Category Archives: Life

Default category and posts where I just talk about life in general

MCM Comic Con – Birmingham – March 2016

Picture of a Raider and Moxxi from Borderlands
This is not us.

We went to the MCM Comic Con, in Birmingham on Saturday just gone (19th March).  Here are some various random observations.

Getting to the NEC Birmingham is quite easy for us – we drive over, it’s between 45 and 55 minutes depending on traffic and this time it was pretty good.  There was a queue leaving the M42, which took up about 10 minutes of the journey, but it was always flowing.  On the way back however, we noticed a pretty bad car fire on the A42, which looks like it had closed that road for some time.  Not sure by how long we missed that, but glad we did, and hope everyone involved was okay.

We parked in East 5, having pre-paid for our parking the night before.  I can’t stress enough how useful this is if you intend to go to an event at the NEC.  The queue for car parking tickets was about 100 meters long, and I suspect was roughly a 10-20 minute wait in temperatures hovering around 4C.  Car parking was £12, which is high, but it’s a captive audience.  We couldn’t book reserved / priority parking which puts you outside the event halls, I guess there wasn’t any close enough for the Comic Con event, but we’ll check again next time.

We had priority tickets for the event, it’s £5 more, but you can go in from 9am rather than 11am.  We never intended to get there for 9am (and if you do, you’ll queue even with a priority ticket), but we got there around 10:15am-ish, and walked straight in, past the 11am queuers.  I recommend this approach!

The event was in an L shaped hall and quite big; bigger than November last year which felt very cramped.  It was a little more open this time, although still quite cramped in the main section.  There were the usual selection of vendors and guests, but since that’s not why I went, I won’t comment.  We didn’t go to any of the events either, although there was an inflatable theatre in which they were taking place.  Greté was there to shop, and I was there to take photographs.

There were some really good things.Picture of Stormtroopers behind a Comic Con sign

  • There were a lot of Rey’s.  It’s great to see another interesting and dynamic character for female cosplayers to play.  Of course, gender is irrelevant (I saw at least one female Kylo Ren), but for women who want to play women, it’s great that there’s more choice, and with costumes that aren’t revealing or sexualised.  There were, as always, the usual collection of Lara Crofts, Harley Quinns, female manga characters I never recognise and Black Widows (among lots of other female characters, don’t get me wrong).  I just thought it was nice that popular media has presented another strong female role model, with any-age appropriate dress, and hope we get many more in future.  Which reminds me, there were quite a few Dana Scully’s as well come to think of it – always handy to break out a smart suit and wear an ID badge.
  • There were a lot of families all in costume, many of them with very young kids who seemed to be having a great time.  I don’t remember previous Comic Cons being quite so kid friendly.  I guess for the kids it’s normal – get dressed up as your favourite character, it’s just as we get older it becomes more nerdy and weird.  We should learn from that – nothing wrong with it at all.  I think it’s great that people felt comfortable enough to bring their kids along.
  • Lots of excellent costumes in general and clearly a lot of effort had gone into them.  There’s always the regular semi-pros, the 501st Legion, that company who pays cosplayers to dress up (can’t remember what they’re called), the guys in the Batman suits that look like they just walked off the set, etc.  I do wonder if they can be off-putting at times.  But then there were the regular broad range of almost-semi-pros, amateurs, last-minuters, threw-on-a-fezzers, wore-my-tardis-dressers, and came-dressed-as-Jessica-Rabbit-in-my-7-inch-heels-and-bearders.  It was really a great collection of people.

The not so great.

