Date - August 1995
What can I tell you about my trip to Los Angeles except that it was WONDERFUL! I didn't want to come home. But, being a practical soul and having no green card... nor money left, I had to drag myself away. The convention was out of this world with TWENTY guests at various times during the weekend - there were one or two hiccups but the overall effect was magnificent and all the hard work and preparation by the Carousels & Caverns Community was in evidence, from the 200 page convention 'zine just brimming with art and stories, to the beautifully detailed set which was erected along one side of the "great hall" including Vincent's Chamber next to Catherine's Balcony and Father's Chamber on the other side. From Laura's Cavern point of view it was a success too because there were 35 members in attendance - including 15 new members and in that number we welcome a new Special Member: Mr Edward Albert Jr. He told me that he learned the manual alphabet when he made the film Butterflies Are Free.
The guests were (in order of appearance); Myhr as MC (he very kindly let Jamie come see us too!) David Greenlee (Mouse) we already love David who is recovering from a painful back injury, Ren Woods (Edie) she brought her rhythm section with her on Saturday night, Caitlin O'Heaney (Brigit O'Donnell) she is a truly delightful lady, K.C.Clark (Tunnel Tart - her words not mine!) entertaining as ever, Bill Calvert (Michael) sporting a beard!, Edward Albert (Elliot Burch) his kindness to a fan in distress was extraordinary, Ron Perlman (Vincent) YES I DID SAY RON PERLMAN!!!, Roy Dotrice (Father) Roy lost his mum recently and shared some lovely stories with us, Jay Acovone (Joe Maxwell) looking much fitter than he did at TCIII and (thankfully!) without the beard, David Schwartz (Producer) one question is all you need!, Corey Danzinger (Kipper) - just graduated and still looking very young!, Terri Hanauer (Jenny Aronson) looking great and enjoying Call My Bluff, John Franklin (Young Vincent) an extremely versatile actor who even upstaged Roy during the panel game!, Ritch Brinkley (and wife Kathi) joined us for the banquet as did the lovely Ellen Geer. There was also a seminar which I believe involved Howard Gordon, Stephen Kurzfield, Robert Sigman (President of Republic) and Tom Szwak (Vice-President). I have heard since that Robert Sigman was very impressed with Beauty & The Beast fandom and is interested in our views regarding a movie/TV mini series!
I cannot possibly give you a full con report as so much happened and others will record events elsewhere so I shall continue my tradition by giving you a selection of highlights...
... I travelled alone a week before the con and had volunteered to help in any way (dogsbody/gofer) that I could. By doing this I met many more people than I would have done otherwise and have not only renewed old friendships and met at last those I have only written to before, but I have also made many new friendships which promise joy for the future. I was also very BUSY! At no time was I sitting round waiting for something to happen - I enjoyed the con so much more because of this...
... Meeting Connie Moler was a definite highlight! AND finding that despite the differences between ASL and BSL we could communicate. She is an amazing lady who will probably be embarrassed to read this... but her presence and her team of interpreters made the con so special for me...
... The opening ceremony was so neat! Myhr ran in like an olympic athlete carrying a `torch' (which was a flashlight with red crepe paper flames) and each of those on stage `lit' their `torch' from his and read their lines... it was funny and clever and very entertaining...
... Friday night was the costume contest and I wore my Diana outfit. It was a highlight that I didn't get stoned to death - in fact I had a good reception. The best part of the evening, well two parts really, were my two kisses from Edward Albert (there! so now I'm a kiss-and-tell) and a trip to Denneys very late for supper with two good friends IN COSTUME!...
... Saturday afternoon I had promised Rhonda (Collins) that I would sit with her at her dealer's table dressed in my Diana costume - she writes Diana better than anyone else I've read. It was really nice to spend some quiet time with Rhonda and Larry...
... The talent show was a real high spot. I was very nervous but I had been told I could sign two songs so I decided to do "The First Time I Loved Forever" and John Picton's composition "Promises Of Someday". I gave Myhr a note so that he could announce the songs and say who wrote the second one but I didn't say anything about the fifteen different episode titles in the lyrics! As I started the first song I realised that the ASL interpreter was watching me too and that made me even more nervous because I had been watching her and she was BRILLIANT. I did make a mistake but nobody knew except me and the reception was good. Then the second song began and I could sense the buzz going round the room as people registered another episode title... and another... when I finished there was such a cheer and applause and afterwards lots of people came to ask where they could get a copy of the song. It was nice to have John there in voice even though he couldn't be there in person...
... Still in the talent show The Myhr-Maids inter-active radio play was one of the funniest things I've seen and heard in a long time. It was entitled "Vincent Saves Catherine... AGAIN!" and I believe was written, produced and directed by Sarah Conklin (whom British convention-goers will remember as The Ratcatcher) Well done to all involved including Cindy Riddles on sound effects...
... The art was breathtaking, both in the art room and in the "Hall Of Fame" (for work which had previously won prizes) Two new paintings "Study of Jo" by Jamie Murray and "Song Of Songs 8:6" by Kevin Barnes were just stunning...
... The art auction was, needless to say, out of my league. However at the resumption, after the banquet, I did manage to buy one piece which I had coveted all weekend... because it is HANDS. Those who know me are aware that I always look for hands; brooch, earrings, ring... anything really. I was so thrilled to be able to buy Michele Sayles pencil drawing of Vincent and Catherine's clasped hands entitled "It Lasts Always". It now hangs with a few other very special originals in my hall...
... Monday was a stifling hot day and not the best time to go on a bus tour... but we went! We passed by a few locations including Catherine's apartment building before pulling into Griffith Park near the tunnel entrance. We had lunch very near there at the Ranger Station and those who had the energy went off to the carousel. I was wilting in the heat so with a few friends found a shady spot to listen to some music. The real highlight of the day was the trip up to Topanga Canyon to The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum where we were treated to a private performance of Richard III which was superb! The stage is part of the countryside and as butterflies the size of your hand fluttered by, we were mesmerised by the extraordinary talent of the entire company. We were initially disappointed when we knew that Armin could not be there but Milan Dragicevich was excellent, with a very convincing English accent and bringing out the real humour in the role which is so often played as mere irony. Ellen Geer in the role of Margaret of Anjou was both powerful and delightful and she "sculpted" among the trees, reacting to the ill-fortune which she had wished on others.
Ellen's daughter was also in the cast and Peter (her husband) was around to chat to those of us who recognised him in the interval. Afterward there was a Q&A session and then some went off to other restaurants while some stayed for the very acceptable fare offered there, which we ate in the gardens...
... There was a trip to Universal studios on Tuesday which I had planned to take but I was suffering from the heat so much that I pulled out and had a day of rest instead. I said farewell to more friends... always sad but especially when you don't know when, or if, you will see them again...
... Wednesday was my last day in LA and was both beautiful and sad. I have a precious reminder of all my friends, old and new, because I asked everyone to sign my ASL dictionary. On Thursday morning at LAX, whilst waiting for my flight to be called I read their messages, some of them for the first time, and I wept. I have left a big chunk of my heart behind so please, those of you who have charge of it, look after it as I may be back to collect it someday.

