Friday, August 25th - from Gondelsheim
It was Friday, my very first day of vacation, that I had been
waiting for so long and that came too fast as well. For the whole week, I had been more than busy, working with high pressure on my costumes for the Convention in Blackpool and at
11 p.m. the night before, I finally finished it, but not yet my knitted shoulder tucker because I ran out of wool twice before I could finish it. So, I bought another ball of wool on my way to the
airport and finished the knitting in the car…
After a busy morning, full with packing suitcases, setting my new mini laptop (on which I was going to write from then on!) and many more tiresome details, we got started at noon, quite early, because we dreaded some traffic jam on the autobahn. My husband had promised to drive me to the airport (THANKS!). The autobahn A8 still had some road works near Leonberg and the federal road B10 would probably take even longer on a Friday noon. But we were lucky, the passage through the roadworks site had 4 lanes on both sides and the traffic ran fluently, traffic jam was only in the opposite direction from Stuttgart to Pforzheim.
I’d already checked in online and since I’d arrived in Stuttgart early, I had to wait for almost one hour until I finally could check my luggage in, but I had companions waiting with me, a nice couple from Stirling, we had a nice chat and time passed easily. While waiting for boarding, I started writing this blog...
We took off more than 30 minutes late. I already knew then that this would cause a problem for my evening programme, for example to catch my booked train. We had been in time with boarding and sitting in the plane, but a group of passengers made problems and had special wishes about their seats. Later, the pilot told us we had lost our slot and therefore had to wait another 15 minutes to the start. Flying over the English Channel, the sky was clouded, the weather report for the next 3 days wasn’t promising, but I was going to stay inside the hotel mostly, so I didn’t care much. However, I was looking forward to my room with sea view.
arrived in Manchester, the weather wasn’t bad indeed. While flying over south England, the weather had improved, it was sunny with small clouds only and when I left the plane, it was warm enough to
take my jacket off that I’m always having with me when flying. Immigration with an E-Pass was possible on automate, thus took only 2 minutes, and only 5 more minutes later, I already had my luggage –
the advantage of a small airport. It was a strong 10-minutes’ walk to the train station where I had to pull my pre-booked train ticket to Blackpool at the ticket machine, but my train was long gone
and the next one wasn’t going to arrive within the next hour.
This meant I would arrive late for the Opening Ceremony and so I shortly wrote an email to Helen from Starfury (the organiser) to apologize. She had invited me only the day before to stewarding and mentioned, she would be at her desk at 4 p.m. Well, this had been impossible from the beginning and I had told her so the other day.
Travelling by train in England is different, but not so much. All the trains I saw in Manchester station, had a diesel locomotive, thus they were quite noisy and stinky, quite ancient from outside, with relatively new seats inside, just like our IC or ICE, but not so classy. Anyway. The main thing was, this train was going to take me to Blackpool, finally!
I took a taxi from Blackpool station to the Norbreck Castle Hotel which was far outside. When I arrived, there was a long queue in front of the reception desk and when it finally was my turn, a friendly receptionist could downgrade my booked double room to a single room. I hadn’t dared to hope so anymore, been trying to change the room since the friend I wanted to share it with had to cancel her share for family reason. Wi-Fi was free for 20 minutes a day only, meaning I had to hurry every time I used it. First, I had big trouble to get online at all, the hotel Wi-Fi window often just wouldn’t pop up, I wasn’t quite used to the new laptop, fought with installations and such, and this problem would occur all the 3 days of my stay.
The hotel is a really old one, and when I say old, it’s really antique! More than 500 rooms, zigzagging, crooked and uneven floors, some of them really steep, covered with carpet to hide the worst. My room was ok and relatively clean, but no more. Not 4-star level, as everybody agreed, just by pricing.
As expected, the opening ceremony was finished, the Meet & Greet that was already going was only for gold pass owners (already sold out when I ordered my ticket), so I spent a while on the party, got acquainted to a few girls and also met my friends Esther and Bea from Spain again. Looking forward to next day – no sleep-out possible – programme would get started at a quarter to 9.
Saturday, August 26th - Blackpool
Ok, like I already said: Scotland
begins in Blackpool today. My alarm started at 7, I wanted to be downstairs in time to get a breakfast voucher without standing in queue for hours. The night before, it had already
been too late to buy one, but I had read and been told so that everybody needed to buy a ticket voucher at reception and, even worse, this had to be bought for every day separately!