  • There was an unnecessary amount of body odour.  I know, everyone’s wearing Lycra, or vinyl, or rubber, or fur, or leather, or whatever.  But if you know you’re going to be in close proximity to a lot of people just use some antiperspirant or deodorant that day, even if you don’t normally.  I know, some folk have medical conditions, and I respect that, and I absolutely have no desire to stop those folk attending or having fun, but there are just some guys who can not be bothered to make the basic effort of wearing deodorant, and there’s no excuse for it.
  • I go to the convention to take photographs of costumes.  There are people wearing those costumes, and the costumes range in quality.  I want to capture people who’ve put in some effort and are enjoying themselves, and I work hard mentally not to judge the people I’m looking at outside of those parameters.  Clearly, I’m also human, so I naturally find some people more attractive than others, or more interesting, or whatever.  I work hard to ensure I’m not just there taking pictures of attractive women in revealing outfits – that’s not why I or they are there.  However, there are clearly some people only taking pictures of people they fancy.  I stopped a pair of ladies and asked if I could take a picture, and one of the pair stepped sideways out of the shot.  They were both in costume (the lady who stepped sideways was in a less revealing outfit than her friend).  I had to drop the camera and ask her to step back in to the frame, at the same time as her friend was encouraging her back in as well.  I don’t know if she was just shy and didn’t want to be in the shot, but I got the feeling they’d been stopped by other people who just wanted a picture of the lady in the more revealing outfit and it made me a little bit sad and somewhat angry.
  • I felt a bit sad for the two of three rows of signing tables.  Pairs of people behind a desk – ageing actor + agent, all the way along, waiting for someone to turn up so they could earn another bit of cash.  I know, it must be lucrative, and I’m being hugely hugely disrespectful.  Fans love to meet their heroes, their heroes love to meet their fans, and if you’ve got a fan base then you should turn up and everyone’s a winner, but the two times I walked through that area it just felt devoid of soul.  Sorry.

Other things

  • May the tiny kitten of joy vomit forth happiness upon you
    GenkiGear t-shirt

    Lots of vendors, the usual range of stuff, not really why I go, but it kept my wife occupied for the four hours we were there.  Shout out to GenkiGear which is where my wife spent the bulk of her cash.  She does love their stuff.  There seemed to be about a thousand versions of Monopoly on sale, one for every fandom and universe, including Firefly.  There was quite a nice little Steampunk area, although it didn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention, one guy with some amazing art there though (who’s name I didn’t take down – aha, just remembered, I think it was this guy).

  • Getting into the venue from the car park was amusing.  If you’ve been to the NEC you know they run a shuttle bus service from the car parks.  We were on a side of the NEC we’ve not been to before, and we walked from the car park down towards the road (past all the people queueing for car parking tickets, see above).  As we got to the road, we could see the bus stop to our left, but everyone was streaming over the road crossing and not far in front of us we could see some buildings.  So, sheep-like, we just followed.  Sadly, those folk were more optimistic and younger than we were – the buildings we could see weren’t the exhibition halls, and so it was the feared long walk from the car park to the entrance.  We got the bus back.  Next time, we’ll be much less sheep-like.
  • There was a mock fight between a Rey, a Kylo Ren and a Finn.  I’m pretty sure if you’ve never seen the film it counted as a spoiler – they didn’t spoil the other thing though.
  • I saw the worst Han Solo ‘look-alike’ ever, even if his costume was authentic looking, he looked like an accountant.

Overall it was a good day out – not the cheapest way to spend four hours if you’re not interested in the events or the star signings, but not the most expensive day out either, and great to see so many excellent costumes and folk enjoying themselves.

Flu

I’ve been ill.  Although not anywhere near life threatening, it’s probably the most ill I’ve ever been in my adult life.  We suspect flu, and I now whole heartedly regret not getting the jab last year.  I’m on the ‘at risk’ list due to type 2 diabetes, so get the jab for free (and the NHS are not shy in reminding me), but I laughingly say ‘I’ll get it when I’m old’ each time, and decline.  I won’t decline next year.

Normally if I’m ill, I’ll pass the time watching movies or playing on the console or PC.  This time, I was pretty much spaced out the entire two or three weeks, and just stared at the TV for something to occupy my feeble mind.  Between the coughing and the temperature, I was pretty much wasted.  My eating during the illness has been somewhat sporadic, I don’t think I had anything for the first two days, and then it’s been a mixture of bread and other junk.  Can’t imagine my blood sugar results in March are going to be very good.

