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WordCamp Glasgow 2020

For only the second time, I have the opportunity to speak at a WordCamp – and, again, in Scotland. This time, it’s Glasgow, a city I’ve only ever briefly visited before.

Now, before I get to my usual “diary” of the event, I need to talk about something that came up beforehand.

I’m not an experienced traveller and travelling, generally, gives me anxiety. I get around this by pre-planning as much as possible and trying to run everything to a schedule. I looked at transport to Glasgow – the train was the obvious choice as my town is part of the east-coast mainline. Unfortunately, Glasgow is 5 hours and 4 changes. Just the thought of the logistics of that makes me feel stressed.

For the same price, I can get a direct flight from my nearby airport. So, as bad for the environment as it may be, that, for the sake of my sanity, is what I do.

But, then, something happened.

Storm Ciara.

It’s due to hit the whole of the UK over the WordCamp weekend – including when my return flight on the Sunday is due. I even got an email from my airline to warn that my return flight may be cancelled as result, giving me a chance to change it. That was a tough decision to make. However, I just know that if I changed it to, say, Monday, the Sunday flight would end up fine. Or the storm would go on until Monday and that would be cancelled too. So, as painful as it was, I stuck with my plan (and needing to have a schedule, not knowing if I’d be able to return on Sunday, was not good).

Now to the diary…

Friday 7th

Up at my usual time (6:30am. Urgh) – I breakfast, shave and then take my daughter to school. I have a nice walk (literally freezing out but some nice sunshine breaking through) and return for a shower.

I call an Uber for my nearest airport.

I get there 2 hours before my flight, just as check in opens. Now, anybody who follows my travels will know that security general hates me. This time, it’s no different. I get through the metal detector but my bag is held up for inspection. What have I done this time?

After waiting 15 minutes for them to get around to looking at my stuff (which includes my belt, so I’m stood around desperately trying to keep my trousers up) it turns out the issue was… the liquid that I had put in a plastic bag and put, separately, in the tray. As I’m supposed to. They just wanted to test it.

Once through, I find a Starbucks for a massive coffee.

Naturally, during this time, I’m informed that my flight out has been delayed for unknown reasons. The thing is, I can’t check into my hotel until 3pm, so a delay at the airport isn’t a great issue – at least I don’t have to worry about my suitcase while I’m here 😉 Yes, it’s only a day at WordCamp but I have a suitcase. I don’t do travelling light. Besides, I’m going to be in Glasgow for 3 days in total (at least).

Each time we get about 5 minutes away from the gate being revealed, the delay gets extended. In the end, it’s 95 minutes late – apparently due to a “communications problem” with the plane that needed fixing.

The plane is so small it looks like a private jet! There can’t have been many more than 20 people on the flight.

But, once airborne, all is fine and the trip through Glasgow airport is seamless.

I get an Uber to my hotel – the driver is a nice chap, who tells me not to worry about the return flight on Sunday – “The weather in Glasgow is n’er what the weather forecast says it is. It’s supposed to have been snowing”. And, thinking about it logically, Glasgow isn’t even supposed to get the worst of the weather – if they’re cancelling flights here, wouldn’t it affect the whole of the country? That’s going to be some serious disruption, the likes I’ve not heard of before. I put it to the back of my mind, worrying less about it now.

My hotel is nice. Just nice. Nothing exciting. It’s next to Glasgow station, which I really should have checked on first but, to be honest, I can’t here the trains. I sort out my luggage, head out for a bite to eat and return to my room to relax for a while.

I run through my talk one last time and it’s the first time I’ve done so without making changes to it – time to lock it in and back it up to USB (always a good precaution to take!).

Actually, let’s talk about… my talk. I submitted this idea to a couple of WordCamps late last year, never expecting that both would take me up on it. Glasgow will be my first opportunity but I only knew about it about a month ago. At that point, the talk was nothing more than a title and short description. Since then I’ve spent somewhere between 20-30 hours on it.

I’m also doing something new this time in that I’ll be using an iPad as a Keynote remote – it lets me move between the slides but also shows my speaker notes too. My memory is terrible and there’s a lot of stuff in this talk that I want to accurately convey – “winging it” isn’t going to work. It’s annoying that I’ll be reading quite a bit from the iPad but it, at least, gives me more freedom to move about.

The WordCamp speakers and organisers all meet up around 7pm at a venue in the city.

There was a free drink and a buffet meal – unfortunately, for someone who is lactose-intolerant and on a low-carb diet, the food mainly consisted of variations of pasta, bread and cheese. That’s why I’d gone for some food a little earlier! But I had a little and it was really nice.

At 9am, some people were starting to leave, and I made my excuses too as I was already feeling snoozy.

