Sense of Wonder
Conventions were rarer in those days and travel harder. Hence, the opportunity to meet fen long known by name but not by face imbued an otherwise mundane day with a sense of excitement. Here is an anecdote, by famous Irish fan John Berry, centered on such a meeting, with a secondary psionic interest. It appeared in John's own zine The Complete Faan.
One of the pleasures of fandom is the ever present possibility that suddenly when one least expects it, a new fan will appear over the metaphorical horizon. When I do eventually meet a fan whom I’ve heard about for years, for the first time, I feel exactly how I think Stanley felt when he met Livingstone. The pounding heart, the dry mouth, pulsating veins. . . all the symptoms of a new discovery. For even with my limited experience of meeting fans it has become increasingly apparent to me that fans are somehow different from normal homo sapiens - there is a certain undefinable stamp of originality of thought and outlook and even - yes, even appearance.
Take this very morning for instance. My office telephone rang, I picked up the receiver, and the voice announced itself as Ken Potter.
A second before, everything pertaining to fandom had been domiciled in a distant part of my brain - temporarily forgotten in the frustrations of mundane travail. And then the name ‘Ken Potter’ transformed me from a stolid and utterly optimistic dactyloscopist to a fervent fan pulsing with enthusiasm at the thought of coming into personal contact with a new fan - and better still, in this case - two fans, because Irene Potter (née Gore) was in Belfast, too.
Ken explained that their visit to my house would be of short duration because they had to catch the boat back to England at 9:30 p.m. This meant a tight schedule, because I didn’t quit work at the office until 5:30 p.m. I made a few rapid mental calculations and told Ken and Irene to leave Willis’s house at 5:45 p.m. and walk along Upper Newtownards Road countrywards. I said that I would race home on my motor-assisted velocipede, then walk towards Willis’s house and thus meet them. Ken said this was satisfactory, and I replaced the receiver on its cradle.
It struck me then that we hadn’t arranged any identification signal, and I had no idea at all what they both looked like. As the day progressed the problem perplexed me more and more, until by the time I left my office I was in an extremely nervous state. I was scheduled to walk along the Upper Newtownards Road, a very busy main road, and pick out one man and one woman out of the milling throng wending their way homewards.
Now I want you to get this picture firmly in your minds. I am not exaggerating the facts one iota; the experience I am about to relate is perfectly true. No undue stress to make a telling point, but the absolute unvarnished truth, so help me!
I stood looking towards Belfast on the Upper Newtownards Road. Many dozens of people were walking towards me, but I’ll swear on the Bible, the Koran or the Immortal Storm that whilst they were still 250 yards away, I spotted two characters, a male and female, who I somehow knew were Ken and Irene Potter. It wasn’t the way they walked, or even, as they approached, the way they were dressed. I just put it down to something approaching the telepathic, or, if you will, intuition.
As the distance between us grew less and less, I saw that their eyes were fixed on mine, and they were smiling, and we shook hands as though we had been old friends for years. There was no stuttering formal introduction. . . “er, excuse me, um, is your name Potter. . . . I’m, er, Berry, er, pleased to meet you, ah, um, nice day isn’t it?” No, none of that stilted orthodoxy. This meeting was as though it were ordained by the controller of the mystic force which seems to bring us fans together even though by geography and environment we are poles apart.
“‘lo, Ken - ‘lo, Irene.”
They both explained that they couldn’t have missed me in millions, because of the prolific growth on my upper lip. Quite reasonable, as those of you who’ve met me before will appreciate. But what I am still unable to define is how I knew them from such a distance.
I guided them through the complicated maze of roads which surrounds Campbell Park Avenue, and eventually reached ‘MON DEBRIS’, my house.
We entered, and in my simple fannish way I instructed them to make themselves completely at home.
“Put your suitcases behind the settee, Ken,” I said, “because I’ll be taking you to your boat in an hour or so. No, don’t put your beanies on that chair, someone will sit on them, and I wouldn’t like that beautifully embellished metal to become dented. Steady, watch that pole, Ken. I don’t care if it has got a flag nailed to it bearing the legend, “WE PUBLISH BRENSCHLUSS”; you shouldn’t have brought it into the house. Irene had the decency to leave hers outside, didn’t you, dear, although I don’t suppose that neighbors will understand that suggestion that they should rally to the cause of trufandom in Lancaster. It seems to be interesting them, though. . . just look. Gosh, you must be a strong girl to carry a big banner like that, must be almost as big as a tablecloth. Beautiful shade of yellow, Irene. No, no, sit down, my wife will bring tea in a moment. I say, Ken and Irene, I was just thinking about our meeting. Seriously, do you think I’m one of these ESP chaps, or something. I mean, exactly how did I recognize you. . . ?”