The arrival of Duncan at BHX heralded the start of our OSOS08 weekend and the start of the inclement, and probably appropriate, weather. After the "hail, fellow, well-met" handshakes at the terminal, we hiked through the rain to the vast car-park and, surprisingly, found the car quite easily in the midst of the sea of steel and glass that goes by the name of "Long Stay 1".
After making sure that Duncan was awake (by nearly losing the car on a tightening left-hander (I blame the shift in the centre of gravity)), we escaped the confines of the airport site and ploughed our way through the orange-tinted drizzly gloom that had settled over the M42, M6 and M69.
On arrival back at home, Duncan was introduced to Chris and Ella, vittles were consumed (including the gifted cloutie duff, thanks here to DM and his mum) and the chat went on into the night. The idea of wildgardencamping was abandoned due to the number of branches that were falling from our willow, so Duncan bagged himself a comfy(?) spare bed at no extra charge.
We were up bright and early on Saturday morning, unfortunately the weather wasn't quite as bright but at least it wasn't torrential. The mad dash to the NEC was as dull as ever until I decided to ensure that the passengers were still awake by driving over the kerb at the entrance to the car-park. It was an accident, honest, I couldn't see the kerb from my seat. Anyway, everybody else in the car-park was alerted to our arrival by the grating sound of underbody on concrete, so I reckon that our guest was quite brave to volunteer to queue to buy the parking ticket (thanks for that, Duncan) while we got our packs out of the boot.
After the trek past the lake and through the tent display area we left Duncan at the entrance so that he could meet Darren to pass on one of the tickets kindly donated by Lay, the Outdoors' Bloggers Forum admin. When we made it past security and check-in, Ella was in retail-therapy heaven. We wandered the stands and bought some bits and bobs before Chris queued to put Ella's name down on the waiting-list for a go on the zipwire.
Meanwhile I wandered off to find the Alpkit stand and try to buy the Hunka bivy bag that I had fondled so keenly at the 2007 show. Sadly they were out of stock, so I had a gander at the latest incarnation of the Gourdon (the "20", complete with mesh pockets and bungee attachments) - I was tempted, but could only justify getting one if I parted with the "25" that I was already carrying. Sadly, the Alpfolk wouldn't do me a part-ex, so I had to walk away empty-handed (but not until I had tried on a few of their Filo down jackets - they look to be excellent value for 65 notes). I met George while I was there and we managed to communicate without an interpreter, despite his use of equatorial rhyming slang. Anyway, he was the bearer of good tidings - his missus is on the mend, that made him happy. Get well soon, Mrs. LBP.
Alpfolk - happy smiley people. We likes them, don't we, my Preciouss? Oh yes, we does
We parted company so that I could retrieve Chris and Ella, then we went over to the Gear Show Case area where Ella was disgruntled when she didn't nab any of the freebies being chucked into the audience. Undeterred, after the presentation she went and remonstrated with the freebie-chucker and was invited back to a later showing.
Next to the Gear Show Case was the Gibbon Slacklining display stand, and the gymnastic side of Ella's persona just couldn't resist having a go at negotiating the tautliner straps. She did well but couldn't manage to emulate the jumping antics of the resident expert. Indeed, we were to return to this place a few more times during the day, but by the time we had decided to shell out on a set, their stock had all gone. Never mind, we'll get one somehow.
Then it was time for the Outdoors' Blogger Meet at the pub, where old acquaintances were renewed and new faces were matched up to names that had been, up until then, just virtual friends (I won't bore you with the full cast list). Sadly I missed Sally's killer butt, but hey, there's always next year. There were some deep and meaningful conversations to be had, with plenty of blox thrown in for good measure, and a good time was had by all. Andy tried to get some podcast material from me, but I had to decline. I'm not one for fame and fortune, you see... I'm the shy, retiring type. I did, however, condescend to appear in a group-photo of our bunch of happy campers, but alas the photographic skills of the bloke that I harassed into taking the pic left something to be desired. He has my thanks anyway, though, as this is the only group-shot we have so far:
Movers and Shakers... just like the cameraman
Of course, I was well down my second pint of dishwater (Cumberland Ale is excellent in it's natural habitat, but it doesn't travel well and it rebels at the evil concept of being served in tacky plastic plant-pots) when it was time for Ella to do her fly-over on the zipwire, so the pics are a bit wobbly, but nowhere near as wobbly as my legs would have been if I had dared to do the zipwire myself!
Cleared for launch
We took in a few more stands to push the e-petition a bit further before going outside for lunch, then it was back to the show. Ella had a go on the bike at the Tourism Ireland stand, but she was never going to get far without that missing front wheel, and lifting the rear wheel was a tad unfair too...
After the mandatory visit to the Buff stand, where Ella got a cool Blue Fire, we nipped across the aisle to bag her some red sunglasses to complete the rebel adolescent biker look.
Hall 3 and the rest of Hall 2 were toured quite quickly, there being little of interest to us there (we're not into water-borne activities or touring the world) so we repaired to Hall 1 where Ella chatted up some of the Royal Marines. I seized this opportunity to nip back to the pub to catch up on events, and soon it was time for the E-Petition meet-up in Hall 3, where the John Hee Steering Committee did a sterling job of drawing up a plan of action for the post-OSOS08 wildcamping-legalisation campaign. Chasrle popped in to join us, and I'm pleased to report that he looks nothing like his OM avatar.
Then it was back to Hall 1 and a session of buying more bits and bobs (now don't laugh, but I bought a travel hair-dryer... it's for removing condensation from the scope optics, not for my lank locks and bristles. Honest!). Ella had been back to the Gear Show Case and had fluttered her eyelids and sweet-talked the freebie-chucker into throwing her a T-shirt and a hat. He got a hug from her as his reward.
We met up with Duncan again and went to watch the fallers... sorry, that should be climbers... in their attempts to (occasionally) defy gravity and complete the testing route to the suspended car. Meanwhile, Ella had been queueing patiently for a go on the not-ice climbing wall, and watching her ascend the synthetic verglass I reckon she'd got the right idea. Looks like that's yet another set of kit to spend money on in future years, eh? 🙁
Planting the pick
And that was it. After losing Ella yet again (don't go there!) and bagging a pressie for Annabelle (who was spending the day with Grandma) we made our way home, collected said pocket-BG, and sat in expectation of a relaxing wind-down evening and a tasty meal.
But it was not to be...
Our chosen Nepalese restaurant had cooked a fine selection of dishes for us, but had entrusted delivery of them to a bloke who couldn't discriminate between arse and elbow... several polite but firm phone-calls to the restaurant confirmed that the vittles had been despatched on time, but they arrived nearly two hours late (hmm... the restaurant is only five minutes away by car, 15 by foot) and the food was, well, tepid, despite claims that it was still hot. Duncan will vouch for the fact that I was just a little put out by this. Next time I will be serving my own dehydrated meals, or we'll invade their establishment and eat on the premises.
After shooting the breeze until the small hours, we got some shut-eye before I had to ferry Duncan back to BHX for his return flight. Suffice to say that it stopped raining soon after he boarded the plane, and when his "I'm back home now" text arrived, the sun came back out.
So, by way of a summary, we had a great time with good company, we made a few new friends, and we ended up richer for the experience, despite being poorer for the purchases. Top stuff!