Frustratingly, during that time, we had some great sunny days and I would have loved to have gotten out with the camera, but I just didn’t have the energy (not withstanding that I was also off work and it would have been a little disingenuous to be well enough to take photographs but not well enough to work).  This morning was the first time in three weeks I’ve been out of the house (other than two trips to the GP), and I’m not sure Tesco counts as a fun destination.  Even doing that has left me knackered.

So I’ve spent a lot of time staring at day time TV, with adverts.  One of the things I noticed is that every second advert during the day on TV is about after 50 life cover, to cover the cost of funerals. And every other advert in between those, is about reclaiming mis-sold PPI, short term loans, or claiming compensation for an injury at work.  What a fucking depressing collection of adverts.

Coming to terms with it

md01-095_m_1_grandeNot a happy go lucky blog entry – you may want to move along if you’re already in a down mood.

It’s funny how we forget what we were like, or what we enjoyed, or what we did.  Is that just me?  My memory of my life is quite bad, I don’t think about the past much (other than a few specific things), but memories are sometimes triggered by other people having conversations about stuff.  I moved away from home when I was 18 (went to Uni) and never really went back.  That meant my conversations from the age of 18 onwards were about new stuff.  I wonder if this is what people mean by the phrase discovering yourself?

Because I mostly listened to people and spoke about how I felt about stuff, rather than the events of my childhood, I never reinforced those memories I guess.  Over time, still not talking about them (not for any dire reason, just because I was always private) means they didn’t get refreshed or used, and unused memories fade.  Or mine did.  Now, because they’re hazy I just don’t talk about them because I don’t really have good recollections of them.  So, I was going to start this blog with, I was never one for big family gatherings, and then I realised I wasn’t actually sure if that was true.  Maybe I was when I was young but I grew out of them, or maybe I was always too old for my boots, too sarcastic and cynical for my shorts?  Who knows.  For the benefit of brevity, let’s assume I was never one for big family gatherings.  I didn’t dislike my wider family as much as just disliking the process of being in a large family group.

I used to go to my grandparent’s (on my mam’s side) house for dinner (which is the midday meal where I’m from), during school dinner break when I was in my teens.  It was right next to the school and my mam worked school dinners in the same school, so you know, it made sense.  Kitty and George, I knew things weren’t perfect but as families do, everyone pretended it was fine for the kids.  I loved my granddad’s yorkshire puddings, and his bacon sandwiches made with white bread a foot thick.  Kitty didn’t do much cooking, but she let us tear up the place so we didn’t mind.  They had a scary shed full of tools and stuff I didn’t understand, a garden which had a chain-link fence which overlooked the school sports field, rocks in the garden painted with white gloss paint, and one year the snow drifts were so high in their back garden, we hid in them.

I’m not sure if I didn’t know my dad’s parents at all or if they just lived too far away to be part of our lives.  My dad died when I was 4, and my mam didn’t talk about it.  We moved back to Newcastle after he died, because we no longer had to follow his army postings, and we made new lives near to my mam’s parents, and her 3 sisters.  I never asked about my dad’s parents.  I never used the word dad much, I remember once a cousin of mine calling me a bastard, in the way kids do, and I was a bit upset by that for a few days before learning what it really meant, and that it didn’t apply at all.  I’m not sure I missed him, although I know my sister did, and it became apparent that despite never talking about him, my mam missed him more than pretty much anything in the world except her two kids.  I was really too young to remember much, or I blocked it out of my memory, one or the other.  If you can’t remember someone, it’s hard to miss them.

My granddad died before my grandmother.  I visited him when he was in hospital, really unwell with pneumonia, and we spoke briefly about cricket which he loved a great deal.  My enjoyment of cricket, my limited knowledge of the game comes from his love of it.  I felt bad that I’d only visited him once, and that he was really ill, and probably unaware of me.  What can you do.  I was in my late teens.  My grandmother leant on all the daughters then, as you would.  I can’t even remember if I went to the funeral.  How shit is that?  I’m not even entirely sure if I was at university or at home.  Is it because I’m callous, or because I block this stuff out?  Because I have a bad memory or because I choose not to remember?

