*This time with more cannons

TL;DR: I finished the eastern leg of the Thames Path, I got interviewed(!!!), I saw a good play, and I was shown the light as to why TWTUD didn’t work properly.

Ok, today I had a plan. A good plan. A glorious plan, maybe. But I did have one. “Chris!” You say, “stop pussy-footing around and tell me what gosh-blarned plan was! Geez! What’s wrong with you?”

Good question. Nothing, really. I’ve had an exceptionally awesome day; I just haven’t followed my plan. True, I did one thing, and most of thing two, but the rest? Right out! “Chris!!!” You say, the agitation in your voice as apparent as a supermoon on a cloudless night, “can you get to the fricking point already?”

Fine, fine. Today was supposed to be a day of plays, of literary beers, of epic hikes, and conversations of Rabelaisian proportions. I got it a bit right.

Last night, as you might have guessed from the scattershot quality of my post, I had imbibed. Yea, I imbibed with no thoughts of the consequences. Thankfully the only real penalty I incurred was a loss of sleep. I have children. This, I can manage. It did get me out of bed late and slow me down, however. And, drowsy as I was, when I stepped out into the bright sunshine to begin the day’s ramble, I found I had left my sunglasses in the room. Sigh.

But no matter! I sallied forth, and made my way back to Tower Bridge to continue my journey. My hiking plan included a lot of cycling, but I encountered a supply and demand issue. Today’s the anniversary of the Boris Bike, and, as such, cost nothing to rent (so long as you returned them with the half hour). As a result, the first station held no bikes. Not a sausage. No matter, I had my walking shoes on, and I found some in short order. I biked from Wapping (where I had a Wapping good time, I’ll tell you) to Westferry DLR. Then I walked from there to Millwall, where I found another bike station, and successfully refrained from singing the Millwall chant from Back Books. Yay! I had come close to the Greenwich Foot Tunnel already, but I decided to return the bike and check things out so I’d have as much time as possible on the meter for my next leg of the journey.

You have to wait 5 minutes when you return a bike before taking out another, so I checked out the lift in the tunnel to ensure: a) it was operational; and b) it would fit a Boris Bike. Yes on both counts! I tootled around Island Gardens for a bit, and decided that my 5 minutes had passed. Little did I know that I hadn’t returned the previous bike properly! I learned this when it wouldn’t give me a new bike because I already had one out. Uh? I’m happy to report that the jerk-face patrol hadn’t started their rounds, and the bike sat where I left it, poorly pushed into its receptacle. I did say I didn’t get enough sleep, no? So, another 5 minutes of waiting, and I had a fresh bike!

Down into the bowels of London went I, my trusty sidekick Boris by my side, and exited into a narrow whitewashed corridor festooned with “No Cycling!” signs. No matter, I could walk it (walking shoes, remember?). I stepped behind a person who admonished every single cyclist coming the other way if they rode rather than walked. Then I was out in the bright morning again, the walk through the narrow tube under the tonnes of crushing water a mere hint of a memory, and I began to ride. Then I stopped and set my timer, because I did have to get back to the con, after all, and I didn’t want to end up in . I gave myself an hour, because all the lateness and everything forced my hand.

And so I biked. Quite a nice ride, if you’re interested in working harbours and industrial vistas and the like. I am, so everything was awesome. About a klick before the O2, a group of about 20 cyclists had stopped near an excavator shifting a massive pile of sand. I pulled up as well, thinking that maybe they’d stopped for some safety reason (maybe they thought the sand would avalanche on them or something, I didn’t know). I asked a fellow at the back, and he said that one of the new guys (it was a weekly group ride) was having confidence issues, and they had stopped for him. I shrugged and was about to continue on, when the front of the group started moving again. I followed along, chatting with this fellow, about bikes and paths and Canada, and mayors. He wondered aloud how it was that everyone seemed to know the name of the mayor of London. My reply? “Who’s the Mayor of Toronto?” He knew, of course. Then he asked what all people ask when they see me biking down the street; he wanted to know how the different levels of government in Canada divvied up their legislative powers. Naturally, I told him, and then timid guy got timid again, and we parted ways.


