Wiffle Lever To Full!

Daleks, Death Stars and Dreamy Sci-Fi Nostalgia…

Archive for April, 2008


Frankenbiscuits. Don’t ask, all will probably become apparent sooner or later.

Feel free to speculate, though. ūüôā

I Am A Leaf Driven By The Wind…

…and I’m blowing back to the Robin Of Sherwood convention next weekend!

Big thanks to organisers Les and Sue who have kindly allowed me to wander down to Nottingham next Saturday to meet all the friends I made at Legend 2006, and to shamble onstage to do a few readings from the Robin Of Sherwood chapter of Wiffle. I’m now frantically wondering whether I’ve got the guts to go there and reveal that Mark “Nasir” Ryan’s transatlantic phone message last time around made me cry… knowing¬†full well that he’s there in person this year!

I blame it on the white wine.

I’m¬†also torn as to whether to take The Curse-d Dolls with me.¬†As regular blog-readers¬†(both of¬†you) will know, these¬†little woollen terrors have blighted my life with¬†their double-stitched¬†evil ever since I¬†drunkenly bought them at¬†2006’s charity auction. I might¬†just take Nasir, providing I can find a lead-lined casket to keep him in.

But the biggest dilemma of all is… do I do it in my Friar Tuck outfit? ¬†¬†

Sunshine Over Darlington

Blimey, it’s hot! I was in Darlington this afternoon, and it was like striding around the sun-baked¬†deserts of Tatooine. Which is odd, as last week it was more¬†like the ice planet of Hoth.¬†Although I notice tomorrow is forecast to be eerily reminscent of the¬†rain-swept¬†water world¬†P’Ssingdown. The¬†secret rebel¬†base that Princess Leia never mentions very much.

And why was I in Darlington? The world singularly fails to ask. But I’ll tell you anyway… I’ve been asked by the nice people at Darlington Library to be their official author (as opposed to all the maverick, unofficial authors out there¬†– bloody cowboys) for the National Year Of¬†Reading. Yay! So¬†thanks¬†to Jeannie and James for making me coffee and being very pleasant to me – looks like I’ll be doing a few readings and workshops and things over there in the next few months.

The meeting also contained the bizarre following conversation:

James: Did you cover the Discworld Convention in 2006?
Me: Yes. Why, are you a fan?
James: Oh yes. I was head of the Priest’s Guild. I conducted the Church Of Om service on the Sunday morning.

It’s a small world, and – in this¬†case – it’s also flat and on the back of a¬†bloody¬†big turtle.

I also popped¬†into Darlington Arts Centre while I was there and got a couple of tickets to see Dean Haglund. Yep, Langley of the Lone Gunmen, the lank-haired conspiracy theorist in all nine series of The X Files. He’s doing his improv¬†comedy X Files show on Saturday night, and I can’t wait to meet him and get my DVDs signed.

Altogether now,¬†¬†you can take the boy out¬†of the convention… ¬†¬†¬†

Wiffle Reaction

Hello all… sorry for the little break in transmission, real life intervened for a brief spell. Boooooo!

I’ve had a first review! Sort of. Yesterday morning, a copy of the trade magazine The Bookseller arrived, and they’ve picked out Wiffle Lever To Full! as their “Top Title” in the humour section of their new titles, describing it as a “highly entertaining field report-cum-misty-eyed childhood memoir about the weird parallel universe that is the SF, cult TV and film conventions”.

Which is nice. I’m facing up to these things with a mixture of anticipation and utter terror, though. I’ve never done anything in my life before worthy of being officially “reviewed”, and I’m not sure whether to duck and cover when these things start appearing. I like to think I’m a bluff old cove who can laugh off criticism, but I’m a sensitive soul at heart. I get paranoid if someone laughs at my¬†trousers (which has happened so often that I should really be used to it by now).

I’ve also¬†noticed a couple of people seemingly concerned that the book¬†might be a merciless¬†mickey-take of sci-fi fans and the way they act at conventions. Which I’m kind of keen to address, really.¬†¬†Yes, the book’s meant to be funny, and as such it does have some stories of delightfully eccentric behaviour and¬†oddness at these conventions. And such behaviour often comes from myself.

But what I was really keen to avoid (and I hope I have) is a¬†kind¬†of “pointing at the¬†geeks”¬†exercise. I haven’t written this book as an outsider’s perspective on fandom, I wrote it from the point of view¬†of someone who was going to these conventions anyway,¬†as a fan.¬†¬†I genuinely love all of the TV shows and films that I covered, and didn’t go into them all with the outright intention of writing a book. That idea gestated as I went to more and more events, and I only started writing and looking for a publisher once the whole trip was done and dusted.¬†So while there’s a lot of humour and eccentricity in there, I hope it’s seen to have all the affection¬†that I intended, rather than anything more cynical.

I like to think that most fans have a sense of humour about the things that they do, and in fact I’ve even been contacted by one Robin Of Sherwood fan who¬†was¬†keen that I made them look like¬†“a PROPER bunch of weirdos” rather than trying to dress things up nicely! Although, ironically, most of the fans I met at the Robin Of Sherwood convention were dressed up nicely, usually in medieval wench’s costumes or¬†nuns’ habits.

And that was just the men. I thangggyou.  

Underground, Overground, Wiffling Free…

Had a bit of a Wiffle-intensive day today. My Hodder correspondant Heather called this morning to chat about the final adjustments to the book before it goes off to the printers, and we were on the phone for¬†two hours discussing whether the comma on line 4 of page 136 should actually be¬†a hyphen, and whether¬†“The Doctor” should¬†be “the Doctor” without the capital “T”,¬†and if that still applies when¬†you chuck a number into the equation like¬†“the Sixth Doctor”. It’s actually the longest continuous conversation I’ve¬†ever had without the aid of artificial stimulants, and embarrassingly I had to break off¬†halfway through to go for a wee. I put the phone down first, though.

