Archive for November 2010
There’s something of a running joke with a lot of truth in it; that I know very little about comics and yet know so many people involved with them that it’s almost wrong that I haven’t tried to make one. It’s not for the want of trying, I’ve never invented a good enough story to tempt me into finishing even the most basic strip in order to tell it. You only get one first comic, after all. Drawing isn’t a problem, we’ve all seen xkcd and I can, er, do a bit. Plus I know lots of good artists. Back to the first sentence, there.
I do know and love some comics, of course (Ghost World, Phonogram, Love and Rockets, lots of online ones), but it doesn’t stop me feeling a little out of place in geek conversations at Thought Bubble. And yet this is the third time I have attended. I went to the very first convention, in the crypt of the Town Hall, and it was very hot and rammed to the gills. I went last year, where it was enormous and crazy and so unlike the first one it could be an entirely different thing were it not for the same welcoming atmosphere and lots of familiar faces. The only one I have missed was the second, the first in Saviles Hall, because although I had a ticket, I won a competition to meet my long time heroine Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane in Doctor Who and her own titular adventures) and have her read me and a select group of kiddywinks stories, and I couldn’t miss that.
So, this year. Even bigger than last year. I check Twitter before I go, and friends working the convention say there are huge queues outside long before the opening time of 10am. I revise my plans, dropping the idea of going to a couple of panel discussions, because I can’t stand for long in queues. Later, Jamie McKelvie tells me they had to hold back the first panel by twenty minutes because people were struggling to get into the building. One issue with not posting out ANY tickets (all collecting on the door) and so many people coming from out of town.
The cosplay element has ramped up to the point where I’m constantly falling over young kids dressed as obscure manga characters I can’t even begin to identify, along with zombie rollergirls. My little Doctor Who fan heart jumps with pride at the number of Eleventh Doctor cosplayers. Matt Smith’s costume may be a little less casual than David Tennant’s, but it’s considerably easier to pull together something recognisable from charity shops and Ebay, as well as the more dedicated fans pooling knowledge to get something screen-accurate. Anyway, a joy to see fezzes and tweed galore. It’s a long way from the cons that are purely aimed at selling people overpriced signed photos and “limited edition” merchandise. In fact, most creators here will happily sign stuff for free, and the queues to meet writers and illustrators at their own stalls are long, but good-humoured. I spot Bryan Talbot, John Romita Jr and so on with their mobs fairly quickly. There are also plenty of small press stalls, stalls where people of all ages can do an activity (painting Momji dolls, designing aliens and creating comics with Gillian Rogerson and Sarah McIntyre, live art, the Hexjibber installation etc) and lots of chat going on.
I meet up with my mates Lou and Mike and stumble upon many other friends (Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Paul Cornell – new novel out next year and I can’t wait, Geof from Fetishman and his crew including my chum Mavis Cruet, Mark from OK Comics and so on) and end up buying all my stocking fillers from small independent producers. Not bad.
All the experienced convention exhibitors and attendees tell me Thought Bubble is their favourite UK con, and I can totally see why. I love being able to support writers and artists, hang out with friends and see the enthusiasm of hundreds of fans. The one issue this year is that it has almost become too busy. I struggle with crowds at the best of times, and is hard to stop too long at stalls or ask about getting sketches done (many artists will oblige) when you’re blocking a thoroughfare. I also didn’t take too kindly to being pestered by a flyerer from some big company, it didn’t feel in the spirit of the show. Sure, many of the creatives work for e.g. Marvel and DC, but to me the event should be about the creators and the small press and to a certain extent the independent shops. Big flashy books and commercialism can stick to the high street and Amazon.