Not long after moving to Nottingham with Greté we got news that my grandmother had died.  I travelled back to Newcastle for the funeral.  I remember that.  I remember trying to be strong for my mam, because she’d lost her mam.  I probably failed.  I wouldn’t say I was openly close to anyone in my family, immediate or extended.  Emotionally stunted?  Just too cynical?  I’m not sure.

My sister had kids, and although she complained about it, my mam loved looking after them, loved having young kids around again.  It gave her a new lease of life.  Then they got a little older and to that age where they did stuff that my mam found hard work, like making a mess, running around putting their knees at risk, jumping off stools.  She’d moved closer to my sister, and my sister basically looked out for her.  I spoke to them, and saw them once a year, maybe twice, but that was it.

Then my mam had a stroke, and a fall, and although she was well enough to go home, she never really recovered.  She lost her confidence, would get lost walking short distances.  She was miserable.  She hated life.  She’d lost the man she loved in 1975 and never replaced him, her kids had grown up and moved out, and her grand-kids were growing up, and now she was stuck in her flat, no one to talk to.  She had another catastrophic, fatal stroke in December 2012.  I was sad, but I knew that was no longer unhappy, no longer trapped.  My sister organised the funeral, I attended, tried to say some words.  Saw my best friend from my youth, made promises to stay in touch, never did.  Saw the whole family, cousins and aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews.  Then went back to my life.  I saw my sister, her husband and her kids more often after that.  I made more of an effort.  Not a massive increase in effort, but I think we both knew we needed to keep in touch more.

Then, in September last year (2015), my sister died.  She’d had a long illness, undiagnosed, then a diagnosis, surgery and then in a very short time, a more negative diagnosis and what was ultimately a very short period of very intense illness before she passed away.  Highly aggressive, pretty much untreatable, cancer.  She knew what was happening, the night before she passed away she had her husband bring the kids into hospital so she could talk to them.  Even in that last moment her thoughts were with her kids, making sure they knew what was going on, what they had to do.

That was it.  All my immediate family (as I use the phrase) gone.  Plenty of aunts, uncles, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters-in-law, and of course, my amazing wife; but my family unit gone.

What does it mean?  I’m 45 this year, and I guess it’s not an unusual position to be in, but I’m still coming to terms with it.  Is there a message?  Life is short, buy the shoes?  I saw that today, and I think it’s true, although it’s never easy.  But is that the message?  Talk to your family more, live in the now, enjoy them now, but reminisce,  Talk about the past, laugh about it, because if you don’t exercise those memories they’ll just fade.  Don’t live in the past, you can’t change it, but bathe in it every now and again, remember how it felt.  Is that trite?  Probably.

Greté got me some socks and boxer shorts for Christmas (among many other wonderful gifts).  She was a bit apologetic about those, but I reminded her I’d run out of other people who were going to buy them for me, so it was her job now.

Finally got out

It’s been a couple or three months since I managed to get out and do any photography (outside of choir events), so I was pleased today when we got some bright sunshine.  Was still cold mind you, but it gave me a chance to get a couple of hours in Nottingham taking pictures.  Not very good pictures, but pictures none-the-less, and I won’t get better by sitting at home doing nothing.  So, parked in the Broadmarsh car park, walked around for a couple of hours, took some pictures, headed back to the car park.

Paid my £3 fee, took my ticket back to the car, and put it into a little pocket area on the drivers side door, like I usually do.  Drove down to the exit, opened the car window and as I reached the last ramp, went to pick up the ticket.  Which wasn’t there.  Fuck.  Pulled over into the area designed for people who’ve forgotten to pay, and checked the inside of the car.  No joy.  Got out, searched under the seats, in the door, in the back, all over.  Still no sign.  Fuck.  Locked the car, jogged back up to the 3rd level and searched around where the car had been parked, in case it blew out while I was closing the door.  Still no sign.  Still fuck.  Jogged back down to the car, and had another look.  Nope.  Gone.

