Another Halloween tale…

A few years ago I told a wee Halloween story from my youth and promised to tell the story of the time I saw a UFO. This isn’t that story but it’s another wee Halloween story, this time from my time living in Nottingham in the early 1990’s and of either a drug-induced hallucination or a close shave with someone, or something.

Back in the early 90’s, Nottingham was an up and coming city. It was also a young city in terms of population but a very, very old city with many areas 5-10 years away from any sort of gentrification. For folk into the ‘alternative’ cultures available at the time, the city was a dream where one could indulge themselves to their heart’s delight, or indeed, any other part of the body that pumped blood.To aid with this, one would spend an evening at Rock City which back then, was somewhat of a free for all on certain nights, so nights would be drunken, druggy and messy. It wasn’t uncommon to leave Rock City attached to a larger crew after closing to end up in someone’s house to wake up hours later on the couch/floor/bed/wherever.

Basically just what you should be doing in your early 20’s.

One late autumnal Saturday night I headed down to Rock City having little to do after having done a comic mart that afternoon, so I went to see who was there. It was, as you’d expect, a messy night and various people were there doing various things in what was a fun night which when it came to 2am, most of us didn’t want to stop. One chap on the fringes of the scene invited a bunch of us back to his in Hyson Green which was near where I lived. From here on in I need to make clear names have either been lost to memory, or changed to protect the innocent.

The chap’s name was Brian, and he lived in a squat in an old Victorian house off the Mansfield Road. It was a fair walk from Rock City, so we headed off with the promise of drugs, beer and spare rooms to fiddle around with others in. To get to his place meant walking by the old Church Cemetery which even in daylight was a fucking gnarly place to walk by.

One of the other lads, Dennis and his girlfriend Denise weren’t too keen on Brian’s suggestion we dive in and drop some MDMA which he had on him. In fact myself, another girl Amy and her friends weren’t too keen on playing the Goth cliché to this extreme, so we convinced Brian to take us to his place as by now most of us were sobering up and it was cold, dank and wet as we hung around outside a cemetery arguing whether you want to go in it at 3am.

Eventually we hit Gregory Boulevard, which meant I was nearly home, but we trudged further up the road til we went past the Asda in Hyson Green, and entered a large house on a dark street off a main road. We got into a sparsely furnished living room but with just enough seats if people sat on various knees,and so it was that finally the booze and drugs were broken out of Brian’s secret stash. One of the other lads, Bruce, wanted to know if we’d wake anyone up but Brian said nobody else was in the house that weekend and in fact we could crash in the spare rooms, of which there was a few. as we discovered upon playing around in the dark old house which looked as if it’d been in a sorry state for some decades.

It was Bruce who found the basement. The stairs down to it looked like this.

The main difference being there was an electricity meter on the wall, and the steps led down to a large cellar. See, Nottingham is very, very old and as a city is riddled with underground cellars,caves and catacombs with many lost in time. This wasn’t the worst I’ve seen in terms of creepy chills but when you’re in a strange house on drugs and pissed the mind plays tricks and I’m sure things were moving down there in the darkened haze. I thought not to mention it in case I scared Amy who by now had linked up with me for a variety of reasons, but partly I presume to have some sort of protection from an increasingly sketchy Brian who was a changed man on MDMA.

As the night progressed and Brian became odder (not nasty, just odd) he insisted people crash in the house overnight, but it was bare, empty and cold not to mention when Amy and myself checked out one of the rooms it looked as if the mattress was overdue a letter from the Queen congratulating it for getting to the age it clearly was. Upon going back downstairs I suggested we leave and go back to mine which wasn’t too far away but it had things like bedding, warmth and a lack of an increasingly sketchy Goth who was now insisting we go downstairs to ‘check it out, man’.

It was Denis who was the first out the door. He’d humoured Brian and went down towards the cellar and who as we were coming downstairs, was making a sharp exit out, with the others closely behind them. Myself and Amy had Brian in front of us telling us to stay and chill, not to worry and yeah he was the only person in the house as I heard the door to the cellar rattle behind me followed by shuffling sounds on stone steps behind wood. Neither myself or Amy were keen on finding out what was coming up behind us, so pushing Brian aside we walked out into the vague daylight of a wet Sunday morning and made our way as quickly as I could with someone in high heel boots in tow.

