A Once in a Lifetime Let Down

First off, I’ll come right out and say it, I’ve seen Avengers: Endgame seven times. It’s safe to say that I love it. Although I feel the need to disclose this as though it were a counselling session, I feel no shame. I love Marvel, I read the comics and have seen everything the MCU has to offer; over and over again.

Another one of my loves is the film magazine, Empire. I’ve subscribed for years and read it for as long as I can remember. Empire was, and is, my gateway into the thing I love the most; films. I clearly have a lot of love to give, but films are essential in my life, there is nothing greater. So, when I entered an Empire subscriber competition to win tickets to an exclusive Q&A with head of Marvel Studios Kevin Feige, followed by screening of Avengers: Endgame, at an undisclosed, swanky secret Central London location, I didn’t need much convincing. I also didn’t think I’d win. But (dramatic pause), I did.

Fade in to a Mancunian office, Monday morning. Sun shining through the window as the focus switches to a 33 year old man who is alerted to an email on his phone…

Cue the kind of squealing that shouldn’t be possible from a man from Wythenshawe. Long story short, I was extremely happy. Genuinely so. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity. How had I won? It didn’t seem real. But, it was. I had won. Cue more mania.

Now I had the task of organising this trip. Without sounding worthy, I work for a charity and, as things stand we’re doing a lot with a little; as the old adage that someone somewhere muttered to someone somewhere else. For me to get to London for the event to start at 7pm (no late admittance accepted) from Manchester, with zero possibility of gaining any annual leave was going to be tough. Thankfully, I have a manager who understands the importance of artistic interests. Substitute film for theatre, and this could be her blog. We worked out that I could make up some time on the Wednesday and Thursday, which would then allow me to make a train for 3.30 Thursday afternoon. I’d have plenty of time to get to down to London, get a quick bite to eat and wander over to the now disclosed secret location. It was perfect. From Monday afternoon, once all this was sorted, until Thursday approx. 2.30, I drove pretty much everyone crazy. Not in an obnoxious way, as I wasn’t showing off, but I would just randomly burst in to tears, or would pierce the office with quiet with “I can’t f******” believe it!”. My earnestness quickly wore off.

Before I go on, I just want to reiterate how much I love Endgame. Without sounding as though I’m the love child of Roger Ebert and Barry Norman, I do have quite a diverse taste in film. My regular cinema trips are to my local independent cinema to see independent, or small release films. There are the odd exceptions, I love Christopher Nolan and the event films he produces. Star Wars is one of my original loves, and I’m a huge fan of the new iterations (bar the Solo solo, if you will). The other clear exception is the MCU. I was so excited for Endgame. When the pre-ordering of the tickets broke every cinema chains website, I sat in a queue on my work computer for 3 hours. When it crashed again, my colleague picked them up for me directly from the cinema on her way home, as she felt sorry for me (thank you Lorraine). When it came to seeing the film, it surpassed my expectations in every possible way. There were so many moments that had me crying (I cry a lot), but the “portals” scene is probably the single most euphoric moment I have ever experienced in a cinema. Coming a few minutes after Cap wielding Mjolnir (I know), it destroyed me. I’ve never felt so joyous watching a film. I’m reiterating this point, as I want to make clear how much winning this competition meant to me. Kevin Feige would be taking questions on this, it would be hosted by Chris Hewitt, Empire journalist and podcast host (for which I’ve listened to since the beginning), it would be the perfect night. I also wanted to reiterate this point, as it was why I spent £85 on a last minute ticket to London and continued to do so when I realised my only route back to Manchester was an overnight bus from 1 – 7am. All in time to get me back home ready to go to work (remember, no annual leave). On the face of it, an absolutely disgusting journey, sat festering on a bus with people getting night wind. But, needs must. It would be worth it.

This is where I point you to the incredible still from the aforementioned film. At some point on Thursday afternoon, I would say London felt like the area behind Thanos, who probably represented signal failures across London (angry and uncompromising), whereas I was one of our three Avengers, stuck on a cliff edge (train), completely stranded.

An apt representation of my predicament

Most people that know me would describe me as a fairly laid back person. There are, obviously, things I’m passionate about. However, in the main, I’m a calm person. One area where this falls down though, and something I’ll readily admit, is when it comes to planning a journey. Other than having a spell of being consistently late to school when I was a little nob ‘ed, I am never late. The spell I’m referring to is nearly 20 years ago, so it’s safe to say I grew out of it. When it comes to being somewhere, I make sure it is planned to the point where I’ll get there in plenty of time; hence why I was getting to London just short of 90 minutes before the event started, knowing that I could get from Euston station to the “Central London Location” in about 15 minutes. Just a few days before my southern expedition, I met a friend for dinner. I was 30 minutes early. I’ve no idea why. We’re a bad mix to be honest, as he’s always late, as on this occasion, and I’m always early; on this day I ended up waiting an hour. You’d think after 22 years of friendship we’d have figured this out by now. Anyway, I digress. As with the reiteration of my love for Endgame, I also wanted to point out my anxiety around lateness. Ostensibly I’m sure this all comes down to a lack of control and organisation. I’m a very organised person, so when something is taken out of my control, my little brain starts to melt. Case in point, the journey.

