When we finally entered the building (thank goodness we hadn’t booked up talks in advance; we would have missed them without a doubt, and I think many of our fellow sufferers will have had to claim their money back), photo shoot spots were all gone and there weren’t any more virtual tickets left for the autograph queue (yes we could have joined it randomly, but were now on a deadline for the train home). So the whole experience had been for nothing and I wasn’t going to get to see TJ. And that was all I wanted. Autographs and photos be blowed – just to speak for a minute would make it worthwhile.
And of course, we caught him informally as he moved between photo area and autograph table and I got my 3 minutes worthwhile time! It was a bit whirlwind, as the stewards were urging him off to the autograph table and we really did have to get off in a hurry, but I got plentiful hugs and we took a couple of photos and, well, it was all pretty joyous. A most strange mingling of feelings after such a horrible, not to say expensive, day. I can barely walk today. The sunburn wasn’t as bad as I expected, since I had brought that most English of emergency accoutrements, an umbrella, but I still look like a lobster. But – all worth it for TJ, especially as I have no idea when I will ever see him again. Sharon, he is actually taller than me. I knew he would be even though he comes over as quite small.
Today hubby put together a description of the day for son no.2’s delectation (son no.2, you will recall, is ensconced in the US for 4 months), so I am including some of that too, to give you a flavour of the experience.
We were directed into a queue that, at first sight, looked long but not impossible. However, we followed it around the corner and it just seemed to stretch off into infinity…and beyond. This was the queue for people buying tickets on the day. Every so often the queue shuffled forwards a few feet, then stopped for about a quarter of an hour. Even as we edged forwards, the queue continued to grow behind us. Just as you were getting to where you thought the front was, you turned a corner and found another 200 yards’-worth of herded people stretching round the next bend.
I really felt sorry for the people who’d gone to all sorts of lengths to put on costumes and elaborate make-up—there were a lot of people who are clearly into the costume angle of things and take it to some quite extreme lengths—and by no means all of these were in the “fast lane”. A fair proportion of them were stuck in the queue like the rest of us. Everyone we spoke to was very nice—and there was the full range, from hard-core nerds to normal people who clearly thought (mistakenly) that they were in for a nice day out—anywhere else but here, with our tradition of queuing up and doing as we’re told, I suspect there would have been a riot, with a few thousand calls to lawyers instigating compensation suits against the organisers. When we finally reached the building at FOUR O’FLAMING CLOCK, Jude had been in about 45 minutes and Simone (this being part of a carefully pre-planned trip) had been in the building since 10 am! I’ve no idea how many of the people behind us actually got in.
It was earsplittingly noisy and jam-packed. Less crowded and without such a ridiculous length of time queuing, I think I’d have been very, very impressed by what was in there, but again, the organisers shot themselves in the foot, as they had managed to do all day. It was like being in a giant aircraft hangar, crammed with stalls and rows of guests signing autographs and queue after queue of punters waiting to meet/have their picture taken with their various idols. Some people must have spent a fortune, as all these autographs and picture shoots cost anything from £15 to £60, depending on how “important” (i.e. “marketable”) the organisers perceive the guest to be. They must have made a fortune yesterday: don’t forget that all the stall-holders have to pay for their spaces—they are selling stuff, after all—and I bet that doesn’t come cheap!
The first thing we did was to try to get a ticket for TJ’s photo-shoot. He’d been allocated a pathetic 15 minute slot, nowhere near enough time to get in all the people who’d want to see him. Predictably, they had no tickets left.
“So we’ve queued outside for six hours to be told that!?” is my reaction.
“You could come back tomorrow” suggested the clerk on the desk.
“We’re not here tomorrow.”
“Next year book in advance” is the somewhat snide-sounding response.
“What after today? No chance!”
“Oh.” (Slightly taken aback person on desk.)
We find Simone and Jude (more or less by accident, in spite of 20 minutes of trying to get in touch by text!) Jude suggests we try for an autograph if we can’t get the photo. No tickets left for that either. I’m hot, stressed, hemmed in and getting a bit panicky and have your exhausted and deeply-disappointed Mum on my hands. I feel like punching someone or something. Fortunately, nobody presents me with an excuse to do so. We have to leave in 20 minutes to get to Euston. By that time we’ll have spent a grand total of 80 minutes in the place being squashed (both physically and psychologically) and bombarded (metaphorically and sonically). We hang gloomily around the Autograph area. TJ will have to pass by to get back to his desk there, to continue his signing: but when? Have the organisers whisked him away somewhere in between times?
Just as we hit the last 10 minutes of our time-window, I spotted someone who I thought may be him walking across...
”What’s he wearing today?” I asked your Mum (we’d seen Simone’s picture of herself with him.) At the same moment, Mum spots him approaching—I was right. It is him! She launches herself at him delightedly, saying who she is. He seems genuinely pleased to see us. By that time Jude and Simone have also spotted him. The rest, as they say, is history…
He was really enthusiastic and gracious and we got better and certainly less formal photos that the professionally-taken one would have been—and he stopped to chat for a couple of minutes. I don’t expect the organisers would be too chuffed, but as I thought, stuff them! It’s the people putting vast wads of cash into their pockets for them who are important; and it’s good to see that the guests are aware of this.