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Hallowhedon October 2009 - Part 1

It is taking me an inordinate amount of time to write this damned report, so i'll post what i've done so far and again when i'm done - or it will be next year before i'm done!

Hallowhedon

It has taken me so long to get this report underway, you have to wonder if anyone is interested in what you have to say! *snorts*

So what the hell, I’m going to.

I’ve had a lot of things to do and cope with this last two weeks, from problems with where I’m living, to wondering how I’m going to prune the committees I sit on, arranging the SSRA Christmas social, bawl out the bank for being fuckwits and not the least, having a tight chest and a couple of twinges. This makes my doctors nervous enough to take my blood pressure, do an ECG and bloodwork before having me schedule a workout at the Cardiology Clinic next week. They twitch a bit ‘cos Dad died from angina. *shrugs* Like as not it won’t show anything, unless muscle strain shows up. Your heart never does the arrhythmic thing or skips a beat when they listen! It’s stress mostly…

Anyway! I’d decided to go on the National Express bus direct to Heathrow on Friday afternoon, as it’s cheaper than the two trains, takes about the same time and you can hook up with the Hoppa buses that go right into the forecourts of most of the major local hotels for £4 a trip. We only hit problems when we got to the M25, slowing right down and I text’d everyone I could that I knew was coming. The Hoppa bus stands took a bit of finding and we had a fair wait but eventually one came and I got to the Hotel about 3.45pm-ish.

This con was being held at the Thistle Hotel, not exactly luxurious, a bit sparse on the accessories again and has some of the longest corridors I’ve had the misfortune to lurch through. Even ringing Reservations to ask for a room close to reception – no problem, madam – didn’t actually get me one. But it was clean enough and we weren’t going to be dancing in it!

By the time I arrived, Sue had judged the time nicely and I joined her in the queue to register. We were standing with Lise & Jade and the rest of Team Brit stopped briefly to greet us before going to find their rooms. It took us some time to reach the Reception desk – then it took the Receptionist some time to get our room sorted. Not sure what the hold up was to start with but I told her I’d rung up to try and get a closer room and she vanished into the office. Many, many minutes later, she came back and after some discussion on how we were paying, we got our room keys.

We set off to find the room and I was rather taken aback to see just how far our room actually was, quite a hike. But we settled in, then went to get coffee for Sue and me to pick up my pack for the Con. I saw some of the good long-term stewards and we swapped greetings during the weekend – nice to see you, guys!

Sue had bought a Gold ticket but I simply could not afford one and bought a Standard. SM/ME won’t let you trade-up, swap, sell or do anything with your ticket, so even when I could have tried for a Silver, I wasn’t allowed to – even though I hadn’t got my ticket at that time. It also meant that Sue had all her photos and a lot of her autos on Saturday and all mine on Sunday. This did mean that I didn’t see as much of her as I’d have liked but you can’t have everything, can you?

Luckily the schedule had been posted online the day before [again, typical!] and I printed it off – one day on each side, so I was able to throw away the tiny printed one in the con reg pack, thank heavens! Very hard on the eyes.. I had to smile how many people had a look at my printout over the weekend, ‘cos they had trouble reading theirs… :D

We gathered for the Welcoming ceremony about 7pm; I saw James & entourage arrive and called greetings but James was more interested in greeting Stuart, the security guy. Himber at least managed a very quick smile in my direction.

I was running late and almost missed out on a seat but luckily one of the Stewards was watching out for me and found me one. *blows kiss*

After the usual ego-preening from the organisers [Bluebottle: ‘pause for audience applause, not a sausage!’], the guests were announced and we were told in no uncertain terms that James had hurt his back to the extent that he couldn’t sit down at all and ‘NO TOUCHING’. If he made contact fine but do NOT try and hug him. There were the usual couple of course to whom normal speech does not penetrate but he managed to sidestep them, thankfully.

James duly came out, walking carefully but all smiles to the huge welcome he got and said that one of the arc lights and ‘sail’, the reflector had come down and hit him on the head, knocking him onto the concrete and he blacked out. It had also aggravated the same disc injury he had sustained years ago on Buffy and had almost slipped a disc again.

James never failed to smile or greet us in his usual sweet manner and we loved him for it. He was in huge amount of pain all weekend but he never missed a photo-op or an auto or a talk – what a pro! He got a rock star’s welcome for every talk and a massive farewell on Sunday.

[Which is more than can be said for an over-imbibing Jimmy Leary, leaving some of his autos in the lurch the following day. Later in his talk with Mercedes, he mentioned working for charity – one male fan called out “For AA?” and he wasn’t very happy about that. It served him right.]

There were a lot of new fans there and everyone I spoke to or overheard were hugely in awe of him – what a terrific effort this was and it was greatly appreciated. Everyone was very impressed with him. Nick, Jimmy, Mark Lutz [pronounced Loots] & Mercedes joined him and most of them stood and kept him company!

After that we went over to McDonalds for a quick & cheap dinner – I’ve nothing against McD’s, it’s cheap and filling – and I love the thick milkshakes. Rose came & joined us and we waved to some of the other girls who came in later.

We went back to the Hotel to get ready for the party and I decided on my cowboy outfit. I have a serious cowboy black hat, twin holstered gun rig with handcuffs tucked into it and my Sheriff’s badge. I wore that with my black waistcoat and jeans. I took along a black shrug in case I got chilly, which only happened when I went out to talk to the girls out on a fag-break.

