Sunday, 27 August 2017

New York & Nashville Holiday 19th-25th August 2017

New York & Nashville Holiday
19th-25th August 2017

19th-20th August

The 19th August began as planned, Dad kindly agreed to drive me to Cambridge North station. It's much better laid out than Cambridge station is now but despite being nearly brand new lacks a decent drop off area so we had to briefly stop in a disabled car park.

The journey to London was uneventful I'd then opted to tackle the tube for the journey to Heathrow airport as it's both cheaper and I had plenty of time(I thought)

Upon arrival at Heathrow I headed to Terminal 3 to check in at American Airlines and this was where the “fun” began. Their part of the airport is quite frankly poorly designed with no explanation of the bag check in procedure. After several attempts at queuing in what turned out to be the wrong places the system turned out to be this, you check your own case in at a computer terminal which prints out your bag tag, then join a long queue for bag drop.

Once I'd joined this queue it was slowly looking less and less likely that I'd have time to catch my first flight. I'd arrived at the airport over three hours before the flight was due to depart but the bag drop queue turned out to partly contain many people whose flights had been pushed forward by 24 hours due to a thunder storm the previous day.

To American Airlines credit they'd clearly initiated a contingency plan as first passengers for Philadelphia then me and several others due to board AA105 to New York were pulled out of the queue and fast tracked through bag drop.

It was after this that things started to go wrong, bear in mind I haven't flown much over the years and also this was my first flight in four years so I was rather rusty on packing and stupidly had put all my toiletries in my hand luggage. Apart from my toothpaste all were confiscated by security. This was more embarrassing than truly frustrating to be honest.

At this point though I did notice one person whose day was going far worse than mine, a lady in her 50s also bound for my flight was also having her bag searched by security who rapidly found she was traveling with Mace the anti attack spray which is entirely illegal to travel with in this country. Rather worryingly his American lady had been in our country for a few weeks so had somehow manage to enter the UK with her Mace, equally illegal!
As if to point out to her how much trouble she was in a quiet word from the security guard was soon raised to the appearance of someone higher up the scale either a supervisor or manager.

It was at this point things became more worrying for me as I was told there now wouldn't be time for me to board my planned flight to New York. But to be fair to American Airlines they then passed me on to their business partner British Airways who initially thought I might end up “on standby” I'm still not quite sure what that means by the way. But thankfully through some miracle a seat was found for me on a BA flight to New York later that afternoon.

I was issued with a new Boarding Pass and directed to the airport shuttle to get me to terminal 5, having already been through security I don't recall having to wait long to board this flight. At this point I was assured by BA that my checked in case would be with me on this flight.

There then followed a relaxing eight hours of flying and catching up on films I'd not seen at the cinema in recent months. Had time to enjoy Mind Horn(a lot of fun), Boss Baby(interestingly quirky) and Their Finest(Entertaining drama about the morale boosting British films during the 2nd world war)

Upon arrival in New York to BA’s credit they initially made every effort to fast track me towards my originally booked flight to Nashville. I was chaperoned rapidly out of the border queue and speeded through customs. I was quite frankly abandoned at luggage pick up with the assurance that a third and final person was waiting for me nearby after I'd picked up my bag.

It's at this point things started to go wrong again, I waited patiently at the luggage carousel but my case never appeared. Being all too aware of the time I decided to try and catch the flight to Nashville and hope my case would catch up with me. So I headed through the final bits of customs and grabbed a train to the terminal for my Nashville flight.

As I approached security for the gate it was only then I'd discovered I'd somehow lost my passport. I still to this day have no idea how this happened as apart from when I boarded the train to change terminals(at this point it was pocketed) It had remained firmly gripped in the fingers of my right hand.

I then started back tracking my steps, first through the departure terminal then caught the train again and repeated this arrival terminal but to no a avail. I then asked for advise from a nearby security guard who told me there was a “lost and found” on the lower level. I searched for this office only to discover that what they actually meant was that BA’s baggage office was on this level.

BA’s baggage office were polite and helpful as I reported both my missing case & passport to them. They then advised me to head over to Terminal 4 where there was a 24 hour hotel information desk & a taxi rank. I didn't think the hotel desk looked very helpful so instead booked a couple of nights at a nearby hotel using my phone, and rang home to update dad on the situation.

By this time I'd discovered I would need to apply for an Emergency Travel Document(Emergency Passport) from the New York office of the British Consulate. Whilst heading to the taxi rank I was shanghaied by a mini cab driver, this man clearly didn't know the area as it was very much a GPS lead journey to the Five Towns hotel thankfully only ten mins away.

As I'd arrived there at what was now 3.30am local time the hotel informed me I was way too early to check in for my planned Two night stay but kindly told me I wait in the first floor customer lounge till morning. Despite removing my shoes and lying down semi comfortably on one of the sofas this room was so cold due to over  aggressive air conditioning that sleep proved impossible.

