Although I have attended meet-ups in the past1, this was the first major meet-up I'd been to since 2001. In recent years family commitments have sadly stopped me from attending. I was supposed to be in Leeds attending an in-law family-thing, but I rebelled, sneaked out for a bit and managed to, albeit briefly, gatecrash the Manchester meet at the last minute.
When I arrived in Manchester at 11am the first thing I saw was a tram labelled 'Eccles'2. I thought that this was a good, positive sign3 and so walked on from Manchester Picadilly to the Museum of Science & Industry4 in a happy, positive mood with a smile on my face.
As I had caught an early train, and knowing that my destination was Manchester5 I had a look around the Roman remains at Castlefield and the excellent reconstruction of a Roman fort. This was located midway between the Cask pub and Museum of Science & Industry, but I wonder how many other researchers spotted it. After looking around and taking a sneaky peak at the museum, I headed back to the pub, which had now opened, arriving just as Pastey was ordering his first pint of the day.
As the meet-up page had said name badges were required, I decided to make one at the last minute. My fool-proof plan was simple: find a small, plastic blue bottle, put a label saying 'Bluebottle' on it and then use a safety-pin to turn it into a badge. Alas there was a minor technical issue of my being unable to actually find a bottle coloured blue, the closest being purple6 with a blue lid. Which I think made it a bit better than a correctly coloured bottle would have been. Fortunately I haven't been kicked out of the Community Artists for this.
In the Cask pub other researchers began to arrive - most of whom had joined h2g2 since my last meet up a decade earlier. This is where the fun begins, when you start introducing yourselves. With some people they are exactly how you imagined they would be, others look nothing at all like the picture in your head (for instance, they look human and not the animal etc that their moniker proclaims them to be) or even photos you have seen7 and some people you've never heard of before.
It's quite exciting meeting people who love h2g2 that you've not met before as it gives you the chance to meet new people when you return to the guide.
I was a little star struck with seeing some of my guide heroes in the flesh. There was also the usual fun-and-games involved when people from all around the world with many different accents meet8, trying to catch and remember names.
People kept passing me badges, which was fantastic! The only sad part was that there were so many people there I would have loved to have spent hours talking to and getting to know for real, yet I was very conscious of having a definite deadline and the threat of deadly domestic displeasure9 should I be late.
After a couple of hours in the pub we wandered over to the museum. What I remember most about the journey down the road to the museum is the excitement caused by crossing a zebra crossing and how amazed some of our fellow researchers from overseas were that cars stopped willingly at the zebra crossing, allowing us to cross. A car stopping at a zebra crossing to allow pedestrians to cross surely symbolises a pinnacle of civilisation. At the museum there were more researchers to meet and greet, and after chatting to some of the new arrivals, but sadly not everyone, we split up and wandered our separate ways around the museum.
Having spent six hours the previous day on a train and an hour on the train to Manchester that morning I was understandably very keen to have a ride on the train before having to catch the train back. Sadly time was beginning to go against me and alas I had to run off. I said a farewell to those I saw in the museum and quickly popped into the pub on the way to the train before catching the train back. Although I was only there for a short time and unable to spend as much time with everyone as I would have liked, I enjoyed every minute.
The Museum of Science & Industry Challenge
There isn't an entry on the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester in the Guide, so as a lasting memorial to the day, why not everyone who attended the meet-up write one together?
I hope that everyone who attended the meet-up would write a short sentence or more about the museum. I will put all the sentences together and try to turn this into an entry as a lasting tribute to the day. It doesn't have to be technical, complicated, just honest, as short and sweet as you like or a longer, more involved paragraph if you prefer. It is up to you. All I ask is that if you attended you contribute something.
Just write about what you saw and what you did. If you didn't look around the museum and sat and ate in the cafe then write about what you thought of the cafe, its selection, prices etc. If you enjoyed the train ride, write about that. Just say what you did, what you saw and what you liked.
If you've been to the museum before, for example for a Doctor Who Exhibition or school trip, feel free to write about that. If you hung around outside, write about the outside appearance of the museum, the smell of the steam train, the cobbles, the zebra crossing, the blue post box. Write anything – it can all be relevant.
Even if you didn't actually go inside the museum, it doesn’t mean you don't have anything of value to contribute. One of the most popular areas written about in the edited guide is Space, even though no-one on h2g2 is an astronaut! If people with astronomical leanings can write articles about places they've never been to, then meet-up attendees can too. If you were in the Cask pub, the distance between the pub and museum, cosmically speaking, is so insignificant you were pretty much there anyway.
If you went to the pub across the road your experiences in getting to the pub equally apply to how people get to the museum – was it easy to get to? Was there a station/airport/hotel nearby? Did you see any signposts for the museum on your way to the pub? What did you think of the area that the pub and museum are located in?
Just because you did not enter the museum, it does not mean you are unable to contribute! I hope everyone who attended will continue to share the spirit of the meet and work together to make a lasting tribute to the day.