It won't suprise you to learn that the planned `video phrase book' is not ready yet but since I have had no response to the suggestion I am not giving priority to this project. I am considering preparing a videotape of signed songs and would like to hear back from any member who would be interested - usual terms. For USA members I MAY be able to get a tape converted to NTSC if one of you can then do copies for other USA members - let me know.
Gill Picton has managed to enrol on a Level 1 course starting in September. We all wish Gill well with her studies. If I can help, let me know.
A little bird tells me that Ruth Merry stayed on in LA and that David Greenlee engineered a meeting for her with Linda Hamilton! Way to go Ruth! And thanks to David for being David. I don't have more details but I'm sure Ruth would love to tell you all about it herself.
There are so many new members that I am enclosing an up-to-date list for those who haven't been sent one recently.
One new member, Kevin Barnes, is an extraordinarily talented artist (so now we have two!) and has drawn a beautiful picture of Terrylene which he has presented to the Cavern. If anyone would like notelets (nominal price) or a laser copy to frame please let me know. The laser copies work out at 1.18 each plus postage. You will need to send me enough stamps to cover the cost and postage. Send it in a board-backed envelope (A4) which I can then use to send the copy. USA members the postage would be 1.01 (I can send it as a "small packet") so $4 should cover everything including the envelope. Meanwhile the original is destined for my hall with my other special treasures! Thank you so much Kevin.
My second year begins on 2 October and I have promised myself that I will catch up on all my letter writing by then. So if you are owed a personal letter, you have already been very patient, do not give up hope as ALL letters are answered .... even if it seems to take forever!
The next newsletter will be after `The Watchers' convention in November. I hope to see many of you there. I hope you all enjoy the rest of the Summer and the Autumn (my favourite time of year!)