After this rest I headed back down and made use of the ground floor rest room for morning ablutions. Through resourceful use of my bar of soap and razor I somehow had a half decent shave as part of this and did look presentable.

The next few hours were this odd socially uncomfortable wait which did eventually include a light breakfast despite not yet being able to check in, the receptionist on morning shift was insisting on photo ID. Thankfully he eventually caved in and let me check in but only after getting the OK from his manager.

I now had a comfortable hotel room for two nights to solve the passport issue and generally make the most of a bad thing.

I rapidly discovered a reasonably priced fast food restaurant nearby IHOP(International House of Pancakes) which kind of became my second home as I was there every lunch & dinner time for my two night stay. Also during my first 24 hours at this hotel I was visited by one of my few friends in New York,  Andre Tessier who kindly took me shopping to a nearby K Mart so I could buy clothing & toiletries.

21st August

After breakfast Monday the 21st started off as a waiting game, I'd filled in a form online and paid for my Emergency Passport but the website hit a fault before giving me an appointment time at the British Consulate. So just after 9am(they only operate Monday-Friday 9am-5pm) I rang them and was slightly surprised to get one of those automated switchboards. Thankfully I was put through to the correct person reasonably rapidly and and appointment was made for 3pm that day.

After lunch I took advantage of the hotel’s airport shuttle bus who I shared on this occasion with an airline pilot who had quite an interesting conversation about various routes some of were being dropped by his airline.

The shuttle thankfully was able to drop me at JFK terminal 4 so I made a beeline for the taxi rank and on this occasion did hire a yellow cab. Just over $50 lighter and a slightly confused driver almost dropping me at the wrong address I was outside the British Consulate. To call it an anonymous office block would be an exaggeration there was no sign outside at all!

At this point I still had one more thing to do before my appointment, get a passport photo taken. Friends on Facebook had advised me that I needed a Walgreens drug store for this and according to google maps there was one approximately 20 minute walk away.

I found Walgreens easy enough, though surprisingly there was no photo booth for passport photos. It turns out the procedure was one of the assistants had to take you to the back of the shop where there's a white background, take your photo then print it out passport sized which you paid $16 at the till!

During my walk back to the British Consulate I paused on a few occasions to see the(from this location) 76% eclipse of the sun which was happening above our heads. To be honest this made me a few minutes late for my appointment and the Consulate rang me but thankfully I'd got back to their building by then.

Understandably the Consulate is quite security conscious, my bag was X Rayed on entry and I was given a pass and escorted by lift up to their 10th floor offices.
I was served rapidly and efficiently by a friendly American gentlemen who soon set to work creating my Emergency Passport. This took a few minutes and I was given the option of leaving the building but I decided to wait there in their welcome air conditioned waiting room.

My Emergency Passport was handed to me less than an hour later and I left the building happy and relieved.

I now realised I could spend several hours exploring Manhattan, so initially asked Google maps to guide me to The Empire State Building as I'd had a couple of impressive views of the place from the cab earlier.

Using GPS on your phone to guide you round Manhattan can prove to be a bit of a tricky task as the best way to describe this part of the city is Canyon like! It towers over you and never ceases to make you feel a bit small, but I persevered and approximately 20 minutes later reached this iconic landmark. I then walked the relatively short distance to the nearby Chrysler Building. By this time I was finding the city quite inspirational the architecture reminding me of one of my all time favourite films Ghostbusters(1984)

I finished my brief look at the sights with a walk to Times Square, home of course to New York’s theatre district, many large advertising screens and on this occasion a free public art exhibition of “Sugar Children” to campaign for there to be less added sugar in food.

Catching an Uber back to the hotel proved to be slightly tricky, despite the slow traffic speeds and calling me, one driver was unable to see me at all. So I changed position and stood instead outside a large theatre nearby where a second Uber driver did find me more easily.

I arrived back at the hotel too late to eat out that night so survived on snacks till morning but did have some interesting TV to watch as PBS aired “Eclipse Across America” I also ended the evening with a brief sighting of British TV as they also aired BBC World news.

22nd August

After a reasonably sized if basic breakfast at the hotel, I checked out and grabbed the airport shuttle to arrive at JFK several hours before my flight. My only mistake at this point was underestimating the sheer scale of the airport.

My flight wasn't due to begin boarding till 2.25pm, so I didn't even walk over to security till 2pm only to be slowed down slightly by being part of a queue where everyone was being sent through the whole body scanner. Before I could leave security I was given a full pat down by a thankfully friendly security guard.

 I then found myself hightailing it to my gate for my flight to Nashville as I was one of three passengers names being read out on the PA as yet to board. Thankfully I did board the aircraft OK. This being a Two and a half hour internal flight there was zero in flight entertainment so I was greatful for two things music on my phone & my book to read.

