Tuesday, October 04, 2011


The 2011 FantasyCon was held in Brighton during the middle of a heatwave, so it really felt like a holiday. This year, it was a time of strange experiences.

Strange experience 1; finding out that my room was a very odd shape, like a square turning into a triangle. The TV in the corner almost touched both walls, and I half suspect that someone built it as a rather spectacular jest and no one noticed! Still, it made for an amusing picture on the facebook page.

The Royal Albion Hotel is just across the road from The Palace Pier; which has some great places to get a meal, and so that was my first port of call (and by that time, I was starving, as I arrived at the same time as a coach party and was forced to queue up for 45 minutes to book in at reception ... with a great sense of irony, there was a notice on the door saying 'Staff Required'; with two young girls trying to book in more than a hundred people at the same time, I couldn't help thinking 'Yes, they're required right now!). Still, I can tell you that a meal of freshly cooked fish and chips, eaten on a pier whilst surrounded by a bracing sea air, tastes exquisite.
Strange experience 2 was a burlesque night on Saturday, with a chap called John Probert sending up a couple of old horror films (with his partner Kate) and introducing a number of dancers who stripped off to a blaring soundtrack (not The Full Monty, you understand, this was a family show - however, Led Zeppelin's 'Immigration Song' will never sound quite the same again!) They were lovely ladies, and the chaps in the front row (who I shall not name, lest I drop them in the proverbial with their absent spouses) were duly appreciative ... until, that is, a male stripper walked on and they proceeded to do a rather good impression of a row of goldfish! A memorable night in more ways than one. (Strange experience 3, of course, was the baking hot weather in October).
However, there was a snag; the hotel's air conditioning was practically non-existent, so we were less inclined to go around attending panels and events; and I was frequently drawn back to the pier, which had so many temptations (I really should have resisted the Belgian waffle covered in caramel, but the smell drew me to that booth like a magnet); and, unusually, I didn't go out for a curry. However, I did go out with Mark West, Stuart Hughes, Paul Edwards and his wife Mandy, and a chap called Richard on a search for food; on the pier, of course and we passed several good food outlets only to be tempted by a sign saying 'Pizza and a pint' outside Horatio's Bar... I think it's a given that we won't be partaking of the food in 'that' particular establishment again. Still, it filled a gap.
Sunday, and it was all coming to an end, so all that was left to do was enjoy a quiet get-together in the hotel bar before saying goodbye to the likes of Mark, Chris Teague, Steve Upham, John Travis (with that beard) Stuart Young (also with a beard), Terry Grimwood, Gary and Soozy, Simon and his other half Liz, and Alison Littlewood, who is now enjoying much-deserved success with her new novel (A Cold Season) due out in February (plus many more, who I'm sure will berate me for forgetting to give them a mention!) Next year, the convention is to be held in Corby, which sounds about as alluring as a soggy kipper - still, I'm sure that normal service will be resumed ... whatever that is!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


I am now in possession of a brand new passport. Ironically, it arrived a day after the announcement of the death of Osama Bin Laden. Why ironically? Because it reminds me why I got the old passport in the first place. It was the summer of 2001, my 40th birthday was coming up, and I had never been to America, something I had always wanted to do. So I decided to spend that particular birthday in New York. I sorted out the paperwork, and then booked up a short stay in The Big Apple (from the 17th of September). Of course, I never got there. On the 11th of September I drove out to Porthcawl for a bit of a day trip. When I got back, I had a phone call telling me to switch on the television. I hardly need to tell you what I spent the next few hours watching.

So the next day was spent cancelling the whole thing. The chances of getting to America any time soon seemed a little remote, but I was there just six months later for the 2002 World Horror Convention (in Chicago). Three years later, I finally made it to New York, and had a great time in a city that had really picked itself up after that terrible day. Now I have renewed my passport, and I'm wondering where the last ten years have gone; and, for that matter, why I didn't make more use of that old passport, which was only stamped three times in ten years; Chicago, 2002 - New York, 2005 - and Toronto, Canada, 2007. Well, I suppose we can't all be globe trotters, but given the cost of a new passport these days, I am planning to get plenty of use out of it during the next ten years.
Mind you, it has been pointed out that the weather, just recently, was a lot better here that in most other countries; which is true, but I am a sight-seer. Seeing the Statue of Liberty was wonderful, as was the view of New York from the top of The Empire State Building. In Canada, a visit to the Niagara Falls really made the trip; and although it was many years ago, I still remember sitting on a bench and drinking a bottle of Coke in the shadow of The Eiffel Tower in Paris. What else do I want to see? The Taj Mahal, The Great Wall of China, The Sphynx and The Pyramids perhaps? Well, I'm not getting any younger, so the next ten years will be as good a time as any to sort all this out; and after suffering a few health problems last year, this is my little bucket list in the making. Hopefully, I'll have quite a few adventures to look back on in ten years time.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