Be Well and keep those hands busy!


NINTH NEWSLETTER - THE WATCHERS '95 (and other matters)

Date - January 1996 CAVERN MATTERS
The first thing I want to do is to thank Melissa Prideaux for volunteering to be my `liaison' in the USA. We have had a few raised eyebrows at the term and even some press coverage but the scandal is dying down now (though we are doing our best to revive it!) What this actually means is that instead of USA members receiving their newsletter direct from me (at overseas postal rates) they will be sent to you by Melissa (at internal rates - somewhat cheaper) and in this way I can continue to issue newsletters at the same low cost. I still ask you to send your dollar bill to me as I will send postage money to Melissa with the master copy (gosh! that sounds good!). I still need to keep track of those still wishing to receive the newsletter and to make sure that Melissa is not out of pocket (and I know she wouldn't tell me if she was). UK members please continue to send two postage stamps and European members can send IRC's (or $1 whichever is easiest) Australian member - please work it out 'cos I can't! If you receive your newsletter via e-mail there is no charge (but please let me know that you have received it safely and tell me if you no longer wish to receive it)
I also apologise to Cathy Rusaw who asked to join at A Distant Shore but I did not find my note until after the last newsletter was issued. Cathy is an artist which means we now have three such distinguished members.
Welcome to all new members and to existing members... get in touch with anyone near you. If you have e-mail and I haven't found you on the `net' yet please drop me a line - my Monday mornings are times I really look forward to now! E-mail is wonderful and I thank all my `e-friends' for their correspondence. Long may it continue! "Snail-mail" friends, as usual, I am sorry that I still haven't written to you. I'm trying to find out from Jamie where he gets his extra hours from but he's trying to kid me that he doesn't sleep! A likely story!!
Now I want to say a very special thank you to Joan Chiu who very kindly sculpted a hand in the shape of the sign `I love you'. It is beautiful and has pride of place in my study. It will be on show at `A Moment In Time' next May and I'm sure everyone will be surprised that Joan is an amateur! Although the true meaning of the word can apply to us all.

