Friday, 4 May 2012

When in Rome...

Oh, hi there! *waves* Yeah, I know what you're thinking. It's been ages. Where's she been? What can be so important that she doesn't have time to swing by and toss us a few nuggets of pithy, anecdotal gold? Doesn't she love us any more? Was it us? Did we do something wrong? Maybe she just hasn't done anything interesting all year! Maybe she's lost her joie de vivre? Maybe she's in traction after a violent dancing incident (which pretty much did actually happen to me once, but that's a story for another day).

Well, I'd like to assure all five of you that my absence has been purely circumstantial. Ideally, each day would be about eighty hours long and I'd get around to all the tasks I mean to, but rest assured I shall endeavour to be a bit more bloggy from now on.

A warning before we embark on the tomfoolery - the following may contain: Spoilers for Supernatural, hideous photos of yours truly, sarcasm, squeeing, and Steve Carlson. 

So without further ado, I present to you The Entirely Accurate and True Account of JIBCON 3:

3 Girls, 1 Hotel Room...

We've established that I no longer have any sense of perspective when it comes to a certain TV show. Ironically, I started watching in Season 5 because I was worried many of the themes were too similar to the book I was writing, and while two more seasons of Supernatural have been filmed and aired since then, I am still working on the damn book. I suspect this is partly because I spend my precious free time doing ridiculous things like jetting to Rome for the weekend!

This year, I roped one of my best friends into joining me. Louise and I share a long and varied history of stalkerish fannish behaviour, so I was super excited to have persuaded her to enable accompany me in this latest insanity adventure. The third member of our party was Nina, from Germany, who - as you will remember - I met at Asylum 6 here in the UK. An old hand at conventions, she thinks nothing of flying all over Europe to attend these events. She lives out of a suitcase and thinks sleep is for wimps. She's basically a rock star.

It wasn't much of a wrench leaving the UK on Thursday morning. It had been raining for days, and the weather forecast for Roma was thirty degrees and sunshine. I'll admit I did feel a little bad leaving Mr. Pinkwood and Second Hand Cat (and even Not My Cat) alone for almost a week, but the lure of the Padahug is simply too strong to resist.

The journey to Italy was weirdly incident free. Aside from some errant contact lens solution which had to be confiscated at Gatwick, it was plain sailing. Lou & I started as we meant to go on with a spot of lunch in Cafe Rouge and a couple of alcoholic beverages. We got to the gate with plenty of time and everything. We reverted to type once we arrived at Fiumicino airport and tried to find the hotel though. We walked around various car parks and terminal buildings dragging our pink luggage like a pair of recently lobotomised starlets until we finally found a Jetsons-style whizzway which carried us to the Hilton front desk. The thing about Hiltons is they all look the same. Once you're inside, you could be anywhere in the world. I am only ever in a Hilton for 1. work or 2. Supernatural conventions, so checking in always leaves me with a sense of slight anxiety! I hope that meeting tomorrow morning goes OK. I hope I don't finally crack and try to mount Jensen Ackles. That kind of thing. 

Nina turned up later that evening, minus her suitcase which had decided to take a later flight. There wasn't much to do other than have a few drinks and retire to get some beauty sleep.

Waiters and Priests and Misha...Oh My!

The events of Jus In Bello weren't kicking off until 3pm on the Friday, so we decided to get the Hilton shuttle bus into Rome and have a quick explore. Now, I don't have a picture of the shuttle driver, but we christened him THE SILVER FOX. Ladies, this man will be selling his own photo ops next year, mark my words. We disembarked at the national museum and headed into the labyrinth of cobbled streets, passing restaurants and souvenir shops until this image stopped us in our tracks:

This is the front of the 'Calendario Romano 2013'! This calendar purports to "give basic information and some notes on the general characteristics of the Vatican with the hope of sating the thirst for knowledge continually demonstrated by the Eternal City's visitors" 

Hahaha! Well, it's certainly sating a thirst for something, amirite?

Priest!Kink anyone?

After all that excitement, it was time for a spot of lunch and we stumbled upon a very friendly waiter who gave us a free aperitif and some illicit strawberries wrapped in a napkin, although I think they may have been intended for Nina's consumption only. 

Free booze! Cin cin!

After lunch it was back to the hotel for the first activity of the weekend. My photo op with Mr. Misha Collins. I'd met Misha briefly before, but not in the photo studio situation. I was slightly wibbly because words cannot express how much I ADORE this man. I wish he was my BFF. I wish I could phone him up daily and shoot the shit with him on instant messager when I'm supposed to be working. I wish I could go to the pub with him and help him plan his next step to world domination. I want him to tell me stories of his adventures and I want his kid to call me Aunty Katie. What? Shhhhh! It's NOT creepy!