Upon arrival my first impressions of Nashville International Airport were that it instantly felt a more friendly and welcoming than either Heathrow or JFK with its large carpeted areas and free live country music on tap less than ten minutes walk from my gate.

I quickly found my bearings as thankfully there seems to be a degree of commonality to airport design and I soon found American Airlines baggage office who as promised to me in recent days via both email and phone calls did indeed have my missing case. I was then able to message Jason Chuang a local Dr Who fan who’d kindly agreed to let me stay at his apartment for a couple of nights before my flights home.

Jason’s arrival at the airport was slightly delayed due to GPS issues but I'd found somewhere comfortable enough to wait and we soon met up and shared an evening meal together at a local chicken restaurant.

Jason lives about a 40 minute drive outside Nashville but this was a plus as I was able to take in the sights of rural America as we headed towards his apartment. We arrived in good time and managed to get inside just as one of Nashville’s semi regular thunder storms arrived. Having explained how much rarer such storms are in the UK he opened the blinds and I stood by the window for a few minutes watching the show.

We ended the evening watching various you tube videos. I then had an OK-ish night’s sleep.

23rd August

Jason works from home in IT so the next day began with him doing some work before we headed out for breakfast at First Watch Daytime Cafe. Once we’d returned to his apartment, I was able to book an Uber and wait out by the nearby main road for it to arrive.

The friendly local driver got the story of my holiday so far then dropped me to use his words “At the centre of everything!” which was just round the corner to The Johnny Cash museum which would be an early port of call for me. First up through souvenir buying was on the  agenda as I'd done none of that on my whistle stop tour of Manhattan recently. I looked round the nearby Cotton Eye Joes gift shop and bought a few reasonably priced bits of tourist tat including a rather nice mug.

I then headed to the nearby Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery and was pleasantly surprised to find Fish and Chips on their menu so ordered that partnered with a Diet Coke for my lunch. The fish was batter covered and as good as any cod I'd eaten at uk chippy the chips however which were hiding under the fish were way too salty. So on the whole a 6/10 mark compared to many 9s or 10s I could award back home.

I then headed to the nearby Johnny Cash Museum, a fascinating place and excellent value at approx $18.50 which told the complete story of the great man. It was an exit via the gift shop attraction so I bought a few cheap souvenirs on my way out.

Jason had advised me then to visit Goo Goo, which is a candy store immediately across the street. The  oder of sugar as you enter Goo Goo is very pleasant but slightly overpowering! I'm not keen on peanut butter they'd flavoured a lot of their wares with but did buy a large bag of pick & mix candy on my way out.

I then went on a long but interesting walk up Broadway a street literally jam packed with bars & restaurants many of whom were hosting free live music to encourage people inside. I however was headed to the Frist Museum of Art which unfortunately was closed by the time I arrived.

As I was now sat outside a large noticeable sign I decided to call another Uber to head off to my final piece of US tourism. This however took two attempts as one driver got lost in a nearby car park but thankfully the second driver found me more easily.

My destination was Cooter’s Place a small free to enter museum on the edge of town dedicated to preserving the memory of and much of the merchandise from the TV show The Dukes of Hazzard. It's owned and run by actor & musician Ben Cooper who starred as Cooter in the show. It's a fascinating place which a proceeded to document through photos and videos. I bought a couple of things in the shop on my way out and then walked to a nearby McDonald's which I noticed whilst arriving by Uber earlier.

This McDonald's proved to be surprisingly fascinating too as it was not only a restaurant but also had on display old musical instruments and radios as well as a small stage for live music, this was Nashville after all.

After another Uber back to Jason’s apartment we spent the evening watching various you tube videos and me recommending him some channels on that site to learn about the UK which he plans to visit eventually with his girlfriend.

24th-25th August

Thursday began with me finishing my packing before one final breakfast out with my host Jason. Having informed him I was down to my last few $ we headed to his nearest McDonald's I had a Sausage Breakfast Biscuit. Which translates as a sausage meat burger, an egg and a slice of cheese in a roll.

Although the first of my two flights home wasn't till early evening I asked Jason to get me to Nashville airport several hours early as my aim was to check in as early and wait at the gate.

Boarding was straightforward for what turned out to be the shortest flight of my holiday, we were only in the air for one hour fifteen minutes.

I then had to walk swiftly through Chicago O Hare airport to reach gate K19 for my flight home, which by the time I got there had mere minutes to go till boarding.

Although this flight was a red eye with a departure time of 10.30pm, me and sleeping on planes have never been good bedfellows, so I resolved to continue catching up on movies throughout the flight.

This time I started with The Founder a Micheal Keaton movie about the origins of Mc Donald's, I enjoyed this especially as it was set in the 1950s one of my favourite eras of American history.