I passed the O2 (spoiler: It’s huuuuuuuuuge!), and the flood barrier, though I was disappointed that David Tennant didn’t pop out of it as I biked by (Or was it Captain Jack? My brain’s all mushy).Then I biked and biked and biked, past Woolwich Arsenal (which has amazing bollards), and into the wilderness. I didn’t get all the way to the end of the Thames Path Extension in Crayford Ness, but I made it most of the way to Erith before the alarm went off. I ate my little packed lunch (which I was glad I had the foresight to bring, given the sunglasses escapade), and returned to Woolwich, where I dragged the Boris Bike onto the DLR (yes, folks, on off-peak and weekends you can bring non-foldy bikes on the DLR!), much to the dismay of everyone else in my carriage. I had to rescue this kid at every stop because he insisted on not holding on to the pole. Every stop he went eyeball first into the end of the handlebars. I’m glad to say he finished his trip with as many eyes as he started.


At East India, the first DLR station with bike stations, the lift was busted. I lugged the bike, all 450 lbs of it, down four flights of stairs, mysteriously tapping out with my oyster on the way. I didn’t mean to, but I did. I returned the bike. I made sure it was returned. It was. And I lugged myself up four flights of stairs. When I reached the top, I played back the tapping out scene, and sighed. I lugged myself down again, tapped in, and back up. Nothing like a bit of unexpected exercise on top of your exercise, eh?


By the time I returned to the hotel, it was 12:45. I had a panel at 1:30 I wanted to see (the Rabelaisian one), but, like in Rabelais, biology took over, and I crashed out for 45 minutes. Showered, to everyone’s great relief, I’m sure and walked back to the con, thinking I’d get a good spot in line, at least, for the staged adaptation of Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates.

As I idly shuffled through the gaping cavern that is the ExCel, I heard my name. Andrew Barton waved me over to a table where he sat with someone I didn’t recognize. It ended up being Shaun Duke of the Skiffy and Fanty Podcast (or should I say the Hugo Nominated etc etc), and I ended up joining in the interview Andrew was giving him. Ha! The topic was the CCA and its dismissal of the SFF genre in its grants. It turns out that I have strong views on the matter. I hope that what I said was intelligible, because it’d be great to hear! Whee!

After the interview, we all chatted for a bit, then I got into THE LINE FROM HELL. The line was a line that started making the ExCel security people fear for the safety of the building. People started handing out fans. It was like Woodstock, man! I was almost expecting a call out about the brown acid. The play was starting 30 minutes late, and I got to chatting with my line mates. The couple behind me turned out to be American Millwall fans (? I know!), and that proved too much. I whipped out the Black Books chant, and fortunately we all had a good laugh and Bill Bailey didn’t have to show up.

The play was fantastic. It captured the spirit of the book quite well, and the actors performed splendidly. My only quibble was that there was no intermission, and a two and a half hour play needs an intermission. Not their fault, though.

Because it started late, it ended late, and I ended up not going to my next panel (Full-Spectrum Fantasy). Instead, I ate. Probably a wise choice, as I was alert and ready to listen to Gail Carriger et al opine on “The Education and Training of a Young Protagonist”. Gail described something in the panel that I had been struggling with in TWTUD, to the point that I had almost given up figuring out how to fix it. It took all my energy to not jump out of the bathtub I had been lounging in during the panel and shout “EUREKA!” and run naked through the con, my modesty saved only by my ridiculously long beard.

Um, none of that’s true. Well, from the bathtub on. I did run back to my hotel room, though, and I spent a couple of hours moving stuff around in scrivener, and adding new scenes and descriptions of what the scenes are meant to do, and hey presto! This thing has legs! If I ever get this thing published, Gail will be on the acknowledgements page, that’s for sure.

PS: I meant to go to Charlie Stross’ literary beer, but it was full up when I went to register.