St. Andrew’s Day

Today is St. Andrew’s Day, the national day of Scotland.

Image

For someone like myself who lives in Bristol, this means the endless search for haggis so I can imagine I’m somehow still living in Scotland rather than in Bristol far away from Scotland. So like many other ex-pats I’m stocked up on Irn Bru, Tunnock’s teacakes and Buckfast for the day ahead.

So all us Scots should wallow in a meaningless national day which is an excuse for yet another day of self-indulgence and drunkenness. This is how every day should be…

Happy St. Andrew’s Day!

Advertisements

The Rise and Fall of the Glasgow Comics Art Convention part three

Part one. Part two.

And here we are finally arriving at 1994 and things are all a bit odd, so stick with me as there’s a bit of background needed for this one.

I’m in another bit of a limbo situation after coming back to Leicester from working in Bristol for a bit, but I was still helping the lads out at London comic marts and it was at one on Sunday the 6th of February 1994 that Chris (one of the two owners of Comics and CD’s along with Marr for those who haven’t kept up) broke it to me that we’d be doing that year’s Glasgow Comic Art Convention (GLASCAC) next month & do I want to work it? Obviously the answer was yes, so I remember jumping back onto the bus back to Leicester to head to the legendary Pump & tap for what was my birthday drinking session. See, that’s why I remembered the date perfectly!, but back to the Pump and Tap..

pumpandtap

As it was a Sunday I wasn’t expecting a lot of people, but was nicely surprised by the turnout, but the most impressive thing that Amanda had turned up out of the blue. Now I’ll go into the full tale of Amanda and myself another time, but I’d admired her from afar for bloody months, if not years until one night I was in another Leicester pub (the late lamented Magazine) with my then landlady Kate for a drink and her and Kate got chatting while I was in the loo. I joined in the chat, discovered we got on like the proverbial house on fire and invited her down to the Pump for my birthday, which she did. As said, I’ll tell the full story of us another time but to cut things short we started seeing each other from the night of my birthday.

Groovy.

Fast forward a few weeks and I’d asked Amanda if she wanted to come with me to Glasgow, which she resoundingly said yes, but as we were both relatively skint I couldn’t afford the train, so got the bus, though she got travelsick in cars, so forked out for a train. This meant we had the situation where I left first to go to Glasgow, but Amanda would pull into Glasgow hours before me, so after a phone call to Andy Sweeney (one of the AKA crowd I’ve mentioned often before) I’d left it so that Andy would meet Amanda at Central Station (seeing as she had red dreads and piercings before such things became fashionable, she would have been easy to spot) and decant to a pub where I’d eventually join him. I’d also asked him if we could crash somewhere which he said he’d sort out.

With this all planned I started my long and painful bus journey to Glasgow on a clear spring day, while Amanda jumped her train to Glasgow, and in these pre-mobile days all we had was trust in people’s abilities so as my bus pulled off the motorway into Glasgow I hoped everything was alright. I hadn’t anything to worry about as Andy had excelled himself and rescued Amanda from the throngs of Central Station, but placed her in the care of Bridget, his partner of the time, and her sister Magz and her partner, Gary Erskine and few others. Andy had managed to get us a place to crash at Gary’s flat for the first few days, then the rest of the week or so we were there at Bridget’s which meant a flit across Glasgow but it made sense in retrospect as Gary lives a long way from where the con was being held, and Bridget was much nearer.

The plan for the first few days was to show Amanda the sights of Glasgow and then on the Friday, meet up with Marr and Neil (one of the remaining Comics and CD’s staff) at the Central Hotel (where Marr and myself had stayed two years earlier) on Friday to help unload and set up for the weekend. I’d also brought up a load of comics of my own to sell and I had a feeling Amanda and myself would run out of cash which turned out to be perfectly correct, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first few days were great as I showed Amanda around Glasgow, even taking her to Maryhill to show her where I came from which is the only time I’ve done that with a girlfriend. She also had to get used to Glasgow’s climate which at the best of times is erratic but in spring it’s all over the place so she got sun, snow, rain and hail all in the same few hours but walking through Kelvingrove Park in the snow was, and is a wonderful sight to behold.

Winter_Merriment_in_Kelvingrove_Park_-_geograph.org.uk_-_137713

In the evening we met up with Gary and Magz before heading back to their flat to crash as the next day we had to flit over to Bridget’s flat. This is when Amanda had forgotten to take her medication to had a wee scare which wasn’t helped by both of us being horribly drunk, but I managed to calm her down the next morning and we packed up our stuff from Gary’s flat and headed off to meet Bridget and crash at hers for the remainder or our stay in Glasgow. That was after another day going round the city, this time in the city centre where we got wolf whistled by builders near Glasgow Green for snogging. To this day this is the only time I’ve been whistled at by a builder.

