Gideon Hallett (gmh) wrote in discworld_2010,
Gideon Hallett

Surfing the Cosmic Groove.

Where to start?

Thursday, when I arrived there?
2008, when I first agreed to be a Monk and then again for 2010?

(...1995, when I first delurked on AFP?)

The question is meaningless on the general scale or useless on the specific one. Anyway...

The last couple of years have involved a steady and ever-increasing stream of emails, minor tasks, administrative details and Things That Had To Be Done (and I'm speaking here as one of the lightweight members of the Concom; as a Monk of Cool, most of my duties were on the day and on the ground: I had it very easy.)

It is very easy to see the ranks of the Concom and see them as a horde; but nothing could be further from the truth; every one of the maroon shirts gave considerable amounts of time and energy in order to get the huge and multifarious enterprise of the Discworld Convention going.

Very few things work entirely as planned, and though this isn't always a bad thing, it is something you have to bear in mind when organising or running anything; no matter how well-planned something is on paper, in execution, things will go awry. You'll lose Bernard. The mikes will play up. You'll have to build the podium half the size you meant to.

And it's at that sort of moment; when things are suddenly off-kilter, pear-shaped or uncertain, that people and committees really show their quality and their belief in the Con. It should go without saying that I'm talking about the 2010 Concom here.

As for my Con...?

The last couple of weeks before the Con saw me juggling work, admin stuff, fencing and trying to keep up on email and make my Monks' robes for the Gala Dinner - to do this, I had to use a sewing machine for the first time ever!

(As such, I really didn't have as much time as I would have liked to do Guild documentation, but, well, it's history now.)

What I had planned to do, but never quite got around to doing properly, was to put together a backstory that I was part of the Sartorial Research Group of the Monks of Cool; to bring all my most distressing t-shirts, waistcoats, ties and hats, and swap them regularly throughout the weekend - the idea being the question 'how much in the way of silly clothing can a Monk of Cool wear before they cease to be cool?' - and the answer (of course) being 'Hey, I'm wearing it, therefore it is Cool!'. Due to packing time limits and the weight of my bag, the only thing I could really implement was bringing up my most eye-watering T-shirts and swapping them regularly.)

Finally managed to get things all done and ready only an hour later than we were planning to leave, got to Euston, met ruthi and jumped on the train. Got to the Hilton, dumped the bags, had a drink and then Went To Ops.

Much of the rest of Thursday was spent either hefting stuff around, meeting with my fellow Monks, or helping run clanwilliam's evil pub quiz. We stayed up, but only until 02:00 (getting old, y'see!)

Friday morning: meetings, errands and writing documentation - one of the documents I'd intended to write before but hadn't had time to was the Guild Deputy do's-and-please-dont's guide. In order not to stun the hapless Deputies with reams of small print, I condensed it all down to 5 sides of A4, printed it out and gave each Deputy one with their stickers. Also attended the Deputy briefing and Guild Fayre ( - which, in retrospect, suffered a bit from being quite so early and so far removed from the main Con space around the lounge bar; but that's for future consideration.)

After the Guild Fayre, more errands and then a quiet hour or so in the bar with burntcopper, cynicalcylon, ciciaye and others. Well, comparatively quiet apart from the raucous laughter.

The Opening Ceremony was over in an eyeblink; thence to Guild meetings and trying to get an idea of how things were going to shape up; a bit of Monkish concern between the size disparity of various Guilds and answering whatever questions we could. Ran errands and talked Monk stuff until Once More With Feeling was on, watched and sang along, then ran more errands before sloping off to the bar at about 23:00. Since the musicians had been moved to the Cavern, we went down there for a bit of a sing-song; and another three hours flashed by like a greased metaphor. When the musicians got too tired to play, we retreated to the bar, before retiring at, ooh, 03:30...

Saturday dawned: the day my malevolent plan to scar the minds of the entire Con would come to fruition. Muahahaha...

