Where does one start, from the beginning? from the first eventful occurrence? from the moment I met Mr. Lee? these are the questions I now face sitting in front of my computer the day after returning from one of the most memorable weekends in my life (since my trip to America).
Some of you reading this will want warts and all, some will want to read the part where I met Mr. Lee, some will be interested what I say about those members I met, and may be a bit worried now. So I have decided to split my story into 4 sections to suit all.
Here is the version for those only interested in my meeting Mr. Lee.
Here is the version for those interested in what I say about them.
I know what you look like, I know what you said, I know what you done, be afraid, be very afraid. nuff said.
Here is the version for those who cannot be bothered to read.
Got to London, met Mr. Lee, wonderful man, took photo's, met other members, great bunch, took photo's, got lost, thanks Greg, more about you later young man. went home.
Now the full warts and all...............
There's so much to say, still fresh in my mind, I'm worried In case I misquote someone, get events in the wrong order, say something I shouldn't, miss something out, but...se la vie as they say in Newcastle.
I will start at the hotel, arriving about 7.30pm Friday evening, fully prepared for what lies ahead. I had brought 2 cameras, 1 decent digital camera that I borrowed from my good friend Norman, and a cheapie web cam come camera. 200 cigarettes, a lighter, chewing gum, and my darling wife Janice, the rest of my itinerary was optional.
Like I said, we arrived Friday evening, finding the hotel by chance, as I forgot what it was called. We pulled into the car park and went inside. Janice and I booked in, went to our room, which was conveniently next to the reception, to settle in. Guess what? the lights weren't working in our room. Janice informed me that the bathroom light was not working also, so I went to investigate. Unknowing to me Janice had opened the bathroom door with a big sign saying "MIND THE STEP" and it was dark, and yes, I fell head first into the bathroom, I remember on the way down Janice muttering something about the step. I limped to the hotel desk, informed the man behind, and immediately came to our rescue. I must say at this point even with the things that went wrong, the hotel staff were absolutely brilliant at all times, and the hotel itself was beautiful throughout. I left the man with Janice and went off for a pint or 2. Janice came to the bar to inform me that the man had fallen into the bath trying to fix the bulb, we didn't laugh, honestly. The man could not get the lights to work so moved us to another room. Right at the top of the hotel, 2 or 3 flights up, I can't remember, I had altitude sickness. The man and I both limped up the stairs to our new room, lights working, he left us and we settled in. Shoes off, ah bliss, after nearly 7 hours of driving it was heaven. Showered, changed and went back down . We spent the night drinking and chatting waiting of Matt to arrive at about 11 p.m.. Alfonso had arrived earlier on but was whisked away by Juan never to be seen again.
The night air was lovely so we dragged a few chairs outside (with permission) and sat and drank.
A strange but funny thing happened while we were outside, a taxi pulled up right beside us, the window went down and the driver said "I went to the Doctors the other day and told him I had a piece of lettuce sticking out of my a**e, the Doctor asked if it hurt and I said yes, then the Doctor said that's just the tip of the iceberg " and the taxi driver wound the window up and drove off.
We kept an eye out for Matt, every time someone tall walked towards the hotel we would say "there's Matt" but it wasn't, he eventually turned up shortly after 11, said hello's, he booked in and came back later, just in time for last orders. We sat outside all night to well after midnight, chatting, still no sign of Alfonso. We retired to our rooms eventually because we had to be up very early.
Janice and I went to our room and guess what? the lights weren't working again, not one. back down the south face of Everest to the desk. up limped the same man as before, got to the room with a torch, and informed us he couldn't fix it. Not wanting to change rooms again we said it's all right, we just want to sleep, so sort it out in the morning. He went, and about 5 minutes later after fumbling around in the dark, trying to get undressed in front of the only bit light we had, the window, the lights came on. Nice timing mate. I made a dash for the switch, and went to bed, and slept.