Money was starting to get tight as we were in the pub or eating out or going around the city like crazed loons, but I’d told Amanda I’d make a mint off the comics I brought and not to worry and I suppose she had faith in me, so she went along for the ride. As the Friday dawned I left Amanda with Andy at AKA as I met Marr and Neil at the Central to escort them to the venue which was a hotel which is now a Jury’s on Jamaica Street, so we could unload and set up which was a bit of a task, but the three of us did it, and I went back to pick up Amanda from the pub she, Andy, Bridget, etc were in so she could meet Marr and Neil and get ready for the weekend, and of course drink more beer. She later said when we got back to Leicester that she’d never drank as much in her life up til then, and to be honest, it was a pretty hardcore week but overwhelmingly fun.

Bridget had kindly let Amanda and myself crash in her bed for the Friday by ourselves while she kipped on her pull-down bed as we’d left the pub early as we (I’d tried to convince Marr that Amanda could help up and she pulled an innocent smile which worked on him)  had to get up early on Saturday morning to finish setting up, plus I had to price up my comics (I’d brought up around 50 or so quality items) but Amanda brought up on the way back from the pub on Friday night she was down to a few quid and I only had a fiver and some change left so I really needed to sell some comics on the Saturday (we’d not get paid from Marr til the Sunday assuming we made our money back) and get us some cash in our pockets for the Saturday party at the convention hotel which is normally a wonderful affair.

I remember giving her my last few quid to get everyone some teas and coffees and then pricing my comics up in the hope they’d sell ASAP. As we were setting up Neil pointed out that Amanda was getting some attention from the other dealers, then I remembered that I’d brought a woman into the lion’s den and a female at a comic convention was rare back then. but one behind the dealers tables was virtually unheard of at the time. This however, gave us an advantage as once the doors opened and the fanboys poured in we noticed the fanboys would hang around our tables trying to cop a look of Amanda which saw Marr and myself drag Amanda into a serving position right in the middle of our huge amount of tables while I took my position at the end where my own comics were plastered on the wall display.

The con was busy, very very busy. In fact it was the busiest GLASCAC out of the three I attended, and like 1992 we were coining it, not to mention pissing off Glasgow dealers who were overpriced but pissed off at us selling stuff for cheap and in bulk though again, Pete Root of AKA took advantage of this to clean us out of some titles.I’d also sold a few of my own comics, and got about 30 quid in my pocket, and by midday that 30 quid had grown to 70, and I’d barely touched my pile of comics, so I was frantically replacing one comic I’d sold on the wall with another, and selling that. By one ish I’d hit 100 quid, and I told Amanda how much we’d made so bunged her 30 quid as she wanted to go back up to the West End to go round the bookshops for a couple of hours as the smell of sweaty fanboys was annoying her, and now the rush had died down the rest of us could cope with things.

That isn’t to say she hated being there, she was hanging round the bar with Andy and Bridget, and also she’d made friends with the Bastard Bunny table opposite us who were trying to convince her to do some modelling for their merchandise. More on this later….

The Saturday afternoon moved on and we were having a storming con. We were selling boxes and boxes of stuff which was great as this meant less to load up on the Sunday going back and of course, more cash in the till. Late in the afternoon Amanda came back after being sunburnt and caught in a snowstorm on the same day.

Ah, spring in Glasgow….

Once Amanda returned, I took the opportunity to dive into the bar for a few bevvies and to mingle with people, not to mention take stock of mow much cash I’d made which turned out to be quite a bit. In fact, if I ended up selling everything I had left at even half price I’d end up going home with more money than I came up with, so flush with this knowledge I necked another beer or three and headed back to our tables where Marr and Amanda were merrily chatting away and serving punters. Amanda told me she’d sold another 40 quids worth of my comics, so in that first day we’d made nearly 150 quid. Not bad for a days work!

The day drew to a close which meant heading back to the bar for a few more drinks, before getting something to eat (which considering how skint we were in the morning was an achievement) before heading to the hotel bar for a session. There we mingled with the stars, but it seemed to mainly consist of drinking an awful lot, which by now was taking it’s toll on Amanda who was ready to pass out.

See, this is the thing and the big difference between British and American conventions. In the US it’s all about the day, but here it’s about getting the day over with so you can get into the bar ASAP, and of course, sneak a session in during the day. It’s a hard regime which she wasn’t used to and seeing as Dez Skinn wasn’t going to, errr, let us use his hotel room, we headed back to Bridget’s flat to crash leaving everyone drinking heavily.

