Approximate time to read: 7 minutes

No sooner have I got back from Belgrade, I’m on a train to London. I noted the irony of flying over my hotel as my plane came into land yesterday but a day at home between trips was appreciated.

For the third year running, I’m back for WordCamp London, an annual conference for all things WordPress, the biggest held in the UK.

But, unlike previous years, I’m not volunteering.

No, I’m speaking… maybe. I had no idea that a “backup speaker” was a thing, but it is. Basically, I attend, am treated like a speaker, but only have to do my talk if someone can’t do theirs.

Anyway, back to the story. And my continuing hunt to find a non-hideous London hotel…

My talk is interesting in that, unlike the one I did last year, is not on a technical subject. Because of this, I don’t need a script so much of it is from the top of my head (needless to say, I’ve never been able to get it within the requisite 30 minutes!). If I don’t get to perform it over the next few days then my plan is to split it into smaller divisions for potential flash talks in the future (each of which are generally around 10 minutes long).

Thursday

A 10:30am train to London gets me in just after lunchtime. To save Automattic some money, I buy “super off-peak” tickets – they’re cheap but lack some flexibility (whilst gaining others). As a result my ticket is for mid-morning today, despite nothing happening until tomorrow – a later train would have meant me kicking my heals less in London but that isn’t an option here. And I’m suspicious that a cheap Premier Inn in London is not going to be the best place to hang out for half a day.

It’s Sunday I’m not looking forward to – no seat reservation, very busy trains and, thanks to railway maintenance, its terminates a couple of stops short. So that will be fun.

My hotel is an easy tube ride away and I’m there for around 1pm. My check-in isn’t until 2pm, so I sit around in the lobby. Feeling sorry for me, a member of staff checks me in around 1:20pm – they say I can upgrade my double room for no extra cost too (I get the feeling the hotel is quiet at the moment). I tell him my preference is actually the quietest room. He understands and gives me a different double – in the quietest part of the hotel and with no neighbours (i.e. none of the rooms around me are booked).

The room is what you’d expect from a Premier Inn but is clean and well maintained. Despite there being a tube station and busy street outside, you cannot hear a thing – the room has 2 double glazed windows separated by a foot and a half gap. Neither can be opened. The only downside is that it feels a little warm – the room has air-con but is controlled remotely.

I do lots of work, including attending a team call, but by early evening I’m getting restless. Lots of other attendees are in London, including a group from Human Made, who invite me to their Airbnb, which I’m happy to do. Gary and Tom from VIP turn up soon afterwards as well. HM buy us a takeaway dinner but after a few hours most decide to go and meet up with another contingent at a bar. I head back to the hotel at this stage, in need of an early night.

Friday

As I’d hoped, I had a great night’s sleep. It was quiet and the bed was really comfortable. The fact that I did 17,000 steps yesterday may have contributed to that, though, so it will be interesting to see how well I sleep on other nights too.

I paid the extra for breakfast so grab a good meal, coffee and a fruit juice to energise myself for the day.

Today is all about contributing to WordPress. The WordCamp officially starts tomorrow but today, those that want can come together and work out how they can help out with various aspects of WordPress – whether’s it contributing code changes to Core, editing videos for WordPress.tv or even translating WordPress into as many different languages as you may know.

Trying to be more sustainable, we were all given a reusable coffee mug and water container – a really nice touch.

It’s been a while since I assisted with Support so, as a bit of a refresher, I joined that team, whilst we resolved as many forum tickets as we could. And Marius is always good company as well.

The day went really quickly and I was soon making the long walk back to the hotel. There is a social tonight but I wasn’t up for it – I was wanting some quiet and alone time. I grabbed some sandwiches from a nearby shop and spent the evening watching TV and doing some work (oh, and sorting out my mounting expenses!).

Saturday

One good thing about not volunteering is that I’m not needing to be up at silly o’clock to help set up the venue.

