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ConThirteena 2001

Wednesday, 31 January

The plane landed about a half hour early. There was no trouble in customs, and I ended up paying about $75 in duty for the commercial contraband (tshirts) I brought into the country.

I sat about for a bit, then Bill and Brenda Sutton and Tim Walker picked me up. On our way to the car, we passed Dame Judy Dench going the other direction.

That did it. The week is worth it.

We loaded the car and drove out to Gravesend (east of London). Annie and Jared (Tim's wife and son) were feeling under the weather, so they were home when we got there.

Jared is 4. A wonderfully polite, soft spoken 4. He does the 'earnest child' thing very, very well (nearly as well as Talis' son, Corwin); and he just kinda walks in and steals your heart. (As Scott Snyder said... "Hey Jared, d'ya want a pony? I have one around here somewhere...")

We had tea, visited for a bit; then Tim, Bill, Brenda, and I took off for the train station to wander and shop a bit in London.

Once in London (Charing Cross, then the Tube up to Tottenham Court Road... Seeing places I've only read about!); we first went to Forbidden Planet- a Comic/SF/Fantasy/Stuff/Bookstore. Then we went to Bill's favorite music store, Hobgoblin Music (it seems that Bill is in town here up to a couple times a year...) I bought guitar strings, Brenda got some bones and bodhran tippers. After this, we decided that we were all hungry, and popped over to a pub for a bite to eat.

Now let me say that I am not a drinking man. I don't generally appreciate the taste of alcoholic drinks, and it's a habit I never really started. However, at the pub I drank a pint. A *whole* pint. All of it. Dry glass. I think I was more astonished than anything else...

After lunch (this was about 4:30p) we went to a few more music shops, and Borders. I bought british editions of every Harry Potter book that had been published.

We then made our way down to Trafalgar Square, I got a pic of everyone and a really nice shot of Big Ben.

Then, off to the train- back to Tim and Annie's. Annie made chili for a late supper (8pm, now).

Tim brought me over to Phil and Lissa Allcock's for the night, we did some visiting and then crashed for the evening.

Thursday, 1 February

Got up between 8 and 8:30am with Phil, who took me back to Tim and Annie's house. There I met up with Bill and Brenda, and we walked to the train station to catch the rail to Canterbury.

I have to say here that spending lots and lots of time with Bill and Brenda Sutton is both a) a distinct pleasure and b) extremely educational. I'll let you decide just *how* educational...

We got to Canturbury, walked along the city wall, and made our way into the city to the Cathedral. We spent several hours in the Cathedral- it's marvelous, huge, beautiful, and more exclamations that I don't have available to me right now.

We made our way to a pub for a late lunch- and I tried more English fare. Lamb hamburgers! With mint sauce! wow... I think I'm gonna like it here...

We tried to make it to a couple museums; but everything pretty much closes at 4pm; and lunch took us to 3:45. So we walked around quite a bit more (I bought a scarf- I had left mine at home); then caught the train- this time to London.

The London Science Fiction club meets at the Florence Nightingale pub the first Thursday of every month- so we went. It was great!!! Good ale, good fen, and lots of conversation.

I learned here about Gordon Dickson's passing on the 31st. A glass was raised. Rest well, sir. You are missed.

Scott and Amanda Snyder had arrived during the day; they were there, and it was good to catch up with them. Since Scott, Amanda, and I were staying at Phil and Lissa's we all piled into the car to go home.

At the Tun (oh, yeah- the sf meeting is called the Tun; named after the first pub they met at, I think... of course the Tun is long gone, but its name lives on...) Scott regaled us with the tale of his new spiffy guitar case- the one that he can just check through as regular luggage. The airlines *have* to take it, because it is within their specs. Ergo, if it gets gunched; the airline is entirely responsible for the damage. Scott, Amanda, and I made plans with Bill and Brenda to go to Hastings on Friday on our way to the con; it sounded like a lot of fun.

When we got back to Phil and Lissa's I got to meet this "case". It's not really a case- it's a HOUSE! My god- you can drop this thing from a three story building and it will be the *sidewalk* that says "ouch!". It's... it's.. it's Nigh Invulnerable!

