Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Titan Con!

OK, it seems this blog is mostly used for reporting the Game of Thrones gatherings held in Belfast.  So continuing with tradition....

Woooheee, where to start.  Let's start at the very beginning a very good place to start.

Should firstly point out that I'm Game of Thrones biased and there was a lot more going on at the con inc. gaming, make up demonstrations, Wireless Wireless Mystery Theatre (who were fab!) etc that I didn't see and can't report on.  Great variety of activities to take part in.

A sample of pics and videos are included in the blog but more pictures can be found here and more videos here.

Thursday night:

Some of us met the amazing TitonCon committee (Silverjaime, Ian, Bruce and MountainGoat) to find out our volunteer duties for the Saturday.  That sorted we settled down to a bit of a blether with Joe Campo (before he had to leave) and WiC_Hear_Me_Roar (Marko).  Knowing that there was a long weekend ahead we had a relatively early night.  After I'd partaken of my first Guinness which was free thanks to Arthur Day! :)


Friday:
Sam and I offered to help MountainGoat (Phil) with shopping for the con.  We set out and wandered the streets of Belfast.  I now know most Pound Shops in the area and a few stationery shops too!  With one disaster diverted (the lack of artists boards) and a bit if wheeling and dealing done we headed to lunch with Pod.  After a lovely lunch with Pod (nothing to blame him for!), Sam and I headed back to our respective hotels to continue work on our costumes for the fancy dress before heading out to McHugh's.

Friday night:
There was great anticipation in the air.  FaBio had landed and he would be heading to McHugh's too!  Just how crazy could one man be?  Well....see WiC.Net and find out!  Ian McDonald, Peadar O Guilin and T. A. Moore gave great readings from their books.  Not long after they'd finished (or perhaps the free apple and rhubarb cider made it seem not long), the man himself arrived.  FaBio.  Again, visit WiC.Net and see for yourself.  The WiCers in the party settled down for a chat and blethered away into the night.  So late in fact we realised that those of us who had to be up at 6am to help at the con weren't going to make it.  Luckily Phil let us make it 7am (though I'm ashamed to say I made it 7.30am!).


On the way back to our various hotels we stopped of at Little Italy for a Fabio pizza (I kid you not!) which consisted of Ham, Mushroom and to FaBio's surprise, cheddar!  Off we headed to bed for what would be the best convention ever!  Well it certainly felt it on the day and the next day and even now.








Saturday morning:
Up bright and early (well almost), I headed to the Europa to help with the set up.  After adding a few more chairs to Winterfell and greating some of the guests as they arrived, I headed up to help start/co-ordinate the press conference.  Kristian, Sophie, Maisie and Art sat awaiting questions.  Typically just as I started the session off, who should arrive late but FaBio himself!  Strolling on up to the top table, introducing himself and starts interviewing the guests straight away ;)



Things started off a little shakily as I realised I didn't know where the Opening Ceremony was being held nor whether the guests were meant to attend.  Due to slightly crossed wires, I drag the family and guests down only to be shooed out by Phil and told to take them back upstairs!  Beamer!  So scrabbling past them and the attendees we head back up to Winterfell (the guest talk room) and settled them down for the first set of talks.

Peadar moderated the first talk and did a great job.  He got the questions started and the audience took over.  The first talk's discussion centred around season 1 of Game of Thrones with no spoilers for what may or may not be happening in season 2.  One fun moment I can remember was Peadar asking Sophie how hard it was to play an unpopular character, waiting for the answer and then saying "now to the popular one" and asking Maisie a question.  The girls took it in great spirit ;)



Photos next and Jim Corr the photographer (jimcorrphotography.com) took the group shots with the guests.  He did a great job and stayed around and documented other 'happenings' of the day.  Sorry if the attendees and guests found the photo session a bit rushed but it wasn't clear how many were wanting photos and we only had an hour to get them done and also fit in breaks for the guests so they could de-numb their cheeks and recover their eyesight from the flash.




Next a display or swordsmanship from the water dancer himself, Miltos Yerolemou!  He was joined by Joe Campo (Get Joe on the Show!) and Arya herself, Maisie.  Unfortunately lunch buying duties meant I missed most of the sword fighting but everything I hear says it was great.  I'm looking forward to seeing photos and videos from other attendees!



A break for lunch and it was all go again in the afternoon.

Saturday afternoon:
During lunch one of the attendees (I know him from other cons but not his name!) asked to make a cast of Maisie's and Sophie's hands for an art piece.  The girls were really excited about the idea and sat down to workout a pose.  They eventually decided on their hands being placed back to back. (I'd like to take credit but I can't really, however I did say that it could represent the opposite characteristics of Arya and Sansa ;).



Two more successful Thrones talks in the afternoon one hosted by the Guest of Honour himself Ian McDonald and the other hosted by Peadar again.  Then it was the signings.  A big queue wound its way around the hall but everyone was patient and got their stuff signed (as far as I'm aware) and I'm more than happy with mine! :)

There was a break for dinner/tea/food after the signings and that's when Sam and I headed off to start getting into our costumes.  After lugging a huge suitcase with me I figured I'd better go ahead with it even though nerves were putting me off my teatime sandwich!