Well, it involved crawling out of bed after not enough sleep and stuffing my face with almost-but-not-quite the only food I had that day; hitting the trail down to Ops, checking up on errands, checking up on Guilds and rooms and anything else I could find; buying drinks for various dealers, saying a very glad hello to the wonderful and talented Graham Higgins, running around having a succession of five-minute or ten-minute conversations with various friends and then back to more errands. As the day went on, an increasing number of the Very Old Farts showed up to be in the bar; people from AFP back in the mid-1990s; it was really lovely to see them all in a Pratchett space again.

(That said: this Con had some wonderful and fun DWCon first-timers like irishkate (who I knew from Irish cons) and Arsheen (who was a total stranger, but decided she wanted to meet new people); it was also great to see old hands like felinitykat and the0lady there. And it was wonderful to see AFP-the-next-generation - and some of the kiddiwinks like drachii, knowitall_teen, beeblebug and doris_the_fairy - all of whom appear to have grown up surprisingly healthy and well-adjusted (even though they may now want to kill me for calling them kiddiwinks).

Saturday continued with more errands, more Guild stuff and more brief conversations; the daily routine of a Monk is so peripatetic that I eventually just resorted to taking my drink with me around the hotel. The Guild of Historians, Teachers and Archaeological, chaired by uitlander gave a fascinating show-and-tell on various ancient and mystical artifacts, complete with mandatory academic infighting over the provenance of the articles and their intended usage.

The Abbot and various Monks then sat down and did the first proper score tally over an hour or so; it revealed that the Thurgeonth were definitely a forthe to be reckoned with (unsurprising, considering things like Igor's Bethtiary, which was won by Barry Vaughan, who constructed a truly disturbing two-headed thing - see the picture on my Fotopic collection.)

At this point, the Maskerade was in full swing; I looked into the hall a couple of times, but it was really rather warm, so I elected to sit in the bar with sundry Old Farts and have a chat.

So, back to the Hedgehog Party; and, more specifically, to the sanity-destroying outfit I rigged up for it.

I think ciciaye and Terry are partly to blame for this atrocity; ciciaye saw my ShockShock costume from August last year and said I should bring it to the Con; but it was too obviously space-themed. Then came Unseen Academicals. And micromail. Bingo. So I decided to be a dwarf model (as everyone knows that models are tall and skinny, right?). Specifically, a dwarf underwear model; a fake beard, a clingy t-shirt, a steel butted mail vest cinched with a belt, and the Leggings of Ocular Doom.

(Just be grateful that I didn't wear the mesh t-shirt I showed off briefly on Monday; and that I wore swimming trunks to keep everything somewhat restrained. I'm just saying; it could have been even worse...)

(I may have mentioned an incident in which a friend's fishnets got caught in my spiky shoulderpads the last time I wore the sparkly leggings. A friend of mine very kindly provided me with this picture, taken just before the event in question. Er, yeah...)

I digress.

On the whole, peoples' reactions were everything I could have hoped for. There were people collapsing into giggles, people who sighed, winced and covered their eyes, people who just laughed like drains, and people who said 'phwoar!' or similar. Briggsy laughed, Colin grinned, and Peter told me I was a braver man than he. I did a couple of circuits of the bar, said hi to people and went to the Hedgehog Party, where I danced like a maniac and snacked on weird sugary things.

Of course, it's not easy to eat cake with a fake beard; so when I discovered that I could hang the beard off my belt, I broke people all over again, as it looked like an extremely enthusiastic merkin. Yup, it was all high-calibre humour and cutting wit that night.

Danced until 03:35, at which point the party wound down (after giving a giant birthday group hug to drachii); and we took the DJ stuff back to the Dysk (the big room). It must be said that shevek is a comforting presence on such occasions, as I wasn't the only person trying to talk to hotel staff about organisation and security and getting room keys at stupid o'clock while dressed in something that was decidedly unusual. Finally turned in at 04:20 and managed to remove the mail vest without disturbing the sleeping clanwilliam.

