CYTRICON 3 - 1957
CYTRICON 3 - 1957
THIS WAS KETTERING -
(First published in PLOY 10, September 1957.)
Some people, like Ron Ellik, can write conreports by the handful covering many aspects of the thing, often from different and. contradictory viewpoints. This is a trait and ability I envy sometimes, but I can’t really write a complete con report unless I’ve got something to gripe about.
This isn’t saying that Kettering was an out and out perfect gathering - it wasn’t. On the other hand, it wasn’t trying to be anything more than a get together, a fraternal flocking of fen. As such, it succeeded very well.
Rusty (my redheaded wife) and I planned to leave East Raynham in Norfolk, on Saturday morning, but on Friday evening we kept asking ourselves why we didn’t leave immediately. Couldn’t think of any good answers, so we loaded our suitcases and then the car and off we went.
A short note on English roads to those who are innocent. There are never (hardly ever) any signs directing you to a number of towns. No indeed. All you can do is get to one town and then the sign tells you the next town. If your maps or navigation is in error: too bad.
Fortunately, we had only one error in navigation and it only cost us about 15 minutes. This is pretty good, actually.
We arrived at the George Hotel at 10.35 or thereabouts. We dropped our things and headed for the residents lounge, copies of QUELLES HORREURS 3 at the ready. We looked in and found a number of people calmly talking and sitting around. We wore about to excuse ourselves and leave. This was no fan gathering. No yelling, no strange costumes, no liquor bottles sprawling about.... when someone noticed our fanzines. We inquired and sure enough it was a fan group. After this we felt right at home. I recall some discussions with Eddie Jones on artwork; and there were Norman and Ina Shorrock, Archie Mercer, Eric Jones, Dave Newman, and assorted others. In a few minutes, having mentioned that I liked strong drink, I was holding half a water glass of rum and rather enjoying it.
The tape recorder was going and I heard Boyd Raeburn being soundly answered and reprimanded ((Editorial Note: Boyd sent the Liverpool Group a tape criticising their pronunciation of the word "Ghod" in their tape-play LAST AND FIRST FEN)) He was also introduced to that infamous expression D-----t N--o.
The various events of the evening are difficult to place in chronological order, and indeed, might have happened on some other evening or day, but who cares?
In the Devil’s Kitchen (so named for its statue of the devil and assorted infernal devices, including man traps. There is also a weird looking thing that Rusty thought was some terrible instrument of torture. I tried it, and it turned out to be a device for opening the windows) we drank tea and coffee as served at all hours by Bill, the genial waiter.
I was also an innocent coat holder in a ferocious duel between Bennett and Shorrock using stamp tweezers as weapons. And so on and so forth. Rusty got tired and so did other people and they drifted off to bed.
Being a serious student of games, I was interested in a game called Brag that the English fen play. Ron Bennett and Norman and Ina Shorrock began my education. At first (deuced clever of them) I was an easy winner but this was not to last. Things kept getting worse and worse and when play halted at 4.30 am, I found myself loser to the extent of about twenty-two shillings. Ron Bennett made Brag history by taking in a pot total 4 pounds and 17 shillings on one hand ((Editorial note; This included a dollar bill, a Penny Black and a couple of pounds sterling))
After a hearty four hours sleep we had breakfast and Rusty and I spent some time touring the local antique shops. After exposing one of those dealers as a fraud (who does he think we are, stupid Americans?) we returned to the hotel and found a party of fen - Wild Bill Harry, Bennett and Mercer - preparing to go out and have some lunch at a cheaper price than the hotel. The Redhead had had enough walking so she decided to eat in the hotel with Ina.
This was just as well, because it requires a brave heart, dauntless stamina and a strong stomach to eat at the cheapest places in England. Here begins a digression. All fen who approach the shores of England: BEWARE! The food is terrible, awful, miserable, nauseating and generally lousy. And there are few Englishmen who will disagree with this. Restaurant owners operate on the idea that they are doing you a favour by waiting on you. While eating at a restaurant in Southampton (the most exclusive one and supposedly the best) I decided that I would like tea with my lunch. Now, this is not a terrible or unjust request; nor does it involve much effort on the part of the. restaurant. It consists merely of putting a couple of tablespoons of tea in a pot, adding hot water and presto: tea, and a satisfied customer. The waitress informed me that tea was never served with lunch. I pleaded and begged, but to no avail. Finally, I was told "It’s something you’ll just have to get used to." I was beginning to froth at the mouth and Rusty barely refrained from committing murder. Imagine! England and no tea! Later I found out that, a few years back, tea had been rationed and it had become the custom not to serve tea for lunch. I got my revenge by not leaving any tip. That’s something the waitress will just have to get used to!
So it was rather fearfully that I accompanied these stalwart adventurers, knowing full well that my stomach could not endure what theirs could. The first place we looked into was a fish and. chip house. I choked back my revulsion at the sickening odour exuding from the place and gritted my teeth. If they could take it, by Ghod, so could I. Luckily, they couldn't take it and we moved on.
