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e Storyville Weekend
 or: How We Found the Yellow Men

    (An Introduction by Tamar Yellin)

The idea of a Storyville Weekend was first mooted in the spring of 2001. It had long been a dream of mine that Storyvillians should cook together, but how this absurd fantasy was to be accomplished I remained unsure. It seemed politic to broach the matter. Storyvillians were open to suggestion (as was their wont), though the subject of cooking per se was not discussed.

The question then arose : When and where was the weekend to take place? The date was swiftly chosen, by means of a highly developed voting system adapted from Attilan Takitorleavit customs of the fifth century. The location was more problematic. A number of scouts were despatched. The Raines division returned with a brochure for a castle in Fife, which included the puzzling and not altogether auspicious footnote : *Tarpaulins available. The Andrews division came back with the price list for a so-called luxury hotel in London, but we strongly suspected that Madame Fifi's House of Happiness might not be quite all that it seemed.

For some time I was resolute in my determination that bunking up in a freezing youth hostel and cooking spag bol on a rusty electric cooker was the best way to forge closer friendships among this band of pale poets and hardened drinking types. My preference lay with the isolated mansion atop a Cornish cliff, or the ex-sailors' retirement home on a rain-lashed Margate seafront. Distinct lack of enthusiasm for both dormitories and spag bol, expressed by my fellow scouts in the form of grim silence, persuaded me that some alternative style of accommodation must be provided.

Exhaustive searches yielded no result. Then, in May, I spent a week in the quaint Yorkshire seaside town of Robin Hood's Bay. Here my husband endured with great patience what had become for me an increasing obsession. Day after day I wandered the narrow streets, plucking brochures from the doors of holiday cottages, only to fall victim to a growing realisation : as is so often the case in life, it would not be possible to cook together without also sleeping under the same roof. Cooking together but sleeping elsewhere were incompatible.

It was at this crisis-point that fortune smiled, in the form of a faded advertisement pinned to the window of a shop selling dubious artworks, next door to the Dolphin at the bottom of the Bay. Thorpe Hall was a seventeenth century manor house set in seven acres, with narrow mullioned windows and panelled walls, historic atmosphere and family portraits, perfect for a weekend gathering of speculative fiction writers and internet addicts. Further enquiries established that the accommodation was more or less ideal, and though we wouldn't be able to cook, we would at least be able to preserve our modesty. A sacrifice worth making, perhaps, though I still believe that a meal cooked by Storyvillians would be a feast beyond compare.

That very afternoon I received the full tour, courtesy of Peter, aka The Enthusiastic Man, whose passion for lightbulbs was exceeded only by his passion for sharing more than one really wished to know about the history of the house, viz. :

"Are you a crime writers' group?"

"No, we write all sorts of things really, science fiction, fantasy ..."

"Because I've always thought this house would be brilliant inspiration for a crime writers' group."


Enthusiastic Man then proceeds to tell the story of the murderous dentist who stabbed his wife in the bath and afterwards gave himself a fatal injection, but "there aren't any baths here now, only showers, so you needn't worry." He seems to believe this is a sales point in the house's favour, though I am feeling quite queasy and beginning to have my doubts. I quash these however, we do a deal in the kitchen and go away.

After a sleepless night spent worrying about the dentist I wake to seagulls and a blue sky and decide that everything will be all right and I won't tell anyone about the dentist and his murderous deed. I return home and present the results of my researches. They seem to go down well. By dint of gentle nudging and cajoling, patient reminders and repetition, firmness of purpose and fixity of intention, a goodly half of Storyville is converted to weekenderdom.

So it was that on the fifth of October Storyvillians gathered from all four corners of the country and from across the sea, descending by wing and by wheel on the small red-roofed town of Robin Hood's Bay, to weave fresh myths and legends in the annals of Storyville lore, to laugh at the singers of sea shanties and to incur their wrath, to laugh a good deal themselves and indulge in wit, to damage designer shoes and to walk kites, to fend off vampires and owls, and to improve their fitness, though marginally, in preparation for the Great Storyville Trek of 2002.

But that will be the stuff of future legend...

For now these memories of friendship and intrepid adventure must suffice, the camp-fire tales of how we conquered the hills and threw our words upon the waves, of how we, the denizens of cyberspace, did battle with reality and bent it to our will, the fleshly Storyville rendering the virtual one more real. All this and more will be our Ramayana. And how, incidentally, we found the yellow men.

  Next: Jeff's account

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