Tackett's Travels in Taffland
1976 TAFF Report: Roy Tackett

Published 1985 in Sticky Quarters 13 ed Brian Earl Brown
Rekeyed by Alison Scott and some clever dictation software

Early in 1975, it was, that a note arrived from Rick Sneary inquiring if I was agreeable to standing for TAFF. Some of the West Coast fans, it appeared, had the idea that I might make a good TAFF candidate and a few anglofen agreed so.... I checked out the dates, did some calculations on finances and how much leave time I would have and wrote back to Rick that I would be honored.

Bill Bowers was the only other candidate and we both conducted the sort of campaign common at the time: we did nothing. On New Year's day 1976 Len Moffatt rang me up to tell me that the campaign had ended in a tie. There were sufficient funds to send us both, however, which seemed the fannish thing to do. Bill wrote that he was having a variety of personal problems and had decided to decline the trip.

There was precedent for that, of course. Vincent Clarke was the first elected TAFF delegate in 1954 but could not make the trip. Lee Hoffman was the first American delegate elected in 1956 and she also declined the trip.

Following the call from Len there was the scramble to get things in order; reservations must be made (it cost more to fly from Albuquerque to New York than from New York to Britain), arrangements for an extended leave from work, and all the other not so trivial details that suddenly show up.

The Kyles were living in England at the time and Dave wrote that he would meet us at Heathrow and put us up for a couple of days while we settled the details of our trip. Well and good. Nice people, the Kyles.

April 9 came all too soon but noon found Chrystal and me strapped into our TWA aircraft and waiting for takeoff. And waiting. And waiting. The stewardesses did their bit with the food and drinks. (It is a rule of all airlines, if there are problems, give the passengers food and drinks -- lots of drinks.) There was, it seems, engine troubles and we would be delayed some four hours. Enough so that we would miss all connections and not arrive in Heathrow until the day following the day we were supposed to arrive. Marvellous! TWA, however, did get a message to Dave Kyle appraising him of the situation and our new ETA.

After some amusing and interesting incidents at O'Hare and JFK airports and an utterly boring flight across the Atlantic (there is hardly anything more boring than a trans-oceanic flight) we deplaned at Heathrow and were greeted by a long line of exotically dressed people all carrying placards printed in equally exotic languages. I translated one of these as 'First Fandom' and, sure enough, underneath it was Dave Kyle.

Dave waited while we made our way through immigration, customs and currency exchange where what I hope was an untypical ugly American tossed a roll of hundreds on the counter and asked for 'whatever you think I'll need to keep me for two weeks.' I assume the bank people were honest with him. I'd have given him a farthing. Once through with all the official foolishness we joined Dave for the drive to 'Two Rivers' his delightful house on the Thames in Surrey. While we cleaned up and got comfortable Dave called Peter Weston, the British TAFF Administrator, to let him know that the Tacketts had made it across and give him some idea of what our plans were.

Pete and the British fans had drawn up an itinerary for us but Chrystal and I had our own list of places to go and things to see so we told Pete we were doing fine and would meet him in Manchester for the convention.

Terry Jeeves, one of the finest gentlemen and fans there is, rang up to tell us that we would, by God, spend a few days with him at Sheffield or he would read us out of First Fandom. We agreed that we would.

Dave and Ruth delivered us to the British Railways station at Weybridge where a most co-operative young agent looked at our Britrail passes and plotted us out a schedule which could get us from Weybridge to Sheffield, something less than 200 miles, in a mere three days by way of Salisbury, Bath and assorted other points.

Salisbury for Stonehenge, of course. Stonehenge had #1 priority on the trip. It actually predates the pyramids of Egypt and the current consensus is that it was an astronomical observatory. Chrystal and I spent several hours wandering around, taking sightings and the like. An awe-inspiring and illuminating site.

We arrived at Bath about midafternoon and checked into the Royal York. Chrys inquired about the city buses at the hotel desk indicating that we wanted to look around the city. The desk clerk had a better idea, called a friend who had a taxi, and for a pound gave us a private tour of the main points of the city. Upon returning to the Royal York I purchased a bottle of wine and inquired about purchasing a corkscrew. The salesclerk didn't have one for sale but opened the bottle for us. That, I told him, was something strictly forbidden in the States. He allowed that the English were more civilized.