The meat in my three movie sandwich was Ghost in The Shell a visually spectacular live action adaptation of a manga comic. The acting and visuals in this movie were excellent but I found the plot a tad confusing.

Finally I watched the much praised Logan part of the  X Men franchise, this rather darker comic book movie was definitely worth my time.

The final few minutes of the flight were spent listening to music as I'd discovered there was a good selection of that too on the in flight entertainment system.

Passing through Heathrow was relatively pain free as I waived goodbye to my Emergency Passport which had to be handed to UK Border control, finding the correct baggage carousel for my case was a little fiddiler but the bag itself soon made an appearance once I knew where to look.

The plane had in fact landed half an hour earlier than scheduled so after a brief call home I headed to the tube at was at King’s Cross so early I had to wait for my train home.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Dreams May 2017

The following were posted to Facebook straight after I woke up after having various dreams in May 2017.

Another interesting dream last night, was in a high budgeted Dr Who fan film with Mark Strickson. Though it seemed to be being filmed in my workplace with odd use of CCTV in some shots but also very impressive 3D graphics of a spinning planet for us to hang off!
(20th May 2017)

Very, very odd dream. Featuring Ian Mc Shane, John Altman, Tom Baker and a very youthful looking Heather Allen
It featured body mutilation(whilst the victim was conscious), don't worry Heather you weren't hurt or doing the hurting.
Also there was criminal infiltration of the Dr Who Experience or studio whilst Tom Baker pretended to be an out of work drama teacher.
Won't forget Ian McShane cutting up John Altman whist Altman was conscious in a hurry,his face was being dismantled from the inside yet he was still awake and not experiencing pain or spurting blood it was very odd.
Not sure what the eccentric collection of criminals were planning.
Heather you were a glamously dressed member of the public visiting a stately home I think.
The criminals gathered near the beginning on a very expensive looking luxury boat, which Altman, who they'd hired dived into the water and swam towards.
(19th May 2017)

Odd dream where me a non driver had suddenly decided to buy a car. Somehow it was only £4000 yet brand new, yellow and a small 4x4. Hadn't ticked a box for colour so the yellow was imposed on me. My maths is surprisingly good whilst asleep £15 a month for 15 years (do they do deals like that?)
(15th May 2017)

Dreamt I went to the Palace of Westminster on a works outing. Bizarrely we got to watch PMQs from the govt back benches I say watch it was so warm I fell asleep but woke up to see most of the MPs gone & Jeremy Corbyn and a colllegue nearby. I went over and shook his hand saying "Very good luck sir and I hope your still running the party after the election" he answered "Thanks and so do I" after this I joined a queue of us leaving for some reason my dad and brother were there and I said I hope there's a shop someone should buy some post cards.
(12th May 2017)

Monday, 14 November 2016

Health a seven year saga

For at least seven years now I've been having problems with my lower abdomen. This was initially diagnosed as a hyatus hernia and I was put on a drug called Omeprozole.

The drug reduces the production of stomach acid & generally iliminates all symptoms(apart from a constant tightness in that region of the body)

More than once a year though it can flare up, sometimes the cause is clear such as being crammed into a tight space such as a crowded car seat or a theatre seat with little leg room. These flare ups can be very uncomfortable involving constant muscle cramps the worst one lasted for seventeen days. Not just discomfort but also very energy sapping often so bad it requires time off work.

It's taken me years to encounter a GP willing to push me up the diagnostic ladder but earlier this year during one of these attacks(GP prefers the term episodes) I had an on the day appointment at my GP and finally made progress.

Since then I've had two stool tests, both of these showed a raised level of a protein so I was referred up initially for an ultrasound scan, this revealed nothing. After that I had a CT scan which is similar to having an X Ray and also revealed nothing unusual.

Most recently I've had a colonoscopy, for this the hospital sends you four sachets of what I've nick named “Special Stuff” You mix up an initial batch of this the night before the procedure and once you've started drinking it about 90 minutes later(in my case) You start needing the toilet and output nothing but liquid for the next six hours when your body finally settles down enough for you to sleep, this isn't exactly a pleasant process as you barely have a moment to relax.

The next morning at 6am you have to start taking a second batch of “Special Stuff” it's a slow process consuming this as it's mixed up in a litre of water. Again you need the toilet so regularly that I stayed in my pjs till lunch time.

The treatment centre at Addenbrookes is a surprisingly modern building tucked away at the back of the site, thankfully only a short walk from the nearby car park,once we’d got there, there was the usual mixture of form filling and waiting(they were running 20 minutes late) My name was then called and a very friendly nurse explained the procedure and gave me the option of a sedative(she even listed all the drugs involved) or no sedative. I chose the sedative option. I was then shown to a changing room where you have to don a hospital gown and take a seat for(surprise surprise) more waiting.

