Collectormania MK

I am in pain. A ridiculous amount of pain, all over my body. My shoulders, calves, hamstrings and arms all feel like I imagine it would feel if the muscles had been replaced with ball bearings and shards of broken glass. But as I sit here typing this, I am using the few working muscles I have left to maintain a contented smile on my face, following this weekend’s trip to Milton Keynes for Collectormania 19.

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I awoke at silly o’clock on Saturday morning, utilising the iPhone’s “silly o’clock” alarm setting, but still found myself 30 minutes behind schedule. It was 6am, and my train from Manchester Piccadilly was at 7.15. Jumping out of bed, swearing relentlessly a la Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral, I sorted myself out, showered, dressed, collected my bags, poster tubes and 8x10s and swiftly buggered off to the station. I was there with time to spare in the end, and took my seat on the train. One relatively uneventful trip along the tracks later, and I found myself at Milton Keynes Central just after 8.45.

There was no time to visit my hotel prior to heading to the MK Dons stadium, as the show opened at 9am and I needed to grab myself a virtual queue ticket for Jenna-Louise Coleman. I pegged it over to the bus stop and, for the second year running, found myself as the last passenger to fit onto the free bus which was seconds from setting off. Fifteen minutes or so later I was at the venue, which was worryingly queueless, and I was clueless as to where I needed to head to pick up my Jenna VQ. Two swift wrong turns later I finally entered the stadium and was promptly handed VQ ticket number 473,319 (alright, 636). I wasn’t overly concerned as I knew I’d be able to stay until the very end of the day if need be as I was staying overnight.

It wasn’t very long before I bumped into Emily, who I’d spoken to for ages through Twitter, but aside from the occasional distant wave across the hall at previous events, I’d not been able to chat to properly before. She’d made a TARDIS skirt for herself (it looked fantastic, Emily!) and she’d got in a little earlier so managed to get her VQ in the 400s. Luckily for me, she had spares, and was lovely enough to hand me one. So, my stress alleviated slightly, I spent the next few minutes generally walking around getting my bearings. Although the event was set in the circular concourse overlooking the pitch it’s actually quite tricky to work out exactly where you are. You get used to it after a while, but at first you’re just meandering, taking it all in. I had a couple of hours to spare, as my photoshoot with Jenna wasn’t until 11am, so meander I did.

After a couple of circuits around the stadium I came across Jenny, who again I’ve been chatting to for a while on Twitter, having realised I share a freakishly similar opinion on Doctor Who to her through her YouTube review channel (Lippmannette – check it out). We’d arranged earlier for me to join her crew, which included Laura, Andrew, Carolyn, Paul and Terry – all lovely, welcoming and friendly. As it was early in the day though I thought it would be best for me to wander around myself and get a few things done, as I am an utter irritant when it comes to things like this – I go one way, then turn around and go back on myself, then go back on myself again, pick things up, put them down etc – so I didn’t want to start putting new friends through that……

On my way around I bumped into Leanne who I’d spoken to a few times through Twitter, and who was sitting around waiting for her friend Matt (a tenth Doctor cosplayer, and a very good one at that) as he went for a photoshoot. Again, I’d never met Leanne in person before so it was great to put a voice to the name and face. We had a nice chat for a few minutes – she was carrying some amazing portraits her friend had done of the stars such as Jenna. They were incredible.

In what seemed hardly any time at all it was time for the photo with Jenna. As I entered the photoshoot room, I got my first glimpse of her, and good lord, she’s even smaller and prettier in real life than you’d think from the telly. I’d say more, but I don’t want this blog to get all pervy, so I’ll leave it there, and just show you this: –

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There’s always a little bit of worry after you’ve had your shoot (at least, there is for me) as you wait for your picture to be instantly printed out – just in case you’ve moved your eyes at the wrong time or you’ve got a huge green stringy snot hanging out of your nose – but I was pretty chuffed with that image. Jenna looks happier to see me than I do for her, but then again, I’m not surprised. I mean, check me out, seriously. Not a bit of snot anywhere.