We all sat about just jabbering for a good bit. Scott and Amanda decided that they were too tired from the flight to get up early to run to Hastings; I decided that my funds had taken enough of a hit from two days of sightseeing that it would probably be prudent if I gave it a miss as well. As it was after midnight, it was really too late to call Bill and Brenda at Tim and Annie's house to let them know what was up; so we figured we'd catch up with them in the morning and let them have a romantic time alone in Hastings.

Friday, February 2, 2001

Well, we slept in until 11am. Got up, got in touch with Tim and Annie- and we discovered (to a bit of wry amusement) that Bill and Brenda couldn't get up, either- so we'd all be driving together straight to the con.

We showered, dressed, rested, watched several episodes of the Thunderbirds, packed Phil and Lissa's car, and waited for Tim, Annie, Bill, and Brenda to show up in the van (rented just for this occasion).

Drove to Eastbourne, taking a side trip to Hobgoblin Music in Crowley on the way. I'm beginning to get *very* enamored with mandolins... and they had some really sweet ones... *sigh*.

Got to the con; met up with Margaret Bumby and Clark Wierda, as well as Kathy Mar- it seems that about 10% of the con this year is from the US!

Caught up on the con notes (Thursday through now); and saw several concert sets. I saw part of Minstrel and Paul Bristow's sets; as well as the Taste of German Filk circle. Wow! I can't wait for FilkContinental- there will be *lotsa* good stuff happening there!

Met up with Ju and Katy, as well as Anka, Rika and Dave, Mike and Anne Whitaker, Kathy Horning and James Fulkerson, made the acquaintance of Lawrence Dean, began re-acquainting myself with Zander (I had originally met him at OVFF several years previously), met the Countess, met Franklin and Molly, more Germans, Rafe, Mike Richards, Miki Dennis, and more people than I can keep track of.

I wandered for a bit; and eventually ended up in the bar with Bill, Mike Whitaker, Chris Conway, Talis, Simon, and a couple others I'm probably forgetting the names of. It wasn't really a filk circle- we were rock-jamming. The TV was on right over our heads (with the sound turned down and the captioning on). We started doing G&S and Beatles renditions of the Robot Wars closed captioning (which was on at the time).

Retired around 4am.

Saturday, 3 February

I think that I may still have been a bit jetlagged; I slept right through breakfast (which is paid for in the hotel bill), Scott Snyder's concert, Lawrence Dean's concert, lunch, and half of the N'Early Music Consort set. dammit.

However, I do have to say that the N'Early Music Consort is kewwwwwlll!!! Finally!! A performance venue for Ed Stauff's arrangements- go buy their CD!

Attended much of Tim and Annie's and Barry and Sally's concerts. *happy sigh* I'm afraid that my description is kinda short here- the way I feel about these guys belies description. I mean, I *could* say *POW!* *WHAM!* BOY CAN THEY PLAY!!!! But, then, I'd just be understating the performances...

The WorlDream rehearsal session happened between Tim and Annie's and Barry and Sally's concerts- it went pretty well. At GaFilk and ConThirteena the rehearsal feels ok, and it's fun; but the energy seems to change entirely and ramp up once the tape is rolling. It's very difficult to describe... but it *is* an awe inspiring thing. I'll try to do more detail below...

The auction is a *lot* different in the UK than in the States. It's extremely fast paced; blink and an item that you want may be gone. They raised over £800; a new record!

The UK con has a thing called "The Main Concert". This is basically an open ended open stage- everyone gets two songs that wants stage time. I was told that this started with the first UK filk cons because there wasn't anyone there who had enough songs to do a full set- ergo this gave everyone a chance to have stage time. Yep- it goes on for 3-4 hours. But it was SO good!!! :) Scott and Amanda did Rudy, Bill and Brenda played, along with at least half the rest of the con!! I performed 'Journey's Done' and 'Believe'; I think that what I did went over ok.

Filked in open circle with Barry and Sally, Germanic type folk, Dave Weingart, and lotsa others until about 4am, then I decided that it would probably be prudent to head for bed (given that I had slept through breakfast, then forgotten about lunch and dinner; I figured I'd better get up to eat breakfast in the am....)

A late comment... During the most of the day, Phil Allcock spent the day in drag as 'Rachel' and took donations to help pay WorlDream expenses. He and Lissa raised £127 for this- which covered my hotel bills and some of my traveling expenses. You know, Phil, you really *do* have great legs... THANK YOU!!!!