We finally settled on a place to eat and went upstairs to the first floor and took a table next to the window, looking down on the street. We wore handed a menu that was barely decipherable, scrawled as it was in pencil on a sheet of grimy paper well stained by mustard, ketchup, and. several less recognizable liquids. After much deliberation, I picked cold ham and chips (french fries) and tea (because less damage can be done to tea). We settled down to wait and more fans came in, including Dave Newman, carrying several bottles of beer.
After a while, the meal arrived and was not too appetizing. The chips were inedible; this restaurant had discovered a way of making tea undrinkable; and the sugar had a fuzzy, hairy thing in it, roughly resembling a spider.
To make matters worse there were two old women sitting across the street in another restaurant eyeing us in a peculiar manner. It is bad enough being a fan without people staring at you. In retaliation we stared back and later, all waved in unison. This had the desired effect. The ladies looked insulted and elsewhere.
We finished the meal somehow and went downstairs to pay the bill. Ron Bennett mistook a little coin box with something on it about donating to crippled and blind children for a slot machine and dropped a penny in it. Discovering his mistake he endeavoured to get back his penny. We were there for fifteen minutes shaking the box and twisting it. A small crowd gathered in awe, several offering suggestions. At last Ron remembered his stamp tweezers and managed to extricate the money with no further trouble.
On the way back to the hotel, we visited a stamp and used magazine store called The Collectors’ Shop, and began wildly sorting thru piles of magazines. After finding several things I wanted, I asked the proprietor if he had any Edgar Rice Burroughs books. From behind a cabinet he produced a small pile of them for my inspection. Among them I found. in fairly good condition two copies of JUNGLE GIRL, a book that, in the U.S., I’d never managed to find and that I’d seen advertised at fabulous prices. Trembling a little I asked the proprietor what they wore worth. got them for l/9d (less than 25cents) each. I have one of them for sale at the same price I paid for it - 25 cents - plus four dollars for handling and wrapping.
Back at the George Hotel, Rusty told us about the wonderful meal she’d had, complete with three courses for the same amount we had paid. We looked at each other a little sheepishly.
Next time I checked I found myself listening to Sandy Sandfield rending - err - rendering Good Night, Irene, complete with guitar accompaniment.
Plans wore made that night to meet Eric Bentcliffe, of TRIODE fame, at the railway station with glasses of beer. I wasn’t on hand to cover that event. Rusty and I decided to lie down for an hour or so before the evening’s party started and, when we awoke, it was 4.45 am. I dressed frenziedly and rushed up and down corridors searching for the carefree sounds of fanactivity. All was serenely silent. What could I do? I went back to bed.
That day, Sunday, included some Brag (Rusty joined me among the ranks of the losers) in which Eric Bentcliffe won an alarming amount of money. We heard the sterling production of LAST AND FIRST FEN on tape. It makes you proud deep down inside, to be a fan. Eric bought us all dinner out of his winnings.
There was a party later on in which Peter Reaney was tried for that most heinous of all crimes - failure to consume alcoholic beverages during a convention. Punishment was a tall glass of rum, to be consumed at one drink. Reaney accomplished this and then practically passed out, though Ted Tubb assured me that it was well watered. Eric and Margaret Jones busily managed to record the trial of Reaney with Dave Newman as judge, Ted Tubb as prosecutor and various others as jurymen and executioners.
Ken Slater, only huckster present; managed to get Rusty and I off alone and sold us some smuggled U.S. magazines.
About this time a certain fan managed to earn the PLOY award for outstanding service to fandom by concealing Sandy Sandfield’s guitar.
Party like madness prevailed until early a.m. Newman discovered the madness of opening warm canned bear that had been carefully shaken (by yours truly). There was assorted bopping going on to the tunes of Little Richard and Elvis Presley. Some people became interested in other people’s wives; a few people tried to commit suicide; and others got drunk. Truly, a fan’s convention.
Next morning we left, taking Ron Bennett along with us.
Total commentary on English fandom: it’s practically impossible to tell it from the U.S. variety.
(Jenrette was a US fan in Britain with the USAF.)
OH MY HEAD
(First published in TRIODE 11, August 1957, and assumed to be a parody or even pastiche of current magazine wit and humour.))
My dears, I went to Kettering again. But Kettering! I should have known better.
I arrived at 11.30 a.m., after getting up at the crack of dawn, but the positive crack, darlings.
Have you ever gone out at half past seven to catch a nine o’clock train ? The streets! Positively deserted, darlings, and by no means properly aired. And half way there, in the train I mean, I woke up and there was Sandy sitting in the same compartment and holding hands with a negress. He was telling her all about the beauties of the country. You know, my dears, all those trees and things in between the stations, like Kew only bigger.
And the line! My dears, the girl was enthralled! And when I said "Good morning" she looked at me, but positive daggers, my dears. What I could have told her, too. Oh, that man. he’s a menace. Then everything went sort of dark and I was being chased by little red negroes in diving suits and all with beanies and Jet Morgan zap-guns and yelling "Kettering for the George"!