The next hour or two is a little bit of a blur, if I’m honest. I didn’t have too much to do as the guests I was intendng to meet were spread over the two days, so it gave me the chance to have a look around the stalls. I wasn’t really planning on spending much on merchandise and memorabilia, as I had a stretched budget as it was, and this event came up just before payday, so I was being intentionally frugal. Still, it didn’t stop me heading back for repeated views of the Doctor Who figures on sale, and following trips to the bar for cheeky pints my wallet was getting slightly easier to open. I did resist though. For a while…..

After a not particularly pleasant cheeseburger, sold to me by a lad who bore more than a passing resemblance to Professor Brian Cox, I headed over to Jenna’s booth to get in line for my autograph. This didn’t take long at all, as she was flying through her queue, and while I barely got a chance to say more than “Hi Jenna” and “Cheers Jenna” I wasn’t bothered – like I’ve said before I never have much to say to the guests when I meet them, so the rapid in-out style of guest encounter is actually more comfortable for me. I did notice Jenna’s mum sat next to her however, who seemed to have a massive smile on her face, and from what I understand from Robert Llewellyn’s Twitter page (he was sat next to her) she was incredibly proud of her daughter. And fair play to her, her daughter’s not done half bad for herself. Here’s the lovely scribble Jenna shoved on my 8×10: –

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So the main auto and photo were obtained for the day, leaving me to decide whether to meet anyone else. I decided to limit myself to one extra autograph, and went to meet John Leeson, who was the voice of K9 throughout the history of Doctor Who, AND, as I learned later from Andrew, also played Bungle in the first series of Rainbow. And that’s enough of a dosage of legend I need to meet the fella. He was a very nice bloke, and signed my metallic TARDIS poster to go along with the Matt Smith and Frazer Hines autographs already on it. I’m building it with Doctors signing in silver, classic companions in black, and Nu-Who companions in gold. As I counted K9 as a ‘modern’ companion, having featured in some Tennant episodes, John signed in gold. It’s too big to scan in though, and I don’t like photos of posters, so I’ll leave it to your imagination.

After this, I rejoined Jenny, Laura et al and we nipped over to McDonalds for a drink. After a hard day’s autograph collecting, there’s nothing quite like a strawberry milkshake and a chat in the sun to sort you right back out again. Was one of my favourite parts of the day, this. Was great to be so easily welcomed into a group of people who essentially didn’t know me at all. But I guess this is the nature of conventions. Like-minded people from all walks of life getting together and sharing a common interest, often something you can’t really talk about with your mates at home. I intended to socialise at this convention, and I’m over the moon that I did.

By this time, a lot of the attendees had started to clear out, so we took the opportunity to bob back inside for a better look at the stalls. Again, I was good, and didn’t give in to temptation, despite my money starting to burn a hole in my pocket. All the things…..all the shiny things…….

So, as we’d come to the end of the day, we decided to head our separate ways. Andrew, Carolyn, Paul and Terry headed for the car (I think!) while Jenny, Laura and I got the free bus back to MK Central station, where they caught the…….

…..I’m sorry, I’m watching Ted as I write this, and I’m being distracted by the scene where Flash Gordon fights with Ming while Ted spars with a boxing duck.

…train, and I made my way over to the hotel. If you can call it that. Take a bow, Travelodge Milton Keynes Central. It reminded me of Richie and Eddie’s apartment in Bottom, except for the fact that they would have made better housemates than the clutch of utter buffoons who were seemingly surrounding me there. Bathroom light knackered, people running around in the room above, some twat outside revving his motorbike engine for half an hour, at midnight – basically the place was a dump. But then, I paid £25 for the night. What did I expect? Anyway, you don’t care about this.

