The Festival itself was to be spread over two and a half days, two and a half very long days, which meant that we had to fly out on Thursday and fly back Monday, if we were to be at the entire Festival. We decided to stay an extra day though, so that we could enjoy the city, and so were to come back on Tuesday (very early).
My Thursday started at 5am,leaving the house and setting off in the opposite direction to Manchester Airport at 5.30am in order to pick Gary up from his house. Arriving 30 minutes early meant that Gary didn't have time for breakfast (I didn't feel too bad as I'd not had any either) but it did mean that we were pretty much on schedule for arriving at Colin's at 7.15am. A quick game of ''Weigh the bags on Colin's scales to get as many comics in as possible and not exceed the 23kg limit'' and we were soon in a taxi heading for the airport.
At the airport the bags weighed in at 22.7kg, so not too bad at all.
We quickly settled into the hotel, Arthur, and as quickly settled into our first pint. I bought the first round and was a little shocked at the price. 24 Euros for three beers. Beer certainly isn't cheap in Helsinki. We took our time drinking it and then we set off to find the venue, tomorrow we'd be lugging a whole load of comics there so it's always best to know where you're going.
'What's this beer like ?' Colin asked the barman pointing at a beer tap on the counter.
'It's Finnish.' was the reply.
'Oh', said Colin, that's a shame. 'What about this one then ? Do you have any of that left ?'
The barman looked at Colin in that confused way that people have when someone has said something that makes absolutely no sense.
'I think he means it's a local beer Colin,' I suggested, ' It's Finnish not finished.'
'Oh,' Colin was catching on, 'Can we have three pints please.'
We drank the pints, chatted about comics, Helsinki and about the Festival and wondered how it would go for us. It's a Festival that's been going since 1979 but this was the first time they will have come across Accent UK.
We decided to eat at an Italian restaurant, which was on the way back to the hotel, although Colin was keen on exploring, and very nice it was too, although a little difficult to fathom at first. Everything was charged to a plastic card which you settled on exiting the place.
We decided, as it was between the Italian restaurant and our hotel, that we'd have a last drink of the day in what was becoming 'our local'.
The one with the local beer on tap.
Through some crafty maneuvering in the restaurant, it was once again Colin's round (the beer in the restaurant was slightly cheaper), and with confidence this time he approached the bar, pointed at the tap that last night had poured the local beer and said,
'Three pints please'.
'It's finished', replied the young barmaid.
'Yes, I know', replied Colin, 'and very nice it is too'.
The barmaid just looked at him in a bemused way, and smiled. And waited.
Colin's confidence started to erode.
I leaned close to him.
'I think it's run out', I whispered.
'Oh', he exclaimed ... 'err ... well ... we'll try some of that,' he pointed at a random beer that had Thor in the name and whilst she was pouring it we told the barmaid what had happened the night before and how we were confusing the word 'Finish' with 'finished', she found it quite quaint. Brits abroad.
Saturday saw a reasonably early start, a decent hotel breakfast and a slight detour through town, seeing us arrive at the venue about 30 minutes before the 'doors' opened.
The day went really well, we chatted to the other creators around us and I managed to get a couple of sketched books from the very talented and very nice Tony Sandoval, who only sat at his table for about 2 hours a day, as he was enjoying the local attractions, maybe a little too much.
It was on Saturday that we reached a landmark for Accent UK. We sold our '1000th Convention Comic Book in a Year', and despite there still being two more scheduled Conventions to go. A great moment that had to be captured...
Saturday night we had tea with Luigi and Nadia (MalEdizioni), the Italians who had the table next to us, and declined the offer to meet up with Tony later and 'party'. A very nice evening in a restaurant that had a tractor theme, I kid you not, ended up with us all having a drink in a local bar before going our separate ways.
A quiet night, we ate tea back at the hotel, popped out for a pint (or two) in 'our local' and then crashed, trying to recharge batteries.
Monday was a day for doing tourist things. To get a feel for the city to see if it was somewhere to bring our families, and to buy them a few presents. We were to meet Matt Boyce later for a meal, Matt being a good friend of ours from the UK who was presenting at the event had suggested that he knew somewhere 'cheap but good'.
So, Helsinki. Would we go back ?
We certainly would. Both for the convention and for a family holiday.