As we hit the main road I glanced back to see Brian still standing at the open door and Amy was sure, positive even with the drugs and booze in her system, something was standing behind him that didn’t quite look right.

We ran as quickly as we good onto the well lit main road, and hastily walked to mine where we promptly got to bed and slept as soon as heads hit the pillow sleeping til the late afternoon of that Sunday. We didn’t actually talk about what happened til the next day when Amy asked if I minded going back to hers to grab some clothes so she could stay at mine for a bit and we spoke about it to her flatmate. She also vaguely knew Brian as someone on the fringes of the scene and in fact nearly went back to his squat until she felt something was wrong, and decided against it. That night we went into town to the Salutation to see who was there from Saturday night (in those pre-mobile days one’s social life was infinitely more random) but ended up in the Trip to Jerusalem after being told by the staff that’s where folk went.

So we met with people and told those not in the know what had happened. Denis was adamant he saw something, and I totally believed Amy saw something and I’m sure I saw something but we were all drunk, on drugs in a weird old house occupied by a weirder Goth. Basically we tried rationalising it and anyhow, next time we’d go to Rock City we’d probably see Brian.

Except we didn’t. The autumn turned to winter and while Amy went home to Liverpool for two weeks I bummed around Nottingham for a bit, before spending Christmas in Leicester and coming back for the New Year’s Eve all nighter at Rock City where I’d arranged to go with friends. It wasn’t a great night. One couple split up because both though they were shagging other people, which was true and both knew it, but the lie broke down that evening, while I was loaded with flu missing Amy who I’d now not see til the middle of January as I’d arranged to go down to Bristol and London for a bit to help a pair of friends out with a big comic con that was coming up so that night in the squat started to fade into memory as Brian passed also into local folklore, and seeing as he had no real mates, people stopped mentioning his name.

Then one afternoon shortly after my birthday in February I’d taken Amy into town for lunch and a trip to Selectadisc, while I sneaked off for a wee bit of comics retailing. We’d arranged to meet in the pub so I got there before here, bought a couple of drinks and sat down to read some comics while I waited for her to spend what money I’d given her on records. When she came in she looked whiter than usual for a Goth, and sat down to tell me that she’d seen Brian in Selectadisc but had tried to ignore him before he made eye contact and said hello. She asked how he was and what he was up to, so he said he was there to sell records as he was broke which was why we’d not seen him in ages. She also said he looked awful and that he’d clearly taken a kicking at some point recently but she said her goodbyes, and that she was off to meet me.

We thought his problem was drugs, serious drugs, and we’d probably not see much of him again. Except that night at mine as Amy was drawing the curtains she was sure she saw Brian standing over the road. I said I’d have a look when I dumped the rubbish downstairs in the bin, and he was nowhere near the front of the house but as I went round the back something was moving around which was too heavy for a cat or a fox, too heavy for the skinny Brian and anyhow, it had a shape in the neon streetlights that made me leg it quickly back up to our wee flat and lock the doors double behind me. Whether my imagination was playing with me or not, I wasn’t going to hang around too long to  see if things were in fact there and real.

That was the last time I saw Brian, or indeed, that something which seemed to follow him like something out of Poe or Lovecraft. I’d split with Amy in the messy aftermath of Glastonbury 1991 so there was nothing in Nottingham for me, and I thought moving back to Leicester was a good idea.

And I thought nothing of that night since except one time a year or so later where I took the bus to Glasgow, it passed through Nottingham and I swear I saw Brian sitting begging at the bus station with sad, dead eyes not to mention the suggestion of something just out the corner of my eye when I looked at him.

Next time I tell a story like this I promise it’ll be one of the UFO stories sitting in my memory bank…

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Go read my UKCAC piece in Fanscene #2

I’ve written a number of UKCAC pieces on my blog here. One of them has been slightly adapted for the second issue of the splendid fanzine, Fanscene.

The 50th anniversary mentioned is of the first British comic convention in Birmingham in 1968 which essentially spawned not just the British fan scene, but also the British comics industry. Every year since 1968 there’s been at least one large convention held in the UK,  sometimes these events were thrown together in the last minute, or in the case of today there’s at least a dozen or so large conventions with hundreds of smaller cons of varying quality filling up a busy calender but there’s no way this would exist were it not for the work done in the 50 years since that first con.