Saturday 8th

Well, that was an interesting sleep, or lack of it. There was nothing on my mind and the hotel itself was quiet (even the trains outside). Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for the guests who, throughout the night, talked loudly as they walked the corridors. I’m a light sleeper so it doesn’t help. I even had the joy of hearing somebody being violently sick too.

So, I’m pretty bleary – I’m glad I’ve practised my talk well 😆 Coffee and Nurofen may be the order of the day, though.

And, on weather watch – BBC Weather have extended the storm warnings to Tuesday. So if I can’t leave tomorrow I may be in Glasgow for some time 🤔

I head out of the hotel around 8:50am and get back to the venue, Project Ability – an arts and creativity centre, at 9:05am. We’re quickly badged and all given a t-shirt. I hope the “large” size fits me (the last time I attended a WordCamp I was an “xxl”).

WC Glasgow is a small, one-day event – the smallest I’ve, yet, attended. I like the venue and, despite the size, there are still plenty of people in attendance (many of whom are coming to their first WordCamp).

I attend a few of the talks during the day, whilst pacing semi-nervously over my own. The iPad I planned to use for presentation is no longer needed as we have a fixed mic over the podium for, so I make appropriate changes.

Lunch was excellent and I was still able to get a decent amount to eat whilst still maintaining my diet limitations.

All too quickly, 3:15pm came around and it was time for my talk.

I thought it went well – I was clear and I slowed down my delivery too from my practises. There were some thoughtful questions at the end, which was good. All-in-all I was happy.

And with just one talk after mine, it was soon all over.

For those who wanted, there followed a small tour – we were lead a couple of door away to the Britannia Panopticon, the world’s oldest surviving music hall. The owner, from the stage, gave us a fantastic history lesson of the building and there is a museum of items that were found when the building was re-discovered.

Eventually we braved the rain and headed to the after-party at One Up. There was good food (of the unhealthy sort too), drinks vouchers flowed and, more importantly, good company. I stayed until around 9pm, before heading back to my hotel.

Sunday 9th

I have a chance to have a lie-in but my body decides I’m not going to bother. So I’m awake around 6:30am. I have a cup of tea, finish off a film on Netflix that I’d been unable to finish the night before and, finally, phone home.

I head for breakfast, update this post and then grab a shower.

I don’t have to check-out of the hotel until midday and as much as I’d love to be exploring Glasgow (my flight isn’t until 7pm) the weather is quite terrible. None-the-less, I do have to be out this afternoon so I’m going to have to go and do something!

On the journey front, I’m feeling a lot more positive. The forecast is showing a lull in the weather around the time my flight is due and, even so, most flights have been taking off on time from Glasgow anyway. The only downside is a lot of cancellations from Glasgow to the south of England, including Birmingham (albeit with some still flying, so it’s not consistent).

I check out at 11:45am, just when the rain hits it peak – it’s horizontal and a my brolly doesn’t stop me from getting soaked. I duck into a few shops and, eventually, find a Nando’s for a healthy chicken-based lunch.

By the time I’ve eaten the rain has stopped and the sun has come out. But it’s still cold and windy.

I head to the Gallery of Modern Art.

I also tramped around a few shops too. The architecture in Glasgow is fantastic.

But, cold and wet, I gave up and returned back to the hotel where I camped out in the foyer, still with 3 hours until I can even think of leaving for the airport.

But, thanks to Apple TV, it goes pretty quickly and I’m soon in a taxi on the way to the airport, getting there around 5pm. I check in but I’m reminded by the staff that few flights to the UK haven’t been cancelled that day, so to maybe expect the worse

I now have to wait until 6:25pm to wait to find out what’s happening, so I check into a premium lounge. I watch some more Apple TV and take advantage of the free food and drink.

At 6:30pm they announce a gate – does this mean we’re flying or just a way to gather us together to deliver bad news? Thankfully, it soon becomes apparent that it’s the former – other flights, from other airlines, were transferred to this one. Even then, the small plane still isn’t full, as demonstrated by my internal view…

We leave just 15 minutes late and, shall we say, it was a bumpy ride – particularly during the landing. Winds, upon descent, kept pushing the plane over to one side. It was pretty white-knuckle but all was fine in the end.

Moving through the airport was swift – the luggage appeared almost immediately and there was no security (due to this being an internal flight). I grabbed a taxi home, happy to have got home without an extra stopover or late-night delay.

It’s been a good weekend – I really enjoyed WC Glasgow and I really enjoyed delivering my talk too. Of course, the weather and the worry about what was happening with my return flight was ever-present, adding extra stress and restricting what I could do with my spare time. Next time I’m in Glasgow, I’ll make sure it’s during better weather and have a “proper” explore.

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