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A brief trip to Tir na Nog (or one of those places)

August 20, 2019

Well, he said, I’m back….

Having gone not quite to the havens where you can set sail to the uttermost West but to somewhere adjacent I am back and Monty is clambering all over me in recognition of the occasion. Typing on this may be a little uneven as a consequence.

It was a mixed sort of a Worldcon with pleasant sentimentality, both personal and cultural, making it fun overall.

However it was a con where I had to recognise that my current physical limits are something I have to take into account. I should not have tried to be a tough guy and should have asked the committee for early access so I could get a hotel nearer the convention centre. After standing in line for fifteen minutes to get into a panel item, with my foot in agony by the end, and failing to get in after all that noble effort I went and saw the access team and they kindly said yes, I should have the privileges of the halt and the lame. I met a lot of new people with walking aids and in wheelchairs as we waited in line. One of the panellists on the ‘Player to GM’ panel turned up in a powered wheelchair the con had provided for him that very morning and there was nearly a nasty accident as he tried to manoeuvre it around the panel’s table.

I also re-discovered my tendency to panic when I think I’ve lost things: I wasn’t in the city centre five minutes before I’d lost both my way and all the documentation I’d printed out at home. I left both my iPads behind in one panel item and the nice young staff person seemed to think it was a bit theatrical of me. Well, that can’t be helped.

The con was only about a third of the size of LonCon at 5,800 warm bodies and it was stretching Dublin’s convention facilities to the limit as it was. The staff of the convention centre seemed a little stunned by our peculiar habits and semi-chaotic organisation but they rallied well and by the end were qualified geek wranglers all.

One lady suggested fandom might try buying a large luxury liner and using that as the semi-permanent floating site of Worldcons. Alas, LonCon went to 17,000 people and the world’s largest liner has only 2,759 rooms. I think taking over a small and helpless nation may be more within fandom’s capabilities and more likely to work, long term. (A Hugo winning short story briefly crossed my drunken mind at this point but is unlikely to get written: the customs and religion of said nation after several generations of serving the Wise Ones in their peculiar rituals would be remarkable though. Actually, isn’t this a GURPS Traveller supplement? The one about the Pleasure Planet?)

The people of Dublin were friendly and considerate. On one occasion I got out of the taxi outside the convention centre and my panama hat was blown high and far across the main road by the Liffey. A nice chap stopped his car to go and retrieve it and then handed it over to a lady who went and returned it to me. What a friendly city!

On the other hand I took a dislike to the herring gulls who were strutting everywhere and took a delight at shrieking near my window at dawn.

Dublin looks like they are attempting to build a modern European city atop the remains of a nineteenth century British provincial capital and though bits of are rather tatty there’s a feeling of hope about the centre of the town which I worry might be crushed by the idiocy of my own country’s rulers.

The city’s weather was weird however: shifting from icy cold rain to humid oppressive heat to blustery wind in an instant. No weather forecasts seemed to apply. One of the taxi drivers I rode with said that the weather had been ‘bloody weird’ for the past ten days or so. I told him I hadn’t done it.

(Apart from the guy who was listening to IRA rebel songs about how they humiliated the Black and Tans and the hanging of Sir Roger Casement all the taxi drivers wanted to chat.)

I gave in to temptation and bought a whole lot of book, mostly first volumes of series. I nearly did myself an injury getting my case home: why they didn’t charge me for the extra weight I’ll never know. Rob being blind was smarter than me: He went to the book rooms and scanned the lists of publications the various firms were providing so he could look them up when he got home.

It was a good con for the various panel items I was on. (I give only a qualified success to the LAUNDRY FILES game I ran in the con room: I’m fairly certain looking back I buggered up some of the rules.) However this meant getting up early most days of the con and that led to me going to bed early most days of the con. Another good reason for being closer to the convention centre if possible. I found the parties a little too much for me though the Dead Dog was a lovely pub meet with a lot of my friends there.

I begin to think that panel items are for appearing on not for watching though. I kept getting irritated at the low quality of some of the discussion and despite the occasional burst of brilliance I felt the ones I got to mostly just raised my blood pressure.

But there was a very funny panel game with Joe Abercrombie and some other very talented people under an incredibly funny quizmaster from Trinidad and Tobago. Chickens, vampires, genies and would you work for Skynet or join the Rebellion? (“Who gets the better outfit?”)

It was a bad con for looking in the con newsletter (THE SALMON OF WISDOM) and discovering that writers I liked had just died. J. Neil Schulman, one of the better of the wave of libertarian authors in the 80s and 90s went at only a year older than me. Barry Hughart, author of the exquisite BRIDGE OF BIRDS and its sequels, was a fair bit older. This made me glumly sentimental or sentimentally glum.

Josh and Lisa were about, pursuing their careers as insidious Masters of Fandom, smiting hip and thigh in the Business Meeting. Their triumphant progress was qualified by the referring to committee of the proposed gaming Hugo. (The Business Meeting did a lot of sending stuff to committees this year.) The provisional definition of ‘game’ is complicated and potentially philosophically interesting. They feel they may have to volunteer for the sub-committee. Poor them.

And I met up with Malcom who was a member of my Monday night group about twenty years ago before he moved to Japan for his work and then settled there. He told me about his life in Japan, his horrible journey from Japan which involved losing his luggage for about forty-eight hours (he swears never to fly KLM again) and the fact that he too got off the bus from the airport and got lost. Being healthier than me he managed to walk as far as College Green. We chatted about our medical issues s as aging gents do and we drank a little together. I said I’d remember him to the Monday night group. And I felt sad again, as we walked away from each other, that I let Mike Damesic down all those years ago.

Speaking of drink, the con bar had one decent ale that I only found on the last day. They had named the bar after Martin Hoare, a friend of mine from university who had been the beer guru of British fandom. It was odd to be in a bar with his name on it where there were no real ales in kegs and where at one stage they managed the feat of being a bar in Ireland with no stout.

As I took my last taxi back to the hotel I watched the sun setting, blue and grey and red, over the city’s modern buildings and felt so sentimental and content that I even forgave the ruddy herring gulls.

Random Worldcon thoughts:

In future book seats on the plane so your bad foot can stick out into the aisle.

I must take better care to maintain my caffeine levels at future cons. Starting to snore in the front row would have been more embarrassing if a friend hadn’t been sitting beside me to poke me in the ribs.

There was a rather tacky roadside shrine of Jesus displaying the Sacred Heart. Reading the inscription I saw it was calling down the blessings of Almighty God on the taxi drivers who used the nearby taxi rank and I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more.

Kari (who is a Respected Academic) thinks that the Bull Laudabiliter was probably genuine. Who knew? She also read from her upcoming novella about why Gaheris killed his mother.

Went away from the panel on THE THIRD POLICEMAN wondering if the theory of bicycle/Irishman interpenetration means that Irishmen in the forties habitually rode about the streets of Dublin in the nude.

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