We had to get up at the crack of dawn, to make sure we arrived at the event in good time. We went for breakfast, a full English one I might add, stuffed my face and drank gallons of coffee. Then in walked Matt, kilt and all, what a sight, all eyes were on him, dashing to say the least, or as Janice put it, very Sean Connerish. So, off we all went to the underground, a place I would not attempt on my own, for silly little reasons like American Werewolf in London, Deathline, etc., well that's what I kept telling myself, it was just the fact that I knew I would get lost. With Matt and Joakim at the helm we managed quite well. It's funny, when we were going up the very long escalators, I kept looking back and crouching down half expecting a hairy werewolf bearing it's fangs coming up the rear, but alas, only Janice, baring fangs and......oops, don't go there Colin. One amusing event on the escalators I must tell you is when Matt was saying he doesn't know how women cope with drafts, and Janice, God bless her, refereed to Matt's kilt as a skirt.!! Any other person saying that wouldn't have got off so lightly I can tell you by the look on Matt's face.
Arriving somewhere in London, can't remember exactly but we had about half a mile to walk. I have never seen the streets of London so empty, it was eerie to say the least, If you have seen 28 days later you know what I mean. As we approached the steps down to the Mall where the event was taking place, we noticed what seemed like the entire Police force, there were hundreds of them, all roads were blocked, at one point we said they've overdone the security for Mr. Lee. We found out later it was for 'The Trooping of the Colour' which we had no idea of. We were finally there with about half an hour to spare.
More and more people were turning up as we stood outside, wanting to ask their names but not sure if they were from the CLW, a few faces were recognisable, a couple I have already met, like Juan, Oscar and Greg, who had changed dramatically, he had really matured since the last time I saw him at the Barbican event, taller, changed hair colour and a lot more, lets say, not so shy. After a while people were introducing themselves, the ice was broken. It was quite a gathering, there was myself, Janice, Matt, Joakim, Greg, Janet, Grace, Amy, Juan, Oscar, Mark, Stuart and his wife who's name I cannot think of at the moment, sorry, and not forgetting Tina. I think that's all, at least the ones I was introduced to, the rest I did not get the pleasure of meeting. Oh, there was one person missing, Alfonso, where the hell was he, I felt a little guilty as he was staying at the same hotel as us and should have enquired about him, in case he didn't know what to do or where to go, but with all that was going on you tend to forget certain things, sorry Alfonso.
After several cigarettes later we few made our way into the theatre, which turned out very cosy indeed. The film started everybody shut up and away we went, The film 'Nothing but the night' was a little gem, I had not seen it. A first rate cast. I won't attempt to review it because I am crap at it. About one and a half hours later the cameras stopped rolling. A moments silence was interrupted by Mr Lee making his entrance, and to my delight and others, Mrs Lee who looked great, everyone was stunned I think, Mr. Lee has that effect on you.
"Good morning" he said in that all too familiar voice.
After an agonising 2 seconds later when it sank in we all said "good morning"
Mr Lee sat in a chair had a quick glance around and apologised for us having to get up so early to see the film, and went on to say that he thought all the extra security outside was for him, well that cracked us up and was a great icebreaker, so we were off.
Mr.Lee went on about the making of the film and the impact it had on the public, and the first rate cast it had and saying that most of the members are no longer with us, which I'm sure was all recorded by Juan, so there's no need to go into detail as I'm sure it will be available at some point on this site for all to see.
Then the moment came, the moment I had been waiting for since the last time I met him. it was time for us to talk.
"Are there any questions you would like to ask ?" Mr Lee said.
Right Colin, open your mouth and say something, someone beat me to it, Matt I think with his hand straight up. Then it went quite, right, now Colin, say something, go on you know you want to, ask him what it was like to work with children, goon for God's sake, speak you pumpkin. Another hand went up, another question was answered. Then there was no more people asking questions and Mr. lee was looking around, his eyes made contact with mine momentarily, this is your chance Colin, I was numb from the eyebrows down, my lips were sealed, I had became a paralysed mute. My wife was saying "go on ask him, go on" alas, it was too late, Mr. Lee was informed that he had another talk to do shortly and he had to leave, we all applauded him as he walked out with Mrs. Lee. What a start to the day, we all went outside buzzing with excitement, non stop banter for ages.
This is when I first clasped eyes on Alfonso, I didn't hesitate and walked over and introduced my self to him and his girlfriend Marilyn. I had waited for ages to meet him, we have chatted on Paltalk for a few years now and got to know a little bit about each other, it was great to finally meet him, I'm sure he was on a high throughout the whole event.
