Part 1 of 3
Program notice: Sunday morning, 1130, in "Forth" just after the WSFS business meeting session: the Worldcon Chairs Photo Session. It's been officially scheduled as part of the convention. This is a traditional event that for many years has been held at the Old Pharts Dead Dog Party, after Closing Ceremonies and teardown; this time we're changing the tradition, and with any luck all of the former and future Worldcon Chairs attending inter_action will find it on their program schedule. (If anyone from the newszine is listening, can you print it somewhere please?)
Or, at least, those who are on other program items... Registration does not have a mechanism to tell which members should check in at the Program desk, which is further back in the same room behind badge pick-up, and not all of the Worldcon chairs are on program items, so I'm trying to get the word out via various means! I hope to have a sign printed up, to put next to the 2004 Worldcon Chairs photo in the Fan Gallery, because I have the suspicion that each attending Worldcon Chair will check the Fan Gallery to make sure they haven't been removed from it. (Maybe I'll print it on little slips of paper and park a tiny notice next to each of their photos.)
More notes about Birmingham: we saw place with a sign that says "Buffalo Bills - Fish & Chips - Burgers - Kebabs - Pizza - S F Chicken." Shows a cowboy riding a cow (a longhorn). We didn't stop in to find out what "S F" stood for -- science fictional? stir fired? sinn fein?
Tuesday morning, we ate up our first breakfast, confident that we'd be served another one on the train. We went out to King's Cross, found our platform, had someone tag and put the three big suitcases and the folding trolley onto the right train. GNER (Great North Eastern Railway), Route of the Flying Scotsman. Livery is navy blue with red. Another really good looking train. (Another Alstom trainset, although equipped slightly differently.)
Now, why were we on GNER this time, when we were on Virgin Trains the day before? Simple. We asked the reservations people to put us on a train from London King's Cross to Glasgow. Had we asked for London Euston Station to Glasgow, they probably would have put us on Virgin again. (Not sure who operates out of St. Pancras to Glasgow, if anyone does.) GNER treats its First Class passengers differently. To put it directly: Meals aren't included. They came 'round to top off our coffee or tea anytime we wanted, but meals were separately charged, either in the dining car (Restaurant Carriage) or off the trolley full of snacks and sandwiches they kept wheeling by. We were too lazy to get up and go to the restaurant car, and the pre-made sandwiches on the trolley didn't appeal. We ended up not eating anything other than the biscuits they gave us for free. Including some very good shortbread. Interestingly enough, the sweeteners available for the coffee and tea were: white sugar, brown sugar, and Splenda. No "pink stuff" or "blue stuff", and the sucralose wasn't color-coded yellow either.
The GNER, like Virgin, like the passenger trains of yore, has its own china pattern. Its china is made by Dudson Fine China, in Stoke-on-Trent, England.
We'd been given a tip when we got on, which was to take seats on the righthand side of the train (facing the direction of travel). As the train headed north, we'd have the view of the east side. This is considered the better view -- when we go up the coast, we have a view of the ocean instead of just more fields and cows and stuff.
On our way, I kept trying my phone to see if I could get a good signal. It didn't say "Searching...", it says "Emergency Only." When it's working properly, it says "UK Vodafone." There's something wrong with it. Perhaps the guy on ebay sold me a "tri-band" phone that doesn't have three working bands. Don't know, I'll look into it Thursday. We also kept trying library_lynn's phone, to try to reach Maria in India, but kept getting the "Temporarily disconnected" message. (That means she's out of range or turned off her phone.) Maria, keep trying Lynn's number please (country code 44) 7767 741314, we'll connect eventually... We used up the pre-paid time on the phones, and decided we'd top-up in Glasgow.
I slept a good portion of the ride, and finished one of the Tom Holt books we'd bought the day before. ("Nothing but Blue Skies.") When we arrived Glasgow Central Station, about 16:30, I was reminded that I'd worn my summar holiday clothes -- that is, I was in short pants. And it was a chilly, drizzly day. We got out and headed up to the baggage carriage to oversee the unloading of our luggage.
There wasn't anyone up there. We got to the car, looked in the windows, couldn't see any luggage. Meanwhile library_lynn notices someone purposefully striding up the platform towards us; we start heading towards him. Before we can ask him to open up the baggage car so we can find out bags, he asks "Is your name Baden or Beden?" Apparently, the entire baggage car had been emptied at Edinburgh. (Our luggage had identifying tags, but they didn't code them for final destination.) He was very apologetic, the people in Edinburgh had called the train after it had left to ask about the extra suitcases that nobody there claimed, and they'd be up on the next train following in 2 hours. He promised that when they arrived he'd pay for a taxi to deliver them to our hotel, and that we'd have them by 7 o'clock.
Well, so, finally we're having adventures! He apologized again, we told him it was quite all right, and he showed us the way to the local mini-market that handled top-up payments for mobile phones. While there we saw some mints with the "Rennie's" brand name and talked about getting some for Sparks. (But we didn't have enough small change for a pack.) We came back in, library_lynn got an ice cream at Thorntons which sells ice cream and chocolates (katt1028, you never told us about the Scottish branch of your family!). I got a pasty from the West Cornwall Pasty Company, and we made our way to the lower platform for the quasi-Metro SPT train to take us to Exhibition Centre. When we went down the stairs, we congratulated ourselves on the deal we'd made, because this meant we didn't have to hump the heavy suitcases down the stairs! We couldn't figure out how we'd get a similar deal going home, and figured we'd probably have to take a taxi. The SPT train ride was free, all we had to do is show them our rail passes. While waiting for the train, we ran into Michael Dann and Kathy Ray. I could tell Michael was a fan, the vest gave it away; Lynn saw that Kathy was reading her last issue of "Armadillo Dreams" and came to a similar conclusion.
We arrived at Exhibition Centre station, took the lift up to street level, went out, came back in, looked at our Glasgow A-to-Z, talked to the station agent, and finally figured out how to get to St. Vincent Crescent. It's not far; just a couple of short blocks. It was drizzly, as I mentioned, and we dragged our carry-on bags down the street.