October 2001: (Written very early in September 2001, pre-attack-on-America.) Paul Smith... On the ECTSssszzzzzzzzz…
We fear it.
Confucius, he tell us it is the only thing we can be certain of.
And my local shop won't give it for the 'phone box.
I'm talking about change, clearly.
This year, the first of the third Millennium*, saw a shift of venue for the ECTS to the ExCeL building in London's Docklands. I approached on a driverless DLR train with some trepidation, remembering my last trip there. 18 hours after my visit, the IRA decided that the area needed to be showered in broken glass to a depth of several feet. I hoped no such excitement awaited me again and I was not disappointed.
As I walked the covered ramp from the station to the hall I was reminded of the plastic roof of Stansted Airport. The excitingly Victorian arched ceiling of Olympia was missed as I passed through ExCeLs pyramid entrance and into the low, dark, regimented space of ECTS's utilitarian (in a Terminal way) new home.
I've been to perhaps six ECTS's and this one was a disappointment, not least because of a total lack of promotional t-shirts and novelty inflatable hats. For a show that touts itself as the portal through which we can stare, unblinking, at the chromed guts of Nintendo's or Microsoft's vision of future entertainment, there was bugger-all there. If I wanted to source grimly packaged third-party PlayStation peripherals, or look for a new job in I.T. there were plenty of stands vying for my patronage. But I medically needed a good look at EA's Christmas line-up and a sniff of an X-Box, and I was going to rattle home with all my hopes and dreams unrealised.
Even on the Sunday the number of excited children milling about, fingering their trade passes, seemed well down on previous years. In the past I've had to head-butt innocent bystanders and claim to be a leper in order to clear a path, just to get a look at GT2 or some such gem. This time I didn't even have a Sony cave to elbow people in the throat in. I did find distraction in the shape of a tabletop football game with robots, but I would have been happier admiring Game-Cubes in eighteen implausible colours. Or else swooning at something so good on the PS2 I was going to have to be a cannibalistic lion, i.e. swallow my pride, and buy one.
One welcome change was the addition of air-conditioning. Pity no one appeared to have turned it on. Apart from keeping the air-con off, I have another idea where the organisers were trying to recoup the money that the big boys absence must have lost them. £1.50 for 500ml of coke. Scandalous. Like a week-old bottle of overpriced pop, for me the ECTS fizz has gone. On the subject of money, I have a morbid phobia about two and five pence pieces.
I really do fear change.
*Argue this if you must, but the Gregorian calendar and I are firm on it.
Exactly 500 not too self-indulgent, witty, relevant, enlightening and correctly spelt words for you Dale, fingers crossed. I hope they're good words. I liked getting 'Gregorian' into a column after all these years of trying to find the right spot for it. I trust you're well, and that I have time for a rewrite if needs be.
[Note: It's ironic, but after Dale edited this piece 'post-September the 11th', he not only lost the reference to terrorist attacks on tall buildings, but also he removed the bit about the Gregorian calendar. And that hurt.]
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