what's new

Click here to find out what's new on this site.



Sections of this site

Highlander Homeland '98 Highlander

The first Highlander convention in Scotland was not one to miss, (especially when you only live 200 miles from the border), so I packed my bags, put the cat in the cattery and headed North. This page recounts my con diary of all the things I saw - you'll have to find out elsewhere what I didn't see! And guess what happens when you click on the thumbnails?



These people are dangerous.. except the one in the middleBeware the Valentine Pelka Fan Club! Nice people, to be sure, but they’re up to something. One of the (several) excuses that Jette Goldie has had for disappearing from mortal ken thus far was that, last night, on her way back to her room, she was waylaid by the Valentine Pelka Fan Club. A thin excuse, we thought, until Steve the Elf vanished for an hour and came back with the same story - waylaid by the VPFC and given food and drink. So, innocent youth that I am, I set out for breakfast this morning only to find my stride matched by two charming ladies from... the VPFC. We did breakfast, so to speak, before I made a getaway. They are extremely nice, but what’s this with the food?

As the con wasn’t starting until midday or thereabouts, I took time out to visit the Glasgow City Museum and Art Gallery, which had a fascinating display of swords and flintlock weapons from years past, as well as military uniforms and armour. Although I was a bit taken aback by the storm trooper from Star Wars who was also on display. The Third Highland Jedi, perhaps? Perhaps not.

Back to the con and the inaugural session, which was the Homeland Committee introducing themselves to us and setting out some guidelines for “good behaviour”. And rightly so. By this time, the Conventioneers' Flight had well and truly arrived, (Jette getting up at 4:00am to go to the airport to meet them), and the hotel was full of slightly weary Americans all desperate for a bed. We are a cosmopolitan breed indeed - in addition to the native Scots, English, Welsh and Irish, there is the transatlantic contingent of Americans and Canadians, together with an EC presence from Finland, France, Holland, Germany, Belgium and Spain. After all the introductions and banter from the Homeland Committee, Jette foolishly asked if there were any questions. At this, a familiar voice shouted from the back of the room, “yeah, if a train leaves Buffalo....” Jette (and the room) collapsed with laughter at this, but if looks could kill, all that would have been left of Jim Byrnes would have been a pair of smokin’ shoes.

This was followed by a screening of “Forgive Us Our Trespasses”, after which Jette was scheduled to talk about the real Culloden. However, the first parallel session of Albacon was also scheduled, which had writers talking about writing, so I made my excuses and left, only to find the session cancelled. Rule No 1 of conventions - everything is subject to change. Returning to the Homeland room, I encountered website partner-in-crime Kat and the conversation veered sharply into the bar. Geographic note - being two cons in one, Albacon and Homeland each have their own event rooms. The bar, dealer’s room and Homeland event room are all at the same end of a very long corridor. The Albacon event rooms are at the OTHER end of the corridor. A neat move on Ms Goldie’s part, for sure.

This was followed by the official con welcome, staged in the Homeland event room. With several guests arrived but resting, (Ray Harryhausen was ill, Valentine Pelka was tired... all together, aaahhhh.....), it was left to Jim Byrnes to hold centre stage as guest of honour and it was an opportunity for the Albacon Chair to embarrass Jette by revealing just what, (well, all right, probably a highly censored version of what), Jette had said to her about Jim. After that, hunger supervened and I went in search of food.

If I stay....We assembled in the Homeland event room for Jim’s gig in good time - there were a few late arrivals, most notably Valentine Pelka, who slipped in to watch from the back of the room. Jim accompanied himself on electric guitar and apologised in advance that he was more used to playing with a band these days than solo, so he might be a bit rusty. If that’s rusty, my playing is totally corroded on its best days. The gig was excellent, a selection of old and new songs, (some of which I recognised from "That River"), but it was just good stuff to sit and listen to..I'll play. The gig was marred only by several people holding conversations at normal level, (if you wanna talk, p*** off somewhere else!), and a lot of flash photography - leading to some interesting approaches from the Committee, varying from the apologetic, but.. to the incendiary. Jim, however, was great - after he finished, he agreed to pose with guitar for photos and then announced, “If I stay, I’ll play” and did two extra songs. Your reporter has it on good authority that Valentine and Jim stayed in the bar until thrown out at 2:30 in the morning, but this writer headed for home far earlier.


