For a few years I’ve been a huge fan of the show ‘Once Upon a Time’ (but my whole life I have been a total nerd) and have enjoyed going to a number of conventions to meet the cast. The last one we visited happened when I was 7 months pregnant and it was so hideously organised that we vowed it would be our last event as I sloped back to the car with my ankles swollen, knuckles clenched and my temper frayed. Then tickets for a new convention by a better company came on sale and without even discussing it we knew we were going and before you could say “all magic comes with a price, Dearie” the tickets were bought. Shit. We are going to have a 10 month old baby at a convention… what were we thinking?!
June soon rolled around and I had tried to keep my “mum panic” to a bare minimum. I barely packed any of my “everything but the kitchen sink” accessories and tried to remain chill. It was only Birmingham, what’s the worst that could happen? If we needed anything that badly we could always nip out and get it. I was getting so much better at travelling light. Although the chap at consierge didn’t seem to think so when he handed me 5 checked bag slips back in bemusement.
The schedule for the event was released and some of you know I am a bit of a ‘nap nazi’ – it consumes me. I need to know exactly when River will be napping because if for any reason he is one minute late for a nap then I envision the parental version of an apocalypse happening; no night sleep, screaming, over-tired to eat and probably limbs falling off. I have tried so hard to not let it take over my life and I rehearse in my head how laid back I will be about timings but when it comes to the crunch I can’t help letting it take over me. When I saw the schedule I was initially relieved, it worked for River’s naps but we would have to be clever about it. Keep him sleeping until 8, quick breakfast, use our magic beans to jump through portals to the front of queues. It would be fine.
Except River woke up at 6. Great. It would be fine, it would be fine. We can do this. Oh… the queues are quite massive… It’s fine. It’s a convention, queues are to be expected but you forget how a queue as an adult and a queue as a child are worlds apart. The mum panic began to set in, we were just going to have to just go home and forget about the convention, it was the only solution- then something truly magical happened. People.
Every queue we joined had someone who River interacted with and kept him entertained. He loves people. He forgot about his naps for the most part and was either grabbing people to get their attention or trying to scramble on the floor to get to where other interesting people were sitting to take the weight off in queues. It was like a huge group effort, so many kind people could see we were trying to keep this tiny time-bomb from going off and stopped their own conversations to coo at him or high-five him. The difference in people’s attitude from this event to the last was staggering. At the last event interacting with strangers seemed the last thing on everyone’s mind when all hell was breaking loose at every turn. It really was every man for himself. This event was like one big family, every turn had a smiling face and someone else saying hello, offering to help or asking to cuddle the baby. Once out of the hotel we could walk him round and let him sleep and get some fresh air, there was plenty to do and more importantly a Pizza Express and a Nando’s near by. Pit stop!
One thing I really wanted to see was a panel by Lana Parrilla, one of the main actresses in the show but it was very close to River’s afternoon nap time so we thought we would try it and if he wasn’t happy we could leave. The talk began and he seemed okay but restless, a lovely lady to my left spent the entire panel playing with him and distracting him and even stopping him from typical River mischief! (Eating discarded food items, snatching things from people’s bags… the usual.) She was amazing. It was like someone taking a heavy bag off my shoulder. Another highlight was when a lady who I have been chatting to online since the event was announced brought over a toy for River that she had brought to the convention for him, it was so incredibly kind that I am not afraid to admit I choked up. The generosity and warmth of people has amazed me.
I even had a night off! Frankie put River to bed whilst I went to a Champagne(less) Reception with some of the cast. I ended up having the absolute time of my life because I was so at ease. I knew it was all going to work out and I could relax, finally. I relaxed a little too hard and a sneaky swig of gin and a £7 wine later my empty stomach could take no more and I snuck back in to the room like a teenager.
By Sunday, River was stretched a little thin and we cut things early in the afternoon because he was by that point exhausted. Whilst everyone was very kind about him, we didn’t think it was fair to keep him in line when he was tired and too warm and we certainly didn’t want to put our very patient fellow attendees through any unnecessary hysterics. We popped him in his pram and walked him around in the fresh air whilst we talked about how excited we already are for next year’s event, even though driving up on Thursday Frankie reiterated at least 20 times that “this is definitely the last convention we are going to.” Oops.
So, we may be nerds for attending conventions, but we are the friendliest nerds in the universe. It’s true what they say, you really are never far from a new friend at a Starfury Convention.