Actually, I had thought I had booked a room with breakfast, but well, I had already had some hotels in the USA and UK without breakfast included. So, I was a reception at half past 7, the
queue was long as usual, I bought a voucher at 8,50 pounds with my room number on it and was confirmed, yes, I had to buy one every single day. Usually, we keep joking that Germany was
famous for its bureaucracy, but this hotel could compete!
Breakfast was typically English, with toast, eggs, scrambled eggs, tomatoes, beans in red sauce, bacon, ham, hashed browns, cereals etc. My husband would have liked it! I just took toast, marmalade and orange juice - and learned from to other German guests that they just had to give their room number when they entered the restaurant! So, I got back to reception and actually got my money back, they already had found about the mistake – great!
After breakfast, I changed into my costume that I had knitted and sewed particularly for this convention, I chose the linen bodice, not the woollen one - I felt already warm enough – and went downstairs. At registration, there was a crowd and confusion, nobody really knew which queue was which one. But the mood, however, was relatively relaxed, not aggressive, on the contrary. While waiting, I made new acquaintances from GB, USA, Germany and Spain. Esther for example was travelling with a big group of friends from Spain, I met again Sonia and her twin sister Beatrix. Eventually, I got my registration, photo and autograph tickets and started towards the hall for the group photos.
Very fortunately, the group photos were called first, just about 80 to hundred people were waiting (group photos had been extremely expensive!). Not so fortunately, the photographer positioned the male actors in the back line and the actresses on chairs in front, with a gap in the middle to sit down. Some of the people standing next to me immediately whined “Oh my, this is the same bad photographer as last year” and mentioned that it was unfortunate to sit down for a photo because they considered themselves lager while sitting (which is correct!), and particularly between the two models Caitriona and Lotte, but nothing could be done about that. When it was my turn and I sat down, I asked them all for a funny pic and got compliments for my costume.
After the group photos, we were also
allowed to be next ones for the single photos with Caitriona and I added the tucker and the arm sleeves to my costume. Caitriona asked me whether I really had made that all alone and I confirmed, and
when I left the hall, I found the queue waiting for the photos incredibly long. I was glad, my photos were complete – for the time being.
Here, I met for the first time Anna Margret from Northern Ireland, who’s sitting in a wheel chair and was just preparing for her photo shooting by emptying a big bottle of fake blood on herself – she was soaked to the skin! Insiders will recognize her costume, for all the others, she is re-enacting the scene when Claire is as nurse in World War II, assisting in a highly bloody leg amputation and learning that the war finally is over. Anna Margret also told us about the many other costumes and wigs she owns, unbelievable, how authentic she was!
At noon, the panels started, mostly about an hour long, starting with Steven Cree (Ian Murray), then Rosie Day (Mary) and Finn den Hertog (Willie), Grant O´Rourke with Stephen Walters (Rupert and Angus), Gary Lewis (Colum), Annette Badland (Mrs. Fitzgibbons) and Lotte Verbeek (Geillis). Sorry for the bad pictures, the background of the stage was dark black, the lighting poor and I was too far away, not even my Canon camera could improve that much.
Each actor talked about something he/she liked to, then there
were questions from the audience that got willingly answered. Annette had a small crown on her head since it was her birthday and, of course, we sang “Happy Birthday” for her. One of the highlights,
of course, was Stephen Walters with his guitar and his song about the various actors.
Regarding Whisky, Stephen Cree recommended Glenfiddich (for which he had made a commercial years ago und got paid?) and Gary Lewis recommended for travelling in Scotland the Isle of Lewis and Glen Affric (west from Inverness) and finally, we had Caitriona Balfe (Claire) and Graham McTavish (Dougal). Catriona also explained where her nickname Cait (or Cat) came from – from Sam (of course!). She said she has always been named Caitriona (spoken like Catrina), but then came a big red Scot and gave her the name Cat...
In between, I picked up my photos and queued successfully (if you only had seen the queues and knew they regularly operated by ticket numbers – I had a relatively high number – then you knew what I’m talking about!) for an autograph of Steven Cree. They put him into the proverbially last room (did I already tell you the hotel was very old?), no window to open, many people standing in line for a few seconds of his attention, being under time pressure and what did he do? Singing an oldie after another while signing... just ... wow !
