Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Clusterfuck Wednesday

Today was supposed to be a pretty straightforward kind of day. Up until yesterday afternoon I didn't actually have any plans for today, but then that changed (in what was supposed to be a lovely way) and it's all taken a bizarrely weird turn from there.

So Wednesday is my day off. No teaching - the day is mine and mine alone. But the plans that took form yesterday afternoon involved me heading out to Richmond and catching up with two of my lovely pals from Bikram Yoga Chiswick. And so that's exactly what I did this morning and it was lovely, thank you very much for asking. As a result of heading out early I thought I might then pop over to Kingston to see 10 Cloverfield Lane, because I want to see it, and no one else I know wanted to see it, and I quite like a daytime cinema trip anyway. It feels a bit decadent, if you know what I mean. So I headed to Kingston.

The first component of Clusterfuck Wednesday (I do apologise for the swearing; when I first started this blog 10 years ago I decided there would be no swearing. But I figure we're all 10 years older now so we can probably handle it, right?) occurred when I tried to buy a ticket. There was no one at the tills in Kingston Odeon so I used one of the self service machines outside. Having tapped in all my details I was just about to put my debit card in when someone from the cinema walks past me and says "I wouldn't use that one mate - it's been freezing a bit recently. Use the next one instead."

I'm this close to saying "well don't you think you should, y'know, put a sign on it or something?" but instead I say "thank you," take a cheeky step to the left, and tap all my detail in again on the next machine. I pop my card in, the machine flashes up THANK YOU FOR YOUR PURCHASE, and no ticket comes out.

Give me my ticket.

Picture me standing there, reader, scratching my head in what I hope is a slightly bemused yet adorable fashion, and look around for someone to help. Eventually I catch the eye of an Odeon employee. She's really helpful and scurries off to get a key to open the machine and retrieve my ticket, which she reckons has gotten snarled up in the printer bit.

A few minutes later with key in hand she returns, cracks open the machine and retrieves… my receipt. There's no ticket. "It's okay," she says. "I'll walk you in." She does so, and I thank her for her help, after which I have to explain to the man who tears the tickets and lets you in that I want my receipt back, not only because it's the only proof I've got that I paid to get in, but also because I can pop it through on my next tax return.

So I head upstairs to the screen and plonk myself down in the optimum seating position. A few minutes later another man comes in and sits a few seats along from me. The lights go down and the adverts start. And then the screen goes blank.

We both sit there in darkness listening to the adverts and staring at a blank screen and it becomes apparent that the screen is not going to magically reactivate. So I get up, get the other chap to allow me past, head out of the screen and go outside. There is no one around to talk to about the fact that the screen isn't working. So I get on the escalator, go back down to the lobby and tell someone there. A few minutes later I'm back in the screen and - HEY PRESTO! - the screen comes back to life.


I settle down to watch the trailers. At which point the screen goes blank again. By this time three more people have come in, but it's apparent that neither they nor the other chap sitting along from me give two hoots about the fact we're ensconced in darkness and there's no picture. So I get up and go outside again. Again, there's no one to complain to, so I get back on the escalator, go back down to the lobby and talk to the same person I spoke to just minutes earlier.

"We fixed it," she says.

"I know," I reply. "It's stopped working again."

"Oh," she says. "I'll call the manager."

She plucks a walkie talkie from her belt and holds it to her mouth like she's about to order a tactical nuclear strike.

"Come in," she says. "

"Yes?" Says a voice from the other end.

"Screen 10 has stopped working," she explains.

"I know," says the voice at the other end. "I fixed it."

"A guest says it's broken again," she says.

"That's twice it's broken now," says the founding member of Mensa at the other end.

"He's on it," she reassures me with a dead-eyed look.

"I think I'll get a refund, please," I say, fearing that my potential enjoyment of 10 Cloverfield Lane might be spoilt by me having to leave the cinema every five minutes to report a technical fault.

A few minutes later a lovely yet somewhat stressed looking lady takes me to the tills to issue me a refund.

"Can I have your ticket please?" She asks.

"No," I say. "I never got one." And then have to explain to her the saga of the broken ticket machine. Ten minutes later I run from Kingston Odeon clutching £9.25 in my hands and a resolution never to go back there in my mind.

By this time it's 1.15pm and I still want to see 10 Cloverfield Lane. So I decide to head to Staines (or Staines-Upon-Thames as it's now called for reasons no one seems able to fathom) to catch the 2pm screening at the Vue cinema. Kingston to Staines is about a 25 minute drive. Plenty of time.

Or at least it would've been plenty of time if I hadn't have hit two sets of roadworks on one road, and another set on the road I took to try and avoid a third set further up the first road.

By the time I reach Staines an hour and 20 minutes later, in plenty of time to catch the 3.10pm screening of 10 Cloverfield Lane, I'm at that slightly frazzled point where I'm REALLY HOPING 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE IS WORTH ALL THE HASSLE. I buy a ticket, settle down, and…

Watch the film *phew!*

And yes, it's a great film, THANK FUCK.

But wait, it doesn't end there. After the film I swing by Waitrose to get some dinner. After the day I've had I decide I need some chips, so I pick up a lovely big bag of frozen chunky chips and head to the tills. The queue is only a few people deep, but the lady working it is agonisingly slow, not helped by the old lady who's bought 10 ready meals in the reduced section which are all plastered with barcodes that won't scan. Eventually I get to the front of the queue, and as the lady scans the bag of chips… it splits open.