Then my name was called again and you have to lie down on this table whilst first the procedure is explained and then they give you the sedative. This appeared to consist of four separate injections via a canula. They'd told me this wasn't a general anaesthetic but after a brief period of light headedness, the next thing I knew I was being wheeled into the recovery room. Apparently two hours had gone by but I wouldn't know as I'd slept through it all. They told me they'd found nothing to worry about during the procedure. So after getting dressed again I was allowed to head home.

At this point I was rather glad I'd put a small box of Pringles in my coat pocket as I was finally allowed to eat again.

So now the waiting resumes hopefully my consultant has other tests up his sleeve because if anything is certain it's that there's definitely still something wrong with me.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Review of 2015

Review of 2015


It’s Christmas Day 2015, I’ve woken up in an inspired mood so let’s take advantage of that and review this year. There’s been much travel and of course much geekery.

To Leicester...and Beyond!

In January I boarded the train for this year’s only visit to Leicester’s National Space Centre, a museum I discovered last year but a venue I tend to approach with caution as it’s not the easiest of places to get to or to be more precise return from. The event on this occasion was “Science of The Timelords” a hybrid of Dr Who fans and stars with some science talks(none of which I attended but may do next time) There was many Daleks, plenty of cosplayed fans of special interest to me not one but two fan made TARDIS props and also a spectacularly good 60s era full sized  TARDIS Console. Special thanks here to Ian R Walker who kindly gave me a lift back to the station thus enabling me to get an earlier train home as the bus ride is much slower.

Leicester Photos:
Leicester Video:


Elementary my dear steampunks

February marked one of a few opportunities to hang out with Steampunk friends, on this occasion it was the Museum of London’s exhibition “Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die” a very interesting exhibition with fun company, we’d later go out for lunch and then to visit a nearby victorian War Memorial, St. Bart’s Hospital(which has a Sherlock filming location connection)

We finished our day with a brief visit to North Gower Street which is used as Baker Street in the BBC series Sherlock, but instead of being able to look round we were unexpectedly treated to the street being closed as it was being used to film The Abominable Bride this Christmas season’s Sherlock special so that street has joined a to do list of places to visit properly in 2016 as little was seen of it this time.

Late February saw me heading to New Malden for the Surrey Steampunk Convivial a very fun celebration of Victorian culture with a great group of creatively dressed friends and I don’t use the word lightly as some of them know me by name now, who I gladly spent the day photographing, filming chatting to and laughing with. The event included hats and costumes amongst other things on sale at the market across the road from the main venue and also entertainment and education in the form of Jane Darnborough who was on hand doing reptile talks and a very entertaining two venue performance of Around the World in 80 Days a steampunk radio play. We mustn’t forget the tea duelling which I as is often the way tried and failed at but enjoyed all the same. Checking my photographs I mustn’t forget to mention the live music and also the snail racing these events are nothing if not diverse!

Sherlock Exhibition Photos:
Surrey Steampunk Photos:
Surrey Steampunk Video:


A Month of farewells and fans

Mid March saw us gather in Crawley to bid a fond farewell to Dave Keep who was finally able to immigrate to his wife Elizabeth a few weeks later. Dave has been battling US red tape for nearly two years so this was a very important celebration, there was food, drink, fun and merriment.

Also in mid March saw the retirement of my work colleague Brian Dunstan I’m only giving this a mention here as it was an unexpectedly emotional day for me as it marked the end of an era at that job as he’s the last man to leave amongst the group of people to start working at the college around the time I joined in the late 1990s.

Late March saw another gathering of friends but this time locally for the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy’s Open Day. I’d used Facebook to send out a few invites as there would be a Doctor Who element provided by fan group the 15th Cyber Legion who showed up in force with Nath Smith’s newly built TARDIS having its first public outing.

Astronomy open day photos:
Video of Astronomy Open Day :


The Month of Automatons and Theatre

April began with a day trip to London, I spent part of the day seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron. But the more memorable part of the day was visiting a couple of London attractions in the morning I finally ascended the Orbit Tower at the nearby Olympic Park. The views from the tower are amazing despite it’s distance from the main landmarks of central London and I took several photos the ones I'm most proud of show Alexandra Place, a venue easily spotted whilst approaching King’s Cross by train but definetly one of the more distant landmarks visible from the tower. The day ended with a visit to Novelty Automatons a small attraction in central London which contains several fun, modern day automatons it's similar if smaller to a now sadly closed place in Covent Garden.

Also in April I'd been invited to a friend’s birthday gathering at a London pub but with little else to do that day and funds low I headed to Putney and had a long, enjoyable photographic walk to Battersea and back. The winds were cold but the sunshine made for some excellent shots of the cityscape. The birthday gathering itself was fun, at a monthly event called Rock Circus, it was held in a basement room and the attendees gathered in groups on stage to play the game Rock Band so sort of a variant on a Karaoke night.