The next day was the last day which meant hangovers and the hassle of packing up. We prepared for this by having a wee wander through Glasgow in the early morning  on the way to the con and having a nice wee bit of breakfast by the Clyde, before diving back into the con for the last day.

Surprisingly for a last day it was busy, very busy. It also came as a surprise when I was told that Frank Plowright (the organiser) was thinking of knocking the Glasgow conventions on the head and that the following year was likely to be the last as it was too much stress organising two big conventions a year basically by himself which was and is, an amazing task.

That would set the tone somewhat for the rest of the con which turned into something like the last day of school with people’s trousers being stolen and nearly thrown into the Clyde (only returned after the owner had to pay a tramp two quid for them) , and other pranks galore. Mainly though it involved selling more comics, including selling everything I brought up which meant several hundred quid profit, plus whatever Marr paid me for the weekend.

In the meantime Amanda was still be lured by the Bastard Bunny people to do something for her, so I bought he a spiffy BB woolly hat, and we agreed we’d do something when we got back to Leicester and get in touch with them to see where we go from there. Before then we had to pack up which we did fairly quickly which meant Marr and Neil could head back to Bristol in good time, and Marr didn’t just pay myself but gave Amanda some cash for helping out which helped make a good week even better for her.

I’ve spoken before what the last day at a con feels like, but this was like the best party in the world and a wake at the same time. We didn’t want to leave. Seriously. If Bridget or Andy or anyone in Glasgow had said ‘stay here and leave your lives in Leicester behind’ we would have, and we actually discussed doing something like that, albeit drunkenly. But we didn’t so we just had a few drinks on the last night, before leaving early as we were heading back to Leicester the next day, which was probably for the best as we were getting too cosy in Bridget’s flat (plus we wanted our bed/s), so we said our farewells and slinked off because we didn’t want a big farewell, and we were getting a bit teary.

Next morning Amanda saw me off at the bus station as she was get the train back, which gave her an hour or so to say her farewells to Glasgow before getting the train which would see her arrive before me. We’d agreed to stay at our separate homes the night we got back but I swung by where she lived and that agreement went out the window.

As for GLASCAC, the 1995 con was the last one. I didn’t go, but I would return to Glasgow for that summer’s T in the Park festival, but Glasgow would be without a big comic convention for some time, but with the passing of GLASCAC a bit of comic history passed on. It’s not often spoken about now among the cosplay and nerd love of modern conventions, not to mention the fact most cons now do seem to be tied up with things outside comics which is a bit problematic for me, but then I’m old school. As far as I know this series of blogs are the only history of GLASCAC knocking around the net and that’s a shame so if anyone stumbles across these blogs who do want to add something, then feel free. I’d love it.

And oh, Amanda and myself did a series of pictures with her modelling the Bastard Bunny hat which means I fulfil the promise I made a time ago to explain the following picture….

amandadoh

There’s more pictures I could put up but I love that one most of all. It’s just fun and we had a great day doing those pictures. Pity we didn’t get round to sending them to Bastard Bunny for a variety of reasons but it felt like an opportunity lost, but then again much of that time felt like an opportunity lost….

Secret Origins part one

Image

Because one or two people demanded it! It’s the secret origin of me!!

I was born in Glasgow in February 1967. My parents were typically working class Glasgow folk but my father (James) was a protestant and my mother (Dorothy) was a catholic and both were married in the 1950’s.To most readers of this today this seems normal and why the bloody hell would I even start this post by bringing it up, but Dear Reader, this is important because this is Glasgow, and it’s the 1950’s. Sectarianism is rife and the idea of a mixing of religions then was seen as a dangerous thing and I’m really not joking about how badly treated people were for marrying outside their religion then in Glasgow.

Now I don’t know the full details but I know there were rifts in both families, but things were sketchy whenever I asked and considering the majority of my family on both sides joined in the post-war emigration to Australia I never got a chance to ask until I got out there when I was 16 and even then I was swiftly told it wasn’t a subject to bring up.  I got a few details from my uncle on my mothers side, but again things were left vague and it seems both my uncle and my mother had a falling out with religion at an early age, and my father never cared for religion of any kind in a fairly apathetic way so that’s a snapshot of how things were.

So my parents married, my father drifted from labouring work into  being a postie, while my mother stayed a housewife and here’s where the Red Clydeside stuff comes from as her aunt (and my great aunt) as she was one of the organisers of the rent strikes in Partick during the First World War. So there’s a vein of being fucked off and doing something about it in me going back a century and I’m a wee bit proud of this.

