact, one portion of it (a Trivial Pursuit game) carried on well after I and my hosts had retired for the night. Trivial Pursuit is hot stuff over there right now. Many London fans seem to play it, and there are signs up in the Underground stations about a 900 number one can call to play for money.
April 3 Sleep in rather late after the intense weekend of traveling and partying. Take the Underground to Heathrow where I catch a shuttle plane to Belfast Airport in Northern Ireland. At Walter's advice, I take a shuttle bus from the airport to Oxford Street Station in downtown Belfast. Outside the airport, there's a checkpoint with a series of speed bumps on the road and men in uniforms toting sub-machine guns. This brings home that one is in Northern Ireland. I sit next to a middle-aged lady with a lot of luggage. When we arrive at Oxford Street, she asks me for assistance in getting it off the bus. When I have it all off, plus my own, I ask her if she can handle it from here because I have to meet someone. Turning, there is Walter right behind me. He drives me out to their home at Donaghadee. On the way, we drive by Oblique House, where I stop and take a few pictures; then he continues on past Stormont, the seat of the N.I. government, where he used to work. On the edge of Belfast, we pass Scrabo Tower, the all too familiar monolith from TED. More pictures from a convenient layby. We detour on old country roads to visit an old castle in a nearby area. When we get there, the main gate is locked, but we go around by way of a driveway and into a side gate which is still open. While we are looking around, a caretaker comes up to us excitedly and says that the place is closed, he's leaving, and we can stay if we don't mind scaling the gate to get out. This is fine with us. Eventually we leave and drive on to Donaghadee, which is on the eastern coast of Northern Ireland, southeast of Belfast. Walter & Madeleine live in a 120-year-old stone Victorian directly across the street from the beach. The building is a semi-detached villa of gray stone with a slate roof. The name "Strathclyde" appears on the top of the brick and stone pillar at the driveway. A wonderful home-cooked meal is served by Madeleine, and we all spend the evening catching up on what's been happening since we last saw one another in 1962 in America. Walter lends me a copy of his account of their trip to Tropicon last December, which I read in bed before falling off to sleep.
April 4 Walter and I set out by car, taking Max their dog, to visit James & Peggy White, who live on the northern coast of N.I., in the small resort town of Portstewart. We drive through Belfast and then head out on the coast road, which is reminiscent in some ways of Highway 1 here in Northern California. About 15 miles north of Belfast, we stop to visit a medieval castle in a small town, then push onward to another even smaller town, Waterfoot, where we have lunch in a local pub. Walter tells me he was on a holiday in Waterfoot forty years previously and shows me the building in which he stayed. Then we drive on to see the Giants' Causeway, a volcanic formation along the coast which is quite spectacular. Onward from there to Portstewart, passing through Bushmills, where the Irish whisky is made. We visit with Jim & Peggy White for several hours. Peggy serves home-made scones and home-made jams along with tea. James shows us the Commodore 64 (!) on which he does all his writing. We go for a walk along the oceanfront before driving back to Donaghadee. Altogether we drove 180 miles that day. Northern Ireland is beautiful, reminding me of Kentucky and Tennessee for its greenery and mostly rolling scenery, but with a beach and an occasionally rugged coastline. Another incredible dinner from Madeleine upon our return, including heavenly chocolate mousse. Later we talk some more and watch Hill Street Blues. We stay up late. In bed afterwards, I read Walt's Tropicon account again.
April 5 A rainy day. We learn from the television that there's a wildcat Underground strike happening in London that day and the line I'd take from Heathrow Airport to East Ham is not running. After breakfast, Walter drives me first into Donaghadee's shopping area, where I make plane arrangements for my flight back, selecting a flight landing at Gatwick Airport, where I can catch the Express train up to Victoria Station and thus be that much closer to East Ham. We drive over to Bangor, a nearby larger resort town, where I buy some last-minute souvenirs for my kids (tee-shirts, which are well-received when presented). There is an excellent lunch followed by more conversation, hanging out, sharing the Times, etc. In mid-afternoon, we set off for Belfast Airport and say our goodbyes. No sooner than I get situated in the airport than there's an announcement that the plane will be delayed 45 minutes. A lot of time is spent rummaging at the newsstand thereafter, including finding a local real estate advertiser which I pick up to check out later. Finally I do get flown back to London and take the train to Victoria. I call Rob and Avedon for advice as to how to get as close as possible to their place on the Underground lines that are running, then get right on the Underground. This takes me to within two miles of their place so I hail a cab – one of those black old London cabs – and a cabby who calls me "Guv" takes me the rest of the way.
