There are two special times each year for me—well, to be absolutely honest, there are hundreds and maybe even thousands of them . . . but you know what I mean. Things that happen that foretell of a significant change . . . that kind of thing. And one of them happened this week the way it always happens.
    There’s a place barely a mile from the crumbling turrets and ornate edifices of PS Towers that features a collection of animals and birds and fish (not to mention an ice cream parlour of rare delights) which exists solely to entertain and educate those small people in our midst: children (though I confess to having enjoyed a considerable degree of both entertainment and education—and ice cream, dammit!—when Nicky and I have taken Orla Plum and her sisters, the twin terrors known around these parts as Edie Serene and Elsie Blue (though I’ve taken to calling these two six-year olds Heckle and Jeckle) for a recreational break.
    Here it is, look:
    It’s a fantastic place, clean as a new pin (well, as clean as a livestock environment can be) and operated by delightful people. But it isn’t open all year. It starts up for business around the Ides of March and closes its doors some six months later . . . whereupon it hangs a sign on the old oak tree at the end of the lane. That sign went up this past few days:

    Of course, it’s just one manifestation of the kind of widespread change that occurs on the turnover of seasons but that change is more profound in a seaside holiday resort, even a small one such as Hornsea. The kids have pretty much all gone back to school (save for the errant duckers-and-divers who see more to be gained roaming the long grasses and skimming stones into the North Sea than in studying History), the amusement arcades and one-armed bandit machines have all quietened down, and it’s even possible to be able to pick up a pint of milk or a loaf of bread any time of the day in the supermarket now that the caravan-owners have all gone back to wherever they spilled from in the first place.
    But as enjoyable as it is to get our town back to ourselves, there’s a muted sadness as well. Change is afoot . . . and for Cancerians like me, change is not always good news. However, it isn’t all doom and gloom—far from it. For this time of year also promises that most wondrous of weekends in the British genre calendar: FantasyCon . . . this time offering another opportunity to spend time in Brighton, the jewel of the south coast.
    And my, oh my . . . what a galaxy of stars we have in store for you.
    The Convention team—under the steady tiller-hands of Paul Kane and Marie O’Regan (with, as ever, the always dependable Stephen Jones beavering away behind the scenes)—has left no stone unturned in putting together what promises to be the best FantasyCon yet. Check it out here:
    But I just wanted to pause for a moment to mention how we should all spare a particular above-the-call-of-duty thought or three for Paul and Marie, who have been operating under very intense difficulties . . . with Marie’s mother seriously ill and Paul’s father losing his battle and moving off to the next stage of the adventure just a few days ago as I write this. How they’ve managed it, well . . . I’m damned if I know. Me, I get a cold and that’s it—I’m out for the count. These guys are just the tops. But you can tell 'em for yourselves in three weeks.