This letter was originally featured on ‘Just Skeptics‘, the podcast by the Greater Manchester Skeptics. Conor was a guest on episode 17, which you can find here. I’d recommend listening to it on the podcast as opposed to reading the letter, as then you get the dulcet tones of my voice.
It’s hard to believe it’s over. It seems just yesterday that I was giddily dreaming of this romantic weekend away in Manchester. Just you, me and a few hundred sceptics. I’d heard about you first on a podcast, then other people chimed in with how great you were going to be. I booked my tickets early and got the hotel and flights sorted – the thrill of the chase sped my credit card transactions. I only told my parents about you a few weeks ago; I admit I was a little nervous about how they would react. They know all about my “activities” in Belfast, but this, this would be different. This was a weekend away, just for you QED. They reacted well, as they always do; “We only want the best for you, Conor”, “As long as you’re happy, we’ll love you no matter what”.
In the build-up to the fated weekend, my excitement grew. There were going to be so many good times! Such ideas that I couldn’t imagine, such fun! I arose early on the Friday, expectation over-whelming my tiredness. We took a taxi to the bus, a bus to the plane and a train to the hotel. The Ramada hotel; the red letters beckoned to us as we turned the corner onto Portland St. Eventually I plucked up the courage and sought out the crowd, diving into the bosom of QED – the bar. It was thrilling, refreshing and welcoming. So many critical thinkers in one room, surely this was just a dream, surely I would soon wake up! I admit, I didn’t behave like a perfect gentleman. I drank, swore and misused the hash-tag on Twitter, all of which I paid for on the Saturday morning with a guilty conscience. QED, you could easily have rejected me, ignored me or politely blocked me from the free wifi. But no, you were kind and gentle. You gave me the time to recover, then embraced me into the queezy warmth of the main hall for Bruce Hood. I’ll admit it wasn’t easy hearing about blowing up teddy bears – but sacrifices must be made. I struggled on. Saturday continued in a blur of the Reaching Out Reasonably panel, the paranormal panel, the Inkredulous podcast recording, Chris Atkins and Chris French. Scarily enough, I’m pretty sure Chris French was trying to brainwash us; he played ‘Stairway to Heaven’ backwards during his talk. He later spoke to me about false memories… or maybe he didn’t. Anyway, QED, you gave us breaks and time for mingling. I appreciated that. Then, it was the chance to hear from the king of skeptics, the big kahuna, the brain behind the person behind the voice: Steve Novella. Ah, what a guy. Don’t worry though, my dear QED, I wouldn’t stray from you. Having said that, you didn’t make it easy, you certainly gave me some tough choices. Time travel or podcasts? Skeptics in the pub workshop or juggling? The choices are in the past and I know I can’t change them, mostly because I didn’t go to the time travel talk. Saturday finished with the comedy loveliness of Helen Keane and Matt Parker, as well as the one and only George Hrab, who was once disqualified from an egg-and-spoon race for bending the spoon.
Sunday kicked-off with a delicious sugar and homeopathy overdose, with Wendy Grossman benefiting from the sugar-high and placebo effect. Therein followed the choice between Simon Singh and Chris Atkins. You wicked, wicked demon QED. I shall forgive you though, for then you provided us with Jon Ronson. After his talk, I’m pretty worried about being a psychopath. Or living with a psychopath. Or upsetting a psychopath. Nearing the end of the weekend, I went to the skeptics in the pub workshop, apparently missing the fantastic Colin Wright juggling and doing maths. Never mind. The ceremony closed with Eugenie Scott, whose words of summation of evolution brought a tear to quite a few eyes.
I know that, for me, you were just a holiday romance. For others, you were a labour of love, months of dedication. Not having you in my life will be a brief sense of mourning, but it will pass. For others, the end of this relationship may take a greater toll.
You’ve changed my outlook on life. I’ve learned so many lessons from you: Don’t pretend to be crazy to avoid a prison sentence; don’t believe anything your brain tells you and if you run really, really fast you’ll go forward in time.
So here’s to you QED. So long and thanks for all the belladonna.