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Andicon II - The Popcorn Strikes Back
(aka The Quest for the Holy Not-Poodles)

It started with a car, or more accurately, the lack of a minibus. In my infinite wisdom (yeah, right) I had decided that I could manage to fit Me, Andi, Olwyn, John, Darran (The Romulan), beer, CD player and luggage into a car. It *did* save money and either way, it didn't matter to me as the driver doesn't get squished anyway.

I actually picked the car up on time (3pm-ish) but wasn't en-route for a while after that as I had to take the car back home and load it up, never mind finish my own packing.
Me, disorganised?...Naah.... I just operate on a different time system to everyone else... honest!!!

I even had a plan (and an atlas) for the journey:

1) Get to Manchester bus station
2) Get out of Manchester, preferably heading in the right direction.
3) Get to Leeds, wherever I had to in order to pick up Olwyn and John.
4) Get out of Leeds.
5) Find Romaldkirk.
6) Offload everyone/thing in Romaldkirk and then find Darlington train station.

Simple, huh?

Remember, this is *me* we're talking about. Nothing is *ever* simple.

Getting to Manchester wasn't that bad, traffic was OK for a change. I even got a phone call from Olwyn as I was pulling into the city centre. Something along the lines of...'Where's John?'
Where do you think? He'd said to me before I left that he had to pick up some stuff for me and Andi, but would meet Olwyn in the station pub. He wasn't there.
Ooer. I told Olwyn to stay put, it's a bar... John will be there...

He actually arrived about the same time as I did at the bus station to pick up Andi and Darran, apparently. I pretended to be a taxi this time; only staying long enough to get the beer, the luggage and the people (I use the term loosely) in the car. We were off to bonny Leeds *my* way, carefully avoiding all tramlines in the process - much to the Romulan's delight.

Getting to Leeds is easy. At least it is if you don't get caught in traffic queues. Which we did,of course. I told you nothing was simple when I was involved. Despite having a Leeds native in the car, I decided to let Andi navigate - she at least knows which side of a map is *up*. The journey itself was generally OK, even if we did narrowly miss having a crash due to the strange combination of toffee wagon wheels, the windscreen and Darran. Ask nicely and we might even give details...

Once we hit Leeds (not literally... Honest, though Darran might argue that I *did* try), after much conniving on the phone, I pretended to be a taxi again. This time so's I could pick up Olwyn and John. At this point the car was definitely past it's ideal capacity, but what the hell, we all managed to fit in. Just. We even managed to move. I navigated out of Leeds by dint of listening to whoever I could hear. I don't think *interesting* is quite the word I'm looking for...

I needed cash (and beer), Andi wanted ice-cream (and beer) and I'm not entirely sure what the other three wanted, but I know beer was in there somewhere... So we stopped off at Morrisons. We got the cash, the ice-cream and the beer and also ended up with a packet of four chicken and mushroom pot-noodles (don't tell anyone, but I actually quite like them.
This however does *not* make me an addict. I will deny this most vehemently.) More on the Pot-noodles later... honest!!!

Back on the road (the A 1 if anyone's interested) we got caught in more traffic queues. The passage of time was made so much more agreeable by the addition of the ice-cream. We even had spoons!
I'm still not sure what was going on in the back of the car, and after Olwyn's later request for a sponge to clean up the stains, I think that's probably for the best...

Alis rang to tell us that she would shortly be arriving in Darlington while we were still in transit. Oops. We had to get to Romaldkirk and unpack before I could even think about fitting Alis and her luggage in the car. Luckily enough we found the cottage without too much trouble, due to more of Andi's navigational skill (the fact that none of the rest of us knew where we were going had *nothing* to do with it. I'm sure Andi would agree.)

At the cottage we had a welcoming committee, consisting of a nicely burning open fire and a ginger cat. I decided the cat was auburn rather than ginger (it was too dark) and wandered in to talk to the fire (much more interesting than a cat) and to do a spot of exploring. The cat apparently got a name while my attention was elsewhere - Jonesey - and I think there was something else going on. What, I have no idea, so don't ask me...

After we'd all finished exploring, it was time to go get Alis from Darlington. I took Olwyn with me as emergency backup... I needed someone who could read a map in case I couldn't navigate myself. Darran said he knew *exactly* where we were supposed to be meeting Alis, but neglected to tell *us*. The sad thing is, we didn't realise this until we were halfway to Darlington. Oh Well. Just another Romulan thing I suppose.

Frighteningly, we had a brainwave not long after this. Why not ring up Alis and ask *her* where she was? It even worked... honest!!! Alis was exactly where she said she'd be. Wowzer! I tried to get the three of us back to the cottage ASAP without getting pulled up by the resident police.