This was a small convention and shared with fans from `Claymore' supporters of the series `Highlander'. The obvious common denominator is Adrian Paul, who, it must be said, looks a great deal healthier (!) in `Highlander' than he did in `Ashes, Ashes'. His wonderful sense of humour was also evident in a blooper reel which was shown. What a shame that we don't have similar footage of Ron's antics... or David Schwartz' birthday treat! (If you haven't heard ask Roy!)
We had a change of venue for this convention (as the previous hotel had changed hands and the new owners don't realise that we leave the place TIDIER than we found it!) The new venue has a much nicer `feel' to it. More welcoming and homely and ALL the staff were helpful and friendly. Not only that but the parking is under cover - something I was grateful for as it was tipping down with rain when I arrived and I had dealers goods aswell as my own luggage. There was a very high ratio of dealers to conventioneers (about 1:5) so there was plenty of choice. The usual 'zines, photos of stars from both series (and others - Star Trek, X-Files etc) also tee shirts, Celtic jewellery and the beautiful selections of goods & photo labels from Silvalea Chamber and from Pat and Avril. New to the dealers room were photo prints (to order) of some of Kevin Barnes' artwork (available in the UK through the British Fan Club) and these were very well received.
There were fourteen Laura's Cavern members present. We were all sorry that Bernadette was unable to attend because of ill-health but Marit, who had made the journey from Norway, was putting together a videotape of messages from everyone. Saturday morning was generally spent browsing the dealers tables, renewing old friendships, making new ones and... spending money. I found a tee shirt with the slogan "The e-mail of the species is deadlier than the mail" which seemed very appropriate. There was a competition to write the best B&B Highlander crossover story. Who has time to write stories at cons? Well I put in a very short entry - The title "There Can Be Only One" the story "There is only me" It got a smile when I handed it in. During the weekend I was asked to sign some songs. On Saturday afternoon I dedicated all the songs to B&B characters... "Father & Son" by Cat Stevens (Father and Devin), "Love On The Rocks" by Neil Diamond (Joe Maxwell), "Man Of The World" by Fleetwood Mac (Devin), "The Man You Need" by Neil Diamond (Elliot Burch) and finally "Lost In Your Eyes" by Debbie Gibson (Vincent) I saved the last song for Saturday night when John Picton was in costume as Vincent and with more people there the atmosphere (and my signing!) was much better. At the closing ceremony as usual, I signed while John sang his own composition "Promises Of Someday".
On Saturday night there were a few in fancy dress, notably John Picton (Vincent) and Mary Page (La Bete from the Cocteau film). Gill Picton looked superb in a 1950's dress and accessories. There were also cloaks and "tunnel togs" to be seen and many of the Highlander fans were wearing tartan and/or swords! We had a very good meal and after the disco John (still in costume to begin with) played guitar and sang us into the wee small hours.
Sunday morning breakfast held a special treat for me when I discovered smoked salmon & scrambled eggs on the menu (at no extra charge on this occasion)... heaven! I ordered some toast but after a long wait there was no sign of any so I asked another waitress and she said she would chase it up. A minute later two racks of toast were brought to our table... followed two minutes later by two more. I took these two to Sharon (Avery) as they had none at her table... but two minutes later another two racks of toast were deliverd to them and it seemed from then on that every waitress coming from the kitchen was carrying toast! We accordingly dubbed the convention "Toast Con".
At `A Distant Shore' in Los Angeles last July I had won the table centrepiece which was cast from Mike Maloney's sculpture "The Kiss In The Chamber Of The Winds" I brought it to the con and gave it to the couple who most deserved to own it - John and Gill Picton. I don't need to tell British members what a true reflection of Beauty and the Beast spirit we find in John and Gill and all that they do. Gill tells me that she is really enjoying her sign languages classes which began last September. Pat Paone won the quiz (again!) I'll have to make the Winterfest Quiz more difficult!

College is hard - I don't want to talk about it! I have been busy "Sign Singing" at a concert where we presented 31 songs in sign and "Carol Signing" on two Saturdays in December - both to raise funds for FYD (Friends for Young Deaf People) and at a fundraiser for the BID (Birmingham Institute for the Deaf). There have been two signed theatre productions. This is not the same thing as "sign interpreted" performances which merely add an interpreter to an otherwise normal performance - in these productions the cast present the whole play in sign language which is also "voiced" by members of the cast. The first was by The Show Of Hands Theatre Company who last year gave us an excellent production of A Picture Of Dorian Gray. The Life And Notable Adventures Of Don Quixote de La Mancha was entertaining but the disjointed nature of the storyline, being a series of dream sequences, made it difficult to follow (especially for the deaf people in the audience) It was enjoyable but not as accessible to all as Dorian Gray. The other production was an "adult" pantomime presented by The Gazebo Theatre Company and called Cinderella's Sisters. The production made excellent use of a cast of two (the two sisters), a tailor's dummy (Cinderella), a manikin (their mother) and various dolls which were used to demonstrate the disasters which took place at the "D J Prince's Rave". It was very entertaining (and very rude at times!)
It is Christmas Day as I type this part so you all know that I am thinking of you at this special time. Our usual arrangements have `gone by the board' this year as Chris finally took to his bed with the 'flu the day before yesterday. However, we have had the opening of the presents, followed by party games; "Hunt The Cough Medicine" ... having found several bottles we played "Which One Went Out Of Date Most Recently?" and then the very absorbing game "Try To Get The Top Off The Cough Medicine". We shared our Christmas Roast and followed it with pudding and now we're playing "I'll Never Eat Another Thing!" Yesterday I did my first sign interpretation of the Nativity (Luke 1:26-38 & 2:1-19) which was acted by the children at one of the Churches for the Deaf which I attend. The cast are all `hearing' (which is why they needed an interpreter) and mostly were very nervous and anxious to get it over with... so getting them to speak slowly enough for me to keep up was the hardest part! All went well and it was a very rewarding experience (beats my `second Angel from the left' at junior school!)
I look forward to seeing many of you at Winterfest in March or A Moment In Time in May (or both!). Those of you who will be in Manchester next May please let me know when you send your postage whether you will be willing to take part in our Laura's Cavern presentation. It is nothing difficult I promise you and you won't even have to learn anything in advance. I'm trying to keep the actual song title under my hat (pardon the pun!) but you will only have to sign the chorus which is the easy part. The next newsletter should be after Winterfest but I will be going back to exams so it may not be until after A Moment In Time. Until then...