I still find photo ops bizarre. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the experience in a weird, masochistic way, but being thrust into the arms of someone you usually only ever see on TV and in your most fevered dreams is strange. Seeing your first star standing there all tall and firm and tanned and camera-ready really does ram home the fact that you failed to lose that ten stone you swore you would after last time and that you have just been running around Rome in thirty degree heat trying to find your bus! But Misha was delightful. He mimicked my accent, flung a welcoming arm around me and threw me a devastating wink. 

It was then time for Misha's panel. I have to be perfectly honest with you, there are so many panels and guests crashing each other's talks that I have no idea who said what when! It was all fantastic, but I kind of floated through it like a malarial hallucination. I'm 99% sure this has nothing to do with the fact I mostly ate beer all weekend.

Friday night was the cocktail party, and although we weren't attending, we bumped into someone who was...

Awww! She soooo pretty!

The very beautiful Charlie. I had only ever spoken to her online before, so it was lovely to actually be able to smish her in person. Louise, Nina and I decided to have our own cocktail party while the guests were meeting and greeting. Sitting in the virtually empty hotel bar with our Martinis and Cosmos, we were mildly surprised to see Misha and walking our way unimpeded.  This was short lived though as approx twenty seconds later a sea of women washed into the bar, and separated me and Nina, who was getting a round in. This was distressing on a number of levels - primarily because I'd run out of Martini. Brock Kelly used Nina's chair for an impromptu photo session, Jim Beaver looked pretty pleased to be surrounded by admiring young ladies and Mark Pellegrino looked as cool as Lucifer himself ordering some red wine. The man is pure class. Charlie found me on the way out and possibly regretted it as she realised Martinis make me very handsy love everyone to a nauseating degree!

Finally, having met some more lovely people, we stumbled to bed in the wee small hours. 

Freckles and Dimples...

Saturday was the day J2 arrived and as we made our way down to the lobby, who should be in the lift but Surprise!JasonManns! When I am Empress, I think I will pass a law decreeing all doors should have a nice, tall, dimpled man behind them. I managed to cement the dullest of all British stereotypes by talking to him about the weather *facepalm*. 

First order of the day was my Jensen photo op. Having been blindsided twice previously by his ridiculous face up close, I was determined to play it cool this time. Guess what? I FAILED. He was looking relaxed and beautiful and was really friendly. He was seated as before, but this time he was very engaging and put an arm around everyone who approached. I concentrated on breathing and not tripping over my own feet, and I really thought I had smiled and made a real effort to act naturally, but when I got the photo, I just looked like a kid with their hand caught in the cookie jar AGAIN! 

Damn you Ackles!

Then it was time for the Jared and Jensen panel. Louise had managed to get a peek at Jensen through the photo studio door which was enough to make her eyes glaze over, but she got to witness the full force of the J2 effect as they came on stage. The boys spoke a lot about their work and the ways in which they have grown up on the show. They both seemed pretty relaxed. Jensen especially seems to have embraced the crazy, thanking a girl who congratulated Jared on the baby, patting his arm and declaring 'we're very proud'. While both guys looked mystified by the cheer that got (after all this time, boys? Really?) they both laughed a lot. They always seem happy to discuss plot points and characters from previous seasons. One particularly sweet question was from a woman who asked the guys what they felt was the best gift Supernatural has bestowed on them. While Jared's mind went straight to his new son, both of them talked at length about the opportunities they have been afforded and the relationships they've forged. In that way I guess their experience has been very similar to a lot of the people sitting in that audience. Jared admitted he will be a little lost when it all finally ends, and Jensen proved once again how much he cares about the show by speculating about how it might finish, hoping that Sam and Dean go out together, in a blaze of glory and that they are allowed to find peace. I may have had something in my eye at that point! They also looked perturbed at the idea of a musical episode and the popularity of shows like The Vampire Diaries. Jensen also made me wriggle with glee by recounting the library scene in the pilot episode as his most memorable scene to film because it was day one and he knew instantly that he and Jared had a rapport which would make the show special. How so perfect, Ackles?

Next up, it was time for my photo with Jared. Guh. 