Saturday night:
Attendees had the opportunity to view the weekend's Doctor Who ep or hang out in the hall.  Sam and I (along with the others who had entered the competition) were up on the Eyrie getting changed into our costumes.  White hairspray, black bags, selotape, capes, swords and loads more were being unpacked and set up.  We were ready on schedule (miraculously) and headed down just after 8pm.

Peadar was MCing the competition and Maisie and Sophie were judging it.  We all scuttled into and alcove next to the bar and tried to hide from the gazes of the attendees awaiting the competition.  We were introduced by Peadar and in a true Miss World style asked to answer a question or two.  Some did little skits on stage, some posed (rather like myself).  Once we'd paraded we regrouped on stage for a group shot and then headed to the back of the hall to await judgement.



There were so many great entries including Sam's Heart tree I feel we were all winners but it was me who came away with the prize.  Thanks Maisie and Sophie :) and special thanks to Ross (http://www.irisharchaeologicalresearch.com/) for making and donating the Dragon glass arrow.  There will be some pictures of me with a bemused look on my face as I tried to figure out how I was going to get it home.  It was eventually posted thanks to Sam's help.  Still not here yet but looking forward to seeing it again.



After the fancy dress it was Wireless Mystery Theatre.  I'd really been looking forward to seeing it unfortunately I took too long to pack Hodor and Bran away into the suitcase.  I sat down just as they finished.  Again I hear they were excellent and I really hope they will be there next year.


After the Theatre music was on and we settled down to enjoy the last few hours of Titan Con.  It wasn't long before Joe Campo produced his Horn of Winter (see illustration!) and AKA_Qthulhu donated the mead.  Much merriment ensued which then kicked of Jo and her Dothraki rap.  Tables were pounded and chants rang through the hall.  Not long after that Joe leapt up and suggested (demanded) that we clear the tables and start dancing.  So we did.










One of the highlights of the whole convention was Maisie and Sophie enjoying the music and relaxing and dancing away.  Nice to see them being left to it while others enjoyed the dancing too.  Best bit was the synchronised moonwalk to Beat It.  Etched in my mind forever ;)  It was easy to see what talented dancers they both were.


While the older generation retreated back to their seats to collapse into a heap, the girls kept on dancing.  Eventually it was raffle time!  Unfortunately quite a few people couldn't stay that late so tickets were being called (usually by Maisie) and no one collecting.  Eventually the prizes were given out (inc. one to me!) and then Phil had to announce that was the end of Titan Con 2011.  Groans and sadness ensued.


It had been a brilliant day and it was a shame to see it end.  Luckily some of us had signed up for the Titan Con Locations Tour!  Sunday morning came bright (that's a lie) and early and we met at the Europa to await the buses.


Sunday:
Titan Con tour!  After watching people absail down the Europa for charity we boarded our buses and headed on the road.  Poor Miltos begged to join us in the back row but we said no! ;p


Thanks to Doc for the picture!


First stop the Paint Hall.  Not much to see but the extras on the bus pointed out what the various huts were for.
Please excuse the dirty window!

Second stop, Tollymore.  Site of the Direwolf scene and the Prologue.  The weather had turned by nasty by then and we got off the bus to rain.  We were still cheery though.  We trekked through the beautiful forest following the path down to the river.  We stopped at the bridge where the Direwolf was found and took some pics.  Some intrepid adventurer attempted to cross the burn/river without using the bridge.  Not sure why but it amused us as we watched ;)  After many pictures it was off to the Wildling encampment and the prologue scene.





By now it must be said, we were getting slightly more than damp and so we perhaps didn't stay as long as we might have but we did stop and take a few more pics.  Back to the buses and a case of steamy windows and soggy feet as we headed to Inch Abbey.


Third stop, Inch Abbey.  This was a shorter walk but less sheltered.  Within 10 steps my feet were soaked and the rain was driving horizontally!  Some chose not to leave the bus but a lot of us made it to the Abbey and with the help of Miltos and Pod, re-enacted the King of the North scene.  Some left for the bus a little too quickly (inc. myself ) and missed the Jaime/Catelyn site but the shelter of the bus was calling.  Can I just say I hope those who didn't have jackets at all have finally dried out!






Fourth and final stop, Winterfell! (Castle Ward) where it had stopped raining!  We were greeted in the courtyard by  Clann Ulaidh and Jo. After an awesome display of swordsmanship and axemanship (if that's a word!), Art, Kristian, Phil,  AKA_Qthulhu, Kevin, Doc and Jo described how the courtyard had been set up for Winterfell.  All the sets are gone now as they've bee moved to a different location.

Once the talk was over we were left to wander the grounds and if we wished join in with the archery up at the feasting hall.  After a few photos we headed up to the archery.  The queue was quite long but we waited and watched.  As we did the Parkinson family joined the queue and we just had to wait and see how well young Art would do.  Has to be said he hit the target with his first shot!  (We'll not mention the others ;).  Turns out mum and dad aren't too bad either.  They hit the centre!