So, download the magazine here and enjoy what is a smashing good read.

Glastonbury ticket day tension…

Today was Glastonbury ticket day which is basically the day where my blood pressure goes beyond what my doctor would recommend. So from 9am today I logged onto the ticket website and was face with this which is a step up from the last few years I lived in Bristol and only got white screens:

Luckily over the years we’ve come up with a cunning planning that’s akin to as close to utilising infinite monkeys as one can get, except it’s people and not infinite. Thankfully the system gave me a ticket so I’m off again to the festival I first went to in 1992 but most folk ended up with this screen after 40 minutes.

There’s talk of making the system better, but few realistic options which would solve the issue of people missing out. The reality is there’s around a million people trying for 150k tickets all at the same time so demand has vastly outstripped supply, and with the 50th anniversary next year demand will mean even more stress as I’ve done the 25th and 40th anniversary festivals so it’d be rude to miss the 50th.

For those who missed out on tickets now, there’s a resale in April, plus dozens of options of working there. All I can say is good luck, but for me, I can chill out and prepare for the new Doctor Who

Remember Cyborg and Muton?

Back in the 1970’s Action Man still ruled the hearts and minds of boys all over the UK, and in the mid-1970s the only other real contender for the crown were the range of Mego action figures. I loved both as a kid but the other day I was tidying up my Ebay sales/purchases and stumbled down a rabbit hole to rediscover Cyborg and Muton action figures.

Produced by Denys Fisher based off a set of Japanese toys which in themselves were Japanese offshoots of the fantastic Captain Action figure of the 60s. Released to a pre-Star Wars crowd, the backstory for the set of toys was wonderfully dark even for those Cold War days of constantly worrying about nuclear doom.

The figures featured interchangeable limbs, as well as vehicles, and they looked like nothing on earth having been adapted from Japan which at that point, was still a relatively alien culture to Westerners.Had Denys Fisher used the toys as they were in Japan it’d have been a lot weirder for kids.

The toys didn’t do well, partly because that larger size action figure was relatively expensive and secondly Star Wars ruled all. Once that film came out nothing could stop it and it’s sales of merchandise outweighed all others so Cyborg, Muton and the lesser known third figure, Android, were swept away to become barely remember things of nostalgia in the 21st century.

There was a legacy. The figures were shrunk and renamed the Micronauts but that’s a whole other story…

Four years after Scotland fucked up

Four years ago the people of Scotland voted to remain part of the UK based upon a multitude of false promises, and in doing so Scotland lost all power it once had as no longer could it stand on its own but then the UK held the EU referendum where England and Wales voted to leave, while Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar voted to remain and now the Union stands ready to rip itself apart from its contradictions.

Barring the diehards, nobody pretended in 2014 things would be honey and unicorns upon independence, but the ability to shape Scotland’s future would be in the people of Scotland’s hands as opposed to whatever Tory or Labour PM who would see Scotland as votes and/or resources to exploit when they need to.Few expected a Tory victory in the 2015 General Election which meant few expected an EU referendum in 2016 and nobody expected us to be in the fucking disaster we’re in right now with Brexit looming and jobs, even lives at stake.

In short Scotland fucked up in 2014.

Some things were good. A creation of a genuine socially aware, progressive left wing grassroots movement which wasn’t hijacked by SWP types/snobbish lefties more interested in their own advancement/wankers was fantastic. Discovering the flaws in the media being another highlight. In fact much of the referendum campaign was artfully pinched by Corbyn’s Labour A Tory Party we can’t get rid of tha

But the last four years has been grim. A Tory Party we can’t get rid of and an official opposition too busy with cleansing itself to bother fighting the Tories, and of course Brexit which Corbyn clearly wants anyhow. So we’re left with Theresa May; a totally useless PM who sadly is the last thing standing against the far right of her party gaining control and power. Scotland lies in the middle of this all because four years ago it fucked up.

There is a mandate for a second independence referendum, and Nicola Sturgeon has been wise not to use it when it could have been easy to do so, but at some point this parliament it’ll need to be used and indeed, it could not just give Scotland a route out of the UK, but an end to Brexit itself in the aftermath.