The man DOES things to me. I think I lose the use of about 85% of my brain function when I'm in close proximity to him. As I stood in line, I realised he was sitting down for the pictures, but as I approached (in platform shoes - mwahaha!) he said, "Oh! I'ma stand up for you," and pulled me into a PADAHUG!!!!

Now, because the instructions on the JIBCON itinerary were VERY explicit (if they are sitting down, they will not stand up) and we were asked by security not to hug them, I was not expecting to find myself plastered to the Padachest this time around, so I found myself saying 'Ooooh! 'Ello!' like something from a Carry On film (which made him LOL) and planting my naughty right hand on the Padatum AGAIN! One day I will have about 68 photos of me and poor, unsuspecting Jared (and probably a second mortgage), all of which will look exactly the same. SEE:

Bear in mind I am about 6 feet tall with those shoes on and he's STILL dwarfing me (vertically anyway). Then as I went to leave and thanked him, he said 'thanks, babe'. Again with the terms of endearment. Why must you torment me so, Padalecki? He didn't say my hair looked great this year though. Still, he has a Farrah Fawcett flick going on so I guess neither of us is exactly Queen of Hair, huh Jared?

Actually - I love his hair in this photo so much it makes me want to hurt myself :(

*Cough* At 3.30pm, Nina made us go to the Steve Carlson panel *Cough*

I should add that at one point  - although I can't remember when exactly - the three of us got stuck on the 'runway' between the green room and the photo studio. It was fucking terrifying. Security were trying to push us through the crowd but the crowd was not giving an inch because the wanted photos of the boys. It got to the point that we thought the Js were going to have to step around us - possibly even lay HANDS on us - and we'd be torn to pieces like Grenouille at the end of Perfume. Luckily we found an escape route at the last minute. The moral of the story is: Bitches be crazy!

Later that afternoon, Jensen, Misha and Jared all had individual Q&As, so we got settled in the main hall. Jensen was up first. The poor thing was jetlagged, but he still gave good show. He spoke a lot about directing. He looked non-plussed by the display of Slinkies the audience offered him. Jensen believes Dean loved the idea of Lisa and having a family but that he didn't necessarily truly love her. He thinks guilt defines Dean. He made everyone go woobie recounting the story of how upset he got doing the scene when Dean tells Sam about his time in Hell, and admitting Sam would probably win Hunger Games if it came down to him and Dean  because Dean would sacrifice himself *sniff*. For balance he said he wants Supernatural to go for eleven seasons so he can tell Tom Welling to 'suck it'. Cue much drooling hilarity. He told us he persuaded the powers that be to spend $20,000 modifying the Impala to make it sound good which is a good sign they are expected to be renewed (AND THEY WERE - WOOHOO!). Then Misha grabbed the mic and told Jensen in a fantastic accent (Indiarussian) that he was an inspiration to him because he looks like a boy but acts like a woman. They had a bit of banter on stage, and someone reminded Misha that he'd suggested they should recast the role of Dean so that he could play it as he and Jensen look so alike. Jensen made rude gestures behind his back to the delight of the audience until Misha told him "drink your fucking water and get off the stage!"

Misha's panel was pure joy as always. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I could listen to that man FOREVER. In fact, he doesn't even have to speak. He can just shoot furtive looks around the room and it's entertaining. The first question for Misha was 'is there a question you've never been asked that you would like to be asked?' His favourite colour is orange. Thanks for not asking. This did, however lead to Misha remembering that he was wearing special underwear which he had made for the crew with a picture of Jared and Jensen's face on each buttcheek saying 'we've got your back'. He speculated that Meg may well have defiled Castiel's unconscious body, and revealed that he hurt Rachel Miner by slamming her into a wall during the kissing scene. Jealous! Misha also recommended watching Wings of Desire (great film!) as the character of Castiel is based on it. He was asked how he felt about the cult of celebrity - which he finds bizarre. He said that he doesn't watch much TV but that Supernatural makes it money through ad sales and sometimes he feels dirty that he makes a living selling people shit they don't need. Later he talked about how strange it is when fans cry and scream in his vicinity. He spoke a little about his son and how they are teaching him sign language. He then went on to talk about the 'romantic' reunion of Dean and Cas when Dean returns his trenchcoat. calling it 'the gayest moment in the show to date'. He laughed about the fact there is no explanation about how Cas came back and that the woman who found him decided an appropriate course of action upon finding a delirious, naked man wondering around a lake would be to marry him. I found it interesting that he cited Crime & Punishment as a huge influence on him, and serves as a reminder that social convention is often limiting and ripe for subversion. Coupled with the story he told last year at Asylum about the rampage he went on dressed as Santa, it made me wonder if he is associated with the Chaos Club or a similar organisation. Hmmm...maybe I should ask him! He then tried to encourage one audience member to crowd surf, but she seemed weirdly hesitant! He revealed that the upcoming episodes of Season 7 will see Cas becoming even more crazy and developing an affinity for bees which makes him get naked and cover himself in honey. I'm pretty sure he wasn't joking. Unf. He finished by talking about the trench coat again, saying that Dean is attracted to Cas and borderline obsessed. Misha gives great fan service!

