Met up with Gonzo, Delina, and Airhead at the Hostel on Thursday night. Had a couple of drinks in the bar, but as I had been out to York all day, I was quite a bit beat. The hostel pub was “American” themed, with whiskey drinks served in mason jars, a bust of the Blues Brothers, and a menu consisting of hamburgers, chicken wings, nachos, and colesaw. It was also popular with the nearby businessmen out drinking with their office buddies and their disappointed girlfriends. But one thing, the music is loud, and we were all tired…so we all retired.
When Friday rolled around, Gonzo, Airhead and I embarked across London Bridge to catch the DLR to meet up with Iron Friday morning to schlepp things from his car at Expo back to the Hostel. Turns out that we needn’t make that trip, as you can catch the Jubilee line from London Bridge, rather trying to find the DLR inside Bank.
Once we returned from our sojourn, it was by absolute luck that the Toy Soldiers were assigned the same hostel room as I had vacated been in for Thursday and Wednesday nights. Throughout the day on Friday, soldiers arrived at the hostel to check in: Chrysalice, Hamster, Kracken, Mayo, Grimm, Mikey, Kipling, Charlotte, Elfeva, JDUK, Straitsilver, Sophie, SilentAddle & BE4R.
Had a loud evening at the hostel pub, and a bit of a surprise when two unaffiliated guys randomly got assigned to our room. Both they and us were quite confused when they arrived, as there were no beds available for them and we had rented out the whole room anyway. However, they left quickly enough and were given rooms somewhere else in the building.
It was on Saturday that I first discovered how akin to hobbits the Toy Soldiers are. We sat downstairs in the pub, eating our free (cold) breakfast and waiting patiently for the cook to arrive so we could order second (hot) breakfast. Many cups of coffee were consumed and it was here I was told that “If the Americans have gotten one thing right, it’s breakfast…” whilst consuming fluffy, thick, and delicious pancakes. (n.b. In Britain, these are ‘Scottish’ pancakes, whereas the normal kind being more like crepes, and flapjacks are a kind of biscuit akin to granola bars).
Fed and dressed, we set out for the convention. Saturday was our first time making the transfer to the DLR en masse at Canning Town, so there was some confusion as to which tracks to catch to the ExCeL… some soldiers caught an express train on the lower track and when they realised they had left us, they got off to wait for the next train. Other soldiers figured we knew what we were doing, and met us there. Saturday was also the first proper day for attendees, and for costuming, with Kracken and Chrysalice dressing as Captain and Mary Marvel, JDUK wearing his flight-helmet, and Hamster dressed as Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name”. On the platform for the DLR, we fit right in with all the other cosplayers.
For a time, Geoff got disconnected from the rest of the group (this seems to happen in London on Saturdays…) and wound up occupying a disused booth in the far end of the Expo hall. During the half-hour I spent occupying the booth, he managed to spread propaganda, exhort passersby to have continue having fun, and generally own the booth he was standing in. I was surprised by the number of people who passed a man in a kilt eating an apple and figured ‘oops, best not walk through his booth’ and went around me. Took some photos of good costumes, but failed utterly to properly document the experience. This was apparently during a fantastic hail-storm which caused the attendees to scatter for cover, which may have explained where everyone else was.
When the group returned from the Expo, it was determined we were still hungry, so a detachment was sent out to find food. Due to the late hour, the only thing we found was a Kebab shop (which Geoff was elated about) so we all had Donner and chips out on the pavement like good lads.
Sunday continued the costume fantastic, with Elfeva dressing as Danyeris Targaren, Chrysalice dressing as Elsa, JDUK as Hunter S. Thompson, and Geoff as a Tourist. Iron broke out his Engineering jumpsuit and stilts, and we wandered about seeing the sights in groups of twos and threes.
On Sunday, a harrowing experience occurred while the group was milling about planning on passing through the Artist Alley one more time. One of the con attendees passed out while sitting with a friend… and with no convention porters, staff, or volunteers nearby, we had to summon the emergency services ourselves. Thankfully, with Iron’s enhanced stilts, he was able to cross most of the expo hall quickly to flag down one of the ExCeL staff who eventually radioed out for medical assistance. During the fifteen minutes of confusion, the remaining Toy Soldiers formed a human chain to prevent people from walking over the fallen. Toy Soldiers. Doing Well by Doing Good since 2007!
A group late lunch was had al fresco with nearly £150 of pizzas… but we kept going on drinking and eating and having a wonderful time.
Also on Sunday, we ran into YJ Monte who was running a rummage-sale of sorts in the hall, and had a good long chat with him as it had been two or three years since we last had spoke. A number of soldiers also visited the Island of Doctor Geof, a steampunk illustrator, and joined the First Tea Company (a sort of fan-club-cum-nodding-wink-to-steampunkery)
As a sort of last hurrah, we all adjourned to the hostel up the street and partook in a rump steak dinner on Sunday night. Over good food, good beer, and good cigars we reaffirmed our desire to continue doing this sort of thing, to making fun the top priority.