Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Con, the Cam and Ken


Twice a year my mate Graham runs Demoncon, a wonderful comic and fantasy convention in Maidstone, Kent. My new boss from my new job is a talented artist and a few months back when THE CATASTROPHE OF THE EMERALD QUEEN was released he bought a copy. He then tentatively showed me some of his work from about 20 years ago, when he’d last put pen to paper. I was impressed and as he exhaled when I made approving noises we agreed that he’d do art work for the 2nd edition of COTEQ. His price was one free copy. Repeat: His price for 13 pieces of exquisite black and white art was ONE FREE COPY of the book.

When Demoncon 4 was announced I asked him if he wanted to come and he played it cool but I could tell just how keen he was to go and put his dreams in a real setting. One of life’s pleasures is having someone buy a piece of work you created and then asking you to sign it.

I ordered 20 copies of COTEQ, roller banners for both it and STAB PROOF SCARECROWS and a load of postcards. Paul brought a roller banner, pens and paper and at half past cunt on Sunday morning, picked me up from the flat. My neighbour is grumpy at the best of times and I had no desire to wake him up in the early hours lugging boxes down the stairs so we tip-toed down, holding our breath and burned off down the M40. Overshooting the M25 turn off we found a McDonalds and stopped for a pile of grease and a coffee. Right next door to McD’s is a shop specialising in Star Wars clothing and props. My kind of place.

Got to the exhibition hall at about 9, with 2 hours to spare and set up shop. A table for both of us and 4 roller banners. Graham has 3 adorable kids named Wren (7 year old bovver boy), Fox (8 year old, long haired moppet that all the female teachers at his school think is just adorable) and Cameron (10, massive Doctor Who fan who’s like a mini Sheldon Cooper). Wren had gone off to Beaver camp for the day but I was touched that Fox and Cameron both missed me and gave me a big hug when I walked in.

11.10am and a fairly elderly lady wanders up. I learned from Demoncon 3 that trying to instantly involve people in what you want to sell is both off putting and a little too intense. I sat next to a guy named Miles Allen last time who was charming and laid back. He would say Hi to people as they walked up and ask them about why they were there and show interest in them personally. 5 out of 10 would buy his book as a result.

This time I would just find something to talk about and after 2 or 3 minutes of chatting ask “do you like Game of Thrones?” Invariably the answer would be “yes” and I’d then point to COTEQ and say “this is a mix of that and the stories of Oz.” Sold 3 copies this time, which was a 300% improvement on last time.

Also sold 3 copies of STAB PROOF SCARECROWS, mainly as a lot of people have issues with either how the police behave or how much they loathe “the pigs.” A book that lifts the lid on their recent decent into diversity-fuelled cretinousness clearly lights a fuse for many.

A guy named Dean Beattie was there and ever since Demoncon 2 a year ago, I’ve wanted to buy a copy of his book “St Roxy’s High School Yearbook.” This has to be one of the most piss funny things I’ve ever read, showing the dark side of teaching. It’s a fake effort, supposedly put together by a retiring Headmaster who utterly loathes his pupils and makes every effort to let everyone know just how much in the yearbook. Under each photo is a short description of the kid in question, invariably highly vitriolic and insulting. My favourite has to be under the picture of Shane Roots it says “if I could have killed any of the pupils at St Roxy’s it would have been Shane. I would have either drowned him or poisoned him.”

Paul was in hog’s heaven, especially as a group of 4 mates all queued patiently for charicatures by him at £10 a pop. One as Gandalf, one as a pixie and another as Xena: Warrior Princess. I’d been telling him for months that he’d get a kick out of this and I could plainly see just how happy he was with just a pad of blank A4 sheets and a set of sketching pencils. When there was a lull later in the day he did one for me. Jedi wielding a double bladed lightsaber with the words “Lance Skywalker.” Sounds about right.

After indulging in my 3rd filter coffee I was approached by a guy staring at me intently and grinning broadly. Turned out to be my physiotherapist from the police who’d driven over 50 miles down to say Hi and buy a copy of COTEQ. Really pleased to see the guy again, especially as he was in STAB PROOF SCARECROWS. We reminisced over a few tales and he made me giggle with a story I hadn’t been aware of. He apparently got called up to his boss’s office to be informed “we think you should know, you’re in this book!”