Next up was solo Jared. Jared crashed Misha's panel by asking him if he always means to sound so stupid. This coming from a man with a towel on his head. Jensen and the rest of the guests also came on stage to set up a table and a beer for Jared as he'd ordered one and not had time to drink it in the green room. Jared managed to misunderstand the first question about drunk Cas, thinking he was being asked about Misha being drunk on set. Bless his confused little face. He spoke about playing the many facets of Sam. He said his preferred method of inflicting torture would be to keep someone in a crouch position and had to be told that is an existing form of torture. Haha! Then he did his snake hips catwalk walk which made me and Louise go a bit funny. He blushed when told he was handsome by an adorable girl and told her to carry she did. She was my actually favourite person of the whole weekend. Go watch the video and you'll see what I mean. Jared thinks if Lucifer was still in Sam's head, he would carry on trying to convince him he was still in Hell and that nothing he was doing counted to take away Sam's motivation. He was then read a statement of thanks from a really nervous fan and he gave her a huge cuddle. Mmmm...sweaty Padahugs. Jared said he would like to work with Gary Oldman. He also did an excellent impression of Misha trying to act while Jared pulled his sweatpants down with his foot. I wished I had a fan or a bucket of ice at that point. Jared thinks Supernatural has lasting appeal because in a strange way it deals with people's real fears. Another fan lost her nerve and Jared went to stand next to her which I'm sure helped LOADS *facepalm*. Hilariously, her question was just 'do you know Misha is wearing underwear with your face on it'. He finished by explaining that having a son has made him want to work harder because he's not just doing it for himself anymore. He asked us all to be really nice to his son when he's a teenager and starts watching Supernatural. I am fairly sure I must never be allowed near the teenaged offspring of Padalecki. 

That night, Jason Manns was playing in the hotel, but as we were booked in to see him at the Jailbreak on Monday night, we decided on a change of scenery and went for dinner in Rome. I finally learnt how to pronounce 'Capricciosa' and some men tried to sell us collapsible wooden baskets. Just what every household needs! After that it was back to the lounge for more cocktails. Whilst outside having a cigarette, we were approached by another of the rising stars of Jus In Bello. Simone is one of the staff and doesn't speak a word of English. He does, however, drink like a champion and does the BEST 'impression' of a girl screaming and flailing for Jared that I have ever seen. Louise and I were sorely tempted to bring him home and install him as our new sassy gay BFF, but alas his love is too free to be caged. Anyway, somehow we stayed up chatting and drinking until 3am again!

Double the fun...

Sunday kicked off with my J2 SANDWICH PHOTO OP!! The first thing that struck me was that they were wearing matching shirts. Uh-huh. Jensen actually referred to this later and said Jared told him their cycles were probably in sync too. Not many people seemed to get that joke. Hahaha. Sadly, the boys were both seated so I didn't get the full smish experience this time around, but that's kind of lucky for you because the resulting photo is so funny, Louise almost fell off the bed laughing. Ready?

OK, OK. Laugh it up. This is even funnier if you pretend they don't know I'm there. Imagine I've come from far in the distance, perhaps with some plink plink cartoon music playing, stopping now and then as I crouch behind a bush every time they turn around. Seriously. I didn't even know my face could do that. I'm like Dorian Gray's portrait. The camera took ages to go off so Jared has given up. Hahaha. But notice how pleased Ackles looks to be near me again. I know, Jensen. I know. 

