The following is my brief, overdue and rushed account of Worldcon 2019, which happened in Dublin.
It was a lovely trip and the con went without a hitch. I’d never been to Dublin before and it was a brilliant place. As a particular point of pride, I should add, I was paying (airfares and accommodation for five, con memberships for four) out of my Amazon cheques collected since Worldcon 2017.
After a long flight via Norway we finally arrived in the land of buffalo flavoured hunky dorys.
Not actually a hilariously non-PC yet charming way to refer to “bull” homosexuals.
We found our Airbnb, which was also nice, after an exciting bus ride and a little wandering. At this point I should explain what was involved in getting into our apartment.
First, the whole block was gated off from the street with a six-digit code. Then the building was locked up with another code. At the door to the apartment was a combination-locked drop box with one set of keys (2 keys in total for the two locks), for the door itself. My suggestion that two of us keep a key each and open the door like it was a nuclear launch sequence was ignored.
Anyway this comes back later on, so just remember getting in there was a big deal.
The place was nice.
We were next door to a pub called Cassidy’s but so were most buildings in Dublin.
My phone refused to get on the EU roaming bandwagon so as part of our exploratory walk we went looking for a phone shop. We also found some nice markets, a great pub / food court / fish n chips place that I swore we’d come back to but we never did, a pet shop that Wump and Toop swore we’d come back to and we did, several times. We also hit a shop called Needful Things that we simply had to go into and it was exactly as creepy as you’re thinking.
We found another market and the kids and I had sausage rolls and cupcakes while Mrs. Hatboy and anoppi went to an antique store of some kind. We were still waiting when I spotted a wine and cheese shop. I asked the proprietors if I could have the wine and my kids the cheese, and they were alright with that.
Then we got sushi, and went home.
The Cassidy’s roof, opposite our balcony, was a waterlogged electrician’s nightmare. That is to say, it was at once waterlogged, an electrician’s nightmare, and something out of the nightmares of a waterlogged electrician.
Still, it was a nice place and once we figured out the wacky Irish electricity and water heating arrangements, we were all fine. I mean the shower was unbelievably primitive and awful, but I’ve come to expect that from most non-Finland places.
Wump staked out a spot on our only couch and played a lot of video games.
Oh, turns out I actually got a picture of the wine and cheese place, along with the strange mead-like root beer I bought, and Wump’s stylish inside-out raincoat. Life hack, it’s like having two coats, one of which looks inside-out.
She ate the cheese and left bread and chutney for me. That was fine.
The next day, I made my way to the convention centre to scope out the con a bit. I was too excited to wait another day.
Hello Mr. Fusion, my old friend.
I understand that while I was doing dull and sadly unphotographed things at the con, the girls went to a park and a castle and did a bunch of other stuff.
Cute photogenic stuff.
I, meanwhile, started collecting my volunteer hours at the con. First up was a couple of hours of unpacking and cleaning mildewy books (actually hardbound fanzines from the 1960s) from an ancient collection. It was actually quite fun and I got to know a few of the other volunteers, including some random drop-ins from just outside Dublin and what seemed like a multi-generation Worldcon dynasty family from the States. They were all excellent people.
I also manned the sign-up desk as a “shout to people where they should be going, also stand next to this other volunteer so they don’t look like they’re going rogue” helper. Which was fun.
I got a volunteer ribbon and assorted others for my aid, but never quite mustered up the melanin or the balls to put this one on.
I had a persistent headache and realised it was because I hadn’t had coffee for a couple of days. I just hadn’t noticed because I was perfectly energised. Amusingly, other con regulars kept coming around and trying to make us eat and drink. Apparently it was not unheard of for con volunteers to go the full two days and two nights without food or sleep and then collapse, but since this was a five-day con they couldn’t take the risk. True story.
I got my phone fixed but by evening its battery was almost dead. I returned to the apartment … only to find it locked, no key in the drop box, and nobody home. Since the girls had thought they’d be home first, they had the keys.
Phone battery almost depleted, I took a photograph of Cassidy’s Pub and sent it to Mrs. Hatboy with the message “phone dying, I’m in here, rescue me when you get back.”
And then I went into my first proper Irish pub and had my first Dublin Guinness. Which was nice. I don’t know if it’s a myth about Guinness tasting better in Dublin but it was nice. After my first pint I ordered another, and the barman said he’d bring it to my table. When he did I asked how he wanted me to pay for it, and he said he’d put it on my tab.
I had a tab!
And so I sat, drinking Guinness after Guinness with an occasional detour into Irish gin, and watched the bar. It was brilliant, especially the pair of old regulars whom everybody greeted (and the elder visitors stopped to chat with). I tell you, the rest of the world has tried to copy Irish pubs but we’ve gotten them wrong.
By the time the girls arrived I was well merry, and insisted they get a drink and put it on my tab. Then we went home via the corner fish n chips place, and ate mass quantities of fish n chips.
Officially day 1 of Worldcon, I volunteered for a while at the check-in desk where I got to meet a bunch of friendly and interesting program participants and fortunately only one “Do You Know Who I Am?” (or more specifically “Do You Know Who My Father Is?”), and I didn’t have the heart to be blunt about that one because she was so very old and sad and presumably her father even more so. I still don’t know who the fuck she was though. Her or her dad.
I was also thoughtfully gifted by an elder fanzine writer with a not-for-distribution copy of a new fanzine in the line of the hardcovers I’d cleaned the day before. He was happy to hear about my cleaning work and was touched by how excited I was about a 50-plus-year-old fanzine run.
Apparently that night I had chicken wings for dinner because that’s what I scribbled in my notebook. Go figure.