Up at 08:30 on Sunday, feeling more than a little sleepy, but not having any more time to sleep; forced breakfast down; went to Ops, ran errands, checked the Guild boards, said 'hi' to various people, dropped in on the Church of Om and then went to find silly_swordsman, marco_villalta and (a little later) burntcopper to prep for the usual 'How To Buckle A Swash' demo. Ran through the plans, learned the absolute basics of how to use a buckler, and managed to bugger up my left elbow in the process. Ouch.

Still, no time to stop; more errands, more walking around and more snatched five-minute conversations with people for the next couple of hours.

Thence to Morpork for the main event (well, I'm biased here); How To Buckle A Swash; the time when Orjan, Marco and I get to whack each other with weaponry of various sorts - ably assisted on this occasion by burntcopper - who, if not able to use a sword, is certainly able to pose with one. The whole thing went pretty swimmingly (I had to fight right-handed, which I don't enjoy as much, but heck, I'm lucky to have two sword hands.); we mucked around and sent the Hollywood conventions up and generally had a great time. A slightly unexpected mishap was Marco breaking his epee blade in spectacular fashion; but we easily filled up the time available and many people hung around admiring the swords for a good half hour afterwards (and then there was an impromptu photoshoot as burntcopper first got asked to do She-Ra, then started pulling poses that looked straight out of late-1980s TSR covers - see also the Elmore covers for Esther Friesner's 'Chicks in Chainmail' series.)

All huge fun, and I then retired to the bar for a rest and a lovely chat with petermorwood,dduane, ailbhe, irishkate, burntcopper and frostfox. And more to drink, naturally.)

Then: changing for dinner.

Time for me to get out my home-made Monk of Cool robe (i.e. Buddhist robes in black) and the shades.

...and head down to the Crowning of the Low King.

Which was clanwilliam, thanks in no small part to her campaign manager nwhyte (and her careful reading of what the rules actually said); she was duly sat on the throne before the gathered hall, adorned with so many symbols that she nearly vanished, and crowned with the hard hat and tiara of the Low King. Huzzah!

She then led Terry though to dinner, and the rest of us lesser mortals followed at a respectful distance. Dinner was the proper highlight to the day, and chance to admire all the finery on display ... and yet I found myself wondering what was going on outside the hall in the Rat Race, where watervole was running the entertainment in the Dysk; stalls run by various Guilds, dancing, music (including a number of great sets by Mr. B the Gentleman Rhymer!). Nonetheless, the food was great and a tribute to the effort put in by angua and mrscosmopilite.

Following dinner, we processed back to the Dysk, where there was general merriment going on; I hung around it for a while, and then sloped off to the Toast and Jam, where people were belting out various numbers with varying degrees of success - but no lack of commitment; and a quiet chat with caerleon and cynicalcylon on the terrace while we named the stars.

My contributions to the evening's music were just after the sound was turned off, so I did them unplugged (probably a very good thing for all concerned); Frank Zappa's 'Bobby Brown Goes Down', Flanders and Swann's 'Ill Wind' and Derek and Clive's 'Jump'. Again, we ended up vacating the room at around 03:00; we retired to the bar, where Orjan's son Ulfie assassinated me by dint of getting his sister Carmilla to hug me and finishing me off while I was distracted.

(Sneaky little whatnot. I was so impressed by his flawless execution that I waived the usual restriction on not assassinating Concom and agreed to be dead.)

A little more talking, a little more singing, a couple more photos, and bed at 04:30...

Out of bed at 09:00, the usual routine of a hurried breakfast and a good (if short) chat with djelibeybi and lewis_p_bear, then to Ops. Running some final errands, trying to get things in some sort of order, and then the 'So You Think You Can Do It Better' panel at 11:00. Not, it must be said, the most fun panel in the weekend, but it's important to be there and to listen and to take notes. So we did, even if it left me feeling slightly flat afterwards.