We just had time to catch a bit of Jason Manns talking. He was adorable as always. Then it was time for another Jensen solo panel. The jetlag had worn off, and he was looking fresh and happy, unlike everyone who had been boozing the night before! When asked about nicknames he said some of his friends back home have him in their phones as 'Actor' and that he called Jared 'Jayrod'. And I thought that was just us ;) Jared doesn't call him 'Freckles' (snort) but he does call him Jackles and Stackles. Awww. He must have temporarily forgotten about Jarebear and Jennybean. He spoke once more about directing and how he and Jared take care of each other. Awwww forever. He mentioned that he always remembers things Kim Manners taught him. He said that they keep the atmosphere on set light by cracking jokes and pulling pranks which helps to diffuse the upset from emotional scenes. He repeated his lines of Japanese from Changing Channels with some help from the audience. Jensen likes listening to a sad song when he's having a shitty day, but other times he listens to something to fire him up - Mumford & Sons, Black Keys and Band of Horses. Nice choices. Then came my favourite question ever: "If you were a girl, which member of the cast would you date." Interestingly he assumed he would be a straight girl and said Bobby, but then said he wouldn't touch the question with a barge pole. It's OK, baby. We all know the answer to that one anyway ;) He did reveal that, had he been born a girl, his parents would have called him Holly. so there you go. Then he tugged on our heartstrings again by saying the biggest compliment he could pay Sam is 'you have a huge sense of loyalty.' He then explained a scene which is particularly close to his heart is Dean's monologue over Sam's dead body. He was worried that he would get too emotional to go for a number of takes, so Kim Manners closed the set and had the crew all wear black out clothes with just a light shining on Jared so he could really focus and get upset. Jensen told a cool story about his Dawson's Creek days and meeting Michelle Williams. Apparently she was stand-offish at first, then one day she grabbed him and took him to a record store, piled him with albums and said 'listen to these and we can be friends.' He was asked about the trenchcoat scene and said they were crying with laughter on set about the fact he had it so carefully folded and that Dean had clearly moved it from one stolen car to another. He said he didn't want to know what Dean had been doing with the trenchcoat in Cas's absence. Rest assurred, Jensen, I'm sure we have all thought about it enough on your behalf. In graphic detail. He'd also spoken previously about 'the break up scene' between Sam & Dean and how sometimes they ask to change dialogue to make it sound less like they are having incestuous gay sex more in character. The penultimate question came from CHARLIE! She asked which song, book & movie he would take to a desert island. But Jensen refused to decide. He did, however, agree that Charlie's choice of Jeff Buckley's Lover You Should Have Come Over was a great song. He was then asked about a recording of him singing Saw Her Standing There from his Days of Our Lives era, but denied all knowledge of it. 

Before the double panels in the afternoon, it was time for Louise and I to have our photos with Sebastian Roche. Having heard tales of his exploits and fabled ability to impregnate with a single look, it was with some trepidation that we approached him. But as it happens, he was delightful - see!

Jared & Misha were up first. After sabotaging Jared's first question with loud yawning and coughing, he told us that Cas saved Sam because he loves him. Cue whoops of Sassy glee ;) The boys then indulged in a spot of good natured xenophobia by insisting everyone ask questions in an Italian accent. 

Jared was asked what his obsession with Jim Beaver's feet was about and he took the opportunity to have a little boast about his own VERY BIG FEET. 

Yup...we see, Jared. Dear Lord, do we see. 

There's little point in me even pretending I was able to pay attention after than. But let's see...

Oh yeah. Jared enjoys the urban myth of the hook man, and also he was afraid of his own shadow as a child because he heard it could turn against you. ADORBZ. Misha's dad (who should come to every convention IMO) took him to see Invasion of the Body Snatchers at an inappropriately young age. This is the same man who encouraged his son to set a bear trap from Santa. I love him. Jared then spoke a bit about pranks they play on set, the most recent being Jensen's stunt double rushing him when he opened a set door to a motel room. Technically, Jared, that's not a prank. That's just getting physically attacked. He also recounted the time Misha had to have him and Jensen thrown off set because they were distracting him so much. Another fact that came to light is that Jared enjoys smoking cigars. FYI I would enjoy *watching* him smoke a cigar. The boys then re-enacted the missed hug between Sam and Cas which was very sweet. A maths based question next, for the statisticians among you: 'What percentage of your conversations have been about babies?' Answer: Lots (less scientific). 

The final panel of the weekend was Misha and Jensen. What can I say about that? It was PERFECTION. I laughed until I was crying actual tears. Admittedly it was mostly at Misha's expense, but honestly, that stage talk is the reason we do these things. The sense of unadulterated joy in the room for that hour made me realise all over again what is so special about the Supernatural fandom. It kicked off with Misha and Jensen making shadow puppets on the screen versions of Mark, Richard and Sebastian. Very lewd shadow puppets I might add. There was also a delicious bit of ACKLES ASS SHAKING, and Richard pretending to get viciously molested by Seb just off stage. 

