Four: Friday 15/07/2005

Sunday, 24 July, 2005

We go to pick up Kathleen from the airport. The trouble is, neither of us have been to the airport at all in Melbourne. Anita has given us clear directions however and we successfully avoid the Citylink freeway.

When we get there, of course we drive into the wrong lane and cannot park so we have to go around again. Melbourne airport is very strange: it has three wings that go Domestic, International and Domestic again. I realise I have absolutely no idea what airline Kathleen flew with. Luckily she SMSs me while we are standing in line to buy another McDonald's breakfast.

It is always a little odd to try and find someone you've never met face to face before in a crowd of people but somehow, using my vague memory of a photo that Deb once posted on her blog, I manage to spot Kathleen near the Virgin Blue carousel and she, simultaneously, spots me. We drive her back to University College, get her some keys and show her around. Both of us have no idea what to do next except for some vague notion that we ought to have a go at catching a tram in this strange city. The tram stop is close by but the tram pulls up in the middle lane. I am not used to the geniality of Melbourne drivers who respectfully stop behind the tram to allow you to cross their lane to get to it. It also amuses me that the symbols for prohibited behaviour include the one on the right:

Tram sign: no indecent language

I make the mistake of talking to tram driver who tells me that my NSW concession card is unacceptable in this state and that I need to buy my ticket from the machine halfway down the carriage. Oh yes, I forgot, no one talks to humans anymore. As we have no idea what a Citysaver is and what it does, we each buy a 2-hour ticket and alight on Bourke St in the hopes of finding an elusive Metcard seller who will let us purchase a weekly (I vaguely remember Bourke St from when I was last in Melbourne at the age of 15).

We part ways with Ben at this point and Kathleen and I go wandering around the city, getting distracted by things like Bookbinders Design (gorgeous expensive journals!),

Bookbinders Design

a second Koko Black, a Babushka shop in the Strand Arcade,

Strand Arcade

a man in the window of Suga making rock candy by spreading it out on a metal surface and then cutting it up with a pair of scissors (these are the people who made the “Stan and Clare” lollies for their wedding).

Man in Suga

We search Myer, David Jones and Accessorize for black cloche hats. Myer has the right shape but the wrong colour. Perhaps I am being too fussy.

Finally we find a Metcard vendor and purchase our weekly tickets for $25 (not bad, methinks, given that you get unlimited travel in Zone 1 which extends a fair way). In Reader's Feast (which has the same price tags and computer system as Dymocks) I buy Deep Secret. It is interesting going book shopping with Kathleen because she has read so many different things to what I've read. She tells me I ought to buy the book as a reference guide for the weekend.

We eat sushi for lunch (perhaps in honour of Neil?) and Kathleen is influenced by me enough to get a seaweed roll. We cannot find the bathroom in this particular shopping centre and so give up and catch the tram to the Hilton on the Park where the convention is being held.

There are all sorts of colourfully-dressed people about and it's easy to see who are convention-goers and who are not. We register and the people on the desk give me a bright green spot for my name tag which signifies I'm on a panel (no, really, I'm just giving a reading!) It scares me that my name is in the program and the convention booklet. Kathleen and I find a corner of the first floor foyer and sit there going through all the stuff they've given us in the bright blue Voyager 10: Celebrating the First Decade HarperCollins canvas bag. There are a bunch of fliers encouraging us to go to other conventions (cons), bookmarks, promotional material for books, a pocket program folded in a really cool way which ought to be used for wedding programs, and the program for the video stream. We discover that Neverwhere is screening at 10:30 pm tonight and the following night. “I'll go if you go,” says Kathleen. It is very tempting ...

We don't particularly want to attend any panels until 3pm when “Evolution of the Fictional Vampire: From Lord Ruthven to Saint-German” is on so we go downstairs to the lounge area and are ignored by waiters until we flag one down and order a green tea (which is divine) and a hot chocolate. It is lovely getting to know Kathleen and she tells me about her family, about growing up in the country, about her passions.

The vampire panel consists of Paul Pulton, Kirstyn McDermott (Continuum chairwoman who wears the most fantastic gothic clothes and a different wig every day), Alison Barton, Stephen Dedman and my old English lecturer, Richard Harland.

Richard Harland

The panel discussion is very interesting—I had forgotten that vampires were not always members of the aristocracy and that various countries had different traditions about vampires and how to kill them. The best moment was when someone was explaining about how one tradition says that if you scatter rice on the ground around the grave, the vampire is compelled to stop and pick it up, and someone from the audience called out, “ONE! Ahaha!”.

After this, Kathleen and I thought we'd get some dinner so we walked down to Bridge Rd and went to a café called Joy! Caf&ecuate; and Bar on 14 Bridge Rd, Richmond, which was, by far, the worst dining experience I have ever had. The waitress was blunt to the point of rudeness and she forgot to give us a beverage menu, they served me green tea which smelled like lemon and refused to do anything about it when I sent it back, and the gristle hadn't been cut out of the bacon of my fettucine cabonara. I tried to refuse to pay for the green tea but the woman on the cashier argued with me about it and showed em the tea packet she had taken it from. She would not back down. I thought $3 wasn't worth yelling and screaming about and potentially irrevocably damaging any possible relationship with this person who is also created in the image of God, no matter how unpleasant she was being, so I paid the measley $3 and told her quite politely I was never coming back. Unfortunately she didn't seem to care for our business.

As we walked back to the Hilton, having missed the “So this is your first convention?” panel mentioned in this article in The Age, Kathleen was righteously indignant on my behalf and I thought belatedly I could have taken advantage of her skills as a lawyer. Oh well. But I could not get rid of the sick taste in my mouth and I temporarily hated all Melbournians. Then I got over it.

We went to the Opening Ceremony which was absolutely packed. I had no idea there were this many people at the convention! (Apparently close to 500 which shocked the organisers too.) I got my first glimpse of Neil in the flesh, wearing his customary black T-shirts and black leather jacket, shaggy fringe getting into his eyes. It was also nice to see the other Guests of Honour in the flesh, though I was less well-acquainted with their work—Robin Hobb, Poppy Z. Brite and, of course, Richard Harland.

Kathleen went to the video room but I went to the launch of Richard Harland's The Black Crusade in the foyer where a very disgruntled Jack Dann was doing his best to plug the book without a microphone, peppering his speech with expletives. Then Kathleen and I and a stack of other people attended the Great Debate: “Humans are Unnatural Creatures” which had all the Guests of Honour plus a couple of extras discussing whether or not humans were unnatural creatures. Jack Dann was chairing but the debaters kept snatching the lectern mikes away from him and saying things to get the audience on their side. It was very funny but also rather rude in places.

Then we attended a panel on European Martial Arts where two guys with incredibly long swords fought each other and showed us how different wards and attacks worked. They also had PowerPoint slides of illustrations from different books on swordplay from the Middle Ages. “Rapiers,” claimed the main speaker, “are silly weapons.” Nevertheless he managed to throw in at least one reference to The Princess Bride.

By this stage it was 10:30 and we were both very tired. We decided to give Neverwhere a miss and called Ben to come pick us up. After hanging up I realised that we could have still caught the tram because it was before midnight. Oh well. Outside, fans were coming back from a football game and there was traffic mayhem everywhere. Nevertheless, we still managed to get back to University college before 11.

Posted in: Melbourne 2005

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Hi there,
I think we may have met at Stan and Clare’s wedding, the mention of the lollies sounds very familiar.

I have lost touch with Clare and was hoping that you could forward my details to her, or vice versa.

Thanks so much!
Ebony de Souza


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