If I could make one change, I’d put the shops into one room, the creative activities into another and the writer/artist stalls into a third, or at least into separate areas of a much bigger room. Browsing stalls, talking to/watching the activities of artists and getting involved in art all require their own spaces and go at their own speeds. People who can’t afford to go to restaurants need a friendly area to eat their lunch that isn’t sitting on the floor of the foyer, worrying about getting in people’s way. But that’s just space and people management, and Thought Bubble attendance has grown exponentially in the past four years. I still love it, sign me up for next year. I might have made a comic by then. Or at least read a few more, having bought some and been given more for free this year…
If only somebody would buy me this and fill it with extra nice things in addition to the little figurines. You know how I feel about things in miniature. I don’t think it’s going to happen, we can’t even afford a Christmas tree this year. Last year’s (very cheap) baby real one (six inches tall) died
Costiness: £49.99 from Lakeland
Or of course one could go down the route reminiscent of the Holidays Are Coming (brand name redacted) truck with this considerably cheaper model:
Costiness: £14.99 from Lakeland
Sounds like a folk ballad, that does.
Tonight there was a special invite-only bash to launch Dock Street Market at the former site of Simpsons in Leeds. It seemed like half the city was there. Without its racking, bottles of Ecover and freezer containing liquorice ice cream (now, that was good, I’m sure you can get it elsewhere but I don’t fancy trekking for something I can only afford once a year), the place looked very different. Like a canteen or a student union, only with worse lighting. But a bit friskier, and with gaudy, theatrical art (from Yasmina Hamaidia) on the walls.
DSM is bringing together independent food and drink retailers (and a furniture shop, and an artist, and my mate Mike – who is more of a polymath, really) to sell fresh produce (and old chairs, and paintings) in one big room. Big oak trees from little acorns grow, so they’re starting out with a few local businesses sharing the space and hoping to expand from there. It’s all a bit “soft launch” at the moment, which is a term I have previously only encountered when it comes to new rides at Disneyland Paris (I read the blogs and forums, I’ve only been twice as I’m skint). It seems to mean in that context opening limited hours, and letting in a mixture of invited guests and people who happen to be about. So – probably similar, then. As with my Northern Art Prize post, I fancy going back when it’s a bit more established.
Fish&, who I’ve mentioned here before, will be open from Nov 26th every Friday evening, Saturday “lunch and tea” (dinner and tea – if you’re going to be Northern, do it properly, and if it’s not Northern tea it has cakey things and poncey sandwiches and is served a lot earlier) and “possibly Sunday”. Tonight they served their beer battered fish & wedges (I preferred their chips, but I imagine wedges are easier to manage en masse) with minted pea puree, fish cakes (well, more balls, looked like they were coated in coconut but I think it was their sourdough herby crust they did fish & chips with at the previous event I went to, only changed format a bit) with aioli (that’s garlic mayo) and masala-coated fish with sweet potato wedges (they’re fiddling with the recipe, and I reckon that was improved from last time I tried it, though I fancy them doing cajun-blackened with sour cream and lime – they ought to try that). I’m not sure if they were also responsible for the smoked salmon & cream cheese canapes and the various fishy dips/pates that were available, perhaps they are not the keepers of all fish (I think it might have been the bakery lot, see further into this post), but they were dead nice too. Somebody please take me for tea there when I can have a proper, full-sized portion of their fish and real chips, eh? The wedges kept falling off the cocktail sticks and my masala fish landed in the raita.
Right, so that was some food, on with the drinks… The masses golloshed down all the free white wine within a very short time indeed, and the red looked to be on its way out as well (plenty of full pop bottles on the floor, mind), but that’s not what I want to talk about. One of the other big (on Twitter) local names was cafe La Bottega Milanese. I drink coffee a handful of times a year, but when I do I want it very strong, black and creamy and sweet without the aid of milk/cream or sugar. I never achieve this at home and have rarely experienced it elsewhere, and the main reason I drink coffee rarely is because I don’t have an addiction and can’t be arsed with non-perfect coffee when pop from a bottle turns out the same every time and I like it. It’s easier to say I don’t drink coffee, pass the Fentimans or Coke. Alex’s espresso is something I could develop a habit for if I lived closer to town. It’s that good. I’m fussy, and I say it’s great.