Didn’t win anything in the raffle at 3pm, despite having my eye on one or two items donated by artists, including a nifty t-shirt (albeit XXL which would have looked like a dress) and some gorgeous signed artwork. Paul finally indulged in a purchase just before we wrapped up at 4pm. Bloke across from us was doing “Zombiefication” charicatures for a tenner. A rush job but still looked brilliant.

Heading home we were chatting on the M25, while it rained harder than an alcoholic’s first piss of the day…when Paul matter-of-factly stated that he was getting no response from his accelerator pedal and gently pulled over to the hard shoulder. He’d left his phone at work meaning I had to call the AA. Despite pregnant women trapped in broken down vehicles on country lanes being the priority 1 on the TV commercials, we were classed as BASTARD PRIORITY because we couldn’t leave the vehicle due to the lousy weather, were on a motorway unable to drive. 20 minutes later a soaked mechanic rolled up and told us he’d have to tow us off the road to the nearest safe point. He said to beep the horn if we had any problems. BIG problem though was that the battery was slowly dying due to whatever the problem was. First hint we got of this was the windscreen wipers getting sluggish, then the lights started to dim. Paul tried the horn but it no longer worked so we were helpless. Like something out of a Final Destination movie I had to then phone the AA to tell the guy sat 10 feet away that we were now a dead weight. Was on hold for about 10 minutes and luckily he sussed from seeing out dim headlights that things were amiss. After a quick rummage around under the bonnet at a garage forecourt he told Paul the cam belt had snapped, which pleased him not a jot, as he’d had the cam belt fixed 2 weeks previously. Other problem was that the driver could only take us to the limit of his jurisdiction which was Watford Gap services. After getting the car loaded up on his truck we took off and he assured us that the changeover guy wouldn’t be too long.

I’ve always hated service stations for anything other than stopping to use the bog. The prices are ridiculous and just plain greedy. We opted for McDonalds for some cheap grub, and while waiting behind about 4 other people it became obvious this branch’s staff were a bunch of ill mannered, lazy cunts.

First of all there were about 7 of them and only one was serving. The woman queuing in front of me said twice “I can’t believe it, I can’t look” while appearing very annoyed and despite the amount of people waiting, the other 6 acne-ridden twats were just stood to one side laughing and joking. The girl serving turned to a blonde guy nearest to her and said “I need you to serve on the till!” He just glared at her and shrugged, making no attempt to help. I could feel my temper rising once the serving girl then stepped behind the counter to prepare the food. The other zitty bastards continued to simply gossip and made no attempt the help and the woman in front of me walked off with her boyfriend. Finally I asked the blonde anus, “excuse me mate. Why’s no one serving?” Without looking at me he jerked his head to the clock on the wall and replied “I’m leaving at 9 o’clock.” I glanced at the clock and it was 8.55. “But it’s not 9 yet!” He then mumbled “I’ve got to cash my till up.”

At this point the weight of having a wonderful day spoiled first by a knackered cam belt and now by this twat was too much and I shouted “FUCK YOU, YOU FUCKING LITTLE WANKER. JUST FUCK OFF!!!” and stormed off knowing I’d thump the lazy little bastard if he even retorted or I stuck around. I found the duty manager loitering around the Costa coffee shop a few minutes later. He was about 22 and had the charisma of a salted slug while resembling Beaker from the Muppet Show. I got the address to complain to then added, “and tell that blonde twat who thinks he’s hard if he wants to discuss this now he’s off shift, then I’m here.”

Met a cop in the queue for a hot chocolate a few minutes later. Shook his hand with the words “in light of the Manchester shootings…my respect” and when he asked what we’d been up to that day I told him about the convention (but left out losing my rag in Mickey D’s) and told him about the book. Next bit made the whole debacle with the ropey cam belt worthwhile as he went to the cashpoint, took out a tenner and bought a copy. He even said “keep the change” before climbing into a police Jeep and driving off.

Changeover driver Kenwas initially grumpy and said Paul’s insurance covered one drop only meaning he couldn’t take me home and then Paul after. Problem was that Paul’s wife’s car had a flat tyre. I didn’t push the matter though and surprisingly when we climbed in his cab an hour later he punched up both postcodes on the satnav and said quietly “ok, that’s doable.”

Had a lovely chat about holiday homes in Greece and his passion for road trips on big Harley motorbikes until I finally got home and looked forward to 3 hours sleep before starting work.

The things I do for literature.

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