We spent the next day prowling the Roman ruins at Bath which have been well excavated and somewhat restored.

The next day we were off for Sheffield and first contact with British fandom in the person of Terry Jeeves. Picture a most distinguished looking British gentleman standing in the train station flashing a copy of Analog. Jeeves was a delight. As is his wife. We spent the evening at the Cine Club where Terry showed us some of his cartoons.

On the following day we all toured the countryside around Sheffield doing the tourist bit and visiting local attractions.

The next day was the 16th of April and it was convention time. The Jeeves' and the Tackett's piled into Terry's car and it was off to Manchester and Mancon 5. Arriving, of course 30 minutes too late for the scheduled TAFF panel. But as none of the TAFF-emeriti were there either the panel was rescheduled.

Let me get some words in here about TAFF and differences in attitudes. Generally speaking the TAFF delegate from the European side is mostly ignored at American conventions. He may be introduced at the opening of the con and, if lucky may get a small mention in the program book but that is about the size of it. British cons, at least in days of yore, treated TAFF as what it was originally designed to be: an honor bestowed upon the delegate by fandom. In Britain, at least, the TAFF delegate was treated as a Guest of Honor at the convention. Mancon 5 was held at the university and the attendees housed in tiny student dormitory rooms. The pro guest of honor, the fan guest of honor, and the TAFF delegate were housed in suites in the faculty halls. Differences in attitude as to what TAFF represents. The British have the right idea.

Inasmuch as we had missed the opening of the convention there was nothing to be done but head for the bar where we joined Eric Bentcliffe, Eddie Jones and Waldemar Kumming for beer and conversation. After a bit someone consulted the program and found that Ramsey Campbell was speaking of films and maybe we should go listen to him if we could find nothing better to do. Chrys and I found Ethel Lindsay chatting with the Wollheims and decided that was something better to do. Dinner seemed called for so we headed for the Gul Shan Indian Restaurant which we found to be already overflowing with fans. We found room at a table along with Karel Thole, Tom Perry, Peter Roberts, Richer Harter, Jan Finder, Eddie Jones, Marsha Jones and two or three others. The menu was starred according to the hotness of the dish with 4**** almost coming up to New Mexico's infamous green chile. Amid attacks by squadrons of paper airplanes Peter held forth on British plans for the 1979 convention to which they hoped to attract some 2000 stf people. The dinner was interesting and all agreed it was better than Brian Burgess's meat pie.

Back at the con I ran into a couple of unhappy-looking Swedish fans. 'Roy, do you by chance have a cork-puller? You see we have all this wine at the Swedish party and no way to get it open.'

It happens that I had mentioned the incident at Bath to Jeeves and, good fellow that he is, he presented me with a most unusual cork-puller and I still often carry it with me because you never know when you'll run into a bottle of wine. I reached into my pocket and removed the Jeevesian cork-puller. 'Lead on to the wine,' I said. Indeed they had a lot of wine. We drank a lot of wine. The Swedes put on a fine party.

Breakfast the next morning, late of course, with Jeeves and Ron Bennett. We were joined by Walt Willis who turned out to be rather quiet and shy but, as expected, sharp-witted and given to puns.

The main program item for the day was Bob Shaw's hilarious speech on Backyard Spaceships. This has been reprinted a couple of times so I won't go into details other than to say Shaw's presentation had the assembled fans weak with laughter. Later on I decided not to join the queue to argue with Gray Boak and we adjourned for dinner and parties.

The morning of the 18th was devoted to the business meeting with Leicester winning the 1977 Eastercon unopposed. The afternoon had the art auction which went quite slowly with more items unsold than sold. I picked up three by Jeeves and one by Eddie Jones to add to the small collection of stf art at home.

