Thursday, February 26, 2009

Beer, Barroom Tales and Tanky Smith

There is nothing like a good reunion, and a gathering of the so-called Terror Scribes was long overdue. Time was, we hung out on the notice boards of a website called Terror Tales. Then the site finished and most of us lost contact with each other. Recently, through the dubious medium of Facebook, Sue Phillips brought us all back together, leading the way to a modest, and very enjoyable gathering in Leicester.
With a fair way to travel, I arrived on the Friday evening, booked into a rather quaint guesthouse called The Croft Hotel, and then went to a pub called The Old Horse for a meal (steak and ale pie, with thick chunks of steak - delicious!). The next morning I met John B. Ford and Des Knight at the station. Having left their bags in my room, we had a look around Leicester before making our way to The Landsdown. After that, it was like stepping back in time as people (some of whom I hadn't seen in years) started drifting in. Sue, of course, with her husband Morgan and their daughter, Tilly; Joe Freeman and his family; Rob Rowntree and Derek Fox; Paul and Colleen Bradshaw; Mark West, Emma Lee (one of my first facebook 'friends' , who I was meeting for the first time), Selina Locke and her partner, Jay Eales; and Allyson Bird.
Feeling adventurous, the Fordster and myself decided to sample a rather potent brew called Hoegaarden beer (of which one pint was enough, if we wanted to keep our senses!).
Then it was time for talking, either catching up or making introductions. In time came the traditional readings; first a story from Allyson, then Joe and Mark. I came next, and decided that a little gusto would be in order. By the time I'd finished, they certainly knew they'd heard a story;-)
Derek made the last reading, a nostalgic tale about teenagers getting to see their first 'X' rated film (Dracula) back in the fifties. As a writer, Derek has always managed to come up with a great turn of phrase, and this was a fun, entertaining way to close the reading session.
We spent a few hours catching up after this, then it was time for another tradition to be upheld; the visit to a curry house, in this case an establishment called Agra (the sign on the facade of the building being written in such huge white letters, I'd swear NASA could have picked it up with their space telescope!). A new place out to impress, it served up a feast, and my Chicken Tikka was so thick I could have stood my fork up in it. At the end of the meal they gave us a free Liqueur. Mark West was driving, so he pushed his glass across the table and told me to enjoy it. I did!
This was where we started parting company, and soon it was just John, Des, Mark and myself. So we set off up the road, where Mark had parked his car.
And this is where we encountered a certain Francis 'Tanky' Smith.
Not in person, you understand, as Tanky shuffled off his mortal coil back in 1888. But here was his legacy, written on a blue plaque. (City of Leicester, Top Hat Terrace ... built by ... Francis "Tanky" Smith (d 1888) ... Leicester's first Private Detective). The plaque went on to inform us ... (Each of the carved heads on the building represent Tanky Smith in one of his many disguises). And there were those carved heads on the building; the same face, but wearing a different hat. The image was so absurd, that we couldn't help but take the Mick out of old Tanky. So that's the secret of a great disguise? Just pop a different hat on your noggin and no-one will recognize you? We've certainly come a long way since the Victorian era:-)
Saying goodbye to Mark, I went to The Old Horse for a last couple of drinks with Des and John; there were still a lot of great times to reminisce about.
Now, the Leicester gathering of February, 2009, has become another of those great memories. Say what you will about facebook, it really does bring old friends back together.

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