The train to London had just rattled through Woking when I heard the first report of the bombs at Wilmslow. Radio 4 switched directly into full panic mode and started 'phoning up anyone who had even heard of the place. By the time I got to Euston the BBC were warning of the imminent collapse of the railway system all over the country. On the concourse nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
It had been decided more or less at the beginning that the committee would have to be in Liverpool from the Wednesday before the convention until the Wednesday after. (This had been the largest single cost taken into account when I had warned the others that it would cost about £2,000 to join the committee.) My decision to take the train had come after hearing the planned route for the Mini-bus. I had defended my choice by citing a desire to ensure that we did not get stuck with all of us standing by a wreck on the side of the M6 but my real reason was a passionate desire to avoid 10 hours of petty squabbling and desperate camaraderie. Running the risk of being blown to bits by the IRA seemed a small price to pay. However being stuck outside Crewe station for a couple of hours was a fate to be treated with rather less equanimity.
Despite the frantic wailings of radio journalists the trip up was uneventful. I got excited at the sight of all the familiar places in the same way as usual and arrived at The Adelphi buoyed up and ready to do business. The revelation by the Desk Clerk that the people from the BBC were busy for the moment, that Barbara Pemberton was off until tomorrow and that given that my room was not yet ready they would be obliged if I could go away again for a couple of hours dented my mood slightly but I was still fairly bubbling when, expelled from the local equivalent of paradise by a chamber maid with an eternally burning duster, I sloped off down to the city centre for lunch. It is to this excitement that I attribute the fact that when I returned I was clutching a 12 CD set of Aerosmith's earlier works which my collector's instinct had ordered me to buy a Virgin on the simple grounds that it was 27% cheaper than at HMV. I hoped that I would like early Aerosmith.
By 15:00 I had got my room, discovered that cider was £1.20 a pint in the hotel's public bar (Friday's) and found both the people from the BBC and John Bark. The BBC people could have been hired from Stereotypes 'R' Us. Jenny the Assistant Producer who I never saw with an actual clipboard but seemed to have a permanent idealised one clutched to her chest, Neil the Director bespectacled slightly fey and a man I would have sworn wore a grey Levi's tank top although I doubt I ever saw him in one. Having failed to score lunch from these people I settled for a pot of coffee and John and I set out to explain why our initial reaction to a 'phone call from them had been sufficient to send the Producer's Assistant (not the same as the Assistant Producer) off back to cry on Chris Bell's shoulder - and led to a question from my work mates as to why I had yelled "Fuck, Fuck, Fuck" at my 'phone and then vanished for half an hour to the smoking lounge. Since these people were definitely going to be in the hotel for the duration, and for the following six months, it was essential that we reach an accommodation. This was aided by the fact that we knew precisely what they were up to and they had to guess what we were about. In the end we reached a modus vivendi by which they would follow members of staff around for the weekend but would not go near the Masquerade without further discussion. We would give them a chance to explain what they were up to to the membership. They would give the membership the chance to communicate with them by telling them to "Fuck off" if they didn't want to be filmed. They would go away and lay plans to film Chris Bell arriving. We would stay and finish the coffee. On the whole it seemed equitable.
The rest of the afternoon passed smoothly. John and I retired to Friday's public bar picking up Wilf James, the first of the actual membership to cross our path, whom we found standing in the foyer watching the BBC film a man on a platform cleaning the ceiling. In the course of a micturation hiatus I found the mini-bus unloading committee and luggage into the hotel foyer. Within half an hour the equipment truck materialised and immediately decisions to both to unload it and to leave it loaded were made and acted upon variously by travel weary convention runners. Those who chose to unload the truck proved more active than their opponents and eventually prevailed as the contents of the truck were decanted off to the Derby Room.
Chris Bell arrived at about 19:00. She did it again at 19:10 and once more at 19:15. Just a little off to the side of the revolving door Diane Wynne Jones and Chris's two daughters, Rachel and Rowan, watched. Eventually the BBC were satisfied and Chris was released just in time for me to hit her with our first hotel problem. This was to do with one of our Russian members who had been summoned from his room to join in what festivities we could muster and who was concerned about room rates as his sharer was not due to arrive until Thursday. Within minutes Chris had sorted it and the new party swelled the ranks of the old.