The dinner gong was run (we got shouted at) and we headed to the feast hall.  Mouths and eyes watering (it was smoky in the marque) we queued up for some hog!  Never has a pig died for such a good cause! YUMMY!  Wine (red and white)/Mead (those in the vicinity of AKA_Qthulhu or Miltos) and juice were on the table.  It was just what was needed for the weary, damp travellers.



Once fed the festivities started again.  Jo gave us another rendition of the Dothraki rap (must find out the real title) and Phil gave an aware to the furthest travelled attendee, the Philippines!  As the glasses dried up and the  plates were scraped clean it was once again time to call an end to the fun.  Poor Phil got booed again.

Back on the buses but spirits were high.  We felt more accommodating and kindly let Miltos regale us with stories during the journey back.  Not wanting it to end there we headed to Robinson's across the road for one final drink and fair well.  Hugs, hand shakes and promises were given as we promised to be back next year to do it all again (but maybe with less rain ;).  Have to say my ribs are finally healing after FaBio's bear hug and swing but I wouldn't have it any other way.

One more night in the hotel and then unfortunately it was a rushed goodbye between Sam, Rabbit and myself. Wires crossed and not paying attention to the time meant we had to rush for buses with quick hugs and farewells.  Perhaps that's the best way.  Makes me sad now to think it's all over.  The con blues are creeping in, but I'll shoo them away with the knowledge that there just has to be a Titan Con next year!

I will say this, there may be a risk of limited or no Game of Thrones guests but there is every chance of great fun with great people and memories and smiles to last you until the next Titan Con!

Surely you can't say no to these guys! ;)

www.titancon.com



Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Iceland

Went to Iceland for a long weekend and had a great time.  Adi remembered me talking about wanting to see the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) and asked if I was interested in booking up a weekend trip to see them.  It ended up with four of us heading to Reykjavik, Adi, Graham, Norman and me to hunt the aurora borealis!

Me with compass, hunting the lights!
Friday
Included in the booking was a trip to see the Northern Lights on the Saturday night.  I'd been checking weather reports for the weekend and suggested that Friday night looked better so we booked with a second tour company (GTI - Gateway To Iceland) as their tours are smaller.  So pleased we did!  

Bob our tour guide was fantastic and told us as we got onboard that it looked like it was going to be one of the best nights of the year for the NL.  We drove to a spot where the clouds had cleared and waited.  We ended up with a great display that lasted a couple of hours.  Once he was sure we'd seen the best Bob headed us back into town after 12.  Have to say though that it was freeeeeezing!  -11C + wind chill made it feel about -20C!.  There was a lot of hopping on and off the bus!

I didn't have a tripod hence the squiggly moon.

Saturday was our Golden Circle tour, again with GTI. We woke up to bright blue skies and blazing sunshine.  The wind had dropped so it was bearable outside.  We visited Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss (Golden Falls) and Haukadalur where the geysers were. On the way back, although we were running late Bob still managed to add in a couple of further stops at Kerið and a second waterfall (can't remember the name).


 

Saturday night we had our pre-booked tour with Reykjavik Excursions. It was a bigger coach so it didn't have the same 'personal' atmosphere the previous tours had but it was still good. They took us back out to Þingvellir National Park. The sky was far clearer and as we got off the bus the Northern Lights put on quite a show. As we'd been there earlier that day the four of us knew to head up to the viewing deck that looked out over the valley and gave distant views to the mountains. As it was a little bit away from the carpark we ended up with the area mostly to ourselves. As I hadn't brought a tripod (you need long exposure times to take photos of the lights) I made good use of the railing around the viewing deck. Thankfully Adi had his tripod all weekend and has some stunning shots. My best are here. 

Same shot as the day time one above.


Sunday was the Blue Lagoon. I'd joked that it would be fun to swim while it was snowing and guess what? It snowed! Again we booked with GTI. The driver gave us 4 hours at the lagoon and we surprised ourselves by spending 3 hours of that time in the lagoon. It snowed, it hailed and the sun came out (briefly). It was great fun!




Hallgrimskirkja on the Saturday morning.
Monday was the day we flew back and that's when the weather turned really bad. Horizontal rain, strong winds etc. Me managed across the road to the Hallgrimskirkja, right opposite the hotel. We had to run diagonally in order to go in a straight line! We even ventured up the spire where we were buffeted left right and centre!

video

We realised while there just how lucky we'd been with the sequence of events. A great Friday night and tour. Wonderful weather on the Saturday and clear night on the Saturday night. Also a bonus knowing about the viewing deck! The poor weather on Sunday made the Blue Lagoon more fun and the bad weather on Monday had melted some of the snow so we could see the colour of the lava fields on the way back to the airport.

Great time spent with great friends!

Foot Note: Adi pointed out I'd forgotten to add how great the restaurants were.  Here's a list.

Friday night: Caruso
Saturday night: Vegamont
Sunday night: Domo

The local beer.

My salmon
Adi's small sushi plate!
Skyr Cake