So I walked over to the customer service booth, and there was a guy outside having a cigarette.  To be frank, I was expecting a tough conversation.  I asked him who was best to speak to with regards to lost tickets.  He mulled that over and said, “normally they make you pay the full day rate”.  I said, “Yep, it’s annoying, I paid my £3 but I’ve lost the ticket somewhere between putting it in the car and getting down to the exit.”  He took a draw on his fag, and said, “well, I don’t want to make you pay again, give me 5 minutes to finish this and then I’ll let you out.”  He took my name, told me to wait until I saw him to into the booth and then drive out.

Which I did.

What a nice man.  Thanks nice man, whoever you are.

You’ll be pleased to know that I drove about 80 metres and remembered that I’d put the ticket into the ticket slot on the sun visor, because I was worried about it blowing away, and then because the sun was so low in the sky, I’d popped the visor down.  Hiding the ticket.  I checked at the next set of lights, and yep, there it was.  So, thanks again nice man, I didn’t actually lose the ticket, just my mind, but you helped.  I’d have been annoyed beyond reason if I’d paid the day rate and then found the ticket.

How come it’s only Wednesday?

Feels like it should be at least half way through Thursday by now, if not next Tuesday.  We finally got Greté’s ESA submission completed and sent off.  It arrived on the 8th December, just in time for Christmas.  So thoughtful of them.  As usual, the mere existence of the form made a big dent in Greté’s confidence and overall management of her depression.  Being asked to describe how bad your illness is so that someone else can judge whether it’s bad enough to deserve welfare isn’t exactly the most confidence building of actions.  Doing so when you’ve had to appeal and subsequently win twice previously just makes it all the harder.

I’m still not convinced the financial cost of processing the ESA submissions and subsequent appeals outweighs the financial cost of just paying anyone who applies for it in the first place (never mind the health cost to those affected).  There’s a flat percentage of people who’ll take the piss, and they don’t mind lying on the forms.  Most honest people who aren’t trying to deceive anyone are honest on the forms anyway, and still get rejected until the appeal stage.  I don’t see how anyone wins at this process.

Anyway, we’ve filled in the forms, honestly, and we’ve included the letter we sent in for the 2013 appeal, and we’ll see what that results in.  We’ll keep trying to manage the impact on Greté’s health and hopefully get her back to a more stable position.

Slowing Down Time

So it’s 2016, which is as much a surprise to me as it is to anyone.  Where does the time go?  A few years ago now, David Gemmell told me about a friend of his, an elderly gentleman, who suggested that we feel time passing more quickly as we age, because we experience less new stuff each day.  As children, everything around us is new, or we’re doing new things, exploring and discovering new knowledge.  As we age, in general, our days are filled with very similar things, and there’s little new or surprising in each of them.  So our experience of time is based on the density of our memories for any given period.  More memories of different things and the passage of time feels slow, fewer memories and the passage of time feels quick.  The aim then, is to keep doing new things, discovering new things, experiencing new things, and thus, slow down the passage of time.

I don’t know how true it is, but I don’t see the harm in trying.

I pay lip service to new years resolutions usually, if I go that far, and although I’d like to think this year is different it probably won’t be.  However, even in the face of obvious failure it’s usually still worth having a shot, so here are my new years resolutions for 2016.

  • Drink more.
  • Eat more.
  • Photograph more.
  • Watch more films.
  • Be happier.

I know that being happy is not really something you can choose (others might disagree), but you can take steps to increase the chance of it working that way – if you have the energy (there’s the kicker).  I don’t drink much alcohol any more, partly because we’re not in the situation where alcohol is often consumed very often, and partly because of the diabetes.  There’s a lot of sugar in beer, and alcohol screws with your blood sugar on top.  However, I do like a bit of whiskey and people keep buying it for me.  So I really should drink it.  I resolve, within reason and within sensible measures, to drink the whiskey I have in the cupboard and to bloody enjoy it.