The next day I was back in London for what feels like a rare Sunday day trip, after spending over an hour on the South Bank enjoying the spring like weather I saw one of my favourite stand up comics live at the Udderbelly a temporary venue that also appears at events such as the Edinburgh festival. Jay Foreman is a very fun comedy singer songwriter who is slowly getting more widely known thanks to a few appearances on local tv station London Live this year. I was thankfully able to meet him briefly after the show to buy one of his CDs and get it signed.

I finished off April with another trip to London and possibly my first experience of fringe theatre the venue in question was The Union Theatre in Southwark for a revival of Closer to Heaven a production that had previously been staged on the West End back in 2001 this time however it was staged in this much smaller venue, intimate would be a highly accurate word as it only seats 40 per performance but this may have added to the atmosphere as the show is mostly set in a nightclub.

Before catching the train home there was a final small pub gathering to bid farewell to Dave keep whose flight was now mere days away.

Automaton & Orbit View Photos:


Victoriana, a convention and a concert

In early May I was back in London visiting the very interesting V&A Museum of Childhood, this Victorian building in Bethnal Green contains a huge range of toys on display everything from Victorian dolls houses through to today's modern electronic gizmos showing the evolution of these through the 70s and 80s.

On 9th May I headed to Folkestone for the small but well organised Folkestone Film, TV and Comic Con that from this year had moved to Folkestone Academy which proved to be a more appropriate venue. They had if I recall properly three Q&As but I was there to see the Tom Baker one which proved well worth the journey as Tom was not only on good form but seemed open to commenting on more of his career than normal at such events so the assembled crowd were treated to tales of Blackadder and Life & Loves of a She Devil as well as him mentioning working with Matt Smith on Doctor Who. I had a brief walk to the beach after the con but the paths to it seemed to be closed on this occasion.

Late May saw another gathering of friends this time for the Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular held at Wembley Arena. It's been a few years since I'd seen anything at the arena and it was an interesting, if almost challenging place  to find due to the amount of redevelopment of the area. We nearly all got there early enough for the gig to enjoy a nearby lunch in each other’s entertaining company, the gig separated us for a couple of hours but thankfully we shared most of the lengthy tube journey as we headed home so more chats were possible.

May also saw me attend my first local pub meet with nearby Steampunks, these have sadly died off at the moment but will hopefully resume at some point in the new year as the chat is often fun.

V&A Photos:

Folkestone Photos:
Symphonic Spectactular Photos:


Glasgow, Laurel & Hardy and Sci Fi by Sea

June was a month of much travelling, mid month I headed up to Scotland by train for my first visit to that country. A weekend in Glasgow on this occasion, a very interesting city which I'm planning to return to next summer. Then on the day of my return a brief visit to London for a rare chance to see Laurel and Hardy on the big screen. Several screenings have taken place this year to mark the 125th anniversary of Stan Laurel’s birth. June also saw me quite busy with fan activities attending two pub meets in London and also the Sci Fi by the sea event in Herne Bay, which I may well skip next year because despite it being enjoyable it wasn't easy to get home from easily.

Glasgow Photos:
Laurel and Hardy Photos:
Sci Fi by The Sea Photos:


Thunder, Lightning and Manchester

Early July saw a thunderstorm so lengthy and fierce hit Cambridge that I took measures to make a visual record of it. The obvious method seemed to be to set up one of my digital video cameras with a wide angle view out my window. The rain arrived over an hour after the storm itself so I was able to keep the window wide open for some time whilst watching and recording the spectacle. After passing some of the images on to the local paper they made it to their website but sadly not the printed edition.

Mid and late July saw more travelling first to Manchester which was a fun couple of days but I'll go for longer next summer to allow for more exploring. Then late in the month I headed to London for a weekend break and was greeted by a real sandwich of weather horribly wet on the day I arrived, wonderfully dry the next day, then wet again for the journey home!

Lightning Photos:
Manchester Photos:
London Photos:


Steampunks, Summer in The City and Cardiff

In early August Steampunk came home, almost literally as Steampunk in Cambridge III was held just a few streets from me so I was able to attend both morning and evening events at it. There was stalls, costumed company, live music, hat racing, tea duelling and in the evening some Victorian style illusions.

Mid July saw an all too brief visit to the you tube themed event Summer in the City, I only got to one of the panels as my main reason for attending was a chance to meet fellow TARDIS builder Yozie. We got on well and interviewed each other, my own build is currently on hold for reasons I'll cover later.

There was more steampunk fun to be had at August’s Surrey Steampunk Convivial, some of it was outdoor unlike February’s event but my dodgy stomach muscles were playing up so I stayed in the pub for the indoor half of the event.

Late August saw me return to Cardiff one of my favourite uk cries after a two year break, again I arrived to rather wet weather but day two was considerably more summery so much fun was had visiting the bay and the Doctor Experience which had been updated to the Capaldi era since my last visit.

