Comic Con - Tom goes to Newcastle

I'm sure if my butterfly brain could keep a grip on reality I would come up with a better title, but I have spent the last six hours threatening to sit down and write about yesterday's events at Comic Con and I have failed. I keep getting all excited, doing a silly dance around the living room and then reading Twitter, just in case I missed some gem that Tom said which I may have missed.

To be fair I did go missing for 3/4's of an hour and everything seemed to happen during that time. Polly met Tom for the first time and Sharon gave him a Scrabble mug I had designed. If I'm honest I'm glad I wasn't around for the mug unveiling, I'm great at chatting to complete strangers about their lives etc but self-promotion? No, can't do it! I would have died a death as she waved her hands in my general direction saying "Sioux made that"; thank goodness I'd gone AWOL!!!

So where do I start? Well unusually for me, let's try the beginning! I was invited to stay in South Shields by one of my Tom Burke friends (Burketeer) so that I wouldn't have to drive from Wales to Newcastle and back in one day! I drove up on Saturday and it was wonderful because a few of us were staying there, so the Tom party started straight away! Obviously lots of tea was drunk, and maybe a bit of Prosecco ;-) It was wonderful to meet a lady called Angie, who is the person who created the tomburkeonline website and forum. Her hard work has given us loveable nutters a safe place to get together and chat away with likeminded people. Whilst it is nice to chat to people online I'm really wary of it. It might seem strange that someone with a blog and a Twitter and Facebook account can say such a thing, but I am a relatively low profile person on the internet. I've always preferred the face to face approach to meeting people, so it was such an enjoyable time getting to know everybody and setting us all up for the big day!

Sunday dawned and there were mixed emotions between all of us ranging from excitement to being so nervous breakfast couldn't be eaten! We were chauffeured to the Newcastle arena by two Burketeer husbands and whilst waiting in the queue I realised I had left my phone in one of the cars! We all went inside and organised ourselves and then I heard my phone was being brought back to me so I went outside to meet it! Somehow I missed the car, so Polly got my phone then couldn't find me! After half an hour I went back in, and fell over Lesley who had just arrived. A security guard then said my bag had become a security alert as my friends had walked off leaving it there! So, bag handed back, Lesley and I went in search of Tom (well where else would good Burketeers be?!)

Tom has shaved his Athos beard off. Obviously this news nearly broke Twitter! I can't say it bothered me, he looks as gorgeous as ever. In all honesty I just want to be able to have a chat this time. I was such a blathering wreck in London I felt I had wasted a golden opportunity. Fortunately Newcastle was really quiet, well apart from the area near Tom, so people were able to go and have a natter with him. I took my sketchbook with me and asked the ladies which drawing I should have signed and I was told the one from S2 Ep 5 when Athos returns to Pinon, so I went up and got the drawing signed and asked how he was feeling now the Musketeer adventure was over. Understandably he has mixed emotions, but I imagine that as it's only been over for a couple of days it's hard to really know what you're feelings are.

I then asked him if he could tell me which of the Prague tea rooms was his favourite. I felt I could ask that now, as when I go back again in the Spring, I won't be worried I might bump into him! It turns out that his favourite is one of my favourites too, so we discussed the nuances of the place, and I'm glad to hear he could sit being ignored for ages, it wasn't just me that happened to! Strangely that was the appeal of the place to me, it was so relaxing after a day of walking, it was great to sink into an arm chair, get a book out, and then at some point, order some tea!! I told him about Tea Mountain in the Karlin area of Prague and then Tom mentioned a place near the castle, and he said they do the most amazing crab dumplings/spring rolls etc. I guess that will be a new place to try on my next visit. I really should have taken a note book with me to jot everything down, I think only half of what he said sunk into my addled brain! It didn't help that he has the most mesmerising eyes and you just sink into them. Think Kaa from the Jungle Book and you have some idea of how hard it is to concentrate!