Jensen thought the audience had multiplied and Misha suspected this was due to Sebastian's incredible reproductive powers. The boys spoke a bit about the production process and then decided that my beloved KIM RHODES is the hottest female star of Supernatural. We need more Kim in Season 8 - just saying *nods*. Misha did suggest child Lilith but discounted it as too weird. Never change Misha. Jensen then had a message for the people in the audience who thought Vampire Diaries should have won the People's Choice Awards: "There's an exit there, there and there. The window would also work." Jensen was then played the mystery track which he allegedly sang on. Everyone including Misha agreed it was him ("we know it's you because we get a tingly feeling when we hear it"), but Jensen still had no recollection. Well, Jensen, meth is a Hell of a drug. Then it was TRENCHCOAT time!! It soon became apparent that Sera Gamble has been trying for some time to lever a bit of...bromance...into the show before her departure, and Jensen puts this down to the fact she is a woman. Poor, naive Jensen. Next came MY FAVOURITE JARED STORY OF ALL TIME. Apparently a girl came up to him in the autograph session and said something along the lines of 'thank you for being so amazing,' to which Jared simply replied "YOU'RE WELCOME!" Just when I think I can't love him anymore. You're welcome. Amazing. Jensen and Misha kindly recorded a wake up alarm for a girl's mobile phone. I suspect she was expecting something smooth and sultry to gently rouse her each morning, but what she got was them screaming 'WAKE UP' at her. 

Then the best thing that has ever happened, happened. A girl produced Misha's resume from fifteen years ago and revealed his special skills included Appalachian clogging. Jensen said Misha would have been an unemployed actor back then and so would have made shit up, to which Misha replied,

"I'm sorry, dickhead, but I did do a regional commercial from McDonalds which is listed here."

The special skills section nearly ended them both. 'Acting on camera' made them both helpless with laughter. We agreed on 'accents' and got a demonstration of 'Tibetan throat singing'. Very impressive. Less convincing was 'EMT certification'. 'Appalachian clogging'? A lie. 'Kayaking'?  Truth. 'Horseback riding'? Why not? 'Bicycle touring'. Jensen very much enjoyed this one. "I don't just ride a bike. I bicycle tour." 'Ice-skating'? "I'm sure you can, Brian Boytano." 'Furniture building.' "I haven't sat in a chair that Misha has built. Nor would I."

"Sir, can you ride a bike?"
"Nope. But if you read a little further, you'll see that I can bicycle tour."

Oh, Jensen. Why can't you just be dumb and unfunny like most upsettingly pretty people?

I think the personal space question was meant in terms of Cas always arriving and being too close to Dean. They misunderstood but it made for some pleasing physical comedy. There was an odd query about working for another network which was clearly a thinly veiled way of saying 'I want you to do more R-rated shit.'

Her: "Me and my friend have been thinking about you doing something like Spartacus."
Me (a bit too loudly): I bet you have.
Louise: LOL.

And so ended the panels *sadface*. The guys came on and waved us off, promising to return next time to chants of 'one more year'. I guess at this stage no one knew for sure that the show would be renewed so it was oddly touching. 

*Cough* That evening, at 9.30pm, Nina made us go and see Steve Carlson play *Cough*

Then many drinks were consumed.

Jailbreak Brock...

On Monday, it was time to check out of the Hilton and get to our B&B. In a fit of Hardy-esque pathetic fallacy, it had started to rain, and as our B&B was on the opposite side of town to the shuttle drop off point, we decided to take a taxi. 

WTF you mean we're not riding with The Silver Fox?!

Our cab driver was a very friendly petite blonde woman with the longest nail extensions I have ever seen. She seemed very taken with my hair but spoke no English. She expertly juggled a mobile phone, radio and GPS system and still managed to have the odd rant at other drivers. We learnt a new Italian word that morning as a result of a particularly colourful outburst. Not sure how useful 'SPASTICO' will be in our future travels, but it's good to have in the bank.

Once we arrived at the B&B, Bernard, the extremely helpful proprietor, informed us that his friend would be able to take us to the Jailbreak club that night and also to the airport the next day. You've got to love Italians. 

Before the club, we decided to go for a walk to the Colosseum. I turned the wrong way out of our road but we accidentally found the tomb of a famous baker shaped like a bread oven and dating from 30 BC as featured on Meet The Romans with Mary Beard. This gave Lou possibly her biggest fan-girl thrill of the weekend. Nerd. We then had a lovely stroll through some parks, where we stumbled upon this beauty:


We stopped for a spot of lunch and the best gelato I have ever eaten. Seriously - I get what all the fuss is about now. I've been dreaming of pistachio and choc chip ice cream since I got back. I wonder if poor, lactose intolerant Jared got to sample some...