With both Caitriona and Graham on stage, the main hall was crowded and we learned a lot about shooting sex scenes, how Jamie and Claire killed Dougal etc. He told us some stories, whereupon Caitriona called him mockingly “such a princess” and he defended himself, he had every right to complain, he has for example a picture of that very scene, just imagine: he was lying on the floor, getting stabbed, they’re booth kneeing over him – laughing! So, he was about to be killed, they’re laughing at him, yes, he had every reason to be touchy!
One question from the public was about friendships among actors and he emphasized that Outlander was the project he had found most friendships from and still has, until today.
At the end of the last panel, when we were leaving the hotel to get some fresh air, a few girls from the Andrew Gower fan group on Facebook and Twitter asked me whether I’d like to be part of a group photo, so we took a few pictures. It was the most beautiful weather, sunny and warm, just too bad we had spent the whole day inside.
As another highlight of the day, we had
the fancy dress – costume competition - and no, I was not going to win this, there were many more and outrageous costumes (Paris, Rococo and so on...), but that didn’t matter.
In my humble opinion, it was Anna Margret in her bloody nurse costume who should be winning, but we had to wait.
The fancy dress was more than funny, the actors had been set to the right side on a long table with white cloth, in front of the stage, being the jury. The competitors were announced by a presenter and could come in from the left, each one alone (or by two, if they belonged together) with matching music playing, in front of the stage and have a short appearance. Some just walked in, walked by, curtsied or bowed, some made a short show or presented themselves as best as they could. There was a short, second round and then the decision of the jury. First was a French court costume, second was a couple presenting a fight scene between Claire and Black Jack (both in very authentic costumes, specially made for them by a costume designer) and third place made two ladies, one of them represented one of the magic stones by the help of a mattress, with flowers and grass to the bottom and her friend (sitting in a wheelchair) was dressed as Jamie Fraser and raced around in front of the stage like a maniac.
After the award ceremony, we had the Tartan Party with good music, good drinks and high spirits. Look at Gary, he enjoyed himself!
Sunday, August 27th - Blackpool
Sunday morning started a little cloudy, but not cold at all.
The sky was already promising to be clear and sunny later, but we were going to spend the major part of the day inside the hotel.
After breakfast, I made a short walk to a small super market, just around the corner from the hotel, to buy some apples for the bus ride next day as well as some tooth paste, which I had forgotten at home. As most times, I would forget something...
After this, I bought myself a ticket for a double photo with Graham and Gary and went to the photo shootings. The queue that look incredibly long at first sight, proved to be different queues for several shootings and proceeded pretty fast. We had to hand in our purses and rucksacks and it took me only 5 minutes, then it was my turn for the photo. Again, I asked for something funny, I wanted them kissing my cheeks from both sides and they did, like a copy of a picture I already have with Richard and Steven (please see my start site), I was looking forward to the result!
After this, I had a break, there was still more than one hour
to the first panels, and I sat for a while in the lobby. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my cell phone handy when a young girl came in for a late breakfast, maybe 12-14 years old, just in her short
nightshift and barefoot… Just imagine yourselves, I’m pretty sure, you’ve got enough fantasy!
The panels started with Rosie Day (Mary), this tiny, little person on stage said she never had spoken to such a big group of people before (we were more than thousand, all together!) and asked us “please be nice!” Of course, we were...
First, she spoke passionately about the current campaign in actor’s business “equal pay” and how important this was to her and others. For example, her mother, working in a shop, who didn’t get the same pay as her male colleagues did, or even top actress Jennifer Lawrence, also getting less money than her male co-star.
Then she answered questions from the public, for example about Andrew Gower (Bonnie Prince Charlie), actually living next door to her and she’s good friend with him, so she sent him a live video message on Twitter. Somebody asked whether she would do a cartwheel since she didn’t wear a skirt today and she actually did it in front of the stage! Unfortunately, I have no picture, I didn’t sit first row and there were just too many people in between.
Next one was Finn den Hertog who told us about the last series he did, they were shot on the amazing and impressive Shetland Islands; and how old Willie in Outlander was, maybe 17 years old.