One of them put a supersonic shaker on my shoulder and said wake up stupid wake up, and I did, and I was standing on the platform with Sandy holding my bag and his and kissing this Jamaican girl and for some reason I was shouting "Porter, porter" and someone came up and. put a foaming tankard in my hand and said one and ten, please.
So we got into a taxi and went down to Memphis - sorry, that’s Betty and Dupree one can’t always tell, can one? Sandy told the man to drive straight into the George and he did and have you ever tried to climb out of a taxi stuck half way
through a bar? My skirt caught round the beer pump and as I wasn’t wearing any I had to cover my embarrassment with my hands. As I drew my dignity around me I heard gentleman remark in detached and academic tones: "Yes, one can tell with blondes, can’t one?"
My dears, there was worse to come. I left Sandy to pay the taxi-man and went to reception. I got one. Joyce Poyton waved exquisitely manicured nails within an inch, no less, of my nose and said, "No 13, and leave Dave Newman alone this year."
Darlings, I fled. In my room came the first ray of sunshine that day. This year I did not manage to drop my lipstick down the plughole.
When I got downstairs again everyone had decided to go shopping, so I borrowed 10/- off Dave just to teach Miss Poyton that I wasn’t scared of her. Sandy was the first to buy something, he went into a manshop and came out with a cellophane envelope. Bill Harry immediately bought a balloon on a stick.
Now, darlings. As soon as Sandy’s back was turned Bill picked his pocket. He opened the envelope and brought out a pair of men’s briefs in pink crimped nylon. And. so neat! Darlings, I wanted to trim them with black lace, there and then! Bill tied them to the balloon stick like a flag and we all marched. down to Woolworths singing When The Saints Go Marching In. Honestly, darlings, the way people stopped and. stared and formed a line down each side of the pavement one would have thought something out of the ordinary was happening. Then everyone went and bought sun-glasses and Little Richard records.
On the way back we stopped and looked in a magazine and joke shop and a big hand suddenly appeared in front of us waving something dazzling. So we put on our sun-glasses and the colours quietened and. became a book with "Mad Strikes Back"on it. So we struck back and ran, leaving Dave to pay for the window. Later welearned that he and the shopkeeper and the shopkeepers insurance agent had allworked it out between them. After lunch I had a bath. Isn’t it nice, darlings,when you’re tired and the water’s warm and you can just see your body through a mist of dissolving soap and you wonder what men see in it and your knee are two islands on a sunny sea and the boat’s rocking gently and your eyelids sweep down....then a storm blows up and splashes you and suddenly there’s Sandy and Ina and Norman splashing water in your face and shouting pull for the shore sailor it’s dinner time.
You know, darlings, things like this always happen to me.
And they’d disturbed. me just because they wanted to make Eric Bentcliffe an apple pie bed. So they went down to the receptionist’s desk and. Dave made eyes at her while Ina purloined the key. Weren’t they naughty, dears? While this was going on I got dressed. and took the apples down, Darlings, we hatched. the most delicious plot. All the girls were going to make a fuss of Eric when he came, and sit on his bed. so that he wouldn’t notice we’d turned the mattress upside down. A box-spring mattress, dears.
So after dinner, they met Eric at the station and escorted him to his room and. followed the plan, only to find that the chambermaid had turned the mattress right way up again! So Norman took Eric down and got him drunk while we did it all over again.
Afterwards we went down to the bar and oh those heavenly men! They kept buying me drinks and. looked so hurt when I refused, darlings, I really couldn’t. I mean. Well, one can’t, can one.
Then we went into the Basket Lounge to watch people being invested with the Order Of St. Fantony and darlings, the vests were all too short. Sandy sat at the back making sardonic chords on his guitar. One day, darlings, I shall kill that man. If everybody else doesn’t get there first. They quelled him by putting a chair on his chest and all the Cheltenham girls, such nice girls, darlings, sat on it and sang the Volga Boatmen.
When the ceremony was over, they were silly enough to get up and let him get to the Punch. It was a poach punch, darlings, and Dave Newman made it and one positively floated, dears, I mean. Well, Sandy started singing the blues and people were jiving then I noticed that Ina’s twin sister had arrived, and they were dancing together in perfect step, dears, they even walked together.
Then Eric The Bent seized and whirled me round and round and Sandy was singing "..and the black’ll stick by you when the yella throws you down.." or something and darlings they did and I couldn’t do except kick them away before they tripped me.
There was Joyce gazing with big blue eyes at Sandy while he sang and holding Dave’s hand a lot higher then her waist and they wrapped themselves round Sandy’s head and he didn’t even notice. I laughed and laughed.
Just then I saw Eric holding the wall still, so I went to help him. We’d just got it nice and steady when someone said, "Look at that drunken bitch," and I stood on a chair to see who they meant, and darlings, they all were except me!
So I decided that such an orgy was no place for me and asked Eric to tuck me up.That’s all he did, too.
And, Oh My Head....
(Assumed, in the 21stC, to be London fan Sandy Sandfield)