It’s been over a decade since I went to a convention. I’m not the kind who likes to wander around a crowded room with no air conditioning, being blasted by loud noise and generally not knowing what’s going on. It’s even worse these days because loud noises mean I can’t understand what people next to me are saying. So the prospect of going to MCM Manchester Comic Con over the weekend was a daunting one. Still, several of the cast of Red Dwarf were going to be there and my sister & brother-in-law wanted to go with their kids, so I decided to tag along.
We had a brilliant time, even if one of the members of staff decided to assault me while I was filming a couple of guys cosplaying as an AT-AT. This dickheaded member of staff crept up behind me while I was holding my iPhone aloft in order to get a decent shot of the AT-AT over the crowd that surrounded it.
He rammed his fingers into my sides, below my rib cage, apparently in order to tickle me and provoke me into screaming and/or shouting. He must have been so disappointed when the only response he got was a stern look and a harsh “what the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
Attempting to force a scream or shout from a trans person is a common tactic of transphobes and dickheads who want to “see if we are real”. Before the smoking ban came in, the usual method was to burn the trans person’s arm with a cigarette. I guess this arsehole didn’t think asking me for the time (the preferred method of the modern dickhead) was sufficient.
He tried to defend himself by saying what he had done was funny. Then he scurried away when I told him he wouldn’t find it funny if I’d dropped my fucking glass telephone and sued his employers. I didn’t see him for the rest of the event, which was definitely a plus from my point of view.
Given that “meeting Rimmer” was essentially the only thing on my sister’s checklist for the day, once we had both had photos taken and got him to sign a Red Dwarf DVD for each of us, it was time to have a look about the convention proper.
We made our way around the stalls, watched the Robots Live! Robot Wars fan club event (which rocked, by the way – those robots were cool) and then I let them all have a wander around the merchandise stalls while I headed to the Comic Village to see friends.
First up was a quick stop at the table of Sophira-Lou, a fellow artist who lives in Bolton. Despite us living in the same town for 7 years and despite us having repeatedly said we should meet for coffee, it’s never happened. Life has a habit of getting in the way.
She seemed to be having a great time and her stall was definitely busy, which is always a good thing. I picked up a few postcards from her, two of which I gave to my nieces as presents. The other one is on my ‘fridge (it has “MUFFINS!” on it in big letters and is far too cute, so the ‘fridge was the obvious place for it!).
While heading to Sophie’s booth I thought I had spotted an artist whose French-influenced manga style I recognised, so I doubled back. I was right – it was the table of Jenika Ioffreda of Vampire Free Style fame.
I’ve loved her art since I reviewed her comic on one of the first episodes of Comic Fridays, so it was nice to meet her in person. She seemed rather shy however, so I didn’t stay and chat long. I’m not one for making people feel uncomfortable. I bought two magnets from her so I could stick Sophie’s postcard to my fridge. They are both of Micia, the cat from VFS. They are too cute!
Time was getting on and I knew my nieces would be getting tired wandering the convention, so I had to cut my time visiting artists to a minimum. Despite this, there was still one person I absolutely had to say hi to – so off to find Matt Dyson I went!
Matt Dyson is one of the nicest guys in comics. He’s an old hand at the convention circuit and he’s one of the members of my old Web Comics Company podcast. We hugged, chatted for a while and while there wasn’t much time to catch up on what each of us has been doing since the podcast ended, it was good to see he was having a great time at the convention.
Anyway, time was getting on and the kids had been promised a meal out in town, so we headed out to find somewhere family friendly to eat. Everyone expects me to know exactly where to go because I live near Manchester and must therefore have backstreet knowledge of all the best restaurants. I tried to hide the fact that all the good places I knew to eat have closed down because if there’s one thing you can rely on in Manchester it’s that nothing stays the same.
On the way out, we bumped into James Cosmo, who played Jeor Mormont on Game of Thrones. I don’t use the term “bumped into” lightly here. I have almost no peripheral vision and he was walking slower than me, in one of my blind spots. It’s a good thing my sister spotted him.
He was a thoroughly nice bloke and even stopped to take a photo with my nieces, which was very kind of him.
Photos over with, we headed out to three different restaurants, each of which had problems (no tables, kitchen had caught fire, etc). We finally managed to squeeze into the Weatherspoons at Picadilly Gardens, at which point it turned out that we were all far more hungry than we thought. I practically inhaled my burger.
Fed and watered, we walked back to Victoria to catch the train home. While on the platform, a guy who looked like he was having the worst weekend ever asked my brother-in-law for help: could he borrow a phone to make a phone call because his life had just fallen apart.
Why did he ask my brother-in-law? Well he was dressed as Duff Man and when there’s a crisis, people tend to defer to authority figures they recognise. How could such a request for help be turned down? It couldn’t. Help was provided.
The journey home was uneventful. When we got near to the house, the kids wanted to race home, so race we did. I pretended to run fast but let them beat me to the door. I wish I had gone slower now. Normally I check around the house for any signs of trouble because we have been broken into twice already. This time I didn’t, as I was busy entertaining the kids.
We were burgled while we were out at the convention. It seems when I ran back to the house, I may have disturbed the burglars. I might even have been able to catch them, or at least see where they ran off to.
Thankfully they didn’t get anything more than one fence panel; as the shed is now so reinforced there’s no way anyone is getting into it, and they obviously didn’t have time to grab the building machinery that had been stored in the garden while the conservatory is being built (it’s not there now, I had my other brother-in-law come and take it away when we discovered the burglary).
My sister was in tears when she saw what these bastards had done. I’m so far past tears at this point that all I felt was anger. This is the third time these people have targeted my house in a year. We know it’s the same people because eye witnesses saw them come and knock on the door to make sure I wasn’t in. The description of the bastards matches the last thieving cunt to come knocking.
I phoned the police. They said they would not be coming out because a garden burglary was not a priority. They still have not been out. There is now no chance of there being any evidence to collect when they eventually arrive, on Wednesday. What is the point of the police these days? I cannot think of any purpose they serve if they aren’t actually going to come out and deal with a crime when there are eye witnesses who can place known criminals at the scene?
The entire evening was then spent shoring up the enormous hole in my fence, so kids, stray cats and the local drunk arseholes who shout transphobia at me in the street couldn’t get into my garden and destroy my wife’s model railway. What a shit way to end an otherwise wonderful day.