Sunday, 4 February

Dragged myself out of bed just before 9am; and I got breakfast (yaaay!). They had fresh fried eggs, British Bacon (they don't believe in having fat on their bacon... it's *marvelous*); fried bread (toast, to those of us in the US), cereal, porridge (oatmeal), juice, etc. I stuffed myself silly.

I needed to get clean, so I missed Anke Teschke's concert. I heard it went well, tho. Sorry, Anke!!!

I did catch the last bit of Barry and Sally's second concert; and I really have to say that I don't care if I have to go to Britain to hear 'em (they live about 4 hrs from me); it was definitely worth the trip.

WorlDream recording.

wow. Due to time constraints; we had two runs at this. In the first one, Lissa Allcock sat down at the drum set to keep beat. We only had time for one run through and one recording run, but oooo did it sound good!!! :)

The second run was made after closing ceremonies. This was the first one that I used the coordinating tape I made in December; and the experience was... transforming.

Brenda Sutton played bodhran to help keep everyone in time. I have a click track that I made back in December, with a solo copy of me playing along to a metronome. I remember how I felt when I made that recording- a bit scared that I was making a huge fool of myself, the hopes and wishes that the WorlDream would go well, and the insecurities of the time all kinda wrapped up in that little sound byte.

That was going into my ears through the headphones.

Nearly washing out the headphones was a chorus of more than 60 people feeling together, connected with everyone doing this project over physical distance and time- their energy was impossible to ignore. I felt poised in a tunnel moment between the loneliness and doubt at the front end; and the fulfilkment of many at the other end. Gad- this is so inadequate. I could barely keep the beat steady. It was nearly impossible to hold back the tears, the gratefulness.. the *connection*... The Community... no longer alone... but remembering the loneliness...

See? It makes me incoherent. *sigh*

And from what I heard afterwards, I was *not* the only person to feel this.

So- if you participated, could you send me mail about what it was like for you? I'll post it on the WorlDream website so that others can see, too...

*shakes self* Hokay... back to the con...

After the first run at recording Many Hearts, One Voice I sat back and thoroughly enjoyed the performances by Phoenix, Talis Kimberley and the Mythical Beasts, and Zander's Just Plain Folk. I've pretty much had my say about Phoenix in the GaFilk conreport- funny that it hasn't changed in a month... *grin*.

The Mythical Beasts performance was every bit Talis. Sound reproduction was astonishingly good; there were several times I had to remind myself that I was listening to this live, and not on CD! Which just goes to show how much care and work went into Archetype Cafe, and it was well worth it. I thoroughly recommend flying to the UK if for no other reason than to hear Talis & Co. perform.

Now- that being said- Phoenix and Mythical Beasts are not necessarily known as being acts that are... *ahem*... difficult to hear.

However, *both* bands were to some degree hamstrung by a sound sensor mounted on the rear wall of the ballroom. This sensor picked up certain frequencies (like those made by certain parts of a drum set); and if it passed a certain threshhold, would shut down power in the ballroom for 20 minutes. The reason for this is that the Albany Hotel is on the waterfront in Eastbourne; backed right up against normal residences. The sound sensor is to keep the noise from getting too out of hand for the late night discos that used to be held there.

I could understand it if we were playing that loudly late at night. But this was in the middle of the bloody afternoon! *mutter, grumble, mutter...*

Just Plain Folk is a new group, and I have to say that I can't wait until they come out with a CD! OOOO!! :) Nice, tight harmonies; well executed and balanced; and very entertaining song/repetoire selection. Gee... just *another* reason to go back to the UK (as if I needed one...)

At the closing ceremonies, the various awards were given. I was *extremely* suprised to win the Sam for Best At Con for 'Many Hearts, One Voice'.

Wow- thank you....

We recorded Rhodri's song for WorlDream, as well as 'Sam's Song' and the second run at the 'Many Hearts, One Voice' recording. After this, things pretty much broke up into open filks for the remainder of the night.

Monday, 5 February

I managed to drag myself out of bed at 9am again; for another breakfast "That Just Couldn't Be Beat" (tm). From there, it was the normal heart wrenching good-byes. The German contingent left around 11am; and they didn't realize it but a couple of us were singing the Hockey Monkey song as they left... :)


Damn. Can we go back and start this con over? It was GREAT!!!!





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