I really have to apologize for the bad quality of the pictures, the room was almost dark, the stage poorly illuminated and the background fully black, so my camera is incapable for better pics.
In my next break, I left the hotel and had just to cross a road in front and a city train line, then I reached the sea. The shore was very high above the water, consisting of concrete in several levels and where I had seen an endless flat beach in the morning, there was high tide in the afternoon with waves to the second level down from me and only a few anglers were standing at the closed staircase down to the water, so really nobody would go into the water, all accesses closed. It felt wonderful in the sun, like 25 degrees, almost no wind and so I just sat down on a bench and enjoyed my peaceful environment. The next morning, I would come back for low tide, my bus tour would start only at noon.
Back across the road to the hotel, the queue for the autographs was not as long as when I had tried before and so I got my autographs of Finn, Stephen and Grant whom I also met later in the garden of the hotel. Grant, who has a son, made fun with two little boys of 4 and 5 years and enthralled them with magic tricks. Even in England, there are coins disappearing and returning behind somebody’s ears!
Here are the pics from the shootings with autographs on:
Unfortunately, everybody could clearly see that this photographer couldn’t compete with those from other events, for example from the Gathering in Cologne, I was not the only one to say that. Comparing the two pics with kisses on my cheeks, they are poles apart!
I’ll add a new site to my blog with all the pics from The Gathering and Rincon in!
The very last panel of the day was with the wonderful
Caitriona Balfe and Lotte Verbeek. I came in just in time to hear one of the girls asking whether Caitriona would sing Karaoke with her and I’m sure the event director was privy to that because
immediately after, we heard “Call me!” from Blondie and both joining in!
We learned many interesting details about their very first days of shooting, which was for Claire the scene when World War II was over and for Geillis their scene in the gardens. One woman asked whether she might sing the Skye Boat song and finally, we were all singing with her.
After a very short break, we had the Closing Ceremony with all the VIPs sitting on a long table in front of the stage. Each of them got up and said a few words of goodbye, mostly thanks for the fantastic weekend, the many gifts and in front of all the high regard of the fans. After this, the presenter also thanked the actors, the whole team and the most important participant of all: us, the audience. He also expressed his hope that we would stand up for a better and more just world, against disadvantages for the reason of race, gender, provenance or other differences and injustices in behaviour and payment, he mentioned explicitly Trump, racism, Theresa May and others and praised the family feeling we all had felt all the weekend. No matter where we came from, there were (almost) but friendly people and no matter who was standing around in the umptieth queue, sitting on the table with us, it was easy get in contact and make new friends. Very naturally, there was somebody to hold our place in the line or guard our things without looking on his own advantage, after all, we were about 1000 people! We had participants from all over Europe, USA, Canada, Japan, even from Australia and New Zealand and all together, we were one big Outlander family!
I made so many acquaintances on that weekend, even found a few new friends, more so, some are even following me on Twitter. My general impression was completely positive and I only can recommend such an event. There was just one last party and then the weekend was already over. But – and this is a good thing to be – this was only the first part from my holidays in Scotland. From next day on, there was the bus tour – 5 days – and then 5 more days in a rental car. From tomorrow on my motto would be again: Scotland, I’m coming!
Monday, August 28th - Blackpool
After my last breakfast and goodbyes to some nice, new friends (Alexandra from Switzerland, Bernadette and Rose from USA), I was sitting one last time in the lobby, fighting with the hotel Wi-Fi in order to upload my pictures from last day. I wanted to make a short trip to the beach, however the summer made a short break on that day, there was also rain expected for the bus ride to Glasgow, but improvement later.
It was lowest tide, the sea very far away. The shore was very high above the sea, about 20-30 meters, fortified by 3 rows of extremely thick concrete walls. When I arrived at the bottom, I had to cross several tidal creeks, pass a few small lakes, at some point I just slipped out of my flip-flops and continued barefoot on the low-tide, along small ponds with gulls and other birds and it took me more than 15 minutes to the smallest waves, about 500 metres from shore. The sea ground here was extremely flat, this was the reason why the water at high tide was so brown, because of the high quantity of fine sand whirling in the water.
This is the end of my Report from Blackpool; my story continues in the Bus tour August 2017!