What we have to do next is ensure we don’t fuck up ever again because the fact is Scotland votes to stay in the Union again and independence is over for generations.

Wax and wane

I am broken today. Two comic conventions in as many weekends and no break has pretty much outlined my limits post-stroke but thanks to events outwith my control I only have one more event this year before being thrust into the year 2019 where lots of things may be happening.

But the latest show I’ve done was probably the weirdest place I’ve done one in 35 years (and that includes nearly selling comics at Glastonbury) which was Mark Millar’s old primary school, St. Barthlomew’s, in Coatbridge. Upon driving to the school it dawned on me and my driver Jordan, that it was a fucking primary school, and that means everything in it would be wee, and of course it was. So big hefty units such as myself squeezed into tiny wee chairs meant for frames far, far, far younger than us. Also,we expected to turn up and for the dealers to be in a central gym or hall but we were strewn through the corridors of part of the school like discarded Panini World Cup 2018 stickers.

Luckily I ended up with a spare table, so managed to take over the end of one such corridor like this.

Plus I was positioned next to someone I’ve only spoken to online, so it was nice to put a face to the name and as the doors opened at 10am that was consolation for the fact nobody came to where we were. but with a wee prompt for the staff, and some carefully placed arrows, there were soon people coming up our alley for comic, and comic-based, delights.

And I ended up having more fun (while obviously making enough money for the day to not just pay for itself, but so I can put money in the bank) than I was expecting as it wasn’t just the faces that have become familiar to me over the last year, but loads of kids who were attracted by the impressive spread Mark and his staff had laid out with lots of guests like Frank Quitely, Leah Moore and cast members from Still Game and Burnistoun. Many of these kids had no idea what comics to collect having just come down to see what was going on, or come with a mate. I was taught years ago by someone wiser than me to encourage the kids because if you don’t, there won’t be an audience in the decades to come.

And that’s what made this event something a bit different, and a bit more fulfilling than just flogging comics to folk. Keeping the flame burning and passing it on to kids, boys and girls, was great but it’s worn me out . As for the show overall, it’s always hard to say when you’re stuck behind your tables, but people clearly enjoyed it and although there were problems (the cramped space being the biggest one, and although some of the issues were teething pains some things will need to improve if there’s a next time. Having a free for all for tables at a show where to be honest, too many tables were sold, was a big mistake especially when dealers left better positions very, very early in the day leaving some areas virtually dead)  I’d do this again next year.

But I’m done for now. One more show this year, which means I can regroup and plan out 2019 a bit better than just letting it happen and hope for the best which to be fair, is how I’ve led my life up to now but look where that’s led me!?!

It’s crap being disabled: Part 245

I’ve got some time off at the moment so I finished work last Friday and spent the weekend & Monday recharging as I’ve rather overdone things of late, and my doctor advised me to take some time to just basically relax. This means I’ve been catching up with things like Jessica Jones, Supergirl, Better Call Saul, and playing loads of God of War, and finally getting on with GTA V. If it sounds like I don’t sleep much that would be right. It’s been this way since my stroke in 2016 so if I get 4/5 unbroken sleep of a night then I’m doing good but this time off has allowed me to slowly start to recharge.

Today I popped into town to do some odds and sods at the bank and a few other places while trying as much as possible to have a wander. The problem about doing this in a city is bad, but in a city like Glasgow it’s far worse than it should be through a mix of stupidity, ignorance and idiocy.

.Glasgow has a good, effective underground system. The subway is often the quickest way to get round a city which is often gridlocked on the roads but there is no disabled access in most stations, and most stations don’t have escalators which go to the platform so stairs are the way in and out.

Today I thought I’d jump on the subway to the West End after coming out the bank. Getting off at Hillhead saw me confronted by hordes of people coming down the stairs slamming into me with their backpack because if you walk the streets with a stick or move with a wheelchair for 90% of the population you become invisible. After nearly being knocked over a few times I managed to get onto Byres Road by this point I was tired and fed up of being a pinball.

So today’s lesson is that if you see someone disabled don’t knock into them. Don’t pretend they’re not there. Don’t be a dick because you want to rush somewhere or you have no spacial awareness.

Now back to GTA V where I can imagine I’m laying waste to arseholes in the street…