Valentine gets over-exposedThere’s no getting away from the VPFC, as my breakfast was once again taken in their good company. The morning was dominated by Louise “Orson” Wells epic biopic, the Jim Byrnes retrospective. Truly a labour of love and a definite for the JB fans. It was nice that you could drop in and out of the session and still catch a nice mix of the man and some music. The first “proper” slot of the con went to Valentine, who is well qualified to be the Ustinov of his generation, arriving on stage relaxed and ready to talk. First topic was the imminent baby, and Valentine went out of his way to express his thanks to the fans for, as he put it, “clothing our baby”, as he and Noriko have received so many gifts. Many of the stories Valentine told revisited those he told at Chronicles '98, although he did amplify what he’d said about Adrian, both as a director and a fighter. One of the things he’d realised, reading the script on the way over to Vancouver, was how many fights there were, and the big fight in the power station came early in the shooting schedule. When he got there, Ken Gord had left some videos of past episodes for him to watch, at which point Valentine realised just how fast Adrian was and that he needed to get his own sword work up to speed. He said he feels he’s better suited to using a one handed sword rather than a two handed one, as he’s got quite flexible wrists. He talked a bit about working on "First Knight" and said how he’d nearly taken someone's head off in the big fight at the end - but not how you might think. If you’ve seen the film, at one point Valentine sees another knight without a sword and picks a sword up off the ground with his foot, throwing it to the other guy. But, when they shouted action, the extras ran between them and Valentine effectively punted the sword into the side of an extra’s head. He talked about his new film, “What Rats Won’t Do”, which premiered that Sunday in the UK on pay-per-view. It’s a comedy about lawyers and love and Valentine plays Graham, who is engaged to be married to one of the lawyers. Graham is SAFE and a bit of a wimp. Valentine gave us a brief character sketch in a bit from one of the scenes, before telling us that the US release has been put back, as it will now go on theatrical release in January, so something for his fans to look forward to after Christmas. Later in the day, extra autograph sessions were added for Valentine, extracting an affectionate comment from one of his minders that “the man is just a signing slut!”

Jim Byrne’s session was a little less free flowing than Valentine’s, as Jim tends to be more direct with questions and keeps his answers straightforward, not offering any anecdotes or embroidery. He was asked about future plans and revealed that he flies from Scotland to Toronto, as he is appearing in an upcoming episode of “The Raven”. (Valentine, on the other hand, kept his forthcoming trip to Toronto a secret.) Jim also will be making further episodes of “The Net”, as that has been extended to a full season. He was quite cheerful about being the bad guy in that, relishing the idea of playing someone with no scruples. I asked him if he ever felt the writers got Joe “wrong” in the script and he said they often had to make suggestions about what characters would and wouldn’t do from the set. He said that the Raven script has required a close up of his Watcher tattoo... but Joe had his tattoo removed in Season 5. A rewrite had been ordered. He said that Joe’s bar wasn’t his idea, which puts him in the minority, as everyone claims credit for the original idea for Joe’s.

As someone who grew up glued to the television every time a Ray Harryhausen film came on, his session was a must for me, so I missed Michel Modo’s Saturday session, but I did find an unsung gem tucked away in the programme. After showing the episode "Homeland", Elaine Nicol, one of the Committee members, talked about the filming of Homeland's Scottish scenes. These were filmed immediately after “Finale” wrapped in Paris and Elaine was invited to go along. She’s actually in the episode - she’s the woman walking out of Glenfinnan as Duncan is walking in - but as the filming was done without sound and all dialogue was looped in later in Vancouver, it isn’t her voice you hear. She was quite surprised to hear any dialogue, as Adrian’s instruction to her was “just walk past me and give me a dirty look”. If Elaine ever packs in the day job, she can have a career in comedy, as hers is undoubtedly the most continuously funny session by a long mile.

The evening was given over to drinking and whirling, otherwise known as the ceilidh. Your reporter got out before the room began whirling of it’s own accord.


