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Milford 1984

Participants: Paul Kincaid, Lisa Tuttle (Chair), David Garnett, Dave Langford (Secretary), Mary Gentle, Geoff Ryman, Colin Greenland, Peter Beere, Gary Kilworth

COME TO SUNNY MILFORD • Paul Kincaid

The Compton Hotel is a small, comfortable hotel in the salubrious south coast resort of Milford-on-Sea; an ideal setting for a quiet, relaxing break. Wander country lanes to the sea, enjoying splendid views of the Isle of Wight. Lounge by the pool, play pool or table-tennis in the games room. Regular guests are quiet and you'll find it easy to unwind in their company, or join in the regular games and entertainments. Pat and Don Emberson, our hosts, will make you welcome with delicious cuisine and a well-stocked bar. All in all, you are sure to leave Milford feeling rested and refreshed.

More accurately – come along to the Milford SF Writer's Workshop. A somewhat shortened Milford this year, taking place over the weekend of 28 Sept – 1 Oct. And with just nine /s/a/c/r/i/f/i/c/i/a/l/ attendees.

The Compton is inconveniently situated for the train – four miles from the nearest station, in New Milton, or further still for Lisa Tuttle. Travelling on the last train of Friday night, Lisa got the New Milton only to find all the doors of her carriage locked. After a few tantalizing moments in the station she was carried off willy-nilly to Bournemouth, where a ticket collector scratched his head and said wonderingly, "Yes, we've had a few complaints about that." People in the know might suspect that Lisa's story was an elaborate excuse to avoid a lift from David Garnett, whose car appears to have been cobbled together years ago from rusting fragments found on a scrap heap by someone who didn't really know what cars are supposed to be like. That it still runs must be counted as one of the wonders of modern science. They built 'em to last in 1954.

A warm welcome is guaranteed – provided there's actually anybody there to welcome you. I arrived feeling very hungry and more than a little damp. The hotel looked deserted. I rang the bell, knocked on the door: no answer. I checked my invitation to see if I'd got the right place and the right date. I had. Included was a dadaistic map showing the hotel and a pub down the road where, I assumed, Milforders tended to congregate on the first night. So I repaired there for a drink and a meal, but found no sign of my fellow workshoppers. Returning, I found the hotel still devoid of life, until eventually a shamefaced Langford (with Hazel in tow) appeared. "Oh, er, sorry boss. You been waiting long?" Pat and Don, it appeared, had gone out to frivol; the Milforders had shifted to a pub not listed on the Langford map...

Saturday appeared bright and sunny enough for group exercise – a route march along muddy lanes to within a stone's throw of the sea. At least Mary Gentle threw stones at it; then agonized over whether she'd hurt it or not. This walk was an aberration; our most strenuous later exercise consisted of helping ourselves to drinks from the bar, and playing unending games of pool. Mary and I regularly stayed up into the early hours, each totally incapable of beating the other at this silly game. Decorum was maintained throughout, with cues only occasionally broken over the opponent's head and language restrained to near-publishable levels.

Otherwise... mornings were spent feverishly trying to read a six-inch pile of manuscripts, and afternoons in tearing these manuscripts to bits. One should not minimize the tremendous generosity shown by everybody at Milford. They would dispense their sharpest criticisms lavishly and with great bounty, never letting their smiles fade throughout this strenuous attention that was surely beyond the call of duty. Between such bouts of intense intellectual activity, Geoff Ryman kept us entertained for hours with colourful descriptions of the grosser aspects of plastic surgery, while Peter Beere proved expert in various country practices involving sheep. Lisa Tuttle did her famous imitation of a big-mouth frog; Colin Greenland kept up the charade all weekend, croaking piteously as his voice gradually faded to nothing.

Speaking of charades, a game did develop on Sunday night, after an especially good and well-lubricated banquet laid on by the hotel. Garry Kilworth proved remarkably adept at thinking up titles like Confessions Of A Justified Sinner, while Geoff Ryman's performance of The House At Pooh Corner should be preserved in a thespian hall of fame. Elsewhere, a no-holds-barred, bare-fisted game of Scrabble erupted in furious controversy over Dave Langford's spelling of 'jism'.

Speaking of bodily fluids, David G. had arrived in apparent rubicund health to announce that he had a cold. With remarkable open-handedness, he proceeded to share his good fortune. Thus, on Monday morning, as we slowly emerged bleary-eyed and hungover, many of us had this extra souvenir of our visit to take home. [Other, equally welcome souvenirs included the unfortunately ineradicable memories of G. Kilworth's jokes. It was Mr Garnett who contributed the most harrowingly memorable scene in any story, a detailed yet inadvertent description of a flasher in what was supposed to be a space-opera for kids... DRL]

In truth though, it was a marvellously stimulating and enjoyable weekend, one of the best I've had, and I can only hope I'll be invited back next year (please!). I also hope for a return to the week-long format. A weekend that good, extended over a full week, would be worth experiencing. (PK)

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