The rescheduled TAFF panel was finally held before a rather small audience. On the panel were Ron Bennett, Walt Willis, Eric Bentcliff, Pete Weston, Eddie Jones, and Roy Tackett and for a short time we outnumbered the audience. However, other fans (presumably with nothing else to do) drifted in and we ended up with about 20 or so listening to the history of TAFF.

The awards banquet in the evening was most impressive both in service and menu. Undoubtedly the best convention banquet I have ever attended. One of the more amusing features was the continuous flow of quote cards around the hall. I don't know who started them but a new one appeared every few minutes. After everyone had eaten their fill and then some it was awards time. The Delta Film Award went to the multi-talented Terry Jeeves. The BSFA Awards for best British SF had a Special Award for James Blish and the regular award went to Bob Shaw for Orbitsville. Paul Dillon won the K.F. Slater Art Award {probably the Ken McIntyre artwork award? -- DRL} and Ina Shorrock was presented with the Doc Weir Award. The results of the poll on the three best SF books of all time were announced: Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon, The Rose by Charles Harness, and The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin.

Peter Mabey won the TAFF drawing. (Peter Weston sold chances on a book with all proceeds going to TAFF.)

The 19th marked the close of Eastercon. It had been most enjoyable and the British fans turned out to be a fine group on the whole. Chrystal and I left Manchester shortly after noon on the train to Ulverston, spent the next couple of days exploring the pubs of the Lake District with Bob and Sadie Shaw.

From Ulverston a local train took us along the stoney Cumbrian coast around to Carlisle where we boarded 'The Clansman' headed north for Inverness. The Scottish Highlands were cold in late April with heather splashed purple-brown across the hills and snow clinging to the higher peaks. Round peaks and narrow valleys were reminders of Scotland's glacial past. Arriving at Inverness we checked into a delightful small hotel and explored the town in the long, long twilight. Chrystal found a ball game.

The next day we caught the service bus to Whitebridge which would take us out along Loch Ness. The service bus delivers the mail, the newspapers, the milk and whatever else. Whatever else this time was five passengers (two American teenaged girls over from one of the posts in Germany, a young Australian chap, Chrystal and myself) all with the same idea: to see Loch Ness. The driver was an amusing fellow well-versed in Scottish history and legend. At a point where a footpath joined the road, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, he stopped, let us out, told us to follow the path a mile or so to the loch and a little beyond that to Foyers where we could catch a bus back to Inverness. The countryside was lovely, the loch with its black water was impressive, but, alas we caught no sight of Nessie.

It was cold in the Highlands but tulip time in Holland so early the next morning we boarded the train for an all day's ride to Harwich. Overnighted there and early next morning took the ferry to Hook of Holland. The North Sea was rough and many of the passengers were stricken with mal-de-mer. The deck was overcrowded, a shortage of seats. Chrys commented that if this was first class she'd hate to see what second class was like. From Hook-of-Holland we caught the train to Amsterdam, found a hotel through a tourist-information office, booked into it for three nights.

While exploring the miles and miles of tulip fields the next day we struck up a conversation with a New York couple, about our own age, who were travelling with an organized tour group. They seemed amazed that a 'middle-aged' couple would be wandering around in strange countries without reservations and without guides. We told them they should try it as it was a far better way to see the world than doing so with a pre-planned tour. We poked around in various odd places that the guided tours never get to, met lots of interesting people.

Unfortunately time was getting short; it was back to Hook of Holland, a smooth crossing at night to Harwich (with a cabin this time so we could get some sleep). The train to Weybridge and the friendly warmth of the Kyle's house at Hamm's Court.

We had one day left and decided to spend it in London so that we could answer all our neighbor's questions about the Palace and the Tower and Westminster Abbey and the like. The best thing about it was lunch at the Sherlock Holmes pub. The worst thing was the hordes of American tourists busily posing in front of this or that statue.

Early the next morning Dave and Ruth were off to France and the Tacketts were off to Heathrow and the long flight back to the U.S. Eight hours to Chicago, a four hour at O'Hare where we paid 90¢ for beer that wasn't good English ale, and then a couple of hours to Albuquerque.

The desert looked good after all that green.