"Oh dear," she says. "Do you still want these?"

"Not really," I reply as I watch her pluck frozen chips off the barcode scanner and pop them delicately back in the bag.

Anyway, I'm home now, and I don't plan on leaving the house again until Clusterfuck Wednesday is done and dusted.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The host(ess) with the most(ess)

Since going freelance five years ago (five years? Really? Honestly it’s a genuine miracle I’m still alive) I’ve dabbled my filthy little hands in a variety of endeavours: teaching yoga, editing books, a huge copywriting project for a massive retail company, a little bit of design work here and there – you get the idea. Basically all stuff that generally exists within my current skill set, and all lovely things in their own ways.

And then last year I added a new string to my bow: hosting conventions.

I’ll be honest, this is not something I really pictured myself doing, but when the opportunity arose I gleefully said yes because… well, why not?

And truth be told, since I started teaching yoga I’ve discovered there’s something quite thrilling about standing in front of a crowd of people who are basically a captive audience. It’s a nice little boost to the ego (as long as they don’t look like they’re about to invade the stage and thump you).

So last May I rocked up to a reasonably swanky hotel in Birmingham as one of the MCs for Asylum 14, a convention dedicated to the TV show Supernatural (which I love). The other MC was – surprise, surprise! – The Other Half, and it was him that got me the gig in the first place, because Asylum 14, unlike the previous 13 Asylums, had grown so large that the organisers had decided to split it across two stages and they’d asked him if he knew of anyone competent enough to take the job. He didn’t, so I ended up doing it instead. So TOH was on stage one (which could accommodate, I think, about 1500 attendees), and training wheels Timmy was plonked on stage two, which was home to a mere 750.

I don’t remember having too many nerves about getting up on stage in front of 750 expectant Supernatural fans because when you’ve stood in front of 30 people in a yoga studio wearing only a pair of skimpy shorts that are clinging to you with sweat I think you’re pretty much good to go with anything. I do remember being a bit worried that I might balls one of the guests’ names up, or confuse Jared Padelecki with Jensen Ackles and introduce them as Jared Ackles and Jensen Padelecki, but fortunately that didn’t come to pass (there’s always this year, Asylum 16, March 7th-8th).

One of the lovely attendees posted this on Twitter. Honestly, give me a mic and I WILL RULE OVER ALL I SURVEY HASHTAG TIM.
I do distinctly remember getting up on stage the first time, though. It was about 9:15am on the first day and I didn’t really know what was expected of me, so I just grabbed a mic, jumped on stage and gave some spiel about not sitting in the public parts of the hotel, make sure you walk on the left in the corridors, don’t ask the guests for selfies, don’t ask inappropriate questions during the Q&As and really, please no trying to groping your favourite guest. Then I stayed on stage because, well, why not, and tried to be entertaining by stealing a trick from another Timmy and starting a game of Mallet’s Mallet.

So it was fun. I enjoyed bantering with the attendees who were universally lovely even if some of them were mad enough to want a selfie with me (that was allowed, nay ENCOURAGED), and although I didn’t get to chat to any of the guests they were all wonderful too, from Misha Collins threatening me with a sticky angel sword (no, really, that actually happened) to the moment on the final afternoon when Jared Padelecki jumped on stage, wrapped an arm around my shoulders and wouldn’t let go; honestly, trying to get out of that man’s grip was nigh on impossible. His arms are beefier than my thighs.

Me, TOH, my new best buddy Jared and the rest of the Supernatural crew.

As you can probably tell, my first taste of convention life was fun. So when they asked me back for another go I of course said yes.

Convention number 2 was called City of Heroes and was dedicated to the stars of Arrow, The Flash and Gotham, three more tellybox shows I adore. And another lovely time was had, even if I did balls Arrow star Stephen Amell’s name up when introducing him. Am-uhl. AM-UHL. Got it? Good.

Me, TOH and the the City of Heroes crew.
After that came Insurgence, which focused on The Vampire Diaries and The Originals, two shows I’ve never watched, but which have lovely stars. Best Mate Jo is forever mortified that I met her beloved Ian Somerhalder, and might I say if you ever get the chance to see Sebastian Roche at a convention do whatever you have to do to make sure you go, up to and including selling your grandmother. The man is a force of nature and wildly entertaining, so much so that his slot ran over by about 20 minutes on the first day because I couldn’t wrangle him off the stage.

Me gurning like a plonker, my other new best buddy Ian, TOH and the rest of the Insurgence crew.

Bonus Insurgence picture: me holding down a ceramic gnome while Sebastian Roche has his way with it.
Hosting conventions is a fun gig then, and it’s a shame I only get to do it a handful of times throughout the year, because quite frankly I’d do this shizzle full time if I could.

So what have we learnt then?

a) If you’re passionate about a TV show, you really should go to a convention. They're fun and you'll meet some lovely people.

b) I’m available for hosting duties if you want me. Weddings, Bar Mitzvahs, you name it: I'm your man.

c) I’m an attentioning seeking whore (as if we were in any doubt).

See you at a con soon?