We had been informed that the DVD signing would be held upstairs at 3pm. in the Nash Room 4 hours to fill, simple, we talked, walked, talked ,ate and talked and the time flew by. We desperately needed some liquid as it was in the thirties, we were melting. Matt and Greg went in for the second screen talk while Janice and I sat in the cool lobby, we heard a big applause and the doors opened and out walked Mr. Lee, looked us straight in the eye with what I thought was a look of familiarity and said "Hello" Never in the history of the English language has the word hello sounded so comforting. "Hello" we said back, is this my moment? should I say something? I wanted to say, "Do you remember me from Christina and Juan's house last year, we spent a couple of hours with you, you sang opera and told us jokes, you have my drawing of Peter Cushing on your wall, my drawing is featured in your DVD. By the time I thought what I wanted to say, Mr. Lee had passed. So another opportunity passed by me, I never learn. It was possibly a good thing that I said nothing because now when I think about it would have sounded a bit, what's the word, ....bigheaded?
So back outside and the place was getting a bit crowded for the Trooping of the Colour which was starting in about half an hour, so we picked a great view point at the fence and waited. What a spectacle, it's the first time I have witnessed this event and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
Then the time came for the signing, we were told to form an orderly queue up the stairs, so we did. People were let in 3 at a time which I though was great, another opportunity to say something. Moving up the stairs slowly but surely it was finally my turn, I went up with my wife Janice and friend Greg. Janice had agreed to take the photos, while we saw Mr. Lee.
We arrived at the top of the stairs, were shown to an open door where we could see Mr. Lee sitting at a large desk with Juan at his left giving out the DVD's. I was all prepared what to say, starting off with "Hello Mr. Lee, it is nice meeting you again" In the hope of Mr. Lee saying "Again?" that would be my cue to start talking. It was so simple, what could go wrong? what could go wrong, well everything for a start, it is me remember, Colin, you know, the paralysed mute from down stairs, the pumpkin. No sooner had I waved to Christina through another door I was told I was next by Mr. Lee's bodyguard James, I didn't seem to have time to compose myself, well that was it, I still don't know how my legs managed to get me to the table, but I got there. I looked Juan straight in the eyes and whimpered something. At this point I should mention that Juan and I had arranged for me to sign the DVD before Mr. Lee, like I did with the Tall Dark & gruesome book last year, just to see how Mr. lee would react. So the first thing Juan said as Mr. lee was about to sign my DVD was. "Aren't you going to sign it Colin?" It doesn't take me much to loose my thought of concentration but it blew straight out of the open window down the Mall and into Buckingham Palace, where I heard the Queen shout "You get the door, I'm busy on the throne"
The next bit as usual, when I meet Mr. Lee is a bit blurry, I'll have to wait and see the video of it to see exactly what happened, but it went something like this.
I looked at Juan, Mr. Lee looked at me, I looked at Mr. Lee, he was a bit confused until Juan told him about the book last year and Mr. Lee remembered. Juan and I laughed and giggled to Mr. Lee's amusement. He pushed the DVD towards me and asked me if I wanted to sign it and I said no thanks, it's all right, you just sign it. This was great, I'm actually talking, go for it Colin, I should have stayed with the conversation, but something in the back of my head was saying "photo Colin, get a photo Colin" so I asked if it was all right for Janice to take a photo, and Mr. lee replied, "I think she has taken 10 already !", unbeknown to me Janice was snapping away like mad to the side of me. Well, you can imagine how I felt, slightly embarrassed to say the least, time for a sharp exit, I even forgot to thank Mr. Lee and shake his hand.
On the way down the stairs unable to resist looking inside the DVD I noticed my drawing was featured in the booklet, my little face lit up, my head started to swell, I wanted to tell everybody I passed, but couldn't, I wanted to run back up and show Mr. lee but didn't. I wanted to punch the security guard in the face, but I didn't. I kept it to myself for about 5 minutes until I met Matt, then broke my neck to tell him, he seemed pleased for me and told others about it, including his friend Jim who came over to me and we talked for some while about loads of things. My 15 minutes of fame.