So Sunday morning I’d set the silly o’clock alarm for silly o’clock again, and again I woke up at silly o’clock. Got all my shizzle together, showered in the dark and legged it down to the train station to get on the first free bus of the day at 7.30am. Amazingly I made it down there to find a very small group of like-minded folk waiting for the bus driver. Not so amazingly, it transpired that the first bus wasn’t leaving until 8.30, which miffed me slightly. Most of the folk on the bus, myself included, were intending to get to the stadium stupidly early to get into the queue for Billie Piper’s VQ ticket, and we were starting to worry a little. After a loooooong old wait we set off, and got to the stadium just before 9. The Billie queue was longer than my face was when I first saw it. With a sigh I joined the queue anyway and slowly followed it down toward the entrance. When I got there I was extremely surprised to be handed VQ number 306, as there looked to be a hell of a lot more people than that in front of me. Better still, within a matter of minutes they were calling for VQ numbers up to 350, so I got in line, met Billie and got my autograph by 9.50am. Amazeballs. Here it is:-

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I had no company at all on the Sunday, so I had nothing to do really except for wander round the same stalls as yesterday, watch a bit of football, occasionally charge my ridiculously short-living iPhone battery at one of the handy plug sockets located around the concourse, and do a bit of people watching. The cosplayers at these conventions amaze me every time – the effort they put into what they do is astonishing. The kids of course love it, but so do the adults. I saw numerous cosplayers who were more popular than some of the actors on show.

The time then came for me to queue up for my photoshoot with Billie Piper. I was right near the front of the queue, so I didn’t have to wait long. Just as I was approaching my turn, a fella I sort of recognised jumped in right in front of me. He introduced himself as Jason Joiner, the head honcho of Showmasters, and as such I thought sod it, he can do what he wants. I shook his hand and introduced myself, seemed like a nice bloke. After he’d been through I stood next to Billie, who was all smiles (again, no stringy snot anywhere) and they took this: –

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As I was walking away, the photographer did say that if there was too much flash in the lenses of my glasses I could bob back through for a reshoot – but on reflection (no pun intended) I wasn’t that fussed. It looked alright to me, and Billie looks great in the shot, so I was happy with it as it was. That’s the problem with having specs – I can never find the right way to pose in these things without getting a bit of flash in the lens. Still, nothing a bit of Photoshop can’t fix. And besides, like I said, I like it as it is.

After the Billie shoot, that was it. I had nothing else to do and nobody else to meet, so I just found myself wandering around all day. I had picked up a VQ for Bernard Cribbins, but it wasn’t the end of the world if I didn’t meet him before I had to leave. Good job too, as he was a little slow in signing, which is understandable, and I don’t think he’d reached my number before I had to leave at 3pm.

All in all then, the weekend was great. Really enjoyed meeting everyone for the first time, and I hope very much that it won’t be the last. I’m sure it won’t. I’m keeping a close eye on announcements for the second Collectormania of the year in October as if it’s anywhere near as good as this one then I’ll definitely be coming back. Sadly, though, Travelodge, you won’t be seeing me again. I’ll go for the Hilton Doubletree next time.

If you made it this far, well done – you win nothing but my thanks.

Latersville.

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Gearing up for Collectormania MK

So, the week is upon us, and I am preparing myself for my biggest (and by that I mean “most expensive”) convention of the year. That is, until the Official Doctor Who Convention in November, but that’s an entirely different story.

I couldn’t possibly start talking about Collectormania 19 without first raving about the guests scheduled to appear. Even without the specific guests I’ll be meeting, the range of talent, both within the acting and sporting worlds, is extraordinary. Doctor Who is of course well represented this year, with Billie Piper (Rose), Jenna Louise Coleman (Clara), Bernard Cribbins (Wilf), Bonnie Langford (Mel), Carole Ann Ford (Susan), John Leeson (K9) and Jacqueline King (Sylvia Noble) for starters. With the cancellation of Sylvester McCoy this left me without a Doctor to meet this time around, but as my budget is stretched as it is, I’m not overly concerned.

