So, we've been to our first Discworld Con (but not our first Con in general1).
The venue was the Hanover International Hotel, Hinckley - it looks like this will be the venue for a number of events held in these parts, and it seems to be pretty good (nice large room; breakfast and carvery dinners ok; tolerance of fen among staff). It's about 300 miles from Glasgow to Hinckley, so we set out on Thursday, managing to get moving shortly after 12. Along the way we saw lush green Scottish scenery, and lush green English scenery (although rwrylsin says the Scottish scenery is nicer), a fair amount of rain (varying from random spots to bucketing) and quite a bit of sunshine, and we arrived in Hinckley around 6:30pm.
The Con program officially started on Friday around 12pm - but around 200 of us had arrived on Thursday. We checked in, dumped stuff in our room, then registered (quickly and painlessly). At registration we also got to choose one of nine Guilds2 to join - the idea being that the Guilds would compete with each other in some way over the course of the con. The Con committee got the hotel to put on a buffet dinner for us - rwrylsin and I wandered along to that, sat down at a table with a couple of people on it, and quickly found out that we'd found random members of the Con committee and friends. This amused us, because in Melbourne we seemed to spend quite a bit of time hanging around various members of the Convergence/Continuum committee and I was on the MSFC committee. I'm sure we're doomed to end up on a fandom-related committee somewhere, sometime while we're in the UK.
Someone at the table (angua, I think) mentioned LJ, so I said something like "Oooh, we have LJs too. Does anyone else here have one ?". Silly me, almost everyone put their hand up. I was amused.
I was also amused earlier, just as we were heading through the Hub for the first time, hearing someone ask someone else "Would you like to goph ?". Ok, it's a little thing, but something that suggests a certain literariness which we haven't yet found in Glasgow fandom.
Later, we wandered around a bit, then followed angua and ottah to the bar, where we tried to explain what a "Discworld Con 2004" was and why people would want to be there to a couple of people who hadn't ever heard of Terry Pratchett. After that, we went back to our room, watched TV a bit, then went to sleep.
Friday dawned. We were still asleep, though, and didn't get to see that bit of it. We managed to get to breakfast before 10am, then hung around aimlessly for a while until our first item, "Teach Yourself Tech". As rwrylsin said, this might appear to be a shameless attempt to grab volunteers to do all their dirty work, but we actually learnt useful stuff, and got to help out a bit later. rwrylsin learned how to work the cameras, and I got to play with the lighting desk a bit. I've often thought that I have a set of skills that would work well for theatre tech-ing - I can move heavy things, I can solder, I can do basic electronics debugging, and I can improvise solutions for things using whatever comes to hand. Might have to volunteer for more of that sort of thing next time around.
After that, we went to the Newcomers' Guide, played some Thud, braved Sator Square (the dealers' room), and hung around a bit, went to a panel by Jack Cohen called "The Appearance of Design", and then made our way to the opening ceremony (just managed to grab a couple of seats). At the ceremony, Terry spoke for a bit, one of the committee welcomed us and told us various vital things we needed to know, then we were introduced to the heads and deputy heads of all the Guilds. After the opening ceremony, each Guild went off for a meeting, to plot and plan their activities for the con. The Guilds were all competing for Guild Tokens, which could be given out by the heads and deputy heads (and Terry, who wasn't associated with a particular guild). The Guild meetings were followed by Terry's Bedtime Stories, where he read from Going Postal , Wintersmith , and Thud (I think), and then we wandered off to bed after a quick visit to Biers (the bar) and around the venue in general.
Once again, we managed to be up and moving in time for breakfast (just before 10am, this time), then had a bit of time to wander around before rwrylsin got to attend a Kaffee Klatch with Terry (along with 11 other lucky people - there were a few Klatches for each guest during the Con, and if a particular Klatch had more than 12 applicants, participants were selected randomly), and I ... probably wandered around vaguely some more. In future, I must remember to Gopher more at the beginning of the Con (whether actual Gophering, City Watching, or Tech-ing) so I can get to know more people and thus have random groups of people to hang out with in idle moments.
Anyway, after the Klatch we went to "Thog's Live Masterclass", given by Dave Langford, which points out examples of awkward, unfortunate or just plain bad writing in various works (mostly SF/Fantasy), and was very amusing. After that, we sought out lunch, and time passed, and then we headed to The Dysk (the main hall), for the Guest of Honour interview, which was informal and entertaining. Later, we went to a panel about various forms of sword-fighting through the ages ("How to Buckle a Swash"), which took the unusual but effective approach of starting with modern sport fencing, and working backwards through the ages. Dinner followed, again at the hotel's carvery, then we went along to the Maskerade Parade. Some of the costumes were very impressive, and the Nac Mac Feegles (their act titled "Sheep ? What Sheep ?") were very amusing. After quite a wait for the judging, the prizes were awarded (I won't list them all, though; people with better memories than I have done it elsewhere), then we went off to take photos of the Maskerade participants (I'll be putting mine up somewhere Real Soon now).
And here I pause for a while, because it's late and I should be in bed quite a while ago. Part II will come tomorrow, most likely.
 I first attended a Con in 1992 (coincidentally, Neil Gaiman was the GoH). Despite that, I haven't been to all that many - there was a gap until 1997, and then things started to pick up. The largest I've been to was WorldCon 1999, in Melbourne (around 1800 attendees) - and the second largest is DWCon 2004. None of the other Australian cons (even NatCons) I've been to have had close to the 700 at DWCon.
 Conjurers, Alchemists, Merchants, Musicians, Assassins, Seamstresses, Plumbers & Dunnekin Divers, Fools, and Thieves. I joined Musicians (even though I don't sing and only play the flute - and mine was in storage on the other side of the planet), and rwrylsin joined the Assassins.