I already eat too much so the second one might seem odd, but I tend to eat too much low quality food.  What I want to do, is eat too much high quality food (or, a more sensible amount of high quality food, as an alternative).  I want to eat more exciting things and less boring things.

I’ve struggled with getting out to take photographs in the last few months.  Part of this is because my sister died in the latter part of 2015, after a short and devastating battle with cancer.  I was on the road a lot visiting her, and while my battle wasn’t anywhere near as hard as hers (clearly), I pretty much expended all of my energy and had nothing left over.  Most of that travelling took place at weekends, which was the only time I really had for photography, so it took a back seat.  Then Christmas was upon us faster than we could imagine, we had a lot of work to do helping Greté’s mum and step-dad move house, and now it’s the new year.  So, in 2016, I will take more photographs (and I will try and be less negative about the output).

I love films, I should watch more of them.  I will watch more of them.  You can’t stop me!

Part of being happier means expressing myself again, writing, and that means blog posts.  I like writing them, because they help me understand how I feel, even when they’re about nothing more than how my day has gone.  So, I intend to overhaul the blog, replace the template with something a) cleaner, b) less black, and c) easier to maintain.  And I intend to blog, to alleviate stress, to ramble, to solidify my thoughts and to share (maybe) my photographs.

Here’s a funny picture of some cats.

Street Photography

So to my great surprise, I seem to enjoy ‘street photography’ more than the other kinds of photography I’ve tried over the last few years.  I’ll be the first to admit however that much of my street photography is ‘photographs taken in the street’, rather than the more classic street photography.  By that I mean, the form is really about capturing ‘decisive moments’ in a candid way, usually at quite short focal lengths.

At the moment, I tend to use longer focal lengths, and often my results are more candid street portraits than actual street photography.

Despite that, and with all the respect due to the real tradition, I’m enjoy what I do none-the-less, and over time hope to improve my confidence, and my technical ability, to switch to shorter focal lengths and capture more moments rather than interesting faces.

When I bought a DSLR, I really thought I’d be spending my time shooting pictures of animals and wild life, and early on, I did that.  However, wild life photography (good wild life photography) requires a large investment of time, spent waiting, watching, and planning for the moment in which to capture the animal.  Taking a thousand pictures of swans, however beautiful they are, isn’t in the long term wild life photography.  As such, I haven’t invested the time, or found a place in which I want to invest the time, to carry out high quality wild life photography.

Landscape photography is as time intensive as wild life photography, and certainly requires just as much planning.  Taking an occasional picture of a stream, and capturing a brilliant image of a landscape are two different things, and the latter requires a lot of planning, preparation and timing to get the right light and the right shot.

Portrait and event photography both interest me, probably for the same root reason as street photography – they’re about people and I find people fascinating.  However, I don’t have the confidence yet to take portraits and I don’t have the opportunity to take shoot many events (although I take the chance whenever I can).

So I’ve found the immediacy and unpredictable nature of street photography to be the most engaging activity I’ve been involved in since getting the camera.  I love looking at the pictures and finding hidden gems of human behaviour that might not have been obvious at the moment I pressed the shutter button (see the guy on the left in this picture, https://www.flickr.com/photos/eightbittony/19423003901).  I love seeing the emotions of people’s faces, and I love building a narrative that may or may not be real based on the instant the picture was taken.

I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that truth is based on your perception at the time, and street photography really encompasses that philosophy for me.

Hopefully my confidence will increase, and I’ll get better at shooting at short focal lengths.  I’m not going to stop trying to improve at wild life, landscape, event, sport, portrait and the other forms of photography of course, it’s just that street photography is both accessible at any time, and more thrilling so far than anything else I’ve tried.

MCM London Comic Con – 2013 – My experience

In 2013, I started writing a blog post about my experience going to the MCM London Comic Con 2013 in May.  However, I started it in such a way that it took far too much effort to finish, and hence it languished here in my drafts folder.  Rather then let it rot, I’m just posting it as-is, without any additional editing.  It’s all over the place, out of sync in terms of timelines, and a bizarre mix of narrative styles.  I make no apologies (except for this one).