Banks can be a pain in the arse! So I've got most of my bills sorted out by direct debit, one or two others I pay off with my debit card. Naturally, I leave a healthy amount in my current account, which the staff were never happy about. "Rather a lot in your account, sir." ... "Yes, pays the bills." ... So, after brushing them off for years, they finally made it a policy that no-one could have more than two grand in their current account, and without so much as a by-your-leave the excess was hived off into a First Reserve account. Fine; they sent me another card, which I made a payment on. However, the next time I tried to make a payment on it, the bank wouldn 't cough up (as the bill was for my car insurance, they nearly dropped me right in it - luckily, I sorted out that payment with a couple of days to spare).

Of course, I went around to find out what was going on. Helpfully, they opened up a third account ... a Special Reserve. "When do I get a card?" ... "You don't?" ... "Huh? What if I have a big bill to pay? Do I write a cheque?" ... "Not for the Special Reserve." ... "Then how do I get to it?" ... "If you need to do that, see us and we'll transfer whatever amount you need into your current account." ... "Why not just leave it in there?" ... "We can't do that, sir; policy.
You see, The First Reserve holds the money and earns a few pence in interest, but you can get into it. A special Reserve account earns no interest, and is - in effect - an invisible current account; except, of course, you have to see a member of staff and ask them to transfer it into your real current account if you want to access it (Policy, you see!).

Jesus! Nat West. The bank that really likes to mess you around! There's a lot to be said for keeping your money in a mattress under the bed.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

An Invitation To Get A Life!

I am not on Twitter; I never have been on Twitter, and I never will be on Twitter. There, I've said it. How long that statement will remain true is anybodies guess, for I am now in possession of quite a number of things I never wanted in the first place. Five years ago, I was quite happy with five television channels; now I have around 35, but no greater choice of programmes. I resisted the Internet up until the year 2000, when the Millennium Bug never happened and I ran out of excuses not to go on-line. Now we have a world of Facebook-addicted computer geeks who can't drag themselves away from their laptops long enough to get out and enjoy the real world. I practically had to be dragged into the Carphone Warehouse when I first got a mobile 'phone back in 2002. It may be a good thing to have, but you can hardly have a decent conversation down the pub for people twittering, texting, or checking out their bloody facebook pages. Of course, I have to have the Internet, as that is where I am kept up to speed on conventions and such; but there are limits. I don't carry my mobile 'phone around unless I absolutely have to. I'm told that's what it's for, but I argue that I don't want to be on call 24/7.
Alright, I have a website and it's a good place to link up my on-line fiction and collect favoured sites and blogs together in a 'Links' section (as a short story writer, I obviously don't object to Internet magazines giving an extra outlet for my tales). But it's getting a bit much when people can't get through a day without their Blackberry's!
Still, the days when I would fight against technology are long gone, and a Twitter page is probably another of those things I'll end up with whether I want it or not (like my digital TV, which uploads new channels automatically - something I rarely bothered with when I had a now-obsolete digi-box, and had to completely reset it when a new channel came up!). It is said that newspapers will be obsolete by 2019 (in paper form - those editors and gossip columnists will still be able to spout their bilge on-line!), but let's face it, with 24 hour news channels, who needs them?
Alright, I'm making this rant on a blog page I've been maintaining for the last 6 years; and if you're reading it, you probably clicked the link on my facebook page; that irony is not entirely lost on me. And I will admit that my digital camera is a little miracle, enabling me to upload stuff on Youtube; so, not a complete luddite then. But when you're down the pub, would it kill you to switch off that mobile 'phone for a couple of hours? In my local, there's a sign inviting people to bring down their laptops and treat the place like an office. Frankly, I get pissed off with loud-voiced idiots treating it like a telephone box! Soon, it will be getting so you can't put your pint on the table for laptop computers. Still, the world and technology marches on. I can keep telling people to get a life, but with cellphones plastered to their ears and their noses glued to a computer screen, who is going to listen? It's 2011, and things can only get worse!
On the writing front, the year started with a publication of one of my stories on a website called 'Bewildering Stories'. Inspired by an old abandoned railway bridge in my village (and a few recent events) The Hidey-Hole (http://www.bewilderingstories.com/issue413/hidey_hole1.html ) neatly takes me into my 15th year as a published writer. I knew I'd find something positive to say about technology. Have a great new year.