Photo of me and Rod Rees by Nelli Rees
Friday the thirteenth…
To be precise, Friday 13 December, 2013: Jan and I hauled two suitcases of Alchemy Press books down to London from our home in North Staffordshire in order to launch the signed, limited edition of Invent-10n by Rod Rees at the British Fantasy Society’s Christmas Open Night. Naturally we took other titles to sell – every penny helps with the Press’s finances for future projects.
For the train journey I took Regicide by Nicholas Royle as my reading matter; it is a story of identity, among other things. In it the protagonist, Carl, wanders strange, unidentifiable streets in London, streets that should be familiar to him.
On leaving the Tube at Bank we started walking down Lombard Street, which meets up with the Gracechurch Street/Fenchurch Street junction – the venue for the evening, The Elephant, is located in Fenchurch Street. Only, it didn’t happen like that. We ended up at Monument Tube station, emerging from King William Street. Further from our destination. At that moment I felt a little like Carl in Regicide. That should have alerted me to later events.
Anyway, we arrived at The Elephant with time enough to buy food – a half-decent pub-style burger. Sitting across the room from us were a couple of wide boys discussing their money-making antics – six grand in three weeks, one said. I imagine everyone in the bar could hear all this, including descriptions of police raids on their premises because of their dubious activities. Morons.
The BFS Open Night began on time and people started to arrive. It was a very pleasant evening, except for the lack of punters. We came to London from Staffordshire; people came from Derbyshire, the West Midlands, Berkshire, even Devon … sadly many of those we anticipated on seeing failed to turn up. I hope it was because of illnesses or prior bookings rather than apathy.
We sold a few copies of our books. Better yet, we caught up with some good friends, including Rod Rees (of course), his wife Nelli, plus Adrian Cole, Dean Drinkel, Gaie Sebold, Megan Kerr, Mike Chinn, Marion Pitman, Marie O’Regan, Paul Kane, Peter Mark May, Allen Ashley, Martin Roberts, Helen Hopley, Tony Richards and others … and a surprise visit from my brother Andy: Coleborns the elder and the younger, as Jan said.
I was asked to make a few announcements, which I did with a smidgen of humour; difficult because first of all I proposed a toast to the memory of Joel Lane. I also donated my last four copies of the Joel-edited Beneath the Ground (published in 2002 by The Alchemy Press) to the raffle. The book is officially OOP.
Everything was going hunky dory. We left the pub to get to the railway station in good time. And then things were no longer hunky dory. We arrived at Euston a few minutes after our train had left for Stoke. That meant a 30 minute wait until we could catch a later train – albeit one that terminated in Wolverhampton at around 2.15 a.m. – a mere 35 miles from our desired destination.
Joel Lane once described an occasion when he missed his last train and had to spend the night at Milton Keynes station. He talked about gangs of people coming and going, apparently selling drugs and sex. I’m not saying that Wolverhampton is like that – besides, they kick you out of the stations nowadays. Also, we’re too old for such dalliances so we took a hire cab for the journey to Stoke railway station to collect our car for the final leg back home to Cheadle.
But we couldn’t pay for and validate the car park ticket. The machine for doing that is inside the station – all locked up and in darkness. Our vehicle was going no where. So that meant another minicab for the last dozen miles home. We got back at around 4.00 a.m., tired and totally knackered.
Such excitement, such adventure, such an unexpected additional expense (yet to be calculated). But after all, it was…
Friday the thirteenth.