The quality of the light outside has changed.  Gone is the pitch dark of night, replaced by an ever hopeful dawn glow.  The much promised sunrise is not far away now, and the birds are all poised, ready, waiting.  Two cats begin to stir; confident another day will begin much like all the rest.

But this is no ordinary dawn, this is will be no ordinary day, and 20 minutes before the sun rises properly the silence is shattered by an alarm clock.  Harsh, electronic, loud.  From beneath the duvet, hidden from the cold of the previous evening, a hand snakes out.  It would be easy, once the noise has stopped, to pretend it had never started.  To hide, to retreat, to leave the dawn to the cats and the birds.  So very easy.  On any other day perhaps.  On a week day, or a normal weekend, at 7:00 maybe, to wait for another 10 minutes before the alarm goes off a second time.

But not this day.  After the hand, an arm, and following the arm, a torso, and before you know it, an entire person has crawled out from beneath the duvet’s warm refuge.  Blinking in the dim, but increasingly confident dawn light, barely able to make out the digits on the alarm clock, the voice that belongs to the face, that is attached to the body, which has just emerged, croaks out, “Four thirty, time to get up.”

Silence.  A pause, a breath to speak again, but just then, a response, “okay”, voice muffled by the same duvet, another person speaks out.  Another arm, some legs and then another entire person escapes from the captivating duvet.

It’s 04:30, and our trip to Comic Con is about to begin.

I’ve never been to a comic, movie or anime convention before.  I’ve been to a board game convention, but it was a while ago, and it was quite small.  I see pictures of the San Diego Comic Con or DragonCon each year and suffer pangs of jealousy.

So I was happy to go with Greté to this years MCM London Comic Con (2013), to see what all the fuss was about, and maybe take some photo’s of people in impressive costume.  Overall, it was a mixed experience, enjoyable, but with other emotions smushed in.  Here’s how it played out!

Firstly, the actual tickets are very reasonably priced, we wanted to go only for Saturday, since we couldn’t stay over anywhere, and the only real things we had on the agenda were a chance to see Mark Meer (the voice of Commander Shepard, among other things) and for Greté to meet Emma Vieceli (illustrator of the Vampire Academy graphic novels, among other things).  However, in terms of cost, the actual event tickets are the minor part.  The travel (train) was £140 for the pair of us, despite booking around 6 weeks in advance.  Some of that is because we wanted to be able to go early, and come back any time we liked without being tied to a specific train.  Our tickets also included all travel across London.  Still, that’s a fair whack for a day out.  The other issue, and this is something you can mitigate if you plan better than I did, was food and drink.  We were in London all day, and either in the convention or in train stations, let’s say that just ‘having a bite to eat’ was a rather expensive process.

The sun eventually rises.  The cats have been fed and are clearly confused, it’s too early for them to even beg to go out, so they put themselves back to bed, oblivious to the fact that they’ll be indoors all day.  Bags are packed and ready.  Two sets of tickets (self printed at home, two sets in case one set is lost), train tickets, portable pharmacy, cameras, extra batteries, a kindle.

The streets are empty, it’s 05:20 and no human in their right mind is out wandering this early on a Saturday morning.  The sun has risen, and the sky promises a dry and bright day.  We stop at the road before crossing, a habit, a good one, but wasted this early.  There are no cars, I wonder briefly if I am in Shaun of the Dead.  There is anticipation now, a definite sense of something about to happen.

Early entry tickets allowed you to gain entry from 9am, two hours before the general opening times.  We had to get from St Pancras to the Excel by tube.  Greté doesn’t like the tube, I hate being in a rush, and we didn’t want to get stuck in a huge queue at the event – and that meant only one thing.

05:35 train to London!

So we got up at 04:30, put on our favourite genre t-shirts (no costume for us, this year at least, because 6 weeks isn’t enough time to do anything justice), and headed south.  The train was almost empty (although there were more people on it than I thought there’d be) and we arrived on time, in London at around 07:30.  We grabbed some (expensive) breakfast, and got the tube and DLR over to the Excel.  We saw one person on the tube we hoped was in-costume (otherwise her working day must be exciting), and by the time we got onto the DLR it was clear we were going the right way.  Our carriage was shared with some anime characters and at least one superhero.