Once we got back, Andi had designated rooms. Mike (arriving Saturday) was going in the one furthest from everyone else. As to why... Answers on a postcard please...(Heh Heh Heh).

Any recollection of Friday after this point becomes seriously...ummm... hazy... I was tired... Honest!!! It has nothing whatsoever to do with the quantity of alcohol consumed. I did my best to totally confuse everyone including myself (though the classic instance of multiple confusion for everyone would happen on Saturday), and even ate a pot-noodle (sorry, Not-Poodle). Is this starting to sound scary yet?

I think I managed to hit the bed about 3am (using the word *think* in it's broadest sense). I was awake enough to notice that it had been constructed for not very tall people (the *bed*, you bunch of reprobates... what do you think I meant? Actually, don't answer that one, I don't think I want to know). I did sleep... honest!!!

I eventually surfaced sometime in the afternoon after introducing John to Sid James, the Nutty Professor and the entire ensemble of Old MacDonald's Farm. I sort of wandered downstairs, following the smell of breakfast. I even managed to get some bacon and mushrooms and stuff. For some reason, after that I was almost physically propelled by Alis into the shower. I think she thought I was talking too much. Me?
*Anyone* will tell you I'm quiet as a mouse...
And if you'll believe that, you'll believe *Anything*. There was also an amazing chorus of sniggers when someone asked me if I'd seen the sign. Unfortunately that made me think of spinning pictures as in 'The Man With Two Brains' (excellent film).

'What sign?' Says I. More sniggers.
I went and found said sign.
I even left it on the door.

If you *really* want to know what it said, please follow the guidelines below:-

1) Remember who was in the room.
2) Use your imagination (but not in public, please, in case you get arrested).
3) Don't forget we're talking about Andi (even if she *is* hiding under the bed).
And if you *still* have no idea ask Da Chief - it was her responsibility after all, honest!!!

After brunch, everyone managed congregate in the main lounge (the one with the fire) and sat around waiting for Mike and Darren (Sonic) to arrive. It was at this point I managed to get a group 'Uhhh?!' Instead of just Alis's.
Something to do with the change of subject between shopping in Zagreb and dead relatives and Canada. Don't ask, you had to be there...
Although if you ask nicely (again) I'm sure one of the others will oblige.

Luckily enough the other two arrived then. More offloading took place, with the careful relocation of the Dragon ingredients (except for the 6 litres of orange juice which had arrived with me). We then decided we had to go shopping and ended up in Barnard Castle, the local metropolis (I've actually been there before, drawing pictures of rocks for geology).

The lads got kind of distressed as we told them it would be better if we got the beer last, seeing as how we would be purchasing it from the very supermarket in whose car park we had abandoned both cars. The 'Beer... Last??' expression had to be seen and heard to be believed.

We ended up with:

More food
More ice-cream
More beer
3 pairs of socks
Birthday cake candles (we didn't have a cake, but that's a minor point)
More pot-noodles
Teddy-bear sprinkles
An Oscar biscuit barrel (Johns)
A violet and red shark (mine)
1 pair of handcuffs (Romulans)
A Duran Duran CD - Electric Barbarella (John's again)
A mobile phone voucher (also Johns)

I *think* that was all. We stashed the shopping in my car and split up for the journey home. The lads went to find a pub by the cottage (we had the key); Me, Andi, Alis and Olwyn went to find the leather tankard place as Andi had fortuitously realised that it was in a place called Bowes, near Barnard Castle. Could we find Bowes? Could we hell.
Well we did eventually, but it did take a while.

We found the actual house without any trouble and knocked on the door to be met by an enthusiastic, if scruffy, Springer Spaniel (liver and white) called Bruce. I *like* dogs, I always try to find out their names before I talk to them - it's only polite after all. 'Dog' just doesn't have the same je ne sais quoi.
*Anyway*, I don't remember what the tankard man looked like, but he made us very welcome. First thing I did was have a quick shufty at his book case... Some interesting Atlases and a very well read copy of 'Interview With A Vampire' were what I noticed.

Tankard bought (for Peter Wingfield), we zoomed back to Romaldkirk to discover the lads playing on the swings in the back garden. Apparently both pubs were shut.

Also apparrently, while they were off getting petrol for Mike's car, Sonic was practicing his 'Hee-eeh' (at least that's how John decided you ought to spell it.
When I said 'Oh my God it's a pallendrome!' he said he hoped it got better soon, and that it wasn't infectious). He'd also said he would instruct Sonic the proper usage of 'Hee-eeh' later in the day....