Also in August I had a day trip to London, mostly for Madame Tussauds to see their excellent exhibition recreating several scenes from Star Wars movies but also before that for the tricky to find Secret Garden near Regent’s Park a hidden gem which required asking those with better local knowledge than myself to find the entrance for me. My time in the garden was all too brief so I may try to schedule another visit next year. I ended that rather packed day with a visit to Sommerset House’s Exhibition called The Jam: About The Young Idea which was packed full of items contributed by friends and family members of the influential late 70s early 80s band.

The month ended with The Shada Tour 3: The Bridge of Skagra which was part Doctor Who location tour but also partly just an excuse to share Cambridge’s many sights with a few friends.

Steampunk Cambridge Photos:
Summer in the City Photos:
Surrey Steampunk Photos:
Cardiff Photos:
Regent's Park Photos:
Madame Tussauds Photos:


Derby, Cycling and the RT Festival

Early September saw me take my traditional trek up to Derby by train for Whooverville and with this year's weather more favourable it's warm up event Whooverville Eve, a pub quiz this year attended by some of the convention guests including Matthew Waterhouse & writer Joe Lidster. Much fun was had and a fair bit of alcohol was consumed, though I myself stayed mainly dry as I'd be busy interviewing the next day. I was the first on stage and though worried I barely needed my supplied “wingman” in the shape of a much more relaxed Jean Riddler. The other podcast panels went well and Colin Baker coped entertainingly when asked THE question. After the con we decamped for the near traditional post convention meal in a nearby restaurant which proved to be a good wind down at the end of the day.

I had a mainly travel light week off in September but did squeeze in plenty of exercise with two bike rides one in somewhat rainy conditions along the northern section of Cambridgeshire’s busway cycle track, I surprised myself with my fitness levels and probably rode eight miles with little tiredness. I have vowed to repeat this ride next summer in more pleasant weather. Talking of weather it had improved considerably for my second bike ride which took me along the river cam’s tow path a couple of days later.

The only bit of travel in my week off was to west London for the first Radio Times Festival, held in a park opposite Hampton Court Palace it's probably best described as radio & television themed event but in the style of a literary festival. Highlights of the day for me included a rare appearance by writer Russell T Davies and an evening Doctor Who panel featuring Peter Capaldi delayed by work on the Christmas special.

Derby Photos:
Radio Times Festival Photos:


Steampunk Medievals, Newcastle and an unexpected beveavement

October began with a rare visit to Wood Green Animal Shelter, but this time in the company of a few of my Steampunk friends. Most of whom were in their full regalia. The event was a Medieval Fair so you'd think not their era but some of them found a few things of interest to buy amongst the many crafts on sale. Think I found exploring the centre itself more interesting I recall it being a bright but harshly windy day but there was plenty to see from horses and a few other farm animals outside to the more sheltered cattery which seemed fairly full of very calm cats.

Mid October I was on my travels again, this time seeing Newcastle for the first time. I have to admit I found the city itself more inspiring than Dimensions the Doctor Who convention I was attending. The hotel venue was excellent apart from its wi fi speed and there was a pub only two doors down perfectly placed for the majority of my lunches and dinners. Also the hotel being right next to river Tyne proved perfect especially for night time photography. The convention was not without highlights which on stage included producer Clive Doig the first time I've encountered anyone that was literally in the room the day the very first Dr Who titles were created. In the dealer’s room there were so many Target novels to buy I found myself making an excursion to a cash point on day two of the event. I probably won't return to dimensions in a hurry, no offence to the event itself but it didn't feel like it lived up to its own hype. Maybe I've been spoiled somewhat by attending two US conventions in recent years but this one felt lacking in the “lobby con” department as I'm not much of a pub person if none of my friends are around and there seemed to be little socialising at all in places other than the bar.

Less than a week after returning from Dimensions my mum suddenly died, I'll not go into details about it here as I wrote several blogs at the time so will provide links to them instead.

Only 24 hours after Mum's death I found myself travelling again this time to Royal Leamington Spa. The weather was horribly wet that day but I'd been invited to a friends wedding and with friends was just where I wanted to be at that time. The ceremony itself was not to my taste being rather modern but the company was so i’ll take this opportunity once again for Adam, Karen & Keith for being very entertaining company at Luke & Heather’s wedding. As for Leamington Spa itself it seemed like an interesting place but I had neither the time nor the weather for a proper look round on this occasion.

The next day I spent a short time at Cambridge Museum of Technology with some local steampunk friends for the Teslathon 2015 event. This was a small gathering of Tesla coil enthusiasts and their equipment one of which created some quite spectacular indoor lightning and may have inspired one of the Steampunks to build something similar themselves.