Then I pootled off and went to speak to Alexandra Dowling who plays Queen Anne in The Musketeers. What a beautiful and lovely lady she is. I gave her a sketch I had done of her in character and she wanted to see the rest of my sketchbook. As she went through it she asked if Tom had seen it. "No, I'd die if he did" I said! She said I'd captured his eyes perfectly which was a very kind thing to say, because I think the eyes can make or break a portrait. (And as I have said, he has amazing eyes!) We then chatted about her costumes, and she said the mourning outfit from series 2 Ep 1 was her favourite. We then spoke about the change of designer for S3. She said Phoebe was more historically focused, whereas Hayley is a bit more avant-garde! She told me one of her new dresses this series has tiny lights sewn down the front so that it sparkles. I think it will be really interesting seeing what the costumes are like this series! I asked if she would be doing any of the publicity for S3 and she asked what publicity! We chatted about how difficult it must be working on something fans like, but then getting a lack of backing from the broadcaster. At least the actors know the audience loved and appreciated the show even if the BBC was rather lacklustre!

I then asked her the same question I asked Tom about how it felt now that The Musketeers was over. She said it was a bit surreal, and she said that her last scenes were her on her own. She said that when they announced the final cut, she stopped acting, looked around and she was just there, no-one else in the shot, and it felt quite strange and a bit sad. Then she said she left where she was filming and others were around for her to talk to which cheered her up a bit! She said it was nice for the three series to build up a character but not get bogged down by it. She said sometimes you can play someone, and you start to get bored of the character and that shows in the acting/camera and isn't nice for viewers.

After autographs the Burketeers headed off for a cup of tea...what else? (I'm ignoring the coffee drinkers!!!!!) Then we headed off nice and early for the Q&A session that Tom and Ali were doing. Well we thought we were early. Obviously nothing is ever straightforward for a Burketeer so we headed off in the right direction, got lost and then asked a member of staff where we should be. She didn't know, so we merrily followed her around the arena, which took us back to the start, where some other clever Burketeers had saved us some seats at the front! Whilst we waited various tunes were playing, then suddenly the theme from Thundercats, a cartoon I watched when I came home from school started playing. I merrily started singing along thinking 'this is a blast from the past', when suddenly Tom and Alexandra appeared. Tom was wearing glasses and I thought they really suited him - turns out they are for real, not just a fashion statement. Tom made a remark about us expecting Thundercats, and the compare said, "well you chose the music!".

Tom and Ali were very entertaining and Tom regaled stories from his childhood and his teens which had me in stitches. I could listen to him talk all day long! "My father is still alive" he said nonchalantly as we listened to the compare wax lyrically about how good his dad had been in Sherlock Holmes (playing the role of Dr Watson!) As a child Tom had thrown water at a solicitor, this mischievousness did not go down well with the solicitor, unlike the actor friends of his parents. He decided he didn't want to grow up like the solicitor, he preferred the actors! I don't blame him...I dealt with some really surly solicitors during my years administering trust funds! Actors seem far more fun and certainly entertaining! (At this point I don't want all my solicitor friends disowning me - some of you are ok!)

Tom also gave us an insight into the Burke way of life, his dad did not know what 'mayo' was, so Tom explained it was mayonnaise. His dad was not impressed, but I certainly laughed my head off at the images conjured up in my head!

Tom was sporting some pale blue nails, and when asked he said they had been filming some fights shots under water and his hands had been dyed blue from the colouring in the gloves. Fortunately he had managed to get rid of the blue hands, but the nails were still being somewhat obstinate! He also told of the production team trying to wheel him around the set to do some certain shots with Treville, but it looked so ridiculous he couldn't do it without laughing, so just told them it was never going to work! He also mentioned that by the end of this series there will not be four Musketeers anymore. If Athos dies I will never recover. It takes days for me to get over "book Athos" dying and I've read the Romances 5 or 6 times, you'd think by now I'd come to terms with it, but Tom Athos dying? I'll be in therapy!!!! I'm hoping that he was being really evil and that Athos retires from The Musketeers and goes back to being the Comte de la Fere!

The man doing the interview was very good, and asked questions that fans wanted to hear, he did however open up the floor for questions, and it was nice to see people who were probably not Burketeers asking Tom and Ali questions. It turned out that Tom is probably a ski-fi geek, he knew who the costumed individuals asking him questions were. Someone asked what advice he would give someone wanting to be an actor. He said go to drama school for three years and read. Read lots! Three years will fly by and it will open up all sorts of avenues that university doesn't.