Shopping offloaded, we started getting the dining room ready for Andi's birthday tea. There were various strange sounding squeaks emanating from the room next door, which I just *had* to investigate. Turns out they'd decided to get the Star Wars Trivial Pursuit out. One problem... R2D2 was being awkward. I think it was Sonic who arrived in the kitchen, droid in hand, to tell Andi;

'Artoo won't work!' Oh it was *so* pitiful. And no, I didn't laugh (for which I deserve a medal, I think). Andi took the offending droid off him.

'Give him to mummy and let her fix him.' (I still didn't laugh, but it *was* close).

Sonic went away happy, and I toddled in shortly afterwards to find 3 of them fighting (almost) over who was going to be what. KIDS!!! (I did laugh at that point - couldn't resist it any longer).

We decided to make MTAS Mules which involved much fun wielding a hammer (which I thoughtfully brought with me) on some poor, unsuspecting ice cube bags. Olwyn was *very* good at this, said it was all to do with getting your hand into a rhythm.....Hmmm.

We decided to watch the Star Wars fracas for a bit before telling them they were actually doing it *wrong*. No, you don't get a cheese for every right answer.
Luckily enough, tea was ready at that point so any potential nastiness was diverted.

We all grabbed a seat round the table (it was a bit like musical chairs without the music) while Alis brought in the Cherry Pie (doubling as birthday cake) with a flourish.
It did have candles in, 1 for each decade, but one of them fell over before Andi could blow them out. Cherry Pie was not made for candles, it was made for eating. Which we did.
And I'm sure I shared my Chute related thought of Tom and Harry with Olwyn at that moment.

Birthday tea consisted of:-

Cherry Pie
3 flavours of popcorn (it was different colours too)
Prawn Crackers
KP Skips
Funny Faces (the *biscuits*)
Pretzel Flipz
Wafer biscuits
Jelly Winnie the Pooh shapes
Grand Marnier and Brandy flavoured whipped cream
Teddy bear sprinkles
Pan baked crisps
And probably more that I can't remember

I managed to gross everyone out first by dunking wafers in my Mule, and then by squirting a good sized dollop of the Grand Marnier cream into it. It was very nice... Honest!
I also think I ate most of the Prawn Crackers singlehandedly.

After munchies the lads disappeared next door to carry on murdering each other over the Trivial Pursuit. Andi soon followed to be question master and keep them under *some* semblance of control. I mean, would *you* cheat with Andi in the same room?

That left me, Olwyn and Alis. We indulged in a spot of popcorn throwing, but kept the whipped cream well away from Alis. Olwyn and Alis maintain that they were trying to get the popcorn in the pie dish... funnily enough a good portion ended up in my hair, in my Mule and on the floor. The lure of food fighting eventually lost its charm and we actually ended up having a serious discussion about fanfic in general, and my distinct lack of progress in writing in particular. Time flies when you're enjoying yourself.

We eventually joined the rabble in the main room, to watch the progress of the Trivial Pursuit. John had won one game at that point, and they were fiercly contesting the second. It's amazing how much fun it is to say 'I know that' when everyone else is stuck on a question (especially considering Mike and I were the only people in the room who were actually in double figures when Star Wars came out the first time). After 2 games (John 1 - 1 Romulan) we decided it was Dragon time.

We didn't have enough pint glasses for proper Dragons all round, so some of us ended up with Baby Dragons. Gizmo (my ever so cute little green pottery dragon chrimbo pressie from a friend at work) had a full immersion baptism, despite being told that it would make him melt. He was fine, once I'd licked all the interesting bits off.

Alis and Olwyn weren't paying much attention to the general proceedings, as they were reading Sentinel zines, the cover of one in particular was *veeeerry* nice. Alis also committed the grossly indecent and sacreligious act of spilling a Dragon. Shock! Horror!!
Mad dash for cloth to wipe up the ever increasing green stain!!! We then moved the chair a little bit so you couldn't tell.

We ate pizza (we even cooked it first) accompanied by haunted house potato shape type things, turned marshmallows into gooey incendiary objects and generally had fun with the fire. Mike somehow managed to get covered in half melted marshmallow, courtesy of Alis. It really was nothing to do with me.... honest!

Andi also had the bright idea that I should try on this corset of hers. Not the top of *That* outfit, a *proper* corset. With bones. And laces. God it was tight. I now know why all those women in films hold onto the door or something when they're being laced up. I also never realised just how much of my lungs I actually used for breathing until I *couldn't* (useless fact - most people only use the upper 65% of their lungs, sometimes less). Then she went and made me laugh. Or at least I tried to laugh. A half strangled sort of snort managed to escape as I clung onto the wall - snort number 69 unfortunately.
Mind you, I really *did* need help getting out of that corset. I think there's even a photo (of me *in* the corset, I hasten to add!). And as for the snorts, I'm sure everyone had some sort of neferious plan that they aren't telling me about. It was a conspiracy! I think the grand total of snorts for the entire weekend was over 120... I'm not entirely sure as we lost count!

