Unlike last time, basement_jax was just in the one show this year, though it was a biggie - The Rocky Horror Discworld Show had been looming for months, but the poor girl still hasn't learnt to say the N-word (nnnnnnnyes!).
Set off from London around 3, expecting the route via the M1 to Birmingham to take about 2 hours. Ha! Spent about an hour crawling on the M1 past roadworks (obviously no one wants to go anywhere on the August bank holiday weekend, so that's a good time to close off a lane or two!). Eventually arrived at the hotel about 6.30, checked in and found some food.
When we took our luggage up to our room, we found we'd been put in a twin rather than the double we'd booked, so we went and complained. Turned out that room had recently been changed from a double to a twin, but no one had told the computer! We got an upgrade to an Executive Suite for the inconvenience - although we later discovered this didn't include access to the Executive Lounge. Oh well.
First night entertainment was the Pub Quiz, featuring a special grilling of the ConCom Chairman. We teamed up with Scouse Mark and Cal and several others, and came joint third. Back in 2006 I entered on my own and won. They drag me down... ;-)
Then to the bar and a brief singalong with st_lemur, caerleon, lasayla and others, and so to bed.
After breakfast we went and registered, and collected our free gifts of two books each from the selection of translations. basement_jax got Good Omens in Italian (Buon apocalisse a tutti!) and a collection in German called Tolkiens Erbe (I think this translates roughly as Tolkien's Legacy) including a piece by TP. Opting for languages I understand a little, I got The Colour of Magic in German (Die Farben der Magie) and The Dark Side of the Sun in French (La face obscure du soleil).
As there were no programme items before lunch and Jax had a rehearsal I retired to our room for a read, had lunch and a look round the dealers' room, then we met up again for Desert Island Books, with contributors including megamole and watervole. I shall have to check out Charles Stross' Laundry series, Lois McMaster Bujold's Sharing Knife and Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana, and perhaps even John Forrest's History of Morris Dancing 1458-1750.
This was followed by An Afternoon at the Morpork Palladium, for which basement_jax had prepared her song A Babe They Called Carrot (TTTO the theme from Life of Brian). Not many other contributors, but Tony and Elaine and lasayla all chipped in.
After dinner was the opening ceremony, in which we learnt that Terry is suffering from sword envy, as Stephen Briggs has the sword of Inigo Montoya, and Brian entreated us in verse to Go To Ops. Then Terry's (and Rob's) Bedtime Stories featuring excerpts from Terry's WIP Snuff. Not much given away in terms of plot, but it's a Vimes book. And so to bed (via the bar).
At breakfast we were herded into a different room from the mundanes, where less choice of breakfast items was offered - no fried eggs! We grumbled.
Jax had rehearsals all morning, so I was on my own for four hours of consecutive programme items. Lionel Fanthorpe's Miscellaneous Unsolved Mysteries included the fascinating tales of the Glozel Tablets (including his encounter with their discoverer), the mystery of Rennes-le-Château and the Oak Island Money Pit.
Then came Ian Stewart with The Deterministic Monkey Theorem; this was about very large numbers, chaotic systems and probabilities, and revealed that the idea of an infinite number of monkeys typing out the works of Shakespeare in fact goes back to Cicero (only with letters thrown on the ground and the Annals of Ennius).
Then an interesting talk on the history of money, The Banknote and the Billiard Ball, by Richard Artley (aka Sir Joshua Lavish), followed by Technology and Magic with Jack Cohen. This was about the way things don't always work the way you think they work, focusing on his research into IVF - the purification of water by distillation which was actually working by exposure to light, the volume of the uterus which doesn't match the anatomy textbooks, and the race for sperm to reach the egg which isn't a race.
That took us up to lunch, which imaginatively offered exactly the same menu as the day before, and after that was the interview with The Man In The Hat, joined by Stephen Baxter to discuss the Long Earth project. Speaking as one who has wished for a long time that TP would turn his hand to SF again, I'm looking forward to reading this next year.