But that didn’t stop my ridiculous body clock from waking me at 6am anyway. Sigh. A shower and a breakfast later and I walked down to the venue. It’s about a 30 – 40 minute walk overall.

Now, I say I’m not volunteering but I have told them I’m willing to help out where required, just as long as I can shoot off for my walk, if required. So, I spent a lot of my day in talks, looking after the social media (i.e. Twitter) for them. This included the lightning talks (one of which was an excellent talk by Tess Coughlan-Allen), “8 Lessons I Have Learnt Through My Mental Illness (and How My Life Has Improved with WordPress)”, “Going To The Dark Side, They Have Cookies” (a scary security talk by the always excellent Tim Nash) and “Introduction to Web Components”.

At lunchtime, I also took over the Jetpack/Woo booth for a while, so that the two people there could grab some food themselves. The food, presented buffet-style, is always good at WC London.

By the end of the day, I was so tired. I’d stopped drink coffee as it was beginning to give me a headache and my legs were aching. As soon as the last talk started, and I knew I wasn’t needed, I hobbled back to the hotel. There’s a social but by the time I dropped my stuff off, I was far too exhausted to consider returning.

Sunday

A late start today, as WordCamp doesn’t start until 10am. Never-the-less, I awake at 7:30am and can’t get back to sleep. My legs are now officially sore and, checking out the hotel, I now have a large suitcase to take with me so, for the first time since being in London, I resort to an Uber to get me to the venue.

The morning is both short and quiet. I see my colleague Tom’s talk on HTTP2 but end up working on social media for the afternoon – “An Introduction to WP-CLI”, “I Tried Writing Some Code… You Won’t Believe What Happened Next!” (a funny talk on how to code) and “JAMstack and WordPress: Friends or Foes?”.

Soon, it’s all wrapped up and I haven’t had a chance to deliver my talk so, as I mentioned before, it will get recycled for another time. However, still treated as a “proper” speaker, I get invited to the stage and given a present to thank me – a wild cherry tree.

I get to St Pancras by around 5pm, having forgotten that my train doesn’t leave until 6:20pm. I stare at the 5:40pm train to Sheffield some time in jealousy before I realise that’s stopping at Midlands Parkway – due to rail maintenance that’s as far as my own train is going today, so can I get this earlier train? I check and… yes, I can. I jump on it, just in time. At Parkway, I grab a taxi and I’m home for around 7:45pm, which was just brilliant.

And that’s it, I’m all travelled out. No more. I’m glad I didn’t volunteer for WordCamp Europe in June. Oh, wait…

Summary

A great WordCamp London – my hotel was great but the distance less so. But it was nice not be up so early for volunteering. Sitting in on talks to help with the social media meant that I watched many that I otherwise wouldn’t have done.

Health-wise, I ate quite well. My breakfast was of the cooked variety but I ate healthily and little for the rest of the day. Steps-wise – wow. I did 17.5K on Thursday, 8K on Friday, 13.5K on Saturday and 8.3K on Sunday. Sleep was, meh – 7 hours on Thursday night, just over 6 hours on Friday and 6.3 hours on Saturday night.

By the end of Monday morning my tree was planted in my back garden and I was unpacked. By the end of the day all of my washing was, well, washed, including the many swag t-shirts (oh, and a pair of swag socks too).

Update

Since returning home, the weekly MasterWP Weekly email newsletter has come out, with a mention of myself.

I’m proud of the event we put on this year. My organiser colleagues did a phenomenal job, especially so for the co-leads Dan and Babs. The same goes for the volunteers – I found at the end that David Artiss, for example, who saved me on live tweeting a track we couldn’t otherwise cover, hadn’t even signed up to volunteer!

😊 To be honest, I can’t imagine going to a WordCamp and not helping out where I could. The only thing that had prevented me from being a “proper” volunteer this time was the fact that I was a backup speaker, and could therefore be called on at any point. Even then, going on the stage at the end along with the other speakers, I felt a fraud. I neither felt a volunteer not a speaker, so the recognition above is appreciated.

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