I did some more volunteering on Friday while anoppi took Wump and Toop to the zoo and Mrs. Hatboy did her own thing (including a kaffeklatch with Afua Richardson that I’d sneakily signed her up for while volunteering at the sign-up table the day before … there hadn’t been any names on the list at the time and I felt bad; everyone else’s loss though, because Richardson is amazing and now we have a bunch of her art on our walls).
See? Right there next to our Kasurinen Pony collection.
I helped run the info desk at the second convention location for a bit, and delivered newsletters to various locations. I paid for my lunch with volunteer groats, used my volunteer perk to sign myself up for a kaffeklatch with Paddy Lennon (an Irish author, in case the name wasn’t a giveaway, whose table I had encountered and with whom I’d had a chat; he had been by his own modest admission worried nobody would come to his kaffeklatch so I promised I would). I also got my volunteer T-shirt.
That night, as in Helsinki two years earlier, we were invited to the Secret Chili Party.
As in Helsinki, it was a highlight. The food was delicious, the company and conversations were interesting (even the extremely intense professor named Lars whose monologues were incredible, and somehow still fascinating), and the setting was the Oscar Wilde house. Brilliant stuff. And at the end of it I walked out with a thumping big plastic bag of Keith Kato’s famous “Silverberg” red, and a backpack full of fixins, and a solemn oath of my own devising that if George R R Martin was going to get any chili this year (he stood us up again, but Silverberg and the Haldemans were there because they respect tradition) he was going to have to deal with me.
Fortunately for Martin, he didn’t bump into me at the con. I would have quite liked to put a baggie of red in his participants’ dossier.
On Saturday morning I broke my fast with Silverberg chili and about half of Paddy Lennon’s first book, because I wanted to have something to talk about at his kaffeklatch.
It wasn’t half bad. And the chili was perfect.
On the balcony of our apartment, it was one of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had.
It was another exciting con day with nothing much in the way of volunteering to break it up. Just table-hopping and kaffeklatching and chatting with random folks in the corridors and eating spaces. Paddy’s kaffeklatch was a lot of fun, and I did turn out to be the only person there – aside from his friend, colleague and cover artist Ben Hennessy, who by Paddy’s own admission had agreed to join in so Paddy wasn’t alone with a possibly mad stalker fan who insisted he was from Finland despite clearly being Australian. Still, it was great. I got the rest of his trilogy but have unfortunately not finished reading them yet. Been kind of busy.
Paddy and Ben are comic and con veterans at least in the Ireland vicinity, and I hope to see them in Finland or at future Worldcons.
I also had a great sit-down with a couple of cancer survivors who I’d agreed to do a chat session with, since the organisers hadn’t let them be part of the official program and I sympathised because they hadn’t let my cancer-surviving arse onto the program either.
I mean, figuratively speaking. My arse was the part that didn’t survive cancer. But you know.
We took a taxi home and I made nachos out of Kato chili (Marion Zimmer Bradley for the girls, Silverberg for me) and Tesco’s Doritos and an assortment of fixins. Perfection upon perfection.
Sunday (after another breakfast of chili) was my day to look after the kids, so I took them to the kids’ Worldcon area (well played Dublin, Helsinki could learn from you) while Mrs. Hatboy and anoppi did whatever it is that they did. Something educational and cultured and stylish, no doubt.
We, however, made boffer lightsabres, and when a boy tried to tell them how to play with them, Wump and Toop and another little girl told him to ‘shoo’. It was glorious.
We also got our hair done up all nice.
I didn’t. Only Wump and Toop. I might have done, but the poor volunteer was worked half to death with just the kids.
Same guy who made our amazing balloon animals at Worldcon Helsinki, by the way. Great job.
They were brilliant and the girls were super thrilled.
He even let them pick their own decorations, and check out his handiwork using a mirror and a mobile phone.
Once we were done, there was nothing for it but to go and show their hairdos off. And pappa knew just the place for it: the Guinness brewery!
They don’t know it yet. Lucky lil tackers.
Back in the late ’90s, I’d won a T-shirt for drinking 12 pints of Guinness. It entitled the wearer to “free pints” at the brewery in Dublin. I’d brought the shirt with me for this very occasion. Across half the globe and over 20 years, my patience knew no bounds. And the joke was about to be on them!
Also I dealt with these two whining ragamuffins through the entire really quite expensive brewery tour, so I deserved pints over and above the 1 pint and 4 half-pint samples the ticket price included.
The brewery was pretty incredible.
This giant bronze statue with the chandelier hanging directly above it was, and I can’t stress this enough, a pint of Guinness.
And there was a nightclub where you could get free samples, and I didn’t have to leave Wump and Toop in a locker.
They were actually really well behaved, and charmed a great many tourists.
The tourists were easy to charm for some reason.
Then the time had come for me and my T-shirt.
Still fit. Not well, but it fit.
The bartender was dubious, and told me I could have a free pint. I said the shirt clearly used the plural so that wasn’t good enough (I was quite tired by this stage). He asked me what exactly I was hoping for, and I said “well, pints implies at least two, doesn’t it?”
So I got two pints.
He could have been clever and poured me two pints of water, since the shirt doesn’t specify. But I think pouring a pint of water in the Guinness brewery is a capital offence.
After finally leaving Guinness Heaven (“Can I get a taxi from here?” “Ah, jes’ roll out the door an’ ye’ll fall inti one lad.”), we headed home.
Monday was cleaning up, packing, and heading to the airport day. We went through Norway and I purchased a mess of gin.
Also a bottle of Gunpowder gin from Tesco’s.
And that was about it for our Dublin odyssey. Sorry it wasn’t super detailed but time is limited right now. It was, in short, another amazing experience.