Don't even think about itThe day started with breakfast and the seemingly inevitable table full of VPFC fans. These people like their food. Apparently, Valentine has not quite got the hang of being a con guest - he arrived with a small suitcase and had to get a room full of gifts into it! Scouts were sent in search of a hold-all that he could use, as he was leaving earlier, which revisited Rule #1 - everything is subject to change. He had agreed to do a session given over to readings from the classics, which was well sign posted the evening before. An insight into the assembled minds - someone had written under one of the notices that the classics concerned were “Winnie The Pooh” and “The Story Of O”. Now, that would have been interesting, if only to see the audience reaction.... In the event, Valentine gave us the St Crispin’s Day speech from "Henry V", the “To Be Or Not To Be” soliloquy from "Hamlet" and extracts from the Morte D’Arthur, speaking a little before each piece about his approach to it and his thoughts on the work. It was quite fascinating. He told us a little story - when he was playing Hamlet, they gave a performance attended by schools. When he got to the “To be” bit, he left a dramatic pause before “or not to be”, only to hear the words whispered from out of the audience. He explained that, as he had been doing the play for several weeks, he did know the words, thank you very much, it was a dramatic pause, then carried on - uninterrupted. He turned and looked at us and said, “I’ve got the words - don’t even think it”. Valentine ran out of material before we ran out of time, so he held an impromptu Q&A right there and, interestingly, the questions weren’t about Highlander, but focused very much on his readings and what he had said by way of introduction to them.

Michel and translatorMichel Modo was up next and proved to be a charming and witty guest. I was in the bar on Friday evening when he walked in with his convention “minder”. We were right next to the door and, as his minder stopped to look round, Michel stuck out his hand and said “hello” to the group of us stood there, introducing himself in case we didn’t know who he was. Yeah, right. Maurice walks into a room full of Highlander fans and won’t be recognised. His session was bilingual, with Maroussia often translating the questions for him and giving almost simultaneous translation of his answers, as although Michel speaks good English, he preferred to let his answers flow in French and let someone else translate. He has a noted background in French film comedy, having appeared in a series of films and having originally been part of a duo. I asked him about Maurice being a chef and asked him if he was a good cook - he didn’t wait for a translation before telling us he was a good cook! He comes from Provence in the South of France and learnt to cook from his mother and aunts, but finds his children don’t want traditional cuisine, preferring roast beef and fries. He said that he had struck up a good rapport with Adrian, which extended to other cast members as he got to know them, but with Adrian it was immediate. This was his first convention and he took time to say how much he had been surprised at the warmth of his reception. He was a most unassuming man, mingling with the fans at breakfast or sitting in the bar sharing a drink and talking with someone. A really nice guy.

Behind you!Michel was followed by the auction, which overran, (Rule #1 again), so Jim’s session was put back. When we eventually got there, the questions rambled a bit, so I shall. Jim got the part on Highlander by being in the right place at the right time, as they were desperate to cast the part, he was available and he knew Bill Panzer. He had actually met some of the cast and crew, (including Adrian), the season before, as the acting community in Vancouver hang out together. And that’s his story. He hasn’t yet seen a script for Highlander 4, but he expects to be in it, as he understands that they very much want to draw elements from the television series into the movie. Filming keeps getting put back, (so no news there), but he’s expecting it to start early next year. He was asked about the Internet and said something very intriguingJim gets quilted. He doesn’t actually look at the Web, but apparently Davis Panzer print stuff off the Internet that’s of interest and send it to the cast members concerned. Gulp! So, if anyone from Davis Panzer does read this and would like to offer me a part... or a script commission.... I do have a British passport. (Well, it’s my website and I can dream!). At this session, Jim was presented with the Blues Quilt and the letters from the fans who had given of their time and effort to make the squares. The poor guy looked not a little bemused by it all.

Following this there came the final of the Con Quiz, which yours truly was competing in. One of the other guys suffered the embarrassment of having his train of thought stop mid-sentence. His answer to the question, “How was Alexei Voshin beheaded?”, stalled just after he had said “His head was severed”. Technically accurate, but a little lacking in detail. Five minutes later, he managed to overcome the general laughter by finishing, “by the ship’s propellers”, but by then the damage was done. The quiz master, Elaine Nicol, and your reporter were unable to continue for a few moments due to the tears streaming down our faces. Your reporter eventually triumphed, but as someone pointed out to me at breakfast the following day, it only means I know a great deal about next to nothing!

And that, more or less, was it. The evening was given over to the masquerade and then everyone hit the bar. Reliable reports have it that Jim Byrnes made it three for three and closed the bar again, leaving his drinking companions looking a little shell-shocked the following morning - Jette went from looking like Amanda for the masquerade to looking like the living dead the next morning - and there is a strong suspicion that Jim never actually went to bed at all, just keeping going until Jette poured him into the taxi to take him to the airport. Your reporter took a last breakfast with the VPFC before saying his goodbyes, getting the car out of hock to the NCP and heading south down the tarmac snake. It was fun.

The boys are back in town - Chronicles '99