by Stephen Agar
Sounds a bit like a football result, doesn’t it? Despite leaving just after four in the afternoon, my drive from Brighton to Cirencester caught the Friday evening rush hour and could not be described as pleasant. The fact I was taking Esme and Kate to stay with friends in Wedmore (near Wells) meant that the more direct cross-country route was not open to me and by the time I arrived at the King’s Head Hotel it was after 9.30pm and nearly everyone else had arrived. My first impression was that Cirencester and the King’s Head were something out of the Archers, all terribly rural middle class. Not a Burger King, McDonalds or a Wimpy in sight and even the WH Smith’s sported a pretend-mahogany fascia.
The King’s Head itself looked like Ye Olde Traditional Coach Inn (and no, I don’t mean National Express) and the corridors inside went off in all directions and angles. Trying to find Room 64 was something akin to exploring a new level in Doom (lots of horrible monsters – mainly in T shirts) but no shotgun, unfortunately. When I finally got there (at least eight corridors and three flights of stairs later with enough changes of direction to make me generally unsure to this day whether I was at the front or the back of the building) the room was surprising modern – all home comforts, TV, bathroom, kettle and even trouser press. Two of the three lights didn’t work, but what the hell. I dumped my stuff and went in search of food and beer.
Retracing my steps with the assistance of the trail of Diplomacy pieces I had left on the floor behind me for just such an eventuality, it was easy enough to find the Ballroom, where the Con was in full flow. It was even easy enough to locate the bar in one corner of the room, but it did take a good fifteen minutes to locate a barmaid. Only my natural shyness prevented me from leaping over the bar and helping myself. Well, that and the fact that I am so unfit I doubt where I would have achieved the necessary clearance anyway. The delay in finding someone to serve me meant that by the time a member of staff did turn up I’d promised to buy no less than five drinks (which just goes to show the danger of standing at a deserted bar with a £20 note in your hand).
To be on the safe side I bought myself two pints (after all, I didn’t know if the bar staff would go walkabout again) and spent most of the evening exchanging idle gossip with Chris Tringham and Iain Bowen (this being a convention in an even month in an odd year, Iain was talking to me this time – unlike MidCon which was of course an odd month in an even year. However ManorCon 95 will be in an odd month in an odd year, so I will have to wait and see what affect that has on Iain’s sociability). Anyway, gossiping is always good fun (in-between Iain’s turns at playing 1829) and it was a couple of hours (and several pints and packets of crisps later) that I actually played some games with the likes of Tringham and Bond. I always enjoy Ave Caesar (basically Formula One with chariots) as it has the merit of being a quick game, and coming second in both the races we ran did give me (arguably) the best of the game overall. We also tried Flusspiraten (pirates rowing up stream throwing each other out of boats) which I won by being beastly to all the other players. I am not accustomed to success at board games, so I thought it time to quit while ahead and go to bed (and it was nearly 2.30am).
Sadly, I didn’t get up in time to play Diplomacy in the morning. Let’s be honest – I nearly didn’t get up in time for lunch! Babies really do take it out of you, and a whole night without a bottle of milk in sight or a baby gurgle within ear range was just too good to be true. I awoke refreshed and went in search of breakfast (okay, lunch) and a newspaper. Unfortunately Cirencester seems to be a Fast Food Free Zone so I returned to the Con in the hope that someone else could lead me to lunch. Eventually Chris Tringham, Iain Bowen and I did find a decent baguette and expresso place which fitted the bill quite well. Peter Berlin joined us and upon learning that we were off for a posh meal that evening (along with John Dodds) invited himself along (not that he wasn’t very welcome).
I’d like to say that we all went back to the Con and played board games for several hours before John drove us all to dinner at Oakes’s, but in fact we just went back and drank the afternoon away. In my defence I did occasionally suggest a game of something or other, but my companions could not be roused. However, I do remember playing Keith Loveys at Intimate Diplomacy in the ID Tournament and being utterly crushed (I was England, Keith Russia). Dinner was excellent – especially as (unlike last year) I wasn’t driving and by the end of the evening I was £50 lighter and probably 5lbs heavier. Sadly both John and I missed the European Diplomacy Association meeting (even though we were both UK delegates) so I can’t report on what was decided, but no doubt Xavier had his way. In my totally inebriated state (exacerbated by some brandies and cigars) I do seem to remember trying o hold a conversation with Xavier for some time in the early hours of the morning, but my memory is fazed. I know it was nearer 3.00am that I finally made it to bed again.
Although I missed breakfast in the hotel, I did get up on Sunday by 10.00am, which surprised me. By now my mind was set on going home, picking up Esme and Kate and gritting my teeth for the drive. Lunch didn’t happen and my body was feeling sufficiently abashed after the previous night that I stuck to orange juice. I left by 1.00pm so I wasn’t around to see the new European Diplomacy Champion crowned, but no doubt Shaun will tell all in Globetrotter. Thanks to Shaun for organising the event which I enjoyed despite (or maybe even because of) not having played a single game of Diplomacy.
For next year I think Shaun will have to promote the event more heavily, as although there were enough people attending this year, if you take away the European contingent then numbers would have been a bit short. I’ll be back next year, family permitting.
Reprinted from Spring Offensive 32