The Colosseum itself was incredible. Vast and steeped in so much blood, it's almost impossible to get your head around the fact it's been standing for almost 2000 years and all the things which have happened inside its walls. 

Our collective sense of awe was slightly diminished by three men dressed as gladiators, one of whom asked Lou if she had a boyfriend - "You have boyfriend? You want boyfriend? I be your boyfriend!" Kind of him to offer. It might be worth stating at this point that we loved the men of Rome. They actually make eye contact and smile. They offer you free lunch. They are keen to lend their services to the single ladies of the world. Only one slightly over-zealous (and clearly insane) specimen grabbed my arm and tried to kiss me (no, it wasn't Sebastian), but to be honest, that happens on the 486 bus most weeks. After a good trudge around Rome's most famous landmark, having taken care to avoid buying a tonne of Indian silver and thought long and hard about Spartacus with bonus Ackles, we made our way back to catch our ride to the JManns gig.

For the record, I have not been to a gig that starts at 6pm since my dad took me to see an Ugly Kid Joe, Thunder, Van Halen and Bon Jovi quadruple-billing at Wembley when I was 14! But the venue was small and pretty cool, Jason was looking hot like burning and relaxed with a little glass of vino and it was a lot of fun. At one point Jason broke to ask someone sitting back to back with me how his voice. It turned out to be none other than Brock Kelly. Brock replied that it was a little rough, and Jason explained that he and Brock had both sustained 'bruised windpipes' courtesy of Jared and Jensen at 4am that morning. After a moment of pause during which only the bang of fifty or so tiny Bank of Spank vault doors slamming shut could be heard, Jason explained that J2 had been teaching them how to perform a choke hold. See, a perfectly innocent explanation. Just a little four-way roughhousing between some of the best looking men on the planet. Nothing...noteworthy about that. Nope....



Ahem - where was I? Oh, yeah - Jason sings pretty. Brock, sadly, does not. He got up on stage to help Jason with Crazy Love, and, well, let's just say A+ for effort but don't give up the day job, honey. He seemed pretty happy with his reception though, bouncing back to the table, raising a glass to us and giving us his best smirk. It's a good smirk. Even Jensen couldn't help banging on about how good looking Brock is. He really needs to stop stalking us though. Everywhere we turned, there was Brock. 

Is he STILL there? Oh, Jesus. Just let it GO, Brock. I've got a boyfriend.

At some stage, for some reason because I'd had 100 pints of beer I decided it would be hilarious to give Brock a double thumbs up and tell him to 'keep on Brocking'. Nina said this was possibly my lowest point of the whole weekend, which, considering SOME of the conversations we had that weekend (none of which are even slightly repeatable - sorry), is pretty astounding. 

Anyway, as the gig was done and dusted pretty early and we were well on our way to Drunksville, we got a cab back to the Colosseum and found a restaurant. Nina had a hankering for steak. Something about spending too much time around Jared and Jensen makes you hungry for a prime hunk of meat, and boy, did she get one. 

We drank some wine, ate mussels, and decided we never wanted to go home. Then we got some more wine to take out, like the classy bitches we are, and staggered off into the night to start the long and boozy walk back to our B&B, where we watched sad SPN fan videos and read the thoughtfully provided Harlequin romance novels Bernard leaves outside the rooms :/

The Sacred and the Profane...

On Tuesday morning, we just had time for some brunch and a tad more sightseeing before we had to leave for the airport. Nina was rather excited by what seemed to be on offer in a place we stopped for coffee:

Priests, tentacles and BDSM. That MUST be kink bingo.

 The weather had turned hostile again, so we sought sanctuary in the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. This is Rome's largest church and claims to house remnants of Christ's crib. Sadly it doesn't house any of the priests from the Calendario Romano...

It's an absolutely breathtaking building with parts of it dating back to the 5th Century. It is filled with stunning sculptures like the crucifixion scene above and a huge, gilded altar. 

As we walked past rows of confessionals and came to a statue of Mary holding one hand up, her other arm around the infant Jesus who is holding a golden olive branch to symbolise the end of war, we noticed that many people were stepping up to rub her foot. 

