The plane from Aberdeen to Bristol feels like it's been made by sticking a pair of wings to a small wardrobe. It's like jumping back in time to when kids used to fly for free and I'd accompany my father on trips, sooky boiled sweetie for take off and landing to stop your head exploding from the changes in pressure, the roar of the engines... Only difference being that when I was four-years-old the seats actually fitted. Now I'd need several limbs removed just to get into mine. And I wouldn't be able to stick them in an overhead storage locker after they'd been hacked off either, because there aren't any. A further blast from the past comes when the stewardess handing out the soor plooms and barley sugars pauses to wish each and every one of the twenty people crammed into our Ikea flat-pack wardrobe plane (some assembly may be required) a 'lucky trip'. Eh? Somehow that's not very comforting at twenty past six on a Thursday morning. But then, given the landing when we finally get to Bristol, I can see why it was necessary. The woman sitting opposite me lost fillings.
Because I want to get a bit of a feel for the place (and I'm stupid) I decide not to take a taxi from the airport straight to the hotel. No, I'll take a bus into the centre of town and walk! Experience the sights and sounds of sunny Bristol. And I have to say that a lot of the buildings are spectacular, sandstone confectionary, sitting cheek and jowl with but-hole-ugly concrete and brick. So I walk, getting increasingly confused by the fact the map I downloaded for finding the hotel bears bugger all resemblance to the ones Bristol City Council have dotted about the place. Presumably to take the piss out of idiot crime writers.
It takes a while, but eventually I find the hotel. Hot and knackered (me, not the hotel) I stomp up to reception, where I am confronted by PEOPLE! Well, three of them anyway. One is Sarah Weinman who eyes me suspiciously, then lunges in for a hug and a kiss. Having got up at half four in the morning, spent a couple of hours wodged into a noisy sardine tin, then tramped the length and breadth of Bristol, the only thing I can do is mumble, blink, point to the reception desk and sneak away before she goes in for a grope. Well, you never can tell with these American types, can you?
The other two people are Al Guthrie and his lovely lady Donna -- and it's from her I get the best advice of the whole conference: the sausages at breakfast are really good. A fact I confirm fifteen minutes later, having rushed up to my room to unpack, stared blearily at my reflection in the bathroom mirror -- wondering when I became such a fat bastard -- and headed down to the dining room for a HUGE fry up.
There follows some protracted hanging about in the bar, talking rubbish to anyone daft enough to listen, lunch with Diminutive Rude-Monkey Rickards and a random nutter (who wants John to understand that the wage bill was huge, but he wasn't supposed to know about it, but everyone would get paid, before lurching off to find someone else to harass). John tells me that he's a freak magnet. And looking at him I can believe it.
Apparently someone left a message for him at reception -- an unmarked note with his name on the front and 'YOU SMELL OF WHELKS' on the inside. He tries to pin the blame on me, but I deny everything. Though I have to admit the note-writer has a point: there is a faint mollusciness about him.
Afterwards it's time for my first panel: 'Cops and Cons'. It's up against 'Plotting Away From Home' which suffers from the aforementioned freak magnet and his odour de whelks. So if you felt the unconscious desire to go see stinky Rickards instead of lovely me, you may want to book an appointment with your therapist now.
The panel goes OK, but little sleep and other such excuses prevent much in the way of bearded sparkle. Though I do make several 'red leather thong' references, and ask H.R.F Keating if he's ever posed as a nude centrefold. Surprisingly enough, he doesn't take me up on it.
Thence to the bar for beer and nonsense with the usual bunch. Plus Mr Guthrie, who goes into this deep and philosophical discussion about anal stopwatches, necropiscefilia*, being t-total and eating fish poo. I don't know about you, but if ever have to eat fish poo there better be a hooring amount of alcohol involved. But then, that's what happens when you come from Orkney I suppose. He's a nice guy: the sort of bloke older women want to mother and younger ones want to stop sniffing their bicycle seats. Plus he gives me some damn fine pointers on screenwriting. Bwahahahaha... one day I shall take over the world.
But after that it just degenerates as Alex Barclay goads everyone into a late-night spiral of drink and giggling. And some singing. And then slopes off to bed, leaving idiots like me to keep the barman busy till two in the morning. This is to become something of a habit.
* I made it up: I can spell it how I like.