I made the mistake last year of starting a new Doctor Who piece. I had previously been happy enough collecting 8x10s of each actor I’d met, and I’m slowly building up a decent collection; however I decided to obtain for myself a poster of said show, a lovely metallic piece with a TARDIS on it. This is an awfully good canvas for signatures from the entire history of Doctor Who, but it also doubles the cost of meeting every guest I want to have sign it. Given that Jenna Louise Coleman is going to set me back £35 per autograph, and Billie Piper £30, I have made the tough decision not to concern myself with that particular piece on this occasion. I will be getting Bernard Cribbins to sign it however, as, well, he’s a legend isn’t he.

I have a photoshoot booked with Jenna on Saturday and Billie on Sunday, which sadly means that I’m going to have to somehow look presentable two mornings in a row. I’ve not yet managed this in thirty years of trying, so I have a terrible feeling that at least one of these photographs is going to feature a stunning woman stood next to Stig of the Dump’s idiot half-brother. Ah well, there’s always the wonder of Photoshop to help me later, as long as I can procure myself one of the world’s experts on said software.

Aside from the Doctor Who folk, there’s an amazing selection of guests scheduled to attend on all three days, and a number of these could be considered headliners, depending on your cultural bent. Gillian Anderson (she of X-Files fame of course) will be in attendance, for the second time in a matter of a year – having previously been averse to signing X-Files related memorabilia, or so I’m told. Charles Dance will be there, following his appearances in Game of Thrones, a show I have somehow managed to never watch, despite it’s incredible popularity at recent conventions. The amazing Malcolm McDowell will also be at the event, and whether you’re a fan of Clockwork Orange, Heroes, Star Trek, Caligula, Halloween…..the list goes on and on. In all honesty, last year I probably wouldn’t have met Malcolm, despite his obvious star quality, however his performance in Clockwork Orange alone, together with the fact I have only recently watched Heroes for the first time, has left me umming and ahhing about it. I didn’t meet John Hurt at another event some time ago, and his recent involvement with Doctor Who means that I’m now very much regretting that decision.

Star Wars is well represented as always this year – the regular attendee Kenny Baker (R2D2) will be there, as will Denis Lawson, Oliver Ford Davies and Glyn Baker. Of the four, I had originally budgeted to meet Denis Lawson, as I believe he’s relatively rare at events such as these, although again, monetary constraints are putting paid to that now. I’m going to see how it goes on the day.

For me though, this convention is the first one I’ve been to with a specific intention of socialising with fellow con-goers. I’ve ‘met’ a lot of people through Twitter since I started to attend these events, yet I’ve never physically met any of them. It’s an odd situation, meeting people off Twitter. These are all great people who you speak to every day without ever actually being in their presence. Although once I’ve had a couple of pints I’ll talk to anyone relatively comfortably, I can be terribly awkward around new people. This is part of the fun though. Life is about taking yourself out of your comfort zone in order to do something you want to do. Two years ago I wouldn’t have been able to chat to famous actors over an autograph, whereas now I find it a pretty natural thing to do. I’ve been offered company for the Saturday already which is great, so that should make what would be a lonely convention much more entertaining.

I think Saturday is going to be a relaxing day generally – my photoshoot with Jenna is at 11am, so that’ll be out of the way nice and early, and once I’ve managed to obtain her signature on an 8×10 (which I STILL haven’t chosen yet) I won’t have a great amount to do. Which is superb, as I do like to wander around aimlessly for a few hours, knowing I don’t have to race for the free bus back to the station, as I’m staying in a Travelodge that night.

The Sunday might be slightly more stressful, as I’ll be meeting Billie Piper. As will around three million other people. The nightmare here is that I will need to be at the venue early in order to pick up my virtual queue ticket for her, and I’ll need an early one as I won’t have time to hang about past 3pm – my train home is just after 4pm. I’ve never had a problem so far though, and in my case necessity is the mother of getting my lazy arse out of bed, despite any hangover I may have picked up during Saturday evening.

I’ll leave it there, so I can do a more detailed blog post-convention next week. While I’m suffering post-con blues…..

Latersville.