Friday was an absolute nightmare. Some idiot decided to bring in a steam train to my local station, and cordon off an area for the spotters. What they didn't take into account was by choosing platform 2, they were blocking off access to platform 1 (the regular train to London). And more importantly they hadn't accounted for lateness or bothered to keep staff and passengers informed about what was going on.
My poor girlfriend was trying to transport my birthday cake through the crowds of oblivious morons, and was getting more and more stressed by the second, but once we were lost in the scrum there was nothing that could be done. She couldn't even pass lugagge to me, put it down, or even find space to stop and catch her breath.
When we finally got on the train with minutes to spare she was nursing bruised and aching arms and we were both out of breath and stressed.
Fortunately we were in better spirits when we arrived in London, although miles of stairs and escalators at Bank to get to the DLR link didn't help matters.
When we got to our hotel we were releived to dump everything and just lay down for a bit and unwind.
When we were better we had a quick exploration of the area (plenty of shops and fast food choices), and then retired to the hotel pub for an enormous burger and fries. So huge I couldn't even finish mine!
Before settling down for the night, we checked over the early entry info, and set our alarms...
Woke up before the alarm. I don't sleep well in unusual beds, and I was still stressed from the day before, and excited about the Expo.
We'd decided to leave our cosplaying until later in the day, and hit the shopping stalls ASAP. Unfortunately I had miscalculated.
Arriving in the main hallway of Excel half an hour before early entry started (2.5 hours before regular entry is allowed) we found a gigantic queue. After walking half the length of the building we found a friend has saved us a space. Fortunately we were not lynched for queue jumping.
After what seemd like hours, but was probably 30 mins we got to the gates and saw another vast queue. Fortunately our advance tickets allowed us to bypass it, but after we exhanged them for wristbands and got our goodybags, we had to queue again in the cattle-pens to enter the main hall.
We eventually entered the main hall at 9:40, forty minutes after opening (and over an hour since we started queuing), and boy was it busy already. Fortunately with a bit of patience, and some deft footwork, you could get to any of the stalls.
The majority of the stalls at the front of the hall were selling plush toys, merchandise, and comics. But once you started digging there were DVDs, hats, figures, games, replica and prop weapons, and even CDs.
Past the sales stalls there was a large section for the Yugioh competitions; some promo areas for forthcoming films, video games and TV programmes; a wrestling ring (not sure why); an area for artists to promote their comics; and a couple of stage areas for events.
I wasn't really in the buying mood, but did get to chat to a really nice lady who drew Hetalia postcards and posters, and the creator of Fetishman. My girlfriend pointed out the similarity in our personalities after I'd chatted to him for a while, and she'd bought me a Tea-Master General pack (comic, poster,embroidered patch, and ID card).
My girlfriend and her friend tried to buy some yaoi comics, but discovered they didn't bring any ID to the expo. While tey were rummaging and grumbling, I got chatting to an Arcanine cosplayer, and made a friend by sharing my fan. Fursuiters get HOT in those things!
The day was not lst however, as a second pass of the stalls turned up a Hetalia Yaoi compilation called Under The Same Sky which proved very popular among the fans that day!
After we'd had our fill of the hall, we dropped off our friend with some cosplayers and went to change. My girlfriend was crossplaying as the cute Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, and I was also crossplaying as Belarus.
I actually spent most of the weekend with the Hetalia cosplayers. They were a fun bunch and really friendly. Possibly a bit too friendy if you've seen some of my pictures on Facebook ;-)
I was celebrating my birthday that weekend so while when my GF took her friend to get chaged into her second outfit, she also picked up my birthday cake from our room.
It was a large sponge frosted with butter-icing, coloured to look like the Belarsian flag! It was awesome. We joined some other Hetali cosplayers who were picnicing, but sadly no-one had a knife. Fortunately we got chatting to an Eldar Dire Avenger cosplayer who offered to cut the cake with his sword. It was a bit messy, but we all got cake. And he was amused by being able to eat cake from a sword :)
The wind was picking up now, and a few spots of rain were felt, so we retreated undercover. But not before doing the Carameldansen
I also got to meet breifly with Helena Love, who I've corresponded with online, but never actually met. She also took the best photo of me that weekend (much better than the so-called pro by the white shutters!) Sadly she had other commitment, as did I, but it was nice to finally speak in person.
The weather was variable for quite a while, but it was nice to chat with everyone. We took a break at lunch time to visit the local shops (buying food in a kebabshop is hlarious while crossplaying!)
When the rain got too heavy, we retreated back inside, for a bit more shopping, and eventually retired to the hotel bar for fried calamari and spicy potato wedges.But not afte a long walk escorting my GF's friend back to her hotel.
There was an organised party at the Ibis, but as it was ticket only, and we were very tired, we didn't really care.
Even with the air-con on it was a stuffy night and I didn't really sleep well. As I lay half away I debated whether to cosplay again or not on the Sunday.
Waking up with the sun on Sunday morning I decided to wear my costume again. This time we had to wait for my GF's mate to arrive as she was storing her stuff in our room (and didn't want to walk a couple of miles from her hotel in a skimpy costume!)
This time we arrived one hour early, and outside the hall there were no queues, and inside things moved smoothly to the holding area where we ended up sitting for most of the hour. Although this was punctuated by cries of "CARD GAMES ON MOTORCYCLES!" and other silliness.
People musy have realised how much better the queues were on Sunday because spirits were high, and as we filed out of the final row of the cattle run, people were high-fiving the next row as they passed.
Sunday was a lot more laid back. We had a look around the sales hall again, and Geof, the creator of Fetishman, wished me a happy birthday and complimented me on my entourage (My girlfriend was clearing a path before us, and her friend was following behind with a flag :) ).
After that we spent most of the day out in the sun photographing cosplayers and chilling out. As the sun went down we escorted my GFs friend to the station, then we went back to the hotel bar for a very yummy cod and chips.
I did some packing, and we went to sleep. I still didn't sleep well.
Which didn't help on Monday morning. The DLR was out of service and the replacement bus was packed. Changing at Tower Gateway means leaving the station, crossing a busy road, and enetering via another entrance. Kings Cross Station is horrible and I never want to use it again. The Cambridge Express didn't open its doors until one minute before departure time. And for some reason the hourly trains from Norwich to the sticks pause for mid-afternoon.
I arrived home very frazzled and short tempered. :(
Overall (apart from the travel nightmares) it was a really good weekend. Even the bad weather didn't stop us having fun, and I've learned a few lessons for next time. I'm not sure if I prefer the expo style to the more intimite hotel-cons, but I'm definitely going again in October.
I suppose I'd better start work on that costume then...
4 days ago