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.