We couldn't find out why they do it, but as I looked around and saw these little acts of faith, I thought back to the previous night, when a group of us had sung along with Jason to Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. Cohen's words are concerned with the sacred and the profane. Religious ecstasy and sexual ecstasy. Looking around at some of the marble faces - carved centuries ago and frozen in beatific repose - it seemed to me that Cohen is absolutely right. It doesn't matter which you heard: The holy or the broken Hallelujah

We all want something to follow and to love unquestioningly, something ideal to aspire to. Some people have religion. I have Sam and Dean Winchester. That may sound flip, but I'm serious. While the show deals with angels and demons, its message is ultimately one of humanity. It's about hope, helping your fellow man and a love that can save the world. And while the writers, producers and actors are just people, their cumulative efforts have created something truly immense and worthy of our devotion. A convention is a form of worship, however you look at it. We were disciples - on a pilgrimage of sorts - like minded people, giving thanks and adoration to those who make our show. 

Religion has always inspired the most amazing art and architecture, and last weekend I got to celebrate my own personal obsession in a city which is home to some of the finest examples in the world.

Who could ask for more?

Same time next year, ladies?


Sunday, 24 July 2011

Gangsters, Guns & Zombies!

Words by me. Pictures by Incidentally Bentley.

Even in Hammersmith, and even for me, it's a little out of the ordinary to pop out of the office for tanmen soup only to end up agreeing to be a zombie in a film. But in for a noodle, in for an intestinal tract...or something like that...

Gangsters Guns and Zombies is a 'ZomRomCom' - an indie British film with a shoestring budget, being shot this Summer. It's a collaborative project - the cast and crew giving their time and skills for free - and funded by family, friends and fans-in-waiting (find out how you can get involved here).

I happen to work in the same building as a friend of the producer, which is how Ben, Dave and I found ourselves driving around an industrial estate in Kent on a rainy Saturday night, looking for other potential undead. I can tell you for free that there are few things as disconcerting as meeting a car full of men down a deserted dirt track and having to wind down the window to ask "Zombies?" praying all the while you haven't accidentally stumbled upon one of Kent's most notorious dogging hotspots.

Luckily we hadn't, but we were in the wrong industrial estate, so we joined the rapidly growing convoy of other lost extras and set off again. Following strangers around Northfleet, across a landscape of empty warehouses and broken down buses, Ben and I started to feel a little like we were in a Gregg Araki film, and then found ourselves behind this cab:

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This a Doom Generation reference *nods*

But then we found the gathering and once on set, director Matt Mitchell addressed the soon-to-be-undead crowd and we waited for make-up. The make-up team did an amazing job on some sixty extras in very little time, and I think you'll agree we looked pretty damn awful when they'd finished with us!

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And then the piece de resistance: FAKE BLOOD. Fake blood is sticky and tasty and it gets EVERYWHERE. There is nothing delicate in the application. You just have to get stuck in. Literally:

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Suitably smeared and clotted, our first job was to chase an actor wearing nothing but a pair of pants and trainers, across a roundabout. Yes, chase. We are fast, enraged zombies, not the shuffling, groaning kind. I can almost hear the moist sound of Simon Pegg's eyeballs rolling from here, and sorry Romero aficionados but quick zombies are scarier - am I right?? And yes, pants. Sprinting is not my forte, but it's surprising how incentivised a lazy zombie can be by some perky buttocks.

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Making a movie is, by nature, a slow business, but there was a really nice vibe on set. In the down time, people got chatting and shared stories, coffee, food and smokes.

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Being covered in fake viscera and various types of dirt does not hamper my crisp chomping abilities.

We Tweeted and Facebooked and snapped pictures and made human pyramids.

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The next scene was a bigger-scale affair which involved sixty odd zombies chasing a taxi and multiple takes. I had to pity the two women in a car who seemed to have driven onto the estate by mistake only to be confronted by a horde of pale, shrieking nutjobs surrounding their car and dripping strawberry flavoured blood all over it, and nearly drove straight up the back of Dave's parked car!

It's a dangerous business, being a fast zombie. Running full pelt towards bright lights, moving vehicles, cameras and other fast zombies will inevitably lead to casualties. I saw at least three people stack it quite spectacularly, but recently reanimated corpses can't be expected to have full control over their faculties, right?

And so it was, seven hours and several aching limbs later, we wrapped and made our way home for a well deserved breakfast beer and a nap. Hopefully we'll be around for more filming next month, and a big thanks to everyone involved for giving us the opportunity to be part of something fun and different. Here's hoping this little Brit flick will be a raging success.

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