Once we arrived the Excel station, it was obvious we were going the right way as a sea of humanity, heroes, comic book characters, computer game characters, movie heroes and who-knows-what-else slowly streamed in to the Excel halls.  We followed the crowds, had our tickets scanned, and stood in a designated row of people, near the entrance.  We’d made it, in good time (~08:30), and were near the front of the queue.  A steady stream of people followed us in, and as time wore on, that became a flood.  I’m glad we made the choice to head out early.


 

Added today: We queued for a while, we finally got in.  We met up with friends.  We spent so much of the day walking around that I litterally had to go and see the doctor a week later because my little toe on the my left foot was still numb.  I took a lot of pictures, some of them were even okay ( https://www.flickr.com/photos/eightbittony/sets/72157635466091441/ ).  It was fun, but very hard work, and although I’m not sure I’d look good in *any* costume, I think if I go again, I might make the effort.

A year behind the wheel

I thought I’d come along and write a witty and insightful post about what it’s been like driving for almost a year now.  But when I got here, to this blank white box I find I don’t have much to say, and what I can think of saying isn’t that funny.

My first driving lesson was on the 8th May 2013 (http://perceptionistruth.com/2013/05/fear-of-4-wheels-part-1/) and I passed my test on August 14th 2013 (http://perceptionistruth.com/2013/08/fear-of-4-wheels-part-18-the-end/).  Since passing my test it’s been okay.

I’ve done a lot of driving since then.  I did all the driving over the Christmas period (we travel a long way to see our folks), I’ve driven to work most days, and if myself and Greté are going somewhere, I drive for the most part.  I think she’s probably driven about 10 times since I passed my test if we’re both in the car (obviously, she drives when I’m not in the car).  So in that respect, it’s been very successful, after a long time being the designated and only driver, Greté is getting some time off.

As well as that, I’ve been able to nip out in the car and take photographs, or go shopping, or take stuff to the local recycling centre when in the past it would have meant both of us going, or both of us deciding not to bother, so it’s definitely ‘freeing’ in that sense.

One thing I haven’t done yet is any long trips on my own; no motorway driving on my own either, and the time is fast approaching where that will have to change.  I should imagine it’ll be pretty hairy the first few times, but I’ll get over it.

I don’t feel like life has changed dramatically since I passed my test, but a lot of things are just a bit easier, or a bit more convenient.  I’m just still pleased that I can get Greté where ever she needs to be, whenever she needs to be there.

A Month Behind the Wheel

It’s a month since I passed my driving test.  Four weeks of legally being allowed to drive anywhere I want on my own.  Overall it’s been very successful, including being able to pick Greté up from the railway station after midnight and a long train ride from London.  It might not seem like much, but to me, it’s priceless knowing I could get there and get her home safely.

In general the actual driving is still hit and miss.  Some trips are great, some aren’t so great.  I drove to Twycross Zoo and back on Saturday and the whole journey was brilliant, confident, smooth and safe.  Some mornings the drive to work feels like I’ve only had 1 lesson and driving is some alien skill I’ll never acquire.

Oddly, I seem to drive better in my walking boots, despite having almost no tactile feedback from the pedals because the boots are massive and rigid, than I do in my regular boots in which I can feel the pedals much more closely.  I was sure it would be the other way around, perhaps it’s related to thinking about it all too much.

Sometimes I think the person behind me must be incredulous at the lack of skill I display, and then I try and remember that I hardly ever analyse the skill of the driver in front of me.  With L plates, you just assume the driver behind is cursing the bloody learner, but without the L plates I’m not sure anyone even notices the mistakes.

Eventually, people assure me, it’ll all just fade into the background and driving will be like everything else, just something you do without thinking about too much.

But those folk don’t realise how much I think about everything I do …