Cab from Hotel to Blackpool North station
Train to Preston
Another Train to London Euston
Underground to London Waterloo
Another train to Woking
Bus to home
So you can see why I wasn't exactly enamoured when Rogue announced Blackpool as the venue for Asylum 18!
However, I'm just grateful to have the opportunity to go to Asylum regardless of whether it's held at the Hilton Birmingham or on the Moon. There will be a post on the convention itself, together with my mugshots (which mostly consist of me fawning over Mr Ketch and Mick), but this post is dedicated to the one thing aside from the convention that provided the most entertainment to the pair of us over the weekend ...
I've been to Blackpool before, and have experience of Blackpool hotels, and it's no secret that I don't have a very high opinion of the place, but, well, this was Asylum. The hotel is just a place to lay your head, right? It's all about the con, right? Think positive!
On Thursday afternoon, my cab drew up outside the hotel, and I stared up at the big white turret that adorns it's facade. The massive, black lettering across it read NORBRECK CASTLE HOTE . Not a promising start.
I was directed to our room, twelve miles away along a massive bar/lounge area, round a corner, then along a huge, bare, poorly-maintained corridor, with a carpet which was patterned in an eye watering style that was probably trendy one Tuesday afternoon in 1973.
As I had my wheely suitcase with me, I opted for the lift. The door slid open and I stepped inside, directly onto something that was masquerading as the floor of the lift, but actually more resembled Rolf Harris's wobbleboard. (I might even have heard the faint strains of a digeridoo humming in the background as my life flashed before my eyes). Now, I'm not a fan of lifts at the best of times, but when there's a distinct possibility that I might actually drop through the floor of the bloody thing, I'm definitely not even going there. Together with my wheely suitcase, and to extend the Australian metaphor, I leapt out of that lift in a manner that would make a wallaby proud and opted the for the stairs.
Noticing a discarded KFC wrapper on the floor at the foot of the stairs, I hefted my wheely suitcase up two flights, and then along another seemingly endless corridor which seemed to terminate somewhere around Barrow-in-Furness.
Letting myself into the room, I glanced around. It was furnished in a manner that wasn't so much 'Ikea' as 'oh dear'. Plain (apart from the mould, dust and a couple of other indeterminate stains) white walls, and a faded grey carpet, with one standalone wooden wardrobe which had definitely seen better days (but probably not many of them). The wood panelling inside wasn't so much distressed, as panic-stricken.
I wondered idly if I could get to Narnia through it, but then I thought, this is Blackpool - the fur coats and the lamppost would have probably all been pinched and sold on the black market by now.
As I pottered, unpacking my gear, I wandered over to the room's one and only window to check out the view. Now, here is where words fail me. I have tried to find the adjectives to describe the vista that our window afforded, but I've failed.
I want to write sonnets to it ...
Feel free to linger awhile and admire the beauty ...
After I'd done everything I needed to do, and knowing that Sasha-Dragon wasn't joining me until the following morning, I decided to head down to the bar. Rather than sit alone in the room, counting the stains on the wall, I'd stroll down to the bar with my kindle, have a glass of wine and just look at the sea and relax for a while.
After trotting down the two flights of steps and nodding a friendly greeting to the KFC wrapper at the bottom, I entered the bar. It was quiet and the barman looked bored, so I approached him and our conversation went thus:
Me: Hi there, what white wines do you do?
Barman: We've got Pinot Grigio ...
Me: Oh, JUST Pinot Grigio? Right, Pinot it is then!
Taking my glass of Pinot Grigio and my kindle, I went and found a free table, and parked myself down. It didn't taste like any Pinot Grigio I'd ever drunk, and over the course of the weekend, we decided that it was probably Tajikistan's finest vintage.
When the bar started filling up with hotel guests, most of whom were probably older than my wardrobe, I realised they were about to start calling bingo. So I made a quick getaway, back up to my room, said goodnight to the KFC wrapper and called it a night.
The following morning, it was time for a shower - I wanted to be presentable for the hours of queuing that would be on the agenda today, but as I stepped out of the shower and opened one of the freshly laundered towels hanging on the rack, I was confronted with a long red streak down the middle of it. Cue complaint to reception:
Me: There's a red stain on one of my fresh towels. It looks like blood.
Receptionist: Oh don't worry love, that won't be blood - it'll be fake tan.
Me: Uh, that's not really my point ...
The two worrisome things that came to my mind judging by her answer were that
a: this is clearly not the first time that this has happened and
b: I'm not convinced her assertion that it was fake tan was correct. Anyone who tans themself in the colour I saw would make Donald Trump look like a pale english rose.
The following afternoon, my lovely buddy Sasha-Dragon arrived. I introduced her to the KFC wrapper on the way up to the room, and then introduced her to our view. There were tears. They were tears of pure emotion. And hysterical laughter.
At the end of the day, having done all our queueing, and in possession of all our lanyards, wristbands and photo tickets, with aching feet and empty bellies, we headed for the hotel restaurant.
Now, call me picky, but when an eating establishment has a big sign on the reception desk saying 'shoes must be worn at all times', together with two antibacterial hand gel dispensers, that's not going to be a sign of Michelin standard catering. A brief perusal of the menu led us to one conclusion. if you don't like chips, you're buggered.
So, after a lacklustre 'meal' which consisted of two toasted teacakes for Sasha-Dragon and a bowl of chips for me, together with a glass of Tajikistan's finest, we headed up to our room, a quick nod of acknowledgement to the KFC wrapper, and went to bed.
As we descended into convention madness over Saturday and Sunday, I must admit, our focus on the hotel did wane somewhat, although both of us did go through a very brief period of mourning on Sunday morning when the KFC wrapper disappeared , presumably picked up by the cleaning staff, a mere three days after I'd first arrived.
But the loss of the KFC wrapper was in some way compensated by the discovery that there were a pair of pigeons roosting in the celing of the panel hall. Yes, you read that correctly. There. Were. Pigeons. In. The. Panel. Hall. One can only assume they were a big fan of the Hillywood girls because the little sods cooed all the way through their stage talk.
Our understanding was that Rogue Events had been assured the Norbreck was undergoing a six million pound renovation in the year leading up to Asylum. This was either a big fat untruth, or holy shit, the Norbreck needs to ask for their money back because that place hasn't seen a lick of paint since the Crimea.
It appears that interesting opinions of Blackpool, and more specifically, the hotel, were expressed by the guests. These ranged from 'Blackpool, the place where you go to die', to 'shithole'.
My spidey senses are telling me that Asylum won''t be going back to Blackpool any time soon. And I'm not sorry about that; not sorry at all.
I will miss that KFC wrapper though.