Recently, Confuzzled happened somewhere in the sticks of Leicestershire (that's in the big nowhere between Birmingham and... uh, nowhere). Me being crazy, I decided to TAKE ALL THE TRAINS!! and set off on an epic journey of massive dimensions.
My connection from the Continent unfortunately involved leaving home at ten in the evening and a four hour layover in Cologne in the wee hours of the morning, but it was... well, bearable. Managed to get a bit of a nap on a nice 1960s-vintage former 1st class car in the German night train at least. That was probably the most comfortable train of the entire journey though. After lots of coffee, the usual Eurostar triage (this time with an exit barrier check in London, thanks to the Olympics) and some wrestling with my phone to get a working data service, I made it into the little town-ish place where Confuzzled was supposed to happen by the early afternoon. I was lucky enough to run into one of the staff members at the station, so hitched a ride to the hotel. Checkin was swift, thankfully, as I barely managed it to my room, and then... well, a few hours went missing. I guess running on caffeine for most of the day didn't really do my circulation any good - all that I know is that I apparently had a shower and woke up with a wet towel around my head. :P
Having booked early arrival, I could enjoy a single room on the first night, after that, a somewhat odd Polish gentleman that never really communicated with me, as if they had an oath of silence, and spent most of their time sitting in the room on a laptop. Oh wel, not my loss, I've had worse randomly assigned roomies in the past.
The main grumble I carried with me all con was that my hotel room had no aircon, and so got overly and awfully hot during daytime. Apparently there was a "hot" spell going on (a laughable 23°C) — but the fact that the windows did open just a mere 3 centimetres did very little to ventilate the room, so it was fucking sweltering in there by lunchtime. And of course I hadn't brought my multitool, so there was no way to bypass the little hinges that prevented it from opening. Seems every time I go to the UK, their ridiculous Health & Safety bullshit bites me in the ass at some point. I could never live in that country, really.....
Apart from these somewhat unfortunate happenings on the sidelines, I must say the rest of the convention went by relatively smoothly, considering that it was just their 5th one. In the past, we've often had a laugh or two at the seeming inability of the British to establish a permanent convention of their own *cough* BritFur *cough* but I think with Confuzzled's current team, it might well stick around for a considerable time to come. Since I'm doing Con Ops on EF, it's hard to shed the Ops view when you're on a con where you're not working, but besides the occasional crowd control situation (the hotel has rather narrow corridors, especially when they put up Tensabarriers in inappropriate places) I could hardly see either staff members or room for improvement, and that's usually a good sign, meaning that they're working their asses off. ;)
Food prices were reasonable too. They had a buffet running in the restaurant, which I didn't take on the first 3 days, and luckily read Twitter before going down there on day 4, when the cook had fallen ill. They had a complimentary (British) breakfast included, which became sort of meh after a while because there really _only_ was cooked breakfast, toast and marmalade.... the hotel had the continental breakfast spontaneously disappear during the convention. Meh.
Still, one could live well off the various moderately-priced bar food items and pints of various alcoholic liquids; overall I think I spent £100 on food and drink for the whole con, which is pretty reasonable for a three-ish star hotel.
Most events I didn't attend; I'm usually more for socialising than cramming oneself into a tiny overheated room together with dozens of others. I'll usually make an exception for unclekage
because he's funny; and he had something interesting to tell this time because they fucked up his flight. I guess he'll re-tell that story at Anthrocon. :)
All in all, a nice, sociable con that went smoothly. The trip back home happened during daytime, and for timetable reasons I had an overnight stay in Hanover. The leg from the convention to London was nice, London-Brussels-Cologne is.... uh. It's the bloody rat race of Eurostar and ICE International, where you have losers in suits and ties left and right. Especially Brussels – I'll be glad when the German trains finally run through to London and I won't have to deal with the change in Belgium anymore.
All went well once I was in Cologne though; however picking a certain hotel in Hanover was a mistake - it was close to the train station, but "privately owned".... the night receptionist was a jerk and absolutely insisted on a CC deposit despite my booking saying "cash on departure". I really don't need to deal with that shit at quarter to one in the morning. The room was tiny (but, unlike the room in the UK, at least had windows that -opened-!) and the whole hotel had this feel of "We were good once, but couldn't be arsed to invest in the past ten years". I mean, seriously, an 8m² room that's €80 a night and has wired LAN for €6 an HOUR? Which decade is this?
Nice breakfast though, made for a change after all these days of beans and bacon. I checked out at 11, and since it happened to be payday, put my bags into storage and went into town for a few hours, eventually ending up discovering a rather nice sushi place deep in the bowels of Hanover station. Might be worth re-visiting in the future. After lunch, I left for the last bit of the journey and arrived home at five-ish.
While I must say it was well worth having done it once, I've found that doing the Eurostar/ICE combo BOTH ways is a bit too stressful - I might cut myself back to flying into the UK and taking the train back home until DB manages to run through trains to London.