Q&A's over, we went for some lunch, and then back to Tom! This time it was photo time, so we all formed an orderly queue to get our mug-shots done! I asked Tom for a hug and he was most obliging! I am proud of myself, last time I just hurled myself at him, this time I remembered to ask! Photo's collected we then made our way back to the signing tables and Tom agreed to do another group photograph! I hope he knows this is going to be a tradition! We then decided he needed something to do, so we started going back for further autographs!  I had recently found a book in a second hand store entitled Tom Burke of Ours, so I asked him to sign it. He was most interested in the book (if I'm honest I wasn't going to take it up as I thought he'd think it was terribly sad of me) but now I'm so glad I did. He showed it to Ali and she was correct when she said, "that was serendipity". Yes I rather think it was!

So then I did what I have wanted to do for ages, talk books with Tom! You can not be that interesting and have such a good vocabulary or imagination without reading copious amounts of diverse literature. I want some of that knowledge, I thirsted for it at university, the well dried up, but now it's refilling and I'm desperate for some decent book recommendations. (I once asked in work and got told 50 Shades of Grey, I never asked again!) It 's not the best environment for a civilised conversation, looking down on someone behind a table, but I did ask him for some book recommendations. I will read anything, well not Joan Collins et al, but I am open minded, and I knew he would suggest something bizarre that I have never heard of. As he was telling me about them I thought, no, you're brain will not take this in, so I asked him to write it down for me. I will bring pen and paper next time! I am such a trouble maker. Paper finally found, I have two book suggestions, and they are already bought and winging their way to me as I type!

I really love the fact that one of the books is really rather dark. The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror. The author normally writes horror fiction, but this is a nonfiction book that basically states that most horror is found in the real world and humans. It's apparently a pessimistic view on human behaviour, and to be honest, having read some of the comments I have on Twitter I often go down into my little dark world wondering why people can be so hateful and behave in the manner that they do. I've always been the person that retreats into the darkness to think and reflect and try to answer the burning question... Why? The book also looks into the thoughts of authors, so I'm already intrigued and imagine this will not be an easy, but certainly a thought provoking read.

The other book is called Sway by Zachary Lazar, and is about the early years of The Rolling Stones (no I know nothing about the band), a union of Charles Manson fans, and a film maker called Kenneth Anger. Again it is another dark and possibly disturbing book. (I think I may end up doing more research as I read the book...wonder if Tom knows how many books I read with post it note attachments so that I can do further research?! - that by the way is a rhetorical question, of course he doesn't!)

I'm not sure whether I should worry that a complete stranger thinks I will be interested in such dark matters, or whether Tom's just a good judge of character! It did make me wonder what he would recommend to other people if they asked him. I then said I'd seen a photo of him holding a copy of Jake Arnott's The House of Rumour so we had a chat about that too! I would never have read that book, but I remember thinking it was a great piece of speculative fiction. We are a gullible and susceptible race and this book shows this brilliantly. I found that it was like being at a cocktail party and as you float around you hear the same story but from different viewpoints, each person telling the areas of the story that he defines as important. In the 40s and 50's everything was amazing, and it is hard for us to remember that. Conspiracy theories were rife, and occultists held in high esteem, because the occult was literally the unknown, so it was a great novel interspersing real life events with fiction that had possibilities. It was not without its flaws, but generally speaking an enjoying and thought provoking book. And how have I started a book review when I'm meant to be talking about Comic Con?!

I can't remember at which point in my conversation with Tom that my friend Polly popped her head in to say "Has Sioux told you about her blog? She has read all of your plays and critiqued them?" "No" said a bewildered Tom. Oh it's called..." and Polly proceeded to tell him!

You know when you really want the floor to swallow you up? Oh yes, that!  (Still if you do read the summations Tom, please could you explain The Cut to me one day? Thank you very much!)

Having recovered from that monumental embarrassment, I found that a stall was selling TB photo frames, well come on, it had to be done, despite the hole for the picture being landscape and our photo's being portrait format, three of us bought the frames! One of our Burketeers however decided to grab Tom and take some more impromptu photographs to fit in the frames we'd bought! Thank you Nikki, I think it's a lovely shot, and it was a brilliant idea of yours.

Then it was time to say our goodbyes to each other and to thank Tom and Ali and say goodbye to them too. It was a truly memorable day and so much better and intimate than London!