April 6 My last full day in the U.K. Take a combination of the Underground and British Rail to Welling, a southeast suburb of London, to visit Vince Clarke, who has the largest library of fanzines in the U.K. and who strongly encouraged me to come see it before leaving. (It turns out to be less than half the size of Terry's, but still impressive and well-organized.) He meets me at the station and we catch a bus to his place, a semi-detached house in an elderly subdivision of more of the same. Spend the afternoon there visiting with him, his collection, and Nigel Rowe, who comes around to use his duplicating equipment. I do my first slipsheeting since 1964. Later Vince serves us up a dinner and we all head off on the train to go to the Wellington. This is an enormous pub across from Waterloo Station in London where the London area fans meet the evening of the first Thursday every month. We enter. There are well over 100 people there and the ones I know are like a reprise of the previous three weeks as far as Londoners are concerned. No full report now, but I have a great time. After closing, we filter across the street to Waterloo Station where we separate gradually as people head off to their train and Underground platforms. Finally only I and Jack Heneghan, who's staying out at East Ham, head down to the District Line Eastbound platform (leaving Joseph Nicholas, who has to go westbound) and home. Once there I spend a great deal of time reorganizing my luggage so everything will fit. It's a tight squeeze.
April 7 Nigel Rowe – a New Zealand fan who's been living and working in London the past two years and is going to go back to New Zealand in May, via the U.S. and including Northern California – came by to help me get my now stretched to the limit luggage via Underground to Heathrow. It's sunny and the temperature is about 52. Rob called from work to say goodbye. I say my goodbyes and thank yous to Avedon. Finally Nigel and I left and made smooth connections on the 1½ hour trip from East Ham to Heathrow. He helps me check in and then, it getting close to departure time, we say our see-you-in-May's to one another. Two minutes after I'm the other side of the barrier, the PA announces a 40-minute flight delay. I spend time browsing around the duty-free shops and other stores and finally the flight is called. This time the airplane is only about half full. I have a window seat on the "good" side of the aircraft and the aisle seat is taken by a very distinguished looking elderly lady who strikes up a conversation. She is a U.S. foreign service widow living in Lausanne, Switzerland, on her way to visit her daughter in Redwood City, California. We have a pleasant ongoing conversation throughout the flight, though I make it clear in a gentle way early on that this is my first time flying this particular flight and I will probably look out the window a lot. The way back is a spectacular journey over Iceland, Greenland, the northern portions of Canada (Baffin and Hudson Bays) and finally over Washington and Oregon, where spectacular views of the higher mountains are to be had. (Considering the Pacific Northwest's usual weather, this is highly unusual.) Once over California, there's a good view of Mt. Shasta's eastern slopes and then Mt. Lassen is almost directly below us. As we descend while nearing the Bay Area, we go over Napa Valley. Sonoma Valley and beyond is in shadow. As we land, it's announced that the temperature in San Francisco is 92!!! I breeze through Customs and arrange for my transportation through the broiling heat back to Oakland, where my car is waiting at Carol's house. As my ride pulls out into U.S. 101 northbound to San Francisco, I strip off first my Levi jacket and then my flannel shirt, and pull my teeshirt out from inside my jeans. No more London weather!
To follow up on some stuff mentioned above: Charlie Brown ran the "fanzines by the pound" advertisement in the March and April issues of LOCUS and Andy Porter ran it in the April SFC. I received orders for twice as many fanzines as I actually had and returned quite a lot of money to those whose (mostly larger) orders I couldn't fill. The orders just started coming in when I left for my trip and when I returned there was a huge stack of them mixed into the mail. I took care of the smallest orders first so as to cover the most people. In writing to Charlie and Andy to ask them to stop running the advertisement, I put out an appeal (which I also sent to Mike Glyer) for fanzine editors to send spares of their zines to me and for anyone receiving and not keeping fanzines to send these along, even stating I'd come pick up by pre-arrangement if not too far away. I'd like to keep "fanzines by the pound" going for a while as a means of possibly recruiting new fanzine fans from the large readership of LOCUS and SFC.