Be Well and keep those hands busy!

(I am planning a joint three cons report when I get back from the USA)

Date - September 1996

My apologies to everyone who now thinks that I have "fallen off the face of the Earth". A little something is enclosed to thank you for your patience. (Those who receive their newsletter by e-mail can watch the mailbox too!) I really am here preparing the newsletter which takes a slightly different format from previous newsletters. Apart from the fact that it covers three conventions there are also contributions from other Cavern members. I hope that any budding journalists out there will feel free to send me items of interest for inclusion in future newsletters.
I want to say a big THANK YOU to Kathy Carrasco who has stepped into the breach to help out with the USA land-addy mailings. Melissa is unwell at the moment and I'm sure that we all wish her back to her old self (I s'pose we'll have to settle for that huh? But Melissa, if you can be better than your old self that'd be great!) Kathy is a new member and so has jumped right in at the deep end. Bless you Kathy!
May I welcome again all those who have become members since the last newsletter. They are: Special Members Caitlin O'Heaney (Brigit O'Donnell : Masques) and Judy Shimizu-Martinez (regular Tunnel Person) both of whom joined at A Kingdom By The Sea in Norfolk, Virginia. It was a delight talking to these ladies who have a true interest in Sign Language. And by the way... I really don't go beating people over the head to join us. If they seem genuinely interested in sign language then I mention Laura's Cavern. I am pleased to say that lots more people are becoming interested in sign language as time goes on. Awareness of deaf issues is much greater in the USA because you have the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). We're still struggling to get something of that kind off the ground here in the UK!
Other new members are:
Nancy Barnett, Lori Brown, Kathy Carrasco, Wanda Spiker, Pam Tuck, Eric Tullis, Carolyn Wannamaker,
As always if you live near any new members please get in touch and make them welcome. You could even practice together... Sign Language that is! (E-mail addresses are available from me)
Now to business and I will begin with convention reports which will in each case be more of a round-up than a full report. I'm using my photo album to jog my memory here so let me apologise in advance if I miss out any of your favourite bits. I know I'd be upset if MY favourite bits were missing!

WINTERFEST - March 1996 - Kettering
This was a small convention of around 40 people but Laura's Cavern was well represented, including special friends like Marit Rasmussen, who had travelled again from Norway to be with us and Bernadette Crowther who was back on her feet again. Chris also attended (and enjoyed himself!) and I had persuaded my friend Zoe (a fellow signer) to come to her first con (and... not her last!) The convention had the usual mix of dealers goods and videos to see and this was our first Winterfest in the Periquito Hotel, Kettering which has a lovely atmosphere (because it is old I guess). The Candle Ceremony was one of the best I can remember... We all stood in a circle and passed the flame from one to another, starting with Vincent (John Picton) and meeting at the opposite side of the circle as we listened to the soundtrack from Dead Of Winter.
Later the same evening there was a presentation to Vincent. There had been an ivory rose (complete with leather pouch) in the auction that afternoon. Gill was bidding for it so nobody would bid against her. It didn't reach the reserved price and was withdrawn. Bernadette had spoken with all those present and between us we bought the rose for John. He and Gill were surprised but this only demonstrates the love that we all feel for them and which is well deserved.
For Sunday morning 'Members Entertain' I had talked Chris into signing the duet from Gigi that we had learned some time back for a Christmas Party. This duet was the last song and was well received, especially by some who said they hadn't seen sign language used with humour before (a comment which was repeated to me in Manchester!) Zoe also signed with me and we presented Love On The Rocks, A Love So Beautiful and The Rose. It was nice to have a friend there signing with me but it does mean that mistakes are more obvious (because you don't match) so we had to practise very hard to get it right!
At the closing ceremony John sang his own composition "Promises Of Someday" while I signed and guess what? He only forgot the words! I thought he was winding me up, really I did because it was the chorus he forgot and he had already sung it once! Kevin Waters had already pointed out that it was the thirteenth U K Chamber convention so as John put it "Something had to happen" (Okay!! So I looked at the video too! It WAS a while ago you know and this poor old brain isn't what it used to be!) The previous evening, John had started to sing "Sid The Porter" and stopped, deciding that I should sign it (and I hadn't practised that one!) I think he was trying to get me back because I always take the words to "Sid" with me to cons, knowing that is the only time he sings that one and can never remember it (even though he wrote it).
We were all a little sad leaving the hotel as we weren't sure whether there would be another U K Chamber run convention. We knew (I think) that we had lost "Masques" which used to take place in October or November but now it seemed that "Winterfest" may be lost too. I am happy to say that there will be a "Winterfest" in March 1997 and that Caitlin O'Heaney has been invited to be our guest (dependent, of course, on there being sufficient registrations.)