We didn’t manage to get a table in the Ballroom but having listened to some of the music, I didn’t really care – but again, serious lack of seating. It was nice to be able to get out of the Ballroom as the ONLY lights in there were the disco ones and you were pretty much groping around in the dark. The bar area was crowded for most of the time and I played musical chairs for a while, meeting and greeting old friends and acquaintances, as you do and I really enjoyed that.

There was a karaoke area set up at the furthest end away from the bar and also a casino theme to this party with blackjack [couldn’t get near the table all night!], roulette wheel – was there a craps table? Can’t remember but it beat the hell out of bingo. This was outside the Ballroom.

It’s a pity some of this activity couldn’t have been on during the day and help fill some of the boring gap hours when we sat around waiting for the next spasm of activity, way too long. Thank the gods & little fishes, we had the all girls to talk to… bit of a case of physician, heal thyself and make you own amusements while you’re at it.

Saturday

We went for breakfast fairly early as Sue had all her photos and wanted to get ready. I wasn’t in such a hurry as I had nothing but 3 autos in the entire morning and only one James’ item ALL DAY, his talk at 3pm in the afternoon, a seriously crap arrangement.

Oh and the advertising announcing “at least 6 guests”? Wrong…only five…and it took them two years to set this up?? Coulda fooled me; they had more at Hub3 without headliners. No, I’m sorry, you can’t count Gareth as a headliner. Nobody flew in to see him.

I did want to see Jimmy Leary as I hadn’t seen him since Oakland and Nick Brendon looked to be doing pretty good; I didn’t have an auto from Mercedes already [not that I really cared but I was curious to see if she really was the airhead she appeared to be – answer, yes], and decided to have them all sign the programme, as I usually do. Jimmy was his usually cheerful self and signed his little Clem face under his name. Mercedes just managed to smile but look bored for most of the Con, even in the guest talks. Nick was the last auto and was wearing his sunglasses. He said I like your face, meaning my tattoo and I smiled, saying thank you, I like yours too but I’m sure you’re prettier without the sunnies. He said they are prescription and help keep the glare down – which he probably needed after the night before too...

I had this huge gap from 11.30am – 3.00pm with zip. It wasn’t uncommon throughout the two days, to see groups of people just sitting where they could around the Conference centre, chairs at a severe premium again, and at least as many on the floor as there wasn’t anywhere else. There was a coffee bar by Reception but it was packed most of the time, even when the drinks part of it was closed from late afternoon.

The only hope I had to rescue Saturday from a one-stop turkey shoot were James’ two late-afternoon Encounters – they’d stopped calling them ‘Intimate’ by then and went with ‘Guest’ ! The first was at 4.00pm and the second at 5.00pm, half an hour each. They were sold on this weird bidding system, where the top 10 bidders got tickets but they all paid whatever the 10th one was, whether it was £9 or £90. You had to balance what you were prepared to pay with the amount of bids offered, most peculiar. It was a counting game that you had to keep an eye on as the bidding closed half an hour before the Encounter – then you had about 10 minutes to dash over to the main body of the Hotel to find the room they were using, pay your money to the steward on the door [I’d already checked that we could use credit cards, thank heavens!] and take a seat.

I decided to put my name down for both, as I wasn’t certain if I would get in or what they would go for. I had to think quickly about the amounts. If I got the first one and it left me with very little cash, I’d have to bow out of the second and cancel my bid – just pin my hope on the two raffle ticket prizes [strip of 5 for £5]. As I NEVER win raffles, I went with £100 for the 1st one to try and make sure I was in the top 10. Various of us went and checked out the lists from time to time but I had to leave it to the gods for James’ talk at 3.00pm as it ran over the end of the bidding time.

I went in with rest of the Walking Wounded for James – *waves at the guys!* – and got a seat on the middle aisle, so I could stretch my knee, only to find that most of my view [and that of some of the Gold seats] was blocked by the SM/ME steward and a damned camera!! This was my seat for the afternoon and I was stuck with it. Thank heavens James moves around the stage! I was reduced to watching the screen several times. Luckily I could hear him pretty well. There’s been a fair amount of reportage on what was said, so I won’t repeat it here. But I will say this crap method of asking question through a moderator didn’t work very well, they never do. It’s total ‘talking-heads’. You can submit questions someone else will read out, you can’t even do that yourself. Oh, Paul managed to read them out well enough most of the time but there’s no joy in it for the fans being able to read their own.

During some of the other talks, so few people had bothered to submit them that they even ran out of the obviously Showmasters-stock-questions too [they were so lame and the same for each talk], that Paul was forced to throw it open to the audience and go around with a mike and drum up some. We didn’t have that problem with James’ one but there were still some that sounded like the stock ones towards the end. Paul also failed miserably to organise James and people taking photos but James set him right.

What most of us are never going to forget is James getting into his story and stamping his foot – OUCH! It hurt so much, he stopped in mid-word, bit his lip and just hung on looking at the floor, until the pain started to settle down. Then he stuck up his thumb to let us know he’d be with us in a minute, took a breath and pretty much took up where he left off. My hero! What a guy!

The 45 minutes passed way too fast and all too soon, James was waving goodbye. I shot outside to check the auction list and as soon as I got there, Rosie called “We’re in!” Price £95. Bargain.

Part 2 follows