The main event of Saturday evening is of course the Maskerade. Pat Harkin (quack) was MC as usual, with opening and closing acts by the legendary Davina (the backless Terry costume will require industrial quantities of brain bleach, I fear), and half-time entertainment from the candidates for Low King. Detailed reviews are up elsewhere, but there was a worthy Best In Show in ssirienna's Departure Aria. Poor Herr Kartoffelpuffer!
After that we looked in on the Hedgehog Party (we appear to have missed gmh's sparkly tights) and the bar, but bed soon beckoned, for lo, there were rehearsals in the morning...
The grumbling had evidently worked, as there were now fried eggs at breakfast, although we still weren't allowed to sit with the normal people.
Jax went to rehearsals and as, unusually, I was up at this ungodly hour, I went to the Church of Om. Very silly indeed. :-)
After lunch (same menu again) I went to Jos's talk on knots - from the mathematical to the nautical - and then we met up again for the start of the charity auction. We stayed until Adora Belle Dearheart's boots came up - but Jax was outbid - and then went for some anecdotes from the inimitable Bernard Pearson, followed by Jack & Ian on Farewell Fine Tuning - an excellent talk debunking the idea that either the Universe or the Earth is suspiciously well-adjusted for the production of life.
Then it was time to get changed for the Gala Dinner, to be preceded by the coronation of clanwilliam (for it was inevitably she) as the Low King, a ceremony which bore an uncanny resemblance to Double Or Drop from Crackerjack (All: Craaaaaackeeeerrrrrjjaaaack!!!), complete with cabbage. Jax was pleased with all the compliments she got on her outfit, with the corset she'd had made to measure and the very special boots. We were less pleased with the queueueueue for drinks beforehand and the sloooooooow service at dinner. Food was reasonable, when it eventually arrived...
After dinner we went to the Scone and Jam and sang along for a while, concluding with the by now ancient and hallowed tradition of a rendition of The Internet Is For Porn. And so to bed, for it was the Big Day in the morning.
The day of The Rocky Horror Discworld Show began with a good omen - we were allowed to sit with the norms for breakfast again. Then, while Jax went off to the final rehearsal, I went to see Jack & Ian again, talking about how they came to write the Science of Discworld books, and hinting that there might possibly be a fourth one somewhere in the pipeline. After lunch (same menu for the fourth day running), it was time for The Show.
Well, everyone seemed to enjoy it, from which the cast and crew deduced that they had Got Away With It Again. The show was so popular that they actually closed Ops so they could see it! As a hanger-on I shall leave reviews to those less biased, but suffice to say that Jax and Ptim were up to their usual standard, and Richard eclipsed his 2008 CMOT Dibbler with a bravura performance as Vetinari/Frank - just staying upright in those shoes surely deserves an award! Special congratulations also go to John Hicks for wrangling the whole thing (skull ring, remember?) and to Liz Macmichael, the evil genius whose idea it was.
After the show there were photos and drinks in the bar, including a highlight of the weekend for me - an impromptu a cappella rendition of Science Fiction Double Feature featuring yours truly along with cast, director and one T Pratchett!
Then the closing ceremony, at which Brian revealed the chairman for the next con - Brian! Clearly a glutton for punishment. After prizes and applause the con ended with an ancient and hallowed tradition imported from the Wincanton events - the ceremonial valediction from the Cunning Artificer himself, Bernard Pearson, of "Piss off!"
As we were not in fact pissing off until next morning, Jax and I went out for a curry, and then came back to the bar for a couple of drinks before bed.
A lie-in for once! We made it to breakfast about 10 o'clock, then it was time to pack up. One last round of hugs and goodbyes, a good run back to London, and it was all over for another two years.
All told a good weekend, although some aspects of the hotel's service could have been improved. Also given Jax's inability to say nnnnnnnnyes, and the effect on her nerves, it might be preferable if next time the play isn't a special, one-time-only, never-to-be-repeated spectacular special event. I mean, no pressure... :-)
Next time I must do what I said I'd do last time, which is learn some songs and bring some instruments. Also talk to more people!
See you in 2012!
X-posted to my journal.