A MOMENT IN TIME - May 1996 - Manchester
All three(!) of the guests, Roy Dotrice and Jamie Murray and Myhr are special members of Laura's Cavern. Roy and Jamie wore their badges at the opening ceremony. (There was no sign of Myhr but I did hear something about a disco the night before with a *very* high proportion of 'babes' to 'dudes' - Myhr went in and hadn't been seen since! Jamie promised to go look for him... later). The ceremony itself included a handshake which began with Roy introducing himself to the person to his left (That got a laugh "My name is Roy from... and you are?" to GWEN!) and travelled from person to person round the 'circle' until it reached Roy again. Then Roy read a poem that was specially written for the occasion and after gifts had been exchanged and the literary awards given out we settled down to listen to Roy reading some poetry and stories.

Amber sends this report regarding the Laura's Cavern Workshop:
A Moment In Time 1996 had many memorable moments but, amongst them all, I recall the Laura's Cavern Workshop and subsequent performance with a warmth which I will treasure for years to come.
"We are going to do another workshop aren't we?" Sue asked me months before the event.
"I suppose so." came my less than enthusiastic reply.
It wasn't that I didn't want to, it's just that I knew how much work I would have to do over the weekend. For that moment I had forgotten just how much fun they can be.
Sunday afternoon I reported for duty, at the given time, in the large room we planned to use. Slowly people began to trickle in until there seemed quite a throng. Sue tells me there were about twenty. However when they all wanted to go through the signs individually..... I could have sworn it was about 150. I am still amazed at how hard everyone worked, and soon we had the music playing and were off!!!
After I had pointed out to Sue that some of her 'Birmingham' signs were rubbish when compared to my 'Manchester signs', I think everyone realised that it's not only the spoken word which has problems with dialect... sign language has dialect too... and different parts of the country will use different signs for the same word. However when I signed that I was taking a quick break for a smoke EVERYONE understood, even those who didn't know any sign language at all.
Then... Sunday night appeared suddenly! Sue and Zoe gave a beautiful rendition of "The Rose", and everyone applauded the hard work which had obviously gone into such a polished performance. Now, in Lancashire, we have a saying "After The Lord Mayor's Coach Comes The Muck Cart"... believe me there was no 'Muck Cart' there that night. Everyone shone!
The intrepid, fearless workshop attendees joined Sue in the centre of the room and all eyes focused on the group. I was standing at the back of the room, so I could be seen by those who had joined Sue to sign. The idea was, if they forgot the signs or got lost, they could glance over to me and pick up from my signing. I really wasn't needed, they all exceeded our expectations by a mile!
"Thank You For The Music" was the song chosen. Sue signed the verses and, right on cue, those who had attended the workshop signed the chorus with her. It was MAGIC! They even remembered not to clap... hearing people clap... deaf people wave their arms in the air. And this really put the finishing touches to the whole thing.
So now, I'm busy planning A Moment In Time 1997... and Sue?
"We are going to do another workshop aren't we?" Sue asked me months before the event.
"I suppose so." came my less than enthusiastic reply.
It wasn't that I didn't want to, it's just that I knew how much work I would have to do over the weekend. For that moment I had forgotten just how much fun they can be.
Amber ~~~~~
I would like to add my thanks to all those who took part. When I asked for a chorus on Sunday night, I thought maybe half a dozen would stand up but... seventeen came and stood behind me! I was absolutely knocked out by it. I gather everyone had been practising in the lifts, in their rooms, in the corridors... Thanks guys... you were wonderful! (Anyone who didn't get a copy of the booklet please let me know as I now have spare copies)