It was around 15 minutes in to the approx. 2 hour 10 minute journey, where I began to worry. I’ve been on this train a lot, and had been twice in the past month for work, and to attend the Stanley Kubrick exhibition at the Design Museum (I highly recommend). I’ve never had any issue. However, as I mentioned, it was about 15 minutes in when the train first stopped. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t worry me, but in the heightened, anxious state I found myself in, coupled with my ongoing fight against the tyranny of lateness, I was immediately alert to the static nature of this so called “express” train. It was ok though, a few minutes later we were off and running. What’s this though? I should take my headphones off, these don’t sound like the usual “your next stop”/“cheese sandwiches on sale in carriage C” announcements. “Signal failures”. What?! Not today?! They couldn’t do this to me! “Bus replacements services at Stafford to get to Stoke”. Oh, I was fine, panic over. Bloody hell, calm down. No disrespect to anyone from Stafford or Stoke, but at that moment, I couldn’t think of anywhere else that sounded less appealing. I was going to be ok, I’d clearly just had a brief moment of panic and things would be fine; but we stopped again. Another announcement. It was all related, they were just slightly backed up due to difficulties around Stoke (f****** Stoke!). If I was on this train to go to my work’s office in London, I’d have a bit of panic about being late, but would realise it was out of my control and there was nothing I could do. But at the end of this trip, there was a once in lifetime opportunity awaiting. The lighting of the flame underneath my brain fondue was beginning.

It wasn’t long before my worse fears were confirmed. In hindsight, despite my anxiety, I genuinely didn’t think they could be this bad. “Signal failures outside London Euston, nothing in or out”. Someone’s having me on aren’t they? Has Jeremy Beadle come back from the dead to play an extremely cruel joke on me? As incredible as that would be, I can confirm that Beadle most definitely was not about. And neither was I. In amongst the disbelief, anguish and upset, we’d moved and stopped a couple of times. Firstly, just outside Crewe for around 20 minutes and then about 500 metres outside Nuneaton train station. Now, I’ve never been to Nuneaton, and despite spending over an hour sat just outside the train station, I’ll maintain that I still haven’t. I liken it to the experience of flying somewhere and connecting via another airport. For example I’ve sat in Hong Kong airport for 3 hours, but I can’t realistically say I’ve visited there. The difference between Hong Kong and Nuneaton are quite stark though. Whereas I would like to visit Hong Kong, I can safely say I have no desire to ever go back to Nuneaton. Again, no offence to Nuneaton, but it now represents the location where I came to terms with the realisation that I wasn’t going to be in attendance to see Kevin Feige speak about the single most joyous cinematic moment of my 33 years on this earth.

Before that happened, I was trying everything, in the vain hope that I might still get there. I did have approximately 80 mins to make it to the venue from Euston, but that time was rapidly disappearing. I was in contact with someone from the magazine, who was lovely. She would do the best she could, but as the Q&A was being recorded, and the entrance was by the stage, it was unlikely I’d be admitted once the doors were closed. I even tried contacting the aforementioned Chris Hewitt who, as mentioned, would be hosting the evening’s proceedings. Despite this self indulgent blog, I’m entirely new to this and would consider myself allergic to social media. I have dabbled in the medium, but haven’t had any for a really long time. However, I was desperate so I temporarily created a twitter account. Again, as mentioned, I’ve been listening to the Empire podcast since it’s inception and I’m aware that Chris is a big user of twitter. It was my last shot. Despite my aversion, and in the spirit of another Chris I thought “whatever it takes”. I sent our fair host a pleading message, from one Marvel obsessive to another. However, in reality what could he do? I’ve no idea what goes in to organising such an event, but to have one of the most powerful people in Hollywood speak at an exclusive event, to then halt the proceedings for one stranded Mancunian, was never going to happen. Chris was really nice and told me to keep going, and to get there when I could, but that was now looking increasing unlikely. It was time to accept my fate.

After fighting off tears for the previous couple of hours, I took myself to the toilet to shed a few tears as the wave of realisation washed over me. Standing inside that smelly Virgin Trains cubicle, with a recording telling me to not flush any unwanted items down the loo, I took a deep breath, trying to avoid the smell, and walked out.

Composing the email to let the organiser know that I couldn’t make it, was genuinely difficult. But, I was aware that there were people queueing up at the event, on the off chance someone didn’t show up. In this case, that was me and one of those people got lucky. Whoever you are, I hope you enjoyed it. I emailed the organisers letting them know that I wasn’ going to make it and that someone else could have my ticket, despite my newfound contempt and distaste for life (I didn’t include that last part). I received a lovely reply hinting at a possible invite to something else, so until then I’ll just have to live in hope.

All in all the day was a complete disaster. My arrival for Euston was scheduled to be 17:40 and I got there at 19:55, around 45 minutes after the event started. I could have continued on to see the film, which was due to start at 20:00, but at that point I couldn’t face it. And to then sit on a night bus, with everyone’s night wind, having not seen the Q&A would have sent me over the edge. When I got to Euston it was like a post apocalyptic zombie movie/post no deal Brexit, I’ve never seen such chaos. I’d been transposed from Avengers: Endgame to the lows of World War Z, in every possible way. What should have taken just over two hours, took nearly four and a half hours, to then spend another 90 mins in Euston, pay another £80 for a train ticket to come all the way home. I left my work at 14:30 and got back home at 00:15, approx £180 down (including bus ticket) with absolutely nothing to show for it. Everying is relative, there are always people worse off, and I’m not looking for sympathy. By writing this down, and sharing it with, what I imagine are like minded people, with similar interests, I’m finding it quite cathartic. And I’ve been through worse things, I’ve been attacked, racially abused and had my heart broken; but nothing will quite compare to the crushing disappointment to my once in a lifetime let down…

#avengers #endgame #empire #marvel #kevinfeige @ChrisHewitt @EmpireMagazine

One reply on “A Once in a Lifetime Let Down”

  1. I felt your pain. Hopefully those nice guys at Marvel/Empire will feel it too and you’ll get another invite to something, up north maybe!

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