And then Henry from publicity called to discuss Important Things like “How do we make people who don’t want to buy your book buy it”, and we decided the best policy was for me just to¬†never refuse¬†any single opportunity for free press. So apologies in advance if you soon¬†get utterly sick of the sight of my fat face clogging up otherwise perfectly fine newspaper pages, or my grumbly Northern voice chuntering on over various airwaves.¬† Still, as Lionel Blair once said to me as I lit his cigarette on the balcony of Durham Gala Theatre, “Never turn anything down Bob, and you’ll stay in work for the rest of your life”.

True that, I also bought him a large scotch and talked a little about¬†the day he spent in 1964¬†working on A Hard Day’s Night. The film that is, not the album. He doesn’t play the castanets on Can’t Buy Me Love or anything like that. He was lovely, though.¬†¬†

And then I ate bangers and mash with my girlfriend while we watched The One Show.¬†She offered me some brown sauce. I didn’t turn it down.¬†Lionel would have been proud of me.

The Hedgehog Machine

Well, I’m back! I had an amazing weekend, met some absolute fruitcakes, and¬†split my wellies on the banks of a lake,¬†but I’m not saying any more than that. Although it’s worth storing the phrase “The Hedgehog Machine” in the back of your mind and seeing if it crops up anywhere in any future scribblings of mine…

Ah, the enigma…

Anyway, back to normal duties today – I’ve had some very nice messages over the weekend from Robin Of Sherwood fans who seem to have discovered ‘Wiffle’, and one from a nice woman in Canada who reckoned I was her new hero! Which isn’t recommended, I’ll only let you down. There’s nothing very heroic about me, especially in the mornings.

And in other news, ‘Wiffle Lever To Full!’ has popped up for pre-order on Play.com, although we’re currently trying to persuade them that I’m not called ‘Bobby Fischer’ and bear no relation to deceased Chess Grand Masters.

So come on then, let’s have your guesses as to what ‘The Hedgehog Machine’ actually is…

Off On A Secret Mission…

Just to apologise in advance that I’ll be missing from the surface of the Blogsphere for a few days, as I’m off on a secret mission and a dangerous quest¬†that might yet provide the germ of the basis of an idea for another book… but, as always, I’ll play these things by ear.

It does involve me travelling to another country and confronting¬†a long-buried mortal fear of mine, but that’s all I’m prepared to say! I’m really excited, though. It’ll be good to get the scent of travel (mainly Monster Munch and Caramel Kit-Kats) back in my nostrils.

I’m not back until late Sunday night, so I’ll see you all then. In the meantime, keep this place¬†nice and tidy, and if you have friends around then make sure they behave¬†themselves and don’t throw up in the March archives.

*front door slams, screech of tyres*

I Am Not A Number…!

Great news… I’m going back to Portmeirion! This amazing coastal resort was, as any fule no, the location for The Prisoner, and my adventures there back in 2006 form a substantial part of the book. So I’m delighted to say that¬†those nice people at ‘The Unmutual’ (www.theunmutual.co.uk) have invited me back to this year’s convention to have a bit of a chat onstage about Wiffle Lever To Full! and then sign a few copies afterwards.

I can’t wait… my first ever confirmed public Wiffle appearance! It’s an incredible place, and if anyone’s heading over there on Sunday 13th July for PM2008, then please come and say hello. I’m the one in the stripy Prisoner cape that makes me look a little bit too uncomfortably like Vegas-era Elvis…

And in other news, I’ve just travelled halfway across the country to watch Carlisle Utd play Swansea City in a dreadful 0-0¬†draw¬†, and I now need to sit down for a couple of hours to allow my soul to re-enter my body.

Drain Update

The drains are fixed! Just as I was anticipating shelling out thousands of pounds to have the drive dug up, the drains relaid and the drive¬†put back,¬†two nice men from Dyno-Rod turned up and sorted the lot with the aid of a big stick. ¬£109.50, which I’m viewing as a considerable let-off.

Just walked across the landing and stuck two fingers up at Woolly Will Scarlett on the way. He looked peeved.

I’ll probably pay for my insolence tonight when the gas boiler explodes.

The Curse Of The Dolls

The car is still leaking oil. The drain is still leaking dirty water. Something struck me last night, and it chilled me to the bone.

There’s virtually a whole chapter of the book devoted to The Curse Of The Robin Of Sherwood Dolls. I won these in a charity auction at the Robin convention and they’re just a lovely, hand-knitted collection of woollen dolls in the image of the Robin Of Sherwood cast. There’s Robin and Tuck and Marion and Will and Little John and all the rest, and they even have little wool bows and swords and arrows and things.

And everyone who comes into contact with them suffers a terrible fate. Even at the convention, with them on the back seat of the car, they managed to destroy our “alternator” (whatever that is) and leave us stranded on the side of the M1 near Mansfield at 3am. They’ve since destroyed a car windscreen, a PC motherboard, a broadband internet connection and a car tyre, and eighteen months ago I locked them in a lead-lined¬†cupboard in the spare room and haven’t heard a peep out of them since.

Until a week ago, when I thought “Ah, the hell with it…” and cleared out the cupboard. I put them in a storage box which is currently on a chair on the landing. That was two days before the oil leak started and three days before my drains collapsed.

Last night, lying in bed, my girlfriend Sorcha swore she heard something moving in the house. I did the usual manly inspection around the place (ready to batter any intruders to death with a Dalek bubble bath container) before coming back to bed and laughing”It’s probably those dolls trying to force their way out of the box”.

We looked at each other. We turned pale.

We’re not laughing any more.