After the signing we all hung around for a while hoping to catch glimpse of Mr. Lee leaving but it never happened, there must have been another way out. We then had the afternoon to ourselves, Greg, Janice and myself made our way to the London dungeon while the others split up and did there own thing, I'm sure they will tell you about that in their own articles.
Off again to the underground, with our trusty guide Greg, to the London Dungeon, who assured us he knew the way because he has been there before, ha, isn't that right Greg. Little did we know. He did try though, I won't take that away from him, he tried his best to get us there, even though it was via Germany. Mind you he knows his way round the underground, we felt safe with him because we did not have a clue about it, and was dreading the journey back to the hotel on our own. We finally made it to the Dungeon, blisters bursting, 2 stone lighter, but we made it. it cost over £12, but was worth it, it must have lasted about one and a half hours. 2 funny things happened, the first was during a Ripper talk, the host went to grab my hair and pull me towards him, not an easy task if you have seen me, as you can imagine he grabbed thin air (no pun intended) and decide to grab Janice instead. Further on, in another mock courtroom, someone had to be picked to go in the dock, and yes, out of all the people that were there he picked little old me, up I went. "What's your name?" he said "Colin" I replied "where are you from?" "Newcastle" I said, "Where about in Newcastle?" he said. "Durham" I said. "Durham, that's nowhere near Newcastle" he snapped back with what I'm sure was a Geordie accent coming through his Cockney accent. Bloody hell I thought, I tried to explain I always say Newcastle because not many people have heard of Durham, and it's only a few mile away. He then asked if I support Newcastle or Sunderland, (2 rival teams in the Northeast), and I answered "Chelsea" to everybody's amusement. The outcome.... I was sentenced to death.
It was time to leave for our hotel, Greg took us to the right platform for the first part of the ride, but we had to change on our own, gulp. Said goodbye to Greg and thanked him for the afternoon and the tour of Germany and went. We knew what train to catch for the last leg of our journey and got on, looked at the map expecting to find a stop called Putney where we got on this morning, there on the map was Putney all right, Putney Station right next to East Putney, For the life of us we could not remember the name of the station we got on, OH MY GOD, tried to phone Matt but his phone was switched off, we were up a certain creek without a certain paddle.
We decide to get off at the first one, if it was wrong we hop back on the next train and go to the next station. Got off, walked for a while, realised we didn't recognise the surroundings, headed back for the station, and was told the trains had been stopped because of an incident at Wimbledon. Just our luck, we went looking for a cab, then realised we forgot the name of the hotel we were staying and the road it was on. Stupid or what. Pig ignorant if you ask me. Only one thing for it, phone Juan, try and explain where we were and ask for directions. Yippee, he answered, were saved, and we were, he told us to cross Putney Bridge turn left and walk for about 20 minutes. Thanks Juan. it was some walk, our feet were on fire from all the walking, but we got back.
The night was spent with Matt, Alfonso and Joakim, they had already eaten, Janice and I ordered pizza and we all sat in the garden huddled round a table which we dragged over to the only available light in sight, on the fence. We had great talk, had loads of laughs then went to bed.
The next morning we missed Matt and Alfonso, and never managed to say goodbye, they all left to get early flights. We had a hearty breakfast, packed , chilled out for a couple of hours then spent the afternoon with Juan and Christina strolling along the Thames embankment, stopping off for lunch and a couple of drinks. A great time all round, which was only marred by a down pour of rain heading back to the hotel, it was welcome at first because of the heat, but it got heavier and heavier and not so welcome. We found shelter under the canopy of a cinema and hopped into a taxi back to the hotel. We said our goodbyes and left for home.
While on the M25 Janice said "Isn't that Mark Bale?" I looked left and cough a quick glimpse as he pulled of a slip road and left the motorway, it might of been him I was not sure. I remember Mark saying he was from Wales and I think the turn off was to the West. Then we went through the worst thunder and lightening storm I have ever witnessed in my life, it brought the busiest Motorway in England to a stop, it was horrendous. It passed we got home late, pulled up at the front door, and there standing in the doorway was ..........the executioner from the London Dungeon screaming "You thought we were kidding!!"