So after twelve months of hard work the event is over. The thank-yous are said, the guests take a final bow and we whisk them back to the hotel. Now, at last, we can start to relax. In the past forty-eight hours I’ve caught hardly any sleep, eaten hardly any food and made hardly any sense. But the adrenaline keeps me ploughing on and into the after-show party.
During my early events at the Cavern we would all head back to the hotel bar and stay up drinking with any guests who were staying the night. At the first Cavern event we’d invited Eugene Washington, who was a rather nice-looking chap, and some of the female stewards took turns sitting on his knee. Luckily our contract didn’t allow him to claim the cost of the dry-cleaning back from me; we were in the red enough on the booze alone that year.
A few events down the line we started to get more structured. At my first convention at the Fab Cafe in Manchester I had organised a host of comedians to perform at the after-show. It is an open secret that comedians are all massive nerds, and so I was able to persuade them to give up their time for free in exchange for free tickets to the convention. The format was that they would all do fifteen minutes’ stand-up, and I roped in Mark Strickson to MC. I persuaded him to do this by offering him free drinks, and the MC got ropier and ropier as the night progressed. Fortunately the comedians were not only coherent but sparkling, and most of the guests stayed on for hours. Probably the best after-show idea we’ve ever had! At the end we partied what was left of the night away on the dance floor, apart from Mark Strickson, who spent it on his bedroom floor where we left him shortly after midnight.
I think this was the after-show party where we found a guest’s bag lying anonymously in the street and managed to get it back to him. He had no ID in the bag but fortunately we were able to match it to him using the prescription for haemorrhoid ointment in the top pocket.
Obviously moving our events from the big city to our little suburban idyll has meant a big change in the way we do our parties. For one thing the drinks are cheaper; but now I’m married and doing events in my own time, I am more sensible, and so we tend to book restaurants instead of discos. For example, for our Hoylake event our good friend Alex hooked us up with the back room of a restaurant run by his mate Kuki, a mad chef who makes Basil Fawlty look like a Zen Buddhist on Valium. Messrs Colin Spaull and Mark Strickson came with us, and Kuki the mad chef feasted us with paella and showed us his wine cellar, complete with magic bottomless wine glasses. Unfortunately, my husband and I had to leave the party early at 3.00am, leaving Mr Strickson alone with Kuki and his cellar. I still don’t know what happened to Mr Spaull, but we found out the following morning that Mr Strickson had managed to navigate his way to Huddersfield by 8.00 in the morning. Fortunately this was where he was supposed to be, but how he got there remains a mystery to us all. My husband Allan, however, did not wind up where he was supposed to be; he woke up some hours later to find himself in a hen house. Waking up, still drunk, to find yourself eye-to-eye with a bemused hen is an experience he heartily recommends to anyone seriously considering rehab as a lifestyle choice.
Conventions are run on a tight budget, particularly charity ones where you look to channel every penny you can back into the fund for donation. Consequently entertaining your guests is an expense you pay out of your own pocket. For this reason I was very happy to find, for our second Wirral event, an Indian restaurant where you can bring your own drinks. After a cracking event, most of our guests were heading home rather than staying overnight, but we took a small mob out to eat including Colin Spaull again and Toby Hadoke, who had guested for us as an interviewer. We were served by the owner of the restaurant, who I was delighted to discover was the grumpiest, surliest man in the history of fine dining. He shouted at Mr Hadoke for trying to order a side dish while he was writing down the main courses. Possibly the owner’s mood had not been improved when he saw us all crowding through the door with a bottle of wine in every hand.
He was to be disappointed again the following year, when our second Great Grape March of Hoylake saw us head back to the same restaurant grabbing bottles out of a car boot on the way. Terry Molloy, Bernard Holley, that ever-reliable Mr Strickson and Simon Fisher-Becker were all pressed into service as wine coolies for the evening, lugging many litres of Aldi’s finest amnesia juice down to the restaurant. Mark Strickson in particular took umbrage at the owner’s sullen countenance and had his revenge by hiding dead wine bottles all over the restaurant in an effort to keep the man up all night searching for the last of the empties. Fortunately there were no problems ordering this year, as we all ran our orders through Terry Molloy and not even ratty restaurateurs will shout at Davros if they know which side their buttered chicken is buttered.
On this occasion we succeeding in getting back out of the restaurant relatively unscathed and headed back to the hotel bar to try and finish the evening off in traditional style, i.e. unmanageably sozzled. Bernard retired and Terry went to party with some friends from Regenerations. At some point we also lost Simon Fisher-Becker, who is not a big drinker and prefers a decent night’s kip, which left us and Mark Strickson to carry on hitting the bottle.
As we sat there chatting away we noticed we were attracting a lot of attention from some young ladies at a nearby table. They were there as part of a wedding party and seemed particularly drawn to Mark Strickson. Emboldened by wine, they came over and, to our frank astonishment and Mark’s, asked if he was Mark Strickson. Fortunately, even three in the evening, this was a question he was able to answer. It transpired that the girls in question were Doctor Who fans and one was even named Tegan; when we reminded her that Mark had travelled in the TARDIS with Tegan there was nothing for it but autographs and selfies all round.
This convivial namedropping was cut short by a rude interruption by another member of the wedding party. An older gentleman in a white jacket, who had until now been standing quite peacefully by the bar, suddenly took it upon himself to collapse spectacularly to the floor, glancing his head off the foot rail and knocking himself unconscious in the process. As he lay there quietly bleeding, I suddenly remembered that I had spent about ten years working in an A&E department, so while Allan rushed out to call the hospital I went over to try and make the poor fellow comfy. I gave him the basic emergency treatment and he came round, so I stayed with him holding his hand and talking to him while we waited for the ambulance. When he was wheeled out the family kindly bought me a drink to say thank you.
The next day the family came over to thank me again for my prompt action, and we said a very friendly goodbye. It was six in the morning, the sun was dawning outside, and we still hadn’t gone to bed. When the family left Mark Strickson said to me, “They were nice. What was that about?”
We went to bed. Well, Allan and I did; Mark slept on the bedroom floor again.