Swillington Organic Farm also have a presence, and had some rather fetching-looking leeks and eggs out on display, along with order forms for tempting Christmas meats and treats. Paul Behnke (the excellent chef from Distrikt) had some exciting herbs and salad leaves on offer. The other big foodie name in Dock Street, and fully-resident from 5am to 4pm daily at that, is Riverside Sourdough Bakery. As a bit of an artisan baker myself, I often find the stuff churned out by delis and independent bakers to not be worth the premium over my own time, but their black olive bread in particular was a bit of a treat and worth every one of the 18-hour days the sweating and charming baker had put in this week. I’m interested to know how Leeds’ wild yeast (look up how sourdough starters get going) compares with that found in San Francisco on their research trip, but the various RSB breads I tried were pretty good and apparently their pastries were also gorgeous.
Mike Wallis‘ chocolates have been tasted by me on previous occasions, as I have the great honour and privilege of being his friend (more violet creams please, sir). Tonight it was a joy to see crowds gathering around him (with an interesting array of facial expressions, see photos) as he ducked about the room with trays of fair trade, home-made confectionery.
I might have nabbed quite a few salted caramels, a particular favourite of mine (not being keen on truffles or pralines, which were also on offer), and my better half, who hates orange and chocolate as a combination so much he refuses to eat Jaffa Cakes, actually LOVED the “marmaladey” choc. Now that’s a result.
I took lots of photographs (there in non-mosaic form). I have an inexpensive camera, and hate using flash (it’s intrusive, and produces horrible looking results on my camera), so some pics are blurry and so on, but I feel a lot of them look a little like Impressionist paintings and those that don’t capture how it actually was through my weary yet happy eyes. They give a flavour of the real breadth of people who were there tonight, and you can see conversations, characters, enthusiasm, spark and passion at every turn. No posing, no hipsters or wasted wankery or looking over shoulders to see someone more important, just real people chatting on.
I, along with a fair few other Leeds bloggers and social media tarts, was invited on Wednesday to go to a behind the scenes preview of the Northern Art Prize exhibition at Leeds City Art Gallery. I have to admit, I enjoyed looking at the tins of paint, scissors, bits of paper, boxes of screws and ladders and things in a state of not-quite-readiness (and yet lit beautifully) generally as much as some of the art. Mind you, if it were at the Henry Moore or Tate Modern, some of it might have been the art itself.
I want to go back and see it properly (exhibition runs from 26th November to February next year), which I suppose is rather the point, because it’s hard to judge a lot of it for now when it’s not all there. I found with some things I preferred form to content – couldn’t be doing with the typography or poems on little glass bottles, but liked the bottles. Same with the poemy rock, but it tasted nice, and added to the intoxicating chemical smell of the room. Paints and artificial flavourings, a good mixture.
I liked Lubaina Himid‘s stuff best of what I was able to see, but then I’m a sucker for things in miniature and her painted jelly moulds (which I liked aesthetically, even if I didn’t understand it) were part of scenes involving the tiny model people from model railway sets, and trees from same, and I could look at that little lot for hours. It isn’t even all up yet, there was a table covered in bubblewrap and more little figures. There was a narrative, because of the placement of the models, their poses and their individual characters and props. I found that spoke to me, in a way, because my brain was telling me the stories of what they were up to and what they might be talking about. I’m rubbish at explaining, but it made me think of Peanuts comic strips and, even more so, the Charlie Brown animated films.
I want to see Haroon Mirza‘s work, as that’s more my bag generally than most of what was on display, and he’s a Sheffield lad. His stuff needed plugging in. I liked David Jacques‘ industrial photos, but what I saw of Alec Finlay‘s art on the whole left me cold. The one thing I liked by him was a neon rock/paper/scissors light installation, which I think I mostly enjoyed because it was fun to photograph. As a work in itself, it might as well have been an advert for Coca-Cola or a Christmas decoration for all it made me feel. Maybe that’s what’s intended.
Hopefully I’ll be able to go back in the next couple of weeks and see the finished exhibition. It’s worth popping in, anyway. It costs nowt to look.
