First up was a board meeting in Leeds for Game Republic, which was followed by some drinks a great bar just over the new bridge at the back of the Calls. That area has been really developed of late and it was really nice sat out on the waterfront. We ate at JB's later, which was a pretty great restaurant and then as ever, hit Mojo late on.
For the most part we were accompanied by a group of lads from Derry, who'd come over to do both events and they sat about the task of trying to underline their ability to drink. This ended up with silly shots in Mojo, Sambuca/Yagermeister etc. I ended up leaving my credit car behind the bar too... But chill Kilburn, I got it later (on Friday).
Fair to say I was quite rough Thursday morning but managed to get the kids safely to school and my arse down to Westgate station to get the 9.47am Virgin train to Newcastle. I also have to add that I still can't understand why Virgin trains always totally stink, as in smell, really, really bad.
Anyway I managed to tolerate the odour and by half eleven I was in the 'toon. A short walk to the Centre for Life later and I ran into Graeme Boxall, with his daft hat on.
I was one of the first to arrive at the Game Horizon event, a day long event that discussed all the issues facing Independent developers today. I bumped into Rod Cousens early on which is always good since he's always great value and is a rich source of both knowledge and stories - one of the industry's nice guys despite being caught up in all that Acclaim bitterness a few years ago.
We had a right old laugh for a while about a bunch of stuff which ended up being referenced a few times during his own presentation :) Rod also opened the event with a very honest and open discussion on indie development with regards to the publishing angle and opportunities and it was very entertaining as ever. Next up was Fred "The bouffant" Hasson (TIGA) and Ian Baverstock (Kuju) both of these I found not so great, but Rod is a hard act to follow.
After lunch, which was up in the mezzanine (hence the title of this post - adapted from a Vic Reeves/Stott Brothers phrase) there were three more presentations which were all pretty well delivered; Charles Cecil (Revolution), Jason Kingsley (Rebellion) and Darren Jobling (Eutechnyx). All of these were pretty compelling and made for a good afternoon.
After that I joined a Q&A panel along with Jason and Darren, with Charles chairing it - this was good fun and I always enjoy these kind of things, an opportunity to use some of the experience gained over the years - and with Revolution, Rebellion, ourselves and Eutechnyx all represented on the panel, that's some level of experience. I think people found it entertaining and interesting and these are great opportunities to pick the brains of people who've done most of it (and the hard way - without the benefit of experience & advice!) and can help you cut corners in the future.
After all the talking and chatting we headed to a networking reception in a nearby bar. My weapon of choice was red wine and it wasn't long before I was pretty animated. Had a good talk with Nick Rooke of Sony and some guys from another developer up in that region, the lads I'd met in Yarm earlier in the summer (I'll stop short of naming them for reasons that may become clear at some point). Had a real good time here with the folks out on the balcony, incidentally the Centre for Life had a big circus tent in the square with (wait for it) Ladyboys. Cue a few hours of talking about Brazilian with mars-bars taped up their back before "Olympic Stunt Wanking" became the major topic for discussion, with most of it being targeted at Bry Reynolds as he'd recently done his back in.
Halfway through I went to get checked in at my hotel then hot-footed it back (via taxi) back to the event and I think we left for a nearby nightclub (Digital) around 10-11pm, shortly after a game of food buckaroo with one of the elder Derry lad's who'd nodded off in a chair. I got about nine Yorkshire puddings on his head before he "went off". I'll see if I can get one of the pictures since I personally had no camera on me.
At some point red wine was spilled all over my shirt so I can only assume I looked a bit of a state. We were in the VIP bit of the club but I escaped all that, I'm not so keen on those areas and went to stand at the bar with Ben Cosh, good mate of Jay Gee who worked for us for a while. At some point my head over-ruled my heart and I legged it back to the hotel, leaving poor Ben at the bar - that happens occasionally and if I ever do it with you, relax, it's nothing personal, it's just an internal fire alarm going off when I'm beyond "all in".
I was staying at the Malmaison in Newcastle, which is a really great hotel if you're ever there, despite it being a short cab ride from the centre.
Friday was pretty grim as I was still a bit half cut and I had to get sorted and get back down to the station, where I waited (in vain, it has to be said) for Craig and the Derry lads to show up. I got the 10.40am train back and this was an experience in itself, mainly because from Durham to Leeds, I was sat opposite a pair of really really silly rock-goth vegetarian bi-sexuals; one of whom it was impossible to get to look any more tarty (including fishnets with holes in).
I'd paused my music long-enough (to get a coffee from the hostess) to over hear their conversation "If you have a cat, it's safe to get a squirrel, the cat looks after it" "Look at that field, it's not safe to keep fish in there" "I keep my rabbit in the cellar because it's always mugging the dog" "I'm a vegetarian, although I'm not actually that keen on vegetables" etc etc.
I then switched off the music (Arctic Monkeys, which I just can't seem to stop listening to) and engaged in a massively entertaining conversation which was so off tangent it was untrue. I broke the ice after they'd been asking the hostess if they had anything with Quorn in it and I asked if I could have a "small, preferably cute small mammal that had been freshly roasted".
That did the trick, consider the ice smashed with a sledgehammer. They went a bit far though, going on about women firing ping pong balls of our their genitalia and I'm sure most of the customers in my coach were wishing they were somewhere else.
The journey seemed to be over in a flash after talking with them, they described me as "very interesting" and actually asked if I wanted to join them for lunch. I declined, fearing my sanity (and the looming threat of Hangover squared) besides, I really needed to get to Mojo and retrieve my credit card.
I did this and fortunately there were guys in there from the other night and let me in despite it being closed. I resisted the temptation to have a quick pint with them (they'd seen that I was from Team17 from the credit card) and talk about game development.
A quick stop at Forbidden planet later; I got an inflatable Dalek for Jack and a cuddly Wario for Harry, I then headed back to Wakefield and on to the office, after a quick change and brush up at home - not that you could tell as I was asked how many hedges I'd been dragged through that morning.
Back at work and it was a case of just catching up, as ever with so much going on, any time away from the office seems like a long time, even if it was about 10hrs all told! I had a bit to do to sort out info for the trip to Sweden on Monday and answer any lingering email - thank god for the blackberry or I'd never be able to keep anywhere near on top of it all.
Took Herbie to the vets at 6pm, which was a bit traumatic for the kids, he had a microchip ID thingy inserted into his neck and the needle (a term I use loosely) must have been 6-7mm wide. Poor thing squealed very loudly and it wasn't very nice at all. Anyway, he's now fully inoculated and we can walk him in a couple of weeks time.
I took advantage of a quiet, sober night in to set up Jack's telescope too. It's been stuffed in the loft for about 2years and it's a fairly decent Celestron one, with computer control and auto-star-finder and all that. But bugger-me, I spend an hour getting it, sorting it all out and fathoming it all out only for it to cloud up as soon as I take it out on my decking. Bloody weather. I'll hopefully try again the next time we get some clear weather but I fear that there's probably way too much ambient light pollution to make for good star-gazing and I reckon I'll be better sticking it in the car and driving out into the countryside. I recall being in Ravenscar (near Whitby/Scarborough on the North-east coast) and being amazed at the sky up there, so clear/rich compared to the sky when viewed from a built up area, it's very noticeable particularly around Leeds, the whole horizon is lit up. You can get filters that are supposed to be effective at reducing this, but we'll see how we go on once we get a clear night.