In a rare synchronistic success, I believe I have timed my departure from the Sign of the Scalded Scrotum to perfection, since I calculate that by the end of this Friday evening I shall have consumed all the beer John had. Today has been a lazy one, rather like Sunday had been, and once again the best-laid plans of sorting photographs, packing and – er – writing trip journal instalments are pushed further and further into the evening hours as I slob around in my jammie bottoms. As my LJ namesake would observe, it hav all come to o.
I tooled around London a bit after leaving jamesb about noon Wednesday, and didn’t arrive back at John and Eve’s until about 4, too late really to visit mum that day, so I rework my plans and figure to go see her on Thursday, then head down to the Tun meet after that, which will then give me all day Friday to get sorted out and packed. I don’t need to go out gift-buying now on account of being close to skint.
I’ve been so happily impressed by what I saw as a little progress in mum over the course of my visits these last couple of weeks, so it was a bit of a shock when I got there Thursday morning and she failed to recognize me. I have to remind her who I am, but I whisper this into her ear since yelling at her might be a bit inappropriate. “Nicolas”, I whisper. “My son?”, she asks. Yes, it seems I still am. The rest of the conversation is as sadly predictable as the last couple have been. Almost every visit she’s mentioned how she hasn’t seen her friend Ruby for weeks (or months). My cousin actually arranged to pick Ruby up and bring her over there for a visit one time, but they told me mum didn’t seem to recognize her and didn’t talk to her the whole time she was there. Ruby hasn’t called since, though I wonder whether a bit of lack of sympathy isn’t half the culprit. After all, if I have to tell my own mother who I am, what chance does anyone else have? Add to this the fact that she really can’t see much further than the end of her nose, I can easily understand how someone who might expect to be recognized but isn’t, so sits off to the side without saying anything all night would get ignored. Having a snit about it isn’t going to help. I try to impress on mum that this will be the last time I’ll see her for a while, but that I’ll continue to phone every week as usual, so it will have to be lovely to hear from me instead of lovely to see me for the foreseeable future. I go over this a few times, and it really does seem as though she understands if you’re sufficiently patient with her in the conversation, but as I have come to realize, it’s quite likely that she’ll have forgotten I even came to visit by this time tomorrow. I spend a few minutes at the front desk on the way out, making sure I have the proper full address for the joint, and make a point of telling them that I am very pleased with the place and the level of care mum is getting. Turns out my cousin’s wife’s sister has a connection with them, which is how it was found, and quite possibly how mum got in. Very good, then.
Back to the train station with a brief stop to grab beer and a sausage baguette. My timing is getting much closer to the wire, as this time I actually see the train arrive and leave as I walk up the station approach, so I nosh my lunch on the platform in the company of Ian Rankin and Inspector John Rebus, who for whatever reason I keep visualising as Robbie Coltrane. I get into Kings X about 2ish, fire off a text to lproven, who proves himself a master of the obvious by noting that I am early. Remembering that I promised postcards to the lads still inside, I kill a few minutes by picking out some London ones at W H Smug, five or ten minutes writing them, and half an hour in the Post Office across the street (half a bloody hour!) waiting in line to get stamps to send same. This achieved, I tube it to Chancery Lane, and casually stroll along the general directions provided by swisstone, which prove to be not Oirish in any way at all.
The Melton Mowbray pleasantly surprises me, given some of the rather grottier accommodations the Tun meeting has occupied over the years. I especially enjoy the lovely-looking bar staff with tits and ballet shoes, though not quite so sure about the one with a dick and ballet shoes. I pass a more or less pleasant couple of hours with Guinness and tits providing the more pleasant parts and Ian Rankin providing some rather more ho-hum ones. I suppose my expectations were pitched too high. There’s really nothing wrong with the book at all, it’s just a decent average read.
The cellar bar opens at 6, I am told by tits and ballet shoes, and just before that I am outside for a smoke when I spot Brian Ameringen loitering with intent. We catch up for a moment then repair to the downstairs where the evening quickly gets into full swing. The generosity of the assembly proves to be such that my beer-buying is already over for the night, but not my beer consumption. I manage to chitchat with many, many old friends whom I haven’t seen for ages, some not since Tuesday in fact. Croydon crew aside, dougs and julia_winolj provide entertaining dialogue, and we recall a past Novacon where she was the cause of some serious scarification of my back. Several moments of fine conversation with the likes of Avedon Carol, Caroline Mullan, Roger Robinson, Dave Lally and others of what I like to think of as the “old school” are scattered at pleasing intervals. “Ish that who I think it ish?”, I slurrily inquire of a passing fishlifter, indicating a blonde vision which has entered my periphery. It is indeed seph_hazard, none other. “And there’s the New Future Of Fandom”, Mark remarks, pointing out johncoxon, “He’s only 18!”. “Ah”, I say, while thinking he actually looks 12. Old, old friend (and looking even older), Pat Lennon shares more than a few moments and we reminisce over old times and tattoos. I casually mention that I have, though perhaps a little half-heartedly, been trying to find our mutual friend Tara. Pat’s expression undergoes a full transformation from his usual manic grin, and before I have the chance to wonder why, “She’s dead”, he tells me, “Last year”. Apparently she’d been diagnosed with some kind of inoperable brain tumor (though I may have this wrong), but in any event was given 5 to 10 years to live. “She went 12”, says Pat. Stubborn to the last, I think. Except for the venue and circumstances, I would have said I was sobered by this news, but being a Tun the opposite is true. Tara had a main role in a piece I’d written in Arrows of Desire many years ago, confessing to incidences of unpleasant behavior on my part (and directed toward her). She also wrote a reply piece as a follow up. We had a drawn out and interesting relationship. These days I suppose we’d have been called “fuck buddies”, but the term wasn’t in use back then, and in any case doesn’t do the situation justice. In what was probably one of the more unusual untold episodes of my life, she once gave me a bj while riding in the top of a London bus and deliberately left her chewing gum inside my foreskin, which I didn’t even notice until later by which time it had worked its way out and generally made a mess of things!
Eve is now lurking on LJ as yvonne101, and I wonder what she’ll make of that when she reads that, by which time I shall have left her tender care. A pause here for infinite thanks to her and John for domiciling me for most of this visit and feeding and watering me so well. Friday night’s dinner was an excellent Thai repast of fish soup, chicken curry with rice and stir fry veg, and I am promised a substantial and traditional fry-up to set me on my way to Birmingham and ‘FarCon L’, as Martin Tudor has mischievously dubbed the Saturday party. My train leaves in a little less than four hours, so I had better go pack.