Once I managed to get out of the damned corset (actually it was very nice) and back into normal clothes, it was time to unleash the Dragon's Revenge on an unsuspecting Mike, Sonic and Olwyn. Unfortunately there wasn't *quite* enough Mule left to get the mixture exactly right. They even had the temerity to drink it *fast*.
We waited.
And waited.
And *eventually* their eyes took on that sort of glazed, post Revenge look; Mike insisting that he was fine, Olwyn very carefully sitting on the floor and letting the wall hold her up (she'd very casually been making sure she sat there most of the evening so we wouldn't notice anything amiss when the Revenge bit. She's not thick, our Olwyn.) Sonic went very, very quiet for a bit.

Then we got the Twister out. I can't remember whose idea it was, but it certainly wasn't mine as I was suffering from the excruciating pain of a pulled chuckle-muscle. Seriously.
I mean it. Honest!!! I even had to take pain killers (a rather dubious event considering the alcohol flying around. Why do you think my e-addy is flyingpig, hey?)

Twister was funny (pain or no pain), we eventually persuaded Sonic, Romulan, John and Alis to indulge. Andi did the whizzy thing with the pointer, Mike took pictures, Olwyn continued to prop the wall up, and I was relatively quiet for about half an hour. The Romulan was out on nearly the first round. John lasted a bit longer. Sonic and Alis looked ready to go for it all night (and we have the photographic evidence, or rather Mike does). It was even better once we told them to get their arses in the air (much chuckling from the slashettes in the house).

After the Twister debacle Andi decided it was time for a bath and Sonic decided it was time to die. I think Andi just wanted to use her Baileys bubble bath. We later on had Rom trekking up and down the stairs doing the dutiful servant bit. First it was for a cold drink, then ice-cream and then for chocolate fudge and teddy bear sprinkles *on* the ice-cream.

He didn't reappear after that though they *definitely* left the bathroom.

I contemplated moving the sign.

With Andi and Darran out the way, Sonic dead and Mike mellow; Alis and Olwyn decided to toast more marshmallows and crumpets. Failing that, Olwyn tried to set fire to the skewers, herself and the poker (for the *fire*), not to mention the carpet. I added to the general pyromaniacal ambience by digging out the candles I just *happened* to bring with me. Very Nice. I *like* fire. So we sat and we chatted and we listened to music and generally vegged.

Eventually we had to crash (those of us who hadn't already). It was about 2:30, I think.

The bed hadn't got any longer. I thought about moving the sign again (still didn't. Anyone who even *dares* to mention poultry will be... well, I'm sure I'll think of something... Honest!

I woke up about 8am and meandered downstairs for a drink. A sleeping bag had miraculously appeared over Sonic, who didn't seem to have moved from where we abandoned him. I thought about starting to tidy up, but going back to bed seemed much more interesting and a hell of a lot warmer too. Heh heh heh.

When I officially surfaced the place was clean. Wow! And then we had to make breakfast and mess it all up again. I cheerfully volunteered John to do the washing up, seeing as I was driving. I did the drying...


* * * The Quest for the Holy Not Poodles * * *

Now this was an ongoing event for the weekend, which was so eloquently explained by our resident Horsegirl in disguise. So here we have the tale of *The Quest*...

Talking of Horsegirls, I did my bit for mayhem and terror this weekend. *Certain* people (not me, Andi or Alis) decided Pot Noodles (or as TO John TG quaintly calls them, Not Poodles) were an acceptable food group.
Clearly, this was unacceptable.

The first set were relocated at source. (Hidden in shoulder bag at shop when no one was looking.)
Time taken to realise they were non-available: 17 hours.
Places searched: Kitchen - 11 cupboards. Living Room. Bedrooms (as if).
Retrieval procedure: placed in full view in kitchen.

Second set:
Relocated in pseudo-domestic activity (put away shopping, hid items in freezer)
Time taken to realise etc: ten hours.
Places searched: Darren was looking for ice-cream, and accidentally located the Not Poodles.....Darn.
Action: Due to the Romulan's inability to do more than observe that the Not Poodles were in the freezer, they remained there for a further two hours.

