Today marked the completion of the twelfth of my forty challenges, with a first ever visit to any sort of convention. I had no real idea what to expect, apart from a line-up of celebrity guests from various science fiction films and television series (as well as some notable former local football luminaries)—and the likelihood of a fairly lengthy wait before being able to gain access to the Newcastle Arena....
Before setting off, I had read a news report to say that the previous day's attendance—at what was the region's first convention of this size—had been so large that some people had queued for several hours, and others had been unable to get in, even with pre-purchased tickets.
When I arrived, there were queues stretching down both sides of the Arena, those at the front of the respective queues having arrived as early as half past six! Thankfully, once the doors opened, the wait was nowhere as near as long as I'd anticipated, and I went in search of Sophie Aldred, who had played the Doctor Who companion Ace back in the late eighties.
Amongst those sitting waiting patiently for visitors to appear at their respective table were Kenny Baker (R2-D2 in Star Wars) and David Prowse, who was the very embodiment of ruthless intergalactic domination in his guise as Darth Vader, but who had also helped me to learn to cross the road.
Thanks are also due to Tufty...
Hannah Spearitt from Primeval and S Club 7, Indiana Jones stalwart John Rhys-Davies and Torchwood's Kai Owen were amongst the others I recognised, but I soon found the queue to see Sophie—and much to my surprise, I was second from the front.
I had sent a Tweet to Sophie to mention the charity challenge. She'd replied and so hopefully it wasn't a total shock when I introduced myself—and gave her a copy of Desperately Seeking Susan Foreman. Actually it was my last copy, but a few more are now on order... if anyone's interested..?!
We had a brief chat and not only did Sophie pose for a couple of photos, she invited me round to her side of the table, presumably to sample the now legendary Kirby hug. Or maybe not. We couldn't talk for long, because obviously there were plenty of others who wanted to meet Sophie, but she asked me to pop back when it was quieter. So I did... twice!
The second time, we had the chance to talk for about fifteen minutes, and Doctor Who barely got a mention! Given the fact we had never met before, the conversation was fascinating and much more personal that I could have expected (at this point, I'm hoping Sophie would agree!). The fact that Sophie was the only Doctor Who companion attending this event meant that I was meeting her almost by default, but after just a few minutes in her company, I was genuinely thrilled that the companion I met to tick off this challenge was Sophie Aldred—thank you Sophie: it was an absolute pleasure.
At this point, it would be remiss of me not to mention all those who turned up to the event in various elaborate costumes—some of which I recognised, whilst others meant absolutely nothing at all. Apparently "cosplay" is all the rage... well it's not in my house, I can assure you, and there's something inherently unnerving about nipping to the toilet and passing Patrick Troughton and an Imperial Stormtrooper on the way to the urinal!
Come to think of it, how does a Stormtrooper..? Actually, it's not really important...