At one point during the weekend as I was sat at the table and having worked my way through a not inconsiderable cup of coffee I was offered a piece of Isle of Wight rock. It was sort of dirty orange and maroon or blood coloured in whirly strips. I was feeling a little sideways at the time as I am not nor ever have been particularly stable on coffee. The other issue was that I had been up at 5.30am – something Dan blames me for for living outside London – as if there’s an invisible barrier around the city outside of which nothing relevant could potentially take place. Anyway – I’d fallen out of bed at 5.30am and made my way steadily in – but in the pursuit of sleep there was no time for eating. I’d taken a coffee on nothing, something I did at LCSPE and started tripping. While this was less severe I was getting the odd rush and feeling pretty uneasy.
In this malais, no doubt I was spotted by a sort of stout girl wearing an uneven black dress with a memorably immense cleavage offered me a stick of rock. This took me by surprise as I was in a really good mood but she insisted and I took it. It turned out she’d got this stick of rock from a burlesque dancer from the Isle of Wight festival which mostly made me wonder if the Isle of Wight festival was what I’d pictured it as. Anyway, I accepted it – because it was weird and weird always gets me through the day. It turned out that she was a child minder, though she was quick to insist she rarely dressed like a gothic steam punk tea lady when she was at work.
Meanwhile, on my travels – trying to work off the first coffee – I went to take a look and see if I could skip the queue for a Steve Dillon autograph. It wasn’t for me it was for some guy who was overly enthusiastic when he came to the table. He’d mentioned the coke in his bag several times with a knowing air that suggested he had something that wasn’t limited to coke in his bottle. He waggled it insistently under our noses until, without much pushing, I took a swig. Dan eventually had a crack too having seen that I hadn’t spontaneously shat myself and fallen over sideways. It was rum and coke. It lacked the shock appeal that his own piss would’ve offered but it was preferable in taste. My explanation that in Australia they sell Rum and Coke ready made in bottles was enough for the lads in question to consider buying tickets. That was enough for me – I liked these guys. They were deliberate idiots (in a good way), embracing every new experience as if it wasn’t something that wasn’t fairly plausible and had no doubt been done many times before – something I try myself on slower days. They were talking about a copy of Ultimate Avengers I think they’d bought that was drawn by Steve Dillon (cover unsurprisingly by Leinil Yu).
I offered, because I was high on coffee and because they suggested it and I’d bought a little too much into their psychology, that I’d see if the flimsy blue plastic band around my wrist that identified me as an exhibitioner would give me access to Steve Dillon who was signing on the far side of the room, in the corner. I tried. Steve Dillon sitting at a table with a queue numbering in the hundreds looping around the outside looked like easy pickings. No obvious signs of security. This was Steve Dillon, not George W Bush. The only person between me and him was a rather pretty organiser with blonde hair and a flowery dress and a badge that said Staff. But this was Dillon. Artist on Preacher. Surely it’d be artistic irony to pop the young lady in the nose and walk over to Dillon’s table as if nothing’s happened like Jesse Custer after the word of God. But I just walked over to the lady and she answered politely, clearly wondering why someone my age would think this wasn’t an obvious situation, that ‘it wouldn’t be fair on the hundreds of other people waiting.’ This I had to concede as I knew it all ready and I sidled off doing my best to let her know I’d clearly thought so.
On the way back I found a man with ginger hair sitting at a table on the end of an aisle. It was a perfect position and laid out in front of him was my artwork on the cover of Fallen Heroes and more importantly in the identification of the man in question a set of piles of Burke and Hare; the book written by Martin Conaghan – who is adapting Fallen Heroes. This made him Will Pickering, the master draftsmen of the title. If you haven’t already, you should pick up a copy of Burke and Hare when you get the chance – its better than the film and not particularly related to it as its based on the facts for a start…. Will’s a nice guy but in this particular case he was struggling with an issue it was hard to see a solution to. Wrapped around the table was a queue for JRJR, John Romita Jr, one of the biggest names in comic book art. Fear that the queue would move on without them had gripped the people inside it as they were now close to the man in question so no sales were being done at all. This is the nightmare scenario as you’re blocked off by the people you’re supposed to be trying to sell to. MyseIf and Dan were concerned briefly about the DC stand opposite for basically the same reason but this was entirely another level. I had a speedy chat with Will and returned to the table.
The lads were on their way away from the table at this point and I pulled them back to buy a copy – the effort I’d gone to alone justifying the sale. But I still had the stick of rock. I hadn’t put much thought into it but it became clear it wasn’t normal. Friends of the Bunker came by to see how we were getting on and I offered it to them. They refused on the grounds that it looked weird and ‘like it had blood in it’. The ongoing tale of Isle of Wight Burlesque rock was beginning to look like it wasn’t going to go any further and get left under a table in Islington. What perhaps didn’t help was that I discovered it was a little bendy. As a result nobody wanted it at all. The day progressed and I had of course unceremoniously arranged to go for a pint with a famous person on the grounds that he drank with a mate of mine in Edinburgh – thereby creating a presumably inescapable bond in my head for those brief moments. As the day drew on and the Rum and Coke and coffee was allayed by a lovely delivery of food and drink (another coffee) by Dan’s parents who were surprised and impressed by how normal the whole thing was, I came to realise that short of pursuing Frank Quitely around the building and making arrangements with him by asking him where he was going and what he was doing and with who – it was unlikely that I would be going for a pint with him. This meant that I stopped thinking too hard about what we were going to do after the shut down on Saturday night and more obvious options presented themselves.
As everyone packed up for the day – putting everything under our table or in a clear indicator of the futility of this act simply putting the table cloth up over it, I noticed that Will was packing his things and was getting ready to head out. He’d had a tougher day than me – most likely, though not definitely without access to rum and coke or a second coffee as his parents were most likely in Scotland, and certainly because of the immense queue around him the whole day. I thought… how to cheer him up and we started making for the door. Suddenly I remembered something and ran back to the table to collect something that might sort him out. As he threw his bag over his shoulder I reappeared, beaming and handed him the Isle of Wight Burlesque Rock that looked like it had blood in it. He duly accepted it and I suspect probably threw it in a bin outside.