Second set (part 2):
Relocated (as part of ostensible drinking water trip) to washing machine.
Time taken to etc : Sonic discovered non-Noodle situation at an undiscovered time (<2.30 am >8.30 am) Probable time: 5 hours.
Action: passed out again, hungry {eg}
Places searched: All. (inc freezer)
Action: Mike spotted Not-Poodles accidentally when commiserating with other addicts and glancing across the utility room.
Darn darn.

Second set: part three
Due to shortness of time, plan D did not eventuate as preceding. Moving fast, only half of target was achieved, relocated externally to juvenile suspenso-pendulum facilities. (two pot noodles on the swings) Rom and Sonic cracked first, and collected them.

JTG has promised the EC Not Poodle Mountain for Chronicles...

* * * *

Time just seemed to run away from us and in no time at all I had to tke Alis back to Darlington for her train. I'd got used to the trip by then, but still forgot how long it took. We (me and Olwyn) even managed to miss another one of John's Magnum moments.
Despite packing at the speed of light we were pushing it for time to get Olwyn back to Leeds for her train so I finally got to see how fast I could go in the car, fully laden. Fun! Of course we'd forgotten about the A1. Bad roadworks. Nasty, nasty roadworks.
Even so, we *nearly* made it. I think we missed the train by 5 minutes. I'm just glad the police weren't being particularly vigilant and I'm surprised Romulan didn't run screaming from the car as soon as we stopped.
Actually I think getting *into* Leeds station car park was possibly the most harrowing part of the drive...
'Where now?'
'Stay over here.'
'Over there?' (turn steering wheel)
'No!!!! *Here*' (waves arms. I readjust steering wheel.)
Oops. I can drive... honest, but I'm saying nothing about my sense of direction, my ears or my inability to know which left they mean (or which right for that matter).

We found out it wouldn't cost Olwyn any extra to get a later train (collective sigh of relief as we were going to foot the bill if she had). All we had to do then was decide what was going to happen next. The problem?
It's Sunday.
It's Leeds.
It's *the* night at the Phono.
Eventually we compromised on eating in the station Burger King before abandoning Olwyn in the pub (again), taking Darran and Andi to Darran's house so they could get changed and then going to John's so me and him could get changed. I was slightly dischuffed by the lack of time - I had enough time to do John's hair but not to do my own. If you have hair that is near as dammit one length, and that below shoulder level, it takes half an hour to an hour to crimp. Definitely not enough time. Still, I did manage to use some weird purple feathery braidy type things instead.

We arrived at the Phono for 9:30pm, where the chap behind the desk who takes the money and coats commented on how nice and unusual my coat smelled ('Ginger', by Cosmetics to Go - whether you're interested or not). We had fun, as per usual, even if we were only there for an hour. Andi diligently minding the bags while us more enthusiastic types had a dance.

The Phono is suffering from a very bad paint job at present (sort of bright duck-egg blue)and over preponderance of light, which is supplied by things that bear a startling resemblance to an alarming combination of vacuum cleaners and Bobba Fett's jet pack.
Not to mention the oh so wonderful kitsch 70s spangly Death Star thingy. You too can join the rebellion! In other words, there's a conspiracy going on in an effort to return the Phono to its natural state, ie *black*. And dark. But we'll keep the new loos, please.
Eventually we caught the bus home. Next morning I was banished while John phoned work (as if I would have made him laugh...)Needless to say we set out later than originally intended, but still managed to unpack the car at mine and get it back to the hire place on time. Then I had to get back home, pick up my own car and go and fetch my dog who'd been in kennels for the weekend. As I wheelspun off down the road I had the startling revelation that the Peugot we'd had for the weekend definitely *wasn't* a 2 litre car. John was not surprised. At least he wasn't by the time he'd managed to scrape himself off the back seat.

The dog was pleased to see me and decided John was an easy target for all sorts of things (like being coerced into playing ball). I nearly died laughing at the look on John's face when he told me,'Your dog is *nuts*...' Like he was actually surprised at this. Amazing. But he's *my* dog, so what else should you expect?

I had to go out for a work do that evening so John was dispatched back to Leeds via public transport. I decided to drive, thinking my liver would probably leap up my throat and strangle me if I drank any more, never mind hating me forever. I was even in bed by 11pm. *Scary*. Seriously, I needed to recover from the weekend before I was in work again.

Yes, a good time was had by all.

Things to remember....

Not Poodles
Star Wars Trivial Pursuit
And the fact that Olwyn is a pyromaniac

People saying:-

'Uhh?' (usually in reply to me)
'One small step for Ally, a giant leap for mankind...'
(see above. Thanks Olwyn)
'So that's what you kids are calling it these days...'
'Beer... Last?!!'

* * * End of Report * * *