My first stop was not the ExcCeL centre, but Shoreditch. We had ordered some stickers from Moo for Abi to hand out to all of the Making Light folks who would be attending. We had left the order too late for it to be delivered to our home, though, so I got it sent to the Moo Shop for collection instead. As well as being the most convenient delivery location, it was also an opportunity for me to take a 10km-ish walk through some parts of London I’d never seen before.
(A quick diversion about shoes. I started wearing Converse All-Star high-tops back in 2003. The first time I tried on a pair, they fitted like slippers, and they have been my default April-October shoes ever since. (I prefer something warmer in winter.) I wear them until they wear out, and then I buy a new pair: men’s size UK 9, EU 42.5. I don’t have to try them on — that’s just my size.
Except the pair I bought in July has been awful. They were uncomfortable from the moment I put them on. The first time I wore them for any length of time (on our plane journey to France) the interior stitching near the toes dug into my feet so much they gave me blisters. I put up with it thinking that I just needed to wear them in a bit, but even after six weeks of wear they still pinch and hurt. They’re definitely the right size, but something about the stitching in this pair is different than in every pair I’ve owned for the last ten years. Using them as my only footwear for the con was a mistake. Walking 10km in them before the con had even started left me with sore feet, which changed my gait, which hurt my knee. Not clever.)
Despite the pain, it was a lovely walk with some nice views. I got to the Moo shop a little after 10, got the stickers, then walked to Liverpool Street station and got the tube and DLR back to Customs House.
At the hotel, Abi and the kids were all dressed up in their costumes. I gave Abi the stickers and they headed over to the con while I stayed behind for a quick shower — the day was warm, and I was sweaty and smelly from the walk. After freshening up, I walked over to ExCeL and met up with the family and Liza for lunch. Alex and Fiona were adjusting to their new-found celebrity: people were stopping them and taking their photos already. Abi was nervous about her upcoming panel, which would be her first ever at a con. Alex had an order of fries from the chicken burger place, and the rest of us failed to make much of a dent in the mountain of pizzas I ordered.
After lunch, we hustled to Abi’s first panel: “Diggy Diggy Hole!: Minecraft and Gaming Communities”, moderated by the head of the gaming programme at the con, Esther MacCallum-Stewart. It was a fun discussion of Minecraft and Youtube, with lots of kids present. Simon “Honeydew” Lane of the Yogscast even made a surprise appearance on Esther’s phone, and we all sang “Diggy Diggy Hole” to him. Afterwards we congregated outside and started chatting with other families who were there, and immediately made friends we would spend a load of time with for the rest of the weekend. We were eventually encouraged to leave the corridor and stop making so much noise.
Meanwhile, elsewhere, Patrick and Teresa were in a car somewhere between Wales and London. Teresa’s first panel was at 16:30. Increasingly frantic text message relays made it apparent that they weren’t going to get there in time. To help speed things along, Alex (dressed as a member of the Night’s Watch) and I stood around at the entrance of their hotel, ready to escort them as soon as they arrived. They pulled in shortly after 16:30, looking slightly frantic. We split up to make things easier: Alex showed Teresa the way to her panel, while I helped Patrick park the car and haul luggage.
Teresa’s panel sounded interesting, but by the time I eventually got up there it was full and too late to get in. Alex was sitting guard outside the room, and we decided to head off back to the Fan Village to hang out. We only made it a few steps before a woman came up to us and said she was making a programme about Game of Thrones for Swedish television, and would Alex mind if she interviewed him? Of course, he was happy to oblige. He spent the next twenty minutes getting set up in front of the camera, talking about Game of Thrones, and showing off his magnificent costume.
(Something that frustrated Alex a bit throughout the day was that people kept addressing him as “Jon Snow!” On the on hand it was great that his outfit was recognizable as from the series, but he had to keep insisting that he wasn’t Jon Snow, but rather a member of the Night’s Watch.)
Abi had planned a Gathering of Light for the evening. The kids and I were on our own, and we decided to go back to the hotel room to have something to eat, then come back to the Con afterwards and find a panel to attend. “How to Survive” sounded interesting: a discussion about rebooting civilization after an apocalypse. It was so well attended, however, that we had to sit in the aisle. ExCeL securty did not approve of this behaviour, and they removed all of us fire hazards part-way through.
We wandered down to the bustling Fan Village, and settled ourselves down by the gaming tent. There was a LARP going on inside, but the board games lending library table had moved outside the tent. We picked up City of Zombies and gave it a try. It’s a fast-moving co-operative game with a neat (educational) game mechanic. You have to add, subtract, multiply, and divide your dice rolls to come up with the exact numbers to destroy the zombies attacking you. We played a medium-length “easy” game that took us about 40 minutes, and it was fun.
It had been a long day and we were all tired in a wound-up and excited kind of way. As we headed out of the Fan Village, we passed the Gathering of Light. We stopped for a brief chat, then Alex and I went back to hotel. Fiona stayed behind with Abi, and the two of them made their way back together some time later. (I don’t remember much of that very last bit. I think I was too exhausted to be paying much attention.)