A KINGDOM BY THE SEA - July 1996 - Norfolk, Virginia
We arrived in Norfolk Wednesday evening, after a *very* long journey (22 hours - don't ask!), to find that Hurricane Bertha was due in Friday night! CNN News showed us all the details of destruction already caused in her path and her anticipated course over the next few days. We thought "What the Hell!" We were so tired and we had till Friday so we slept anyway. I said a quick "Hi and Goodnight" to other early arrivals gathered in the lobby and we slunk off to bed. I have to say a word about our room at this point... which turned out to be a suite! I wanted Chris to like America and this was a great welcome. "I want to take this room home with us" he said. "Don't be daft" I replied "it wouldn't fit in the flat!"
Thursday was spent finding our way around the hotel and the Waterside. What a wonderful location for a con! Dreamseekers were busy through the day making preparations and so were other groups who had undertaken to help get the hotel ready for the con. The overall effect was great. We had "pockets" of B&B liberally distributed throughout the corridors and function rooms. To enter the main hall we walked through a tunnel which, only hours before had been cardboard boxes (and showed no signs of their former identity) There was Brooklyn Bridge and the New York Skyline on the stage and in various locations could be found The Crystal Cavern and Vincent's Chamber and in the Art room were Vincent, Catherine and other B&B characters and there was much more. Everyone had really worked hard to create a true B&B atmosphere.
The Opening Ceremony on Friday was attended by all the guests: Linda Campanelli, David Greenlee, Jay Acovone, Caitlin O'Heaney , Judy Shimizu-Martinez & David Schwartz. Very early in the proceedings Myhr (emcee) asked the ASL interpreters (Nancy Curles and Wanda Spiker) to get up on stage where everyone could see them, rather than stand in front of it where only Connie and a few others could see. They were a little embarrassed at first but I want to say a hearty "Thank you" to Myhr for that. Anything that gives Sign Language a high profile is fine with me! Incidentally, I watched these two ladies as they interpreted the music video to Celine Dion's "Because You Loved Me" and it was *so* beautiful that I was in tears. (My apologies to whoever made the video because I didn't see any of it!)
After collecting my Cyber Fandom tee Shirts from Eric Tullis (Good work Eric and Sandy Shelton for the artwork) it was off to find where the Laura's Cavern Workshop would be. I specifically asked them not to call it a "panel" as that would give the impression that participants would just be sitting asking questions. Oh no... Not in my "workshop" you don't! There were a round dozen taking part (including myself) and everyone (including Melissa!!) stood with me at the end and signed the chorus. Although the workshop was basically the same as the one I did in Manchester, using the same song: Thank You For The Music and still using British Sign Language, the event turned out to be quite different! We had a lot of fun discussing the difference between BSL and ASL signs (and just about anything else we felt like discussing!) Two members from Britain; Marie-Carmen (M.C.) Smith and Ann Hewitt had taken part in the first workshop but nevertheless appeared to enjoy this one too. I started by signing the whole song through to show how "easy" it is. Then I asked the video-cameraman to give us half an hour or so to learn the chorus and then come back, which he agreed to do. This meant we were able to relax as we worked. When he had recorded the final piece he said "That was great!" (so let's hope it is included in the finished con tape!) Thanks to everyone who took part and particularly those who propped Melissa up for the performance!! Melissa, I know how nervous you were and I'm proud of you! I have already chosen the song for next year's workshops so my fingers are crossed that we can be included in the schedule at Reflections aswell as at A Moment In Time 1997.
Friday Evening was the Saowen Party > Talent Show > Costume Contest and a number of "quick changes" for me! (I can't sign songs in my Saowen outfit, nor in my Fancy Dress outfit so I had to change between each event.) My Saowen outfit was a saree which would no doubt have 'come adrift' had I tried to sign Holding Out For A Hero in it! My fancy dress was the same as I wore (for a brief time) in Manchester, a copy of Catherine's outfit from the episode Masques. No, not the dress she wore to the ball but the towels she was wearing when she opened the door to her father! "Trick or treat?" I still can't believe that I did that in front of so many people! Before that I had managed to persuade Chris to come sign a duet with me on stage. He had worked hard to get the signs right and in rehearsal we had a few qualms when the tape player ran so fast that Maurice Chevalier sounded like one of the Chipmunks! Fortunately the equipment was quickly changed and all went well. We have had lots of compliments on the song "I Remember It Well" from the film Gigi, which is a gentle comedy. The other number Holding "Out For A Hero" is very fast and was also well received. Thanks also to Myhr for his impromptu appearance on stage during the song.
The banquet on Saturday night (good food - wicked dessert!!) was followed by the Celebrity Auction and this included the pink sweater that was worn by Terrylene as Laura in Impossible Silence. I *wanted* that sweater! By 2am they still hadn't got to it and it was decided that the auction should resume next day after the Celebrity Brunch. Rosie Badgett (Bless her!) asked me if I would like to 'look after' the sweater until next day. Would I?? The following day the sweater was bought by Interpreter and Laura's Cavern member, Debbie Arnett, so it is in very safe hands. The art auction followed and a special treat for me. I walked in during the bidding for Jamie's painting entitled "In your dreams, Bub!" and bid on it thinking "Well at least I tried" I was thrilled when nobody else bid and I became the owner of the piece that won "Best In Show" at A Moment In Time in Manchester. It now hangs with those other special treasures in my hall.
The art on show this year was excellent (again). I don't want to give individual names where B&B art is concerned because I am writing this in September(!) and I may leave someone out but there was a delightful and unusual 'art deco' style painting of Caitlin which, surprisingly, nobody bid for! I can't tell you what was in the dealers room (I had my eyes shut in there!)
I missed both autograph sessions (for different reasons) and I thank Chris for lining up to get his con zine and Cyber Fandom book signed for friends at home. Unfortunately... when we got home we didn't have his tote with them in so I guess we must have left it at the hotel! (I checked but they hadn't been handed in) Sorry Sandra and Amber!!
After the closing ceremony on Sunday afternoon there was the usual reluctance to leave. We stood around in groups chatting and taking photos. Quite a few people stayed on for the tour on Monday. We stayed, not for the tour, but because I remembered how grateful I was last year for the extra day or so to recover some strength before travelling! We came home via New York and spent a couple of nights there... but that's another story!