But anyhow, they had two boys before me, James and Steven. Then nothing for eight years and I pop along, followed by another boy, Francis, born a year after me. He was sadly a cot-death while we were sharing a room so even though I obviously don’t remember a thing, I still to this day have this awkwardness around babies and all that that unnerves me. The effects of this seeing as I was now the youngest and therefore seen as a survivor (these sort of deaths were depressingly common in working class families across the UK in the 1960’s and have been attributed to a number of things but poverty played a part) I ended up being not spoiled, but protected in a way other children my age weren’t.

I was also educated to a six or seven year old level by the time I started Primary school at age five. This is down to being taught to read and encouraged to read anything I wanted within reason, so this was a mix of Asterix, Tintin, Marvel and DC comics, horror novels for kids, books about films and especially horror and SF, books about history or anything. I would even sit as a five year old in the old library in Possilpark reading the newspapers even though I didn’t understand what was in them all the time, I was encouraged mainly by my parents to just bloody read.

Here’s a picture of the library I spent over a decade reading anything I could in. I believe it’s from the early to mid 80’s.

Image

This is the main entrance, and the road leading up the hill to the right used to lead to Possilpark Secondary school, so I passed this pretty much every day from 1979 to 84/85. I think I read every Asterix comic, every Tintin, every horror story compilation which meant reading a load of M.R James and anything about Hammer Films as the BBC used to show double bills of horror films on a Saturday night during the summer, which would mean them teaming up a classic Universal horror with a more modern film, normally something from Hammer, but often odd things like The Crazies which was my first exposure to American modern horror films.

So i wouldn’t say I was spoiled, but just a bit protected. Considering the area and the time it’s entirely understandable. It was shite, grim and living a fairly poor life was depressing as there was still a post-war mentality with my parents who were also trying to cope with the fact the 20th century had crawled it’s way to north Glasgow. This isn’t to say we were eating tripe and cardboard every night (only eat tripe once and that’s more than enough and even then my father sneaked off to the chippy to get us some real food half way through that experience) but we were skint constantly and not in this pseudo-Guardian reader type of skint where they didn’t have money to keep their horses, or they only had one holiday that year, but actually fucking broke. That said, we still lived alright. Money was found and like I said, my father worked stupidly long hours.

Most of this time we lived in Possilpark itself on Stonyhurst Street, though we’d moved from Maryhill around or before my birth, but it was clear by 74/75 the area was in steep decline even though there were strong families there fighting to keep it alive, the dealers had moved in and the first heroin addicts started turning up. Luckily my family knew a local councillor  who managed to pull a few strings and we managed to move to a nice house in Milton in 1975 sometime which was for a few years actually a pretty peaceful time. Milton at the time wasn’t that bad. It still had fields and we were only a good walk away from the outskirts of Glasgow and effectively the countryside. It was fairly sweet.

I still went to school in Possilpark and as I’ve pointed out previously I knew where in the city to get my hits of comics, so I was fairly content and being a kid I was happy as long as I had my comics, my dog (which we got when we moved) Doctor  Who, Star Trek and the odd fish supper. Ok, we didn’t do holidays apart from one hellish trip to Millport where it rained and rained and rained and rained and rained and rained and rained..

And there’s was Country and Western. Lots of it.

There was also the odd day trip to Ayr, or Largs or Edinburgh, but mainly life was spent in the grim harshness that was Glasgow of the 70’s. Sure it was a ridiculously hot summer in 1976 and yes, there were fun and good times but looking back there’s a melancholic air about everything we did as we were all struggling to survive which meant looking over our shoulders all the time. What joy we did have we grabbed, so that is either a hot summer flying stunt kites, or getting to see Scotland qualify for the 1978 World Cup, or just anything really.

Around 1979 things started going a bit wrong.  My oldest brother James suddenly went from being a fairly social person to being quiet and odd, while my other brother Steve started going to a local group of SF fans who met at the Wintersgills pub who had formed a group called ”The Friends of Kilgore Trout‘ or FOKT for short. It was here he met one of the organisers, a chap by the name of Bob Shaw who I’ve mentioned before and will mention a lot more of in the future. So Steve started hanging out a lot with the FOKT crowd and started becoming very involved with organising Glasgow’s SF Convention Faircon, which was held during the Fair Fortnight every July. They quickly became just an event for a hundred or so Scottish SF fans to something which attracted a national and even worldwide audience.

Things were also changing for me. I’d finished primary school and left Hawthorn Primary School to go to secondary at Possilpark Secondary. I learned a lot of things very quickly here, and it was an odd place with some very odd teachers, but that’s maybe for another time.

Which brings us Dear Reader to the start of 1980. Everything is sort of ok, but in 18 months time everything starts going very, very wrong…

But that’s Part Two of my Secret Origin….