Elena’s a fine artist from Barcelona, she joined business brain Robert in Dublin and together they formed the t-shirt company LadyUmbrella – because it rains so much in Ireland. It’s not just a name, either, the charming illustrations on the tees are all based on the character and each shirt has an amusing title. Since it’s incredibly foggy today and threatening serious precipitation tomorrow, here are my three current faves:
LadyUmbrella and the Trike
I really want a recumbent trike, but I think I’d struggle with the hills around my house. I’m not very strong. Also traffic might run me over. When I move to another area, which is something I am planning to do, I definitely want one for pootling into town. Maybe I’ll pretend to sell ice creams from the back. I love the bright orange of this tee, and the light bulbs over LadyUmbrella as she stretches out her legs.
Costiness: €29.97 from LadyUmbrella
LadyUmbrella and the Wise Owl
I do wonder a little if the owl thing has been overdone in textiles – everywhere you go, they’re on shirts/dresses/towels/totes/cushions. But then nobody would ever say that about cats, and this shirt is adorable. Baby blue, cute neckline and gathering, and that Wol is looking right at me.
Costiness: €27.47 from LadyUmbrella
LadyUmbrella is Friends with Sir David Attenborough
Points for best title, obv. Fabulous tealy colour, paper boat/hat, LadyU all a-shiver with her binoculars on the ice and the facial expressions on those blimmin’ penguins…I am slayed.
Costiness: €27.47 from LadyUmbrella
I could murder some smoked tuna carpaccio right now. Curls of orange zest, lemon juice, bit of cracked black pepper, few shavings of parmesan, some rocket and watercress. Maybe a caper or two, some sliced fennel, a little dill…
The thermometer in our (chilly in a heatwave) kitchen says 8 degrees Celsius. Outside it says zero. Metcheck’s forecast for the week promises a truckload of sleet on a day when I cannot avoid leaving the house.
So with Christmas and all its delights some way off, tonight I am comforting myself with thoughts of more clement days and fish & chips, notably those from Fish& that I consumed at an event organised by The Culture Vulture earlier in the year. Yes, the batter was as light as it looks, and the peas were minted rather than marrowfat. I ate them outside in the dying light, needing only a light jacket to keep me warm.
I’ve been wearing skirts and dresses a lot more this year than ever before. Finally a small amount of body confidence, or whatever you may prefer to call it. Everything sounds straight out of a self-help book, anyway.
These are the most recent additions to my hosiery wishlist:
JQ Wool Snowflake tights
The mention of wool is a little worrying, as I’m allergic, but can tolerate merino (the wool used here) in small doses. Adorable wintry leg-coverings, these.
Costiness: £24 from Tabio
Vertical Crochet tights
Frankly I want the shoes as well, if only I could walk in them. Another Tabio pair, I would love to wear these with my (Amy Pond endorsed) Dr. Martens Triumph 1914 boots. Particularly in this shade, though I would like them in every colour.
Costiness: £12 from Tabio
Super Stripes – Rayon
Cute over the knee socks, gorgeous stripes.
Costiness: $12 from Sock Dreams
Lurex & Sheer Stripe thigh highs with Sparkling Bow
I want these for Christmas Day. No arguments.
Costiness: $10 from Sock Dreams
Betsey’s Button Up! legwarmers
Heart-shaped cute-as buttons.
Costiness: $40 from Sock Dreams
Pinstriped Victoria over the knee socks
I can’t imagine the Victorians in these, but the pinstripes and scrollwork are brilliant and they look pretty toasty.
Costiness: $28 from Sock Dreams
Vertical Crochet tights with Lace Detail
These are practically too good for the likes of me. I’d best stay out of puddles.
Costiness: $9 from Sock Dreams
And finally, for something a bit different…
Polonova Velvet wrist warmers
In navy and silver, this could be my perfect winter treat. My hands are always frozen about the house…
Costiness: $35 from Sock Dreams
Oh ASOS, you tease my heart so…
I like it in all 3 colours. Damn.
While I still haven’t the energy to do any of the big write-up stuff…
If only I had, er, lots of money, I’d run out and get this bag right away. It’s like a Bronchia dream handbag. Short handles AND cross-body (a long strap is ESSENTIAL), red, leather, nicely lined, it seems to be partly named after a Sarah Jane Adventures character I love dearly…and it looks like a retro typewriter without being too much of a novelty item. Hell to the yeah.
All Typed Up Clyde at Kate Spade