There are two books that I know of, published in America which could be a great help to members wanting to learn ASL but unable to find/attend a course.
They are:

SIGNING MADE EASY by Butterworth & Flodin
Published by Pengree Books (Berkley Publishing group)
ISBN 0 - 399 - 51490 - Z

Published by Pengree Books (Berkley Publishing group)
ISBN 0 - 399 - 51743 - X

If you hear of any other publications which may help those learning ASL please let me know.

I'd like to thank Lynda Morgan for sending me the page from her calendar showing the wonderful artwork of a hand holding a foot. You were right Lynda! I love it.
Monica Platt now officially runs a base for "Hearing Dogs For The Deaf" and has been fundraising for them steadily. Well done Monica.
Monica Platt and Gill Picton both took their Stage 1 exams last July. I know that Gill was 'unsuccessful' :( but that she plans to take it again - good for you Gill!:) Monica? How did you do?
I learned this week that I failed an exam (for the third time!) which means I have to rethink my entire programme of study for the third year (ho hum) Guess I wasn't meant to do *that* course... Fortunately, I started a Stage 3 Sign Language course (separate from my degree) a couple of weeks ago - There is more than one way to skin a cat! (Idiom - Sorry Vincent... No offence!!)
That's all for now folks! The next convention is Winterfest which is not until March and I'll be *extremely* busy between now and then so I reckon I should wish you all a pleasant winter, a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.

Be Well & keep those hands busy!