And then I remembered that the Seamstresses had asked us if they could run a competition to see how many people they could fit under a crinoline worn by glingle_feegle. Which they'd booked for Morpork, but Morpork was locked, so they did it in the slightly confined space outside Ankh and Morpork. Standing on her own feet, glingle_feegle managed to fit five people and a child under it, when someone came up with the bright idea of lifting her up on someone else's shoulders; and it was decided that this would better be done in the bar.

(In the meanwhile, we managed to fit all four Monks of Cool and Watch Commander Al under the crinoline!)

So ...up went glingle_feegle, thanking the powers that be that she was wearing trousers under the crinoline. And 15 people managed to stand under the crinoline.

At which point Terry walked past, did a double-take, and asked what exactly was happening in his 'you're quite, quite mad, you know?' tone of voice. He couldn't be persuaded to be concealed under the crinoline himself, but was present for a second attempt, at which a mind-boggling 23 people fitted under the crinoline. And one of them was Butcher; we're not talking about midgets here.

It was ten minutes of inspired lunacy, but ...a challenge was laid down to the other Discworld Cons around the world to a) beat that record and b) come up with new silly records. And the Seamstresses don't sound as though they intend to rest on their laurels; who knows where this one will go?

The Monks then adjourned to a quiet room to tot up the final scores for the Guilds. Which was very difficult, and a really close-run thing in the end. We had a hard decision to make, and I think we chose a worthy Guild at the end of it. Thus it was that, finally, on the fourth attempt, the Seamstresses broke their run of second and third places and managed to come out on top for once.

(It's also tough doing this to your mates. People do put a considerable amount of effort into the Guilds, and many of the Deputies are people we've known for over a decade. To stand up and say (effectively) 'sorry, folks, you didn't come first' is a hard thing; you have to trust your Deputies to be mature enough to taking winning and losing lightly.)

We passed the scores to natural20, then headed off to Morpork to debrief the Guild Deputies and ask their opinions on things that could be done better.

(That process is going on for a while yet, folks, and the Monks would appreciate your feedback.)

Following which, we had the Rocky Horror Discworld Show - which other people have described at great length, so I won't go into it overly except to say that Beth's rendition of 'Science Fiction Double Feature' was brilliant and Magenta and Columbia both shone at the Time Warp.

And then: the Closing Ceremony. The official end to it all.

The winners of the Guild Competition, who were visibly shocked at their victory, but also over the moon.

And the winners of the Maskerade, ranging from the toddlers to the grandparents.

And our moment in the spotlight; the Concom were called up onstage and thanked; natural20 was announced as the next Chair for 2012, and everything was wound up.

(And my sparkly leggings actually got mentioned in the Closing Ceremony! Result! *g*)

To my mild shame, I skived off the big clearup and took a half-hour in the pool (my only chance in the entire weekend, alas); bumped into a slightly subdued and hungover burntcopper, we then headed off to dinner with the Concom; a lovely meal, but I was continually fighting the urge to fall asleep in it, and the people around me were much the same.

Got back to the hotel, shuffled around like a zombie (no, really...), went to listen to Jacqueline's bedtime story (a slightly condensed rendition of Beowulf) and the Concom swapping tales until 02:00, then realised that sleep was finally coming to get me and managed to get to the room before passing out (just).

Got up at the shockingly late time of 09:45, headed to breakfast, and then to Ops.

Yup - Ops starts before the Con and finishes afterwards, folks; and they are the hardcore; the people who hear about events second-hand and emerge only when all their work is done.

Helped them with some final clearing up, and then sat in the hotel bar until 14:00, when we went with ruthi to get the train from Birmingham International to London Euston.

(Hardly the Grey Havens, but still a fairly poignant departure!)

It was fun. Let's do it again sometime.

In the meanwhile, sleep calls. Especially as I've just spent almost five hours writing this...
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