Medieval Fair Photos:
Newcastle Photos:
Teslathon Photos:


Meeting Canadians, Liverpool(briefly) and The Dr Who Festival

Looking back on November 2015 it wasn't the busiest of months, it ended with Mum's funeral a day I was entirely unprepared for how it would hit me emotionally but I'll post a link to a blog I wrote at the time to detail those events.

In early November I managed to meet up with three people who I'd not seen in person for over two years. The Canadians were in town or to be more precise three Dr Who podcasters from that country were visiting the uk and would be at the main London pub meet for Dr Who fans. The weather was far from nice I'd managed to get half a day off work, not easy when you work in the education sector and such things are at least frowned upon during term time and London greeted me initially with quite heavy rain so I was among the first at the pub. I sat and chatted to a friend Marcus a few other fans arrived but at 6pm we had to decamp to the cellar room for what became a way more crowded gathering than I expected! I did manage to have a few words with all three of our visitors but it really was only a few words all plans for even a short chat with them for my podcast fell through due to lack of time, noise and the fact that they clearly had many more folk to chat to. I did head home in a good mood that night though as I often do when I've hung with “my people” for sake of a better moniker.

Also in early November, I did one of my crazy long distance day trips, this time to the city of Liverpool. The reason was that film critics Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo whose theatre tour plugging their new book was selling out down south would be at the Everyman theatre. Again the weather was a mixed bag though the rain was far lighter than a few days before and thankfully had passed by the time I left the event having met my heroes(and I don't use that word lightly, I've been listening to them on the radio for years) and enjoyed their 90 min stage discussion featuring clips of films and tongue in cheek diagnosis of audience members as the title of their book explains they are “The Movie Doctors” (though in reality only Mr Kermode has an actual doctorate, Mr Mayo’s one is honourary) I wasn't the only long distance traveller there that day btw, I met a girl(she was in her 20s) who'd come all the way from London.

Mid November saw me spending a whole day at London’s Excel Centre for an event the BBC had christened The Doctor Who festival, the event was packed! I only attended two panels in the main hall which is just as well as doing so required joining a queue so long it ate up half an exhibition hall! It makes you admire the commitment of US based fans who attend San Diego Comic Con and queue all night for some panels, queueing on this scale alone rapidly gets boring thankfully I had a friend for company on one of these occasions. Some attendees also queued for photo sessions but at over £50 a ticket plus train fare it was proving expensive enough already for me! It was an enjoyable albeit over crowded event but was interesting as it gave you close up hands on access to the work of make up specialists Millennium Effects for example.

Liverpool Photos:
Dr Who Festival Photos:


A Signing and Cosmonauts

So we reach the month in which I'm writing this somewhat epic blog, as I look back on this year referring to photos I've taken for inspiration & reference and have to agree with others who occasionally say of me “you get about a bit!” yes I do but unlike many others I know, I'm not one for that big annual jaunt into Europe or elsewhere so tend to see a lot of the U.K. instead. That said the two years ahead of me as I write this feel quieter or to more precise will have to be as I'm about to start saving for my first US trip in over two years. For the first time it won't be Dr Who themed, initially the plan is to briefly visit Cleveland to witness the total eclipse of the sun then head to Chicago to spend approx a week hanging out with a friend I've known online for eight years now.

Early this month I headed to East London for my first Tenth Planet Dr Who signing event in a long time. I arrived after most of the queuing and signing was done but thankfully the guests who included actors Bill Patterson, Jaye Griffith, Nina Tousant White, Anneke Wills and Simon Fisher Becker who were in the middle of an interesting and entertaining Q&A did hang around afterwards to meet a few more fans, sign photos and other merchandise. I was in a possibly over talkative mood so feel I must apologise especially to Mr Fisher Becker who I may have wittered on to too long, I blame the rather uninviting December weather outside for one thing and possibly the fact that this rather low key event would act as a full stop to my year in fandom.

I spent part of that afternoon at The Science Museum’s rather interesting(but temporary) Cosmonauts exhibition which included such delights as the Russians lunar lander, they almost got there too but rocketry problems prevented it.

Cosmonauts Exhibition Photos:

The year ended with its usual collection of Christmas parties and gatherings most of which I have to admit I wasn't in the mood for. I'm not much of a party animal at the best of times but am no fan of the enforced jollity that surrounds all of us at this time of year. The highlight of these for me was the least formal to a restaurant meal of less than twenty of us from my afternoon job, the food was good and the conversation was fun.

Not quite sure how to end this epic blog other than to say two things, congratulations if you've got this far especially in one sitting. I've at times really enjoyed writing this and guess I should try to write more blogs next year especially as I won't be travelling as much so my weekends may well consist of a mixture of TARDIS building(which has been on hold since Mum's death) and movie watching as I have a large backlog of Blu Rays, also must get back into reading as I've also got a sizeable backlog of books on my shelf.

So I'll end with my traditional sign off, cheers for now, Tim.